Wednesday, March 30, 2016

South Korean documentary reenacts development of Tongil miracle rice

LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—In 2016, South Korea celebrates 100 years of science and technology by recalling the storied history of its miracle rice called Tongil (or Tong-Il). The rice is viewed by many as one of the country's most important scientific achievements in the 20th century.

Behind the scenes at the Zeigler Experiment Station: A Korean actor (in lab gown) plays the role of
a young Dr.Mun-Hue Heu. (Photo by Jessieca Catapang, IRRI)
Dr. Heu was a remarkable plant breeder who
 demonstrated great skills, dedication,
and passion for his work. (Photo: Rice Today)  
The Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), the national television and radio broadcaster of South Korea, filmed a documentary at the headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) that highlights the strong partnership between South Korea and the institute. South Korea has been collaborating with IRRI through the Rural Development Administration (RDA) since the 1960s. Their work has included crossing temperate japonica rice varieties with tropical indica varieties. This produced Tongil, a rice variety developed at IRRI, which helped transform Korea from being a rice importer to a self-sufficient producer.

“Through the documentary, we are seeking to share with Koreans around the world and the international community how our people were, with the help of IRRI, freed from hunger following the devastation of the Korean War,” said Jea Hyuk Lee, KBS producer.

A reenactment at IRRI's Zeigler Experiment Station presents the late Dr. Mun-Hue Heu, the father of the Korean Green Revolution, and Dr. Hank Beachell, then head of IRRI's Plant Breeding Division. The two scientists were instrumental  in developing Korea's miracle rice.

The film also features interviews with Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI deputy director general for communication and partnerships; Dr. K.K. Jena, IRRI scientist and newly appointed Korea RDA honorary scientist and advisor; and Julian Lapitan, former head of Partnerships at IRRI and incumbent president of the Philippines RDA Alumni Association. Dr. Ruaraidh Sackville Hamilton, head of the T.T. Chang Genetics Resources Center and International Rice Genebank, provided the filmmakers with a tour of the genebank. The genebank contains more than 127,000 rice varieties from all over the world, including Tongil.

The documentary was filmed on 28-29 March. The episodes featuring IRRI will air on 21 April on KBS TV. 

Tongil, Korea’s “miracle rice” with its yield potential of 5 tons per hectare, played a major role in enabling the
country to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production in the 1970s. (Photo by Moises John Reyes)

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