The latest Hwang Woo-Suk scandal demonstrated not only what
outcome the result-oriented development of biotechnology for
the national interest brought about but also how the unethical
conduct of research infringed women's human rights and used
women's bodies as a tool. Although ethical issues surrounding
multiple egg extraction have been raised at the early stages
of Hwang Woo-Suk's embryo stem cell research, this debate
was regarded as an obstacle in the way of the therapeutic
cloning research with hype as 'the first in the world'. An
estimated 2,000 eggs had been offered to the team led by Dr.
Hwang, which is unparalleled in the globe, and women's human
rights had not been taken into account in the process.
There has existed an argument that along with advanced genetic
engineering, ethical standards of scientific technology targeted
at human being should be provided and human rights should
be protected. In a series of events in relation to Hwang's
embryo cloning research, however, Korean society set high
value on its results only. The logic to raise its industrial
competitiveness and be able to treat incurable diseases dominated
Korean society, who has never taken the problem seriously
that egg extraction procedures can pose risks to women's health.
The egg extraction via controlled ovarian hyper stimulation
involves painful surgical treatments with general anesthesia.
According to a recent study, 17.7 percent of egg donors for
Hwang's research team have suffered Ovarian Hyper Stimulation
The reason that the research results were considered to be
important and the serious violation of women's human rights
could be ignored in the incidents is that profound discussion
and reflection on biotechnology and women's bodies have gone
unnoticed. Although the fact that biotechnology could turn
women's bodies into tools becomes reality beyond concerns
and predictions, there is no national consensus to protect
women's human rights by providing ethical criteria and regulations.
Accordingly, for such an unprecedented event in history not
to occur any more, it may be necessary to pursue a lively
discussion on and interest in ethical and human rights issues
in biotechnology which have been hidden by research products
until now. As seen in the egg donation debate, women's role
in the process will be more of importance in a way that women
could be both beneficiaries and objects.
Furthermore women's human rights issue related to biotechnology
does not limit itself to a country only. The recent cases
showed that Japanese couples purchased human eggs in Korea,
and British women obtained eggs from Rumania. If cloning embryo
stem cell research is extended into all over the world, there
will be a strong possibility that foreign researchers may
go to Korea which is the 'easiest country in the world to
seek eggs for research cloning purposes.
Therefore, through an international forum on the subject
of 'Biotechnology and Women's Bodies', Korean WomenLink wants
to make a starting point for forming public opinion and arranging
women's point of view and positions on biotechnology which
have been neglected so far. First of all, we will reveal actual
conditions on how the Hwang Woo-Suk scandal infringed on women's
human rights and arouse discussion to shape a new discourse
on reproductive rights attracting attention regarding women's
bodies in the latest events. Such processes will have concrete
plans and actions made in the biotechnology application for
the purpose of achieving women's rights to bodies and health.
As the technology is making progress all over the world, the
discussions can be enriched with a wide range of countries,
organizations and individuals participating with different
sensibilities to women's human rights and peculiar social
and cultural climate.
¡Û Go through a variety of aspects of how the violation of
women's human rights and rights to women's health happened
in Korea society in the midst of blind support and financial
assistance for biotechnology, especially, cloning embryo stem
cell research, through the Hwang Woo-Suk case and make a ground
for public opinion on this issue.
¡Û Stir up discussion on reproductive rights rising to the
surface in relation to women's human rights in the advance
of biotechnology and form a new discourse on reproductive
¡Û Discuss concrete plans and measures to secure rights to
women's bodies in the application ofbiotechnology and provide
the guidelines for egg extraction procedures and so on for
'multiple egg extraction issues' disclosed in the Hwang Woo-Suk
scandal to be prevented from repetition.