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Protecting Hwang Woo-suk’s Technology

Posted August. 15, 2005 03:05,   


It has been confirmed that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) is operating a “Hwang Woo-suk security team” starting last year to protect Hwang Woo-suk research team’s technology. He is a professor of Seoul National University and has recently emerged as a marvel in the biotechnology world.

An official of the NIS revealed on August 14 that the industrial secrecy protection center which was launched in 2003 to guard national core knowledge information and to ferret out ones who leak technology, has been running a special squad for the technology security of Wang’s team since March 2004.

The official said that the industrial secrecy protection center has been handling the security issues of 260 institutes and businesses in Korea. However, this is the first time it has selected an individual as a protection subject and set up a security squad.

Since early 2004, the NIS has started to pay attention to the Hwang team’s technology security.

The official added, “When we visited his laboratory for the first time in March last year, the security system was such a mess that I came to wish that this person was not famous. Researchers, including Professor Hwang didn’t have any sense of security, and his research facilities were not equipped with any security devices at all.”

So, even when Hwang was asked about the security management system of his laboratory after announcing his success in obtaining embryo stem cells from a woman’ eggs, he just answered that he cautioned his team members not to say anything about it and locked the research facilities well.

Since then, the industrial secrecy protection center organized a security team only in charge of Hwang and started to guard him and people around him rigorously, following them wherever they go.

First, a container-box like laboratory was moved into a veterinary college building, where it is easy to control access. Next, all researchers including Hwang were given security instructions. In addition, introducing a ‘filtering system’ was suggested to prevent research results from leaking out through e-mails or phone calls.

The Hwang Woo-suk research building, which recently had its groundbreaking ceremony, will be fitted with a strong security system which the NIS proposed. It is said that due to this, the budget has increased from about six billion won to approximately 25 billion won.

The official revealed that an iris recognition access management system, a triple security access confirmation management system, a fixed and wireless telecommunications and e-mail filtering system, and computer storage equipment inventory system have been installed or are being considered.

“A” of the security squad said, “I can’t explain in detail, but everything such as who they meet, what they talk about, what they carry, and their presentation materials are all our security subjects. First of all, we are giving them preventative instructions so that they can lead the efforts by themselves.”

Regarding this, Professor Hwang mentioned that thanks to thorough security and guards from the NIS and police, the recent research results were not exposed to the outside world until they were published in the scientific magazine Science and that there could be controversy over privacy violations, however, that should be endured for one of the world’s greatest achievements.

Jae-Young Kim jaykim@donga.com