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Angel of the Slums Goes to Heaven

Posted September. 21, 2005 07:22,   


“We will serve our community and help our neighbors following the path you have shown us.”

At the funeral house of the Seoul Adventist Hospital in Huigyeong-dong, Dongdaemun-gu of Seoul, a ceremony honoring Jeon Yeong-suk (age 50), “Mrs. Angel” of Wolgok-dong in Seongbuk-gu, called the last slums of Seoul, was held amid a gathering of her family, relatives, and residents of the area.

Wolgok-dong first came into her life in 2001 when she started accompanying her husband Hong Sun-myung, professor of Architectural Design at Sahmyook College, on the volunteering work he began with volunteer corps students repairing houses.

She started by cooking for the volunteer students, papering the walls, and fixing the flooring, then began volunteer work in earnest from 2003 when she set up the Wolgok Volunteer Service Center in a corner of the Wolgok Youth Center.

Jeon served free lunch every Friday to about 100 residents, and with the help of 10 professors from Sahmyook College’s medical school and the college hair salon, she led a monthly medical and beauty volunteer service.

She first fell ill last December while enjoying herself at a Christmas celebration with the residents of the poor quarters. Finding blood in her urine, she went to a hospital where she was diagnosed with acute kidney cancer. Despite undergoing a tumor-removing operation in January of this year, she passed away on September 17.

After the operation, when she had woken up from six days of unconsciousness, Jeon said she wanted to “get up quickly and start volunteer work again.”

“From last year, my wife gave all her energy into volunteering, with the words, ‘Being tired from volunteer work is actually a pleasure’ on the days she felt more tired than she normally did,” said professor Hong, “I will keep on running the Wolgok Volunteer Service Center that she built up, in the same way it was in her hands.”