Go to contents

Leaving behind Forty Years of Love for Korea

Posted December. 24, 2003 22:49,   


A German had been volunteering for 40 years in Busan, Korea until he was diagnosed with liver cancer at Dongeui University Hospital on July 6. Since he went back to Germany for treatment in late July, he could never come back to his “second home” of Busan.

At his small funeral held at Wuppertal cathedral on December 16, his family, acquaintances, and Cheong Soon-taek, age 62, former chief secretary of education and culture to the president and currently principal of the Korea-Germany Munhwa Girls’ High School, as the only Korean present, gathered around. Principal Chung was a close friend of the deceased.

Mr. Schmike came to Korea for the first time in February 16, 1964. He was 22 years old then and came back to Korea after graduating from university through the Asian Region Student Encouragement Scholarship of a catholic charity organization in Germany.

The Busan parish had sent Mr. Cheong, who was then acting in the parish’s student organization as a student at Donga University, to welcome him at the Busan station. That is how their friendship has started.

He asked for the German government’s assistance, feeling the desperate need for vocational education in the country without sufficient industrial infrastructure in those days. With that assistance, he founded the Korea-Germany Girls’ Tech School in Busan in 1965, Korea-Germany Munhwa Girls’ High School at the present.

From then until 1973, he helped Korea’s foreign currency earnings by sending hundreds of students to Germany as industrial trainees. Afterward, he was able to finish the construction of the current school building in Udong, Busan in 1976, thanks to the assistance of the German government. He also built a training center in Mt. Jiri, a kindergarten, Busan German Cultural Center, and others in a row.

The number of students who have graduated from Korea-Germany Munhwa Girls’ High School is up to 20,000, and Korea-Germany Girls’ Foreign Language High School will open in March of next year. He also made countless contributions to educational businesses such as direct and indirect involvement in founding Busan Hyesung School for students with disabilities and Busan Machinery Engineering School.

He was also interested in relief work for the poor. When 60 people died in a break-down of Guduk Reservoir in September, 1972 displacing hundreds of people, he asked for charity organizations’ help and built 200 apartments in Banyo-dong to create “Rainbow Village” as a collective settlement.

In 1979, he built 300 more housing units at the same site for displaced people from the removal of houses in hilly areas and helped construct Seongbundo Hospital.

The Korean government awarded him the National Magnolia Medal in 1974 for his contributions, and the German government also awarded him two medals, including the First-degree Cross Dedicational Medal, the highest honorary medal for civilians.

He was so much in love with Korea and gave up on having his own child and instead adopted two Korean orphans in the late 1970s with the agreement of his wife Brikite, 53, president of German Cultural Center. Their daughter, 27, and son, 25, are both studying in Germany after graduating from university.

In an interview with a reporter in May 1999, he said, “I feel so happy when I see Korea and Busan develop rapidly just like seeing my home country of Germany overcoming the wounds of the war.”

However, with the fast development, his dedication to Korea has also been fast forgotten in time. It was buried forever with his death. The Korean government and the city of Busan were not notified of the funeral and could not express their condolences.

Mr. Cheong, who worked with him in educational business all his life, said on December 24, “It hurts my heart when I think that it is us who are forgetting him even though he had helped us all his life. I will carry out his will that I should continuously develop the school into a better one,” moving into tears.