[FORUM]The benefit of convictionThe world is showing unreserved praise for the research results of Korean scientists who have opened the door for overcoming incurable diseases with their success in culling stem cells from human egg cells for the first time. Until now, researchers had used animal embryos. Their achievement is widely viewed as having enhanced the level of biotechnology a step further, and some people even call it “a miracle.” At the center of the research findings is Hwang Woo-suk, a professor of veterinary science at Seoul National University.
With his original major in veterinary obstetrics, Mr. Hwang produced a better breed of cattle through artificial insemination. But he realized the limitations of cloning reproductive cells and turned to studying somatic cells. Spurred by the news of Dolly, the cloned sheep in Britain, he devoted himself to the research of cloning animal somatic cells. He has cloned more than 100 cattle, including “Youngrongi,” the calf cloned from an embryonic cell.
His persistent research on the reproduction of somatic cells, including studies on cloning Korean tigers and pig organs for non-resistant transplantation, turned him from “doctor of cattle” to “biotechnologist.” His interest has now expanded from cattle to human life and his reputation has widened from Korea to the world.
There is another man who started with cows and drew attention from the world. He is Choi Myung-jae, chairman of Pasteur Dairy Products Corp., who recently wrote “My War on Milk” in the JoongAng Ilbo’s “Stories I’d like to leave behind.” After working as a bank employee, taxi driver and president of an automobile repair shop, he made a great fortune in the transportation business in Iran. While mulling over what to do with the money, it is said, he happened to watch a television program with a scene in which former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was riding a horse in his ranch, and he decided to build a cattle ranch in Hoengsung, Gangwon province.
He put all his effort into importing good cows from cow breeders in the United States and he personally did artificial insemination to produce a better breed of cows. In 1987, along with the ad slogan “genuine milk,” he came to produce European-style pasteurized milk. Because of the claim that other products were false, he had to wage a legal battle with the existing businesses and the media, but he expanded his dairy firm through his peculiar conviction and managerial techniques.
He caught the public’s attention again by establishing the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy, based on his financial success, proclaiming that he would build a proper elite educational institute, which does not just aim at sending students to Seoul National University but at making them global leaders who also respect traditional heritage.
Mr. Hwang and Mr. Choi each could have just been described as “an authority on artificial insemination of cattle” and uncommon entrepreneurs “who made money with a special sense of management and established a private school.” But they were different. They have had an eye for seeing change and the future, and as a result they came to be assessed as “people who are moving Korea.”
There are more than a few people who display an excellent capability within the conventional framework. But there are not many people who can set a new milestone and take the lead. In this sense, the two people can be called “men of this age” comparable to former President Park Chung Hee, Samsung’s founder Lee Byung-chul, and Hyundai’s founder Chung Ju-young.
They had something more than a love of fame ― insight and stubbornness. Of course they had trials and errors, and underwent frustrations. But they have overcome them and showed the results. Despite the derision that “nothing is verified properly” and the criticism that cloning living things goes against life ethics, Mr. Hwang opened a new chapter in his field.
Mr. Choi was not able to introduce an advanced type of class until he directly broke through many obstacles such as pressure from fidgeting parents over their children’s college entrance examination and the regulation-filled education system.
At present, our society lacks such people who have firm faith, to put their conviction into practice, and lead the majority. That is why we are unable to surmount the crisis looming over us. Words are put above deeds, and all kinds of controversies and experiments are widespread.
The political arena, whether the ruling party or the opposition, is no exception; neither is the bureaucratic community, nor the education community. In every field, there should be a number of people who conceive the seed of change.
In order to gain the momentum for social development, our society is in need of such obstinate people. If this is the case, there will be hope.
* The writer is a deputy managing editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Deok-nyung