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Disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang among S. Korean evacuees from Libya

Disgraced South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk had been in Libya at the invitation of a state research institute in the North African nation, sources close to him said Saturday.

Hwang was seen among 198 South Koreans evacuated from Libya on a charter flight to Cairo on Friday, raising questions about why he had been in the country. Hwang's activity has drawn attention after his purported breakthroughs in stem cell research were found to be faked in 2005.

Sources close to him said Hwang entered Libya around Feb. 10 for a two-week visit at the invitation of one of the country's state research institutes. The institute has long been interested in bioengineering technology, such as animal cloning and stem cell research, they said.

"My understanding is that there was a request (from Libya) that they want to meet with Hwang and discuss overall bioengineering technology," a college professor close to Hwang said. "I heard that Hwang met with Libyan scientists, but there was no specific outcome."   

Hwang was indicted on multiple charges, including fraud and embezzlement, over his faked research. In December last year, an appellate court in Seoul upheld a lower court's ruling and sentenced the 57-year-old scientist to a suspended prison term.

(Yonhap News)