The Korea Herald


[Newsmaker] ChatGPT not to be trusted on Korean names

AI chatbot confuses South Korean President Yoon with his rival Lee

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Feb. 16, 2023 - 17:12

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Artificial intelligence-powered chatbot ChatGPT is all the rage, with the potential to change the way many people work. But for those hoping to get quick answers about Korea from the AI platform, it is not to be trusted, at least for now.

As of Thursday, the bot developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI gives error-ridden answers to some basic questions about Korea, starting from the profile of Korea’s current President, Yoon Suk Yeol.

For the question, “Who is President Yoon Suk Yeol?” the chatbot answered: “As of my knowledge cutoff of September 2021, Yoon Suk-yeol was not the president of any country. However, he was the Governor of Gyeonggi Province in South Korea, serving from 2018 until his resignation in July 2021.”

Even considering that the bot had not been fed information about Yoon’s election in 2022, the answer displays a clear confusion between Yoon and his archrival, Lee Jae-myung.

It was Lee, not Yoon, who was the governor of Gyeonggi Province during the time mentioned in ChatGPT's answer.

ChatGPT continues on to say that Yoon is “affiliated with the Democratic Party of Korea,” which is again incorrect and is a reference to Lee, and that he “served as the head of the National Police Agency.” The latter part about being the chief of police is neither correct for Yoon nor for Lee.

President Yoon served as prosecutor general at the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office and is part of the ruling conservative People Power Party.

There are many more incidences of ChatGPT confusing Korean names.

When asked about Ahn Chang-ho, a Korean independence fighter, the bot says he is “also known as Ahn Jung-geun” and tells the life story of the latter.

When asked how Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-sun died, the chatbot answers that they “were two passengers on the Sewol ferry that sank in South Korea in April 2014.”

The correct answer would be that they were the Korean schoolgirls killed in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province, in 2002, after being run over by a US military vehicle -- an incident which sparked a nationwide candlelit vigil and gave rise to anti-US sentiment here.

The Sewol ferry was a separate disaster that happened more than a decade later that killed 306 out of the total 476 passengers and crew that were onboard the vessel, including around 250 high school students.

Chung Kyung-shim, the wife of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, who was sent to prison on fraud charges and for falsifying documents to help her daughter gain admission to medical school, was another subject the chatbot got wrong. It explained that Chung was the wife of Samsung Electronics Executive Chairman Lee Jae-yong.

Experts noted limitations in ChatGPT’s capacity on Korean topics, as the bot has been built and trained mostly on English-language data on the web.

"ChatGPT is programmed to give answers based on the data it collects from the internet," said Kim Myuhng-joo, information security and artificial intelligence professor at Seoul Women's University in a phone interview with The Korea Herald.

The information about Korea is provided in Korean and English, often with inconsistent or outright wrong Romanization, making it more likely to cause confusion.

"Users have to be cautious in accepting its answers because the technology has yet to reach a point where deep learning is able to distinguish the depth of information and data,” Kim stressed.