The Economist sues famous Gangnam language school: report

British weekly The Economist is suing a famous Gangnam language hagwon for using its articles and columns without permission, reports the Chosun Ilbo.

This is apparently the first time a foreign magazine has sued a hagwon for copyright infringement in a Korean court.

In its complaint, The Economic claims the school made 10—160 billion won in illicit profits by copying 54 of their articles and columns between 2009 and 2011. The English hagwon in question is a major player in Gangnam hagwonland—its information sessions draw abut 1,000 parents… which tells you pretty much everything you need to know about Gangnam. The Economist submitted photos to the court showing that the school had used its articles in its textbooks. They also reportedly used them for secondary content such as videos and promotional materials.

An official from the hagwon in question, however, told the Chosun Ilbo that while they did print out Economist articles for use in their advanced class and sell texts books with the articles internally, this was a common practice of Korean hagwon and at similar level as using foreign articles in class.

Marmot’s Note: Hard to see how the hagwon gets out of selling texts with articles copied without permission.

UPDATE: Ye Olde Chosun’s English edition has its own translation here.

  • Sperwer

    Ah, the usual Korean excuse:  everybody else is doing it, too.

  • Andrew Barbour

    Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit!

    The defense rests.

  • cactusmcharris

    Can’t they just say the printers were drunk?

  • Lan
  • stereo

    Isn’t educational use exempt from copy right restrictions? Maybe not in Korea.

  • Towelthief

    I know the hagwon in question and I heard about this case a couple of months ago. I’m glad to see it’s out in the wild now and I can’t wait to find out what happens.

  • Andrew Barbour

    Article 25 of the Korean Copyright Act recognizes limited fair use of copyrighted materials in schools, but it would be hard to argue a hagwon is a school and not a  business. 

  • Sperwer

    Even in bona fide educational institutions, loosely interpreted to include Korean universities, the abuse of “fair use” is grotesque.  Courses almost never require students actually to purchase books.  So-called “Course Reading Packs”, assembled by University copy centers, usually contain full articles and even entire books that are sold to students for the cost of photocopying.  That is not “fair use” in any non-Wonderland world; it’s blatant theft.

  • R. elgin

    Thank God, they were not selling women either.

  • Earl Grey

    I used to work for this Hagwon.  They were putting the articles into the textbooks that they made word for word and then selling it to the students.  That is not “fair use” at all.  They is deliberate profiting off the intellectual property of others.

  • Bob Bobbs

     No, that’s on the ninth floor.

  • Bob Bobbs

     Know what else isn’t fair? Taking these same pirated materials and telling me to use them to teach economics to 4 year-olds.

  • stereo

    “Fair use” is written in article 35-1 which was added in 2011 rather than in article 25 which is about citation.

  • ZenKimchi

    Feeling a bit of schadenfreude with a touch of han and ennui. Curious how the Economist found out about this and decided to take action. Wouldn’t have anything to do with certain current or former reporters?

  • Andrew Barbour

    There you go. I was looking at the one up at, which only has the 2009 version. Where’s the version you’re looking at? 

  • stereo

    The fair use clause (article 35-1) was added in 2011, because that was a requirement for making the FTA with the US. I wonder how the clause will be interpreted in Korean court because the words of the clause are pretty much vague. When I studied at a graduate school at a university in the US, I had to buy a thick “reading material” which was nothing but photo copies of books and magazines. Is fair use any different in the US?
    Well, I feel strange for writing for the sake of Koreans.

  • Sperwer

    I’ll bet dollars to dimes that the US school was a party to a copyright convention that involved its paying a blanket license fee for use of the materials.

  • stereo
  • ecw73

     Those thick course packets of photocopied material that are sold for the cost of photocopying are commonly used in American university courses. I think institutions with libraries and journal subscriptions generally have arrangements to be able to do that. I don’t know about Korean universities, but I’d imagine if they buy materials in bulk for their libraries and subscribe to academic journals they may have similar arrangements.

  • Sperwer

    See my reply to Stereo, below

  • Towelthief

    Could be disgruntled parents, ex staff members, rival hagwon. Who knows…

  • Brendon Carr

    Yes, they do. Universities have copyright-clearance offices which track and pay royalties. Those course packets aren’t sold for the cost of photocopying.

  • feld_dog

    This is true–as a T.A. in grad school I made my own coursepack and we had a copywrite office that checked out everything and made it kosher–and the cost was reflected in the coursepack’s price.

  • Bob Bobbs

    Maybe this hagwon (which shall remain nameless thanks to Korean laws on defamation) will be celebrated as an important rebel fighting for the cause of ‘open access’ to information.

  • Guest

    Yeah, I actually work for this hagwon right now and I can’t tell you how appalled I am by this. What’s sad is they think they can get out of it. What’s worse, I know that they’re getting ready to print material from Newbery books, so of which is word-for-word. And to clarify, yes it was a former worker who sent the materials to The Economist. This place works you like a dog and treats its employees with complete disrespect.

  • Jason Coper

    This is really surprising news. School is copying articles and for long time they’re doing it. So I think that magazine company have full right to case against that school and court need to punish School associates for doing such conspiracy. Thanks.
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