A top South Korean technology official accused of covering up a notorious stem cell research fraud resigned Friday, a blow to new President Moon Jae-In.
Park Ki-Young stepped down as the head of a newly-created science centre, which is responsible for allocating $18 billion in government subsidies and budgets for research projects.
"I sincerely apologize for causing such disappointment and controversy," Park said in a statement.
"I hope my resignation will serve as an opportunity for the country's science sector to pull together again for development", she added.
Park, a former biology professor seen as a key figure in a scandal involving the fabrication of research by prominent stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-Suk, had been under heavy pressure to step down after hundreds of South Korean scientists protested her appointment by Moon this week.
Hwang was lauded as the "pride of Korea" after claiming to have derived stem cell lines from cloned human embryos—a world first—in two articles published in the journal Science in 2004 and 2005.
But his research was later found to be fraudulent and riddled with ethical lapses.
Park played a key role in supporting Hwang and his research projects with generous government subsidies when she served as a presidential aide for science and technology from 2004 to 2006.
She was also one of 15 co-authors of one of Hwang's Science papers.
She resigned from her role as a presidential aide at that time after being accused of covering up crucial flaws in Hwang's stem cell study and sweeping under the carpet ethical lapses involved in his projects that used many human eggs.
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