중앙데일리

Late cardinal’s cornea gift inspires others to donate organs

Feb 20,2009
The posthumous cornea donation by Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan has inspired many Koreans to sign up as organ donors.

Shortly after Kim’s death on Monday evening, doctors removed the late cardinal’s eyes, honoring his lifetime wish to be an organ donor.

Dr. Joo Choun-ki of Kangnam St. Mary’s Hospital, who performed the procedure and examined the corneas, said Kim had cataract surgery in 2001 but his corneas were good for transplantation. Two people at the top of the waitlist received a cornea each.

After the news reports, not only the young and healthy but also senior citizens and the infirm pledged cornea donations, the Korean Organ Donor Program said.

“I lost vision in my left eye a few years ago, and I had a cataract in my right eye,” said Jeon Gyeong-sik, a 49-year-old Incheon resident. “I had spinal disability and my vision was weak, so I’ve always said my body was useless. Then, I heard news reports that the late cardinal had donated his corneas although he had cataract operation when he was alive. I realized that I had been thinking wrong all along.”

Jeon signed up for cornea donation yesterday with an organ donor program after seeing registration forms at Myeongdong Cathedral.

Rev. Park Jin-tak, general manager of the program, said an average of 20 people register per day on the Internet, but 152 signed up to make cornea donations on Tuesday. On Wednesday, another 250 joined.

Lee Ji-hyeon, another official at the program, said another 100 visited Myeongdong Cathedral to submit registration forms on Wednesday. “Many said they learned from the late cardinal’s example that they can donate their corneas even if they are old and weak,” said Lee.

Breast cancer survivor Jeong Jae-sun, a 60-year-old Ilsan resident, said, “My body may be too sick, but if any of its parts are usable, I want to give them to others.”

Kwon Su-yeon, 24, said she used to think organ donation had nothing to do with her. “But I changed my mind after I paid my respects to the late cardinal,” she said.

Officials say that cornea transplants could help 20,000 Koreans. Due to a shortage of cornea donors, only about 200 receive transplants for one eye each every year.

There are currently 3,600 on the waitlist for cornea transplants.


By Ahn Hai-ri JoongAng Ilbo/ Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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