By Chung Min-uck
International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Moon Dae-sung is not just an embarrassment to the ruling Saenuri Party but also to Korea, an Olympic nation that hosted the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul and will host the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Moon, who won a seat in Busan in the April 11 parliamentary elections, has hunkered down, obviously believing that time is on his side, and, if he is patient enough, the brouhaha will blow away. But the gold-medal winning taekwondo star of the 2004 Athens Olympics should think again.
Copying somebody else’s thesis to earn a Ph.D. is nothing less than fraud and this violates the ethical code for a lawmaker. For the IOC, allowing him to represent the organization only adds to questions about its relevance.
Reflecting this, the ruling Saenuri Party decided to hand over its newly elected lawmaker to the party’s ethics committee to make a final decision on allegations about his plagiarism.
The IOC member has been under fire for allegedly plagiarizing an academic paper he submitted to Kookmin University to attain a Ph.D in 2007.
“The ethics committee will come up with a solution as soon as possible,” said party spokesman Rep. Hwang Young-chul following an emergency committee meeting presided over by Rep. Park Geun-hye, its chairwoman, Thursday.
The committee is to hold its first meeting on Monday.
The spokesman also urged the university to speed up its investigation of the paper, which was launched shortly after the allegation surfaced earlier this month.
During the committee meeting Rep. Park said “whoever stands in the way of keeping a promise to the people or breaking it will pay the price.” Park is a daughter of the late former President Park Chung-hee and the conservative’s strongest presidential candidate.
Observers say her comment seems to indicate the party will dump Moon for tarnishing its image ahead of presidential election slated for Dec. 19.
Another lawmaker-elect of the Saenuri Party, Kim Hyung-tae, voluntarily left the party Wednesday after being pressed to take responsibility for his ethically-flawed behavior in the past.
Kim is accused of sexually assaulting the wife of his deceased brother.
Party insiders say the biggest punishment the party can impose on Moon is to expel him, despite mounting calls for his resignation.
Under the current law, a legislator loses their position if they are imprisoned or fined over one million won for violating the Election Law.
The former athlete has refused to renounce his party membership, claiming he didn’t plagiarize his thesis and that he will wait for the results of an investigation before making any decision.
Moon currently serves as professor at Dong-A University in Busan.
The minor opposition Unified Progressive Party earlier called for the need to introduce a bill to censure Moon as soon as the 19th National Assembly opens on May 30.
Critics cite the case of Pal Schmitt, also an IOC member and an Olympics gold medalist, who resigned as president of Hungary earlier this month amid growing pressure over a plagiarism scandal regarding his doctoral thesis he wrote 20 years ago.