In the latest local example of personal protective equipment being used as a goodwill currency, a Korean hospital has shipped 10,000 masks to retired Methodist missionaries via Atlanta, thanking them for their legacy of improving health care in the country.
Severance Hospital of Yonsei University Health System sent the KF94 masks (similar in properties to the coveted N95 respirator masks in the U.S.) for distribution via the UM Global Ministries, the Atlanta-based global development and missions organization of the United Methodist Church.
A first batch of masks will go to 180 missionaries across 38 U.S. states, with a second shipment planned for another 450 retired missionaries in early August. Pandemic-related restrictions are limiting the ability to ship outside the U.S., Global Ministries said in a news release.
“During the days when our country didn’t even have a concept of hygiene, missionaries built our hospitals to offer medicine,” said Do-Heum Yoon, president and CEO of the Yonsei health system, in the release. “With this shipment of masks we can’t repay the love, but we still remember the love of missionaries.”
Yonsei, now one of the top private universities in the country, was founded by medical missionaries, starting with the first western hospital in 1885 and later adding a medical school and other educational institutions. Both Presbyterian and Methodist missionary societies have been active in the country for more than a century, starting when it was still a kingdom.
One prominent Atlanta link is James T. Laney, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and president emeritus of Emory University, who served as a Methodist missionary from 1959-64. Ambassador Laney received the World Methodist Peace Award from the World Methodist Council in 2019. Peter Underwood, who runs the Georgia economic development office in Seoul, also descended from one of the families who founded Yonsei.
UM Global Ministries now operates an office in Seoul, an outpost opened in 2017 to forge partnerships with the Asian church.