South Korean art historian with fake credentials spurs national scandal

Historians in the News

After a news agency reported in July that an important art historian had faked her credentials, a nationwide wave of allegations and confessions followed that has so far swept up a movie director, a renowned architect, the head of a performing arts center, a popular comic book writer, a celebrity chef, actors and actresses, a former TV news anchor and now the Venerable Jigwang....

In an intensely competitive country that has long put a premium on impressive degrees, suspicions that academic records had been falsified have circulated for years. But the tissue of untruths began to disintegrate in July, when reports emerged that Shin Jeong-ah, an art history professor at Dongguk University, the top Buddhist university in Korea, had misrepresented her past. Ms. Shin, who claimed to have a Ph.D. from Yale and other degrees from the University of Kansas, had risen quickly in the art world. At 35, she was appointed co-director of the Kwangju Biennale, one of the biggest and most acclaimed art events in East Asia.

Her troubles began when a member of her university’s board of directors questioned her academic record, and then brought it to the attention of the news media. It turned out that she had attended the University of Kansas but had not graduated, and that she had never attended Yale. The university fired Ms. Shin, who lost her other positions and left for the United States.

Questions arose about other prominent figures’ academic degrees. Some came forward to confess.
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