What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
The Yoon Suk-yeol administration seems to have gotten off to a rocky start with its ministerial nominees. On May 3, the nominee for Education Minister, Kim In-cheol, withdrew himself from consideration amid growing controversies and scandals, including the one over his alleged involvement in his children receiving Fulbright scholarships while he served as the head of the Fulbright Korea alumni association, as well as his attendance at a dissertation defense for one of his students at a so-called bangseokjip, a restaurant/bar with private rooms for hostesses to entertain customers in.
Currently, Justice Minister nominee Han Dong-hoon is also under fire for issues related to his daughter. With the Democratic Party of Korea and its supporters calling for the nominees to be judged by the same standards that were applied to Cho Kuk, former Justice Minister under the Moon Jae-in administration, it may be difficult for Han to avoid the accusation that his high-schooler daughter’s resumé has been padded with the intention of boosting her college admission chances.
On May 4, The Hankyoreh published an article on how Han’s daughter, as a first year high school student, had seemingly published five short papers and four e-books within two months. Media outlets have since found out that some of these papers were either written by a ghostwriter or plagiarized.
On May 8, Han released a statement to the press in which he described his daughter’s papers as “practice essays, which have not been used, nor intended to be used, for school admissions”.
But his explanation only brought on more backlash.
A number of Twitter users likened Han’s explanation that his daughter did not plan to use her essays for college admission purposes to a high schooler found in possession of cigarettes saying, “I didn’t plan on smoking them.”
Political commentator Chin Jungkwon, who had previously berated Cho Kuk for his involvement in his daughter’s medical school admissions process, expressed a similar opinion regarding the resume-building activities of Han’s daughter.
What is this? So dirty.
At a time when trials were being held for [Cho Kuk’s wife] Chung Kyung-sim.
The only difference is that the deed was attempted [for Han] and completed [for Cho].
The essence of the issue is the same.
Forcing this appointment through may destroy the legitimacy of the administration.
— Chin Jungkwon, May 8, 2022.
Woo Jong-Hak, professor of Physics and Astronomy at Seoul National University, also addressed the issue in a lengthy post on Facebook:
Who is the victim?
The papers written by the daughter of [Justice] Minister nominee Han Dong-hoon raise many issues. This case is ten times more serious than those of Minister Cho Kuk’s daughter and lawmaker Na Kyung-won’s son that surfaced a few years ago. As a researcher whose main job is to write papers, I can’t help but be concerned about this case. There are many misunderstandings by the public regarding how academic papers are written and published, so an accurate understanding of that process is also necessary.
6. The nominee Han Dong-hoon countered that the academic articles were submitted to open access journals in order to electronically document essays written by his high school student daughter, who had been writing such essays for several years, but that the press distorted the facts and wrote as though the essays were academic articles. He claims that they were only essays, but what else would you call an academic article-type paper published in a journal if not articles?
7. “Open access” means that anyone can view the published articles. Papers published in certain journals can only be viewed by schools or individuals who pay expensive subscription fees, but the articles in open access journals can be read by non-subscribers. In the case of Alex Han’s papers, some are open access and some are not.
“Open access” does not necessarily mean that the published articles are not academic articles or that the journals are of poor quality. But it is true that low-quality journals or predatory journals that schools/libraries and individual researchers do not subscribe to, of course, choose an open access policy because they do not expect to profit through subscription fees.
11. Han Dong-hoon is trying to give the impression that his daughter’s papers are not academic articles by using words such as “online journals”, “open access”, and “writing by a high school student”. However, it is difficult to deny that they are academic articles and this further raises questions such as, “If they were not academic articles, why did she go to those lengths to submit them to journals and publish them?” Han’s answer, that it was for electronic documentation purposes, seems rather flimsy.
He has told the media that they were not academic papers, but it seems reasonable to infer that she had them submitted to journals and published so that she could use them as her academic achievements for study abroad programs/college admissions, etc.
13. The Hankyoreh reported the suspicion that one of her academic articles published in ABC Research Alert had been ghostwritten. It is presumed that she bought the article and published it in her own name.
Han Dong-hoon did not deny the allegation. However, he responded that it was not an academic article, but rather an essay written for practice that had been edited by a writing tutor. Even more ridiculous is the statement that she did not and does not plan to use the article for college admissions.
Since she is a second-year high school student now, she won’t be applying to colleges until next year. So of course, the academic article was not used for college admissions. I can’t believe this was his answer. And Han’s daughter would have no plans to use it in the future now that suspicions of ghostwriting have been raised. Who in that situation would say that they plan to use it for college admissions?
16. According to Newstapa reports, there is a suspicion that the single-author paper Han’s daughter submitted to the IEEE was plagiarized from a paper published three years ago.
Usually, plagiarism is revealed when several identical words or phrases are identified. However, if you slyly change the verb or change the passive voice to the active voice, etc, such changes are not easily caught by plagiarism software. Looking at the data comparing the two papers, in my opinion, it is certainly plagiarism. I wonder, was it Alex Han (Han Dong-hoon’s daughter) herself who edited the paper, or did someone else do it for her?
17. The case of the academic paper Han’s daughter submitted to the IEEE as a second author also raises serious questions. The first author is a Bangladeshi university student, so how on earth did Han’s daughter come to collaborate with him? I am very curious about how they got in touch, how they conducted the research jointly, and what the contribution of the second author, Alex Han, was.
Did they happen to meet at some international conference and discuss joint research, as researchers usually do? Or, did some college admissions consulting company arrange it for her? Or did she purchase her authorship of the paper with money? I hope Han Dong-hoon reveals the truth, rather than making excuses, saying that the paper was written for practice.
The real victims of this case are the children who are swayed by their parents’ influence to pad their resumes in this hugely competitive society, the children who can’t even dream of such opportunities, and the people who are hurt as they watch all these processes. I really hope that our society can become one where people live like human beings, instead of being an advanced country in name only.
— Woo Jong-Hak, professor of Physics and Astronomy at Seoul National University, May 8, 2022.
Even Kim Geun-sik, former head of the Vision and Strategy Team for the People Power Party, remarked that Han should make a statement of apology:
As a professor myself, and from a political standpoint, I think it is true that the various allegations against nominee Han Dong-hoon have not been fact-checked and some media outlets and Democratic Party members are excessively framing this case as being similar to Cho Kuk’s. And I do believe it’s a bit excessive. But nevertheless, personally, I didn’t even know that such a world existed. We talk a lot about Sky Castle. Before Sky Castle came out, how could we have known that such people existed? But they do, don’t they? And the fact that one such person is nominee Han Dong-hoon is unseemly in the eyes of the general public, even if there was no illegality and even if he makes excuses. Right? It’s a world that even I didn’t know of. And when the former minister Cho Kuk became a candidate for the Minister of Justice, and various allegations were raised, didn’t he try to get away with it at first but later apologized at the press conference? So I think Han at least needs to say that he feels sorry for the fact that his children enjoyed rights and privileges that others do not have. Of course, because Han’s children are smart and have money, and their parents have enough money, they go to an American international school and are actively doing various things in preparation for applying to American universities instead of Korean ones. I understand that, but I still think that he should apologize to the public, who didn’t even know that such a world for the elites exists.
— Kim Geun-sik, former head of Vision and Strategy Team for the People Power Party, May 9, 2022.
The public hearing for examining the nomination of Han Dong-hoon to be the next Justice Minister was held on May 9. Whether his path to the Justice ministership will be unhindered remains to be seen.