|Park Jeong-sook. (Yonhap News)|
The award was launched in 2011 and named after a Catholic priest who died a year earlier at age 48 while helping displaced people in South Sudan.
Park, 49, has been setting up schools, homes and other facilities for the poor and children with disabilities in Dhaka since 2005. In 2007 she opened a hospital to provide free dental care services to them and has since been working with a mobile medical clinic team from the state-run Korea International Cooperation Agency across the South Asian country.
“This award was given not for myself but the poor people in Bangladesh,” she said at the award ceremony on Friday. “I came to Seoul with some handicapped children from Bangladesh and I hope Korea can help them map out a better future.”
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Park was picked by an “overwhelming consensus,” calling her Bangladesh’s Mother Teresa.
“As sensibility is key to diplomacy, development cooperation plays a crucial part as it helps us not just boost national interests but share hearts with those in other countries. Devoted volunteers out there like her play just that role,” Yun told The Korea Herald after the event.
The award’s inaugural winner was Lee Jae-hoon, a South Korean volunteer doctor in Madagascar where some 20,000 villagers suffered from a shortage of medical facilities. Last year it was given to Baik Young-sim, who is known as Malawi’s Florence Nightingale for her voluntary medical services and education there.
The ministry has also been conferring a separate award to a dedicated overseas volunteer every year since 2006.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)