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Professor Hwang Woo-suk’s E-mail Interview with Time Magazine

Professor Hwang Woo-suk’s E-mail Interview with Time Magazine

Posted December. 07, 2005 08:32,   


Professor Hwang Woo-suk of Seoul National University said in an e-mail interview printed in the latest edition of Time Asia Magazine that there was no pressure on researchers of his team in the egg donation process, and that he will continue to do his work.

Time Asia mostly asked about the ethical issues in the process of egg donation and whether he knew about that ahead of time. It didn’t refer to the authenticity issues of stem cells which MBC PD note raised.

-Do you think that this controversy would not have been stirred if you admitted the truth at the time the article in Nature was published in May 2004? Was the cover-up a more serious mistake than the accepting of the eggs of your researchers?

Hwang: It was not a cover-up. At that time, the donors pleaded that I must not disclose their role for the sake of their privacy. After serious consideration, I finally chose to protect my researchers` privacy. In Korea, disclosure of egg donation is a serious matter that could have an important impact on a woman`s life.

-Do you think the two lab workers felt pressure to donate their eggs?

Hwang: They donated their eggs completely voluntarily.

-It is hard to believe that you didn`t know of the donations by your researchers until the Nature article appeared. How is it possible that the head of the lab was not aware of the sources of the eggs?

Hwang: I am not in a position to know the sources of the eggs. I am barred from any direct access to the egg collection process according to Seoul National University`s Institutional Review Board`s guidelines. What we receive is egg, not donor information.

―Some South Koreans have seen this controversy as a plot by the outside world to keep South Korea from getting ahead in biotechnology. What do you think?

Hwang: I don`t see it that way.

―Do you think the controversy could have a lasting, negative effect for the international reputation of South Korean science?

Hwang: The fact that I had chosen to protect my researchers couldn’t be an excuse for me. However, please know that it never was my deliberate intention.

―Will international scientists be unwilling to collaborate with South Korean scientists?

Hwang: Currently, many foreign researchers are visiting my lab and learning the technology. We are planning to distribute our technology to the world.

―How important is stem-cell research for humankind?

Hwang: The purpose of therapeutic cloning is not to clone human beings. It’s the only way to cure degenerative disease.

-Has this event been a stumbling block for you to proceed with your revolutionary work?

Hwang: I will continue my work.

Jae-Young Kim redfoot@donga.com