A small group of Maryknoll Sisters came to Korea in 1949 to work with the sick and needy in Pusan. When the Korean War started, they had to leave Korea and wait in Japan until they received permission from the United Nations to return and begin medical work.
Their clinic became the Maryknoll Hospital of Pusan, starting out as the first charity hospital in Korea. It will celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.
In the beginning, it was an unfriendly environment in which to work but that made the work all the more challenging. They had no easy access to medicines, people were hungry, space was limited and over-crowded. And because of the fighting in the north, Pusan was overrunning with refugees who needed extra care.
Besides the needs of the body: mostly tuberculosis, cancer, typhoid and diphtheria, they also had to deal with many social issues. Over 2000 patients were attended to each day, testifying to the urgent need for such a hospital in Pusan. It was during this period that they received aid of food and medicines from the States.
The Maryknoll Hospital was the first Catholic hospital in Pusan and on April 15th a Mass celebrating the event was held, which will be followed by many more events during the year to commemorate the beginning of the hospital. There are many who remember the good that was done during those difficult years. In 1969, the hospital was turned over to the Diocese of Pusan.
Since then, the Maryknoll Sisters expanded their ministries and locations in South Korea, opening other clinics and hospitals and a nursing school. The first Credit Union in Pusan, which soon spread to the whole country, was established by a Maryknoll sister. Other ministries included Peace and Justice Movements, counseling workers, defended abused women, worked with the poor and in pastoral ministries in difficult areas.
Because Korea is much better off now than it was after the war, many of the Maryknoll Sisters have left Korea, deciding that other countries needed their services more. However, their inspiration remains behind with the many that knew and worked with them. Those who now work in the Maryknoll Hospital will have their example to emulate.