Film captures priest’s life in Sudan

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Film captures priest’s life in Sudan

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The late Father Lee Tae-suk was one of the few Korean priests to volunteer for a mission in Sudan. Through his experience, he said he learned that being with people through their hardships was the most important aspect of his mission. [JoongAng Ilbo]

It may be called “Don’t Cry, Tonj,” but there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the premiere of the film at a theater in Jongno on Aug. 27.

The film depicts the life of the late Father Lee Tae-suk (1962-2010), who died on Jan. 14 at the age of 48 after a long battle with colon cancer.

Lee will be remembered not only by the people he’s left behind here, but also by the people he helped in war-torn Sudan, where he had been working as a medical missionary at the time of his death. Before the screening began the narrator of the film, Lee Geum-hee, paid tribute to Father Lee.

“We gather here for one person,” she said. “We remember him as a person with exceptionally bright smiles and exceptionally warm tears. He could not be here with us today.”

Gu Soo-hwan, the film’s producer and a chief producer at KBS, said, “In my 25-year career, I have never cried as much in production as I have during the making of this film.”

The film is based on a KBS documentary that aired in April.

Father Lee was one of a few Korean priests to volunteer for a mission in Sudan after his ordination in 2001.

He provided medical care, artistic inspiration and understanding to the people in his community.

“At first, I wanted to plan projects for the area,” Lee once said, reflecting on his time in Sudan. “Eventually, I realized that being with people through their hardships was the most important thing.”

When he arrived in Tonj, southern Sudan, Lee was the only doctor in the area. More than 300 patients visited him each day and some even knocked on his door in the middle of the night.

One of his first duties was to build a hospital, where solar panels were installed to prevent vaccines from decaying. He also built an elementary, middle and high school building, where he taught music and mathematics.

“Would Jesus have built a school or a church first?,” Lee says in the film. “He would have built the school first.”

“Don’t Cry, Tonj” will be released Sept. 9 in CGV theaters in Apgujeong, southern Seoul; Daehangno, central Seoul; Myeongdong, central Seoul; East Suwon; Daejeon; and in Sumyeon in Busan.


By Baik Sung-ho [estyle@joongang.co.kr]


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