Professor is jailed, fined for falsified Oxy research

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Professor is jailed, fined for falsified Oxy research

The Seoul Central District Court on Friday found Yoo Il-jae, a Hoseo University professor, guilty of receiving bribes from Oxy Reckitt Benckiser to issue favorable test results on a humidifier sterilizer that killed at least 73 people.

The court sentenced the 61-year-old professor to one year and four months in prison and 24 million won ($21,150) in fines.

Yoo manipulated the Oxy-brand humidifier sterilizer’s exposure and inhalation toxicity tests by finding ways to cheat in the laboratory, such as opening windows. Yoo’s test reports, in addition, said the relation between Oxy-brand humidifier sterilizer and pulmonary illnesses was unclear, and suggested mold as the cause of sicknesses.

In return for the favorable reports, Yoo received a total of 24 million won from 2011 to 2012. Prosecutors said Yoo is also suspected of using 68 million won of 100 million won he received for research from Oxy Reckitt Benckiser to purchase equipment unrelated to the humidifier sterilizer testing.

“Yoo violated the ethics of a researcher, including fairness, objectivity and propriety,” said a judge. “Not only did he break trust with the public, but he needs to be held accountable for delaying the compensation processes for the victims.”

The decision on Friday was the second ruling by a court on a case concerning Oxy Reckitt Benckiser and its fatal humidifier sterilizer, which victims have criticized as being too lenient.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked pulmonary illnesses and deaths to humidifier sterilizers in 2011, and the government conducted four epidemiological tests starting from 2013, the fourth of which is ongoing.

Prosecutors said Oxy Reckitt Benckiser killed at least 73 people and sickened 108 more. Its humidifier sterilizer inflicted the highest number of casualties and injuries among all sterilizer products because it was the market leader.

According to Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute, there are at least 4,486 victims of sterilizer products from the four epidemiological tests as of now, although the third test awaits verification and the fourth is open to registration.

BY YUNA KIM [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]

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