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The whistle-blower who played a key part in exposing the fraud of South Korean cloning specialist Woo Suk Hwang has spoken for the first time about his role in the scandal — and the suffering he endured as a result.

Young-Joon Ryu, who was a key figure in Hwang’s laboratory for several years, kept his silence for eight years. But in a blog post in December 2013 and a subsequent interview with Nature, he revealed that he was responsible for initiating the investigation that uncovered one of the biggest frauds in science. He has since received both support and abuse, highlighting just how divided South Korean society still is over the legacy of its fallen hero.

“The nature of the Hwang scandal is the abuse of other people’s sacrifice and other people’s lives for personal success,” Ryu, now in the pathology department at Kangwon National University in Chuncheon, told Nature.

Hwang claimed in 2004 to have cloned a human embryo and produced stem cells from it, potentially opening the way for new disease treatments. In 2006, he admitted...