[Letters] The imperative of stem cell research

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[Letters] The imperative of stem cell research

I strongly agree with the editorial, “A matter of survival” (March 10), which said that the Lee Myung-bak administration should spur stem cell research as soon as possible. The government should focus its efforts on stem cell research. Two imperatives, industrial and humanistic, call for it.

Korea needs to foster [the next growth] industry to reconstruct the economy. I have no doubt that stem cell research, if developed as an industry, will be the savior of Korea’s economy. However, the government seems to be passive and not paying attention. I wonder why it focuses so much on “Green New Deal” projects but not on biotechnology development. Is it because of the trauma caused by the Hwang Woo-suk fabrication scandal? Or is it because the government has planned to pour all its resources into green growth and left no room for biotechnology?

Nonetheless, Korean researchers have not stopped stem cell research and have been producing noteworthy outcomes. Thanks to them, Korea holds its position as one of the leading countries in this field.

While the Korean government turns away from stem cell research, other countries are moving forward. China is actually offering stem cell treatments to patients and recently the American president, Barack Obama, endorsed a measure to fund stem cell research. So the Korean government has no time to lose; it needs to take action immediately. It should fund stem cell research and try to settle bioethics issues related to the use of human embryos. If necessary, a government-private sector consortium should be established. Above all, even while bioethics problems are being dealt with, research should be protected.

As related to human welfare, stem cell research is absolutely valuable since it offers hope to people suffering from disease or disability. The case of an American teenager who had underdeveloped optic nerves but gained vision through stem cell injections in China and even obtained a driver’s license shows how a person’s life can be improved by biotechnology. So why can’t Kang Won-rae have hope of dancing again? The Lee Myung-bak administration should realize that stem cell research is an urgent matter not only for the economy but also for people’s welfare.

Action should be taken right away. If the government doesn’t act now, it will fall behind, Korea will lose its position and have no future in stem cell research. It is not a matter of choice but a matter of survival in this century.

Lee Jae-eun, teacher

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