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A volunteer doctor working for North Koreans

Posted August. 23, 2013 06:11,   


“In the past, we went to Korea to fight against our enemy. But now, Dr. Kim fights for us here against tuberculosis.”

The above is part of a poem about a Korean doctor, which was written by a health worker in Ethiopia. The doctor is Kim Jeong-ryong, 53, who has been practicing medical service in Ethiopia.

Dr. Kim had served as the director of the Kaesong Cooperation Hospital, the only hospital in the Kaesong Inter-Korean Industrial Complex, until late last year. As the only South Korean doctor, Dr. Kim treated residents of the complex along with North Korean doctors. In Kaesong, Dr. Kim was called “A Schweitzer in the Kaesong Industrial Complex.” In April this year, right before the closing down of the complex, he left for Africa to participate in a project by the Korea International Cooperation Agency to prevent and eradicate tuberculosis in Ethiopia. He decided to leave Kaesong because Ilsan Paik Hospital took over the operation of the hospital, leaning no place for him, a doctor working for the Greed Doctors, a volunteer organization for medical service.

“My experience treating patients with tuberculosis or malaria at the Kaesong Cooperation Hospital has greatly helped me treat such patients here. I’ve found some similarities in the public health systems between Africa and North Korea,” said Dr. Kim. In Ethiopia, he trains health staff and sets up plans to eradicate tuberculosis along with the country’s public health commission. He also travels to see poor people in a health screening vehicle, which was donated by Korea, to collect and test their sputum.

Utilizing his major in tropical medicine, Dr. Kim practiced voluntary medical service for 16 years in Kolkata (former Calcutta) in India. He came to work with KOICA when he participated in a training program for maternal and child health businesses in Tanzania. Dr. Kim’s wife still in India providing voluntary medical service and their two sons who study medicine in the U.K. have also rigorously participated in voluntary activities.

“I believe the inter-Korean relations will take a great leap forward after getting its breath back,” said Dr. Kim upon hearing that the two Koreas agreed to reopen the inter-Korean industrial complex. He will stay in Adis Ababa until the end of this year. About his plan in Korea, he said, “I want to continue working for something related to North Korea.” He recently received an invitation from the North to work as a professor at medical school to be established next year in Pyongyang University of Science and Technique.

“From when entering North Korea to join the hospital in Kaesong, I determined to witness reunification of Korea in the North. So, it was disappointing that I had to leave the complex. But I do wish to contribute to the reunification by working for eradication of tuberculosis in North Korea down the road.”