Groundbreaking Ceremony at Samsung Development Center, Children’s Hospital
Date April 22nd, 2015 | Venue Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital
Honorable citizens of Seoul and distinguished guests, it is a great pleasure to see you here today. I am the mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon. Today, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations and welcome to Samsung Development Center of Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital for the beginning of construction. I feel very overwhelmed today. I am reminded of every single detail of the journey that led us here, and a thousand emotions crowd my mind.
Amid this happy occasion, a series of recent heartbreaking events are sitting heavily on me. Last year, three family members committed suicide together with their 5-year-old son, leaving a will reading, “It breaks my heart that my son with a developmental disorder does not even recognize his own mom and dad. I apologize to my family.” Recently, the mother of a 4-year-old child diagnosed with a developmental disorder jumped off an apartment building with the child in her arms. The child survived but the mother died. Events like these are so very unfortunate.
Do you know what the biggest wish is of parents of those with developmental disorders? It is to live one more day than their own children. That says a lot about how hard and difficult it is to live with developmental disorders, and to live as the parents of those people in our society as it is.
I cannot forget the first day of May in 2012. Prior to the first Children’s Day I took office, I visited the Children’s Hospital. Looking at those children, whose Children’s Day would no doubt be a sad one, as they could move freely by themselves, or had no family at all, and could not even go out to play. It was heartbreaking. In particular, I still can never forget how devastated I was when I heard that there were only few medical centers specializing in children with developmental disorders, and the medical costs are so expensive that children from all over the country are crowded into the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital, making them have to wait for four years on average for treatment.
As you are well aware, it is important to detect and treat developmental disorders in their early stages; if detected in the early stages, the patients’ conditions can often be treated to the point where they are able to return to their normal lives. I told myself that I would not stand by and do nothing about the reality where that crucial opportunity is missed and the symptoms are exacerbated because they cannot be treated for four years.
As soon as I came back to my office, I started to review the plan to establish a separate development center in the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital. The biggest problem was the budget for construction, which reached tens of billions of won. After contemplation, we decided to cooperate with the private sector. For that, we went through a process of tens of meetings, suggestions of joint construction, and persuasion.
Finally, the efforts paid off. Samsung generously donated funds of 20 billion won through the Community Chest of Korea in July 2013, and construction started to become more materialized and plausible. Today, we were finally able shovel up the historical first scoop of hope.
My friends, approximately 20 thousand people are registered as having developmental disorders in Korea. Most of them are diagnosed with developmental disorders at an early age, but are growing up as adults because there are practically no treatment institutions. Still, 1,700 children patients, who need steady treatment for over one year, are waiting to get treatment from the Seoul Metropolitan Children’s Hospital. The children have to wait one to over four years to get treated. When Samsung Development Center, the largest of its kind in Korea, is opened in April 2017, they will be able to get treated in time, so treatment will take much shorter and more children will be able to receive treatment.
In addition, patient-oriented customized treatment will be provided, along with early accurate diagnosis through collaboration among experts and adoption of a treatment model for systematic treatment and follow-up appraisals done simultaneously.
We will also play a central role in upgrading the level of public medical services as a leading institution for treatment of children with development disorders, and will implement a uniquely Korean innovation model through the establishment of a collaborative network including domestic and foreign institutions like the Kennedy Krieger Institute of Johns Hopkins University. This will bring about an innovative turning point for the treatment of children with development disorders.
Not only that, but we at the SMG will come up with a way to provide lifelong treatment in linkage with the Lifelong Education Center for Individuals with Development Disorders. We will do our best to protect people’s right to be healthy and happy through high-quality public medical services. We will make Seoul a city where the handicapped do not experience inconveniences and everyone can fulfill their dreams to their heart’s content.
I always believe that firm resolve can accomplish anything. At first, officials at the SMG expressed skepticism about my plans, but my firm resolve finally persuaded them, and they persistently convinced businesses to agree to our plans. As a result, we are finally gathered here to mark this meaningful day.
We have just taken the first step. But I will enjoy walking the path if I can be with you. We will reach the destination step by step. Let’s go together, shall we?
I would like to express my deep gratitude to all those present here today including Vice Chairman Park Geun-hui of Samsung Corporate Citizenship, Chairman Heo Dong-su of the Community Chest of Korea, donators and voluntary workers, construction crew, officials at the Seocho-Gu Office, Director Kim Jae-bok, and employees of the SMG Children’s Hospital.