Court rules against dismissal of cloning scientist

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Court rules against dismissal of cloning scientist

A Seoul court said firing disgraced stem-cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk, a decision made by Seoul National University in 2006, was unfair.

The announcement yesterday by the Seoul High Court said firing Hwang, a former veterinary professor, was abuse of the university’s power though he dishonored the school with his falsified research work.

In the ruling, Judge Kwak Jong-hoon said, “The court judged that the [firing] was against the proportionality principle and the university abused its power, but supported SNU’s disciplinary actions against Hwang because he had brought disgrace to SNU’s reputation and demeaned Korean prestige.”

The principle of proportionality states that the punishment for a crime should be proportional to the severity of the crime itself.

The court said that firing Hwang was unfair because he already had indicated his resignation to the university and that most of the fabrication was difficult for Hwang to detect because it happened outside the school. The court also said the punishment was too harsh because Hwang was already cleared of charges of fraud. Hwang was suspected of obtaining 2 billion won ($1.7 million) from two local firms in Korea using his falsified lab work.

Once a professor of SNU is fired, he or she can’t be appointed as a public official for five years and only receives 50 percent of his or her severance after retirement. However, if a professor resigns from the university, no such penalty is applied. The court also said that the punishment was too strong because Hwang’s dismissal would have been automatic if the final ruling confirmed SNU’s original verdict. Last year, Hwang was sentenced to 18 months in jail, suspended for two years, on charges of receiving state funds and violating the nation’s bioethics laws.


By Kwon Sang-soo, Kim Hyun-ye [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

Hwang Woo-suk

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