Upon receiving the 1980 Ramon Magsaysay Award, I would like to begin by expressing my
wholehearted appreciation for this most honored Award; and on this 73rd birthday
anniversary of the late Philippine President, I wish to pay my highest respects to the
memory of him who was the guardian of freedom and justice for this and other parts of the
My modest campaign for the nationwide reading movement for Korean farmers and fishermen,
which the Magsaysay Award recognizes, dates back about 30 years. At that time Korean
farmers and fishermen had little opportunity to read books. The few public libraries which
were available were in cities. Books were the exclusive possession of the privileged elite
of the society.
The people, especially farmers and fishermen, had to rely completely on their traditional
way of thinking and life. My purpose in establishing village mini-libraries was to enable
them to learn for themselves through books and to improve their way of thinking and life
through the knowledge thus acquired.
My idea in establishing the mini-libraries was to provide small but easy-of-access reading
facilities for farmers and fishermen. After I started this movement it grew rapidly with
support from various segments of society. The movement now has the strong support of the
Today mini-libraries have been established in over 34,000 villages, which represent 95
percent of all the villages of Korea. Villagers themselves now operate established
libraries without outside help.
As a result of their consciousness of their need for knowledge and information from books
in this rapidly changing social situation, villagers have begun to acquire books by
themselves. Although the number of books each mini-library has collected on its own is
small so far, the people's understanding of the value of books has grown substantially.
I firmly believe that for those whose formal education is limited, as is the case with
farmers and fishermen, the most effective and permanent method of self-education is
voluntarily to read books. In most' developing countries, however, government investment
in public libraries is grossly inadequate. As a result, the general public is in a pitiful
situation with no systematic channel for obtaining books to meet their desire to read.
In modern society everybody has a right to read and acquire knowledge. This is an inherent
right of a human being in this age. I also firmly believe that only knowledge can liberate
human beings. Recognition of my work by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation convinces me
once again that book reading is the prerequisite for progress of any developing country.