A total of 288 professors at Seoul National University have signed a joint statement urging a senior government official in charge of science innovation to resign over her involvement in a 2005 fake stem cell research scandal.
Dozens of SNU professors began collecting signatures Thursday for the statement calling for Park Ky-young, chief of the Science, Technology and Innovation Office at the Ministry of Science and ICT, to voluntarily step down. The number of co-signing professors are expected to rise further as organizers plan to collect signatures through Monday.
Park, a former biology professor appointed to the post Monday, has been under pressure to step down due to her link to the 2005 scandal of Hwang Woo-suk, the country's leading stem cell scientist, using fabricated data in a research paper.
Park Ki-young (Yonhap)
Hwang was found to have used forged data for the paper to claim to have created the world's first cloned human embryo. Park, who was a co-author of the paper, resigned as a senior adviser to then-President Roh Moo-hyun after the scandal broke.
Despite the pressure, however, Park has refused to step down.
During a meeting with science community leaders Thursday, Park apologized over the stem cell scandal but said she wants to redeem herself by working to move the country's science and technology forward as a chief innovation official.
"At the time of the Hwang Woo-suk scandal in 2005, Park was the presidential science and technology secretary, a position that required her to take the most responsibility, but she never repented or apologized," the professors' statement said.
"Should professor Park hold on to the position, it would amount to exonerating Hwang Woo-suk and those protecting him," the statement said. "This would be ignoring the efforts that South Korea's university and academic society puts into establishing research ethics. It would be a head-on affront to the science community."
All opposition parties have also called for Park to step down. (Yonhap)