My Executive

Pre-accident life? No thanks

HAPPIER NOW: Ms Lee Ji Seon on a Korean talk show; a traffic accident in 2000 left her with severe burns.


    Sep 13, 2013

    Pre-accident life? No thanks

    REFLECTING on the fateful car crash which left her body marred and changed her life completely, Ms Lee Ji Seon is thankful for her life.

    Ms Lee, who wrote the best-selling essay Ji-seon - A Saranghae (Ji-seon - I Love You), appeared on South Korea's SBS talk show, Healing Camp, to share how she coped with a horrific traffic accident that left over 55 per cent of her body burned.

    "That was when I learnt to be grateful for one thing each day. I was thankful for still being able to pick up a spoon, for being able to button my shirt, for having the ability to climb a flight of stairs," the 35-year-old writer said.

    "Finding things to be thankful for has became a habit for me."

    On July 30, 2000, Ms Lee, then a student at Ewha Womans University, left the school library and headed home in her brother Jeong Ggeun's car. Moments later, the siblings were caught up in a seven-way traffic accident caused by a drunken driver.

    Her brother managed to pull her out of the burning vehicle, but not before her face, hands and other parts of her body had sustained third-degree burns.

    The life-threatening injuries forced her to undergo more than 40 operations and partial amputation of eight fingers.

    "My brother struggled after saving me," Ms Lee said. "He attempted to comfort me, but I told him, 'How am I supposed to live like this?' Since then, he has blamed himself."

    Mr Lee, who was also on the show, said he had wondered if he did the right thing by saving his sister, but does not have any doubts about his actions.

    After clawing her way back from the brink of death, Ms Lee went to the United States, where she received two master's degrees: one in rehabilitation counselling at Boston University and the other in social welfare at Columbia University. She is now pursuing a PhD course in social welfare at the University of California, Los Angeles.

    Ms Lee said she would not trade her current life with the one she had before the accident.

    "It may sound silly, but I do not want to go back to the day (before the accident)," she said. "I lost many things but, looking back, I realise that I also gained a lot. I am happier than before the accident."

    She added: "I did not 'suffer' the accident, I met it. That day, I was born again."