[EMBASSY VOICE]Francis Schofield: a Korean heroEach spring, Koreans commemorate two significant historical events: the March 1 Independence Movement and the June 25 outbreak of the Korean War. Both events recognize the Korean people’s resolute spirit and passion for democracy and independence.
Canadians are proud to have played a role in Korea’s struggle, with nearly 27,000 Canadian soldiers fighting during the Korean War. Even earlier, Canadian missionaries, doctors, and teachers facilitated social and educational development in Korea.
From among these many people, one particular Canadian stands out: Dr. Francis Schofield (1889-1970). Born in England but educated in Canada, Dr. Schofield earned a bachelor’s degree from the Ontario Veterinary College, finishing at the top of his class, and went on to earn a Ph.D. Not only an outstanding teacher and lecturer, he was also renowned for his research in animal disease.
In 1916, he received a letter from Dr. Oliver Avison, dean of Seoul’s Severance Medical School, that encouraged him to come to Korea and help to develop the country. A short time later, he was commissioned by the Presbyterian Church of Canada and left for Seoul, where he taught bacteriology and sanitation at the hospital.
Struck by the desire of Koreans for independence from Japanese rule, Dr. Schofield’s interests were not limited to science alone. He quickly developed an interest in recent Korean history and became a keen supporter of the Samil Independence Movement. Having mastered the Korean language, he often ignored his prepared notes and instead lectured his students on the principles of self-determination and constitutional democracy.
Dr. Schofield’s efforts went beyond the classroom, however, as he travelled to towns and villages around Seoul and solicited support for the independence movement. Having learned of the plans to declare Korean independence, he was in central Seoul when demonstrations first began on March 1, 1919. For his support of the movement, he is considered by many Koreans to be the “34th man,” as the original declaration of independence had 33 signatories, all Korean.
His efforts also attracted the attention of the ruling authorities, and he was imprisoned for one year before being deported back to Canada in 1920. Dr. Schofield returned to a successful career in veterinary medicine and is credited for making several important scientific discoveries. For his work, he was awarded an honorary doctorate along with a number of prestigious research awards.
After retiring in 1955, Dr. Schofield returned to Korea, where he again took up a position at the Severance Medical College. He also became involved in many community activities, supporting orphanages and a vocational school and leading Bible lessons for students. Among other honors, he was awarded the Republic of Korea Medal of National Foundation in 1968.
In 1970, at the age of 81, Dr. Schofield died. Korean authorities paid him the highest possible honor, burying him in the National Cemetery’s Patriot Section. Dr. Schofield remains the only foreigner buried in this section of the cemetery, a unique tribute to a remarkable man whose contribution to the Korean people should never be forgotten.
Today, a special group of people are working to ensure that Dr. Schofield’s legacy is forever remembered. In October 2004, the Korean community in Canada established the Dr. Schofield Memorial Committee commemorating his dedication to the Korean people.
Since then, a number of important initiatives have been undertaken, including the publication of a book that aims to increase awareness of Dr. Schofield among the Korean community in Canada. Next year, a memorial garden featuring a statue of Dr. Schofield is expected to be completed on the grounds of the Toronto Zoo, a creative and fitting location given the nature of his work. Finally, Seoul National University has established a scholarship in his honor that will benefit one veterinary college student and one high school student residing in the SNU neighborhood.
As we mark the 36th anniversary of his passing, it is my hope that Koreans and Canadians will continue to honor Dr. Schofield’s memory and the timeless values he embodied: a fierce love for his adopted people and homeland, the pursuit of knowledge, a strong sense of charity, a fervent belief in democracy and faith in the universalism of human rights and justice.
by Marius Grinius Ambassador of Canada