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The Never-Ending Myth: An Analysis of the Sociopsychological Mechanism of Hwang Woo-Suk Syndrome

Korea Journal / Korea Journal, (P)0023-3900; (E)2733-9343
2009, v.49 no.2, pp.137-164

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Science is assumed to be located in the realm of objectivity. The Hwang Woo- Suk affair, however, showed that it could also be located within the realm of social pathology. The essence of Hwang syndrome was a hypnotic condition collaboratively created by patriotic fever, science, and the media. For scientific research, the attraction and risk incurred by public passion were too tempting to avoid. The media amplified the process of collective myth making by reporting scientific accomplishments truthfully at first, and then moving on to creating and delivering stories of heroic science and scientists. It was a kind of patriotism that was close to collective narcissism, which drove a majority of Korean population to blind faith in the fabricated scientific feats of Hwang. A survey analyzing the underlying mechanism of this mental chaos shows that before the Hwang affair broke out, people’s patriotic fervor, science, and the media formed a robust positive triangular equilibrium. In the process of the Hwang affair, the public sentiment of giving priority to national interest over scientific ethics or trustworthiness of the press won widespread sympathy.

Hwang Woo-Suk, Hwang affair, Hwangppa, PD Notebook, stem cell, cell cloning, scientific fraud, fabrication, Buck-Goudsmit affair, BRIC (Biological Research Information Center)



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