While the years may dim recall of recent events, we all carry through life
recollections of our earliest learning. Rare is the individual not
conditioned in mature decisions by an indelible childhood incident, remark
by an elder or remembered phrase of advice. On the open, absorptive child's
mind is etched so much more than we usually recognize as consequential. At
the root of many social ills is the frequent failure to appreciate how
determinative are these first lessons of a child's life.
In its children each civilization sows the seeds that in time make the
national ethos. Especially among the newly independent nations there is a
great need for children's literature that frees them of attitudes,
prejudices and outdated values detrimental to growth as mature citizens who
must shape the future of their culture. Their folk histories and legends are
rich in lore of which creative writers can make splendid traditions.
YOON SUK-JOONG was born in 1911, one year after Korea became a Japanese
colony, and grew up in the turbulent era of struggle for national identity.
Among his enduring early memories was the March 1, 1919 demonstration that
provided leadership for the modern independence movement. Preservation and
enhancement of Korean culture was their first concern and became YOON'S
inspiration. At the age of 12 he helped organize the "Flower Garden Club" as
a reading circle. For publication in the club's magazine he wrote lyrics for
familiar tunes so they could sing in the Korean language. "A Flowing
Stream," "A Half-Moon in the Day Sky" and "Eat Hot Pepper and Whirl" are
songs still sung by children today.
Among the musically gifted Koreans, composers soon began writing music for
other of YOON'S poems. They became a popular vehicle for cementing national
aspirations and values. With the surrender of Japan at the end of World War
II, Korea became independent, though divided. Korean now became the language
of education, rather than Japanese which formerly had been required in all
schools. In the ensuing cultural renaissance, YOON'S songs increasingly made
children's lives gayer and cultivated their ability to observe and think.
His works benefiting children are legion: reading, singing and citizenship
clubs; orchestras; children's and mothers' essay, verse and song contests; a
children's magazine; school songs requested by remote institutions, and
books of songs and verse for all elementary grades. He founded and became
president of Saesakhoe, the "New Bud Society," a children's welfare
organization. Amidst the terrible trauma of the Korean War, when so much of
the "land of the morning calm" was devastated, his poems and songs that
young people had learned became a national asset.
Convinced that what children hear and read is at least as important as the
clothes they wear and food they eat, YOON has broadened his writings to
include stories of people and leaders around the world. From him a new
generation of young Koreans is gaining an invaluable awareness of the
increasingly interdependent world in which we all must live.
In electing YOON SUK JOONG to receive the 1978 Ramon Magsaysay Award for
Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of
Trustees recognizes his more than 1,000 poems and songs that over 40 years
have fostered joyful, positive values among Korean children.