A law to regulate research into cloning was passed by the South Korean Parliament yesterday which seeks to avoid scandals like the one where an eminent researchers was found to have faked research on stem cells.
Cross-species cloning, in which DNA from human somatic cells is inserted into animal eggs, will now be punishable by up to three years in prison, the health ministry said.
"This law is aimed at enhancing bio-ethics," said Kim Seung-Il, a ministry official.
Hwang Woo-Suk used animal eggs to develop skills for cloning human embryos, Kim said.
He planted nuclei from human somatic cells into animal eggs before moving on to human-to-human cloning experiments using human eggs, the official said.
Hwang has been banned from any research using human eggs after his claims that he created the first human stem cells through cloning were ruled in 2006 to be bogus.
He is on trial for fraud, embezzlement, ethical breaches and other charges but has insisted he can prove he created the first cloned human stem cells.
Park Se-Pill, a cloning expert, said the new law would seriously impede research.
"We used animal eggs a lot (in human cloning research) because many eggs were needed while human eggs were difficult to obtain," Park told AFP.
"This is outrageous. This law will serve as a very serious hindrance to research into cloning. We are going backward while other countries move ahead."
Korean researchers planted nuclei from human somatic cells into animal eggs before they moved on to human-to-human cloning experiments using human eggs, Park said.
Among its other provisions the new law allows researchers to use stem cells obtained from human embryos for research into cures for general diseases.
Under a previous law, their use was restricted to research into rare or incurable diseases or infertility.