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[Opinion] Korean DNA Researchers Are Nation’s Pride

Posted October. 21, 2005 03:04,   


In April 1953, an article on the double helix of DNA was published in science magazine “Nature.” The subject was a monumental discovery that has since been known as the “revolution of the year 1953” in scientific history. Until then, scientists had believed, “Creatures are too complicated and they cannot be explained using the laws of science.” The discovery of DNA, however, enabled analysis and research even on humans on a molecular basis. With the nature of DNA unveiled, it became possible to challenge the God-created domain of life.

In October 2005—52 years later—an article by Prof. Kim Kyung-gyu of Sungkyunkwan University, Dr. Ha Seong-chul and Prof. Kim Yang-gyun of Chung-Ang University was published in the same magazine, Nature, as its cover article. Their work demonstrated the process of transformation from type-B DNA into type-Z DNA, which has so far remained elusive. This is a brilliant achievement that puts a period at the end of DNA research.

What makes us more proud is that they are “homegrown researchers.” Prof. Kim Kyung-gyu graduated from Seoul National University (SNU) and got his doctorate at SNU Graduate School; Dr. Ha Seong-chul graduated from Gyeongsang National University and earned his doctorate at Sungkyunkwan University.

It is a sign of hope that these scientists, who have been doing their research in Korea without going abroad for studying, have made such an accomplishment. They serve as “role models” for would-be scientists and engineers, boosting their confidence and presenting whole new opportunities for them. “Korean biology has made rapid growth since the late 1990s. Things will get even better when basic fundamentals, including an environment for research, are fully established,” predicted Prof. Kim Kyung-gyu. It is impressive that Korean scientists have been struggling to compete despite unfavorable conditions.

Along with the Theory of Relativity, the discovery of DNA is one of the major scientific discoveries of the 20th Century. It will continue to be highly appreciated in the 21st century for dramatically enhancing the quality of human life by developing the field of biology.

In 1953, when James Watson of the United States and Francis Crick of the United Kingdom discovered the double helix of DNA, Korea was suffering from poverty and in the throes of war. It is significant that the final chapter of DNA research was completed by Koreans. “The discovery of DNA is not the end but the beginning of research on life,” said Watson in his book, “The Double Helix.” It would be great if this research were to herald the very beginning of a new era in Korean science.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com