The government¡¯s Board of Audit and Inspection said yesterday that it would begin next week an investigation of the public funds given to Dr. Hwang Woo-suk and his cloning research team.
The money involved is substantial; the government has given Korea¡¯s once-revered scientist 62.4 billion won ($63.3 million) since 1998 for his research into cloning and stem cells. On Tuesday, a review panel at Seoul National University pronounced two of Dr. Hwang¡¯s most prominent breakthroughs fraudulent.
The professor of veterinary medicine also faces an investigation by the prosecution of charges and counter-charges made by his adversaries and him and a disciplinary hearing by Seoul National University. There is also talk of a National Assembly inquiry into the circumstances that led to his rise and sudden fall.
Dr. Hwang has scheduled a press conference today, purportedly to rebut at least some of the conclusions reached by the university scientific review panel that pronounced most of his work phoney.
The president of Seoul National University apologized to the nation yesterday for what it called Dr. Hwang¡¯s scientific misconduct. ¡°The team led by Professor Hwang did something that must not be done by scientists,¡± said Chung Un-chan at a press conference. ¡°The fabrications are a crime in academia. I will ask the disciplinary committee to punish the responsible researchers.¡±
He also promised that the university would establish an academic integrity office.
The government stripped Dr. Hwang of his 13 public posts and honors, including the title of ¡°best scientist.¡± His round-the-clock police protection has ended.
Seoul district prosecutors will assemble an investigation team under the direction of the Supreme Public Prosecutors¡¯ Office to see if there are grounds to charge him with criminal misappropriation of research funds or violations of the nation¡¯s bioethics laws. The National Assembly¡¯s two largest political groups, the Uri Party and the Grand National Party, said they wanted a legislative investigation as well.
The Education Ministry, which was quick to add Dr. Hwang¡¯s achievements to textbooks used in Korean schools, said it would quickly scrub or revise that material.
There are still a few true believers in Seoul, however. Despite the toppling of the idol, about 100 supporters of Dr. Hwang rallied yesterday to pledge their continued commitment to his cause. Saying that Dr. Hwang is an expert in stem cell cloning, they demanded further funding and a continued supply of human eggs so that he could repeat his work to prove that it was successful.
The journal Science, the U.S. publication that printed two recently discredited papers by Dr. Hwang, said yesterday that it would retract his 2004 paper as it already had his 2005 report. Donald Kennedy, the editor-in-chief of the journal, issued a statement promising additional safeguards to detect fraudulent research.
by Ser Myo-ja for JD