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Con Artist Gets Prison for Academic Fraud, Embezzlement

Posted April. 01, 2008 06:09,   


A Seoul court yesterday sentenced Shin Jeong-ah, who falsified her credentials to get a job at a university’s art department, to 18 months in prison for academic fraud and embezzlement.

Former presidential secretary for national policy Byeon Yang-kyoon was sentenced to one year for abuse of power with a stay of execution of two years and 160 hours of community service.

At their final trial yesterday, Judge Kim Myeong-seop of the Seoul Western District Court read the ruling, which said, “Shin interrupted normal operations by submitting forged records of undergraduate study at the University of Kansas and of her entry to the Ph.D program at Yale University. Afterwards, she gained employment as a lecturer at a university and then as art director of the Gwangju Biennale.”

Shin listened quietly to the verdict without emotion, but lowered her head when her sentence was read.

“It is evident that Shin embezzled public funds while working as a division chief at Sungkok Art Museum,” the ruling said.

Shin and Byeon, however, were found not guilty of forging a doctorate from Yale for Shin.

The court said, “Though Byeon and Shin were a couple who loved and cherished each other, it is difficult to say they conspired together (to forge academic records) since they earned and spent money independently. There was also no trace of economic aid between them.”

Byeon was also cleared of the charge that he took 300 million won in return for getting former Ssangyong Group Chairman Kim Suk-won released from prison. “The statements of former Chairman Kim, who said he paid the money, and of his wife Park Mun-sun, the director of Sungkok Art Museum, lack credibility because they are not giving reasonable facts,” the ruling said.

Byeon was convicted, however, of abuse of power, having exercised influence so that the Buddhist temple of Heungdeok in Ulju County could receive subsidies.

“After he received a request from the owner and abbot of Heungdeok Temple, Yim Yong-taek, Byeon exercised his power over relevant ministries to make them give a grant of one billion won to the temple,” the court said. “He also exercised influence to send grants to Bogwang Temple, where his wife attends regularly.”

Shin’s attorney said after the trial, “This is quite a satisfactory result because she was found not guilty on most of the charges except forgery of academic records.”

Yim and Park Mun-sun were also each sentenced to 10 months in prison with a two-year stay of execution and 120 hours of community service.