Cross-Cultural Issues in Bioethics: The Example of Human Cloning

By Heiner Roetz | Go to book overview

The Cloning Debate in South Korea

Phillan Joung and Marion Eggert

Abstract: In early 2004, the announcement by a Korean research team
that they had successfully cloned human embryos and that, for the first
time, they had derived a stem-cell line from a cloned embryo sparked an
ethical debate world wide. The controversy reflects the still unresolved
moral problems relating to this scientific breakthrough and the prospect
of biomedical innovations which promise remedies for incurable diseases
as well as competitive advantages in the global economy. This is why
South Korea regards stem-cell research and biotechnology as epochal
challenges and pursues ambitious bio-political aims. However, the young
democracy has embarked upon a highly controversial public debate on
the dangers and potentials of new genetics and biosciences which, even-
tually, led to the national „Bioethics and Safety Law.” In this context and
with regard to the various international reactions to the recent ground-
breaking Korean achievement, the present article attempts to address the
ethical problems of cloning technology by analyzing the South Korean
discourse on the basis of the nation's peculiar historical and cultural
preconditions. It is shown that due to Korea's complex intellectual and
political history, the heated inner-Korean debate on cloning can be re-
garded as representative of cross-cultural bioethics.

Key Words: Korea, Cloning, Stem cell research, Bioethics, Biopolicy,
Culture, Cloning debate, Egg cell donation, Collective identity, Woo-suk
Hwang.


1. Introduction: Toward the Seoul Cloning Experiment

At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 13, 2004, scientists of Seoul National University caused a sensation by presenting their report Evidence of a Pluripotent Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Derived from a Cloned Blastocyst.1

According to this report, the research team under Woo-suk Hwang and Shin-yong Moon extracted 242 oocytes from 16 donors and denucleated these oocytes by using a method which they had developed themselves. Into the denucleated oocytes they implanted the so-called cumulus cells of the respective donor. These cumulus cells cling to the surface of the donated oocytes. Cell division was accelerated through the

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