South Korean high schooler “becomes an angel,” giving the gift of life to others

Posted on : 2016-01-28 17:50 KST Modified on : 2016-01-28 17:50 KST
After being killed in a car accident while studying abroad in the US, Kim Yu-na’s parents decided to donate her organs, helping 27 other people
Kim Yu-na
Kim Yu-na

Kim Yu-na was a student learning English and Spanish in the hopes of becoming a flight attendant. Now the 19-year-old graduate of Ara Middle School in Jeju is an angel, having granted the gift of life to 27 people around the world.

Kim arrived at the Tri-City Christian Academy in Chandler, Arizona in May 2014 with high hopes for her overseas study. On Jan. 21, she suffered a traffic accident when a car driven by her university student cousin sped through an intersection and collided with another vehicle. The cousin and Kim’s 17-year-old younger sister, also an exchange student, suffered fractures to their legs from the deploying airbags. Kim, who had been sitting in the back seat, was declared brain dead three days later at 2:43 am on Jan. 24.

Kim’s parents, 50-year-old Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum Jeju president Kim Je-bak and 45-year-old Lee Seon-gyeong, boarded a plane after hearing the doctors had concluded during surgery that their daughter had no chance of survival. Lee kept thinking of article she had read on the airplane about organ donation. A devout Catholic, Lee decided that organ donation would be a way of bringing other people back to life - and thus bringing her daughter back in a way. Kim’s father, also a Catholic, was the first to mention the idea, and the parents made the decision to do it.

On Jan. 26, seven people received transplants of Kim Yu-na’s heart and other organs. Skin and other tissues were donated to 20 others.

Meanwhile, memorial messages have continued to go up on a Facebook page set up by fellow Ara Middle School graduates after hearing news of her accident.

“She was such a cheerful and kind person. I can’t believe that she had a car accident in the US, or that she gave other people life in this way,” wrote a 19-year-old student in his second year of high school.

Kim’s aunt, 42-year-old Lee Su-jeong, said, “I think this happened so she could become an angel.”

Kim’s family members plan to have her cremated in the US before holding a funeral mass at a Jeju City cathedral on Feb. 6 with friends and relatives in attendance.

By Huh Ho-joon, Jeju correspondent

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