Fr. John Lee Tae-seok entered the seminary after his medical studies. Shocked by the war in the African country, he asked to be able to serve as a missionary. He helps all involved, regardless of religion or ethnicity. He died of cancer in 2010 and is the only foreigner to be present in Sudanese school books.
Seoul (AsiaNews) – As of today the life of Korean missionary Fr. John Lee Tae-seok is in school textbooks in South Sudan. The missionary, belonging to the Salesian Society of St. John Bosco, provided medical assistance in the country devastated by war for a decade, until his death by cancer in 2010.
South Sudan Education Minister, Deng Deng Hoc Yai, announced last year that the life of the missionary would be told in the book of social studies for elementary schools, and two pages of the civics education book for secondary schools. It is the first time that South-Sudanese textbooks include the story of a foreigner for his volunteer service in the country.
From an early age when he was still in elementary school, Fr. Lee saw a video about the life of Fr. Damian, the Belgian missionary and apostle of the lepers in Molokai. At that moment he felt a strong vocation and decided to follow in the footsteps of Fr. Damien.
On graduating in medicine from the University of Inge, South Korea, Fr. Lee studied theology at the University of Gwangju and at the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest in Seoul in 2001 and in the same year he decided to leave for Africa, inspired by the stories of a confrere. He carried out his missionary work as an educator and doctor in the village of Tonj, in the province of Warap, South Sudan. As the only doctor in the area, Fr. Lee built a small hospital where he cared for up to 300 people a day. He led a vaccination program for the 80 villages around Tonj and also established a school, where he taught mathematics and music.
Despite the ethnic-religious conflicts that bloodied Sudan and cause about two million deaths, Fr. Lee cared for anyone who needed his help. Christians, Muslims, Protestants and even the militia were treated, who out of recognition for the priest spared his village from the fighting. The local Church "is considering" the opening of a cause of beatification for Fr. Lee.