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The diving doctorDr. Yang Seung Chul, Seogwipo pediatrician and scuba enthusiast
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승인 2011.06.24  18:01:22
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▲ Top, Dr. Yang Seung Chul in his pediatric clinic. Photos courtesy Yang Seung Chul

Whether it be treating the youth of Seogwipo or exploring the underwater depths of Jeju, Dr. Yang Seung Chul somehow finds time for it all. The Jeju doctor is best known for being the owner of the private practice, Dr. Yang’s Pediatric Clinic, in Seogwipo, but when he is not practicing medicine, he is likely to be found in the ocean. Over the past few years, Dr. Yang has also made a name for himself with his involvement in several scuba and ocean conservation groups around the island. I sat down with Dr. Yang to find out more about his work and how he successfully balances his two passions.

Growing up, did you always want to be a doctor? When did it become your dream?
Yes of course. When I was a student in elementary school it was my dream.

Why did you choose pediatrics?
I went into pediatrics because I love babies and working with children.

Tell me about your journey to becoming a doctor.
I grew up on Jeju, but I went to Seoul for medical college for six years, and then intern and resident training for five years. In 2006, I opened my practice in Seogwipo.

Why did you choose to open your practice in Seogwipo?
For military duty, I was deployed at the Seogwipo Medical Hospital. After three years of duty, I loved Seogwipo’s beautiful nature and the trusting patients and their parents.

▲ Yang diving off the coast of Seogwipo. Photos courtesy Yang Seung Chul

Why did you decide to open your own practice instead of working in a public hospital? What influenced you?
Because I didn’t like interference from others and working in a public hospital was too demanding. I felt like the pay was not enough.

What is the overall state of medical care on the island?
During the last 10 years, the state of medical care on the island has improved a lot, but some rare cases have to be transported to Seoul.

Can you talk a little about the overall health of Jeju people?
Two causes of health problems today are diet and lack of exercise. People eat too much meat today. One-hundred years ago, the island did not have access to animals such as pigs and chicken. People ate mainly vegetables or more healthy meat such as fish. They also worked very hard. Because of the healthy diet and exercise, many people stayed healthy and lived to a very old age.

What are some of the most common cases you treat? Are any of those cases specific to Jeju or relatively high in Jeju compared to the mainland?
The most common cases are upper respiratory infection, acute otitis media, and acute gastroenteritis. As for Jeju cases, I see a lot of patients with allergic rhinitis and shigellosis.

What are the factors for these Jeju cases? i.e. diet, ancestors, etc.
Japanese cedar is the most common tree for protection against the wind and shigellosis is caused by living in close proximity or contact with large groups of people.

What are some of the difficulties you face in practicing medicine on the island?
The laboratory facilities are restrictive and, because of this, more time is required for lab results. We often have to send medical tests to labs in Seoul and then we have to wait for the results. The waiting time can be difficult and frustrating.

With so many visitors to the island, do you find yourself treating a lot of tourists? Do problems ever arise when treating tourists?
Yes of course. When I examine foreigners, the language barrier is the most important.

As you look to the future, do you have any major concerns for the state of medical care on the island?
For the increasing foreign tourists, doctors in Jeju must study English and other foreign languages.

Any future goals of expanding your practice? Plans for the future in general?
By an online Q&A, I will provide medical service over the Internet. I also want to improve the language abilities of the staff so that we can easily treat more foreigners.

With so many patients do you have much time away from work? How do you spend that time?
I have a little time on weekdays but I have more time on the weekends. On weekdays I study English and take care of my aquariums. On weekends, I enjoy scuba diving or spending time with my family.

What are some of your hobbies? Your interests?
I really like scuba diving. I am very interested in fish and coral. I maintain several aquariums with many different varieties of fish and coral in my home and office.

How did you become interested in scuba diving?
Because I had heard so much about the fish and coral reefs of Jeju that I wanted to see them up close.

Can you tell me more about some of the diving groups you are involved in?
I am involved in the Jeju Underwater Photo Club, the Jeju Mulsamo (mulsamo means the group of loving water), and In the Sea Korea. All of these groups are focused around our passion for scuba diving and maintaining the state of fish and coral in the waters around Jeju.

What are some of your favorite dive spots on the island? How do these dive spots compare to other spots in Asia?
They are Munseom, Beomseom, and Oedolgae Point. Many other spots in Asia are famous and beautiful, but diving in Jeju is much more beautiful and fantastic, especially Munseom point. It is one of the top 10 most famous diving spots in the world.

This article has been edited for clarity and content — Ed.


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