Sok-Hon Ham

Sok-Hon Ham (1901-1989) was regarded by many as the Gandhi of Korea. Known and revered by Koreans as Teacher Ham, or the Albatross, whose characters in Korean also mean “god-fearing man”, he was at various times a history teacher, philosopher, poet, essayist, farmer and political activist. As an activist, he was beaten and jailed by Japanese and Russian occupation governments for his non-violent struggle for independence, and later imprisoned by South Korean governments for his equally non-violent work against corruption and dictatorship. Twice he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace.  He made a memorable and venerable appearance with his traditional white costume and silvery beard.

Sok-Hon’s poetry was collected in Beyond the Horizon, and he continued to compose his delicate evocative verse throughout his life. His writings, which totaled twenty volumes, also included A Korean History from a Biblical Standpoint and The Albatross, a series of philosophical essays.  His books were widely respected by Koreans, generating many editions.

In 1967, at the Friends World Conference at Guilford College, North Carolina, he joined the Religious Society of Friends.  His beliefs attempted to meld Taoism and Quakerism.

A quote:

 “The hope is to mobilize the conscience of the common people. I am sorry I cannot do it. I can only do what I can do. The future is dim, but I do not despair. I learn from the Bhagavad Gita: do not become attached to the fruits of your action. The will to hurry up comes from the attachment to those fruits. The so-called revolutionaries kill many people in the name of happiness for all the people.  The greatest good for the greatest number. That comes from attachment to the fruits of action. When we are liberated from this attachment, then spiritual force will come”. 

 From: Gary Sandman’s  “Quaker Artists” as well as an interview by Margaret Hope Bacon.

June 2014