South Koreans Rally Around Embattled Stem Cell Researcher Hwang

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 25, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Koreans Rally Around Embattled Stem Cell Researcher Hwang Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 25, 2005

Seoul, South Korea ( — Stem cell research scientist Hwang Woo-Suk has caused an international furor over his lying about two junior researchers who donated their eggs for his experiments, but scientists in South Korea are rallying around him and even saying the turn of events could be helpful.

South Korean scientists say Hwang Woo-Suk spent too much time seeking the limelight and his being forced to publicly admit he lied about the donations may make him spend more time in the laboratory, where he conducts human cloning and embryonic stem cell experiments.

"He will be able to focus on more important things," said Park Sang-eun, the director of Sam Ahnyang Hospital in Seoul.

South Koreans rallied to Hwang’s support and some even protested South Korean broadcaster MBC after the network ran an investigative story proving Hwang lied and covered up for his junior researchers, who didn’t want their names revealed after their donations were brought to light.

The Korean Times also reports a rise in the number of women seeking to donate their eggs for Hwang’s research. According to the newspaper, some 200 people have now signed up, nearly doubling the number before Hwang’s admission.

Even political groups in the county say they’re backing Hwang despite his ethical breaches.

"Our emergency committee agreed the ethical dispute should not derail Hwang‘s stem cell research," a spokesman for South Korea‘s ruling Uri Party said. The South Korean government has gone out of its way to support Hwang and says it will continue to back him financially.

One scientist says it may be difficult for Hwang to come back from the embarrassment of what’s transpired.

Song Chang-hun, a stem cell specialist at Chosun University told the Korea Times, "Hwang would inevitably suffer damage to the integrity of his stem cell research."

Even without the ethical lapses, Hwang’s research drew strong opposition from pro-life advocates — including in South Korea, where the Catholic church has launched its own adult stem cell research funding initiative.