Korea-Canada ties grew with arts, sports

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Korea-Canada ties grew with arts, sports

Ever wonder why there are so many Canadian English teachers in Korea? Perhaps the fact that the writer of the first Korean-English dictionary was from the Great White North has something to do with it.

Korea and Canada launched formal diplomatic ties in 1963, but the countries’ relationship dates back to 1888.

That year, Canadian missionary James Scarth Gale from Toronto was dispatched to Korea, according to the Government of Canada Web site.

In 1890, Gale and another missionary, London-native Horace G. Underwood, put out a small dictionary. Gale’s Korean-English dictionary was published in 1897.

Gale was a prolific translator during his 39-year stay in Korea. He is credited with translating the Bible into Korean for the first time. He was also the translator of the first novel printed in hangul (the Korean alphabet), John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress.”

He published the first Korean literary work to be translated into English, “The Cloud Dream of the Nine” by Kim Man-choong. Gale was also the first person to write an English-language history of Korea,

Gale was also active in journalism, working as a correspondent for the North China Daily News in Shanghai and as an editor for the Christian News, Christian Herald and, later, the English-language Korea Magazine.

He is also a founding member of the Hwangsung Young Men’s Christian Association, which is now the Korean YMCA, and served as its first president.

Gale blazed a path in the literary world, but Canadians opened doors in other fields as well.

Philanthropist and scholar Oliver Avison came to Korea in 1893 and worked as a personal physician to King Gojong. Avison served as the head of the hospital Jejungwon, a royal hospital that later became Severance Hospital, which is affiliated with Yonsei University’s medical school.

Francis Schofield, a veterinarian and teacher who came to Korea in 1916 as a Presbyterian missionary, supported Korea’s 1919 declaration of independence while Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. He traveled throughout Korea to promote the cause but was imprisoned by the Japanese authorities before being deported.

Schofield returned to Korea after his retirement. He is one of only three foreigners to be buried at the Seoul National Cemetery, which is the resting place for tens and thousands of military and civilian heroes.

Following these early civic exchanges, official connections between the two countries began in 1947. Canada took part in the United Nations Temporary Commission’s supervising of free elections here. Three years later, Canada deployed the third-largest contingent, with more than 26,000 troops, to the Korean War. More than 500 were killed in action.

After launching diplomatic ties, the Korean Embassy in Canada opened in 1965. The Canadian mission opened in Korea eight years later.

The two countries agreed on a special partnership at the 1993 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit to strengthen their ties in trade, investment and political dialogue. A year later they launched a Special Partnership Working Group to increase cooperation in those areas, and held a dozen meetings over the next 10 years.

Citizens of both countries have had an increasing amount of contact, largely thanks to the visa waiver agreement reached in 1994. Under the deal, Koreans and Canadians can stay in the other’s country for up to six months without a visitor’s visa, and that has pushed up the number of exchange visits.

A growing number of Koreans fly to Canada to study English or participate in the working holiday program.

There are nearly 10,000 Canadians teaching English in Korea, and almost 20 percent of all Korean students studying overseas are doing so in Canada.

The two countries also have connections in the world of sports. Korean athletes made history in Vancouver during the Winter Olympics in February, winning a record 14 medals, including six gold.

The highlight of the Games was ladies’ singles figure skating. Korean star Kim Yu-na overwhelmed the field with a world record score of 228.56 points, taking the gold by more than 23 points over Mao Asada of Japan.

Maybe such Olympic glory wouldn’t have been possible without Canada. But what if all of that had taken place right in Korea’s backyard?

The east coast town of Pyeongchang narrowly lost to Vancouver in the bidding to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

That may have left some Pyeongchang residents with bittersweet feelings when Korea performed well at the Vancouver Winter Games.

Fortunately, though, bilateral relations between Korea and Canada have mostly been positive.

By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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