Dr. Corn Soon-Kwon Kim

PhD in horticulture ’74 Mānoa

Soon-Kwon Kim in cornfield

Dubbed the “father of maize,” Soon-Kown Kim directed the Maize Green Revolution, a national program that tripled corn yield in his native Korea during the late 1970s.

The program provided seeds that spurred an eight-fold increase in agricultural production during 17 years with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria. His work with high-yield, disease-resistant corn hybrids resulted in five Nobel Peace Prize nominations since 1992 and a 1998 University of Hawaiʻi Distinguished Alumni Award.

The son of a poor rural farmer, Kim knew firsthand the pangs of hunger. He studied agriculture in Korean and Hawaiʻi, where he worked with College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources horticulturalist Jim Brewbaker to developed corn seed resistant to the insects, parasites and diseases in South Korea.

“With this corn, I can change the world,” he thought, offering to go to jail if he failed in order to persuade Korean farmers and officials to try his seeds.

Kim spent 17 years in Africa, applying his hybrid techniques to produce high yielding crops farmers could grow without relying on chemicals to combat the pervasive maize streak virus.

Kim returned to Korea in 1995 as professor and director of the International Agricultural Institute at Kyungpook National University and instituted the Corn for Peace program to help restore relations between North and South Korea through technical assistance and seed/food aid.

“Corn doesn’t know Korea is divided,” he maintains.