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A single most memorable event of the IAPB CoM 2017 (Council of Members 2017) in Nepal for me, as a South Korean citizen, was when Dr. Gyun Jin Choy of Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital presented, “North Korea Blindness & Visual impairment.” I could tell that everyone else in the room was quite thrilled about the rare and valuable information about eye health in North Korea that Dr. Choy’s had provided, but the magnitude of the excitement was, I believe, especially profound for me. My heart was pumping fast with hope and dream of opportunities for collaboration and cooperation between the two Koreas and the impact we may make together. However, knowing that the relationship between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK) was rather premature back then, and it was just a mere hope of a single person and a dream based on nothing but the desperate aspirations until the recent dynamic efforts of the DPRK to reach out for peace and tranquility.
Reflecting the improvement of relationship between the two Koreas, at the end of 2018, the “Eye Health Planning- DPR Korea” was co-hosted by the Good People International (GPI), an international NGO originated from South Korea dedicated to international development including global eye health, Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology (TIO), and IAPB SEARO.
It was not an easy process, I have to admit, but, Dr. Reeta Gurung and Dr. Nabin Kumar Rai of TIO and Dr. Yuddha Sapkota of IAPB SEARO did a wonderful job bridging the North and South Korean delegates. The support and dedication of the GPI and the embassy of DPRK are also not to be neglected.
The workshop was designed for a day, and it was unquestionably a great opportunity to learn about the efforts of TIO supporting eye health in DPRK for South Korean delegates (Mr. Daesung Kang and Ms. Jungeun An of GPI and Dr. Kyoung Yul Seo and Dr. Sangchul Yoon of Yonsei University Severance Hospital along with myself.) Moreover, witnessing the passion and commitment of North Korean health professionals through Dr. Un Hui Ryu from Ryugyong General Ophthalmic Hospital and Dr. Kum Ran Kim from the External Affairs Department at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) have yielded the assurance that our time and efforts as partners sharing the goal of better eye health in DPRK would not be wasted regardless of the political status of the two Koreas. There also was a session of group work specifically designed to identify the most urgent issues and to finalize the operational plans for the activities to respond to them. As a result, we do have a fine blueprint of what the concerned partners may do together in the following years to meet the needs of the DPRK. The detailed report regarding the workshop soon will be available from the IAPB SEARO.
We have still a long way to go, but we are going to do it together. It is my sincere hope that we may together contribute to the betterment of eye health of the community people in DPRK, and let it be another step towards peace and prosperity in Korean peninsula.