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Lee Jong-wook (1945–2006) was the Director-General of the World Health Organization for three years.

He was born 12 April 1945 in Seoul, South Koreamarker. Lee obtained a medical degree from Seoul National Universitymarker, then enrolled at the University of Hawaii to study public health, earning a Master's degree. He joined the WHO in 1983, working on a variety of projects including the Global Programme for Vaccines and Immunizations and Stop Tuberculosis. He began his term as Director-General of WHO on 21 July 2003, having been elected two months before. He was the first Korean to lead an international agency. He died on 22 May 2006 - while in office - in Genevamarker, Switzerlandmarker, following surgery for a blood clot on his brain (a subdural hematoma). He was posthumously awarded the Hibiscus Cordon (Grand Cross) of the Order of Civil Merit by the South Korean government.

In 2004, he was one of the 100 people who shapes our lives and most powerful people in the world by Time Magazine.


He is the third son in a family of six children; he has three brothers and two sisters. Two brothers are professors. His wife is Reiko Kaburaki Lee and the couple has one son, Tadahiro Lee. His name is Lee ChungHo in Korean.Reiko continues to volunteer in Peru helping poor women and children.

Medical volunteer work

Lee took care of leprosy patients in Anyangmarker, South Koreamarker when he was studying medicine. There were few medical facilities set up at the time and he worked in a volunteer capacity.

He met and later married Kaburaki Reiko, a Japanese woman who visited Korea in order to help out there. Later the two got married.

In 1981, Lee and his wife went together to American Samoamarker to help the poor. In Samoa, he worked in the Lyndon B. Johnson tropical medical center from June 26, 1981 to May 26, 1983. He was known as the Schweitzer of Asia.

WHO career

He worked at the World Health Organisation (WHO), at country, regional and headquarter levels for 23 years. His work in WHO started in 1983 when he worked with leprosy in Fijimarker.

He started his work as an advisor on leprosy, and later also treated tuberculosis and promoted the vaccination of children against preventable diseases.

In 1994, Lee moved to Geneva to work at WHO headquarters as chief in prevention and vaccines. In 1995, he was nicknamed Vaccine Czar according to Scientific American.<<옳다고 생각하면="" 행동하라="">> p.200 written by Kwon Joon Wook

Mr.Lee became official candidate for 6th director-generals of WHO. There are 8 candidates originally and two person left on the final vote. Dr.Lee and Peter Piot who are in charge of excutive director of UNAIDS. The ballot taking extended to 7 times in a close situation continuously. Peter got wide acknowledgement from Europe and Lee from US and Asia. Finally Lee beat Peter by 2.

  • 1983-2006 : Staff of WHO
  • 1994-98 : Director in Global Programme for Vaccines and Immunization, and Executive Secretary, Children's Vaccine Initiative
  • 1998-99 : Senior Policy Adviser to 5th General, Gro Harlem Brundtland
  • 1999-2000 : Special Representative of the Director-General
  • 2003-2006 : Director-General of WHO

Director General

He had said that global efforts to control the HIV/AIDS pandemic would be the right course that would give meaning to his tenure as director-general of the agency.

The 3 by 5 policy which was the basic idea of Dr. Lee was largely criticized by many concerned people.Many, including Joep Lange, the president of the International Aids Society, had a comment that the project was “totally unrealistic”. Médecins sans Frontières, also expressed similar reservations toward Lee's plan.

He worked tirelessly, visiting 60 countries in the three years of his Generalship including Darfurmarker, Sudanmarker, sites of the Indian Ocean tsunami, Madagascarmarker, Mauritiusmarker. He was famed as a man of action during this time. His adventurous spirit led him to "experience more, see more, and do more," said his son Tadahiro.

He died after preparing for UN general mettings. His symptom was caused by inner injury of brain. Dr. Lee fell ill at a luncheon on Saturday in Geneva. He died in intensive care unit of Geneva's University Hospital after receiving emergency surgery for a blood clot on his brain.

After his death, several people expressed deep grief.Secretary General of United Nations at that time, Kofi Annan mentioned

President George W. Bush of United States said

Memorial award

The South Korean government officially announced the establishment of the a Memorial Prize in Dr. Lee's memory. After his death, You Si min, the Minister of Health and Welfare of the Republic of Korea, officially revealed the plans concerning the new awards and urged other nations and persons concerned to participate at a meeting of WHO in 2007. Mr.Lee Sung-joo, who is permanent representative of the Republic of Korea, spoke of the award in Dr. Lee's memory to motivate and inspire young leaders aspiring to be the next Dr. Lee Jong-wook.

Starting in 2009, the awards would be given for mainly the two fields "Young Leadership" and "Contributor of health management" (especially for epidemics) at the annual assembly of World Health Organization which takes place in May each year.

See also


  1. NYT W.H.O. Chief Undergoes Emergency Brain Surgery 2006-05-22
  2. TIME Magazine: TIME 100: Jong-Wook Lee
  3. Lee Jong-Wook
  4. Mr.Lee's dowager, Reiko 故 이종욱 전 WHO총장 미망인 레이코 여사 2006-11-13
  5. Emperor of Vaccines Busan Ilbo (KOR) 2006-05-24
  6. Funeral of Dr. Lee on 24th, Ministry of Health of Republic of Korea(KOR) 2006-05-24
  7. We do not forget Dr. Lee from Samoa Ohmynews 2006.05.28
  8. In Memoriam Lee Jong-wook 2006-05-24
  9. Obituary: Dr Lee Jong-wook 2006-05-22 BBC
  10. Dr Lee Jong-Wook WHO director-general who led global campaigns against Sars, Aids, malaria and bird flu 2006-05-24
  11. WHO chief dies after blood clot BBC 2006-05-22
  12. TimesOnline 2006-05-23 Lee Jong Wook WHO head who led the fight against Aids and bird flu
  13. The Independent 2006-05-24
  14. Official page of WHO i
  15. NYT W.H.O. Chief Undergoes Emergency Brain Surgery 2006-05-22
  16. WHO chief Lee Jong-Wook dies suddenly 2006-05-22 (AFP)
  17. You si min, going to organize awards memorizing Dr. Lee 유시민 복지 "고 이종욱 총장 기념상 만들겠다" 2007-05-16
  18. Tribute to Dr Lee Jong-wook
  19. Arirang TV New Award to Honor Late WHO Chief Lee Jongwook 2007-05-14

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