[EDITORIALS]Educational cases in ethicsWhen Education Minister Kim Byong-joon was a professor at Kookmin University, he published the same research paper in two different journals under different titles as if they were two different papers. The research for those papers was done with government funds. His case has confirmed the suspicions that some professors overstate their research output to reap in more government funds.
Mr. Kim is also being accused of plagiarism, as he allegedly used data gathered by one of his students to publish a paper before the student could. Mr. Kim denies the accusation and has asked the Korean Association for Public Administration to investigate the case so as to confirm his position. Whether he committed plagiarism or not, his ethical prestige as a scholar has been severely damaged.
An education minister should have a strict sense of ethics because he is asked to take responsibility for education policy and to resolve countless problems, including a dispute over university reform. Mr. Kim said, “Please look at the future, not the past. Please evaluate me on my measures.” But it is doubtful that he can retain his leadership when his ethics are in question.
Years ago, Song Ja, the former education minister, and Lee Ki-jun, the deputy prime minister and education minister, had to retire within a month of being inaugurated for the same reason: They were too deeply involved in incidents that questioned their ethics. People won’t listen to those who think lightly about their own faults but are unforgiving of other people’s faults. And by being afraid of having their faults revealed to the public, they are likely to be pulled along by interest groups.
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development is losing its footing. The ministry has emphasized research ethics since it was discovered that Hwang Woo-suk, the stem cell scientist, had fabricated research. The ministry has also enhanced evaluation systems for government research funding. However, with this incident involving the head of the ministry having erupted, it is busy trying to protect him. The ministry will definitely lose the trust of the people.
If this incident lingers for long, education measures are likely to remain trapped in a deadlock. Responding to the furor over his research, Mr. Kim said it was a mistake by his staff and apologized. But this is a grave matter ― both of the incidents should be investigated and clarified. Mr. Kim will then either have his honor restored or be forced to leave his post. That would be one way to minimize the chaos in the field of education.