NCD Pays Tribute to Dr. Young Woo Kang

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Former NCD Member Passed Away February 23


WASHINGTON -- The National Council on Disability (NCD) honors the legacy of Dr. Young Woo Kang, former member of NCD and international disability rights pioneer who died of cancer Thursday, February 23, at the age of 68.

Appointed to NCD by President Bush in 2002, the U.S. Senate confirmed Dr. Kang's nomination twice. During his six-year tenure at the Council, Dr. Kang worked on issues ranging from the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency planning to cultural differences and attitudes in empowering people with disabilities.

"Members and staff of the National Council on Disability are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Kang," said Dongwoo J. Pak, who succeeded Dr. Kang on the Council in 2010. "His pioneering spirit and willingness to dismantle barriers both physical and societal brought about significant improvements in the lives of people with disabilities worldwide. Dr. Kang's outstanding contributions, achievements, and legacy remain a template for a life lived to its potential. We greatly appreciate and honor both his example and his years of service." 

Once denied the opportunity to take the college entrance exam in his native South Korea, Dr. Kang -- who lost his eyesight at the age of 14 -- challenged the system and placed 10th among hundreds of applicants to South Korea's prestigious Yonsei University. He eventually graduated Yonsei with highest honors.

Later, Dr. Kang successfully pressured the Korean Ministry of Education to change its policy that prevented people with disabilities from studying abroad. With support of a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship and additional scholarships from the University of Pittsburgh, Kang became the first blind Korean to earn a Ph.D. in 1976. 

Determined to help people with disabilities everywhere, Dr. Kang became an internationally recognized disability rights advocate, author, and speaker.  His autobiography "A Light in My Heart" was translated into seven languages, made into a U.S. Library of Congress talking book, and was the basis for television and motion picture movies in South Korea.

Dr. Kang earned many honors and awards during his lifetime, including an Honorary Doctorate in Literature from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea, the Rotary Foundation's Distinguished Service Award, and the Human Rights Award from Fairfax County (Virginia) Human Rights Commission.

He is survived by his wife, Kyoung Sook Kang; his son Paul Kang, an ophthalmologist at Eye Doctors of Washington and past President of the Washington DC Metropolitan Ophthalmological Society; his son Christopher Kang, Senior Counsel to President Barack Obama; and four grandchildren.