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Byeon Suspected of Knowing about Shin’s Fake Credentials

Byeon Suspected of Knowing about Shin’s Fake Credentials

Posted September. 15, 2007 05:06,   


There are growing suspicions that Byeon Yang-gyun, 58, a former chief presidential secretary, probably knew that Shin Jeong-ah, the former curator-professor who rose to fame by forging her academic background, had a fabricated Yale University doctorate when he recommended her to Hong Ki-sam, the former president of Dongguk University, in July 2005.

The Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office investigating the so-called “Shin Jeong-ah scandal” has decided to summon Byeon to secure evidence over when he knew about Shin’s fake credentials. Prosecutors believe that Byeon could face criminal charges, including misfeasance and complicity, if he is found to have recommended her for the position of professor at Dongguk University and art director of the Gwangju Biennale while knowing of her fake degree.

People from the cultural circles and Yale alumni said on September 14 that Shin Jeong-ah never attended gatherings of Yale alumni since she proclaimed she received an art doctorate from Yale University in May 2005.

Shin Yeong-mu, the Korean president of Yale alumni and a lawyer, said that he has never heard her name among alumni, nor has he seen her at the gatherings. The Korea Yale alumni association has about 400 members in Korea and holds a regular meeting twice a year.

Former presidential aide Byeon, who graduated from the Graduate School of Business at Yale University with a master’s degree, reportedly actively participated in the gatherings. His fellow alumni said that if he recommended Shin as a professor of Dongguk University, he would bring her to the meeting.

“Shin allegedly obtained a leave of absence for about two weeks in January and July, respectively, between 2003 and 2004 when she worked for Sungkok Art Museum as a curator. Byeon, who seemingly had an intimate relationship with her, would have known the fact that no one can receive a doctorate from Yale by visiting the school twice a year,” said an alumnus from the school.

The prosecution plans to investigate whether Byeon, while serving as the minister of Planning and Budget, offered budgetary support to Dongguk University in return for her appointment as a professor.

It is likely that the prosecution will seek search warrants for Byeon’s temporary residence and his home, and for securing the e-mail exchanges of Buddhist monks Jangyun and Yeongbae, and Han Kap-soo, former director of the 2008 Gwangju Biennale Foundation. It also made a request to Cheong Wa Dae to hand over the personal computer Byeon used while working as a presidential aide.

In addition, the prosecution found out the Ministry of Planning and Budget purchased expensive art works from Shin in 2005 when Byeon worked as the minister, and that he enabled the purchases of the artworks. It also is trying to find out whether other government agencies bought artworks from Shin.

Prosecutors are tracing telephone communications messages Shin exchanged with Byeon right before she left for the United States after she was discovered to have forged her academic credentials.