Yesterday, a Korean poet/author, Lee EungJoon, blogged on Huffington Post Korea, alleging that one of Korea’s most famous authors (certainly the most successful internationally) Shin Kyung-sook has been plagiarizing other people’s works for decades. As an example, he offered a detail comparison between late Japanese author Mishima Yukio’s short story “Conservative Nation(OoKuk)” and Shin’s “Legend.”
Although there are subtle differences in the wording, to suspend belief that these are two separate passages from two separate minds is nearly impossible. More than a decade ago, claims that Shin plagiarized other’s works were also raised, but with the force of her popularity, that kind of talk was quickly swept under the proverbial rug maintained by Korea’s Writer’s Guild.
As the new and former accusations gain traction, Shin has, through her Korean publisher ChangBi, decided to defend herself in a statement: “I do not know of a work called ‘Conservative Nation(WooGuk)’ though I have read Yukio’s GeumGakSa. I’m sorry to have caused all this turmoil for my readers. You’ve been through all kinds of difficulty with me and as such hope that you will believe me. Whether such an assertion is true or not, it only leaves a scar on the writer and thus I will not respond.”
Now, read that again. The direct translation may not be perfect and may sound even a little awkward but “you’ve been through all kinds of difficulty with me and as such hope that you will believe me”? Now, what kind of logic is that? And how could her readers have gone through rough patches with her as she claims, and even if they’d felt all her pathos somehow, what would that have anything to do with believing and trusting her?
Then she says, “Whether such an assertion is true or not.” What in the world? Does she dare claim that it doesn’t matter whether she plagiarized someone’s work or not because the more important thing is that she could (God forbid) get hurt? How in the world could a woman who writes with this kind of logic have become a star author in Korea, let alone internationally?
Korea has long suffered and is still suffering from an almost-amnesic disregard for truth, all for the sake of achievement and success as evidenced by unending cover-ups revealed of chaebol’s financial shenanigans and bribery scandals involving politicians and public officials high and low. That it has infected what one has assumed an august institution of literature is beyond sad. It’s demoralizing.