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Woman Fined for Offering Her Liver to a Company Chairman in Exchange for Job for Son

She broke the Organ Transplant Act.

A Korean woman was fined in court after it was discovered she promised part of her liver to a businessman in exchange for a job for her son. The woman, known as Ms. K, violated the Organ Transplant Act by agreeing to give up some of her liver in exchange for a sizable amount of money, as well as a job offer. The Act prohibits any sale of human organs under Korean law, with severe punishment for anyone involved in the crime. Here's why the plan didn't go ahead and how the woman was caught breaking the law.

Introductions Made


Back in February 2022, Ms. K was contacted by a friend who told her the chairman of a large company was very ill and in need of a liver transplant. The friend introduced her to an employee at said company, known as Mr. N, who had gone to school with the son of the sick chairman. 

An Illegal Agreement


Ms. K met with Mr. N, and an agreement was made—Ms. K would give up her liver for 100 million won (US $77,000), plus a job for her son at the chairman's company. Mr. N relayed this offer to the chairman's son, who agreed to those terms.

Approved As a Donor


After the deal was struck, Ms. K. presented herself at a Seoul hospital for testing on March 7, saying she was the daughter-in-law of the chairman. She was approved as a donor by the National Institute of Organ, Tissue and Blood Management a week later. And then it all went badly wrong…

COVID-19 Diagnosis



Disaster struck when Ms. K was diagnosed with COVID-19 after being admitted to the hospital, which meant the operation had to be delayed. Meanwhile, staff at the hotel were suspicious of her situation and reported her for organ trafficking. The operation was canceled, and the chairman ended up passing away from his illness. 

Asking For Leniency


Ms. K told the court she wasn't aware she was breaking the law. "I thought my son would be able to get a job if the operation was a success. I also got greedy because they promised to give me money," she reportedly said. Mr. N said he "took a personal interest in the matter because it concerned the father [the chairman] of a childhood friend [the company president]."

Fined 3 Million Won


Ms. K was fined 3 million won, and Mr. N was given a six-month prison sentence (suspended for two years). "Organ removal and transplant is strictly prohibited by law in light of the fact that it can undermine public health and endanger the health and lives of both the donor and the recipient when conducted illegally. Since the defendants' actions are in violation of this, they cannot avoid punishment under criminal law," the court said. "We took into account the mild extent of her participation in the crime and the fact that she wasn't paid as promised after her surgery was delayed due to her diagnosis with COVID-19."

Who Can Be a Liver Donor

Doctor in white medical lab coat points ballpoint pen on anatomical model of human or mammal liver. Concept photo for use for study of anatomy of liver, biology, study of liver and biliary system

A liver donor is someone who donates a portion of their liver to a recipient who is in need of a liver transplant. The donated liver tissue will regenerate in both the donor and the recipient, allowing both to function normally with a smaller liver.

Not everyone can be a liver donor, as there are certain criteria that must be met in order to be a suitable candidate. Some of the factors that may be considered when determining eligibility for liver donation include:

Age: Most living liver donors are between the ages of 18 and 60. Older donors may be considered on a case-by-case basis, but they may be at a higher risk of complications.

Health: Potential donors must be in good health and have no underlying medical conditions that would make them unsuitable for surgery. They must also be free of any infections or diseases that could be transmitted to the recipient.

Blood type: Donors must have the same blood type as the recipient in order to be eligible.

Size: The size of the donor's liver must be compatible with the size of the recipient's liver. If the donor's liver is too small, it may not provide enough tissue for the recipient. If it is too large, it may be difficult to transplant.

Psychological evaluation: Potential donors must undergo a psychological evaluation to ensure that they are mentally and emotionally prepared for the surgery and its potential risks.

Financial considerations: Living liver donation can be an expensive process, and potential donors should be prepared to cover the costs of the surgery and any related expenses.

What Are the Risks of Being a Liver Donor?

View of multi-ethnic diverse operating room staff doctors surgeons nurses assisting performing doing surgery surgical procedure in operating room theater sterile clean professional hospital environment as a group team together careful healthcare dressed in scrubs uniforms gowns precaution protection making incision cut blade knife surgical tools on patient

Being a liver donor involves undergoing a major surgical procedure and carries certain risks. While most living liver donors experience a successful surgery and recover fully, there are potential complications that can occur.

Some of the risks of being a liver donor include:

Surgical risks: As with any surgery, there is a risk of bleeding, infection, and other complications. The liver donor surgery is a major procedure that involves making an incision in the abdomen and removing a portion of the liver.

Risk of injury to other organs: During the surgery, there is a risk of injury to other organs in the abdomen, such as the intestines or blood vessels.

Anesthetic risks: Anesthesia is used during the surgery to keep the donor asleep and pain-free. There is a small risk of complications from the anesthesia, including allergic reactions, breathing problems, and blood pressure changes.

Long-term health risks: While the remaining part of the donor's liver will regenerate and return to its normal size within a few weeks, there is a risk of long-term health problems. Some studies have found that liver donors may be at a slightly increased risk of developing liver disease or other health problems in the future.

Psychological risks: Donating a portion of one's liver can be a significant emotional and psychological burden. It is important for potential donors to be aware of the potential risks and to carefully consider their decision before proceeding with the procedure.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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