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Special Project


[Korean Scholars ⑦]

Public Health Specialist and Socialist,
Professor Kim Seung-Sup

Records of the Fierce Days Taking Care of Those in the Shadows




The entire world had been engulfed in horror due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virus unprecedentedly strong and infectious. Now its spread has slowed down, but it has indeed been a powerful turning point for the world to the extent that its end is called ‘post-COVID.’ As we lived through the painful times, we were faced with serious concerns about public health and social consensus where we live together with the marginalized in society. And there is professor and socialist Kim Seung-Sup, who has been ceaselessly fighting on the side of the weak like a beacon in the dark, seeking the best way while accepting diversity. Following is an interview with professor Kim, who has been making meaningful actions, sending messages to society as a socialist and public health specialist as well as sowing the seeds for the common good.





A Social Epidemiology Perspective on Disaster Situations that are Crueler to the Underprivileged


The group that collapses helplessly in the face of unexpected disasters is mostly the socially marginalized. The shield for them has never been robust. However, is this really unchangeable? Those whose livelihoods were devastated the most in the face of the pandemic that prolonged for more than 2 years were socially disadvantaged, without a doubt. In the economy, the non-regular workers were the first to lose their jobs, disabled and immigrant workers were pushed to the very outer reach of public health, and collectivism spread widely.
Public health specialist professor Kim Seung-Sup has been studying the health of the socially marginalized through data analysis. He has been carrying out research on marriage of immigrant women, sexual minorities, survivors of the Sewol Ferry incident, prisoners, fired laborers and their families, and survivors from the ROKS Cheonan sinking, talking about their pain and social discrimination. The topic he chose for the catastrophic situation brought by the pandemic was indeed about things like layoffs, hatred, and discrimination. Furthermore, he shared his keen insight on the threat surrounding the minorities in society, such as non-regular workers left unprotected in the workplace with no facial masks provided in the early spread of COVID and 1-2% of the population in any society being unable to be vaccinated due to medical issues. At the same time, he emphasized the need for active government intervention in order for slogans such as “Let’s live together” or “We form each other’s environment” to apply to people whose livelihood or survival is threatened in disastrous situations. He also pointed out that even though it would be difficult for the government to devise appropriate policies for each detailed situation, it must first consider the socially disadvantaged and minorities through the adequate distribution of available resources.


Professor Kim Seung-Sup has been raising his voice towards society, with his eyes on the low,
blind spots in our society.


Asking for more Attention Based on Research Findings


The physical evidence of professor Kim’s practical efforts is his books. He has been writing books based on his research, translating relevant books, and publishing books with his colleagues – never complacent in his efforts to empathize with more people in more parts of society.





Future Victims Have Won, Making Hope Out of Sorrow, and If Our Body is a World



Professor Kim’s books always put the focus on discrimination and social isolation. They are the essence of his academic achievements, including his research on how discrimination and social isolation make minorities sick and how the cause can be found in the relationship between an individual and the community. Through his books, Future Victims Have Won (Nanda), Making Hope Out of Sorrow (East-Asia Publishing Co.), and If Our Body is a World (East-Asia Publishing Co.), professor Kim Seung-Sup talks about issues that involve serious social conflicts such as the privatization of public corporations, pain of sexual minorities such as homosexuals and transgender people, bullying and discrimination prevalent in our society, the Sewol Ferry disaster and the sinking of ROKS Cheonan, and the massive layoff of SsangYong Motor. He also said, “I hope my books help find a better path for them, going beyond ignoring or exploiting the suffering of others,” by inducing people to pay more attention to several case studies where they can think about “becoming a victim in Korean society.”
As such, providing an opportunity for more people to share thoughts about social issues by steadily publishing books based on his research is definitely another good influence he has been exercising. But, above all, he has been playing a role in sparking interest in topics that are still socially overlooked through his insightful approach. For example, Making Hope Out of Sorrow has even produced a strange phenomenon where it swept various awards, even though it dealt with sensitive topics. Also, If Our Body is a World, which is like a historical archive of public health, talks about topics that professor Kim, the researcher of social epidemiology stressing the importance of population’s health through data, has been studying for the past 20 years based on medicine and public health.
Also, co-published You as Yourself (Soom Books) discusses the most important topics of discrimination and health while covering transgender issues, which we should approach without stereotypes and find out how to empathize with and console them. And the translated book A Disability History of the United States with the sub-title “Chronicles of the struggle to regain the lost body against silence and isolation” is also closely tied to social issues that he has been studying, taking care of, and looking for solutions. This book describes the struggles and triumphs of those who fought against the oppression of the social structure at the end, showing how society defines and suppresses individuals. Plus, the book becomes a good guide for solving our society’s problems by referring to similar phenomena occurring in the US.



You as Yourself



Professor Kim Seung-Sup has once referred to his studies as “research on the lost site” and “research on the ruined.” Perhaps it is obvious for a public health specialist and a socialist to say who studies how social factors such as discrimination and unstable employment harm the health of the socially marginalized. However, his eyes on people living in the dark shadows of our society and his voice towards research and community will finally come to fruition. Maybe this is why his every move encourages little, but big changes, and seems heavy and profound. The fierce footsteps that professor Kim Seung-Sup continues to take forward will be the cornerstone for our society to make positive developments and become happy.



Written by Kim Young-Ihm



Kim Young-Ihm

#Kim Seung-Sup#Socialist#Public Health Specialist#COVID-19
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