HIGHLIGHTS

  • Living chiefly on U.S. Public Law 480 grain provided through voluntary agencies, the refugees built a sea dike over 1,464 meters long.
  • This first success prompted KIM to plan the much larger Daeduk Self-Support Assimilation Project in late 1961. Largely with hand labor and pushcart railways, 5,175 men, women and children built sea dikes ranging from three to 15 meters high and nearly two kilometers long, linking three small islands with the mainland.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his sturdy, productive leadership of fellow refugees and other landless countrymen in reclaiming for themselves new agricultural land from the sea.”

 CITATION

Few countries have suffered as totally from the ravages of war in modern times as Korea. Among the human casualties were nearly two million refugees who fled from Communist rule in the north seeking greater freedom in South Korea. Subsisting on what they could scavenge and on relief, many of these refugees were farmers and, in the overcrowded peninsula, there was no unoccupied, arable land.

KIM HYUNG SEO, his wife and newborn daughter, during the fighting in 1951 had joined the long trek, arriving eventually in the southwestern coastal region of Cholla Nam Do. Though he found odd jobs, relief food still was needed to supplement his meager earnings. Watching other less fortunate, idle refugees, he resolved to find a way for them to become self-supporting, while relief was available. In the South Korean Government’s policy of allowing refugees to resettle on reclaimed mountain or tidal land, he saw the opportunity.

Born of a farming family on Korea’s west central coast and a teacher by profession, KIM also had learned practical engineering. Near Sachon, he discovered a suitable tide flat and won government permission to reclaim it in cooperation with 106 families from his home district in the north. Living chiefly on U.S. Public Law 480 grain provided through voluntary agencies, the refugees built a sea dike over 1,464 meters long. Upon completion, including two reservoirs, canals and a drainage gate, in December 1961, more than 106 hectares of fertile, reclaimed land were distributed among the participating families.

This first success prompted KIM to plan the much larger Daeduk Self-Support Assimilation Project in late 1961. Largely with hand labor and pushcart railways, 5,175 men, women and children built sea dikes ranging from three to 15 meters high and nearly two kilometers long, linking three small islands with the mainland. To irrigate some 1,000 hectares of land, they dug 48 kilometers of intake canals and 32 kilometers of drainage canals. Freezing rain and snow slowed the work and storms eight times destroyed incomplete dikes. Yet, neat houses, roads and wells were all complete by May 1966, when the reclaimed land was apportioned to the 1,329 families in time for planting their first summer crop.

Fortified by these experiences and helped by the Korean Church World Service, CARE, Catholic Welfare Service, the voluntary agency, CORSO, and the Freedom from Hunger Campaign of New Zealand, the Eighth Army and Operations Mission of the United States, and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, KIM mobilized new groups of refugees and poor farmers to reclaim other tidal land while Daeduk was underway. The largest undertaking of KIM and his Korean Association for Development of Assimilation Projects, known as KADAP, was completed in June 1969, when 2,770 hectares were retrieved from Haechang Bay. Impressed with KIM’s achievements, the Government, meanwhile, has turned to him to complete other reclamation projects that had floundered.

KIM acknowledges that such large-scale construction could be accomplished faster with heavy earthmoving equipment. In Korea, as in much of the developing world, however, the greatest available resource is underemployed manpower. Utilizing “food for work” with detailed engineering and selfless leadership, KIM is mustering this latent resource for national development. For himself, he takes a modest salary as Chairman of KADAP and accepted only a worker’s share of land from the first project at Sachon. On each of the nine other reclamation projects managed by KIM, he has donated the land to which he was entitled by law as project leader to families of veterans and vagrants and to a school foundation for education of the young in the new communities he has helped create.

In electing KIM HYUNG SEO to receive the 1969 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his sturdy, productive leadership of fellow refugees and other landless countrymen in reclaiming for themselves new agricultural land from the sea.

 RESPONSE

In this renowned capital of the Republic of the Philippines, one of our allied nations in the common cause of defending freedom against communist aggression, it is only proper that a humble unknown Korean farmer should take the opportunity of this honor to express his heartfelt thanks to all the people of the Republic of the Philippines for sending their beloved husbands and sons to the battlefields of Korea.

This Award for Public Service is, as you all know, associated with the highest spirit of sacrifice and service for the public good, illustrated by the life and work of one of the world’s greatest leaders, the late President Ramon Magsaysay, in whom your country takes great pride and whom we of Korea, Asia and the whole world admire. You can never imagine how much privilege and honor I feel upon receiving the Award on this inspirational occasion marking the 62nd birth anniversary of that great man of service. This is the most glorious moment that I have had in my life.

I have only done what I considered to be my duty, and will continue to do so. I sincerely believe this Award is far above what I deserve and that it may well be a meaningful impetus for my future endeavor in the service of the public good. More importantly I would rather assume that this Award is not meant for a single person but for all my fellow refugees and all displaced people who have tried hard to stand on their own feet and have combined their efforts to develop their newly settled communities in the spirit of self-help.

At the time I moved to the south with other refugees and found freedom we were confronted with the imminent need for subsistence. We turned our back on the communist tyranny only to find ourselves in the midst of a new enemy that was poverty.

We came to realize that communist aggression is not the only threat to our lives, peace and security. An even greater threat comes from ignorance, poverty and disease. We have fully realized that where these major social evils exist communism can prevail and we can enjoy neither genuine freedom nor peace and prosperity. All through the dark days in a warstricken land we never gave up hope but struggled against every obstacle and hardship. We all pooled our utmost energies to become self-reliant so that we might regain our God-given right to lead a decent human life.

At this moment I recall to my mind the great spirit of dedicated service of the late President Ramon Magsaysay who devoted his life to the security and welfare of his people. He inspired all freedom-loving people with his revered personality and through his admirable performance as a model of a democratic citizen. He was a cogent symbol of the fact of life that nothing is impossible where there is a will.

My heart is overwhelmed by a strong feeling that this Award for Public Service is an indelible mark of the truth that perseverance and cooperation for the good of society and the country can bring about a miracle in human life. This truth was also realized by the late President Ramon Magsaysay. I deeply appreciate the decision of the Trustees of the Foundation to confer the Award for Public Service on me.

I also wish to express my appreciation to the Government of the Republic of Korea, international organizations and foreign voluntary agencies without whose assistance our self-help efforts would not have been successful.

Finally, I pray that God bless the People of the Republic of the Philippines with eternal peace and prosperity.

 BIOGRAPHY

The building of KIM HYUNG SEO’s sturdy character began at Yangam-Ri, Ongjin-Eup, Ongjin-Gun of Hwanghae-Do (ri, eup, gun and do mean village, urban township, county and province, respectively) on the west coast of central Korea, where he was born on October 25, 1909. The youngest of three sons of a farming family, he learned at home to do his share of work and also help others. Upon completion of his elementary schooling at Ongjin-Eup in 1924 he entered Pyongyang Middle School. Graduating five years later he enrolled at Pyongyang Normal School where his acceptance was a cause for family celebration. The ambition to be a teacher had been instilled in him from childhood by his parents who regarded it as the “noblest aim.”

Earning a teaching certificate in one year because of his five years of middle school, KIM was appointed in April 1930 to Daekwang Public Primary School. For the next eight years he pursued his chosen profession with diligence but without the satisfaction he had expected. A growing desire to participate directly in rural community development led him in June 1938 to take employment in the Public Works Section, Bureau of Industry, of the Pyongyangnam-Do Government. Working first as an administrative assistant and then as supervisor of road construction, he gained the practical knowledge of engineering that would enable him later to help his fellow refugees.

In May 1943 KIM was conscripted into the Japanese Army as the lowest grade civilian employee and forcibly taken to China and subsequently to Malaya and Indonesia. After the Japanese surrender in August 1945 he was sent to Singapore, the collection point for all Korean conscriptees in the area. While there he became an active member of the Korean Association Abroad which was organized to help conscriptees and represent them to the Allied authorities. He was finally repatriated in March 1946. However, the peace and reunion the KIM family celebrated was to be shortlived.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)