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(photo credit: AP)
South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is expected to accept the resignation of an aide over the scandal surrounding disgraced stem cell scientist Hwang Woo-suk, Roh's office said Monday.
Park Ky-young, Roh's aide for science and technology affairs, has offered to step down after a university report found that Hwang's breakthrough research into human stem cell cloning was faked. Park will be the first South Korean government official to resign over the scandal.
"The president is expected to accept the resignation," Roh's chief spokesman Kim Man-soo was quoted as saying by the office.
Park, 48, a former biology professor, was one of the co-authors of Hwang's 2004 paper where he claimed to create the world's first cloned human embryo and cull stem cells from it.
The breakthrough has since been found to have been faked, along with his 2005 claim of creating the world's first patient-specific stem cells that can grow into any bodily tissues.
Park has been plagued by revelations that she received funds from Hwang when she was a professor. She acknowledged accepting 250 million won (US$255,000) from Hwang, but claimed the money was purely for research purposes.
Prosecutors have been investigating the scandal, questioning researchers and raiding the homes and offices of Hwang and his co-workers to seize evidence. Hwang hasn't been questioned yet.
Separately, South Korea's state auditor has also been looking into whether Hwang misappropriated research funds provided by the government.
As of the end of last year, Hwang received 41.7 billion won (US$42.2 million; â‚¬35 million) in government funds for his research as well as 4.3 billion won (US$4.35 million; euro3.61 million) from private foundations, according to the Board of Audit and Inspection.
Hwang - a national hero once dubbed the "pride of Korea" - has apologized for the scandal several times, but accused his colleagues of deceiving him, repeating an earlier claim that some of the cloned embryonic stem cells at his lab had been switched without his knowledge.
Hwang's claim of a cloning breakthrough had offered hope to millions suffering from paralysis and debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.