Yang Sam-sung, head of the National Bioethics Committee, a presidential panel reviewing the ethics of the stem cell research of geneticist Hwang Woo-suk, tendered his resignation yesterday amid controversy regarding inappropriate involvement in the case. Mr. Yang, an attorney, became the first head of the committee when it was launched last April.
¡°Mr. Yang is in Japan on a business trip, but through his lawyer, he expressed his wish to resign from his post on the ethics panel,¡± Kim Heon-ju, bioethics team head of the Welfare Ministry, said yesterday.
Controversy arose because Mr. Yang participated in several panel meetings while he was Dr. Hwang¡¯s lawyer prior to a Nov. 24 press conference where Dr. Hwang apologized for lying about egg donations by junior researchers. A local broadcaster accused Mr. Yang on Tuesday of having helped Dr. Hwang prepare the statement for that conference.
Yesterday, however, Mr. Yang¡¯s lawyer said his client did meet with Dr. Hwang but, after hearing his case, referred him to another lawyer in his firm and did not meet the scientist after Nov. 23. He said that media reports were incorrect.
Also yesterday, women¡¯s groups demanded that the truth be told about the procedures involved in collecting eggs for Dr. Hwang¡¯s research team.
At a press conference held in downtown Seoul, 32 civic groups including the Korea YWCA said that the government and prosecutors should investigate details of the egg-donation procedures, including the facilities involved and the precise number of eggs that were used.
They also said that the government should find out whether researchers were forced to donate eggs and that it should compensate them if they were. ¡°Until now, the focus was on the existence of the technology, but for the national interest, the state must show that women¡¯s bodies must not be used for tools, an inhumane and unethical attitude,¡± they said.
by Wohn Dong-hee