Actress Lee Young-ae has quietly picked up the huge hospital bill of a Taiwanese tourist who gave birth prematurely on her holiday to Seoul in February.
According to Taiwanese website Sina.com, Lee paid a visit to International St. Mary's Hospital in the western port city of Incheon on Sunday and met the mother and baby.
The Taiwanese tourist, who is a fan of Korean TV series, slipped on the bathroom floor of her Seoul hotel room. She was seven months pregnant at the time and ended up giving birth prematurely. The baby weighed just 1 kg and had to be kept in an incubator for four months. The baby also required two operations to treat liver and gall bladder problems.
The hospital fee amounted to a staggering W80 million (US$1=W1,012) since the woman was not eligible for state medical coverage here.
The story spread through Taiwan and even led to a TV program about her situation. Some Taiwanese media reported that the woman was unable to leave Korea due to her costly hospital bills, sparking anger in Taiwan and even triggering a boycott of Korean products.
Lee learned about the woman's ordeal from a friend in Taiwan last month and rolled up her sleeves to help her. The actress not only picked up the entire medical tab but looked for another hospital that could offer the best treatment for the infant.
And after the treatment had ended, Lee paid a visit to the hospital and gave gifts to the mother and child. Taiwanese media learned about Lee's good deed but she turned down requests for interviews.
The woman and her baby flew back to Taiwan a day after they met the actress.
Lee's attorney said she did not want others to find out about it. "I heard that her gesture was reported in the Taiwanese media and had a positive impact in quelling anti-Korean sentiment there," the attorney said.
The mother said in an interview, "I thought we can see stars like Lee Young-ae only on TV, but she ended up saving my baby's life. It's like a miracle!"