A young vocalist thrives despite the odds

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A young vocalist thrives despite the odds

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Brain defect almost left Park Mo-se, 22, unable to walk or talk.Park Mo-se, left, a vocalist, had six brain operations from infancy to his childhood, having been born with an unformed cranium. His mother, Cho Young-ae, right, is his caregiver and best friend. By Kwon Hyeok-jae


Only days after Cho Young-ae gave birth to her son, she kicked and slammed the door while he was asleep to see if what the doctors said was really true.

Her baby was born with an unformed cranium, and at just 3 days old, he underwent surgery to take out 90 percent of his cerebrum and 70 percent of his cerebellum. In conjunction, these parts of the brain control a person’s voluntary actions.

The doctors told Cho that her child would never be able to hear, speak, walk or run.

As a mother, Cho’s one desperate hope was that her son would live through it all. She prayed for a chance to take care of him, though she knew he would lose most physical abilities.

But in a surprising turn of fate, her son, Park Mo-se, now 22, has turned into a vocalist, having sung on various stages. It’s a feat even medical science can’t seem to explain, but for Cho it was beyond belief. After receiving surgery, Park couldn’t really hear, and he didn’t eat well either. But after five more operations, the improvement became obvious.

“This is weird. His brain has started to grow,” Park’s doctor once said after looking at an x-ray following an operation three years after the first.

Park’s brain is now 75 percent of the capacity of the average person’s - a medical anomaly.

“I am proud of my son for his existence itself,” Cho said.

After turning 3 years old, Park was suddenly able to sit, then he started to walk. At 5 years old, he began to speak - then sing.

When Park entered elementary school as a first-grader, he stood on stage in a national contest sponsored by a group that aims to provide support to parents raising children with disabilities.

Since then, other invitations have followed, including one to sing at the opening ceremony of a women’s professional basketball game, as well as the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games held in Pyeongchang.

“Every time I sing, I feel encouraged afterward,” Park said.

His disabilities hinder him from singing as well as other vocalists - he can only see out of his right eye and hear with his left ear. His hands and legs also only function on his left side.

But Cho tries to look on the bright side, and view his disabilities positively - a mindset she developed while raising her son.

“Thanks to his disability, Park’s songs have hope in them,” she said. “If he sings very well, he might do it for his own sake, but because he is not perfect, he sings for hope.”

Last March, Park entered Baekseok Arts University, where he will major in vocal music.

However, he didn’t take advantage of the special admissions screening for the disabled, choosing instead to apply through the regular admissions process. His acceptance wasn’t immediate, as he didn’t succeed in getting into college last year.

“Many people in Korea admit to going through hard times after failing to get into university,” Cho said, “but it was nothing to my son, compared to what he has gone through his entire life.”

Though Park is now a college, he still cannot function independently: He lives with Cho and needs her assistance to eat, get dressed and use the bathroom. This has made the pair inseparable.

“How could I not be happy to live with my 22-year-old son?” Cho said as she hugged her son and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

BY KIM HO-JOUNG [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]


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