Court rules for Yale in prolonged lawsuit

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Court rules for Yale in prolonged lawsuit

Nine years after Yale University wrongfully endorsed a Korean woman’s doctorate degree, the Seoul Central District Court on Tuesday ruled that Dongguk University should pay the damages it owes the Ivy League school, in line with a U.S. federal court ruling.

Recalled now as one of the most prolific deceits in recent years, Shin Jeong-ah in 2005 faked her credentials in order to be hired as a professor at the Buddhist-affiliated Dongguk University. The falsified accounts included a doctorate degree in art history from Yale, one of the most prestigious universities in the United States.

Dongguk University in 2008 filed a civil lawsuit against Yale with a district court in Connecticut, seeking at least $50 million in compensation and claiming that Yale had tarnished its reputation and cost it that amount in government grants, alumni donations and a law school project.

But a U.S. federal appeals court ruled in Yale’s favor in August 2013, upholding a ruling by a lower court claiming that Dongguk failed to provide evidence that any official at Yale who issued a defamatory statement “acted with actual malice.”

In another blow to Dongguk, the Seoul court on Tuesday ruled in favor of Yale in its countersuit against the Korean university to pay up for legal expenses incurred over the past five years.

The Seoul Central District Court mandated that Dongguk pay $287,000 to Yale to cover the legal expenses incurred from the lawsuit. Dongguk insisted that Yale’s legal fees be investigated, though the Seoul court responded that a Korean court did not have that authority.

In 2005, Yale wrongly confirmed that Shin, an associate art history professor at Dongguk hired that year, obtained a doctorate from the Ivy League school.

After controversy surrounding Shin’s degree circulated in the Korean media in 2007, Yale verified that Shin’s degree had been forged. It also denied that it had initially confirmed that she had received her doctorate there.

In March 2008, amid a highly publicized affair with former Blue House chief policymaker Byeon Yang-kyoon, Shin was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of using forged Yale credentials to obtain the professorship at Dongguk and embezzling museum funds from the Sungkok Art Museum.

Shin was also found to have faked an undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas.

Yale admitted to the blunder, citing an administrative error in late 2007 and later apologized. The scandal led Dongguk’s president and board of trustees to resign.

BY SARAH KIM, JEON YEONG-SUN [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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