Private research funding went to stocks, buildings
Auditors find more questions in Hwang case
The Board of Audit and Inspection investigating the funding of the stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk has found that some of the money donated privately to Dr. Hwang was used to make political donations and to buy stock and real estate.
An audit official said yesterday that Dr. Hwang received a total of 10.3 billion won ($10.3 million) in corporate and private donations, more than half of which ― 6.3 billion won ― was managed by the New Industry Strategy Research Center, where Dr. Hwang is a board member.
He added that 7 billion won in corporate donations and 2.8 billion won from a local supporters’ group were wired directly to the account of Dr. Hwang’s research center. Some of these funds were transferred to his bank account as research funds, and other sums were given to politicians or used to buy stocks and real estate.
The board said that 3.3 billion won was managed by the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation, 1.9 of which was given to Dr. Hwang through Seoul National University for research purposes. Also, 600 million won provided by Posco was given to Dr. Hwang for his stipend as a “distinguished professor,” a title that was recently revoked.
The board said that of 1.9 billion won Dr. Hwang also received from the science foundation, only 600 million won remained. The balance at the research center was 300 million won, while Dr. Hwang had another 600 million won in multiple accounts.
The audit board said that it is investigating how the money was used, but that it would be difficult to file charges concerning private donations to the research center, since it is a private organization. It added that the donations were placed in many different accounts, making it difficult to determine their sources.
Six co-author professors at Seoul National University and Dr. Hwang told a school disciplinary committee they were not involved in fabricating data for two papers on stem cell cloning published and later retracted from the U.S. journal Science. According to university officials, the co-authors of the academic papers said they played minimal roles in the research, while Dr. Hwang repeated that he was “deceived” as the stem cell lines were switched.
University president Chung Un-chan ordered the disciplinary panel on Jan. 20 to impose “severe” punishment on the seven professors, who were allowed to defend themselves before the panel makes its final decision.
by Choi Hyeon-chul, Wohn Dong-hee