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[Opinion] Trust-building Infrastructure

Posted August. 09, 2007 05:58,   


Prominent curator Shin Jeong-ah, radio English-learning program host Lee Ji-yeong, movie director Shim Hyeong-rae, interior designer Lee Chang-ha, and art center executive Kim Ok-rang, have one thing in common. That is, they created a stir nationwide with forged academic credentials. As their lies have been revealed, celebrities, who had been on respective winning streaks, lost their social status overnight. Meanwhile, some show sympathy, saying that they were just victims of elitism in Korean society, or that what matters is their capability. In a survey of people in their 20’s and 30’s, nearly 20 percent of the respondents said they had once felt like falsifying their academic records, especially when writing resumes or when they witness incapable colleagues being promoted just because of their good academic background.

Incheon Airport Customs found 70 cases of forged documents including false diplomas, school records, and visas during the first half of this year. In the past, identification cards were fabricated mostly, but beginning last year, documents of forged academic records took up over half of the cases. Reportedly, there are many service providers that leave information on the cost and contact numbers in response to a request over the internet, saying that they can duplicate any document with 100 percent accuracy compared to the original. Forgery services in Beijing, China are booming with custom-made false certificates for customers all around the world.

The best Greek epic poem, the Iliad, said that being trusted is a greater compliment than being loved. Sadly, Korea seems to fall far short of getting such compliments according to many research findings. Moreover, levels of trust in Korean society are gradually decreasing. For a comprehensive question on trustworthiness in society, Korea scored only 4.6 on a scale of one to ten. People also tend to take caution against other members of society (63 percent) rather than trust them (37 percent).

Society has to bear hefty costs if not equipped with adequate infrastructure such as highways, airports, and ports. Factors creating social capital such as norms or citizenship can also serve as infrastructure, which lays foundation for our economic activities. Only when we drive fakes out of academia can we establish a trust-building infrastructure. Prosecutors set out to crack down on forged diplomas, certificates, and other records by the year’s end. To report such cases to prosecutors, call 1301 without an area code. And remember that verification of credentials in the worlds of art and academia, which have experienced related scandals of recent times, is not the job of prosecutors alone.

Hong Kwon-hui, Editorial Writer, konihong@donga.com