[OUTLOOK]Plagiarism Reflects Innovation's DeclineIn the old days, weasels' tails, which are called hwang-mo, were used to make the finest calligraphy brushes. In order to keep the tails in premium quality condition, hunters used a unique method that avoided killing the weasels with rifles or snares. Instead, hunters wouldn't harm one inch of the animal's fur and thus would preserve its quality.
First, several hunters would surround a weasel's hideout. As the hunters closed in, they would keep one passageway of the hideout open. Sitting there would be a trap filled with filth.
When the hunted weasel reached a spot close to the trap, the animal would suddenly stop. Its instincts would choose to be caught by the hunters rather than to get its fur mucky. To the weasel, the tail is something that is more precious than life itself.
Hearing the news about the three Korean professors who contributed a plagiarized article to IEEE Communications Magazine has caused me to look back at the moral of the weasel story.
IEEE Communications Magazine has a well-known reputation and almost every professor and expert in the field of electrical communication systems subscribes to the journal.
The international magazine published not only the plagiarized passages of the Koreans but also, later, letters of apology.
The three Korean professors were caught plagiarizing the work of several foreign professors, including Eric G. Manning of the University of Victoria in Canada.
The article, which was titled "Management of Service Level Agreements for Multimedia Internet Service Using a Utility Model," was published earlier this year under the byline of the three Korean professors.
The editor of the magazine criticized the professors for committing a crime that killed innovative capabilities and damaged fair competition in research.
One of the plagiarists took full responsibility for the matter, saying that the other two professors were not aware that it had happened.
After the magazine announced the deed of the three professors, academic observers posted harsh criticism on various Web sites.
The international community has accused Koreans in the past of pirating. This recent humiliation causes more embarrassment.
When the country is in a state of melancholy, why would professors, who should abide by the principles of dignity, commit such an act?
Innovative creativity is what determines competitiveness in the future, and such innovation is a trend of globalization.
Korea has a large foothold in the trade and in sales of the information technology industry. The IT industry is the lead representative of a knowledge-based society.
Nevertheless, distinguished foreign institutions have evaluated that though the IT industry in Korea has potential, the competitiveness within that industry has been at a low level for years.
In other words, the Korean IT industry has benefited from importing a great deal of information on knowledge-based technology from other foreign institutes and companies. But when it comes to exporting our knowledge-based technology, Koreans have been slow to do so.
Japan, which only imports knowledge-based technology, has been experiencing an economic recession for years.
In the past, Japan had accumulated wealth through duplicating technologies from developed places such as the United States and Europe, under the name of improvement.
If Japan does not financially support innovative creativity and develop technological skills, its recession will continue.
Contributing articles to various mediums and to the Internet are effective methods of marketing a knowledge-based industry.
Through these methods new technology and information are introduced that lure customers. New products are then released in the market through investment. The plagiarism incident violated the entire process.
At a recent World Trade Organization meeting, officials strongly demanded the protection of intellectual property in the trade of products.
If we don't respect intellectual property, which is a global trend, we will not be able to compete effectively in global markets.
Additionally, the recent incident has deeper problems that need to be resolved.
In establishing a creative knowledge-based country, there should be no free rides. Hard work and investment must always be part of the process.
Korea will only prosper when we create technology that is unique as well as developed － on our own.
Scholars as well as those who work every area of society should learn the lesson of the weasel, an animal that upholds its true identity and honors its dignity.
The writer is a secretary-general of the Korea Industrial Technology Foundation.
by Cho Hwan-eik