Recently art professor Shin Jeong-ah’s fake degree scandal has caused a great stir, making people wonder whether we are living in a fake world. But is Korea the only country suffering from the acts of deception?
Foreign students studying at Ewha, or who have visited Korea recently during summer vacation, say these fraud cases are not issues limited to Korea. However, the degree and severity of various deceptions differs from country to country.
On the level of industry, fakes seem to be more or less prevalent based on how much control the government has on industry. Leá Piloner from France, who is a graduate student at the University of Hamburg, says that industrial fakes are uncommon in European countries, especially in northern Europe where chambers of commerce, organizations supporting businesses, which have been conducting anti-fake campaigns. Also, the consciousness in France seems to discourage fakes, as Piloner comments that showing off expensive brand-name products is considered in bad taste. Yet in countries like Italy, where laws and institutions are a little looser, she says fake products are commonly sold.
Tammy Ting (LingnanUniversity, 3) from Hong Kong says that fake products can be easily bought in China, especially mainland China. Ting says, “Fake products like Louis Vuitton bags are sold in places like Shen Zene in mainland and are secretly exported to Hong Kong.” According to Ting, these are made to look so real, it is hard to tell they are fake. That is why the fake ones are expensive to buy. However, she comments that not many young people buy fake products because they feel ashamed. “Fake bags are more common among housewives and domestic helpers in Hong Kong. Young people prefer secondhand products because they are real and cheap,” adds Ting.
Academic deception is also a worldwide issue. Ting says that many university students in Hong Kong copy and paste articles from the Internet to do assignments but professors do not notice it most of the time. “One of my friends copied and pasted information from the Internet and was once caught by a foreign professor. The professor highlighted every sentence she copied and showed it to her. But this rarely happens,” says Ting.
Yet plagiarism also depends on which major you are in. Angelina Chor (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2) is an Anthropology major and says it is difficult to find abundant information on the Internet for her major. So when she has to do a research on a dying culture, she does field study and interview people in person.
The grading system for exams and assignments is an important factor influencing the prevalence of academic deception. Piloner says that, in France, the way of writing essays is different from in Korea. Exams ask you to reorganize what you have learned in class, so copying other people’s writing is impossible. Meanwhile some schools implemented systems to prevent academic fraud. Alexander Vnuk, an exchange student from the University of Hamburg, says that, in his school, students have to hand in their essays on CDs or upload them on the school server. Then a computer program checks for plagiarism.
There are also schools which have strict policies on cheating and plagiarism. Alice Lim (WellesleyCollege, 4) from the U.S., says that if anyone is caught in any act of deception in her school, she must go to the college judiciary and undergo a hearing and, if found guilty, can be expelled from school—something that goes on her permanent record.
Although Lim says there are only a few students cheating on exams in her college, students in larger universities are able to get assignments from seniors or other students who have taken the same courses. “I feel that, in the U.S., people do anything to get an edge to get ahead. So students will cheat if they can and it is an ongoing issue for teachers when they have to give exams or quizzes to students,” says Lim.
Aside from fake products and academic deception, there are also cases of deception in everyday life. For instance, Piloner points out French people’s attitude toward being polite, which is sometimes criticized as hypocritical. She explains, “When you meet someone you know on the street, you share greetings and small talk even if you do not like the person.” But she says, the reason why people do this is to preserve social harmony.
Then what are the deceptive characteristics of Koreans in everyday life? As a Korean American who has recently experienced Korean culture while working as an intern during summer vacation, Lim picks “passive-aggressive” behavior as the hallmark characteristic of many Koreans. Passive-aggressive behavior refers to psychological mechanism for handling hostility or anger in an underhanded or devious way that is hard for others to prove. One of the common examples of this behavior can be playing dumb or inadequate to frustrate someone or gain advantage.
While Lim gave a bitter comment on Korean people’s behavior, most international students said that no such particular acts of deception were noticeable. Piloner says, “The social rule of being nice is the same everywhere.”