Remembering Dr. Young Woo Kang

'Beacon of hope' for the blind dies


Kang Young-woo

By Park Si-soo

Kang Young-woo, the first visually-handicapped Korean appointed as a policy advisor for former U.S. President George W. Bush and touted as a “beacon of hope” for many blind people in Korea, died of cancer in the United States on Thursday (local time.) He was 68.

His family members said Kang had suffered from pancreatic cancer since October last year.

He was born in Yangpyeong, a small village near Seoul, in 1944. He lost his eyesight in a sporting accident when he turned 14. Despite wide-spread discrimination against disabled people, he studied under his family’s support and graduated from Seoul’s prestigious Yonsei University.

He earned a doctor’s degree in pedagogy from University of Pittsburgh School of Education in Pennsylvania, becoming the first visually-handicapped Korean with a doctor’s degree.

In 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush nominated Kang to serve as a policy adviser on the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency that makes recommendations to the President and Congress in pursuit of enhancing the quality of life for Americans with disabilities and their families.

In the position, Kang worked on issues ranging from the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency planning to cultural differences and attitudes in empowering people with disabilities. He also supported the research and development of six kinds of electronic devices for the disabled, including mobile phones and automatic teller machines

In 1995, Kang’s autobiography was made into a television and motion picture movie, which dramatized his life as the first visually impaired Korean man to earn a Ph.D.

Kang is survived by his wife and two sons. His funeral will be held in at a church near Washington D.C. on March 4.

Learn More about Dr. Kang