[EDITORIALS]A great Korean achievementKorean scientists, led by Hwang Woo-suk, professor of veterinary medicine at Seoul National University, have created human embryos through cloning and extracted embryonic stem cells for the first time. They have achieved the spectacular feat of producing cells capable of growing into any kind of cell in the body, a potential boon for treating chronic illnesses.
We congratulate these scientists, who scored a victory amid tough competition among research institutes in advanced nations. Praise is in order for these scientists, who devoted 14 hours a day to research year round. Their achievements made headlines globally. Experts placed this latest advance in cloning in par with the 1996 birth of Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal.
This achievement by Korean scientists should serve to boost Korea as a major player in biotechnology. We call for continued support for biotechnology research so that this latest advance spurs further progress.
Biotechnology is the field where the technical gap between nations is the narrowest, and where Koreans can easily surpass rivals. An advanced biotechnology industry could serve as a source of the nation’s wealth, and researchers could feel proud of their efforts to enhance the welfare of humankind.
Mr. Hwang told the JoongAng Ilbo that the government earmarked 550 million won ($474,000) last year for the team, which only covered the expenses of acquiring laboratory equipment. A sponsor with no government ties shouldered the rest of the expenses.
Mr. Hwang, who has flown to Seattle for a press conference, is staying at a small suburban motel instead of at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where the conference is being held. He is trying to save money. The government’s treatment of the nation’s top scientist lacks respect.
Every government official talks about the seriousness of the deterioration of Korean science and engineering. But it takes more than lip service to solve this problem. The government should improve the research environment to motivate creative researchers. Funds should be earmarked fairly, based on ability and achievement, instead of the usual practice, which lacks proper accountability for how the funds will be used.