Hwang Woo-suk, the cloning and stem cell researcher who was indicted by Korea’s prosecution on Friday, says he has been falsely accused.
In an interview with the Joong-Ang Daily yesterday, Lee Geon-haeng said Dr. Hwang and his legal team were mortified by the prosecutors’ announcement of the indictments. Mr. Lee is Dr. Hwang’s lead attorney.
Mr. Lee rebutted the prosecution’s contentions point by point, saying that the researcher did not order his research team to fabricate data for a 2004 scientific paper on embryonic stem cell cloning. The paper was published and later retracted by the U.S. journal Science.
“Prosecutors concluded that Dr. Hwang had told junior researchers to forge data such as DNA fingerprints based on testimony by Park Jong-hyuk and Kim Sun-jong,” Mr. Lee said, referring to two members of the research team. “But Dr. Hwang says he never did so.”
Mr. Lee said it was unfair of prosecutors to charge Dr. Hwang with falsifying information in applications for government grants. “The first stem cell line for the 2004 article was actually created,” Mr. Lee said, “and even the prosecutors admitted that Dr. Hwang did not know until October that the supposed customized stem cell lines for the 2005 paper had been falsified by Kim Sun-jong.” Mr. Kim was a member of Dr. Hwang’s research staff and was also indicted Friday for those falsifications.
The lawyer did admit that Dr. Hwang directed his staff to create false data for the second of the two Science articles, but argued that the researcher was guilty of no more than impatience. He said Dr. Hwang, believing that the first two lines had been successfully cultivated, continued his research after the article had been submitted and nine more ― also fabricated, although Dr. Hwang believed the opposite ― had been added.
He also denied that Dr. Hwang had embezzled any funds. He said the researcher had profited from lectures and books he authored to the tune of about 800 million won ($840,000). All that money was put into the same bank accounts, but those were private earnings, he said.
Separately, Chung Un-chan, Seoul National University’s president, said he would ask the school’s disciplinary committee to fire Lee Byung-cheon and Kang Sung-keun, both veterinary professors. The two were indicted for embezzling government research grants; they were earlier suspended from their jobs because of their association with Dr. Hwang’s alleged research fabrications.
by Wohn Dong-hee for JoongAng Daily