Brtiain's Philharmonia performs at S.Korean leper colony

6th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's famed Philharmonia Orchestra has performed at a South Korean leper colony in an attempt to break down lingering prejudice against victims of the disease, organisers said Thursday.

They hailed the success of Wednesday's concert conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy on Sorok Island, a colony established in 1916 off the south coast.

"It was so great a success," said Park Ji-Eun, director of the Lady R Foundation, a London-based charity that organised the event.

"Those with Hansen's disease are in great mental, rather than physical, pain due to their long enforced isolation," Park told AFP, saying one sufferer in his 70s shed tears during the performance.

The event drew as many as 500 people including 200 South Korean victims of Hansen's disease and local pop singer Cho Yong-Pil.

Park said she hoped the event will erode lingering prejudice against victims of Hansen's disease.

The ailment, also known is leprosy, is a bacterial disease that can be cured with a sustained course of antibiotics but can cause deformations if untreated.

For almost five decades after its foundation in 1916, the island was a virtual prison camp for victims forcibly ferried there from all over Korea. Confinement and maltreatment continued until 1963.

"Great music has the power to transform all our lives and never more so than to individuals experiencing mental and physical suffering," Philharmonia managing director David Whelton said in a message on the foundation's website.

The Lady R Foundation was established in 2009 by the widow of British media mogul Viscount Rothermere to bring "comfort and relief to the forgotten, the overlooked and the stigmatised in today's society".

Lady Rothermere has visited Sorok island multiple times since 2004. She is also a trustee of the Philharmonia Orchestra.

© 2010 AFP

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