KOREA: Shin claims nude photo is fake

Degree-faker Shin Jeong-ah, who is romantically linked to former presidential secretary Byeon Yang-kyoon, denies the Munhwa Ilbo photos and other allegations

The Korea Times
Sunday, September 16, 2007

By Bae Ji-sook

Shin Jeong-ah, the former Dongguk University assistant art professor and dismissed art director of the Gwangju Biennale 2008, accused the daily Munhwa Ilbo of libel for printing allegedly fake nude photos of her.

In an interview with the weekly SisaIN conducted in New York, the 35-year-old said the photographs of her posing nude were obviously digitally created. She said photographer Hwang Ku-tea has done this before and she strongly condemned it. "I will do whatever to make the paper take full responsibility for its publication," she said.

Shin also described former top presidential secretary Byeon Yang-kyoon, who allegedly had a romantic ties with her, as just an "acquaintance."

"I met him as a Yale University alumnus in 2002, and had several lunches with him along with the late Park Seong-yawng, former chairman of the Kumho Asiana Group," she said.

The prosecution reportedly confiscated an expensive necklace along with an associated credit card receipt with Byeon's signature on it from Shin's apartment, and also found portraits the two allegedly painted of each other.

Shin claimed the reasons behind the paintings had been misleadingly conveyed to the public. She also said the necklace was given when she refused to accept cash from Byeon.

With regard to the e-mails recovered from her hard disk inside her personal computer, she said there was nothing romantic in them. "I have known him for long time and it is natural to send and receive those messages," she said.

There have been allegations that Byeon was her "sugar daddy," as the credit she bought an expensive membership of a fitness center at the Westin Chosun Seoul Hotel in April 2002. The membership requires a lifetime membership fee of 35 million won and monthly fee of two million won. Her extravagant life in New York that there is someone supporting her, some observers said.

In a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper on Sept. 8, she said she had plenty of money hidden under her bed, which later proved to be false.

Shin criticized the newspaper reporter for lying about talks they had on the telephone. She said she had been good to reporters, but they were backstabbing her.

"I say all the allegations stem from the fact that I am a single woman in the art field. If I was a man, no one would say anything," she said.

On the allegations of her fabricating degrees from Yale University and the University of Kansas, she admitted to the possible plagiarism of her doctoral paper due to her tutor helping her out for the entire course. But she fiercely denied allegations surrounding the degree itself. "I have paid fees to the university and I have bought graduation ceremony gowns, too," she said. She added that she submitted the original degree certificate to Dongguk University at the time of her employment.

A number of questions still remain however. How could she claim friendship with the late Park of Kumho Group when Park himself had kicked her out of his gallery after learning about her degree forgery? Shin claimed her mother was sending her money, but her mother is allegedly on the verge of bankruptcy, living in a Buddhist temple. So where is she getting all the money from?

If she paid her fees to Yale University, yet the school has no records of her name, is she involved in a degree fraud case through a broker? Did she buy her degree?