Given how rampant plagiarism is in many fields in South Korea—and it really, really is, despite some limited attempts to address it—I figured it was only a matter of time until some famous contemporary author here got accused of it… at least, on a stage public and prominent enough for it to make it into the English language news.
Well, that finally happened earlier this year, in September… accusation, scandal, flubbed dismissals, and finally an apology… well, sort of. (Kind of a non-apology apology, of the sort that’s very fashionable these days everywhere.) It happened back in September, but I’ve been busy so I’m only posting about it now.
Of these, the flubbed dismissal by her publisher is the most interesting—and for whatever reason was left out of the English-language coverage—but I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, the caveat: I’m not fluent in Korean, and am basing this on not only English but Korean sources, with some help and some guessing. I may have some facts wrong here. If I do, I appreciate any corrections offered.
But the absence of discussion on blogs dealing with Korean Lit and Korea generally has been downright conspicuous… or, well, I haven’t seen a post yet in the places I know about (nudge, nudge). I’ll spare you all the lecture on how Hallyu nationalism has sadly infested even academic scholarship on Korea, and just say it’s a pretty glaring omission for what probably will be, for most South Koreans, the year’s biggest and most memorable Korean Lit news story, concerning the most internationally famous Korean author today.
So, the accusation: over at the Huffington Post Korea a few weeks back, writer Eungjun Lee accused internationally-famous South Korean novelist Kyungsook Shin of plagiarism. This got a little coverage in the English press, but not much in the English-language blogs in Korea. There was some discussion in the news outlets, and on the radio in English. But this story trended hard in Korean. All my (non-literary) students knew about it, and sill remember it.
Here’s what happened as far as I understand it: Continue reading