“As you know, I am not a professional artist. If you ask why I paint, it is to pass on the tragic history of Hansen’s disease in Korea, and the especially sad history of Sorokdo to future generations, with the wish that this tragic history will never be repeated. Please forgive me if my artistic technique and depth are not sufficient.
My paintings focus on the thoughts of Hang Haun, a Hansen’s disease patient. I mostly paint about the tragic history that Hansen’s disease patients endured, especially my thoughts from when I was working on Sorokdo. I will be more than happy if these paintings can give the people who view them at least some sense of the pain and suffering that these souls faced.”
(From the introduction to the “Cho Chang-Won Exhibition – Sorokdo Light and Shadows”)
Sorokdo National Hospital
Located in Jeollanam-do, this was Korea’s only national Hansen’s disease sanatorium. It opened as the Shoroku-tou Jikei Clinic in 1916, when Korea was a Japanese colony. The facility was expanded in 1934, and the name changed to Shoroku-tou Kousei-en.
After gaining independence from Japan, South Korea enacted the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act, and Hansen’s disease came to be treated as an ordinary infectious disease. The law was revised in 1963 to abolish forced quarantining.
Today, most Korean people affected by Hansen’s disease live among the general public, but about 40% live in colonies, and 10%, or roughly 700 people, live at the Sorokdo National Hospital.
(Kim Kwiboon, Curator of the National Hansen’s Disease Museum in Tokyo, Japan)