Most academic fakes still in the same job
“What I did was wrong, and I don’t deserve to make any excuses,” she said in a recent telephone interview.
Lee, 38, the former host of the popular radio show “Good Morning Pops,” resigned July 19 after the media revealed that she lied about having a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Brighton in the United Kingdom. In reality, she only graduated from high school.
Lee is one of numerous celebrities discovered this year to have faked their degrees, fallout from the scandal involving art curator and former Dongguk professor Shin Jeong-ah, who was caught in July. Shin was indicted on several charges Oct. 30, including forgery.
Unlike Lee and Shin, however, most celebrities who were caught have kept their jobs.
“Other celebrities did not need to have a certificate for their job, but I did. What kind of certificate is needed to be an actor or actress?” said Lee, who is now unemployed.
Here is a look at what is happening now to those other top celebrities, including actresses, an architect and a top Buddhist monk.
Jang Mi-hee, one of the country’s most popular actresses in the 1980s, is teaching three acting classes at Myongji College in Seoul this semester. Jang, 49, lied about the high school she attended and falsely claimed to have graduated from Dongguk University.
In reality, Jang earned a degree from the Graduate School of Chinese Education at Myongji University. To get into that program, she said she graduated from Hawthorne University, a non-accredited school in the United States that offers online degrees.
“She studied Buddhism at Dongguk for four years, auditing classes,” said Kwon Doo-seung, director of Myongji College’s academic affairs department. “We also confirmed that she earned a degree in education from Hawthorne University. The Education Ministry said whether to accept a degree from a non-accredited school is each school’s decision.”
Prosecutors did not investigate Jang, who was hired at Myongji in 1998, because the five-year statute of limitations had expired.
“For the most part, we did not hire her as a professor because of her degree,” Kwon said. “She teaches acting classes. Is there any other person who can teach acting better than her? She is also one of the highest-ranked professors in student evaluations.”
The Korea Film Council, on which Jang serves as a member, also said it would not force her out of her job.
Due to the same statute of limitations, prosecutors also recently decided not to indict Lee Chang-ha, 51, a noted architect who admitted he only graduated from high school.
Lee, known for remodeling houses for free for the poor on a television show, claimed he had been admitted to Seoul National University but could not attend due to financial difficulties. Instead, he claimed, he earned an art degree from Newbridge College, a health-care focused school in California in the United States.
Kimcheon Science College in North Gyeongsang said it may rehire Lee, who resigned in August after teaching there for five years.
“Although we have not made a final decision, we are considering inviting him as a guest professor,” said Lee Eun-jik, dean of the school’s planning department. “Although it is true that Lee damaged our school’s reputation, Lee [who also owns architecture and interior design companies] has helped students find jobs after graduation and experience fieldwork.”
Comedian Gang Seok, as well as actresses Choi Hwa-jung and Oh Mi-hee, all kept their jobs at their broadcasting companies and continue to host their radio shows. None of the three attended college despite their claims to the contrary.
An actor, Choi Su-jong, is currently starring in the KBS drama Daejoyoung as a lead role.
He claimed to have attended the Korea University of Foreign Studies, but he never did.
Joo Seung-kyu, producer of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation’s radio show that Gang has co-hosted for more than 20 years, refused to comment.
A publicity official for the broadcaster said Gang “did not intentionally fabricate his degree. It was the portal site’s mistake.”
Gang, who had been falsely listed as a Yonsei University graduate, said the whole thing started from a joke.
“The joke that I made when I was young was exaggerated. It was my fault, though. I should have corrected the wrong information on the portal sites,” Gang said in an apology message he delivered publicly on Aug. 20.
Revered Buddhist monk Jigwang, 57, still leads Nungin Sunwon, a temple with more than 250,000 adherents in southern Seoul, as the head monk.
He admitted in August that he lied about graduating from Seoul National University. He also graduated only from high school.
Not everyone got off easy, however.
Kim Ock-rang, 62, the chief executive of the DongSoong Art Center, has been indicted on charges of interfering with business by submitting bogus degrees to Dankook University when she was hired as a professor.
She is currently on trial. Kim received bachelor degrees from Pacific Western University, a U.S. diploma mill, then earned master’s and doctoral degrees at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul.
Her degrees from Sungkyunkwan were cancelled and Dankook University fired her from her job as an art management professor.
“I was invited to work as a professor because of my practical knowledge and experience in performance art, not because of my degrees,” Kim claimed in her first hearing on Sept. 14.
She faces a possible imprisonment of up to five years or fines of 15 million won ($16,530) or less.
The incident which started it all is still reverberating.
The student unions at the six colleges of Dongguk University held a press conference on Oct. 31 calling for the board members of the school to resign over the Shin Jeong-ah scandal.
A Buddhist monk who was on the board at the time said he informed all of the board members that Shin’s degrees were fake, but they still decided to hire her.
“The people who approved the decision to hire Shin have kept quiet about their wrongdoings,” said Hyeon Seong-eun, president of the student union of the college of liberal arts. “The students are the victims of the school’s tainted reputation, which was caused by Shin and the board.”
More scandals may lie ahead.
The Korean Council for University Education said it has received more than 10,000 applications from government organizations, universities or private companies, asking it to confirm the academic degrees of their employees since launching the service on Sept. 1.
“On the first day of the service, more than 500 applications were filed,” said Yang Eung-yeol, an official at the council.
By Kim Soe-jung Staff Writer [email@example.com]