By Lee Kyung-sik
Founder-Chairman Chung Chai-won of Dr. Chung’s Food proved his words to be right that the soy bean milk of his company helped in the promotion of good health and longevity of man. He had lived 100 years when he passed away on Oct. 9, 2017.
This writer first met the late Dr. Chung about 10 years ago for an interview at his home in Pyeongchang-dong in northeastern Seoul.
“Bean has many important ingredients that help human health and I recommend you take beans if you want to stay in good health and live long,” said Dr. Chung at an interview with The Korea Post, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean on- and off-line newspapers and magazines at his residence in Pyongchang-dong in northwestern Seoul.
Dr. Chung had an uncompromising belief in the merits of beans and told this writer to follow his suit to stay in good health. Dr. Chung lived 100 years and this writer has no serious problem following his advice for the past 86 years, “Drink soybean bean milk!”
Dr. Chung, the founder and honorary chairman of Dr. Chung's Food, who developed the nation's first soymilk, Vegemil, died but continues to live in the minds of many people in Korea and around the world for his advice, “Take soy beans as much as you can to stay in good health and live long.”
Chung pioneered Korea's soymilk industry after he developed Vegemil in 1966 with the purpose of providing proper nutrition for children who were lactose intolerant. Children with lactose intolerance cannot digest lactose in breast and processed milk.
Born in 1917 in a rural area in South Hwanghae Province in North Korea, Chung started his career as a pediatrician at Myeong-dong St. Mary's Hospital in Seoul.
A week after he began his work, a baby with symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting was brought to his hospital. Although Chung did his best, the baby died, and there were even more children who died of mysterious malnutrition and complications.
To find the cause of their deaths, Chung decided to study abroad.
After five years of study at London Graduate School and the University of California San Francisco Medical Center, he realized the dead babies were suffering from lactose intolerance. Gist of his own words on the merits of beans:
When I first became a doctor in 1937, my worry for children who suffered from milk allergies and lactose intolerance started with a sense of duty to me as a doctor.
My eyes turned to lag nutrients and medical facility. As I had an opportunity to attend the 1st Asia Pediatric International Conference in Singapore in 1958, it became a fuse to my effort to learn advanced technology in the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan for six years in my later years.
In 1964, I finally found the name of disease and causes of lactose intolerance, and realized that it occurred to the children who were unable to digest lactose which was included in the breast milk.
These children needed to be fed nutritional substitute that did not include lactose. So the study of substitute using soy bean which contained and balanced the three nutrients without containing lactose.
For two years, I conducted animal feeding tests using soymilk made with ground soybean, and thereafter, I paved the way for Vegemil baby food through steady clinical studies.
Since 1968, we produced and supplied “Vegemil” by cottage industry at the pediatric hospital but we couldn’t meet the demand. So we built a factory in Singal in Gyeonggi Province equipped with a supply production scale of some 500,000 bottles a day. However, it still wasn’t enough even with this kind of manufacturing facility, so we built a large-sale soymilk production facility in Cheongju in 1983 and produced 1.5 million bottles of Vegemil a day.
On the other hand, occurrence of health problems due to westernized and instantized eating habits created an opportunity for another challenge to me, who simply only thought about the lactose intolerance or milk allergies and made a great effort to solve them.
In 1992, the “Vegemil C” was created by mixing fixed ratio of soymilk and milk on the second animal feeding tests at the Dr. Chung’s food central research center, it indicated positive results in energy, endurance, intelligent etc. tests. The research paper was published at the international food conference held in India and favorably reviewed, and it received patents for food invention by US and Austrian government in May, 1995.
As the role of the various components including proteins contained in soybean newly started show, new benefits of soybean components such as protein, fiber, lecithin, trypsin inhibitor etc. are being released, and continuous in-depth studies are being done in Western countries. For past 30 years, I have been advocating the value of the soybeans alone but now I feel grateful that many colleagues are working with me on this, I feel like soybeans met their golden age.
From the 1st Soybean symposium held in Arizona, USA to the 5th Soybean symposium held in Orlando, Florida, USA in September 2003, the title of individually held international Soybean symposiums was constantly emphasizing the benefits that soybeans provide to humans, and about 250 papers has been announced. Perhaps, I believe these global flows shall continue for the time being. All our efforts for the health of people around the world don’t have time to rest. To become a worldwide food company, I believe it is our duty to make endless efforts and develop better products for the human health, and I’m hoping that will lead to realizing my simple and only dream of world peace.