This afternoon, online magazine Slate highlighted my previous blog entry on mergers and acquistions in its feature, "today’s blogs." Very cool! I am honored. Here’s the link in case you want to read the article: http://slate.msn.com/id/2123951/. It seems that what I thought would be a boring subject to read actually got some traction in the blogosphere. I am apparently in the minority when it comes to opposing CNOOC’s merger with Unocal. For those visiting World Adventurers for the first time, welcome! I’m glad you stopped by to visit. Post a comment. Let me know where you’re from. Surf on over anytime. Every day I try to write about something different and (hopefully) interesting. The general theme of my blog is Korea because I’m here for two years with my family, but I try to mix up the theme each night.
Here’s a hot topic related to Korea that has made the U.S. news headlines as well as the butt of late night comedy jokes. Korean cloning pioneer Hwang Woo-suk and his team successfully created the world’s first cloned dog, a 14-week old Afghan hound named "Snuppy." Dr. Hwang, a professor of veterinary science at Seoul National University, also led a team of scientists in producing the world’s first cloned human embryos. They also successfully harvested the first stem cells from cloned human embryos. For better or for worse, Dr. Hwang is quickly leading Korea to the forefront of cloning science and stem cell research.
Stem cell research and cloning are extremely controversial topics in the United States. This is underscored by the fact that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), a social conservative, was not invited to an upcoming Evangelical rally in his home state of Tennessee following his announcement that he supports expanded human embryonic stem cell research. Likewise, Ron Reagan, Jr., son of President Ronald Reagan, devoted virtually his entire speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention to supporting stem cell research. It’s not my intention to focus on the ethical controversies surrounding cloning and stem cell research. Rather, I want to highlight the differences between Korean and American attitudes on these subjects. I won’t say what I believe is right or wrong. I leave that up to you, dear reader, to decide for yourself.
Korea is a very family-centric culture. Families, particularly children, play a central role in Korean society. Family-related issues that make the news headlines in Korea would leave Americans scratching their heads, confused, and amused. For example, the Korean Supreme Court recently ruled that women are equally entitled the share a family’s inheritance and cannot be discriminated against based on gender. The Korean Family Census Register (FCR) is the official record documenting Korean families. Until recently, women could not be the head of a household on an FCR, and a single mother had to either designate their father or son to be the head of their household. Changing the law to allow women to head households in Korea created a surprising amount of controversy in Korea. When a foreigner becomes a Korean citizen, they must adopt a Korean surname. There are no Korean Joneses or Smiths, only Kims, Parks, or Lees, etc. Preservation of the family is ingrained in Korean culture and rigidly enforced by American standards.
Interestingly, hot button, family-related issues in the U.S. such as gay marriage are rarely considered in Korea. It is very unlikely that gay marriage will be legalized anytime soon in Korea. Abortion is not a controversial, divisive topic in Korea as it is in the U.S. According to the Korean calendar, a child born in Korea is considered one year old at the time of birth. However, Koreans seem to treat life before birth differently than many Americans do. Family values are extremely important in Korea; yet at the same time, Koreans generally support cloning, stem cell research, and abortion. Koreans tend to approach embryonic and fetal research from a scientific rather than moral perspective. They tend to support the scientific benefits of such research and do not consider such research to be a moral issue. Koreans’ attitudes in this respect are neither liberal nor conservative, at least by American standards. Their attitudes are simply different from those of most Americans.
This brings me to the question in the title of my blog entry–what will Korea clone next? As I mentioned in my July 30 entry on Children’s Grand Park, it would not surprise me at all if Korean scientists will be the first to clone human beings. Americans make movies about cloning, and Koreans just do it. They may first move on to another animal to clone, perhaps something bigger such as a bear, but eventually they will likely clone a human. One wonders if the world is ready for that reality.