Filipino illustrator outed for copying Korean artist’s work, publisher suspends book sales pending plagiarism investigation

Plagiarism is a major no-no across all industries and artistic forms — but in the Philippines, many writers, artists, and even politicians seem confused about what it means to be on the right side of the issue.

In a viral Facebook post that originally appeared on Saturday, a local netizen showed side-by-side comparisons of two sets of illustrated works in order to make the argument that a Filipino artist named Shellette Gipa had plagiarized the artwork of Korean illustrator Hong SoonSang, prompting Gipa to publicly admit and apologize for copying the other artist’s work without any kind of attribution.

The netizen, Paolo Magtira, wrote the post in relation to Gipa’s works that appeared in the children’s book The Little Hero, published by Kahel Press. Prior to this recent post, Magtira stated that he had already accused Gipa of plagiarism, but deleted his initial post after the artist wrote him with the promise that she would issue a public apology.

Soon after issuing an apology, however, Magtira said that Gipa attempted to deactivate her Facebook account and that she also allegedly threatened to sue him. Magtira’s post has been taken down, but Coconuts Manila has kept a few screenshots.

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

According to Magtira’s post, he “asserted to them (Gipa) that they keep their account up. They responded by threatening me with legal action if I try to talk about this issue again. If you’re seeing this post this means that the illustrator chose to erase their account or deleted the apology and tried to do the same to their accountability.”

Magtira attached several examples of Gipa’s illustrations that copied heavily from Hong’s work. Below are some examples of Hong’s art.

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

Here are Gipa’s illustrations.

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

Magtira also posted an announcement for a book signing event at the Manila International Book Fair, which clearly identified Gipa as The Little Hero‘s illustrator.

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

In a subsequent edit to his post, Magtira wrote that contrary to his earlier claim, Gipa had, in fact, made a public apology — but she also blocked him from seeing her Facebook account, which explains why Magtira could no longer see her apology.

A quick look at Gipa’s account now shows that she did indeed apologize on Saturday, a day after the initial accusation from Magtira, for copying Hong’s illustrations.

“I don’t know what to say,” she wrote in English and Filipino. “But I would like to say sorry to those whom I’ve hurt and fooled. I’m sorry to everyone whom I have disappointed. I’m sorry if I created art that didn’t come from my own efforts. I’m sorry that I used someone else’s art to save myself. I know it’s wrong. It’s really wrong.”

Attached to her post are illustrations created by both herself and Hong — the same artworks which Magtira shared.

What with Magtira’s post having gone viral — it has been shared almost 2,500 times since the time of this article’s publication — it’s not surprising that word has since reached Hong regarding the plagiarism of his work. In a Facebook post that appeared on Saturday, he wrote in Korean that the incident was a “very sad one” and that if such copying re-occurs, illustrators will think twice about making new art.

Translated into English, his post said: “I will not respond to this legally. I think that even the person who plagiarized my work is also suffering alone. Anyone can make a mistake BUT I hope that the same mistake doesn’t happen again… And if possible, please donate all profits received [from the sale of the books] to charity.”

But the story did not end there. Kahel Press, the publisher of the book containing Gipa’s artwork, joined in on the discussion, saying that it would be investigating the accusations made against Gipa. In a statement made yesterday, the company also said that it would suspend the sale of The Little Hero in the meantime.

“Please be informed that we are currently gathering information about the situation and speaking with affected parties in an effort to resolve the issue, to preserve the rights of affected parties having no knowledge of or involvement in the alleged plagiarism, and to come up with the best course of action for the parties under the circumstances,” Kahel Press said. 

Many netizens have come out to harshly criticize Gipa. Responding to Magtira’s post, Rafael Teston said the whole controversy was “[e]mbarassing and criminal. The writer and publisher have also been affected [by this plagiarism.]”

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

Nichole Fern II wrote that Gipa is “so embarrassing. Yucky.”

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

Joan Veronica Uy, on the other hand, offered a suggestion: “All this can end if they put the original artist’s name (Hong SoonSang) in the book and PAY him royalties. Or pull out the book, pay the original artist for damages, and not sell it. They can release the book again with new illustrations. The illustrator is at fault, not the author,” she said.

“The illustrator’s public apology is just lip service if she still earns from her plagiarized work and not pay the original artist. I hope her ‘defenders’ know that and tell her that.”

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

However, one netizen called out Magtira and accused him of shaming Gipa.

Fourth Barleta wrote: “I’m not glorifying her rather she definitely sucks for doing that. But posting this kind of sensitive content in social media won’t make you a SJW (social justice warrior) neither [sic]. It wasn’t your work anyways. There’s due process on these kinds of issues and you posting is definitely is [sic] not part of it. Definitely won’t help anyone and instead make things worse.”

Photo: Paolo Magtira/FB

Was it right for Magtira to call out Gipa in public? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.

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This article, Filipino illustrator outed for copying Korean artist’s work, publisher suspends book sales pending plagiarism investigation, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!