Claims about Oxford proved too good to be true

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Claims about Oxford proved too good to be true

A PowerPoint slide of fees sent to the KAIST researcher from OXKO. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

A PowerPoint slide of fees sent to the KAIST researcher from OXKO. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

 
A Korean organization has been caught claiming to offer degrees from the University of Oxford for Korean and other Asian students who can't study in Britain due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  
 
Calling itself the Oxford – South Korea (OXKO) postgraduate students institution, the organization used the university’s logo on its website and claimed from last December until recently that applicants accepted to its program could earn master’s or doctorate degrees from Oxford.
 
It is now the subject of a criminal investigation for fraud by Korean authorities. 
 
OXKO purported to have been licensed by Oxford to help Korean and Asian students unable to study directly at the British university due to travel restrictions and difficult conditions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
 
It claimed it would be accepting students for programs until 2025 on a trial basis.
 
After a researcher at KAIST contacted Oxford to make inquiries about OXKO, the fabled British institution blew the lid off the scam.  
 
A message from the University of Oxford in response to the KAIST researcher's enquiry about the organization's authenticity. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

A message from the University of Oxford in response to the KAIST researcher's enquiry about the organization's authenticity. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

 
“This organization has no connection with the University of Oxford and we would strongly advise that you disregard any documentation provided by them,” the university’s graduate admissions office wrote in an e-mail to the KAIST researcher. “Please do not use any services being advertised by this organization.”
 
The university’s international engagement office also told the researcher that a certificate sent by OXKO to the researcher had been falsified, and that the university had reported the organization to British embassy officials in Korea.
 
In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, the KAIST researcher said he could have lost a bundle if he went along with OXKO's scam.
 
“They demand 8 million won ($6,733) from applicants to their programs, but if their business is based on false advertising and exaggerations, they shouldn’t be allowed to operate.”
 
After the KAIST researcher posted the university’s e-mail on social media, along with his own warning about OXKO being a fraud, the organization reported him to the police in July and filed a complaint for defamation. It claimed it had received recognition from Oxford to operate as a “legitimate liaison” for students seeking to study abroad.
 
The Seongnam Jungbu Police Precinct, which handled the defamation complaint from OXKO, said it would not pursue criminal charges against the KAIST researcher for posting information that it deemed to be “in the public interest, however disadvantageous it may be to [OXKO].”
 
The police noted that the KAIST researcher “did not seek to benefit himself, but rather acted in the public interest of fairness and transparency.”
 
Since its criminal complaint was dropped, OXKO has amended its logo and website and now claims to “support students who seek to study at Oxford by guiding them through the application process and helping them until graduation.”  
 
However, the English section on the OXKO website still claims that employees from the organization’s “partners” can “apply for a master’s or doctorate degree from OXKO” to receive “a wide range of scholarship.”
 

BY MICHAEL LEE, CHUNG HEE-YUN [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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