Korean leader in stem-cell research to meet with Catholic cleric

South Korea’s leading stem-cell researcher, Hwang Woo-suk, has agreed to meet with the country’s top Catholic leader, after the Church in Korea publicly condemned his research, calling it “life-taking.”

Hwang said Sunday that he was willing to discuss the controversy surrounding his research with Catholic leaders. “If necessary, I will meet them in person and learn from them,” Hwang was quoted as saying by the Yonhap News Agency.

The Diocese of Seoul responded that same day with a press release, indicating that Fr. Nicholas Cheong Jin-suk would meet Hwang “to share his thoughts on the issue,” reported the Korea Times.

The scientist, who made international headlines last year by creating the world's first cloned human embryos, is currently in Houston, participating in the Stem Cell Policy and Advocacy Summit. Last month, Hwang announced that his team had produced embryonic stem cells that genetically match injured or sick people.

On Saturday, Cheong issued a statement, which said: “Professor Hwang's work carries serious repercussions, because it hurts life even if it is to find cures for incurable diseases.’’

Cheong’s statement caused a heated debate on the Internet. The diocese then issued a second statement clarifying that the Church is not against all stem-cell research, but embryonic stem-cell research, which necessitates killing human life at its initial stages.

The diocese proposed adult stem-cell research as a viable alternative.

A recent poll conducted by Korea’s Ministry of Science and Technology and the Center for Functional Analysis of Genome indicated that 58 percent of South Koreans favor using human ovum for research. Only 5 percent of South Korea’s 48 million citizens profess the Catholic faith.

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