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Buddhist Leader's Support for Hwang Unchanged

By Bae Keun-min, The Korea Times, Jan 3, 2006

Seoul, South Korea -- The Rev. Ji Kwan, executive director of the Chogye Order of Korean Buddhism, showed no change in his support of Hwang Woo-suk despite the recent turmoil caused by disputes over the veracity of the controversial scientist's research papers on stem cells.

<< Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk

``I don't sympathize with Dr. Hwang because he is a Buddhist,'' the monk said in an interview with BBS, a local Buddhism broadcasting company on Monday. ``Dr. Hwang is Korean and we need to give a Korean some applause if he or she is a leader in a certain sector.''

It is the first time that the nation's largest religious group publicly expressed its stance since Seoul National University formed a committee to verify the authenticity of Hwang's papers on tailored stem cells, cloned human embryonic stem cells and Snuppy the cloned dog. Prior to the scandal, Buddhist organizations were very vocal in their support for Hwang's research.

``It is possible that Dr. Hwang was placed in this difficult situation because he paid scant attention to some sectors like human resource management or politics,'' Ji Kwan said, referring to the recent controversies.

However, Ji Kwan said there is a tendency for the rest of the world to disregard Korea since it is a small nation. ``Because Professor Hwang has paved the way, his research can be successful if his will is strong enough, and he should never get frustrated.''

As for ethical issues regarding stem cell research, Ji Kwan said there are some Korean religious groups that are opposing embryonic stem cell research, but the research should not be influenced by Western ethics. ``The government has to continue to support (Hwang's researches),'' he added.

Many non-Buddhist groups, including Catholics, Protestants and Confucian, have criticized the scientist and questioned the ethics in studying embryonic stem cells. However, Christian groups have expressed their endorsement for adult stem cell research.

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