You’ve likely heard of Stephen Hawking before, but have you heard of Sang-Mook Lee? Called the “Stephen Hawking of Korea,” Sang-Mook is a world famous oceanographer and professor from Seoul National University. He’s been studying the ocean on the earth beneath it for years, and he’s only been paralyzed since 2006.
Sang-Mook’s story is one of the ages. He may have been injured at the height of his career, but he fought hard to get back to his everyday life. Within six months he was teaching again, if that gives you any idea of the dedicated and true scientist that Sang-Mook truly is.
Read on for a story you won’t soon forget.
Why he’s fearless
Sang-Mook grew up loving the ocean. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Korea, he went onto study at MIT in Boston. After his schooling was complete, nearly 12 years abroad, he finally returned to Korea, where he worked for the Oceanography Institute for seven years. Life was blissful.
With his amazing job, he was able to travel the world and venture out into our oceans, studying everything from plate tectonics, underwater earthquakes and volcanoes. At the same time he was also a professor at Seoul National University and taught classes on these topics of expertise; geophysics. And it was on a class oversea trip to California, while driving into Death Valley no less, when his injury occurred.
The van he was driving in, along with seven of his students of passengers flipped, and Sang-Mook’s neck was pinned against the steering wheel. He left the site a C4 quadriplegic with no movement below the shoulders, and one student died. Sang-Mook however did not get depressed after his injury. The moment he awoke and realized what had happened to him, he says all he wanted to do was get back to teaching.
And that’s exactly what he did. He’s been teaching at Seoul National University since his injury and he’s also been focused on the needs of disabled students of Korea, which is how he was able to receive a very exciting grant from the government of South Korea to help this slice of the population in his country.
Sang-Mook is working hard to show these students they can be their own heroes. The grant’s purpose is two-fold – to help develop better assistive technology for these students – and to aid in their education needs, helping pay for their education to foster new disability leaders. Currently, Sang-Mook is working on a voice recognition software for the Korean language, which has yet to exist here.
In recent years, Sang-Mook has moved back to his old life as much as possible – teaching, researching when possible, and even traveling internationally – all in the face of his injury. He also completed a 40 day road trip across the United States a couple of years ago, inspiring his fellow Koreans at home along the way. And while on his road trip, he too was inspired. So much so in fact he wrote his book, 0.1Grams of Hope.
If you’re interested in Sang-Mook’s book, it’s available for purchase here
Thank you Sang-Mook Lee for continuing your life’s passion in the face of SCI. You’re impressing the world AND you’ve truly made your country a better place for people with disabilities, setting an example for other countries, whom we hope will follow suit.
How has Sang-Mook Lee changed the way you think?
– Follow him on Twitter: Sang-Mook Lee
– Follow him on Facebook: Author Sang-Mook Lee
– Follow his lab: Seoul National University Marine Geophysics & Geodynamics Lab
Watch the videos!