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Oxford student killed himself hours after being told PhD thesis wasn't good enough

By Daily Mail Reporter
Updated: 17:45 GMT, 25 February 2009

An Oxford University student killed himself just hours after being told his PhD thesis needed to be improved, an inquest has heard.

A coroner was told how former Buddhist monk Juncnok Park hanged himself after what he saw was a colossal disappointment and an embarrassment.

The criticism was probably the first time the South Korean mature student had ever failed at anything in his life.

Oxford University student Juncnok Park, who attended Wolfson College, killed himself after being told his PhD thesis needed to be improved

The inquest heard how Mr Park, who had served ten years under holy orders in his native country, shunned television and other pastimes to devote himself to gaining a doctorate in Buddhism.

It was hours after his academic supervisor confirmed his fears - that examiners believed he was not yet ready to be awarded a doctorate from the university - that the 37-year-old student took his life.

Police were called to Wolfson College, Oxford, on Friday, July 18 last year after a cleaner found Mr Park's bedroom door blocked and noticed blood on the floor.

Police constable Henry Gillingham, of Thames Valley Police, who was joined by a paramedic, said: 'I immediately attempted to open it. I barged the door and a male's body fell on to a table pushed up against the door.'

PC Gillingham shouldered the door open, causing Mr Park's body to tumble on to his bed and then to the floor.

The paramedic confirmed that the scholar was dead.

Consultant pathologist Dr Nicholas Hunt gave the cause of death as hanging, despite wounds inflicted on his wrists.

Mr Park, from Incheon, near Seoul, arrived at Oxford University in 2003 on a scholarship to read Oriental Studies, with a doctorate in Buddhism.

Lance Cousins, a fellow of Wolfson College and one of Mr Park's two supervisors, said the student had already completed his thesis and returned to Oxford from South Korea for an interview on it with two examiners.

He had been due to return to Korea the day after he died.

But Mr Park began to worry after receiving no feedback, and at lunch with Mr Cousins on July 17 - the day before his body was found - he asked what the outcome was.

'He was extremely well thought of,' said Mr Cousins, of Mr Park's academic standing.

'He was very committed to what he believed in. As a student he was very capable.' 

He added that he had not expected the student to be found wanting by the examiners.

Describing the scholar's attitude to the news, he told the inquest in Oxford: 'He was clearly not very happy and worried about it, but it was difficult for me without the final report.

'I was urging him to wait and see what he actually got.'

When asked by the coroner if he was concerned for his student, Mr Cousins said: 'No. I was a little worried about the longer term but it simply didn't occur to me that there might be a more immediate problem.' 

He added that Mr Park would have considered the news an embarrassment and something which could badly affect his prospects back home.

Sowon Park, a friend of the undergraduate and the last person to see him alive, described him as 'an exceptional student.'

She said: 'He had been a Buddhist priest for about ten years and had a very calm, detached manner about him.

'When I saw him he told me it (the interview) hadn't gone well and he told me he didn't know if he would get his degree or not.

'This must have been a real shock to him as he had never failed anything in his life.'

Oxfordshire Coroner Nicholas Gardiner said: 'It is very clear that Mr Park took the bad news, or what he perceived to be bad news, not very well.

'It would have been an embarrassment to him. He took his own life.'

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