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Schweitzer of Korea Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo

Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo, also referred to as the 'foolish doctor' and the 'Schweitzer of Korea', was featured in a TV program that drew a lot of attention from the medical industry.A panel member of the program stated that, "he is a great person to emulate and should be known widely, not just in Busan, but throughout the country."

The late Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo was born in 1911 and graduated from Gyeongseong Medical College (the current Medical College of Seoul National University). He started his career at the Pyeongyang Federated Christian Hospital before becoming a professor at Pyeongyang Medical School and Kim Il Sung General University. During this time, he won the trust of Kim Il Sung by successfully performing surgery on him. He then escaped to South Korea when the Korean War broke out and settled in Yeongdo, Busan. He founded Gospel Hospital, which is currently known as the Kosin University Gospel Hospital, and dedicated himself to treating poor people at no charge for the rest of his life. He passed away on December 25, 1995 due to complications with a chronic illness he had been suffering from.
Although he was the director of the hospital, his net monthly salary was perpetually in the red as he would seek advance payment on his own salary to support patients who couldn’t afford to pay the costs of surgery. He instructed patients unable to pay the hospital charges to run away in the middle of the night and would even keep the doors unlocked for them. The stories of him purchasing clothing for impoverished patients and paying the cost of 2 chickens that he prescribed to an undernourished patient are well-known among the people of Busan. A professor and surgeon in Busan also commented that, "the roots of all the surgical departments in the university hospitals in Busan began and directly or indirectly stemmed from Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo," and added that, "all the students of Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo who learned from and worked with him have Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo as their role model."

Dr. Jang, Gi Ryeo has been an enormous influence on the advancement of the medical sector in Korea. After having successfully performed a hepatectomy for the first time in Korea, he was elected as the first chairman of the Korean Society for Hepatic Research in 1974 to lead the advancement of the surgical sector. Moreover, he has had a marked influence on the policy for health and medical services in Korea. He was the first to establish ‘Blue Cross Medical Insurance’, a private medical insurance company, to enable more people to receive medical treatments at a low cost. The current National Health Insurance was founded on the basis of Blue Cross Medical Insurance, which was made accessible for the entire Korean population in 1989. According to commonplace standards, Dr. Jang was perhaps the most foolish person in the world. Although he held high positions, such as the directorship of a hospital and professorship at Seoul National University, he did not even have a home under his name. After his retirement, he stayed in a rooftop room of the Gospel Hospital. The entire assets he left behind while on his deathbed was a bank account with a balance of 10 million Won. He even gave all that money to a person who cared for him in his final days. “I came a bit early because I don’t think I would be able to come this Christmas!”. These were his last words he said to a patient he was looking after secretly. He passed away on Christmas Day, and became the brightest star in heaven.