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Doctor guilty in defaming lawsuit

December 20, 2008|William Heisel

A South Korean doctor who accused a Los Angeles businessman of plagiarism has been convicted of defamation in his home country and ordered to pay a $750 fine.

The Seoul Central District Court found that Dr. Jeong-Hwan Kim had damaged the reputation of Kwang Yul Cha, a fertility doctor and chancellor of a South Korean university with ties to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

The academic dispute led to a rare showdown with an American medical journal.

Kim accused Cha of plagiarism and said Cha had put his own name in place of Kim's on a research paper Kim wrote. Originally published in a Korean journal with Kim as primary author, the paper was published in English in 2005 in the U.S. journal Fertility & Sterility under the names of Cha and others.

As a result of the dispute, the American journal withdrew the paper. The journal did not cite plagiarism but said the earlier publication in the Korean journal violated the journal's rules against "duplicate publication."

Cha has said that the paper listed him as first author because he had originated the design concept for the research. Kim's name had been included in the list of authors initially, Cha said, but was deleted later when Kim, who had moved to Singapore, could not be found to fill out the American journal's paperwork.

After the publication, Kim contacted the journal's editor Dr. Alan DeCherney, who in turn told The Times that Cha appeared to have plagiarized the paper. In May 2007, after being threatened with a lawsuit by Cha, DeCherney apologized and retracted his statements saying "I consider my references to 'plagiarism' and 'perjury' to be inaccurate and regrettable."

The court found Kim guilty on July 9, 2008.

The documents related to the case were released by Cha this week. In a written statement, he referred to the verdict as "vindication."

Kim could not be reached for comment.

Kim will have to pay a fine of 1 million South Korean won, which amounts to about $750.

Cha is the chancellor of the Medical School at South Korea's Pochon CHA University. A branch of the university owns Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

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william.heisel@latimes.com

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