Go to contents

[Opinion] Korea’s Former Hero

Posted March. 22, 2006 03:12,   


Foreigners appeared in front of Professor Hwang Woo-suk carrying bags of money. They opened the bag and said, “Let’s do stem cell research together. We’ll take full responsibility.” Hwang said, “I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. This research cannot be bought with money. The owner of the patent is not Hwang Woo-suk, but Korea.”

The above is taken from a section from a children’s version of Hwang’s biography; one of many that have been published. Others include “Let’s Learn from Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s Success!”; “The Obstinate Hwang Woo-suk, Who Worked for the Impoverished and Infirm”; and “Dr. Hwang Woo-suk’s Beautiful Way of Life.” Some have phrases that would motivate any child, like, “Science does not have borders, but scientists are from a nation!” And in one 6th grade social science textbook, Hwang is introduced as a contributor to the global development of science.

But this character vilified Korea’s image through the falsification of his research and was forced to resign from his position at Seoul National University. His lab was closed, and Hwang was kicked out of the academic circle. It is a dramatic turnaround that reminds one of the past when a corrupt village chief could be kicked by a Royal Emissary. It is a story of wrongdoings discovered and a corrupt chief being dismissed from his position.

Dismissal is the ultimate form of sanction for public servants. Hwang will not be able to apply for a public position for the next five years, and his pension will be cut in half. He will no longer bear the title of Korea’s “Top Scientist,” and he will not be aided with annual funding of three billion won.

Adults feel apologetic for giving children false hopes. How can we make up for the children’s confusion? Though it may be too late, adults should recognize their mistake and confess, “Children, science cannot be bought and sold with money. Scientific achievements cannot be achieved with unfounded publicity and national enthusiasm.” And we should add this: “Ponder every aspect” is a maxim to remember, and it should be the starting point of all scientific thought. People who try to gloss over their work by saying, “What does it matter if it’s one or 10?” and those who try to attribute every failure to a freak accident should be avoided.

Kim Choong-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com