Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Another Academic Fraud

Chang Mi-hee's 1985 film Deep Blue Night

I just got back from a faculty retreat at Ocean Castle in Taean. It was fun weirdness in many ways, but I don't want to blog it. Why? Someone else has pictures and none were taken in any scenic areas. Blogs need pictures. I know a lot of you have ADD issues. If you have questions on how I faired at the faculty training, send me an email ;)

However, speaking of education, at this point the whole "I lied about my education" thing is just growing tiresome because a new story of yet someone else having a crisis of conscience comes out every few days. Honestly, I've got a much more cynical read on this. People are digging now most likely, so instead of getting exposed people are playing the noble but sorrowful role. If that will get them out of trouble, and it probably will to a certain extent here, okay. I sense more to come.

But sorry to break it to you all in Korea but most expats here already knew there were big issues. Of course, it was only en vogue to expose lying foreigners and not lying Koreans.

I'll keep linking the stories for the benefit of those who don't live or work in Korea and for those who are just curious.

Here is one I saw today: Movie Star Chang Mi-hee Confesses to Bogus Resume

Chang Mi-hee says she's not trying to pass the buck and diminishes the importance her fake degrees held for her job, so why lie in the first place? It's that kind of inconsistency. Why lie about your education level when you're already a famous actress and financially successful? That points to this being a bad symptom of mostly positive cultural traits.

What's funny is in my home sweet home of L.A. it's common knowledge that most actors AREN'T even college grads much less suited to teach based on academic merit. If they do teach, it would be based on their practical job experience. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, if I'm taking theater or acting I want an experienced actor to show me the ropes and not some academic. However, in the course of the development of its culture and modern society that was never a possibility here.

Anyway, read it and come to your own decision. For me, it just seems like there was no reason for her to even lie. So she just had a drive to layer more status on her already high status? Or maybe it was the fear of working with teachers and professors she assumed did have degrees so it was lying to save face with them?

Chang Mi-hee, 50, a leading screen star of the 1970 and 80s and now a theater and visual arts professor at Myongji College, is the latest high-profile Korean found to have lied about her educational background.

Chang, who is also a member of the Korean Film Council, claimed to have graduated from Dongguk University College of Buddhist Studies, Hawthorne University in the U.S. and Myongji University Graduate School of Education, according to the film council website and Internet portals like Naver.

But Dongguk University, responding to an inquiry by the Chosun Ilbo, said they had no record of any graduates by that name. Hawthorne University, meanwhile, was found to be an unaccredited school.

Reflecting on her 1978 visit to Stanford University in an essay published in 1998, the film star mentioned that she was a Dongguk University student. In a 2000 interview with Chosun weekly magazine, she said, "My Buddhism major was a philosophical choice, not a religious one."

Confronted by reporters at Myongji on Friday, Chang told them to check the facts with the schools and quickly left campus. But two hours later in a late-night interview, Chang broke down in tears and confessed to having lied.

"I'm embarrassed," Chang said. "I will willingly accept all criticism. But I stand firm in my belief that my teaching at Myongji was based more on my acting career than my degree. That's all the pride I have left."

― First, please clarify the facts.

"I debuted as an actress at age 19. A few years later I enrolled in Dongguk's Buddhist Studies department through 'extra admissions', which is how it's called these days. I didn't graduate but I took classes like other students."
― Hawthorne is known to be an unaccredited school.

"Believe it or not, I really didn't know. And that fact wasn't important. My childhood dream was to become an elementary school teacher. I really wanted to teach."

― The public is especially upset with you because you're a professor.

"I'm truly embarrassed. But when I was appointed to teach at Myongji's Adult & Continuing Education institute in 1989, the institute didn't appoint instructors based on their educational degrees. Over the years, I've done some 80 TV shows and films. I considered the appointment as recognition of my career. The hourly teaching fee was W8,000 then, while I received W50 million per movie. I put teaching before acting. I was famous for not skipping classes. I even received an award of merit in 1997."

― And what about the appointment to professor at Myongji College that came later?

"I'm not trying to pass the buck but I think that decision was up to the university. I still believe that the school considered my career more than my degree. Regarding Hawthorne, I still don't know what happened. I heard that the Education Ministry will launch a probe on the recent scandals next week. I will follow its decision."

Debuting on TV in 1975, Chang rose to stardom as the lead in the 1977 film "Winter Woman." Along with You Ji-in and Jeong Yun-hee, she was a top silver screen actress in the 70s and 80s. Chang has been teaching at Myongji College since 1998. She is a member of the Korean Film Council and executive committee chief of the Goyang International Children's Film Festival.

Another actress that confessed last week. Honestly, it was so underwhelming that I didn't blog it. However, now I can't find the link, so once I do, I'll add it here.

Update 1 - here is the link: Leading Actress Admits Faking Educational Background

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  1. Snore.....

    I agree, it's become an old topic over there in Korea. Folks at Stanford are feeling very stung by the Zelig named Azia, who climbed in and out of a borrowed dorm window and attended classes there.

    Ah well. I'm sure she'll be teaching over in Korea someday. She'll tell everyone she "matriculated at Stanford."


  2. Yeah, this one is just boring and I just think she's stupid for lying in the first place.

    She got the job offer due to her work. She could have skated in on that and gotten a degree while teaching to go further, if that was her desire.

  3. Part of me (the good, honorable part of me) objects to lying in the first place. Another part of me (the shameful, sneaky side) thinks that if you've absolutely got to tell a lie, you'd better make it a damned good one. So why tell a bad lie, easy-to-expose lie when you don't even need to?

    I don't know if this is so much of a problem in Japan. What IS a problem, though, is people who manage to get into good universities and then sail through them having done very little work, finally graduating with little more knowledge than they had when they got in. In the past, these people got excellent jobs just because of their impressive alma mater. After the bubble burst, companies got a lot savvier about hiring people with the requisite qualifications but little practical expertise.

  4. Well, like the current backlash against Chinese products and how we've all selectively forgotten that the US had development growing pains too: America's history of tainted consumer goods, I think this is a educational growing pain which is unique to Korea in some ways due to it's culture and values. It came up in America in it's own way too, formed by the culture and values. As you say, Japan has its own too.

    I'm sure in the history of the US there were education scandals and that's why we have accrediation organizations and formal entry tests these days.

    We just had different cultural challenges and social hurdles. We still have an education system that needs a lot of work. Large number of children fall through the cracks, so while Korea might have its problems so do we.

    I just try to keep the focus of my blog on Korea (and sometimes that's very difficult actually and I've carved out exceptions for things I really like). A blog on the US education system is going to discuss our problems too.


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