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Perseverance: Young Woo Kang Story, Changing how Korea thinks of the Blind
As an old cliché goes “people hate change yet it is the only thing constant in the world.” The concept could also be associated with introducing new ideas on an old, tested, and proven one. Most of the time, a new idea is rejected when it clashes with an established and widely-recognized one. But if you would be as radical as viewing an idea as a tool, the thinking would be out of the box and liberates you to broader perspective. A new idea is a chance to test and see what works in a particular setting or circumstance for improvement. A new idea also becomes an avenue for change—change that could break barriers and social stereotypes long been associated with the marginalized section of the community long suffering from various social and cultural stigma.
A Case in Point
In South Korea, blind persons are treated with pity. They are considered outcasts of the community and would often end up as masseurs or worse, fortune-tellers and beggars. But a lad named Young-Woo Kang refused to accept this faith. He was motivated by the stigma associated with blind people that he struggled to pursue a college education when everyone around him told him that it is impossible. Young-Woo persevered and became the first of many. He was the first blind person to enter the prestigious Yonsei University in Seoul, and the first blind Korean to earn both a masters degree and a doctorate in Psychology and Special Education. Because of his determination, he was able to help and improve the lives of people with disabilities in Korea and even the world (NTAC-AAPI, 2007).
Young-Woo Kang was not born blind but an accident when he was a boy caused him to lose his eyesight. During those times, discrimination among blind people was very strong. And when Kang’s mother learned that he had permanently lost his sight, she was not able to take it and died of a heart attack that very day while on her way home from the hospital. Now orphaned, he lost his father when he was 13; he only had his older sister to take care of him. But the burden of caring for Kang was too great for her; she too died after 16 months. The death of his mother and sister devastated Kang. With nobody to take care of him, he was now more than ever determined to pursue his education.
On times when the only available education for blind Korea was a vocational course on becoming masseurs, Kang set his mind on pursuing a college education—something that is unheard of in Korea, a blind person pursuing college! But he did. Kang was the first blind Korean to ever enter the prestigious Yonsei University, and the first blind Korean to enter college. He was also the first blind Korean to earn a Master’s degree, and subsequently, a Doctorate (The Rotarian, Nov 1995).
Dr. Young-Woo Kang is a true inspiration. He is a person who struggled at a very young age. Orphaned and blind, he contemplated suicide. But Young-Woo did not let adversity defeat him. He had become an agent for change—cultural and social change on how Koreans perceive blind people. It was his perseverance and faith that have kept him strong through the most difficult part of his life.
Perseverance of the Saints
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