Ann Kim, an independent political fund raiser in Los Angeles,
decided to write a biography of Emory alumnus Yun Chi-Hoa
Korean diplomat, political activist, and Christian missionaryshe
had a personal incentive for learning more about his life: Yun
was her maternal great-grandfather.
whole family spoke of him, says twenty-three-year-old
Kim. We grew up hearing about how he had accomplished
so much and was such a pioneer and a Renaissance man, in terms
of all the languages he spoke, and that he had written the lyrics
to the Korean national anthem.
also knew of Yuns tempestuous relationship with the Korean
government, including time spent in jail and accusations that
he had been disloyal to his country by aligning himself with
Japan during Koreas colonization.
is so hard to sort out, it gets altered over time, Kim
said. I knew all these pieces of his life, but I wanted
to learn the truth.
her research, Kim pulled from several of Yuns writings,
including diary entries from the years 1891 to 1893, when he
was a student at Emory College in Oxford. He was especially
close to Warren A. Candler, then president of the University
and Yuns sponsor.
grew fond of his peers and professors, who often invited him
over to their homes for dinner, particularly Dr. Candler,
says Kim. This was the man that Yun later went on to name
one of his children after and to whom he entrusted his earnings
from missionary work in order to build a Methodist church in
Yun arrived in the United States in 1888, he was a twenty-four-year-old
political exile. His career in the Korean foreign service had
come to an abrupt end after friends of Yuns who were radical
reformers staged a bloody but unsuccessful coup in Seoul. Although
Yun hadnt taken part in the coup, many assumed him to
be guilty by association, and he left the country.
alumnus Young J. Allen 1858C, a Methodist missionary, had met
Yun in Shanghai, where he was a student at the Anglo-Chinese
College and, recognizing his abilities, arranged for him to
travel to America for study as a theology studentfirst
at Vanderbilt University, then at Emory.
Emory Magazine article written about Yun in 1976, A
Korean at Oxford, recounts Yuns two years at the
University and captures the personality of one of Emorys
most remarkable alumni . . . a diplomat, educator, journalist,
patriot, and Christian statesman. Among the accomplishments
of this distinguished alumnus was to be a major role in founding
the Methodist Church in his native land, thus repaying abundantly
Emory College and its president, Warren Candler, for their faith
in the potential of a remarkable young man.
diary entries from those years, Yun frets over algebra exams,
sloshes through mud and sleet to get to chapel, and eats grits
and biscuits with twenty-five boys at one table in Marvin Hall.
He grows close enough to the Candler family to write that:
Candler is laboring under a debt of $700
. . . . Mrs. Candler told me that Dr. Candler is so much
in the habit of begging for the University that he often
cries out in sleep, Who will give me $10 or $5?
Yuns summers in the United States, he toured rural Georgia
and Tennessee. Although sometimes taunted as a Chinaman,
he regularly visited churches of all denominations and in Nashville
taught Sunday School at the local prison. On campus, he was
an exemplary student and an active participant in clubs and
the baseball team. He felt guilt over enjoying these privileges,
as evidenced by this entry from November 6, 1892:
I am, I am enjoying blessings that millions of my countrymen
know nothing of. I am in the light of pure religion, intellectual
freedom, political liberty. They are groping in the darkness
of superstition, ignorance, political slavery. Heaven
grant me the way to spread my measure of light among them!
graduation, Yun returned to Shanghai, where he was married.
In 1895, a change in government let Yun and his family return
to Korea, where he was appointed to the reform cabinet. He also
helped establish the mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, in Korea, and wrote the poem Aegukka, now
the words to the Korean national anthem. He became editor of
the Korean newspaper the Independent and led demonstrations
in front of the royal palace, angering conservative officials
and narrowly escaping assassination.
1899, he was moved to a port town as magistrate and remarried
after his wife died, fathering eight more children, among them
Kisun Yun, the famous concert pianist, and Jang Sun Yun, Ann
returned to Seoul in 1904, becoming acting minister of foreign
affairs. After Japan established its protectorate over Korea
a few years later, he devoted his time to religious and educational
work. In 1908, Emory College awarded Yun an honorary doctorate.
Then, in 1911, Yun was one of more than a hundred men jailed
on suspicion of the murder of the Japanese governor-general
of Korea. Yun and five friends spent four years in prison. After
his release, he worked with the YMCA, which he established in
Korea, until his retirement in 1925. Less than four months after
Korea was freed from Japanese rule by the allied victory in
World War II, Yun diedon December 6, 1945.
who received her bachelors degree in political science
at UCLA, began reading everything she could find that had been
written by and about Yun, including his correspondence with
Candler, which is included in the Warren Candler papers at Woodruff
I thought Id do an independent research paper for
my own curiosity, working with [UCLA] Professor Namhee Lee,
who has been a mentor in my studies as well as my career,
Chi-Ho was always revered by our family members. He had
been born into the aristocracy, but did revolutionary work that
rebuked the government and corruption.
was especially captivated by diary entries written when Yun
was in his twenties, near her own age. A lot of the passages
spoke directly to situations in my life. As I was reading, I
kind of thought, hes speaking to me. It was very meaningful,
she says. And his mastery of the language was so impressivehe
writes as if he were born here.
more Kim read, the more she became convinced that Yun was indeed
courageous and loyal, and wanted only what he thought was best
for his country. I tried to do my research being neutral
as much as possible. I went into it without a preconceived notionif
you only have one perspective, you dont get the whole
picture. But as I came across writings, they were really in
favor of Yun Chi-Ho and the work he had been doing. That
seemed to be a general consensus, she said. At first
he admired Japan, but not to the point that he wanted Korea
to be subdued to that country. His attitude changed as Japan
time at Emory, Kim found, was probably the most enlightening
that he had. When he was met with such warmth by Dr. Candler
. . . and he learned first-hand about the Western experience.
He was the second Korean to study in America. His conscience
was telling him he had to spread the missionary work to the
East. He felt he couldnt conscientiously stay in the West,
but must return to work for the good of his fellow men.
young relative is also following in Yuns path: Twenty-one-year-old
Ilyoung Yun, whose grandfather, Posun Yun, was Yun Chi-Hos
nephew, is now a sophomore at Oxford College of Emory.
reason [I came to Oxford] was that I knew Yun Chi-Ho had
attended here, says Yun, who plans to proceed to Emory
College next year and major in economics. Another is that
my father was friends with [former Emory president] Dr. James
Laney when he was ambassador of South Korea.
Yun was born in California but has lived for most of his life
in Seoul. When he came to Oxford, he discovered what his great-great-uncle
had found more than a hundred years ago: Here, community
is very important. Its easy to make friends.
is herself interested in Korean politics, especially the North
Korea-South Korea divide and the talks occurring in China.
She completed Yun Chi-Ho: A short biography,
which places Yuns life in the context of Korean history,
in February 2003 and is hoping it will be published.
I was seeking the honest truth of his life, which is something
that is still misunderstood today, she says. For
his great-granddaughter to go out and do her own research, and
to come to the conclusion that he was hard-working and honest
in all his endeavorsI think he would be proud. This is
something I had always heard from my family, but I wanted to
find out for myself.