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After the Hwang Scandal: Korean Women's Groups Hold International Conference

Genetic Crossroads
October 20th, 2006

Galpern (center) speaking in Korea
Galpern (center) speaking in Korea

CGS's Emily Galpern spoke at two events on women and human biotechnology organized by South Korean feminists in September. The forums, intended to increase international discussion of women's health in the face of research cloning, brought speakers from the U.S., the UK, India, and South Korea to address audiences of Korean women's health advocates.

The Seoul events were sponsored by Korean WomenLink in conjunction with the Seoul Women's Plaza and Ewha Women's University. At their conclusion, Korean WomenLink announced that it would release a final version of the "Seoul Declaration of the Human Rights of Women and Biotechnology" in November.

An activist workshop on September 20 was titled Sharing Experiences and Building Networks: How to Organize Local and Global Activism on the Emergent Concerns about Biotechnology and Women. A public forum the next day was called Envisioning the Human Rights of Women in the Age of Biotechnology and Science.

Korean WomenLink's Son Bong Hee discussed her organization's efforts to raise concerns about women's health when Hwang Woo Suk began recruiting women to provide eggs for his cloning efforts. She also talked about the lawsuit brought by 36 Korean women's organizations on behalf of two women who experienced serious side effects after undergoing egg retrieval for Hwang's research team, and about the involvement of women's health advocates in developing the Korean Bioethics Law. Son explained that Korean WomenLink's takes a two-pronged approach to its work: advocating for specific policies and challenging inequitable social structures.

Speakers from different countries discussed the differing politics of women's eggs and stem cell research in their respective countries, and their common concerns about the global commercial environment in which research cloning, and human biotechnology in general, are developing. Some key points:

bullet the potential for researchers in countries with advanced biotechnology capabilities to turn to developing countries if they are not able to get enough eggs for research

bullet the need for global strategies that safeguard all women's health rather than some women's health at the expense of others

bullet the connection between contraceptive and conceptive technologies and the importance of understanding both within a broad women's rights framework

bullet the understanding that biotechnology does not function outside the social realm, and that decisions about it should not be relegated to a small group of medical, scientific, or bioethics "experts"


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