[Student Voices]Breaking plagiarism’s holdPlagiarism is not just a problem among students in Korean society; teachers seem not able to let go of the habit of plagiarizing. News about plagiarism by prominent professors does not seem so surprising. Many students ? and even teachers ? are unaware why it is important to avoid plagiarism, one of the major issues that plagues Korea’s academic community.
Plagiarism is using someone else’s work and pretending it is your own. This is done most commonly by not acknowledging its source properly. We now live in a world where information and creative ideas are of the highest value. As a result, plagiarism is rising as a serious social problem. It is a form of stealing, but Korean society does not seem to be fully aware of it.
There are several reasons why plagiarism is commonly practiced in Korea. With the rise of the Internet, getting information became fairly easy. Many people, especially students under deadline pressure, have a hard time resisting the temptation of clicking “copy” and “paste.” This temptation is easily acted on since many students do not think of plagiarism as a serious issue. Some students think their papers would not be carefully examined anyway. In large classes with more than 200 students, it is true that the teacher cannot possibly read every single paper thoroughly, or recognize each student’s writing ability. Besides, even if they are caught plagiarizing, students know that the consequences are not so severe. School policies on plagiarism are not firmly established, and social attitudes about plagiarism are not very harsh.
There are students who do not realize that they are plagiarizing; this is due to the lack of education about plagiarism and academic ethics. This cannot be an excuse, however.
Most universities in Korea do not have standard policies concerning plagiarism. Punishment is usually at the discretion of the teacher in charge of the class concerned. However, the range of measures to punish plagiarism is very limited; at worst, a student can receive a grade of “F,” but only in that particular subject. A comparison with school policies overseas makes it easy to see that we need to be more serious in dealing with plagiarism. Overseas, submitting plagiarized work can result in disciplinary measures that could lead to a failing grade for the whole semester, with the case remaining permanently on the student’s record.
More fundamentally, teachers and schools are required to warn students properly about plagiarism and teach them how to avoid it. The school as a whole works together.
Here, there is encouraging news that some have already recognized the importance of this issue. A university in Seoul has started courses on scholarly ethics this year, and is planning to set up a guideline to avoid plagiarism in writing. For these measures to work the students, the teachers, the schools, and the whole academic community need to have a basic understanding of plagiarism and why it must be avoided.
Intellectual work is the property of an individual, and protecting it is the basis of further advancement of knowledge. The whole society must view plagiarism as a crime, and take proper measures to prevent it. Without solving this problem, Korean academic works would not be able to meet global standards. We all need to work together to make our intellectual products more honest, and therefore more trustworthy and valuable.
*Seoul National University
by Lee Woo Jin
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