A senior government official in charge of science innovation offered to step down Friday over her involvement in a stem cell research fraud scandal a decade ago, dealing yet another blow to President Moon Jae-in.
"I sincerely apologize for causing such disappointment and controversy," Park Ky-young said in a letter sent out to reporters. "I sincerely wish that my resignation will serve as an opportunity for the science sector to unite and develop."
Her resignation came four days after Moon appointed Park to lead the Science, Technology and Innovation Office, a job that controls the country's research and development budget worth 20 trillion won (US$18 billion) in the science sector.
Presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun hinted that Moon has accepted the resignation, saying that the presidential office respects her wishes and will listen to people's voices.
Park Ky-young is the fourth senior official to quit since Moon took office in May. Two nominees withdrew from consideration to be justice and labor minister, while a senior presidential security adviser quit his job just 10 days after his appointment over alleged bad conduct as a professor.
Park Ky-young, a former biology professor, had been under pressure to step down due to her link to a 2005 scandal in which Hwang Woo-suk, the country's leading stem cell scientist, used fabricated data in a research paper.
Hwang was found to have used forged data for the paper in which he claimed to have created the world's first cloned human embryo. Park, who was a co-author of the paper, resigned as a senior adviser to then-President Roh Moo-hyun after the scandal broke.
Opposition political parties as well as a group of scientists have demanded Moon retract the appointment, pointing out that Park was a co-author on the paper, a fact that sparked calls for her to accept moral responsibility for the scandal.
"The research paper fraud scandal of Hwang Woo-suk has always been a humiliation for me," said Park, wishing that someone would serve the post billed as a science policy control tower. (Yonhap News)