by Steven Ertelt
December 30, 2005
Seoul, South Korea (LifeNews.com) — The falsified embryonic stem cell research Hwang Woo-suk’s team conducted isn’t just an academic concern embarrassing the scientific community. Prosecutors from the South Korean government are getting involved as well because Hwang’s team may have misused governmental funds.
The investigation will look into why Hwang’s team gave a large sum of money to another researcher. Two associates say Hwang gave $30,000 to Kim Seon-jong, a former member of Hwang’s team who admitted fabricating data at the scientist’s behest.
Hwang supposedly wanted Kim to reverse his comments but he refused and instead returned the money to Seoul National University, where the team is based.
Prof. Ahn Cu-rie of SNU and Prof. Yoon Hyun-soo of Hanyang University say Hwang gave Kim the money during a trip earlier this month to the University of Pittsburgh, where he had been working since he left Hwang’s team.
According to the Korean Herald newspaper, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office said that the probe has not yet been allocated to a specific team but the prosecution will decide "after SNU announces its final investigation results in January."
"We are closely analyzing Seoul National University’s investigation and considering several options. Either prosecutors from the Supreme Court or Seoul District court will probe the case," a prosecutor said.
The prosecutor’s involvement will also focus on Hwang’s contention that Kim interfered with his research.
As more information came to light about the severity of the lies surrounding the research, Hwang lashed out at his colleagues and claimed they substituted other stem cells for this patient-specific ones. Fellow researchers deny the allegation and there’s been no proof this far that it has occurred.
Whether Hwang misappropriated national funds after requesting them for his research is another topic and could result in its own probe, the Herald reported.
"The Board of Audit and Inspection has begun a probe into the government funds Hwang received for his research, so we will wait for its results. We may decide to conduct a separate probe on that issue," said a prosecutor.