Skip to main content

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

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Ethical Innovation for Global Health
  • 152 Accesses

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 119.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD 159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Notes

  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.

    INFECTIOUS DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION ACT.

  18. 18.

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

References

  1. Cyranoski D. Whistle-blower breaks his silence. Nature. 2014;505:593–4.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Hwang WS, et al. Evidence of a pluripotent human embryonic stem cell line derived from a cloned blastocyst. Science. 2004; 303: 1669–1674. Retracted in: Kennedy D. Editorial retraction. Science. 2006;311(5759):335. Epub 2006 Jan 12.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Hwang WS, et al. Patient-specific embryonic stem cells derived from human SCNT blastocysts. Science. 2005; 308: 1777–1783. Retracted in: Kennedy D. Editorial retraction. Science. 2006;311(5759):335. Epub 2006 Jan 12.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Choe SH. South Korean scientist indicted in cloning scandal. International Herald Tribune. Sect. Health & Science. 2006. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/12/health/12iht-korea.1725751.html. Accessed Jul 2023.

  5. Ahn MY, Normile D. Korean supreme court upholds disgraced cloner’s criminal sentence. Science. Sect. News: Science Insider. 2014. https://www.science.org/content/article/korean-supreme-court-upholds-disgraced-cloners-criminal-sentence. Accessed Jul 2023.

  6. Nature News. Woo Suk Hwang. Sect. Specials. 2006. https://www.nature.com/collections/szlcbykgyl. Accessed Jul 2023.

  7. Lee EY. Hwang Woo-Suk’s full story of cloning the Baekdu mountain Tiger. Shin Donga, No. 557; 2006. p. 120–7. https://shindonga.donga.com/3/all/13/105185/1. Accessed Jul 2023.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Huh MS et al. Testimony of Byung-gul Paik, professor at Chonbuk National University College of veterinary medicine Shin donga, March 6, 2006. https://shindonga.donga.com/3/all/13/105235/1. Accessed Jul 2023.

  9. Park JH. Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk’s false testimony still influences the damage on livestock farms. Voice of Jeonbuk, Sect. SPECIAL PROJECT. 2020. http://www.jbsori.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=2413. Accessed Jul 2023.

  10. Moon GY. Seoul National University undergraduate course must be eliminated, local universities survive ... The theory of the abolition of Seoul National University erupted inside Seoul National University. MK Article. Sect. Society. 2022. https://www.mk.co.kr/news/society/view/2022/01/28655/. Accessed Jul 2023.

  11. Saegusa A. South Korean researchers under fire for claims of human cloning. Nature. Sect. News. 1998. https://www.nature.com/articles/25421. Accessed Jul 2023.

  12. Han HS. How should I tell you this news?. Social Commentary. pp. 54.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Lim DW. “Pollution · blackout · loss of data...” professor Hwang said accident at every important moment. The Korea Economic Daily, December 19, 2005. https://n.news.naver.com/mnews/article/015/0000858666?sid=105. Accessed Jul 2023.

  14. Seo HG. Where’s young-long? Yonhap News Agency. December 22, 2005. https://n.news.naver.com/mnews/article/001/0001180671?sid=105. Accessed Jul 2023.

  15. Kim Sung-Hoon’s statement. MBC PD Note. 2005. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4YJu2wm7LY. Accessed Jul 2023.

  16. Kim JW. [people focus] Hwang woo-Suk (from Buyeo, professor of clinical veterinary medicine at Seoul National University). Chungcheong Today. 2004. https://www.cctoday.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=53486. Accessed Jul 2023.

  17. Son JK. Members of the ruling and opposition parties formed a support group for professor Hwang woo-Suk. ETNews, December 6, 2005. https://n.news.naver.com/mnews/article/030/0000126192?sid=105. Accessed Jul 2023.

  18. Son BK. Hwang WS met DJ “I will fix you and your son”. Oh My News. 2006. http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/View/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0000304593. Accessed Jul 2023.

  19. Even the Baekdusan tiger will be cloned. Chosun Ilbo, Social News. February 21, 1999, p. 23.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Cloned Baekdusan tiger to be born next year. Hankyoreh, Social News. December 29, 1999, p. 15.

    Google Scholar 

  21. A cloned Mt. Baekdu tiger, ‘Oh heung’ next year? SCIENG, http://www.scieng.net/sisatoron/10831. Published 2005. Accessed Jul 2023.

  22. Korea’s first cloned Baekdusan tiger to be born in July. Maeil Economy. April 17, 2000.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Campbell KH, McWhir J, Ritchie WA, Wilmut I.Sheep cloned by nuclear transfer from a cultured cell line.Nature1996; 380(6569):64–66.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Thomson JA, Itskovitz-Eldor J, Shapiro SS, Waknitz MA, Swiergiel JJ, Marshall VS, Jones JM. Embryonic stem cell lines derived from human blastocysts. Science. 1998;282(5391):1145–7. Erratum in: Science 1998 Dec 4;282(5395):1827. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.282.5391.1145.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. Peace Broad Casting Open World Today, I’m Jang Sungmin [radio broadcast]; December 23, 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Korea, Missed three times to get Nobel prizes. Sisa Journal. February 28, 2011. http://www.sisajournal.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=131502. Accessed Jul 2023.

  27. Park KY. Evidence of a pluripotent human embryonic stem cell line derived from a cloned blastocyst. Science. 2004;303:1669–74.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Ky Young Park received 250 million won from Professor Hwang. SBS News. January 17, 2006. https://news.v.daum.net/v/20060117214509327?fbclid=IwAR1dg_VuJ9tk0l80AgC_O-NNBhst2AKB-AwruCQF1tP_c8E5cFsQ2ZVuXKE&fs=e&s=cl. Accessed Jul 2023.

  29. Han HS. Everyone, How I should I deliver the News? Social Criticism. p. 289.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Kang YG. The Ministry of Education also blocked SNU’s Hwang woo Suk investigation. Dent Press; 2006. https://www.pressian.com/pages/articles/32237. Accessed Jul 2023.

  31. Lee NH. The story behind the investigation into the Hwang woo Suk case that ended after 5 months. Dong-A Ilbo. June 21, 2006. https://woman.donga.com/3/all/12/135418/1. Accessed Jul 2023.

  32. JoongAng Ilbo. First trial ruling in 3 years and 5 months for ‘manipulation of stem cell thesis’. October 27, 2009. https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/3844387. Accessed Jul 2023.

  33. Seon JS. Stem cell thesis fabrication’ researcher Seonjong Kim abandons appeal... Only professors Hwang woo-suk and Yun Hyun-Soo remain. Kookmin Ilbo, December 31, 2009. http://news.kmib.co.kr/article/view.asp?arcid=0002725162&code=11131100. Accessed Jul 2023.

  34. Lee SJ. The country of Hwang woo-Suk. Seoul Korea, Bada publishers; 2006. Bada Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Shin HC. Hwang’s credit card in veil. Sisa Journal April 3, 2006. http://www.sisajournal.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=104728. Accessed Jul 2023.

  36. Human Embryonic Stem Cells May Promise Medical Advances. ScienceDaily article. February 12, 2004. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/02/040212090522.htm. Accessed Jul 2023.

  37. Kang YG, Kim BS, Han JG. Silence and enthusiasm: seven years of Hwang woo-Suk scandal. Humanitas. To protect the honor of individuals, this book does not directly refer to them by their full names except in special cases, but for those who wish to research them, the following videos are available. The man who faked human cloning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ett_8wLJ87U. How to catch criminal cloner. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st6yupvNkVo Accessed Jul 2023.

  38. Lee JE, Lee HE. Plagiarism of papers from high-ranking officials... Research ethics pushed aside by politics. University news Network. July 17, 2017. http://news.unn.net/news/articleView.html?idxno=176765. Accessed Jul 2023.

  39. Cyranoski D. Cloning comeback. Nature. 2014;505:468–71. https://doi.org/10.1038/505468a.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Don’t rush to rehabilitate Hwang. Nature. 2014;505:453. https://doi.org/10.1038/505453a.

  41. Court statement of Hwang Woo-Suk in 2017. Seoul Eastern District Court 2017 Go-Dan 3879.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Jeong HW. Nam JW. Heo JM. After the president’s comments, oocyte regulations were eased... Oppositions transferred to different posts. Kyunghyang Shinmun. November 11, 2016. https://www.khan.co.kr/politics/politics-general/article/201611110600085. Accessed Jul 2023.

  43. Court statement of Hwang Woo-Suk in 2017. Refer to the written judgment of the Seoul Eastern District Court 2017 Go-Dan 3879.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Centers for Disease Control. Comprehensive plan for epidemiologic surveillance. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service; 1986.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Moon JY, et al. Social responsibilities of health care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic: avoiding privacy infringements and the stigmatization of patients. Korean J Med Ethics. 2021;24(2):159–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. You KH, et al. A review of the justifications for mandatory vaccination policies in response to the COVID-19 public health crisis. Korean J Med Ethics. 25(1):1–20.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Fang YH, et al. The ethics of COVID-19 vaccine allocation. Korean J Med Ethics. 2021;24(2):121–37.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Fang YH, et al. The pandemic of COVID-19 and the ethics of human challenge study. J Korean Bioethics Assoc. 2020;21(2):55–74.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Choi EK, et al. COVID-19 and research ethics. Korean J Med Ethics. 2021;24(1):1–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. WHO Guidance on Research Methods for Health Emergency and Disaster Risk Management. 2021. https://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/345591. Accessed Jul 2023.

  51. Piller C, Servick K. Two elite medical journals retract coronavirus papers overdata integrity questions. Science. 2020. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/mysterious-company-s-coronavirus-papers-top-medical-journals-may-be-unraveling. Accessed Jul 2023.

  52. Newstapa. Building ‘special’ qualifications of children of a privileged class. 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE8P1dTTN6Y. Accessed Jul 2023.

  53. WAVE: World Association of Volunteering Elites. https://www.facebook.com/hafs.wave/. Accessed Jul 2022.

  54. Jeong SY. Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk ‘Guilty’... 2 years’ imprisonment, 3 years’ probation. SBS News. October 26, 2009. https://news.sbs.co.kr/news/endPage.do?news_id=N1000662038. Accessed Jul 2023.

  55. Choi YK. Professor Lee Byeong-Cheon, high school student’s son as the author of a thesis. KBS News. May 17, 2019. https://news.kbs.co.kr/news/view.do?ncd=4202836. Accessed Jul 2023.

  56. Oh HJ, Lee TH, Lee JH, Lee BC. Trichostatin an improves preimplantation development of bovine cloned embryos and alters expression of epigenetics and pluripotency genes in cloned blastocysts. Theriogenology. 2012;74(11):1409–15.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  57. Choi YK. Professor Lee Byung-Cheon in court... “It’s ironic to be prosecuted for reducing the pain of a test dog”. KBS News. October 9, 2020. https://news.kbs.co.kr/news/view.do?ncd=5021613. Accessed Jul 2023.

  58. Kang BJ. What happened during the 67 days from the appointment of Cho Kuk as minister of justice to his resignation? HuffPost. October 14, 2019. https://www.huffingtonpost.kr/entry/story_kr_5da409fae4b06ddfc51c8a2e. Accessed Jul 2023.

  59. Cho M, Hyun KS, Chung DC, Choi IY, Kim MJ, Chang YP. eNOS gene polymorphisms in perinatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy [2]. Korean J Pathol. 2009;43(4):306–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Kim MI. Pusan National University cancels admission to Cho min medical school homeland “It’s harsh, application for suspension of execution”. Chosun Ilbo. April 4, 2022. https://www.chosun.com/national/national_general/2022/04/05/WTGKRZ3LRBBAZLXB5E7GXPQEDE/. Accessed Jul 2023.

  61. Jeong HB, Kim GY, Bae JH. On H’s daughter’s thesis, Kenyan ghostwriter says, ‘I wrote it.’ Hankyoreh. May 8, 2022. https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/politics/politics_general/1041913.html. Accessed Jul 2023.

  62. PD NOTE. Fairness and falsehood - ivy league and high school students. MBC Broadcast. June 14, 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yct32_lXw8k. Accessed Jul 2023.

  63. Choi SA, Lee SM. Encapsulation of Streptococcus salivarius in double emulsion droplets as a method for increasing the efficacy of oral topical medications. Biomed J Sci Tech Res. 2019;19(2). https://biomedres.us/pdfs/BJSTR.MS.ID.003271.pdf.

  64. Yoon GH. Korean American mothers “Han dong-hoon’s daughter’s negative specs, we are the victims”. Oh My News. May 17, 2022. http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/View/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0002835955. Accessed Jul 2023.

  65. Lee YK. Cloning whistleblower: little changed in S. Korea AP News. October 24, 2014. https://apnews.com/article/south-korea-hwang-woo-suk-archive-cloning-ae89cce79c5342d69b4bb2dd0667a123. Accessed Jul 2023.

  66. King of Clones: The fall of Dr. Hwang. Netflix Documentary. (It started streaming on June 23, 2023).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

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.

Conflict of Interest

There is no conflict of interest related to this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Young-Joon Ryu .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-6163-4_5

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-99-6163-4_5

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-99-6162-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-99-6163-4

  • eBook Packages: MedicineMedicine (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics