Even when many directors of the school thought the Korean Resource Center would inevitably close its doors, Yoon had faith. He believed that he could find a way to keep it going in spite of the malicious rumors.
In May, 1983, hundreds of Koreans gathered in Los Angeles for a special lecture in remembrance of the Gwangju Uprising, and Yoon was invited as the lecturer.
When Yoon stepped up to the podium, the audience was astonished – That man was Yoon Han-bong? The man who stirred up so much controversy? But he was such a tiny, meek figure! That man was supposedly a spy.
Though his eyes glimmered with determination, the smile on his lips was shy. His voice was timid, almost tremulous. He was not the charismatic and eloquent speaker the audience had expected.
This was Yoon’s first occasion to give a public speech. He didn’t have notes nor index cards for his presentation. As he bowed to the hostile audience and began revealing the story of his life – how he escaped from Korea, how his application for asylum as a political refugee was rejected by the U.S. government. Finally, Yoon gave a detailed account of the Gwangju Uprising and asked the audience to support the fight for democracy in Korea.
This and consequent lectures slowed the spread of the malicious rumors. Yoon began to win support. But Yoon still needed to find the money to sustain the Korean Resource Center. So he began a business venture. Yoon collected a number of eastern and western paintings, as well as works of calligraphy. The poet Kim Ji-ha sent him dozens of paintings. Hong Ki-wan, being an excellent woodworker, framed the art pieces.
Yoon and his friends also sold secondhand goods, such as electronics, cutlery, toys, clothes, and shoe at the flea market. In their spare time, they collected empty cans on the street and sold them for recycling refunds.
Yoon was passionate about collecting books. It was not easy to find books in Korean in America, and on the off chance he did find one, his school could not afford to buy them. He certainly couldn’t afford to buy a copy for all his students. Instead, he photocopied the books.
Yoon was also known for his sense of humor. He wrote up a list of sins that would condemn one to hell – for instance, “the sin of pressuring someone else to drink,” and “the sin of tearing out the best part of a novel.” To this list, he added “the sin of possessing books privately.” He would jokingly threaten his friends as he requested donations from them – You don’t want to go to hell for keeping a good book to yourself, do you? And thus the KRC library grew through donations.
The most difficult issue was the recruitment of students. Yoon taught history, Hong Ki-wan opened a lecture on Taekwondo, and Jeon Ji-ho opened a literature class, but almost nobody showed up.
On lecture days, Yoon was anxious all day. As the lecture time drew near, Yoon would chain smoke in the parking lot. He kept looking around at the people and cars passing by, hoping the car would pull up and bring new students.
Once, they held a class on Korean songs, but not a single student showed up. The four teachers sat around awkwardly. Then they began class, singing children’s songs at the top of their lungs until their voices went hoarse.
It took half a year for the school to start gathering students. Those who came took an immediate liking to Yoon. He was an earnest teacher, lecturing for hours on end. Though some of his students were fifteen years younger than him, Yoon did not let them call him teacher or sir. They were all brothers – Yoon emphasized camaraderie rather than his own authority. His students, charmed by Yoon’s humbleness and passion, began to bring their friends to school. As the student population increased, the school, once shunned and isolated, grew to become a new force in the Korean immigrant community.