Pohnpei, FSM - "This is not a smart business investment at all," said Dr. Ei-ho Kim on Friday afternoon, January 15, in the boardroom of the former Pohnpei Agricultural and Trade School. Dr. Kim went on to explain what he meant. "I know that missionary work is not by our own power but through the blessing of God!"
Dr. Kim, whose organization, Pacifi c Resource Development Company made a proposal in August of last year to open a new agricultural and technical school on the former PATS campus, gave a passionate speech in front of a small group of local participants that included the Nahnmwarki of Madolenihmw, His Majesty Kerpet Ehpel and his wife. Dr. Kim was on island to sign a lease in order to open a new technical secondary school on the former PATS campus.
Estephan Santiago, a member of the Task Force to Revive PATS and an alumnus of the former school said that when he asked Father Graigorio, the director of PATS why they were closing the school, the director said, "Products of PATS (PATS educated students) are no longer needed."
Since that time, the Task Force to Revive PATS on which Santiago serves has been actively working to revive the school in Madolenihmw where several of the FSM's highest achievers attended during the 40 years that it was open.
What with FSM infrastructure projects in progress, and the United States Government announcing their intentions to move a major military base from Okinawa to Guam, the timing of the closure of PATS couldn't have been much worse.
The Task Force had been working to revive PATS and members still use those words but according to an email from Father Dave Andrus, that is not what has happened. PATS is still closed and, Fr. Andrus says that the lease contract contains the following wording: "Lessee is not authorized and is prohibited from using the name "Ponape Agricultural and Trade School," or "PATS", in any manner, or holding itself out that it is affiliated to or is a continuation of or endorsed by Ponape Agricultural and Trade School," or "PATS", or holding itself out that the Landlord is affi liated in any manner to the new Christian Vocational School."
During the ceremony, Dr. Kim never indicated that the new school would be affiliated with PATS. Members of the Task Force to Revive PATS did that over and over again. Even the invitations that were sent out said that was what was happening, but it is not.
Fr. Andrus quoted from the lease, "The new Christian Vocational School shall operate under the name of International Vocational Education Center, or IVEC"
Santiago, while briefi ng the small group in attendance at the signing ceremony said that prior to the decision to close, PATS management created a corporation to be a recipient of all of PATS assets including the large property on which the sprawling campus is situated. The land, he said was donated to the Roman Catholic Church "by one mother of this community."
Since then some of the assets of the school have been put to other uses in Pohnpei. Tables and chairs were taken with the permission of the corporation. The books in the PATS library were taken to a Madolenihmw public school also with permission.
Some of the roofs on the buildings at the school have fallen in and need to be completely replaced. Others need refurbishment. There is much work to be done besides the hiring of good staff members before the school can be opened. Shelten Neth, said by phone that the estimated cost of refurbishment of buildings on the campus is approximately $1.4 million. He confirmed that the plan is to open the new school by the next school year in August, 2010.
During his speech on the background of the agreement, Santiago said that in 2007 Pohnpei State had expressed interest in the possibility of utilizing the school facilities but that plan never materialized.
He said that in 2008 the Chief Executives Council, which then included the four State Governors and the President of the Federated State of Micronesia, recognized the need for vocational education and established the Micronesia Career Technical Training Center (MCTTC) through CEC resolution 2008-02. The resolution created a Presidential Task Force on Vocational Education to address the immediate and pressing need to increase the skilled labor force needed for ongoing infrastructure projects within the FSM and also to provide skilled labor for the military build up in Guam.
Santiago said, "However, FSM DOE (FSM Department of Education) never submitted a proposal to the Vicariate to utilize these (PATS) facilities for MCTTC and or for revival of PATS."
Friday's signing ceremony was arranged with only one week's notice and invitations were hastily sent. All three branches of the State and National Governments were invited to attend the ceremony but no one from any branch of the Pohnpei State or the FSM National governments was present at the signing.
Dr. Kim, who is a Protestant, presented the final speech in a style with which most people in the room were likely unaccustomed. It was loud. It was forceful and the content of his speech was confidently ambitious. It was clear that Dr. Kim had spoken before large audiences before and he did it well.
He said that ten years ago he went to the Republic of the Marshall Islands with a "burning heart to bring something to the people there" in the name of God. While he was in the RMI he received a clear vision from God that he should come to Pohnpei and take with him all of his wide experiences to help to develop this nation.
Dr. Kim's biography shows that he does indeed have a wide and varied background both in the private sector and within governments as an interpreter, educator, journalist, policy advisor, and in many other positions of high influence. He is currently the chairman of three boards and is a member of another. He is also currently the Director of Tongyeong City Tourism Cooperation and is the Presidential special economic advisor to Asia for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Directly beneath his listing of his achievement of a Doctor of Philosophy degree, Dr. Kim lists on his bio that he is an Ordained Minister of the Gospel. It is obvious that he has a firm personal commitment to God and a passion for what can be done in a country like the Federated States of Micronesia with the life experiences he has amassed so far.
He said that during his world wide missionary travels and because of his long experience as an educator he has gathered close personal friends of significant influence including Nobel Prize winners and people of vast wealth and worldwide influence. He has already personally spoken with many of those people and says that most like the idea of the International Vocational Education Center and want to participate. Some of them, he said, will not only participate financially but will come to Pohnpei as guest lecturers at the new school.
Dr. Kim has great dreams to make IVEC a school that is recognized around the world as an outstanding institution of learning. Talking with him one gets the impression that he is anxious to get started.
"Pohnpei is small but it is powerful," he said. "I have heard that many PATS students became outstanding leaders. That is good but I also want to see students from this school become outstanding world leaders."
"We want to make this country into an exporter to share with the rest of the world and not just receive by importing," he exclaimed.
Apparently he means what he says and it appeared from the short meeting of Friday that he may just have the resources and networking contacts, the "juice," to pull it off.
He wasn't just name-dropping when he mentioned Samsung, a Korean conglomeration with what he said was $10 trillion in assets. Dr. Kim said that the CEO of that corporation, despite his busy schedule always took time to attend his lectures because he knew that the basis of the corporation's success was education. Dr. Kim worked as an On the Job Trainer at Samsung, as well as at SKI, SKC Group, Daewoo Group, Woojin Group, and Hyundai Group, all of them huge corporations.
Thinking that Dr. Kim was just a representative of Pacific Resources Development Company we asked him to describe what the company was. "This is something I am doing," he said. "But my friends and contacts will come along as well."
The details of the contract that was signed on Friday were not discussed during the ceremony. The faces of the members of the Task Force to Revive PATS, while not abundant in contractual details, showed that they were at least satisfied with the contract. While they didn't actually accomplish what they had set out to do it was clear that they were happy to be taking a giant step toward a different end goal to set up a new school on the campus.