An Ivy League hoax has unraveled, one that illustrates South Korea's "twisted obsession with degrees," in the words of AsiaOne. It involves a teenage girl at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, one of the nation's top high schools—the kind of place where students shoot to be accepted into all eight Ivy schools, notes the Washington Post. In this case, the girl told her parents and friends that she had been accepted into Harvard and Stanford, both of whom were so desperate to have her that they created a one-of-a-kind program in which she would attend each school for two years. She said Mark Zuckerberg personally called her to push Harvard. She produced acceptance letters and fawning emails from Ivy administrators and teachers.
Not a word of it was true, but her unsuspecting parents spread the word to equally unsuspecting news outlets in South Korea. She became briefly famous as "Genius Girl." But finally, the lies caught up with her, thanks in part to questions raised by her skeptical classmates, followed by disavowals from the two schools, reports the South's Yonhap News Agency. Her father has since written a public apology to South Korea's media. "I am sincerely sorry for causing trouble with what is not true," he wrote. "I am deeply repentant that I failed to watch properly over how painful and difficult a situation the child has been in so far and that I even aggravated and enlarged her suffering." The story caught fire because it "had every element that can excite Koreans—the success of a Korean abroad and acceptance into prestigious universities," says a communications professor in the country. (This future Ivy Leaguer's impressive story is no hoax.)