(born 28 April 1972
), once known as the "art world's Cinderella," is a former assistant professor of art at Dongguk University
and chief curator at Sungkok Art Museum
who created a national scandal in South Korea
shortly after her appointment in July 2007 as joint artistic director of the 2008 Gwangju Biennale
. It was revealed that she had forged her academic credentials in 2005 prior to being hired by Dongguk University.
Shin claims that when she was 23, she was rescued after 8 hours of being trapped amid the rubble of the Sampoong Department Store collapse
While applying to Dongguk University and the 2008 Gwangju Biennale, Shin said she had obtained BFA
(1994) and MBA
(1995) degrees at the University of Kansas
, and a Ph.D.
from Yale University
in April 2005. Shin submitted to Dongguk what she said was her dissertation, "Guillaume Apollinaire: Catalyst for primitivism, for Picabia and Duchamp," which was later revealed to have been submitted to the University of Virginia in 1981 by Ekaterini Samaltanou-Tsiakma.
Shin is only a high school graduate.
Timeline of scandal
- 1 September 2005 - Dongguk University, a Buddhist-affiliated university, hires Shin as an assistant professor with the strong backing of Hong Ki-sam, then-president of Dongguk. Questions arise as to her credentials after the art department rejects hiring her because of her lack of academic background saying that she studied Western art history and not Buddhist art history, the departments's focus.
- 5 September 2005 - A Dongguk University administrator sends a registered letter to Yale University Graduate School Associate Dean Pamela Schirmeister, requesting that she verify the authenticity of a letter that Shin had presented to Dongguk as a certification of her degree during the hiring process.
- 22 September 2005 - Schirmeister confirms via fax that Shin received her doctorate from Yale, stating that "I am confirming that the attached letter was issued by the Yale Graduate School and signed by me."
- April 2007 - The Korea College Art Association reports that Shin's diploma is a forgery after receiving a letter from Professor Christine Mehring of Yale University saying that Shin was never one of her students and that she had never read any papers written under her name.
- 11 June 2007 - Yale University informs Dongguk University that Shin did not receive a doctorate from them, stating that the degree confirmation fax letter sent in 2005 by Schirmeister is "not authentic" and a forgery. Yale also tells Korean media that it had not received a registered letter in 2005 asking whether Shin had received a doctorate from Yale.
- 4 July 2007 - Shin is appointed as artistic co-director of the 2008 Gwangju Biennale, Korea’s biggest arts event.
- 11 July 2007 - Lee Sang-il, Dongguk University’s dean of academic affairs, holds a press conference on campus, stating that “Yale University notified us that Shin has never registered with the school, let alone received a doctoral degree.”
- The University of Kansas tells Yonhap News Agency that although Shin attended the school from 1992 to 1996, she did not graduate.
- 12 July 2007 - Gwangju Biennale foundation revokes its decision to apoint Shin as co-director of its 2008 event.
- 16 July 2007 - Shin flies to New York and begins her stay in the U.S. saying she would go to Yale to collect evidence that can prove her innocence that can clarify her claims.
- 20 July 2007 - Dongguk University fires Shin for fabricating her academic records including a bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas and a doctorate from Yale University.
- Dongguk University also files complaints to the prosecution for further investigation on others involved in the scandal.
- August 2007 - Dongguk University sends Yale University an e-mail saying it had located the U.S. Postal Service tracking record showing that its 2005 registered letter was signed by a Yale staff member.
- 29 December 2007 - Yale University officials issue a statement expressing both their regrets and admitting to the error.
On 27 March 2008
, Dongguk University sued Yale University for at least $50 million, claiming Yale's actions has "severely tarnished" its stellar reputation, sparked a criminal probe, cost employees their jobs, and led to a decline in donations, government grants and student applications. Yale calls the error an administrative mistake and states the lawsuit is without merit.
Yale also noted that Dongguk failed to take action after the Korea College Art Association reported she had not received her doctorate from Yale. Dongguk fired Shin on July 20, 2007, "long after Shin's lies unraveled," court papers said. Yale also responded by saying that in addition to Dongguk's delayed reaction to the notice and own involvement in the scandal, the conviction of a government official who peddled influence with the university also "will be at the heart of this case."
A South Korean court handed down a suspended one-year jail term to former presidential aide, Byeon Yang-kyoon, with whom Shin was romantically linked. Shin and Byeon made headlines in 2007 after Byeon used his influence to get Shin hired by Dongguk University. He was forced to step down as an aide to then-President Roh Moo-hyun because of the scandal. Byeon was ordered to conduct 160 hours of community service for exercising his influence to provide state tax benefits to a Buddhist temple founded by a former Dongguk University official who helped hire Shin as a professor.