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WHO chief dies after emergency surgery on brain

WHO chief dies after emergency surgery on brain

At the opening of the 59th annual World Health Assembly yesterday, a shocking announcement on the passing of World Health Organization Director General Lee Jong-wok was made.
Lee, who spearheaded the WHO's successive battles against SARS and bird flu, died yesterday after undergoing emergency surgery for a blood clot in his brain, officials said. He was 61.
Lee died at 7:43 a.m. (local time) yesterday morning, said a WHO statement. Anders Nordstrom of Sweden, whom Lee had named to take over in an emergency, will serve as acting director-general.
A WHO statement said Lee had been in hospital since he fell ill Saturday afternoon while attending an official function, after which he underwent surgery to remove the blood clot.
"I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Dr. Lee," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a statement. "This sudden loss of a leader, colleague and friend is truly devastating."
Upon hearing the news of Lee's death, Taiwan's Department of Health Minister Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) expressed his utmost condolences to Lee's family and offered his appreciation for the help Lee has rendered to Taiwan.
"I am very sorry to hear the news, and would like to express my gratitude for his help over the past few years," said Hou.
Deputy Foreign Affair Minister Michael Kau (高英茂) also extended his condolences and said Lee had a difficult role in trying to strike a balance between helping Taiwan and adhering to the "one-China" policy.
"Dr. Lee had a positive influence in facilitating the participation of Taiwan in many WHO-sponsored meetings. It is undeniable that if it was not for the interference of China, Taiwan would have enjoyed even more participation over the last two years," said Kau.
Kau also said he does not think Lee's passing would result in any major WHO policy shift but expressed his hope that Lee's successor would continue to carry on the "No Policy" policy and increase Taiwan's attendance in WHO technical meetings.
Lee, who took over as director-general of WHO in 2003 as the agency battled the SARS outbreak in Asia, worked for WHO for 23 years, including time served in regional posts. He was the first South Korean to head a U.N. agency, after winning praise for his low-key but efficient management style as head of the agency's tuberculosis program.
Time magazine named Lee one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2004.


Updated : 2021-10-19 11:45 GMT+08:00