[FOUNTAIN]He loved Korea more than Koreans

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[FOUNTAIN]He loved Korea more than Koreans

Fifty-five years ago on July 29, 1949, an Army honor guard welcomed an 87-year-old American missionary with snowy hair and small stature as he got off a ship from the United States. He had left the country in 1909. But on the day of his arrival, he became ill, and he had to be hospitalized. A week later on Aug. 5, he died.
“I would rather be buried in Korea than in Westminster Abbey,” he said during his life. He was mourned at a public funeral, and the Republic of Korea conferred the Order of Merit for Service to the Nation’s Foundation on him posthumously.
Dr. Homer B. Hulbert is buried in the Seoul Foreigner’s Cemetery in Yanghwajin, Seoul.
A Christian missionary, linguist and historian, Dr. Hulbert loved Korea more than many Koreans. After coming to Korea in 1886 to teach at Yukyeong Gongwon, a royal academy with instruction in English, he had devoted his life to independence for Korea. After the murder of Empress Myeongseong, he kept a night watch by the bedroom of the emperor to protect Gojong. In 1905, when the annexation treaty was signed between Korea and Japan, he tried to deliver Gojong’s letter to the president of the United States. However, officials in Washington, which had already agreed with Japan on how to divide Asia, refused to meet him.
It was Dr. Hulbert who suggested to the emperor to secretly send envoys to the International Peace Conference at The Hague in 1907. Following that, he left Korea for the United States, where he worked with Philip Jaisohn and Syngman Rhee for the independence of Korea.
In his 1906 book, “The History of the Fall of Daehan Empire,” he compared the characteristics of Koreans with those countries in the neighborhood, Japan and China, saying Japanese are short-tempered and respect nothing but military might and brutal violence, and Chinese are superstitious yet composed.
Koreans, he said, are in between and are reasonable idealists.
In the preface to his book, Dr. Hulbert wrote that his work was the fruit of his love for Korea and that he had written it in order to bring attention to a people who had long suffered the hostile aggressions of foreign powers that had never been justified. The 55th anniversary of Dr. Hulbert’s death was held on Aug. 5 in the country that he had understood and loved more than anything else.


by Lee Se-jung

The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.

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