Kevin O'Donnell Distinguished Friend of Korea Award
한국의 친구들 주최 케빈오단넬 기념상 수상자 모집안내
The Kevin O’Donnell Distinguished Friend of Korea Award recognizes individuals distinguished by their accomplishments that are consistent with the overarching mission of Friends of Korea: to foster cultural awareness and friendship between Americans and Koreans. The award is a lasting tribute to the extraordinary contributions made by Kevin O’Donnell, U.S. Peace Corps’ first country director in Korea and the fourth director of the Peace Corps.
In 1966, O'Donnell accepted an assignment from the Peace Corps to be the first country director for South Korea. O'Donnell's assignment was to establish educational programs in English, math, science, and physical education. Because each host nation has such different needs and wants, there was no single recipe for establishing a program. Unlike his U.S. embassy and military counterparts, O'Donnell had to rely on the local Korean economy for staff, housing, and office space. The language was difficult to master, the culture an enigma to most Americans. "You went in and you sank or swam," said O'Donnell.
He found that managing Peace Corps volunteers was different from working in private industry. "By and large, people who applied to the Peace Corps had energy and ability, and my biggest job was to point them in the right direction and then get the hell out of the way," O'Donnell said. O'Donnell's leadership of the Peace Corps in Korea was recognized by President Park Chung Hee, who awarded O'Donnell the Order of Civil Merit as O'Donnell completed four years as country director.
Forty years later, The Korea Society in New York recognized the tremendous role and impact of the Peace Corps during its 15-year commitment in Korea with the 2008 James A. Van Fleet Award, given to prominent Korean and American individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to U.S-Korea relationships. Kevin O'Donnell, as the first country director of Peace Corps Korea, accepted the award on behalf of the volunteers. In the words of Don Hess, the country director who followed Kevin, "He left an indelible imprint on the lives of staff and the shape of programs and people there."
To nominate someone for this award, click here.
To see a list of previous honorees, click here.
posted June 2023