Korea 'Checking' Report on Dubious Stem Cell Clinic

The government on Sunday pledged to check a report by a Japanese daily that a Korean stem cell treatment center is flying Korean patients to Fukuoka to give them the controversial treatment.

"Stem cell treatment needs to be authorized, and the company has yet to receive approval for the safety and effectiveness of its treatment," said an official at the Ministry of Health and Welfare here.

The manufacture and sale of unauthorized drugs carries a penalty of up to five years in prison or a W20 million (US$1=W1,074) fine. The official added Korean laws prohibit advertising or soliciting patients for commercial purposes and said authorities here are trying to find out whether the company violated the regulations. The offence carries a maximum three-year prison term or a W10 million fine.

The Mainichi Shimbun on Saturday said a hospital in Fukuoka administers stem cell treatments to around 500 Korean patients a month. It said the Hakata branch of Shinjuku Clinic, which opened in May as an ostensible dermatology clinic, is injecting stem cells cultured and stored by RNL Bio, a Seoul-based biotech venture.

The hospital said the injections aim to treat diabetes, heart ailments, rheumatism and Parkinson's disease. The paper said the treatment is being offered in Japan to evade stricter laws in Korea.

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 24, 2012 12:37 KST