Happy Birthday Dr. Fred Dustin: Jeju’s Renaissance Man

Think you have been here for a long time?  Except for a few years while at school, Dr. Fred Dustin has been in Korea since 1952!  He has literally done it all:  Military, English teaching, Mining, Copy Editing, Rainbow trout promoting, writing, voicing, poultry raising, agriculture, and, of course, The Kimnyoung Maze on Jeju Island.

Not only has Dr. Dustin done everything, he also knew everyone.  Have any of you ever heard of the Koryo Club?

Seoul was a city in transformation and it was filled with interesting people. One such person was Ferris Miller, who arrived in Korea prior to the Korean War and returned in 1953 to work for the Bank of Korea. It was he who founded the Koryo Club – a group of Koreans and foreigners with an interest in Korea and its culture.

The meetings were held in Miller’s home and members were supposed to deliver papers on “things Korea” but Dustin, who was the youngest member, does not remember any specific papers every being delivered – only the large number of beer bottles that had to be cleared away the next morning.

But there were exchanges of ideas as evidenced by the names of the members – names that are now well-known in Korea studies: Edward Wagner (founder of the Korea Institute at Harvard), Richard Rutt (a former Anglican bishop who wrote many books on Korean poetry and his life as a country priest), William E. Skillend (the first professor of Korean at the School of Oriental and African Studies), Greg Henderson (diplomat and author), Chung Bi-seok (novelist), Cho Byung-hwa (poet) and Choi Byung-woo (Korea Times managing editor and reporter who died at the age of 34 on Sept. 26, 1958, while covering the Chinese Communist bombing of Quemoy and Matsu Islands).

All of these men had an impact on Dustin’s life.

“I look back in awe and with great respect upon those friends, role models and early mentors,” he fondly recalls.

You can read more about Dr. Dustin here in (Korea Times, Jan. 10, 2014).  For those on Jeju Island – if you get a chance, stop by today and wish him a Happy 84th Birthday.

  • Sanshinseon

    Thanks for that, Robert N — yup, Fred and his few remaining peers make me feel like a newbie amateur, a good perspective to regain once in awhile…. They have my respect.

  • brier

    Thanks for the write about up Mr Dustin. A very interesting man. He ought to write his memoir. I would read it.

    Reading about him makes me wonder what the immigration laws were back in the ’50’s through the ’70’s. Different times.

    Thanks for the good read this Sunday morning.

  • ryuNchoosk

    From the KT article,
    “It was almost impossible to sit down for a cup of coffee or a meal,
    especially when alone, without having an elderly Korean gentleman suddenly
    materialize seemingly from out of nowhere and introduce himself,” he

    Does he mean the elderly Korean gentlemen actually finished the introduction? Or are their poor Eng. introduction skills still as bad for S. Koreans of all ages today(60 years later) than they were then?

    I think he means…”from out of nowhere and(tried to) introduce himself,” and nothing has changed, even today so many Koreans don’t know how to introduce themselves. They start the introduction…”Hi, nice to meet you”! While they might know my name they never introduce themselves. Perhaps Koreans don’t want me to know them? After they “introduce themselves” they ask me when I’m going home.

    “The first fall of 1955 was difficult. Many of the classrooms still had no
    windows and some were missing doors so it was terribly drafty.”

    “Fall”? Windows don’t matter much in S. Korea, not even in the winter. Not to mention the open windows in schools but they’re also left open in dormitories where the rule is “NO SMOKING” but they do it anyway. Fresh air is more important than warmth, heat, or wasting energy.

    “Currently there are about fourteen attractions on Jeju that include mazes of
    some sort.”

    What advertising tactics have S. Koreans come up with to win the maze(you did it so so will I) competition and were the 13 Korean mazes free the first year?

    Happy B-day Mr. Dustin!

  • aligner

    I mean this in no way disrespectful (especially to those with Korean wives), but it is truly amazing that Dr. Dustin did everything he did without marrying into Korean society. Many foreigners do not even know how to reserve tickets online without their wife’s assistance, but Dr. Dustin has run and operated many businesses here.

    Of course, he certainly had help from Korean acquaintances and business partners, but it would be very interesting to speak with someone who stayed so long in Korea without marriage paying a significant factor in the decision.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    Reading the summary of the article, I also assumed he was married to a Korean. I suppose living in Jeju is another thing that would keep a foreigner here for such a long time. Very sad to read about his wife.

    I would love to read or hear about his experiences and feelings on living in Korean society, especially during the post-war and PCH eras.

  • setnaffa