Led popularization of ophthalmology treatment by establishing and operating the Kong Ophthalmology Clinic
Dedicated to rehabilitation movement for visually disabled persons using occupational training such as typing, etc.
Contribution to Hangeul computerization by supporting the development of Hangeul fonts for computers and word processors
Dr. Byung Woo Kong
Director of former Hangeul (Korean alphabet) Cultural Center and former Kong Ophthalmology Clinic
- Academic background
Graduated from Pyeongyang Medical College and passed the examination as medical practitioner held Japanese occupation Governor General of Korea
Research assistant at Kyungsung Medical College and Medical College of Keijo Imperial University (precursor of Seoul National University)
Ph.D. degree in medical science from Nagoya Imperial University of Japan (specialization in ophthalmology)
- Professional career
Establishment and operation of Kong Ophthalmology Clinic
Invention of three-paired format speed Korean typewriter
Development of domestically manufactured contact lens
Establishment and operation of rehabilitation center for the blind
Domestic production of Korean typewriter
Development of Korean-English bilingual typewriter
Development of direct-connection type Hangeul font (for Macintosh)
Establishment of Hangeul Cultural Center
- Awards received
Citation by the President of Korea
Award by Minister of Culture and Public Information
Oesol Cultural Award
Geumgwan Order of Culture Merit of Republic of Korea (posthumous)
Dr. Byung Woo Kong was a Hangeul activist and inventor who pioneered market for the mechanization of the Korean alphabet by leading commercialization of Korean typewriter and, in the era of computer, had profound influence on the computerization of Hangeul. He contributed to the development of Hangeul font and word processor programs. In addition, he is the first Ph.D. degree holder in ophthalmology in Korea and the founder of Kong Ophthalmology Clinic, the first private ophthalmology hospital in Korea, where he pioneered ophthalmology in Korea, thus popularizing ophthalmology treatment. He dedicated his life to the rehabilitation movement for visually disabled persons.
Byung Woo Kong was born as the second child, and the oldest son, of 8 children of Jeong Gyu Kong and Taek Gyu Kim in Byeokdong-gu, Pyeonganbuk-do (now North Korea) on January 24, 1907. After having initially receiving a traditional Korean education at home, he was enrolled into a modern public school at the age of 13. He graduated from Euiju Agriculture and Forestry School in 1922 and then enrolled in the newly established Pyeongyang Medical College in 1924. Upon graduation in 1926, he passed the examination for medical practitioner held Japanese Occupation’s Governor General and acquired a doctor’s license at the age of 19 years. This remarkable achievement drew the attention of the entire country. Byung Woo Kong, in order to further his knowledge in medical science, worked and concentrated on experiments at Kyungsung Medical College and at the Medical College of Keijo Imperial University as a research assistant after 1930. The thesis he wrote based on the results of his research was submitted to Nagoya Imperial University of Japan in 1936 where he then received a Ph.D. degree in medicine. He was the first Korean to acquire Ph.D. degree in ophthalmology.
After Dr. Kong acquired his Ph.D. degree, he opened and managed the Kong Ophthalmology Clinic in Seoul where he practiced medicine as a private practitioner who specialized in ophthalmology. Kong Ophthalmology Clinic made tremendous contributions to the popularization of ophthalmology treatment as the first private ophthalmology hospital in Korea. Dr. Kong helped to improve national health through diversified voluntary services, including free treatment and eyesight recovery operations for visually disabled persons. In addition, Byung Woo Kong established a rehabilitation center for the blind in 1960 to promote self-support and independence for visually disabled persons..
In fact, Byung Woo Kong left even greater and broader achievements in the field of the mechanization of the Korean alphabet. He developed a horizontally written ‘three-paired format’ Korean typewriter (equipped with a pair of keys for each of initial phoneme (medial vowel and final consonant) in 1949. This typewriter was the first practical Korean typewriter in the sense that it was capable of quickly and efficiently typing Hangeul using a modified English typewriter. The rapid increase in demand for typewriters from the military during the Korean War did much to promote this invention. Byung Woo Kong mass produced and sold Korean typewriters based on his prototype, thereby developing a substantial market for the mechanization of Korean alphabet. Although the three-paired format typewriter of Byung Woo Kong was not literally the first Korean typewriter, nor did not have monopoly over the market, it was the best known and most successful of all Korean typewriters that led in the market from the 1950’s to 1970’s. The brand became the standard term applied to all Korean typewriters by the general public until the 1980’s. News that Armistice Agreement ending the Korean War was written with one of Byung Woo Kong’s typewriters fueled his reputation.
Even after the government developed a new ‘four-paired format’ keyboard and declared it as the national standard in 1969, Byung Woo Kong continued to assert that his three-paired format keyboard was superior in that it properly followed the Hangeul structure based on initial phoneme-medial vowel-final consonant. This conflict with the authoritarian government led to his living in the USA in the 1980’s, an opportunity for him to learn about the personal computer (PC) which was just becoming popular in the USA at the time. Dr. Kong would eventually develop the first Hangeul font embodied in Macintosh computer.
Byung Woo Kong returned to Korea in 1988 where he established Hangeul Cultural Center and asserted that the mechanization of the Korean alphabet in the computerization era required that Koreans adopt the input through three-paired format keyboard and the combination type Hangeul code as the principle for input. University students who agreed with his assertion gathered around him and Byung Woo Kong started a movement with them, serving as their sponsor and colleague for reviewing of ideas and also providing venues for research. This effort led to remarkable achievements such as the development of “Arae-A Hangeul (ᄒᆞᆫ글)” by Chan Jin Lee and Rae Kwon Jeong etc. in 1989 as a word processor and development of ‘Gonghan Font’ by Jae Jun Han in 1990 as a Hangeul font.
As illustrated, the programs and fonts, that were developed with the sponsorship of, and participation of, Byung Woo Kong drove forward the mechanization of the Korean alphabet in the era of the personal computer. Accordingly, the positive impact Byung Woo Kong has been engraved deeply in the history of mechanization for Korean alphabet, even after the passing of the era of mechanical typewriter.