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Judge dismisses lawsuit by Korean school against Yale

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Yale University by a South Korean university that claimed it lost tens of millions of dollars after Yale damaged its reputation.

Dongguk University claimed in the 2008 lawsuit that Yale wrongly confirmed that an art history professor Dongguk hired earned a doctorate at the school. Court papers say Shin Jeong-ah later had a scandalous affair with an aide to South Korea's president at the time.

Dongguk sued Yale for more than US$50 million, saying it lost that amount in government grants, alumni donations and the costs of building a law school the government later refused to approve because of the scandal.

The judge on Friday dismissed allegations of defamation and negligence, saying there was a lack of evidence of malice.

“We are extremely surprised by the decision,” said Robert Weiner, a lawyer for Dongguk. He has said Dongguk is the most prestigious Buddhist university in the world, and it suffered a blow to its reputation with the scandal.

A Yale spokesman said the university was very pleased with the decision and always believed that the case was without legal merit.

Shin was sentenced in March 2008 to 18 months in a South Korean jail for using fake Yale credentials to get the professor's job at Dongguk and for embezzling museum funds. Officials said she also faked two degrees from the University of Kansas in getting the job in 2005.

Yale told Dongguk in June 2007 that Shin didn't receive a doctorate there, saying a letter confirming the degree that Shin presented to Dongguk was bogus and forged. Yale also told Korean media that it never received a registered letter in 2005 from Dongguk asking whether Shin had received a doctorate even though it did receive the letter, the lawsuit said.

Yale apologized to Dongguk in late 2007 for what it called an administrative error, but by that time, Dongguk officials said, the damage to its reputation had been done.

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