Novelist in plagiarism scandal says sorry

PHOTO: LEE BYUNGRYUL

Seoul - An internationally celebrated South Korean novelist has apologised over a plagiarism scandal which has shocked her country and prompted a publisher to stop printing one of her books, a report stated on Tuesday.

Man Asian Literary Prize-winning author Shin Kyung Sook (right) met with public fury after allegations surfaced last week that she had copied a piece by the famed late Japanese author Yukio Mishima.

Seoul literary critic Lee Eung Jun wrote in an online essay published last week that Shin's 1996 short story Legend included paragraphs lifted from Patriotism, written by Mishima in 1960.

The allegation prompted a storm of controversy, with one civic activist calling for Seoul prosecutors to investigate her for fraud.

Shin, 52, has been the face of South Korean literature abroad since winning the prestigious Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012 for her international bestseller Please Look After Mom.

Last week, she denied she had read Patriotism, but according to an interview published on Tuesday, later admitted the possibility of having plagiarised the material, saying she could no longer trust her memory. "I repeatedly compared sentences in both novels... and realised that it was legitimate for people to raise the issue of plagiarism over this," she told Seoul's Kyunghyang newspaper.

"It is all my fault to create a situation like this... I am really sorry," she was quoted as saying.

Both stories revolve around love and the death of young newlyweds in the early 20th century, with the paragraphs in question describing an erotic aspect of their relationship.

Mishima, a celebrated poet and playwright, was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times before his suicide in 1970.

Seoul-based publisher, Changbi Publishers, will immediately stop printing Shin's book containing the short story, Changbi spokesman Yum Jong Sun said.

Please Look After Mom, a novel focusing on family love, sold more than two million copies in South Korea and has sold in more than 30 countries, becoming a New York Times bestseller after being translated into English in 2011.

The book helped Shin become the first woman and the first South Korean to win Asia's top literary prize three years ago.

Agence France-Presse

Please Look After Mom is available from Books Kinokuniya's online store at $15.95.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'Novelist in plagiarism scandal says sorry'. Print Edition | Subscribe