International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

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    History of Leprosy

    Your paradise – Land that was taken by force

    Sorokdo National Hospital, Korea, Oil on Canvas, 605x725. More details
    Omado Incident

    This incident involved the taking of land that had been reclaimed by persons affected by Hansen’s disease without their consent.
    In June 1962, Cho Chang-Won, who was then the director of the Sorokdo hospital, and a group of Sorokdo patients and former patients received approval from the South Korean government to reclaim the island of Omado. The goal of the Omado reclamation project was for these people affected by Hansen’s disease to reclaim this land off the shore of neighboring Omado and farm it, as a way for them to return to society. At the groundbreaking ceremony, the director of the sanatorium gave an overview of the project, and announced that when construction was complete, 1,000 households of former Sorokdo residents, comprising 2,500 people, and 1,000 small-lot farm families from the general public, for a total of 2,000 families, would move there, and each family would be given 1,500 tsubo (slightly less than 5,000 square meters) of land to farm.
    Two years later, however, in July 1964, the national government transferred oversight of the reclamation project to the Jeollanam-do provincial government. The use of the land was also changed, against the wishes of Dr. Cho Chang-Won and the residents and former residents of Sorokdo who had been doing the construction work, meaning the land was effectively taken away from them.

    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)


    “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”)
    Other works by this artist
    Title Your paradise – Land that was taken by force
    Country Korea
    Location Sorokdo National Hospital
    Genre Painting
    Material Oil on Canvas
    Size 605x725
    Owner National Hansen’s Disease Museum, Tokyo, Japan
    Copyright Chang-Won Cho