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Hwang admits lies, but calls results real

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Oct 24,2006
Disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk pleaded guilty to unethical practices for forging data in an attempt to make his research look more credible, but he claimed that the research itself was genuine. Responding to questions posed by his lawyers yesterday at the Seoul Central District Court, Mr. Hwang said that he believed that NT-1, the first cloned human stem cell, about which Mr. Hwang published an article in the U.S. magazine Science in 2004, was cloned and that further tests should be done to prove it. Currently, Mr. Hwang is charged with fraud, embezzlement and violation of bioethics laws. Fraud, however, does not apply to falsifying material for academic papers, but intentionally forging material to apply for grants. If proven guilty, he could serve up to three years in jail. The defense went point by point over what it said were “obvious inconsistencies” in prosecutors’ reports. Denying prior testimony for the prosecution by other researchers last June, Mr. Hwang said he never pressured any of his researchers to falsify stem cells. He added that stories of how he told researchers to fabricate DNA test results were like a “work of fiction.” He said that he always used formalities when speaking to Park Jong-hyuk and Kim Sun-jong, both researchers of MizMedi Hospital, because they had “more professional knowledge” than he, and that the researchers were “not the kind of people who would follow unfair orders.” Mr. Hwang also denied embezzling, saying that his past statements to prosecutors, in which he said that he applied for grants himself, were not true, and that he only did so to “save face” for his patrons. He testified that he had never applied for any funding, saying that after he published the 2004 article, places offering their financial support were “lined up” and therefore there was no need to purposely seek funding. The defense also produced evidence about how money Mr. Hwang received was used, and said that most of the funds provided by SK and Nonghyup are still in the bank. They added that funds received from Nonghyup were for the purpose of his work on transgenic cloned pigs and finding possible treatments for avian influenza and mad cow disease, which pertained to previous research and did not have anything to do with stem cell cloning. Mr. Hwang also stuck by his previous claims that suspicious personal items ― such as a car for him and his wife ― were bought with money earned from lectures and publications. Prosecutors were given the opportunity, but did not cross-examine Mr. Hwang. “The question now seems to depend on the evidence, which is not something that will change by cross-examination,” the head judge said before closing the session. by Wohn Dong-hee


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