Korean novelist Shin Kyung-sook admits plagiarism

Korean novelist Shin Kyung-sook admits plagiarism
Novelist Shin Kyung-sook.
PHOTO: Yonhap

Shin Kyung-sook, the author of international best seller "Please Look After Mom," finally broke her silence on allegations of plagiarism Tuesday, offering words that were largely seen as owning up to her plagiarism.

"After comparing the sentences in question in Yukio Mishima's novel 'Patriotism' and those in 'Legend' several times, I thought that it might be right to raise the plagiarism allegation," Shin, 52, said in an interview with a local daily.

The comment came a week after fellow writer Lee Eung-jun wrote in an article published on Huffington Post Korea that Shin's "Legend," a short story published in 1996, included a passage lifted from the 1983 Korean translation by poet Kim Hu-ran of the late Japanese writer Yukio Mishima's "Patriotism."

The following day, Shin flatly denied the accusation, saying she had no prior knowledge of the Japanese work, let alone having read it.

While the writer kept silent on the issue, the case evolved into a literary scandal in Korea, with more allegations of plagiarism surfacing. A complaint has been filed with the public prosecutors' office, asking them to investigate her for fraud.

"I desperately tried to recall my memory only to find that I haven't read 'Patriotism,' but now I'm in a situation where even I can't believe my own memory," Shin said in the interview, hinting that the plagiarism was unintentional.

"I sincerely apologise to the literary writer who raised the issue as well as all my acquaintances, and above all, the many readers who read my novels ... Everything is my fault," she added.

On other cases of suspected plagiarism, including one that links her 2008 novel "Please Look After Mom" with Luise Rinser's "The Middle of Life," the novelist resorted to ambiguity, neither denying nor admitting the charges.

"Sometimes when I read novels, I find passages -- sometimes the entire episode -- that are in perfect sync with my own thoughts," she said.

Shin said she will continue writing.

"No matter how hard I think about it, however, I can't announce the end of my writing career," Shin said, adding that she cannot live without writing because, for her, literature equals life.

One of Korea's most widely read writers, Shin debuted here in 1990 with "Winter Fables" and found fame with "Where the Harmonium Once Stood" (1993).

Her 2008 novel "Please Look After Mom" has sold nearly 2 million copies in Korea and became her first English-translated book. Released in 2011 in the US and later in 18 other countries, the work catapulted Shin to international acclaim, earning her a number of international awards including the Man Asian Literary Prize from the UK She was the first Korean and first woman to win the honour.

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