South Sudanese Government Urged to Revive Health Facility in Memory of Celebrated Cleric

Fr. John Tae Seok Lee

South Sudan’s Presidential Envoy and the country’s former minister of Foreign Affairs have urged the Ministry of Higher Education to revive the construction project of a hospital in memory of Fr. John Tae Seok Lee.

A member of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), Fr. Lee’s nine-year apostolate at Don Bosco Tonj Parish of South Sudan’s Catholic Diocese of Rumbek won the hearts of many. The native of South Korea offered services as a Priest, a medical doctor, an educationist, and an accomplished musician, among other professional abilities.

Fr. Lee was diagnosed with late-stage colorectal cancer and succumbed to the disease on 14 January 2010 in Seoul aged 47, leaving behind a legacy of schools, wells, farm products, medical clinic, and a brass band at the Don Bosco Tonj mission.

South Sudan’s Presidential Envoy Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin recalled that plans had been in place to construct the 600-bed hospital in the East-Central African nation in memory of the Cleric who paid keen attention to mentoring young people in the field of medicine.

Dr. Marial addressed the Education Minister who graced the scholarship award ceremony by Fr. John Lee Foundation, which was set up in memory of the late Salesian Cleric in Juba University on Tuesday, April 6.


The former minister of foreign affairs who had once visited the tomb of Fr. John Lee at the late Cleric’s birthplace in South Korea said that politics came into the way of constructing the health facility.

“The South Korean government was committed to fully sponsor the construction of the hospital but people started arguing whether to take it to Ramciel (South Sudan’s Dream Capital), whether to take it to Tonj (the town next to the Don Bosco mission where Fr. Lee ministered), or whether to take it to I don’t know where,” Dr. Marial recalled.

He added in reference to the health project that had stalled, “We politicians could not let it take off.”

A native of South Korea, the late Fr. Lee who had served as an army medical surgeon before joining the Salesians. He was sent to South Sudan in June 2001.

Dr. Marial revealed that the health facility in Memory of Fr. Lee was going to be the “biggest specialist hospital” in East Africa with modern equipment.

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In response to the appeal, the Minister of Higher Education, Gabriel Changson Chang, expressed commitment to follow up the project with the government of South Sudan, government of South Korea and Fr. John Lee Foundation.

“The hospital is a grand gift to the people of South Sudan. I will pick up from what has been said and team up with my colleagues in higher education and with the director of Fr. John Lee Foundation, Kim Kee Choon, to do more about that offer in memory of Fr. John Lee,” the Minister of Higher Education, Mr. Changson said April 6 in Juba.

“We need to see if it can be serviced, if it can be reactivated, and if it can be made used of,” Mr. Changson further said, and added, “Location of the hospital in memory of Fr. John Lee will not be an issue because locations are always guided by certain principles.”

He continued, “If we have a referral hospital here in South Sudan, then it will save us millions of dollars that we sent to East Africa, to Khartoum, to Europe, to India for medical treatment.”

“If we have a good Samaritan giving us almost free referral hospital, why not do it here in South Sudan, and then we utilize it and move forward because it will come with added knowledge,” the South Sudanese Minister said.


He expressed optimism that with the medical facility in place, the South Sudanese government would strengthen its relations with South Korea in terms of health. He said the hospital would facilitate medical exchange programs between the two governments.

“This will be an opportunity for our young doctors studying in Korea and working for Fr. John Lee hospital to revolutionize the medical sector in South Sudan and eradicate diseases we are grappling with,” the government official said.

According to the head of Korean Mission and Country Director of Fr. John Lee Foundation, the project is “on the shelf” and is awaiting peace realization in South Sudan.

In an interview with ACI Africa Thursday, April 8, Mr. Choon said that the hospital for the people in South Sudan “will be implemented someday by all means” according to the South Korean government.