Crashes claim lives of heroes in Korean history

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Crashes claim lives of heroes in Korean history

April 5, 1885
Henry G. Appenzeller, the first Methodist missionary to Korea, arrived at Jemulpo port near Incheon on this date, an Easter Sunday. He was accompanied by Horace Underwood of the Presbyterian Church. Both of them are remembered as good friends to Korea, whose efforts went beyond religion and contributed to the general modernization of the country.
A Pennsylvania native, Mr. Appenzeller came to Korea via San Francisco and Japan. Two months after his arrival, the 27-year-old missionary held Korea’s first ever Protestant service for the benefit of expatriates. To introduce the religion, Mr. Appenzeller established a Western-style school, which King Gojong later named Baejae, or the Hall of Rearing Useful Men. His students included Syngman Rhee, who later became Korea’s first president in 1948.
Mr. Appenzeller learned the Korean language and started to translate the Bible. By 1887, he had polished his language skills to the point of being able to give a service in Korean on Christmas Day. In 1887, Mr. Appenzeller established the Chungdong First Methodist Church in central Seoul, which later became a base for independence fighters against Japan’s colonial regimes. Registered as a historic site, the church was the only one of its kind built in 19th century that remains in good shape.
Mr. Appenzeller also penned several books and publications about Korea and his missionary work, including “The Korean Repository” and “The Korean Christian Advocate.” Mr. Appenzeller died in 1902 when his ship crashed into another. He was traveling to participate in a Bible group in Mokpo, a city in southwestern Korea. He was 44 years old.

April 6, 1930
For as long as he could remember, Ahn Chang-nam wanted to fly high in the sky. Bereaved of his mother when he was four years old, he was a burden to his stepmother. Japan colonized Korea in 1910, when he was just barely a teenager.
The sudden death of his father in 1915 threw him into turmoil once again. Despite being the family heir, Mr. Ahn received almost nothing when his stepmother sold the family’s assets at dirt cheap prices.
The future looked bleak. A couple years later in 1917, Mr. Ahn, a high-school student, was a spectator at an air show in Seoul. He watched American pilot Art Smith perform a flying stunt and decided on the spot he wanted to be a pilot.
The following year, Mr. Ahn went to Osaka, Japan, where he believed he could learn how to fly planes. The first time around, however, Mr. Ahn needed to learn how to drive a car ― a requirement for becoming a pilot. He returned to Korea and started driving a taxi.
He eventually returned to Osaka to enter the Akabane airplane manufacturing company, where he learned the basics of aviation. He followed that up with the Okuri aviation school.
Graduating after only three months, the school hired him as a teacher. Excepting a few remarks against Japanese colonization of Korea, Mr. Ahn was well-received in his new country. He cemented his fame in 1921, passing the Japanese government’s notoriously difficult qualifying exam for pilots. He became known as the first Korean pilot, even though he flew under the colors of Japan.
Feeling happiest in the sky, Mr. Ahn started to do stunts, and in 1923 he finished first in a competition that involved flying from Osaka to Tokyo. By that time his fame was widespread, filling the columns of local newspapers.
Mr. Ahn was someone who gave the Korean people hope. One of his happiest memories was when he visited home in 1920 to perform a show. His plane was named Geumgang, after one of the country’s most beautiful mountains, and a large crowd turned out to see him in the sky.
In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake rocked Japan. Some Japanese panicked, and in search of a scapegoat, massacred thousands of ethnic Koreans in the country. It was rumored that Mr. Ahn was one of the victims.
In fact, the famed pilot had fled the country and was hiding in Shanghai, where he joined the independence movement against Japan. He wanted to satisfy his dreams of liberating his country from Japan. He never got the chance. He died on this date in an airplane crash. He was 29 years old.


by Chun Su-jin
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