South Korea Backers of Stem Cell Researcher Hwang Harass Leaders, Rally

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 10, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Backers of Stem Cell Researcher Hwang Harass Leaders, Rally Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 10, 2006

Seoul, South Korea ( — Devoted followers of disgraced embryonic stem cell research scientist Hwang Woo-suk are engaging in an intimidation campaign across the Asian nation and rallying together to support political candidates in the wake of the international scandal. Their actions have even the South Korean media perplexed.

Since the scandal, which saw Hwang’s team fake internationally heralded embryonic stem cell studies, H wang’s supporters have been on a rampage.

They have accosted staff at Seoul National University, where Hwang’s team was based before SNU officials exposed his lies, and have used violence and intimidation to target others who have spoken out against Hwang.

According to the Korean Herald newspaper, SNU officials have asked police to investigate intimidating protests about a dozen Hwang backers have held on campus. The embryonic stem cell research supporters are accused of harassing SNU staff and intimidating university officials.

Meanwhile, a civic group in Seoul has filed a complaint about another group of Hwang supporters — when 30 people prevented a guest speaker who criticized Hwang from leaving an event for other three hours.

"Even legal action doesn’t seem to deter the faithful followers of Hwang," the newspaper writes in an editorial Tuesday about them. "Rather, they appear to be shifting their activities into a higher gear" because the South Korean government is about to announce the results of its investigation into Hwang’s fraud and possible embezzlement of public and private funds.

With Hwang and his top colleagues canned from their jobs at SNU and prohibited from conducting research with government funds, a Buddhist monk told the newspaper that his temple and two laypeople have committed millions of dollars to fund Hwang’s next research efforts.

Also, Hwang supporters are organizing politically and plan to field candidates for gubernatorial and mayoral elections in the nation’s 16 major provinces and cities.

The candidates will run as independents and their platform will be to allowing Hwang to resume his research and obtain patent rights for his technologies.

Ironically, the political announcement comes as another pro-Hwang grassroots group said it was withdrawing its support from the embattled scientist.

The National Alliance for Supporting Hwang Woo-suk said in statement it has discovered that Hwang "committed a scientific fraud and that there was no patriotic Hwang Woo-suk from the beginning."

In the op-ed, the Korean Herald criticized the Hwang backers for their recent actions saying they "go to extremes for reasons most of the general public do not understand" and their "blind loyalty to Hwang has even resulted in violence and intimidation, inviting legal action and further alienating them from the public."

"We hope that prosecutors will provide convincing proof to help everyone, not least Hwang’s supporters, to discern who are dim-witted and who are not," the Herald said.