TYRE, Lebanon: Inside a South Korean UNIFIL barracks near Tyre, peacekeepers sit playing with deaf and mute Lebanese children, communicating with each other only in sign language.
The unlikely gathering began when Korean UNIFIL Commander Col. Gu Seok-Mo visited the village of Borgholiyeh near Tyre in April and met 4-year-old Lin Soueid, who could neither hear nor speak.
He asked the contingent's doctors to submit a report indicating that she required the attention of ear and throat specialists. Over the next month, the Korean doctors visited the village to monitor the Soueid’s health, and in doing so, came across four other children suffering from similar conditions.
In coordination with the South Korean Embassy in Lebanon, a Korean medical delegation arrived to show the UNIFIL doctors how to examine the children. The contingent’s doctors were taught how to determine which could be treated in Lebanon and which would have to be flown to Korea for treatment. Two of the five children are set to leave for South Korea in June to receive treatment, according to Dr. Kim Kinam, an ENT specialist contracted by South Korea’s Inha University Hospital to help the children.
Gu told The Daily Star that he was driven to help the children because one of his own family members had a speech and hearing disability that was treated.
“I was affected by what I saw here [in Lebanon]. It is possible to treat this problem medically. I will be very happy when some of the children travel to South Korea to receive treatment and the rest are treated here,” he added.
Kinam said that through his job, he sought to put smiles on the faces of children who could previously neither hear nor speak.
As for his motivation to leave his home country, Kinam referenced the Korean War.
“Everyone knows that during the Korean Civil War in 1950, Lebanon stood by us and offered financial aid to us. Therefore, we must stand with you. We have a Korean contingent working for peace.”