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South Korea’s first lady brings hope to ill boy

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Kim Keon-hee, First Lady of the Republic of Korea, holds 14-year-old Cambodian Rotha, who suffers a congenital heart condition, during a visit to his home in Phnom Penh on November 12. YONHAP NEWS AGENCY

South Korea’s first lady brings hope to ill boy

South Korea’s first lady Kim Keon-hee – wife of current president of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol – met with a 14-year-boy with congenital heart disease during her trip to the Kingdom for the ASEAN Summit.

After their meeting it was announced that the boy may go to South Korea soon for treatment if he is medically fit for travel, with Kim paying for all of the expenses.

Aok Rotha, the boy in question, is from a family with 12 siblings whose father died just after Rotha was born. He met with Kim on November 12 as she accompanied her politician husband while he attended the ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Cambodia.

Meeting with Rotha at his home, Kim encouraged his family and assured them that she would look for the best medical team to treat his condition available in South Korea.

“You can beat it, right? Get well and let’s meet in South Korea. There is certainly hope. Please don’t give up under any circumstances and keep going,” Yonhap News quoted Kim as saying.

Rotha has congenital heart disease and made headlines earlier in life when he was the first person in Cambodia to successfully receive a heart transplant in 2018 at Hebron Medical Center. However, due to his family’s poverty they were unable to continue with the necessary follow-up visits and now he needs further treatment to make up for that lapse.

Aok Nara, the brother of Rotha, told The Post that he was happy about Kim’s visit and her offer of medical assistance because his family can’t afford to pay for any of it and are very concerned for his health.

“My youngest brother wants to attend school, but his condition does not allow him to go to school. He once went to school for a month, but due to his condition he could not keep going. But every day, he just wants to go to school like the others do.

“The help of Kim Keon-hee will help my youngest brother achieve 100 per cent recovery. My brother will be sent over there soon we hope. I am very happy. Rotha has stayed with me since birth and his condition is challenging. I wanted to continue his medical treatment, but so far I could not afford it. His mother is senile now, so it is up to me and my wife to raise him,” he said.

Not everyone was happy about Kim’s visit with Rotha or her generous offers to him, however. Back in South Korea, an opposition lawmaker called Kim’s visit a “choreographed” attempt to generate good PR by acting charitably in such a public fashion.

Representative Kim Yong-min of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) wrote on Facebook that “I hope you [Kim] do away with the wickedness of using people in pain [Rotha] as decorations.”

The ruling People Power Party that backs Kim’s husband as president were quick to respond to the attacks.

“A first lady who visits neighbours in difficult situations and volunteers to help them is a thousand times better than one who goes around acting like a tourist,” the party’s statement said.

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