South Korea Prohibits Hwang Woo-Suk From Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 4, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Korea Prohibits Hwang Woo-Suk From Embryonic Stem Cell Research

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 4
, 2008

Seoul, South Korea ( — The government of South Korea has rejected a request from embattled scientist Hwang Woo-suk to resume embryonic stem cell research. Hwang became an international embarrassment after he admitted to faking supposed advances in the science that involves the destruction of human life.

The Korean Health Ministry cited those problems in its statement about its decision continuing the prohibition on Hwang’s using human eggs in research.

"The decision took into account the chief researcher’s past dismissal from Seoul National University for manipulating research papers in 2005 and ethical questions in procuring human eggs and his indictment for illegally trading in human eggs," it said.

Hwang’s colleague Dr Hyun Sang-hwan told Reuters the scientist was surprised by the decision.

"We expected our request to be accepted because the research plan we submitted has no flaw in terms of legal and administrative procedures," he said.

Hwang still faces potential jail time as a result of allegations of widespread embezzlement of $2.8 million in public and private research funds.
The scientist is banned from using human eggs in any research and has been engaged in animal cloning at the Sooam Biotech Research Foundation. That’s the company that is teaming up with a California firm to sell cloned dogs.

In December, that company asked for permission from the country’s government to proceed with an new embryonic stem cell research project that uses "aborted human eggs."

Hwang and some of his top colleagues were indicted in May 2006 by South Korean prosecutors and charged with fraud, embezzlement and violating bioethics rules. Five members of Hwang’s team were indicted, including one scientist who worked in the laboratory of University of Pittsburgh researcher Gerald Schatten, a former collaborator with Hwang.

Hwang was charged with accepting $2 million in donations after he knowingly falsified the embryonic stem cell research by claiming his team had produced a cloned human embryo and cloned patient-specific embryonic stem cells.

If convicted, Hwang could spend as much as ten years in jail.

Prosecutor Lee In-kyu also said Hwang embezzled $900,000 in private and government donations to the research. After getting more than $35 billion in research funds from the government and private donors, South Korean prosecutors say Hwang misused much of the money by laundering it through 63 bank accounts set up under false names.

Lee indicated Hwang’s team also paid for human eggs for research, which is a violation of the nation’s bioethics laws.

In the studies his team conducted, Hwang claimed to have created the first cloned human embryo and claimed to have created patient-matched embryonic stem cells that would overcome immune system rejection issues.

Hwang’s team published the results of the research in two papers in the scientific journal Nature, which has since revoked them after learning they were fraudulent.


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