Gwangju Blog

People You Should Know in Gwangju…Community Builders Award.

Hello Gwangju! This week you’ll notice that we are on a new day. Also we have something a little different. Some of you may have seen a post on Facebook about the Michael Simning Community Builders Award. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Michael Simning or the award you’ll find some information here for you.

A Brief Biography of Michael Simning By Brian P. Burgoyne

On June 4th, 1974, Gwangju was given a great gift in the form of one Michael Simning.  Although, at the time, The City of Light didn’t know it, this Canadian ex-patriot would quickly become a light that would shine as bright as any other.

Simning Image

Michael came to Gwangju to visit his brother in 1997 and chose to make it his home.  A few short years

later he would be married to Ko Young Mi and graduate from Seoul National University with a degree in Korean Language.  After a brief time back in Canada, he settled back in Gwangju to resume his teaching.

But it isn’t his teaching for which he is most remembered.  It was through his dedication to the community that people came to know and love Mike.  His mother Margaret Law said he always had an incredible sense of what people wanted.  He organized volunteers for Sungbin Orphanage, translated for the police department, and finally opened his first business, the Speakeasy.  It was not long after that he became father to Tiberia Eunsol.

Mike at GFNWith the Speakeasy in business, the Underground Grocers, and finally, the First Alleyway restaurant, Mike also gave people what they wanted: a home away from home.  They were places of support for any who wanted it.  He would use the resources of each business in succession to support bake sales, host community events or whatever was needed.  Mike became the organizer or supporter of nearly every group in Gwangju, including the local baseball team, gaming events, even becoming a host of the flagship radio program on GFN.  All you had to do was start a conversation with “You know, Mike, we should . . . .”  His response was usually the same: “Let’s do it!”

Tim and Mike

That was Michael.  He would likely tell you that he didn’t do anything special or he would brush it off with a smile.  But we remember him for what he was:  A friend to all from any country or walk of life.  He was a bright light in the city bringing people together.




Mike Simning

About the Michael Simning Community Builder Award Organization

The core committee is made up of Dr. Shin, Tim Whitman, and Chris Bleeker. They are the key organizers of this award and the selection process.

Dr. Shin is the director of the Gwangju International Center. He was Michael’s friend for years and also worked on many projects with him for the GIC.
Tim Whitman is a longtime Canadian expat living in Gwangju, and was a close friend and business partner with Michael.
Chris Bleeker is an American expat living in Gwangju since 2011. She was a friend of Michael’s and volunteered with many of his community projects.

Award procedure 2017

The announcement of the award and the opening of nominations will be April 5, 2017.
April 26, 2017 is the closing of the nominations process. Nominees will be contacted to confirm that they wish to be considered for the award and that they will be available to attend the award ceremony in person on June 3, 2017.
Once the slate of nominees is identified, the core committee will add a total of 4 more committee members–2 expats and 2 Koreans–to round out the selection committee. This is timed specifically to make sure that no nominees are also on the selection committee.
The selection committee will announce award finalists by May 17, 2017.
The award recipient will be announced on June 3, 2017 at 3 P.M. during the award ceremony at the GIC, in honor of Michael Simning’s birthday.

Award criteria 2017

  • Must be an expat, or a Korean working with/starting an expat-involved organization.
  • Must be a club/organization/charity that has made a significant impact in the Gwangju community
  • Must be a club/organization/charity that has achieved, or has the potential for, a lasting legacy in the Gwangju community.
  • Must be a club/organization/charity that seeks to involve expats and Koreans together in the wider Gwangju community.
  • For consideration for this award, the time frame of the volunteer involvement may cover the previous 2016 calendar year, up until March 2017.
  • Nominees must have lived in Gwangju within the previous calendar year (2016), and be available to attend the June 3, 2017 GIC awards ceremony in person in Gwangju.
  • Selection committee members are not eligible for award consideration.
  • Self-nominations are acceptable, and must be noted with volunteer reference contact information.
    2016 Community Builders Award Finalists

    2016 Community Builders Award Finalists


    If you know someone that you believe is deserving of this award please don’t hesitate to nominate them! You can use this link.

  • JDinKorea

    I really wish both Tim and Chris would drop the ” Selection committee members are not eligible for award consideration.” bull***. They all deserve it.