A report in the Mainichi Shimbun has the Korean press talking:

A clinic in the Hakata Ward of the prefectural capital has been conducting stem cell treatment still in its developmental stages on hundreds of South Korean patients per month, it has been learned.

The facility in question is the Hakata branch of Shinjuku Clinic, which opened its doors in May near JR Hakata Station as a dermatology clinic. The treatments being conducted are banned under South Korea’s Pharmaceutical Affairs Law, but are not under any legal restrictions in Japan.

RNL Bio Co. — a biotechnology venture based in Seoul — refers South Korean patients to the clinic, where numerous Japanese doctors intravenously administers stem cells cultured and stored by RNL, sources close to the clinic say. Of the nearly 500 Korean patients who receive treatment at the clinic per month, most return to their home country on the same day of treatment.

The Korean Ministry of Health—and, judging from the Mainichi report, the Japanese Ministry of Health—are not amused with either the Japanese hospital or the Korean biotech firm doing the patient introductions:

“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.

Interestingly enough, RNL Bio is a partner of the Houston-based biotech firm that performed stem cell surgery on Texas governor Rich Perry.

Sometimes it scares the living crap out of me when I think about what technology is now capable of. At the same time, I can’t help but feel we are living in truly extraordinary times.

On the Korean side, I’m sure a lot of folk understand why patients would go to Japan for experimental procedures they could not get in Korea. Still, hearing a hospital say something like “We’re somewhat in a preparatory stage, with South Korean patients as our subjects, but we’d like to administer this treatment to Japanese patients in the future” cuts a little too close to Unit 731 for comfort.