A Seoul university professor forced students to write her daughter’s thesis to gain entry to an elite dental school, a government report revealed Tuesday, the latest scandal to hit South Korea’s hyper-competitive education system.
The professor, who teaches at Seoul’s Sungkyunkwan University, made her graduate students conduct a three-month experiment – and even asked them to fabricate the results – before the daughter published the findings in an academic journal under her own name.
The daughter then included the thesis in an application to Seoul National University’s dental school – the top institution of its kind in the country – and earned admission last year.
South Korea is notorious for its hyper-competitive education system and academic performance is seen as pivotal in defining adult lives, holding the key to the best jobs, social status, and even marriage prospects.
Many parents feel pressured to send their children to the nation’s top schools and frequently make headlines for cheating the system – including the case of a high-school teacher arrested last year on charges of stealing exam papers for his daughters.
Top politicians, including current education minister Yoo Eun-hae, have apologized in the past for ethical lapses related to their children’s education. Yoo last year admitted falsifying her home address to enroll her daughter in a prestigious elementary school in central Seoul.
In the latest case, the education ministry said it had asked prosecutors to investigate if any laws were broken. “The Education Ministry plans to ask her university to expel the professor,” an official told AFP. The investigation discovered the professor had one of her students do 54 hours of volunteer work – converting a book into braille – in her daughter’s name, for which she was paid 500,000 won (around US$440).
The daughter also won a number of academic awards for posters and research reports that were actually completed by her mother’s students, it said. It has been widely reported that the country’s graduate students are frequently subject to abuse and exploitation – including working long hours in the lab and running errands such as laundry for their professors.
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