Article ID: CBB001451284

The Politics of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research in South Korea: Contesting National Sociotechnical Imaginaries (2014)


To many commentators outside South Korea, the Hwang Woo Suk scandal involving human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research was just another spectacular case of misconduct in the life sciences. As such, it is generally assumed to have revealed the drawbacks of research in scientifically and ethically less-developed societies. Such thinking ignores the history, sophistication, and distinctive features of the public debate over hESC research in South Korea. Disputes over the social and ethical implications of hESC research had taken place for some time before the scandal erupted. Moreover, unlike in some other countries, where resistance to hESC research was prompted by religious conservatives, the most serious critique of the country's rapid move into the field came from progressive social movement activists---including feminists and environmentalists. These activists were, in fact, part of the non-governmental organization coalition to impose stricter social controls on biotechnology. This campaign was motivated by broader political and social concerns beyond specific biosafety or bioethical issues. The activists involved in the coalition feared that the capitalist--developmentalist drive toward biotechnology would threaten the public interest and democracy, and ultimately block South Korea's road to becoming a democratic nation founded on the values of social justice, equality, participation, and sustainability. In contesting South Korea's prevailing approaches to hESC research, they challenged, albeit unsuccessfully, the dominant `national sociotechnical imaginary' that articulates the role of science and technology in relation to the future survival and well-being of the nation primarily in terms of its industrial competitiveness.

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Authors & Contributors
Hong, Sungook
Braun, Bruce
Taussig, Karen-Sue
Svendsen, Mette N.
Koch, Lene
Song, Sang-Yong
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
Social Studies of Science
Acta Historiae Rerum Naturalium necnon Technicarum
Science Technology and Society
History: Reviews of New Books
Science, Technology and Human Values
Duke University Press
Cornell University Press
University of Minnesota
MIT Press
Stem cells
Biology and ethics; bioethics
Science and government
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
Human embryology
Controversies and disputes
Hwang Woo-suk
Kuhn, Thomas S.
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
South Korea
Great Britain
International Bioethics Committee (UNESCO)
Universities and colleges--Alumni and alumnae
Industrial Technology Research Institute- ITRI
Korea Institute of Science and Technology - KIST

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