By Kim Rahn
Kookmin University announced Friday that the ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker-elect and International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Moon Dae-sung had committed plagiarism in his doctoral thesis submitted to the university in 2007, following a preliminary investigation.
“The theme and purpose of Moon’s study was the same as that of a thesis by a Myongji College student,” professor Lee Chae-sung of the university’s ethics committee said in a news conference on its Seoul campus. “The similarity was far beyond the scope which academics ordinarily accept. We concluded it was plagiarism,” he said.
The taekwondo gold medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics quit the party, which had scheduled a disciplinary meeting. He issued a statement of apology but didn’t mention whether he will give up his seat.
With the departure of Moon, elected to represent a district in Busan in the April 11 parliamentary elections, the ruling party is one seat shy of a clear majority in the 300-member unicameral National Assembly. A blame game is expected to follow over the process in which Moon was selected as the party’s candidate.
The Kookmin professor said the school conducted the inspection at its own discretion without pressure from the Saenuri Party, which has urged Moon to resign his membership.
Following the first investigation, the school will establish a full-scale committee to fully examine the case within 90 days. If the committee decides Moon committed plagiarism, his thesis is likely to be cancelled.
Upon the school’s announcement, he said he would leave the party.
“I’m resigning my Saenuri membership today. I apologize to the public for causing a stir. I decided to withdraw following a party recommendation. I hope the Saenuri Party will focus on taking care of the people without the pressure of having me as a member,” he said. “I’m to blame for everything. It is my fault for the plagiarism suspicions as well as for making people confused by reversing my decision to withdraw. I deeply apologize.”
Only two days ago, Moon refused to resign from the party, saying he would wait and see what Kookmin University concluded. The party’s ethics committee was planning to hold a meeting next Wednesday to decide on whether to expel him.
Following Moon’s withdrawal, Saenuri Party was left with 150 Assembly seats of the 152 it had won. Kim Hyung-tae left the party Wednesday to deal with sexual assault allegations made by the wife of his deceased brother.
Regarding Moon’s withdrawal, the main opposition Democratic United Party Spokesman Park Yong-jin said he should not only leave the party but also resign as a lawmaker.
“People think Moon is not qualified to be a lawmaker due to his plagiarism and deception. Politicians who lie, copy papers or deceive the people should not become National Assembly members,” he said.
Moon obtained the doctorate with a thesis about proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching and its effect on taekwondo athletes. But it was alleged he copied almost all of another thesis submitted to Myongji in February of that year.