The Rachel Lee Jung-Lim Award
December 21, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the death of Rachel Lee Jung-Lim. Rachel was a gentle soul with a warm smile and a big heart. Her goals in life were typical of a 21st century woman family, education, work, friends. Sadly, the happenstance of her childhood derailed all her plans. The toxic exposures she experienced as a young girl living near an asbestos factory in South Korea led to her contracting the asbestos cancer mesothelioma when she was just 39 years old.1
The devastation caused by that diagnosis can truly only be understood by others who have been similarly affected. Some people retreat into a shell, others opt for the quiet life, surrounded by familiar faces in familiar surroundings. Rachel did not choose either of those options: she decided instead that she would speak out wherever she could about the deadly use of asbestos and she did. She participated in events in Korea, Japan, Canada, India and Indonesia. On each occasion she spoke from the heart about how asbestos had stolen her life. Her mantra was no more asbestos, no more asbestos victims, and so she pleaded with consumers, politicians and businessmen to stop the use of asbestos. Whilst in Canada for the Asian Solidarity Mission to Quebec (2010),2 one Canadian called her a fraud saying Rachel looked too well to be terminally ill. That was one year before she died.
Rachel's memory remains clear and bright to all those who knew her or heard her speak. Tomorrow, on December 21st, six organizations which belong to the Asian Ban Asbestos Network will host a program, entitled 2012 Victim's Voice for Environmental Justice, in Seoul, during which the first Rachel Lee Jung-Lim Award will be presented.3 The recipient of this award is the Premier of Quebec Pauline Marois, who made good on her 2012 election promise to revoke a $58 million government loan to the asbestos industry. By so doing, she ensured that plans to generate 25 more years of Quebec asbestos exports would fail and that the industry which had caused so much devastation in Canada and abroad would be shut down.
The wording on the plaque sent to Premier Marois says: We know that prevention is the only cure for asbestos-related diseases, so the cessation of asbestos mining in Canada is a HUGE STEP forward.
(Click here for enlarged image.)
I am in no doubt that Rachel would have been pleased with this choice.
December 20, 2012
1Kazan-Allen L. In Appreciation of Rachel Lee. December 22, 2011.
3 These organizations are: the Asian Citizen's Center for Environment and Health, the School of Public Health, Seoul National University, Ban Asbestos Network Korea, Asia Monitor Research Center, International Ban Asbestos Secretariat, RightOnCanada.ca.