July 9th, 2012 | University

Dongguk appeals dismissal of suit against Yale

South Korea's Dongguk University sued Yale for $50 million in 2008, claiming the University had negligently confirmed the authenticity of a doctorate degree forged by one of Dongguk's faculty members.
South Korea's Dongguk University sued Yale for $50 million in 2008, claiming the University had negligently confirmed the authenticity of a doctorate degree forged by one of Dongguk's faculty members. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

South Korean Dongguk University appealed the dismissal of its case against Yale on Thursday, reviving a four-year legal drama over a forged diploma.

Dongguk’s defamation lawsuit claims that Yale cost the Seoul university $50 million in cancelled projects and damage to its reputation when Yale denied that it mistakenly verified the forged doctorate degree of Dongguk art history professor Shin-Jeong-ah. Upon Yale’s denial, the scandal, known as “Shin-gate,” became one of South Korea’s most reported stories of 2007 and led to the resignations of Dongguk’s president and board of trustees.

Yale later acknowledged that an “administrative error” led to the confirmation of the degree, but Dongguk refused the apology of University President Richard Levin and filed suit in March 2008. The saga appeared to end when Connecticut federal judge Tucker Melançon dismissed the case last month, but the appeal opens the door to a prolonged battle.

“A lower court’s dismissal was very unusual and abnormal in terms of the procedures and outcome involved,” a Dongguk official told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency. “We have no change in our belief that Dongguk University should be compensated duly for the severe damage caused by Yale University’s illegal act.”

Melançon had previously denied two motions by Yale to dismiss the case, but he reversed his rulings in June, arguing that he had incorrectly judged the standard of proof for legal malice. Under the new standard of proof, Melançon claimed that Dongguk lacked enough evidence for a jury to find that the University had acted from malice.

Dongguk attorney Robert Weiner and University Spokesman Tom Conroy could not be reached for comment Sunday.