Introduction: The Hwang Scandal that "Shook the World of Science"
- East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
- Duke University Press
- Volume 2, Number 1, 2008
- pp. 1-7
- Additional Information
INTRODUCTION The Hwang Scandal that “Shook the World of Science” Sungook Hong Received: 5 May 2008 /Accepted: 5 May 2008 / Published online: 1 July 2008 # National Science Council, Taiwan 2008 Keywords Hwang scandal . Stem cell research . Scientific fraud . Hwang Woo Suk . Replication Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, a South Korean animal-cloning expert and veterinary scientist, was a national hero in South Korea. In 2004, he and his collaborators published in Science a paper on the establishment of the first human embryonic stem cell with the somatic cell nuclear transfer method (Hwang et al. 2004). Hwang’s method, which had been used to create the world-first cloned mammal Dolly, consisted of denucleating a human egg and inserting in its place a nucleus from an ordinary somatic cell. The nucleus and the egg were fused into one by means of electricity, creating a cloned embryo, from which a stem cell line was developed. For this experiment, he announced that he had used 242 human eggs. The next year, in 2005, in a paper also published in Science, Hwang allegedly claimed that he had established 11 patient-specific stem cells with 185 human eggs (Hwang et al. 2005). As these stem-cells were patient-specific, there was no concern about immune reaction. Also, compared with his 2004 paper, the success rate rose enormously. For this marvelous achievement, he used a method dubbed the “squeezing method,” which he loved to call the “Korean metallic-chopstick method.” However, in November 2005, his achievements began to be considered suspicious and spurious. Eventually, it turned out that his 2005 paper, as well as his 2004 paper, was East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (2008) 2:1–7 DOI 10.1007/s12280-008-9041-x Lawrence K. Altman and William J. Broad, “More Science, More Fraud,” New York Times (20 December 2005). The article starts with the passage that “The South Korean scandal that shook the world of science last week is just one sign of a global explosion in research that is outstripping the mechanisms meant to guard against error and fraud.” S. Hong (*) Department of Biological Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org fraudulent. These papers not only involved a serious violation of medical ethics in collecting human eggs but also fabrications and falsifications of scientific data. In early 2006, Hwang’s allegedly world-first human embryonic stem cells turned out to be non-existent. This fraud “shook the world of science.” This introduction briefly reviews the rise and fall of Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, which has been called the “Hwang Scandal” or “Hwang Affair,” and discusses some issues of it pertinent to science and technology studies (STS). From 1999, when he cloned a dairy cow (named “Yeongrong-i”) for the first time in Korea, Hwang successfully built his fame and credibility as a star scientist. He was very adept in making networks with influential politicians, bureaucrats, and the media. For instance, his second cloned cow was given a name “Jin-i” by the then President of Korea after the famous Korean geisha “Hwang Jin-i.” Around the same time, he announced his plan to clone the Siberian tiger that was on the verge of extinction in North Korea. This project eventually failed, but as this sensational project was widely advertised by the media, it made a deep impression in the mind of the Korean public. In 2002, he claimed that he succeeded in cloning a gene-modified pig for organ transplant. In December, 2003, he announced that he had cloned a BSE (mad cow disease)resistant cow for the first time in the world. At that time, he invited the Korean president Roh Moo Hyun to his laboratory and demonstrated how he cured a severely injured dog with stem cell treatment. The president was so amazed that he acclaimed that “I feel like I got an electric shock” and “this is not a science; this is a magic.” Until this time, however, Hwang had not published a single paper on these notable achievements. He only held a press-conference and provided striking demonstrations and multi-media presentations.1 There were some...