Star South Korean author Shin Kyung-Sook apologises over plagiarism scandal

Shin Kyung Sook, a celebrated South Korean writer.
Shin Kyung Sook, a celebrated South Korean writer.PHOTO: LEE BYUNGRYUL

SEOUL (AFP) - An internationally celebrated South Korean novelist has apologised over a plagiarism scandal that has shocked her country and prompted a publisher to stop printing one of her books, a report said Tuesday.

Man Asian Literary Prize-winning author Shin Kyung-Sook 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 Shin 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, Shin denied that 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," Shin 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 told AFP on Tuesday.

Please Look After Mom, a novel focusing on family love, sold over two million copies in Korea and has sold in over 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.