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Stars Are Late Bloomers

2007/02/27 | Permalink | Source

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

It's graduation season. Students receive a bunch of flowers, take pictures with friends or throw their mortarboards into the air.

Many celebrities can also be seen at graduation ceremonies. But one of the major differences between their time in school and that of most students is that they usually need a lot more time to finish their studies.

Actress Ha Ji-won recently graduated from Dankook University. It took her 10 years to finish a four-year program. She expressed her joy with big smiles during the Feb. 14 graduation ceremony in which she received a special award.

"It's more meaningful, as it took me 10 years. Honestly, I thought I would never make it", Ha told reporters after the graduation ceremony ended.

Ha entered university in 1997 but had to take time off several times because of her busy acting career. She has starred in many television dramas and movies, including the 2000 KBS drama "School II", the 2003 MBC drama "Damo", the 2005 action film "Duelist" and the romantic comedy "Miracle on 1st Street".

Ha is not the only star who took a longer-than-usual time to graduate. Actor Choi Min-soo took 10 years to graduate from a two-year program at Seoul Institute of the Arts.

Another star who graduated this February is Han Ga-in.

It took her six years to finish a four-year program at Kyung Hee University. While attending university, she appeared in many TV dramas and movies. The 24-year-old also got married in 2005.

But her busy life did not even allow her to participate in the graduation ceremony on Feb. 21. She was filming the upcoming SBS drama "Witch Yu-hee" ("A Witch in Love") that day.

Other stars who have graduated include actresses Kim Hyo-jin from Hanyang University, Park Si-eun from Dongduk University, actor Lee Joon-gi from Seoul Art College, Jung Joon-ho and Park Hyo-shin from Kyung Hee University and Kwon Oh-jung from Seoul Cyber University.

But stars' graduations are not always applauded by fans. Celebrities sometimes face criticism for getting poor grades or special treatment.

Many news reports have revealed that most celebrity students do not go to school for months at a time, but they graduate from university anyway.

An episode of "News After" that aired on MBC in November revealed that only three of 15 celebrity students reporters monitored from September to October attended class regularly.

"Their classmates called them ghost students as they never showed up", Lee Jae-hun, a reporter from the TV program, said.

Despite their poor attendance rate, they got mandatory credits for graduation by participating in their school's promotional events or donating money to the school in the name of "school development funds", Lee said.

Then, why do many stars want to enroll in a university, which they hardly go to, and struggle to graduate from?

Lee said that they simply want to have an image of being intelligent.

After receiving strong criticism, many universities said that they would not give celebrity students any special treatment.

"As they are at the center of public attention, things look severer. But basically, we have a strong commitment to treat them just like other students", Oh Se-yoon, a staff member of the public relations office at Kyung Hee University, said.

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