Korea University historian Choi Jang-jip criticized the government for its inability to properly monitor the works of Seoul National University scientist Hwang Woo-suk despite promoting them as national achievements.
Earlier this week, an investigative panel at Seoul National University exposed Hwang_s recent studies on human stem cells, published by U.S. magazine Science in 2004 and 2005, as fake.
``The Hwang incident is a product of the Roh Administration_s policies to develop the science sector. There is a close connection between the government_s paranoia and greed for achievements and the initiatives to put Korea on the international map in biotechnology,__ said Choi in a session held at the Sungkonghoe University on Thursday.
The 63-year-old scholar, who heads Korea University_s Asia Studies Institute, claimed that the heavy promotion of Hwang_s research activities, which gave the cloning expert a near-superstar status, created an environment that eliminated healthy criticism and debate.
``The government policies supporting and financing Hwang_s work, based on his scientific achievements, merged with nationalism and patriotism and created a quasi-fascist environment that suppressed criticism and the freedom to search for the truth,__ said Choi.
``The Hwang incident epitomizes what happens when democracy regresses,__ he said.
The forum was titled ``Is Democracy Still a Word of Hope?__ and focused on the protection of civil liberties in the Korean society.
Sungkonghoe University theologian Kwon Jin-kwan, Catholic University sociologist Cho Don-moon and Cho Hyun-ok, director of the civic group Korea Women_s Political Solidarity, also participated in the forum.
Choi, a frequent critic of the Roh Administration_s liberal economic policies, also attacked the government for its failure to introduce effective social security policies and reduce the widening gap between rich and poor.
The 52-year-old Hwang achieved the status of a national hero in 2004, after he announced that his team created the world_s first cloned human embryo and successfully extracted a stem cell line from it, in a paper published by Science.
In 2005, in another paper published by Science, Hwang again made headlines by claiming the successful production of 11 embryonic stem cell lines tailored to individual patients.
However, with both of the works being concluded as fraudulent, Hwang is now facing an investigation from the prosecution and could be charged with fraud or embezzlement if it is confirmed that he received government funding based on false achievements.
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