Park steps down from science post amid uproar

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Park steps down from science post amid uproar

Park Ky-young resigned Friday evening after serving four days as head of the Science, Technology and Innovation Office, succumbing to a storm of backlash.

Park is the first senior-level government official to resign after being formally tapped by President Moon Jae-in. The resignation came a day after she apologized for her involvement in Korea’s largest scientific fraud case, the infamous Hwang Woo-suk scandal of 2005.

Hwang went from “Korea’s pride” to national disgrace that year after it was revealed he had falsified his stem cell research and embezzled government research funds.

Park, who at the time was serving as information, science and technology policy adviser to President Roh Moo-hyun, was one of the co-authors of Hwang’s paper.

When Moon appointed her as head of the newly formed Science, Technology and Innovation Office earlier this week, opposition parties accused her of helping Hwang receiving massive government funds at the time and turning a blind eye to his transgressions.

Presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said Friday that the Blue House has decided to “respect” the science chief’s decision to step down, adding that the Moon government vows to “listen to the voices of the general public.”

The former science office chief said in a statement that the Hwang scandal was like a “scarlet letter that never went away,” adding that she wanted to apologize earlier but could not because “the social atmosphere wasn’t right.”

She added, “I didn’t know I’d fall this hard,” saying that her dreams, research goals and personal character have all been “decried.”

She continued, “I deeply apologize for disappointing the public and constantly causing controversy… I hope that my resignation will serve as a momentum for the unity and development of the science and technology field.”

Earlier Friday, 288 professors from Seoul National University issued a joint statement urging Park to step down, saying she did not apologize for her involvement in the Hwang scandal until she was named for the vice-ministerial position.

The professors added that it was an “insult” to Korea’s scientific community to give her a job that controls 20 trillion won ($17.5 billion) worth of the state budget.

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