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South Koreans React With Anger, Disappointment to Stem Cell Fraud

South Korea is in a state of shock over the country's main scientific hero falling from grace. Friday's announcement that stem cell pioneer Hwang Woo-suk falsified at least part of his research has generated anger and disappointment.

A spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun says Mr. Roh in not yet ready to speak about disgraced stem cell researcher Hwang Woo-suk. He says the president is awaiting the findings of the latest investigation by a Seoul National University panel into Dr. Hwang's research claims.

On Friday, the panel announced Dr. Hwang had falsified most, if not all, results of a groundbreaking research paper that made him a global icon earlier this year.

In that paper, Dr. Hwang claimed to have produced 11 sets of stem cells, a basic building block of the human body, from human embryos he had cloned.

It was considered a groundbreaking development in the search for treatments for spinal injuries and diseases such as Parkinson's.

However, the university panel found only two stem cell lines actually exist, while the other nine were forgeries. The panel is now scrutinizing those two lines to see if they are in fact genuine.

The university said Dr. Hwang had disgraced the field of science.

Many South Koreans, who just months ago trumpeted Dr. Hwang as a national hero, are now angry and disappointed.

Lee Kye-jin, spokesman for South Korea's main political opposition, says his party wants more answers.

Mr. Lee says his party will also be closely scrutinizing why President Roh's government was not more aware of Dr. Hwang's dishonesty, even as it showered him with research funds.

On the streets of Seoul, South Koreans are expressing shock, but also hope that some good may still come of the Hwang affair.

Moon Kye-ryun says South Korea stands humiliated in front of the world, but says the country can regain some of its credibility with an honest and thorough investigation of the case. He adds, South Korea now has the chance to embrace a more transparent scientific culture as a whole.

Many South Koreans are wondering to what extent their own culture's aggressive competitiveness may have fueled the Hwang scandal. Many say the sheer force of South Korea's desire to produce a hero, and Dr. Hwang's ambition to become one, may have outpaced the slow and often tedious process of science.