Plagiarism found in over 10,000 college submissions for 2014

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Plagiarism found in over 10,000 college submissions for 2014


Nearly 10,000 cover letters and teacher recommendation papers that were submitted in the 2014 college admissions process were found to have been plagiarized or were suspected of being copied, Saenuri Party lawmaker Kim Hoe-sun said on Monday, citing data from the Korean Council for University Education (KCUE).

The findings add more weight to an earlier report by the Korea JoongAng Daily from Oct. 18 in which a few university officials admitted that they were mostly helpless to verify certain information submitted by high school applicants, and that fabrications went undetected.

Sixty-six cover letters out of the 324,060 sent to 110 universities nationwide turned out to be plagiarized, according to a KCUE study. And of the 180,349 recommendation letters handed in to 54 universities, 1,599 were found to be lifted from past submissions.

Those judged as “suspicious” accounted for 1,209 cover letters and 6,442 teacher recommendation letters.

The results were based on KCUE’s plagiarism-detection system, which compares submissions to previous applications.

“There were many cases in which applicants copied and pasted submissions from last year,” KCUE announced, adding that college-bound students often referred to their friends, other high school seniors or siblings.

About one in every four early admissions slots next year will be determined by the applicant’s transcripts, extracurricular activities, academic awards, volunteer work, recommendation letters and grades, among other criteria.

These procedures, which focus on applicants’ track records in high school, rather than on numeric data like CSAT scores, were based on government efforts to provide better opportunities for students from rural areas and lower-income brackets, most of whom lack the financial means to enroll in expensive private tutoring academies, or hagwons.

Current admission procedures can only go so far, and many top universities often don’t require references for submissions, making it easier for students to pull off their schemes.

Admissions consultation companies also prey on these weak points, ghostwriting cover letters in return for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of won. Most try to hide the falsities by providing a number of stories and events that are difficult to verify altogether.

Considering that about one in every five Korean universities assign a single admissions officer to screen more than 400 application papers, schools should implement a more systematic procedure, rather than depending so heavily on paper documents, said Kim Hee-dong, the head researcher at Jinhaksa Entrance Strategy Institute.


BY LEE SUNG-EUN, SHIN JIN [selee@joongang.co.kr]

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