Go to contents

Former Research Partners Now at Odds

Posted January. 14, 2006 03:00,   


The relationship between Seoul National University professor and stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk, and Roh Sung-il, chairman of the board of MizMedi Hospital, couldn’t be more bitter. They used to be the closest of partners in stem cell research. Now they call each other “unreliable.”

Hwang cited the “Pangyo project” as one of reasons for their strained relationship in a news conference Thursday. He explained that they have become estranged because he didn’t help with the project Roh has been pursuing.

The main idea of the Pangyo project is to build Asia’s largest women’s clinic and stem cell research institute. However, there are problems in how Roh has pushed for the project.

Gyeonggi-do said “No”-

Medipost, an adult stem cell treatment manufacturer, announced on December 14 last year that it would invest 100 billion won to build a stem cell research center and treatment facility in a 10,000 pyeong lot in Pangyo city, Seongnam, Gyeonggi-do, in cooperation with MizMedi Hospital.

Since then, a more concrete construction plan was released. According to the plan, ground will be broken in March of this year to complete construction by 2008. However, the plan is highly unlikely to be materialized for now, given that the property has not been acquired yet in Pangyo.

Roh also requested from Seongnam city on July 15 last year to provide a lot near the Pangyo venture complex under the control of Gyeonggi-do for free or at a discount price for his plans to build a women’s and seniors’ clinic and stem cell research facility. However, Gyeonggi-do informed Seongnam city that a hospital, not a research facility, is not allowed to be a tenet in the complex.

In an effort to give further impetus to the project, Roh attempted to meet with Sohn Hak-gyu, Gyeonggi provincial governor, but to no avail. Hwang said in the news conference on Thursday, “At the end of 2004, Roh asked me to accompany him to a meeting with a high ranking official of Gyeonggi-do for the Pangyo project, which I declined.”

The Proposal of a Project to Seocho-gu-

It was also confirmed that Roh met with Cho Nam-ho, the head of Seocho-gu office, on August 24 and asked if he could purchase property within the greenbelt zone in Seocho-gu.

Cho told a Dong-A Ilbo correspondent, “I didn’t know about him or MizMedi Hospital. He came to me and told me that he wanted to build a large-scale research institute, after leaving the research team he had been working on with Hwang.”

Cho added, “I was briefed on his project plan for 20 minutes, but I had to turn down his request, because there was nothing I could do, given that most of the greenbelt zone is privately-owned.”

The Strangest Coincidence-

Roh reportedly talked about the project in a private gathering in October 2004. However, he denied the existence of concrete project plans, saying, “I had the idea of the project only in my mind,” after his project plan made news.

Then why did he rush to unveil the project plan on December 14 last year, even without property? Suspicions are mounting because he made a shocking confession on the following day: “There is no patient-specific stem cell now.”

Roh said in a telephone interview with Dong-A Ilbo, “The announcement on December 14 about the Pangyo project was made by Medipost for the purpose of capital increase with consideration. I have nothing to do with that press conference. It is just one of those strangest coincidences.”

He added, “Hwang and I have drifted farther apart from each other, because he has unreasonably exaggerated the possibility of commercializing stem cells.”