English Professor, Columnist Passes Away
English professor and columnist Chang Young-hee, who touched many hearts with her warm and inspiring essays and columns, died of cancer Saturday. She was 56.
The daughter of famed English scholar Chang Wang-rok of Seoul National University, she was a passionate professor and columnist, presenting her heartwarming columns in local newspapers, including English daily The Korea Times, and local dailies Chosun Ilbo and JoongAng Ilbo.
Born in 1952 in Seoul, Chang contracted polio one year after her birth and had not been able to use her legs since.
She studied English Literature at Sogang University and received her doctorate from the State University of New York at Albany.
After returning to Korea, she taught students part time and started writing columns for The Korea Times in 1987. She later became the professor at her alma mater in the department of English Literature and Linguistics.
Chang and her father hold a special place in the history of the nation's first English daily, both having participated in the column section ``Thoughts of the Times'' at different times over the last 40 years. When her father passed away after years of contributing columns, she followed in his footsteps.
``The elder Chang and his daughter both contributed articles to The Korea Times as English professors, which is a rare case in any newspaper. (The younger) Chang's work was never political and touched the hearts of many readers, both foreign and local,'' said Park Chang-seok, a former managing editor of The Korea Times and writer of the book ``History of English Language Newspapers in Korea."
Both father and daughter also won in The Korea Times' Modern Korean Literature Translation Awards. The elder Chang picked up an award in the novel division for his translation of ``Trees on the Mountain Slopes,'' while Chang won a prize 10 years later by translating the poem ``The Fragrance of Autumn.''
In 2001 Chang was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she recovered and returned to Sogang University. She faced yet another challenge when she was diagnosed with vertebral cancer in 2004, but despite her illness, she once again returned to her students a year later. It was only recently that she left her post to focus on her treatment for cancer.
``I will overcome my illness with hope and will get back up next spring. My mind and body are tired from the ongoing treatment, but I will keep my word and carry out hope,'' she wrote in a column in Chosun Ilbo last year.
Her affection for the English language extended to English dailies, and for the 50th anniversary of The Korea Times in 2000, she spoke about the history and future of the publications, saying that The Korea Times was ``standing on the verge of soaring high into the sky to see the whole world and make it better.''
Despite her illness and busy schedule, Chang also managed to continue writing and published several essays, including ``Walking Through the Forest of Literature,'' ``Birthday'' and ``Blessing.'' Her most recent work ``The Miracle I Lived, The Miracle I Will Live'' (working title) was published Sunday.
``Her voice was always bright and strong, and she took great interest in her surroundings. She was always like a young girl who liked to smile. Although she couldn't use her legs, she refused to receive help from any of us, and she drove her car herself to school. She was charismatic and very serious when it came to teaching her students,'' said Kim Myong-sik, another former managing editor of The Korea Times.
Park added, ``She passed hope to patients and the disabled, and also to students. She would find the warmest stories around us and also stories about people who overcame their difficulties. Personally, I think she was an inspiration to all of us.''