| President-elect Park Geun-hye`s nominee for presidential chief of staff on Wednesday released a letter of apology following allegations raised by The Dong-A Ilbo and its sister company Channel A that he plagiarized his Ph.D. thesis.
Huh Tae-yeol was also urged by opposition parties to drop out of the running. Konkuk University, which granted him his doctorate, also decided to open an investigation into the matter.
In a news release, he said, "I feel ashamed that I failed to sincerely abide by a moral compass while writing a thesis in 1999. I lacked understanding of writing methods and ethics," adding, "Please give me a second chance, and I will sacrifice myself for the sake of the public good."
Through a review titled "Simply apologizing for cheating?," Chung Eun-hye, vice spokeswoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party, said, "If plagiarism occurred, his degree must be revoked considering the reputation of the school that granted it to him and others who struggled for years to get a doctorate."
"False academic documents correspond to nullification of appointment. A simple apology cannot make up for the wrongdoing. He should take responsibility," she added. "I doubt that Huh, who also faces suspicion over real estate speculation committed by his wife, is well-qualified to support the president."
Konkuk is also taking action over the matter. In a phone interview, the university`s vice president Choi Kyu-ha said, "A doctorate can be canceled if fraud was committed within five years of gaining the degree, according to the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, Since a consensus is developing that action should be taken, however, we`ve requested an authoritative interpretation to the ministry."
The university will decide whether to make a preliminary investigation when it receives answers from the ministry. Park Young-hee, a Konkuk honorary professor who was Huh`s thesis director, told Dong-A the same day, "I assume responsibility for failing to spot the plagiarism while serving on the dissertation screening committee."
In April last year, Hungarian President Pal Schmitt resigned after being stripped of his 1992 doctorate when 90 percent of it was found to have been plagiarized from works by two other people. In March 2011, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was considered a favorite to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, also stepped down after allegations emerged that he also committed plagiarism while getting his Ph.D.