A genetic analyst at Seoul National University said yesterday that he told a civil affairs officer in the Blue House secretariat in November that Hwang Woo-suk¡¯s work appeared to be fraudulent but that either the official alone or the administration in general sat on the information.
In an interview with the Joong-Ang Ilbo, the analyst, asking that his name not be used, said he had examined five stem cell lines from Dr. Hwang¡¯s laboratory at the request of the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation. The network was investigating the geneticist¡¯s work after it received tips from Dr. Hwang¡¯s former researchers about problems.
The Blue House official asked by telephone about the results of the testing on Nov. 26, the DNA analyst said, adding that he recounted the results of his work for the network showing that the stem cell lines were not what they purported to be. The analyst added that the same Blue House official visited him on Nov. 29 for a more detailed explanation of the DNA fingerprints, which he provided.
Kim Hyung-tae, a major shareholder in MBC who was familiar with the allegations of problems in Dr. Hwang¡¯s work, said he called the Blue House of Nov. 28 to explain the details of PD Notebook¡¯s findings to Kim Byung-jun, the head of the president¡¯s policy staff.
President Roh Moo-hyun addressed the emerging controversy over allegations of unethical practices by MBC on the Blue House Web site on Nov. 27, even before the network had aired the program. He made no mention of any doubts about Dr. Hwang¡¯s research, not surprisingly because the doubts had only been communicated to a junior official the day before. But on Dec. 5, one day after the YTN television network reported details of alleged PD Notebook threats to researchers in the course of gathering their information, Mr. Roh was quoted as saying in a meeting with his senior aides that he hoped ¡°problems regarding verification of Dr. Hwang¡¯s achievements could be put to rest at this point.¡± The science minister, Oh Myung, told reporters on Dec. 8 that those with doubts should blame Science, adding that talks of verification of Dr. Hwang¡¯s research should no longer be brought up ¡°for the sake of Korea¡¯s science.¡±
Separately, Lee Dong-ik, a Roman Catholic priest and member of the National Bioethics Committee, said in an interview yesterday that the egg donations by Dr. Hwang¡¯s researchers may not have been as voluntary as they appeared. He said the committee suspected that there was pressure on the researchers to donate their ova for Dr. Hwang¡¯s research that resulted in a 2004 article on the cloning of embryonic stem cells.
by Special Reporting Team