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Between Truth and Profit: Scientific Misconduct Case of Human Cloned Embryonic Stem Cell and Revisiting Cases During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Ethical Innovation for Global Health
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This article discusses the case of Woo-Suk Hwang, who was convicted in the “Human Cloned Embryonic Stem Cell Science Paper Manipulation Case” (also known as “the Hwang WS Scandal”) as described by a whistleblower in the case. Despite being convicted, Hwang has consistently engaged in persistent activities to return to society without showing any remorse, including directly filing criminal charges to remove intrusive informants, for more than two decades. This article is the world’s first detailed formal record and academic statement on the case, including its ongoing progress despite it being thought to have ended. It also covers ethical issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as scientific research irregularities committed by parents to help their children gain admission to college that occurred during the period of the pandemic. Despite the considerable social cost to Korean society, this article aims to highlight the common phenomenon in Korea and to promote international cooperation in addressing these shared challenges.

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  1. 1.

    This paragraph is based on already published what Hwang Woo-Suk or his legal representative said in the media, booklets, and interviews. All others have been cited.

  2. 2.

    Lee Jang-Rak was not directly mentioned in Hwang Woo-Suk’s statements. But Hwang WS testified that the dean at the time recommended it to him, and Lee Jang-Rak’s tenure as the dean of the veterinary school was 1981–1985.

  3. 3.

    Many rumors have circulated about his second marriage, SNU professor Ahn Gyu-Ri, and his relationship with Park Ki-Young, an aide to Cheong Wa Dae (Blue house), but this will not be discussed here.

  4. 4.

    Hwang Woo-suk, a World-changing Scientist, Jaeum and Moeum; Hwang Woo-suk, the Stubborn Bull, Blue Bicycle; Hwang Woo-suk’s Story, A-One Books; Hwang Woo-suk’s Dream, Dongseo Munhwasa; Hwang Woo-suk in Comics, Dong-A Science; Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s Beautiful Path of Life, Ire Media; The Magic, Purple; Let’s Learn about the Success of Hwang Woo-suk, Dongseo Munhwasa; The Boy Hwang Woo-suk, MK; Dr. Hwang and Stem Cells, Hakwonsa; The Hwang Woo-suk Report, Nature and Freedom.

  5. 5.

    Hwang Woo-Suk’s direct statement through his legal representative Moon Hyung-sik, Lee Geon-haeng.

  6. 6.

    In 2004, the author met Hwang’s teacher in person at an event held at SNU. He introduced himself as his homeroom teacher in the second grade of middle school.

  7. 7.

    Hwang often said things in his laboratory that showed his awareness of the SNU premium (former researcher’s statement).

  8. 8.

    Results of the human embryo cloning experiment and Hwang Woo-suk’s Interview Video, Korean Medical Association.

  9. 9.

    Screen shots from MBC’s “PD Note.”

  10. 10.

    Refer to broadcast by MBC’s “PD Note.”

  11. 11.

    Statement by Woo HJ, Professor of Veterinary Medicine, SNU.

  12. 12.

    Young-Joon Ryu heard this directly from Shin-Yong Moon.

  13. 13.

    Young-Joon Ryu heard this directly from Gyu-Chang Wang and Jung-Hye Roh.

  14. 14.

    Heard directly from Kim SS.

  15. 15.

    The Kyunghyang Shinmun is a newspaper founded in 1946 by the Catholic Church. While the newspaper was forced to cease publication due to its criticisms against the Rhee administration, it was revived after the pro-democracy revolution of April 19, 1960.

  16. 16.

    In Southeast Asia, China, Libya, etc., there are no laws on human embryo cloning, or they are working with people who support it.

  17. 17.


  18. 18.

    Articles dated April 26, 2022, 96 cases of fraudulent co-authorship with minors found.


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As a whistleblower of the Hwang WS scandal, I thank everyone who has helped me through many trials over the past 20 years. In particular, I would like to thank producer Hak-Soo Han, the Seung-ho Choi of MBC PD Notebook. I thank Jae-Myung Lee and Byung-soo Kim of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. I thank Professor Sang-Ik Hwang of Seoul National University and Professor Han-Gyeom Kim of Korea University.

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Ryu, YJ. (2023). Between Truth and Profit: Scientific Misconduct Case of Human Cloned Embryonic Stem Cell and Revisiting Cases During COVID-19 Pandemic. In: Kurihara, C., Greco, D., Dhai, A. (eds) Ethical Innovation for Global Health. Springer, Singapore.

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