Choi Hyungsik was born in 1955, and graduated from Jeonnam National University in political science. He became the secretary to a member of parliament in 1988, and became a member of the provincial parliament in the Province of Jeolla Namdo in 1991. During this time, he also served as chairman of the steering committee of the Jeolla Namdo parliament from 1998-2000, as well as being a political advisor for the environmental committee of the National Assembly in 1999.
He left the provincial parliament of Jeolla Namdo and became the Governor of Damyang County in 2002 and focused his life on the development of Damyang-gun. He served this term as Governor until 2006. With a keen interest in the environment, Choi, while still Governor, became a member of the Advisory Committee to the President on sustainable development in 2004.
His dedication to the region was realized again in 2010, when he began another term as Governor of Damyang County, and he continues to serve in this capacity now, re-elected to serve yet another term, which began in 2014. He also serves as the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the World Bamboo Fair. His commitment to improving the region with bamboo is rooted in his appreciation of the region’s history. Damyang bamboo has a history of 1,000 years, which he enjoys sharing, “It is a valued local asset handed down from our ancestors.” The intention of the World Bamboo Fair, which is an evolution from Damyang’s traditional annual bamboo festival, is to enhance the brand value of Damyang as an ecological city. Although bamboo is widely used and appreciated in Korea, Damyang is more closely associated with bamboo. The area planted with bamboo in Damyang represents a share of 34.3% (2,420ha) of the national total. Damyang has traditionally produced bamboo baskets, mats, hats, pillows, covered boxes, and folding fans. Currently, the County attracts over 5 million tourists annually, thanks to bamboo forests, delicious fresh foods featuring the use of bamboo shoots and a clean environment. In 2014, Damyang was honored with the top prize as Korea’s No. 1 ecotourism region by the Korea Tour Club.
Governor Choi has made a tremendous impact on the county of Damyang, revitalizing its bamboo sector by expanding its bamboo industry for modern and sustainable utilization. Twenty years ago, the bamboo markets closed in Damyang because of declining demand for bamboo products. Today, thanks to Governor Choi, the local bamboo resources are carefully maintained and managed to sustainably supply bamboo culms and shoots for emerging new markets.
Bamboo related projects in Damyang County under the rule/initiative of Governor Choi:
- 2003 Establishment of the Bamboo Resource Research Institute
- 2003-2005 Creation of a bamboo park (Juknokwon) in Damyang City (165,000 sq m)
- 2003-2006 Registration of 82 bamboo-related intellectual property rights
(16 registered, 66 pending)
- 2003-2007 Creation of bamboo eco-park (924,684 sq m)
- 2003-2007 Establishment of 8 bamboo-related new product venture companies
- 2003 present Extension of bamboo forests: target 10,000 ha until 2044
- 2004-2006 Creation of bamboo bio-forest (50 ha)
- 2004 present 21 bamboo-related research projects (7 completed, 14 in progress)
- 2015 Application for registration of bamboo forests as World Agricultural Asset
- 2015 World Bamboo Fair and 10th World Bamboo Congress
Choi has said the World Bamboo Fair will “display everything about bamboo” around Juknokwon Garden. “You will experience the past, present and future of bamboo, which has a wide variety of uses from bamboo art, cutting-edge biotechnology, food, textiles and architecture to landscape gardening. You will have an amazing experience with bamboo which purifies your body as well as your mind,” he added.
Indeed. Governor Choi has shown us all in Damyang that he is a World Bamboo Pioneer.