Kim Gyosin, Teacher

“Put the world map upside down!
 You will realize that Korea is a gateway to the world.”

Kim Gyosin

Great teachers who changed the world

On August 9, 1936, During the Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany,  120 thousand people sat in the stadium to watch a marathon.

They were eager to see who would come in first to claim the gold medal.

Koreans were choked up just by hearing the name “Korea” in the broadcast.

To everyone’s surprise, the marathon gold medalist was a Korean.

Korea was under Japanese colonial rule.

Son Gijeong entered the Olympic Games as Japanese with a Japanese name, Kitei Son.

However, the National Olympic Committee referred to him as a Korean in its official broadcast.

It deeply moved the minds of Koreans, who were suffering under Japanese control.

The great marathoner Son Gijeong made a special request before entering the competition.

“I want to run, while looking at the face of my mentor.”

A national team selection competition for the Berlin Olympics was held in Tokyo, Japan, in November 1935.

Son wanted to run with the support of his mentor Kim Gyosin.

Kim Gyosin drove a car ahead of Son.

Son ran while looking at the reflection of his mentor in the rearview mirror.

“Just the sight of you gives me energy.”

Who is he? 

Kim Gyosin (1901 – 1945)

Teacher and Christian Evangelist during Japanese Occupation

He taught geography and inspired students with his independent spirit.

Imperial Japan tried to make Korean students believe that Korea was incapable of running itself by emphasizing Korea’s geopolitical location.

“Due to its geographical location, Joseon is incapable of running itself.”

“Being a peninsula, Joseon is destined to become a colony of Japan.”

Japan used Korea’s location to justify its colonial rule.

This logic was tainting the independent spirit of the Korean youth and intellectuals.

In response, geography teacher Kim Gyosin organized field trips to educate the students.

He taught students about Korea’s geographical advantages.

“Put the world map upside down! You will realize that Korea is a gateway to the world.”

“The Korean peninsula is not the outskirts of Northeast Asia, but rather its center and heart.”

“If we choose to live hiding, we will always be afraid. On the flip side, we are also at the perfect location to live global.”

Japan continued to use Korea’s geopolitical location to justify its colonial rule.

In 1934, Kim presented an opposite opinion in an article titled “Thoughts on the Geography of Joseon” in his monthly magazine “Seongseo Joseon” (Bible Korea).

“Italy and Greece marked milestones in world history by accomplishing the Greek and Roman Civilizations. They are also located on peninsulas.”

“As the heart of the Mediterranean, Italy built the Roman Empire. Italy is a peninsula country like Joseon.”

“At the height of its powers, Italy could easily control neighboring countries. At its low, it could choose to nap idly. Italy is in the same position as Joseon.”

“Greece created a unique and glorious culture in the 4th and 5th century B.C. It is also a peninsula country.”

“Joseon has no geographical flaw.”

Contrary to Japan’s claim, Kim focused on Korea’s geopolitical advantages.

His perspective inspired Koreans to live independent and make global contributions.

Condolences to the Death of Frogs

– Article from Seongseo Joseon, 1943

I bent over to check on my frog friends in a pond.

Oh, my lord, there are a few dead frogs floating atop the pond!

It must be due to the bitter cold of last winter.

The water in the pond must have frozen to the bottom, causing this tragedy.

I gathered their bodies and buried them.

I saw a few hopping at the base of the pond.

Whew, at least some survived the cold.

He published this article in Seongseo Joseon.

Japan imprisoned Kim, saying that it intended to spread the message of Joseon’s revival.

The magazine was discontinued and its 300 readers were jailed.

Japanese police imprisoned and interrogated them at Seodaemun Prison.

“You guys are the worst kind of problem. You are trying to plant the seed of an independent spirit to lay a foundation for independence, even if it takes 500 years.”

What did Japan try to do by imprisoning Kim Gyosin and his magazine readers?

What Japan was afraid of was the hope that the magazine tried to give to the Korean people.

Kim was confident that Korean people would survive the bitter Japanese rule.

He knew the great potential of the Korean people to change the future of their country and the world.

After one year of imprisonment, Kim was released. He got a job at a fertilizer plant where 5000 Koreans were forced to work in inhumane condition.

Kim tried to improve the living and working conditions of the Korean workers at the plant.

In April 1945, only a few months before Korea’s independence, Kim died of epidemic typhus.

On August 15, 2010, the Korean government awarded him with the Accolade for Founding a Nation.

The Korean peninsula = A shrimp between whales?

An American world history textbook describes Korea as the following.

When you look at Korea on the world map, you can see how the Korean proverbial phrase “a shrimp between whales” came about.

Korea is on a peninsula on the Eastern coast of Asia that is stretched south toward the western tip of Japan.

Due to its location, Korea serves as a bridge between two strong neighbors, China and Japan.

The American textbook describes Korea as if it exists only as an intermediary between the two powerful countries.

This perspective assumes that Korea’s fate is in the hands of foreign countries.

Famous textbook publisher Pearson/Prentice Hall’s “World History: Connection to Today” is also no exception.

“A Japanese invasion in the 1590s devastated the land of Korea. Then in 1636, the Manchus conquered Korea before overrunning Ming China.”

“When the Manchus set up the Qing dynasty in China, Korea became a tributary state.”

“The two invasions left Korea feeling like ‘a shrimp among whales’”

Pilot Guide Productions produces TV programs watched by more than 30 million viewers in over 40 countries.

Its website describes Korea as the following: “Surrounded by the economic and military giants of Japan, China and Russia, the South Korean peninsula has long been a ‘shrimp between whales.’ … Today, it is a significant shrimp.”

Korea is described as a shrimp among whales in many sources around the world.

It is consistent with what Japan spread to the world to justify its colonial rule of Korea.

Japan didn’t perceive its colonial rule as a war crime.

The result of Japan’s propaganda still remains in world history textbooks around the world.

It is time to reject Japan’s imperialist perspective and follow Kim Gyosin’s inspiring dream.

Let’s change distorted information about Korea.

Korea is NOT a shrimp between whales.

It is a country like an ocean that embraces whales.

Korea is NOT the outskirts of Northeast Asia.

It is the heart of Northeast Asia.

Korea is a gateway to Northeast Asia.

VANK is dedicated to following in the footsteps of freedom fighter, Kim Gyosin.

We will make Korea the center of Asia and a gateway to Northeast Asia.

Korea is a country that shares friendships and dreams with people around the world.

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