The 15th International Congress on Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, the 43rd Korean College of Rheumatology Annual Scientific Meeting & 17th International Symposium kicked off Wednesday evening, shedding light on how greater social awareness and new drugs can end the “war” against lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease.
This year’s event is held under the theme, “Stairway to the End of the War" to prepare the ground for putting an end to the disease.
The first edition of the event kicked off in 1986 in Calgary, Canada. South Korea is the fifth country in the Asia-Pacific region to host the congress.
The international events are being held concurrently at Coex, southern Seoul, until Saturday. Some 1,500 lupus and rheumatology specialists from 50 countries are participating in the first in-person congress in four years.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Bae Sang-cheol of Hanyang University, congress chair of Lupus & KCR 2023, said he was optimistic about offering better treatments and outcomes for lupus patients.
“Developing new drugs and making progress have been difficult for the past several decades. However, the development of new therapeutics and ongoing research in the last 10 years are spreading hopes of the possibility of putting an end to the war with lupus,” Bae said Bae.
“I anticipate that academic exchanges regarding lupus will be made at the conference, where the latest research trends, for example, can be shared."
In a congratulatory address, Dr. Lee Shin-seok of Chonnam National University, also the chairman of the board of the Korean College of Rheumatology, welcomed the experts from overseas.
“I believe this will generate significant academic synergy. This gathering will serve as a platform to exchange knowledge and inspire innovation. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss the latest advancements and address the challenges in treating rheumatic diseases,” Lee said.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon also delivered a congratulatory message via video.
The organizers offered a cultural experience rather than an hourlong lecture by a preeminent scholar as the "key note" event.
Blind pianist Yang Jee-woo serenaded the participants at the key note events with “Widmung Op. 25-1” and “Chopsticks,” performed with Dr. Shim Seung-cheol of Chungnam National University, also the secretary general of the Lupus 2023 organizing committee, to address the importance of unity between health care professionals and patients in overcoming the disease.
North Korean defector-turned-singer Ro Soo-hyun, who was diagnosed with lupus in 2018, delivered a special performance of Loveholics’ “Butterfly,” conveying a message that she is no longer afraid of barriers of lupus. Lupus patients often have butterfly-shaped rash on their faces.
David McCann, a Harvard professor and an expert in "sijo," introduced the Korean poetry form while architect Yoo Hyun-joon compared the philosophies underlying architecture of the East and West.
The congress will feature various workshops and academic sessions. Sessions for lupus patients are also available where they can get insight into how to improve outcomes, live and cope with the disease and learn how to stratify primary symptoms.