Plagiarism gets Yawang writer ousted from scriptwriters association
Here’s an interesting story (or is it just interesting to me?) about the fate of the scriptwriter for Yawang, Lee Hee-myung, who has been accused of plagiarism and has now been kicked out of the Korean TV & Radio Writers Association as a direct result.
This is actually the second time Yawang has been accused of plagiarism, the first instance occurring when Yawang debuted early this year and immediately raised concerns with its similarity to the plot of Nice Guy, KBS’s hit melodrama from last fall penned by star writer Lee Kyung-hee. (The comparison was unavoidable, given some obvious similarities: Nice Guy is about a sweet young man who takes the fall for the beloved noona of his youth, who leaves him behind as she marries a rich man and transforms into a cold, opportunistic schemer; the hero then decides to seek revenge against her. Yawang features a hero who’s loved the heroine since childhood, she discards him in her ambitious greed for power, he vows revenge…
Still, similarities in basic plot structure do not plagiarism make, and that tempest in a teapot settled down eventually. Yawang’s PD even stated that he’d revised some of the plot to avoid further similarities to Nice Guy, given their overlap.
However, then more plagiarism claims arose regarding the fact that the first scripts for Yawang were written by Choi Ran (of Iljimae), but Lee Hee-myung was then hired as replacement. (Other works by Lee Hee-myung include Tomato, Successful Story of a Bright Girl, and Rooftop Prince.) In response to the claim (and a petition that circulated), the writers association set up a committee to investigate plagiarism and copyright infringement issues. After a detailed investigation, the committee determined that Lee plagiarized Choi’s synopsis and scripts, and expelled him following the rules of their disciplinary committee and board of directors’ rules.
I have to say, it sounds like an odd claim to make when both writers worked on the same show (albeit not at the same time), unless the point of contention is that writer Lee passed off the other scripts as his own work. The stories don’t clarify that point, but I have to presume something in that vein for it to make sense. The committee stated, “A writer’s original work is their lifeblood, and thus the violation of one’s copyright is dealt with with severe punishment. We appeal to our writer members to be aware of this to prevent further unpleasant reoccurrences of this kind.”
The story doesn’t end there, though, as writer Lee then took the writers association to court on October 15 for a civil suit claiming that his expulsion was invalid and demanded 50 million won in compensation. Lee’s legal team asserted that writer Choi was acting out of spite for being fired after her scripts were deemed inadequate. He has a point in that Yawang is an adaptation of a manhwa and therefore has source material, but I’d be curious to know what the detailed investigation turned up supporting the infringement conclusion.
On one hand, it’s somewhat reassuring to see that plagiarism claims do get treated seriously. On the other hand, there does seem to be some dicey territory in there and if he was playing fair, it sucks to be blacklisted from your own organization. On the other hand (what, you don’t have three hands?), if he plagiarized, the punishment seems fitting. On the fourth and final hand, I hate plagiarists and cheaters because having someone claim your (awesome, brilliant!) work with their name is a really sucky feeling.
So in conclusion: Plagiarism is bad, don’t do it—seriously don’t do it—and sometimes people get caught which is nice, unless it’s a false accusation which is less nice. So maybe there is no conclusion.