Possible roots of problemAlthough there are various reasons why students plagiarize, those can be divided into two big categories.
First, students do not realize the seriousness of the problem as they are not clearly informed about plagiarism. Second, there is no harsh punishment for the problem.
As the saying “imitation is the mother of invention” goes, Korea’s history is a true and typical example of imitation being successful. Some scholars explain Korean students’ plagiarisms this way, because imitation has a positive image to Korean people, leading them to not take plagiarism as seriously as other countries do. This interpretation is valid in a sense that there is no strict law regarding university students’ plagiarisms, and thorough supervision is also not present.
“Sadly, when dealing with students’ assignment papers, many professors read on the assumptions that students could plagiarize to a certain extent, not knowing that they have plagiarized,” professor Kim Ae-ryung (Psychology) said. “I believe one reason that students plagiarize is because they do not know the exact method of citation.”
Behind the problem, there is the development of the Internet. It has made plagiarism easier than ever before. Copying and pasting the postings online and downloading untraceable information are common these days.
“Getting the information from the Internet can be another reason, for when students read information on a Web site, they do not really check the source, but only use it when they get the idea,” professor Kim said.
Universities have been showing actions dealing with students’ plagiarism recently. However, rather than taking strong and harsh actions to solve the problem, professors in Korea merely try to give more chances, or scare students by simply giving a low grade.
Professors admitted there are temptations for students to plagiarize and other various reasons for plagiarism.
“When I give an assignment, I try to give something that is impossible for students to plagiarize,” professor Kim said. “Another way I use is to reduce the amount of the paper. If an assignment is only half or one page and requires the students to write about one’s thoughts, they can hardly plagiarize, and it is easy to catch plagiarism even if they did.”
Students commented on how plagiarism is dealt in Korea in comparison to other countries.
“I think getting a failing grade for a class will be the worst punishment for Korean university students,” said Ohm Ji-won (English), a Teaching Assistant for English majors. “On the other hand, I heard that if students plagiarize in United States, he or she gets expelled.”
In the United States, strict university laws and harsh punishments are put into action upon university plagiarism.
“Students get expelled for plagiarism, although it does not happen often,” profesor Kipp said. “However, I do believe Korea has looser punishments than those of United States.”
Professor Kipp has failed six students from Ewha, most of who have plagiarized five to eight pages in their thesis.
“Students will immediately lose credit,” professor Kipp said.
* Reporters: Hur Jin, Ahn In-kyeong and Oh Seo-jin
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