Park Ki-young박기영, newly appointed head of the Science, Technology, and Innovation Office at the Ministry of Science and ICT, Wednesday apologized for the Hwang Woo-suk scandal for the first time in 11 years.
“I listed my name as the co-author of the controversial paper published in Science in 2004 because I did not think about it carefully,” she said at a new press conference with scientists and engineers in Cheong Wa Dae. “I wanted to apologize for the Hwang Woo-suk scandal but haven’t found the opportunity until now.”
Hwang is a Korean researcher who fabricated a series of papers on cloning experiments published in high-profile international journals, including the Science, wrecking one of the biggest academic scandals in Korea’s history.
Park, while serving as the presidential advisor for information, science, and technology under the late President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004, had illicitly named herself as a co-author in Hwang’s paper. She also played a significant role in Hwang’s rise to fame.
Despite the apology, Park made it clear she would not step down as head of the office, stating her intention to do her “best” and “work enthusiastically” to help scientists contribute to the growth of the economy.
She also referred to having published a book that “analyzed the competitiveness of Korea’s science and technology,” which has been recommended by President Moon Jae-in.
The Blue House showed a reserved stance in a briefing earlier in the day, saying it is gravely accepting the criticism about Park and watching the media closely.
“We are deeply sorry for causing big concerns with the appointment. As far as Park is concerned, however, her merits and demerits are balanced against each other,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said.
“Park, as the presidential advisor for information, science, and technology stepped down with heavy responsibility at the time,” the aide went on to say. “However, she was the driving force behind creating the post of deputy premier for science and technology and the ministry of science and ICT. She also had the most experience in science, technology and information technology.”
A senior official of the Blue House added that “the media portrayed one-sided criticism of Park’s appointment as head of the office. We believe it’s necessary to communicate to the public exactly why the President appointed (Park).”
“In the meantime, we will listen to what the scientific and technological community says,” he added, leaving the possibility of retracting the appointment up in the air.
Despite Park’s apology, political parties and the scientific community continued to protest against the designation. Professors from Seoul National University have begun a signing-collection drive to make Moon withdraw the appointment. They have collected over 1850 signatures as of Friday, the university said.