Homer B. Hulbert, Hidden Hero of Korea and Pride of America
Homer Hulbert, rechristened by the lecturer as “the American who loved Korea more than Koreans,” was born in 1863 in Vermont. After attending Dartmouth College and Union Theological Seminary, Hulbert came to Korea in 1886 to teach at the Royal School of the Joseon Kingdom, the first state-run modern school in Korean history. He was a pioneer of Korean education, a student of Hangeul (Korean alphabet), journalism, Korean studies and a founder of Korean Christianity together with other missionaries who came early to Korea, and most importantly an ardent activist for rgw independence of Korea against the gathering cloud of Japanese domination.
Hulbert, who wrote the “Sa-min Pil-ji,” the first Korean textbook in modern style and furthermore written using Hangeul, was close to Emperor Gojong and served three times as secret envoy of the Emperor, something unprecedented in Korean history. Hulbert was an official envoy of the Emperor to President Roosevelt in 1905, delivering the Emperor's personal letter. He also served as special envoy to the 9 heads of state with whom Korea had signed treaties in 1907 and played a major role in dispatching three secret emissaries to the 1907 Hague Conference. However, the mission failed. In that year, Japan forced the abdication of Emperor Gojong and also expelled Hulbert from Korea, so he returned to the United States. Hulbert finally returned to Korea in 1949, but he developed pneumonia and died 7 days after his arrival. He is interred at Yangwhajin Foreign Cemetery in Seoul. Hulbert's tombstone reads “I would rather be buried in Korea than in Westminster Abbey." He was the first recipient of the Order of Merit for National Foundation by the Korean Government.
The lecture will introduce Hulbert's life while highlighting his accomplishments, that crucially impacted Korea's civilization and independence. The lecturer will also tell how he elicited the Gold Medal of Merit for Culture and Arts, the highest in its kind, from the Korean government in 2014, which was bestowed upon Hulbert for his contribution to the development of Hangeul.
DongJin (DJ) Kim worked for over 30 years in the banking industry in Seoul and New York. While in college, he read Homer B. Hulbert’s “The Passing of Korea” (1906). He was struck by Dr. Hulbert’s accomplishments in the service of Korea, particularly for Korean independence. He took on a life-long task of ensuring a place for Dr. Hulbert in the annals of Korean history. He published “Homer B. Hulbert, Crusader for Korea” in 2010 and “The Selected Works of Homer B. Hulbert: Hulbert arouses the Soul of Joseon,” a translation into Korean of 57 articles written by Dr. Hulbert, in 2016. These 57 articles are part of the 200-plus articles he had left besides his 15 full-length books. Mr. Kim received the Prime Minister’s Commendation Medal from the Korean government in 2003 and is also a recipient of the Global Korea Award from Michigan State University in 2014 in recognition of his contribution to building bridges between Korea and the U.S.. He also received the Veterans and Cultures Prize from the Korean government in 2015 for the promotion of commemorative events for Dr. Hulbert as Chairman of the Hulbert Memorial Society.