HIGHLIGHTS

  • The dream of rejuvenating Korean rural life that led KIM to Canaan began in his youth.
  • Guided by an idea and faith, KIM has shown that rural material circumstances in Asia, even when meager, can, with sustained work, be shaped for the better.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his example of Christian principles practically applied to improve agriculture and imbue rural life with new joy and dignity.”

 CITATION

“Whangsan,” or “Wasted Hill,” was the local name for the inhospitable three and one-half hectare plot outside Seoul that KIM YONG-KI and his family chose as their challenge 11 years ago. There, with “one hand on the bible and a hoe in the other,” KIM provided for his family and built a productive farm and school for farmers. Today the transformed hill is respectfully called “Canaan.”

For the war-scarred ancient land of Korea and some three-fourths of its citizens who are farmers, he has shown that the most basic and enlightened of skills applied with work and love for the soil bring consequential material returns. Reaching far beyond agriculture, he has demonstrated the value of erecting simple houses of improved design, adopting a cheaper and more healthful diet, wearing more practical clothes and shunning wasteful, customary social demands. Within this context he has tested his ideas, established a nondenominational Christian Church and written his book, The Way To a True Living.

KIM and his family are the core faculty of the Canaan Farmer’s School, working from four in the morning until 10 in the evening. Specialists from outside are invited as visiting lecturers. In this unique work-study institution 1,893 men and women have been trained over the past four years. They have learned to raise field crops, vegetables, fruit trees, strawberries, bees, rabbits, goats, cattle and much else. More notable have been the feeling of pride in working the soil and producing food, and the sense of nearness to God and nature that this allows; these they have carried with them to other villages.

The dream of rejuvenating Korean rural life that led KIM to Canaan began in his youth. He was born in 1912 in Yangjoo County, Kyunggi Province, into a family of farmers. Formative influences were his study of the Confucian classics and a deep commitment to Christianity. In his twenties he built a model village in Bongan and became perhaps the best sweet potato farmer in Korea. This effort he left to a friend to manage and, in 1945, founded a new community on waste land in Koyang County, complete with a school and church. In 1950 KIM moved to Yongin County where he led in creation of the Farmer’s Evangelical Folk High School. After five years he could leave this institution to the management of associates and move on to found the Canaan farm and school.

Guided by an idea and faith, KIM has shown that rural material circumstances in Asia, even when meager, can, with sustained work, be shaped for the better. In his scheme, the spiritual awakening of farmers, so that song becomes an intimate and natural expression of their zest, is crucial.

In electing KIM YONG-KI to receive the 1966 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his example of Christian principles practically applied to improve agriculture and imbue rural life with new joy and dignity.

 RESPONSE

I wish to express my deep gratitude for the honor given to me to be present at this meaningful ceremony today. And I have to thank God who enabled me to have this honor.

Since God created the world, He has been working continuously to utilize all creatures, to control them in their natural order, so that they might have a good society. First, He created Adam and Eve and blessed them to be upright before Him and bear children and prosper. He put them in the Garden of Eden giving them their own work to do on the earth and made them a good family. Ever since that time, numberless people have come on earth and have gone to the eternal world according to the plan of God. Only a few could live over a hundred years. But during their short lifetime, many disobeyed the will of God and lived in sin. Such people provoked the anger of God. They only inflicted harm on the people and brought bad luck to their own nation. Finally they brought unhappiness on themselves. They made a history to be ashamed of by man and God. They lived a demoralized life out of crooked conscience. In time, they died and went to the unknown world leaving harm to the people after them.

On the other hand, ever since history began there have been some people who shine like morning stars in the dark world. They have been the suns to the people who have lived in despair. They could give hope, light and joy to the aimless people. They could glorify God, the Creator. They could go to the true eternal world after their death. Certainly there have been such noble characters among us.

As we all know, the late President Magsaysay was born in 1907 in the Philippines, not a big country, which belongs to Asia. He gave new strength and new hope to the Filipinos when they were living in deep agony. He laid the firm ground of a happy nation. The world still admires his courage, wisdom and devotion. He could set an example to the world by starting a brilliant history. But alas! He was taken from us and has gone to the eternal kingdom by the calling of the Creator. But I have no doubt that his unselfish love for his nation will never fade without bearing good fruit in the course of time.

Korea belongs to the same East as the Philippines. We have a long history, beautiful land, agreeable weather, and good people. Unfortunately, for some time we were oppressed by the unrighteous neighbor country, and we have not had much chance to establish a prosperous country. We all regret some of our past historical facts. However, through the grace of God we were delivered from the hands of the enemy, and now we are making some progress though our pace is tedious. I am deeply impressed by this occasion to be awarded this prize in this kind of historical situation. I realize its significance.

I was born in a good Christian family. I have tried my best to imitate the best lives of my forefathers in religion, life and patriotism. I found my mission in farming, and I can say without scruple that I worked for the progress of the welfare of farmers which would promote the welfare of the whole nation. But comparing my insignificant life to the famed prize I am getting I am ashamed of myself. This prize is much valued in the world. Realizing that such a prize was awarded to a man like me I begin to feel that we are now overpassing the boundaries of nationalism. We are in one mind and in one purpose to realize a bright society in a corner of the world. We are in a great movement to liberate the people from the slavery of horror and disorder and lead them to a peaceful world. We are needed to be the salt and light of the earth for such a noble enterprise. This should be the way to glorify God, the Creator. I am reconfirming my resolution to follow the way already shown by our forefathers and devote my life to this purpose, though it be of small account.

In closing, I want to thank the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, the Philippine people and all of the friends of my country who helped me to have this honor today.

 BIOGRAPHY

Farmer-educator and philosopher, KIM YONG-KI has ardently demonstrated to his fellow Korean farmers that life, even on a meager plot of poor land, can be joyful and productive. His mission has been to bring dynamic spiritual and material change to the rural areas of his country.

KIM YONG-KI was born on September 5, 1908 at Nungnai-ri, Wabu-myun, a rural community of Yangjoo County, Kyoungi Province, in the central area of the Korean Peninsula. His parents, Kim Choon Kyo and Kim Kong Yoon, were farmers of modest circumstances. Simple in life style but well read, his father had attended a Presbyterian school and his mother was a devout, practical Christian. Taught to regard hard work as a virtue, the five sons, of whom YONC-KI was the fourth, began as small boys to help their parents in the fields.

At the age of seven, YONG-KI was enrolled in the village school in Yangjoo County where the curriculum consisted of “Chinese learning.” Here the boy was for six years an avid student of the Chinese classics. From 1921 to 1925 he continued the study of Chinese classics at home while helping on the family farm. By 1925 he had saved enough money to enter the private Kwangdong Middle School in Yangjoo County where, for his secondary education, he specialized in farming. Upon graduation in 1929 he visited China, remaining for nearly a year to observe and study Chinese philosophy which had greatly influenced Korean culture.

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