On Nov. 15, all Korean students in their third and last year of high school took the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) that would determine their future career. However, some students were not able to get admitted into their dream schools because they plagiarized college application essays.
“I am not very surprised that colleges rejected students due to plagiarism,” John Jung (9) said. “The issues of academic integrity are prominent in Korea and we can even see this on a smaller level at SIS because there are students here who try to cut corners. I think most pressure comes from society and parents’ expectations because they are the ones who trigger the fear of disappointment for their children. Everyone knows that South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and I think that this suicide rate is more connected to academic stress and competition.”
According to the Korean Council for University Education, 1,406 students were disqualified from admission due to plagiarized statements. Admissions officers easily notice when familiar passages from well-known pieces appear in applicants’ essays or when specific parts do not seem to match the rest of the student’s profile. In the event that plagiarism is detected, the committee contacts the student and gives him or her the opportunity to provide an explanation. If the answer is not satisfactory, the application is rejected.
“I think that the college application process does give me a lot of stress, but at the same time, it is also fulfilling,” said Junie Kah (12), president of the HSSC. “However, it is unfortunate to see that numerous people have been caught plagiarizing because there definitely might be a temptation. Pulling through and writing about your own achievements in your own honest way gives you the time to reflect upon your own activities and accomplishments. Hopefully, there won’t be any more incidents of plagiarism in the future.”
Universities throughout Korea began using a plagiarism detection software in 2011, disqualifying applicants whose essays have shown significant levels of similarity to works published online. The software sorts essays into three categories, with Level A essays showing less than 5 percent similarity and Level C essays showing more than 30 percent similarity. Level B essays, the in-between category, undergo human checking to determine whether the similarities stem from plagiarism. In 2016, a total of 1,502 essays were categorized as Level B, and 1,390 of those were disqualified.
“As for solutions, Korea might try what Japan did because they also had a similar situation where many people, mostly students, were stressed out,” said Michael Silber, HS Social Studies teacher. “They introduced what was called a relaxing education into their public school system where they lessened the expectation levels of students and made things less competitive. I know that President Moon has looked into this and passed the law regarding outside academies and the hours they can operate. South Korea needs a lot more of this and society, as well as the attitudes of people, need to change. People do not cheat because they are bad people. People cheat because they feel forced to.”