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Stem Cell Scandal Hits Hardest

Posted December. 26, 2005 03:12,   


Kim Yeong-woo has suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease for 27 years. After the Hwang Woo-suk research scandal broke, he stopped eating and became depressed as he watched and read the media’s coverage of the scandal. He died a few days later on December 21 after telling his family, “I don’t feel well.”

He worked for a printing office in South Chungcheong Province and was confined to an electric powered wheelchair nine years ago. Even though small movements caused him pain, he always smiled and posted good writings, paintings, and music on his homepage.

It was one year ago when he revealed on the Internet that he was suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. He then began to exchange messages with members of the “I Love Hwang Woo-suk” club.

On September 19, a day after the Korean national holiday of Chuseok, his brother Kim Il-woo received a call from his brother Young-woo, and got good news. Yeong-woo said in an excited voice that he had gotten a call from Dr. Hwang and that he had been asked to meet him on December 21. Young-woo usually didn’t reveal his inner thoughts, but on that day, he got drunk and shared his hopes of a treatment of the incurable disease with his brother.

“Can I be cured? Even if that stage has not been reached, I willingly want to be a guinea pig. I have nothing to lose even though I cannot be cured right away. If progress in stem-cell research can be made, other patients with other incurable diseases would benefit.”

However, Young-woo couldn’t meet Dr. Hwang. Il-woo hung his head, saying, “I wanted to ask my brother why he couldn’t meet Dr. Hwang.”

He said “Since my brother, who had such a strong will, died, the hope that I can be cured has turned into despair. I feel like I’m falling into a bottomless pit.”

Nonetheless, he decided not to give up his hope as he looked at a new shirt and pair of trousers his brother had bought. He said that his disappointment regarding the stem cell scandal was bitter, but that it is too early to give up hope.

Il-woo’s hope is that his son and daughter do not suffer the same pain he is. His father has Lou Gehrig’s disease as well.

“Maybe I cannot be healed. However, if researchers work hard, the next generation might not suffer the same pain my brother and I did. Maybe there is hope for all of us.”

zeitung@donga.com weappon@donga.com