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Updated: August 24, 2009 16:43 IST

S. Korea prosecutors seek jail for cloning scientist

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South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul on Monday.
South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul on Monday.

Prosecutors demanded a four-year prison term on Monday for a disgraced South Korean cloning scientist, who is on trial for fraud.

Hwang Woo-suk was fired from the prestigious Seoul National University after purported breakthroughs in cloning stem cells were deemed fraudulent in 2005 when a key paper on the technology was found to contain fake data.

He is currently on trial on charges he accepted funds under false pretences, embezzled funds and illegally purchased human eggs for his research.

Prosecutors sought the four-year jail term on Monday during a hearing at the Seoul Central District Court. Hwang, who went into seclusion after the deception was exposed but was present in the packed courtroom, was greeted upon his entrance with applause by supporters.

Hwang had been the only South Korean scientist allowed to carry out research into stem cells master cells that can grow into any bodily tissues that scientists say could lead to revolutionary new cures for hard-to-treat diseases. But the government stripped him of his license in 2006, citing his “ethical problems.”

That case scandalised the international scientific community and caused intense soul-searching in South Korea, which had eagerly hailed him as a national hero.

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