중앙데일리

Korean medicine doctor learns to put patients before profit

Oct 08,2007
Dr. Lee Jeong-yeol treats a patient in Ushtobe. By Yoo Chul-jong
A Korean medicine doctor has been volunteering in Kazakhstan to treat locals and Korean expats for more than a year.
Lee Jeong-yeol, a member of the government-deployed volunteer team, has provided health care since March 2006 at the Korea-Kazakhstan Friendship Hospital in Almaty.
“I hope my treatment can placate the 70 years of agony Koreans forcedly moved to Middle Asia have experienced,” Lee said.
A graduate of the College of Oriental Medicine at Wonkwang University, Lee worked as a doctor for about 20 years before coming to Kazakhstan as an agent of the Korea International Cooperation Agency, a government-supported agency also known as Koica that promotes Korea’s aid to the world.
“I entered the Koica program after looking back at myself and realizing I only saw patients as a means to make money,” Lee said.
The doctor provides free treatment at the Friendship Hospital and also in Ushtobe, a city 420 kilometers (261 miles) away with a population of 30,000. Ushtobe is the first city in Russia’s Far East that Koreans immigrated to when they forced to move by Joseph Stalin. It is a land where many abandoned Koreans starved to death in the freezing cold. The temperatures sometimes dropped below -40 degrees Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit). About 5,000 of Korean descendants, called the Koryo people, still reside in the area. Koryo was the country’s name before the Chosun Dynasty, from which the name Korea was derived.
“While I was preparing data for Kazakhstan, I encountered the ordeals of the Koryo people. I want to appease the people’s wounds with hands holding acupuncture needles,” Lee said.
Lee has been visiting Ushtobe once a month since last August. It takes more than four hours to reach the city, and the doctors must travel over rough roads in a four wheel drive vehicle. Hwang Sang-yeon, a fellow doctor at the Friendship Hospital who specializes in internal medicine, accompanies Lee. On each trip Lee and Hwang stay overnight. Up to now, about 2,900 patients in Ushtobe have undergone their treatment.
“I forget all the fatigue thinking about the people who are waiting for the Korean medical team,” Lee said on his way to Ushtobe. He uses his acupuncture needles, moxa treatment and other oriental medicine to treat patients. The locals, including Korean diaspora, Kazakhs, Chehens and Kurds, have absolute trust in Lee. They favor Lee’s treatment to that at local hospitals.
“The pain in my hip and legs eases after Lee’s treatment,” said Heo Ekaterina, a 71-year old Koryo.
Lee said the free treatment is paying back the hospitality locals extended Koreans forced to move to Kazakhstan. Lee is trying to improve his Russian to communicate with patients without an interpreter.

By Yoo Chul-jong JoongAng Ilbo [yhwang@joongang.co.kr]



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