Amoral Ethics as Competitive Advantage: Korea’s Temporary Cloning Crisis


In the year 2000, I was invited to a speech by the then Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy about the ten industries of the future that Korea planned to invest heavily in.
Nine industries on that list were the same bets Korea had had on its list before — including flat panel development, semiconductor chips, aviation technology, etc. But the tenth item he discussed was “cloning.”
While the Minister’s comments were translated, I was stunned by the bluntness of one admission he made about cloning.
He stated: “Korea may have an advantage in the arena of human cloning because America and Europe will struggle with moral dilemmas about that practice which the Korean culture will not. This will give us an advantage over the U.S. and Europe.”
I thought at that time that the Minister was right. It was well-known Japanese social anthropologist Chie Nakane who stated that Japan was neither moral or immoral — but rather amoral. I thought at the time I heard this that Nakane’s views perhaps applied to Korea as well — and that this amoral pragmatism in business and technological pursuits was now being promoted in Korea as a “national economic advantage.”
There is much more to the cloning story unfolding in Korea. The latest controversy in the previously thought successful cloning case is that the senior researcher, Hwang Woo Suk, faked data.
Bad researcher. But before the world gets all high and mighty about Korea’s hiccup in human cloning, the fact is that Korea is racing ahead of most of the world on the cloning front — despite this controversy — and has made extremely larege national investments in this technological pursuit that will probably still pay off.
So, yes — a researcher has stumbled over a set of “ethics issues.” But the world that is now guffawing over this needs to remember that that was always part of Korea’s national cloning plan.
Korea is no where near out of the human cloning business.
— Steve Clemons