Extra! Korea

June 27, 2009

Would you want these students to become your doctor or pharmacist?

Filed under: education, health, idiots — extrakorea @ 3:33 am

Korea Beat has reported that a group of pharmacology students at Seoul National University were caught cheating on an exam, and that this follows a similar incident last year in which pre-med students were also caught cheating. Their punishment? The medical students were given “various punishments including demotion,” whatever that means. A Korea Herald article on the same topic stated that, “The school only issued warnings to the students.” Either way, it’s clear that the students received extremely light punishment, especially in light of the fact that, in the future, they will be making life-or-death decisions based upon their “knowledge.” Certainly, something harsher was merited.
And the pharmacology students?

The cheating was brought to light after a student posted an article on the SNU Intranet that some pharmacy college students cheated in exams.

In their reply to the article, some cheaters responded, “So what?”

That’s a nice attitude to have, since faulty knowledge on a pharmacist’s part could lead to a patient’s death. And their punishment?

“We will look into the case and those who were involved will get zero scores,” said Seo Young-geo, dean of the college.

What a joke. Anyone who teaches at a Korean university knows that the only way to fail is through excessive absences. A score of zero is still a pass, albeit a grade of D. But students can always take the course over again, and the old mark is expunged from their record as if it had never existed.

This is one reason why Korea is not a good place to get sick or injured in. You can never be sure that a doctor or pharmacist legitimately passed their medical exams. If you can, get a second opinion, but be surreptitious about it. Korean doctors become offended if they learn that you’re gotten a second opinion, seeing it as an affront on their authority. The way I see it, if they don’t want their competence challenged, they they should pass their medical exams fair-and-square, and lobby their universities to adhere to strict standards. Every cheater is an albatross around the neck of every alumni.

By the way, cheating on tests is referred to in Korea as “cunning,” and is only seen as negative if you are caught. It’s negative because you were stupid enough to get caught, not because what you did was morally or ethically wrong. If you successfully cheat, then it’s actually seen as positive, because it demonstrates how clever you are (thus, “cunning”).


  1. I wouldn’t read too much into the cheating being known as “cunning” in Korean (컨닝). While what you describe is probably responsible for the original etymology of it, in 9 years of teaching students here I’ve yet to meet any student aware of the fact that the English “cunning” has any other meaning than cheating on exams. And one can’t blame them, for Korean-English language dictionaries are notoriously bad (often literally inventing English terms because the corresponding Konglish is popular), and looking at the definition for English “cunning” in mine it says “cheating in an exam” in Korean, which is simply not true.

    What I’m basically saying is that when a Korean person uses the English or Korean term “cunning” to refer to cheating on an exam, then he or she is probably just, literally, referring to cheating on an exam, not condoning it as an example of cunning in the English sense of the word or anything.

    Having said that, I do think that most Koreans still have the attitudes towards cheating that you describe! And I agree with everything else in your post too.

    Comment by James Turnbull — June 27, 2009 @ 7:35 am

  2. […] should scare you, too. You can’t know if they passed their medical exams legitimately or if they cheated. Leave a […]

    Pingback by What makes Kim Yu-na a champion figure skater? Her small face « Extra! Korea — July 8, 2009 @ 4:37 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: