After obtaining warrants at midnight yesterday, a Seoul District Prosecutors investigation team raided 26 homes, offices and laboratories of 11 people involved in the alleged research fraud of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk. About 60 investigators seized research data, experiment notes, research fund spending records and computers. The prosecution also got warrants to investigate 19 Internet e-mail providers for the communication records of the 11.
So far, Dr. Hwang, MizMedi hospital head Roh Sung-il and nine other key members of the discredited research team have been banned from leaving the country.
The core target of the raids was MizMedi Hospital, a Seoul-based fertility clinic which supplied eggs for Dr. Hwang’s research. The hospital also provided researchers to cultivate stem cell lines. “While Dr. Hwang¡¯s data has already been reviewed by Seoul National University¡¯s investigation committee, investigations on data from MizMedi Hospital and its role were insufficient,” a source said.
According to Seoul National University¡¯s review, the hospital provided 1,423 eggs from November 2002 to February last year to Dr. Hwang¡¯s team.
The prosecution said it has seized e-mail communications between the key figures. Kim Sun-jong, a MizMedi researcher whom Dr. Hwang accused of switching stem cell lines and presenting fabricated data, and Dr. Hwang communicated mainly through e-mail after Mr. Kim began working at the University of Pittsburgh. ¡°We don¡¯t think this case will take a long time,¡± said Hong Man-pyo, head of the special investigation team.
The prosecutors will also investigate how some co-authors of Dr. Hwang¡¯s 2004 and 2005 papers had their names listed without playing any role. The university committee noted that Park Ky-young, the presidential science advisor, was named as a co-author in the 2004 paper but had made no contribution. It added that five out of 25 co-authors of the 2005 paper made no contribution to the research, including Seoul National University professor Moon Shin-yong and Park Jong-hyuk, a former MizMedi researcher currently affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh.
Key members of Dr. Hwang’s team may face criminal charges of misappropriation, fraud and bioethics law violations.
by Chang Hye-soo, Moon Byung-joo