Wed, May 10, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Buddhists offer cash to fallen S Korean scientist

AFP , SEOUL

South Korean Buddhists have offered more than US$60 million to allow disgraced stem cell expert Hwang Woo-suk to resume his research, a senior monk has said.

The head monk of a Buddhist temple and two Buddhist business leaders have put together 60 billion won (US$64.5 million), mostly in cash, to allow Hwang to set up a laboratory and continue his work, Seol Jeong, a senior Buddhist monk, said on Monday.

Hwang was sacked from his university post and banned from conducting research in March after experts found that he had faked his landmark work on stem cells.

Prosecutors are expected to announce later this month the findings of a four-month-old probe into Hwang's fraudulent research and alleged misuse of millions of dollars in research funds.

"We have almost completed the investigation and we plan to announce the outcome sometime this month," said an official of the Seoul district prosecution office who declined to be named.

Seol Jeong said when Hwang had met him in private, he had "repented of his misconduct."

"No matter what happened to him, however, we cannot deny his technology is something unique internationally," Seol Jeong said.

"Once the investigation is over and done with, he will be able to turn his attention to research and meet the expectations of the people," Seol Jeong said.

Hwang's defense lawyer, Lee Kun-haeng, said Hwang had yet to decide whether to accept it.

Buddhists have been among Hwang's staunchest allies since his fall from grace began late last year.

Hwang has said in the past that he is a practicing Buddhist and spent time sheltering in a Buddhist monastery while a probe of his alleged misconduct began.

But not all of South Korea's estimated 12 million Buddhists support the discredited scientist.

"[Hwang's research] runs against the Buddhism's view of the world and its philosophy," said Do Beop, a former head of Silsang Buddhist Temple in the southern city of Namwon said in a radio interview. "The attempts to extend the human life will only magnify the crisis of the modern world, which stems from the egoistic desire of human beings."

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