Kimm was born in Su Won County near Seoul, Korea in 1940 to a family who
traditionally emphasized the pen and the sword. Due to the family's
genealogy and the great number of physical hardships that his ancestors
had suffered, Dr. Kimm's parents stressed the importance of not just
education but also the rigorous traditional capability to fight and
preserve life. This was the environment and philosophy that has
influenced him throughout his life.
When Dr. Kimm was 5 years old his father sent him to Suh Dang (a private
school) to study 1000 Chinese characters who was considered to be
socially requited of a gentleman's son. Dr. Kimm says that he can still
recall that classroom as if he were there only last week. There were
seven students in his class and his teacher, Chang Haksoon. The
classroom rules were very strict. The students had to sit around the
teacher in a kneeling position on the hard floor all day. Dr. Kimm
recalls that the teacher had a long bamboo smoking pipe that was
fashioned on one end with a brass knob. When the students were not
prepared with their homework, did not know the lesson, did not respond
well or fell asleep in class, the brass knob on the end of the smoking
pipe was used to strike them on their heads. It was not unusual to have
two or three knots on their heads at the end of a bad day.
Dr. Kimm graduated Suh Dang and entered Japanese Grammar School in
February of 1945. This school was better than the private school because
Dr. Kimm had a chair and was not required to sit around the teacher.
Changing schools did not change the discipline requirements. Dr. Kimm's
first grand teacher was a Japanese woman and it was forbidden to speak
Korean in class. The students were forced to speak Japanese instead of
their native language due to the occupation of Korea by the Japanese.
Any wrong doing in school was met with immediate punishment. The most
common being to have to kneel in the snow until it melted and soaked
through the clothing. This caused severe pain in the knee joints and the
students who were subjected to this punishment often could not move
properly for some time.
On August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from Japan. American troops
landed in South Korea to receive the surrender of the Japanese army.
Americans set up the Military Government until 1948 and helped establish
a combination of the traditional Korean and the American educational
system. This was the first time that Dr. Kimm learned of the heroics of
George Washington against the British for independence and the
emancipation of the slaves by Abraham Lincoln.
On June 25, 1950, the North Korean troops, with aid from the Russian
Communist party, invaded South Korea. The North Korean troops occupied
virtually all of South Korea. All students were forced to attend
communist schools. Education emphasized emotional appeal and systematic
propaganda about the merits of communism and the leadership of the North
Korean leader, Kim Il-sung. The United Nations troops also joined the
South Korean side and fought against the North Korean troops. However,
there was a rumor that the UN troops would soon have to retreat to
Japan. It was General Douglas MacArthur's landing at Inchon Harbor and
crossing the 38th Parallel into North Korea that changed the whole
picture of the war. Afterwards, Dr. Kimm and the other students were
then allowed to return to the South Korean school system.
In Korea a successful man is defined by three criteria: 1) You must come
from a good family background. 2) You must come from the right
geographical area. 3) You must graduate from the right high school and
university. This has been a long tradition in the Korean culture. After
receiving the proper education, you required proper connections for your
future. This connection comes from people of the same blood lines,
people who came from the same geographical area, and also from people
who graduated from the same high school and university. Without these
connections, it is very difficult to become a successful man in Korea.
This tradition is still a very dominant factor in Korea even today.
Dr. Kimm knew that in order to become a successful man, he had to enroll
in the best public high school in Seoul. He took the Entrance
Examination for East Seoul High School. In 1953, he was admitted into
east Seoul Junior High School as a freshman. Besides his educational
studies, Dr. Kimm trained parallel bar, Yudo, and Bi Sool (style of
Dr. He Young Kimm's Official Han Mu Do Association Website