24th March 2023 – (New Jersey) A 29-year-old woman has been indicted by a grand jury in New Jersey for allegedly enrolling in high school under false pretences. Hyejeong Shin allegedly posed as a 16-year-old and attended classes at New Brunswick High School after forging a birth certificate.
Shin’s lawyer, Darren Gelber, claims that his client’s intentions were innocent. Gelber told ABC 7 that Shin wanted to return to “an environment that she looks back on fondly”. Shin had moved from South Korea to attend a private boarding school in the U.S. when she was 16, and Gelber said that she “longed for an environment similar to her boarding school days surrounded by friends” and hoped to recreate it at New Brunswick High School.
Shin pleaded not guilty to charges of providing a false government document and hindering her own prosecution. Gelber said that she had no intention of harming anyone and that “at no time was anyone or any student in danger”. New Brunswick police had previously stated that they did not believe Shin’s actions were motivated by a desire to harm students, faculty, or staff.
During a hearing on Monday, Gelber said that his client was hoping to be accepted into a pre-trial intervention program to avoid jail time. Shin plans to return to South Korea 13 years after she moved to the U.S.
The case has raised questions about Shin’s motives. While Gelber claims that Shin was simply seeking to relive her high school days, some observers have wondered if there was more to her actions than nostalgia. The fact that Shin allegedly went to the trouble of forging a birth certificate suggests that she was aware that her age would be a problem.
It’s possible that Shin was motivated by a desire for social connection. Gelber has described his client as “simply lonely”, and it’s not hard to imagine that a 29-year-old living in a foreign country might find it difficult to make friends.