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Foreign-born play important role

A man from the Yeojin Tribe of Manchu worked as the right-hand man for Lee Seong-gye, the first king of the Joseon Dynasty. He was General Lee Ji-ran, the progenitor of the Cheonghae Lee clan. The two swore to be brothers. When the king pierced a water jar, the general shot an arrow with a cotton-covered arrowhead and plugged up the hole. Lee Ji-ran was honored as a patriot after his death.

Seol Jang-soo, one of the nine meritorious retainers for Joseon’s foundation, was a naturalized citizen from a Uyghur background. He worked as a diplomatic envoy eight times, was fluent in Chinese and was an expert on Confucianism. A figure named “Ssanggi” appears in the 39th volume of the History of Goryeo. He was a Chinese diplomatic delegate who found favor in the eyes of King Gwangjong of Goryeo and became naturalized. He introduced the state civil servant examination to the country.

The first person who brought a firelock to Korea was a naturalized citizen. He was a Japanese general named Sayaga, who became a defector a week after he landed in Busan’s port during the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592-1598). He was an admirer of Joseon’s civilization and changed his name to Kim Chung-seon. He considered Japanese invaders his enemy and was promoted to high-ranking posts.

When King Injo was forced to kowtow, a humiliating ritual, to an invading Chinese Emperor in the castle Namhansanseong, he cried bitterly, “Why should we kneel before such a barbarian?”

Park Yeon introduced the cannon during the Second Manchurian invasion of Joseon in 1636. His original name was Jan Janse Weltevree. He was a crewman from the Netherlands and the first Westerner to become naturalized in Joseon. He recommended that the explorer Hendrick Hamel and his companions serve as artillerymen in the army.

Last Thursday, we appointed the first naturalized citizen to head a public corporation. Lee Charm, born in Germany, is now the president of the Korea Tourism Organization. When he visited Korea in 1978, he used the name “Carl Toma,” which reminds us of Korean words that mean a knife and a chopping board, respectively, instead of his original name, “Bernhard Quandt.”

His experience in Korean television is already well known. One of his most memorable roles in a Korean drama was as a man who struggles to get parental consent for his marriage.

Lee’s first name after naturalization was Lee Han-woo, but he changed it to Lee Charm, which reflects his firm commitment to become a truly genuine Korean participating in Korean development. He understood the meaning of his name when he chose it. Many expectations and concerns have been raised for this newly appointed president. Once a young German man who did not mind being called “a knife and a chopping board,” he has succeeded in establishing his status as the founder of a Korean family named “Lee from Germany.”

The writer is a political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Koo Hui-lyung []
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