Friday, May 22, 2009

Sorok Do and Hansen's Disease

Sorok Do is a little island off the South West coast of Korea. Beginning from 1916, it had been a gruesome island of suffering-where people, as soon as it was known they had Hansen's Disease (Leprosy) their lives were uprooted, and forced to live like animals. As Adults they were sterilized under government law, subject to cruel privations, often sexually abused, even exposed to “experimental” operations.

Now much of this has changed! On May 16th,2009, with the members of our Busan H.D. Community, we traveled four hours by super bus, to Sorok Island, to attend the Annual Government Sponsored Hansen Disease “Recognition” Day. Formerly, access to this island was by ferry, but now we enter by an impressive bridge and new roads.

Although it was pouring rain throughout the day, about 3000 H.D. folk from all over Korea attended- this included the Korean Prime Minister, Me Han Seung Soo, the governor, mayor and many other high officials, many of whom were given ”thank you scrolls and plaques.

Perhaps it' s my nearsightedness, but it now looks like it is politically advantageous to help and be associated with the H.D. work-judging by the smiling officials making themselves visible before the K.B.S. TV cameras, the glad handshaking, name-card giving, and ready apologies.

As we turned away from all the politicians together with the now pretty wet H.D. on lookers, I asked my H.D. companion, “So what do you think of all this?” Smiling faintly he replied, “ A nice show!”

Mr. Yong Mo recounted how 40 years ago he escaped from Sorok Do at midnight, was pursued by police and hunted for 20 years before his human dignity and right to family were finally recognized!

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