Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 355–380 | Cite as

Ethical Modernization: Research Misconduct and Research Ethics Reforms in Korea Following the Hwang Affair

  • Jongyoung KimEmail author
  • Kibeom Park
Original Paper


The Hwang affair, a dramatic and far reaching instance of scientific fraud, shocked the world. This collective national failure prompted various organizations in Korea, including universities, regulatory agencies, and research associations, to engage in self-criticism and research ethics reforms. This paper aims, first, to document and review research misconduct perpetrated by Hwang and members of his research team, with particular attention to the agencies that failed to regulate and then supervise Hwang’s research. The paper then examines the research ethics reforms introduced in the wake of this international scandal. After reviewing American and European research governance structures and policies, policy makers developed a mixed model mindful of its Korean context. The third part of the paper examines how research ethics reform is proactive (a response to shocking scientific misconduct and ensuing external criticism from the press and society) as well as reactive (identification of and adherence to national or international ethics standards). The last part deals with Korean society’s response to the Hwang affair, which had the effect of a moral atomic bomb and has led to broad ethical reform in Korean society. We conceptualize this change as ethical modernization, through which the Korean public corrects the failures of a growth-oriented economic model for social progress, and attempts to create a more trustworthy and ethical society.


Hwang affair Ethical modernization Research ethics Scientific misconduct Regulation Stem cell research 



We would like to thank reviewers for their valuable comments and criticisms. We are also grateful to Gardner Rogers who edited this paper. This research was funded by Science and Technology Policy Institute in Korea.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyKyung Hee UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Science and Technology Policy Institute, Specialty Construction CenterDongjak-Gu, SeoulRepublic of Korea

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