05/14/2009, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Korean Church against Bioethics committee and embryonic stem cell research

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
For the bishops this kind of research is “ruthless violence” which destroys “human life in the name of science.” The prelates reiterate their support for terminal patients and call for research on “adult stem cells” or cells from human skin.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – South Korea’s Catholic Church “deplores” the go-ahead given to embryonic stem cell research, an “act of ruthless violence” that destroys “human life in the name of science.” The late Card Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, an ardent defender of the sacredness of life from conception, had strenuously fought against such research.

At the end of April, the Committee for Bioethics gave its consent to the CHA General Hospital in Seoul to renew research on embryonic stem cell, on four conditions, including refraining from using titles or words like ‘cure for Parkinson’ that might give patients false hopes.

Research halted three years ago following a scandal involving Hwang Woo-suk, a false “pioneer in human cloning” who was disgraced after the international scientific community and Seoul University revealed that his research on embryonic stem cell was based on false data.

Mgr Gabriel Chang Bong-hun, chairman of the Committee for Bioethics of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, said that “Catholic Church never shies away from patients who are suffering from incurable diseases,” and this despite its opposition to “research on the somatic cloned human embryo”, conducted in order to develop therapeutic treatments.

For the prelate “more than any other organisation, the Catholic Church has worked and will work for terminally-ill patients,” he said.

Conversely, the bishops support research on “adult stem cell research and stem cell research using skin cells. Such research has had good results without the destruction of human life, in defiance of nature.”

The late Card Stephen Kim Sou-hwan was among the strongest defends of the sacredness of human life.

Since his death in February and following his decision to donate some of his organs, the number of organ donors in South Korea rose three-fold.

When scandal led to Hwang Woo-su’ fall, the cardinal wept in public upon hearing the news, a reaction that moved the country’s public opinion, a moment that was shown again on TV after his death.

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