SKorea seeks jail for disgraced cloning scientist

Aug 24, 2009 By HYUNG-JIN KIM , Associated Press Writer
South Korean disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Aug. 24, 2009. Prosecutors on Monday demanded a 4-year prison term for Hwang on trial for fraud and other charges.(AP Photo/Yonhap, Park Ji-ho)

(AP) -- Prosecutors demanded a four-year prison term Monday for a South Korean scientist disgraced in a cloning scandal that shook the international scientific community and led to his trial on fraud and other charges.

Hwang Woo-suk was fired from the prestigious Seoul National University after purported breakthroughs - including the claim of producing a human embryo through cloning and recovering stem cells from it - were deemed bogus in 2005, when a key paper was found to contain fake data.

Once hailed as a national hero, Hwang is accused of accepting funds under false pretenses, embezzling and illegally buying human eggs for his research - charges that are related to the fake claims.

Prosecutors sought the four-year prison term during a hearing at the Seoul Central District Court. Hwang was present in the packed courtroom, and supporters greeted his entrance with applause.

"The people's disappointment was very serious because their expectation for his had been high," an unidentified prosecutor told the courtroom.

He said Hwang tarnished South Korea's image abroad and that prosecutors saw the case as a chance to "resolve chronic research fraud in the academic field."

Hwang pleaded for leniency, saying if the court forgives him he is ready to "pour the last of my passion" into research.

The court will rule on his guilt or innocence and decide a sentence Oct. 19, according to Yonhap news agency.

Hwang had been the only South Korean scientist allowed to carry out research into stem cells - master cells that can grow into any bodily tissue - that scientists say could lead to revolutionary cures for hard-to-treat diseases such as Alzheimer's. But the government stripped him of his license in 2006, citing his "ethical problems."

That case scandalized the international scientific community and caused intense soul-searching in South Korea.

Hwang and his former colleagues at Seoul National University - South Korea's most prestigious - claimed in 2004 to have produced a human embryo through cloning and to have recovered stem cells from it.

A year later, Hwang said the team created human embryonic genetically matched to specific patients - a purported breakthrough that promised a way to withstand rejection by a patient's immune system.

But a university committee later declared the 2005 paper a fraud based on faked data, and cast doubt on his 2004 findings as well.

Hwang publicly apologized for faking data in the two papers but claimed he was deceived by a fellow researcher who switched his cell lines. Hwang, stripped of his right to carry out research on cloning , is now focusing on animal at a local institute.

Though most of his research was found to be fake, Hwang and his team of scientists successfully created the world's first known dog clone in 2005, and that achievement was independently confirmed.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: The origin of the language of life

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Disgraced Scientist to Resume Research

Jun 28, 2006

(AP) -- The disgraced South Korean scientist who falsely claimed breakthroughs in creating stem cells from cloned human embryos plans to open a new lab and resume research next month, his lawyer said Wednesday.

South Korean cloning expert: I was set up

Jan 16, 2006

South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk, who has admitted falsifying published stem cell and cloning research, reportedly says he was betrayed by colleagues.

Hwang scandal hurt Korean scientists

Feb 21, 2007

South Korean officials say the journal Science is avoiding articles by Korean scientists because of disgraced cloning researcher Hwang Woo-suk.

Some vindication for S. Korean scientist?

Mar 13, 2006

A South Korean who worked with Hwang Woo-Suk, the scientist accused of faking results, says their claim to have cloned stem cells will be vindicated.

Recommended for you

The origin of the language of life

Dec 19, 2014

The genetic code is the universal language of life. It describes how information is encoded in the genetic material and is the same for all organisms from simple bacteria to animals to humans. However, the ...

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

Dec 18, 2014

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

Dec 18, 2014

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LariAnn
not rated yet Aug 24, 2009
"extensive soul-searching in South Korea" - extensive Seoul-searching in South Korea. Part of the PUNishment for using fake data . . .

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.