SOON HYUN (HY？N SUN) AND HIS LEADERSHIP IN THE HAWAIIAN BRANCH OF THE KOREAN NATIONAL REVOLUTIONARY PARTY DURING WORLD WAR II
- Author: KIM ROBERT
- Publish: Acta Koreana Volume 15, Issue1, p163~199, June 2012
The present study focuses primarily on Soon Hyun’s involvement in the Hawaiian Branch of the Korean National Revolutionary Party that was organized in Hawaii in 1943. The party was originally organized in China in 1935, and its American branch in Los Angeles was created in 1942. As its chairman Hyun raised money and sent it to Kim Wŏn-bong to assist Kim in his struggle against the Japanese forces in China. Also, as a chairman of the Hawaiian branch of the party, Hyun expressed displeasure with a number of decisions made by the government of the United States by writing to news media in Honolulu. He wrote to protest against the American military decision to classify the Korean residents in Hawaii during the Pacific War as enemy aliens. He was not in favor of the American military government established in the southern half of the Korean peninsula after the end of World War II and condemned the indiscriminate bombing and killing of civilians in North Korea during the Korean War. Because of the stance he took on these issues and the company he kept, he was mistaken for a radical or a Communist sympathizer. But he was only a passionate patriot for Korea who believed that the Korean masses should have control over political power and that the government to be established in Korea after the end of World War II should be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Soon Hyun (Hy？n Sun) , Korean National Revolutionary Party Hawaiian Branch , Korea’s independence , Kim W？n-bong , Korean immigration in Hawaii
Korean immigration to the United States of America began in January 1903 when the first group of Korean immigrants arrived in Honolulu to work on Hawaii’s sugar plantations. Almost immediately upon arrival, they established social, political, and religious organizations. They first founded Donghoe (Tonghoe), or the village council, in plantation camps to bring order to their disorderly camp life.1 In order to promote friendship among Korean immigrant workers and to protect their mutual interest, the Sinminhoe (New People’s Association) was created on August 7, 1903, and subsequently as many as twenty similar organizations were founded in Hawaii between 1905 and 1907. Churches were also organized to meet the needs of people’s spiritual life. A Methodist church was started first in Honolulu in April 1905, and later churches of other denominations were established not only in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, but also on other islands.
In August 1905, Japan forced upon Korea a protectorate treaty that placed the country under its control. When the news of the treaty reached Koreans in Hawaii, community leaders became concerned with the prospect of Korea’s loss of political independence, and decided to unite all existing political and social organizations into a single organizational rubric for the purpose of working together to protect Korea’s independence. On October 22, 1907, leaders of these organizations came together in Honolulu and created the Hanin hapsŏnghoe (Korean United Society). Koreans in San Francisco had founded the Ch’inmokhoe (Friendship Society) on September 23, 1903 under the leadership of An Ch’ang-ho (Tosan is his
nom de plume), who later expanded and restructured it into the Kongnip hyŏphoe (Mutual Cooperation Society). This organization had a membership of 800 people in nine regional chapters located in the United States, Hawaii, Mexico, Vladivostok, and Harbin. The shooting and the subsequent death of Durham W. Stevens by Chang In-hwan and Chŏn Myŏng-hun in San Francisco on March 23, 1908 and the need for financial support for their legal defense resulted in the effort to merge the Korean United Society with the Mutual Cooperation Society. On February 1, 1909, the two organizations merged into the Kungminhoe (Korean National Association, KNA) that claimed administrative jurisdiction over all Korean residents in America and Hawaii. Its headquarters was established in San Francisco, and its branch offices were established in Hawaii, Merida (Mexico), Siberia, and Manchuria.
Besides the KNA, there were other smaller organizations working towards Korea’s independence. They were organized mainly to support particular individuals and their programs for Korea’s liberation from Japan. In 1914, An Ch’ang-ho established the Hŭngsadan, or Young Korean Academy (YKA), in Los Angeles that was dedicated to the education of Korean youth in the philosophical principles of
ch’ungŭi, yonggam, musil, yŏkhaeng, or loyalty, courage, truth-seeking and truth-practicing. He taught his followers to cultivate their personal character and become individuals with civic virtue. Followers of Syngman Rhee (Yi Sŭng-man), whose nom de plumeis Unam, established in 1921 the Tongjihoe, or Comrade Society, in Honolulu with the main purpose of helping Rhee fulfill his goal of achieving Korea’s independence through diplomacy. Unam believed that the independence of Korea would come only through diplomatic work with major powers of the world that would force Japan to give up Korea. Conversely, Pak Yŏng-man believed that Korea’s independence could be achieved only through military means and established the Tae-Chosŏnin kundan (Military Corps of Korea) in 1914. Pak Yŏng-man’s organization was created in Hawaii and had military training programs for Korean youth.
Pak’s organization ceased to operate after he was assassinated in Beijing, China on October 17, 1928, but the YKA and Comrade Society were very active in raising money to support their programs for Korea’s independence. Particularly, after the March First Independence movement was launched in Korea on March 1, 1919, the YKA raised money to support An Ch’ang-ho, who went to Shanghai, China, where he led the Korean Provisional Government (KPG) as acting premier. Rhee, who was elected premier of the government in Shanghai, brought into existence an organization called the Kumi wiwŏnhoe, or the Korean Commission to America and Europe (KCTAAE), in Washington, D.C. for the purpose of channeling money through the organization for his diplomatic work. The YKA became dormant after its leader, An, was imprisoned in Korea, where he later died in 1938. Rhee’s organization did not fare much better, as the supporters of his programs dwindled to an insignificant number due partly to the American Depression in the 1930s, and partly to the lack of results from the many years of support Rhee had received from them. The Young Korean Association led by An and the Comrade Society headed by Rhee were made up of people who had conservative political ideas. Some of them had served as government officials in the Chosŏn Dynasty and none of them supported socialist ideas and programs that would do away with the exploitation of the majority of the people by a minority.
Japan created the Manchurian Incident on September 18, 1931 that gave it an excuse for a full-scale military invasion of Manchuria. After Japan occupied Manchuria, its forces moved down to Shanghai, and leaders of the Korean independence movement in Manchuria, the Beijing area, and Shanghai moved to Nanjing where they decided to unite various scattered political groups into the Han’guk tae-Il chŏnsŏn t’ongil tongmaeng (The League of the Korean Anti-Japanese United Front)2 on October 23, 1932. Eight organizations participated in this unified effort, including the Chosŏn ŭiyoldan (Korean Righteous Fighters League). They continued to coordinate their anti-Japanese operations until June 20, 1935, when thirty-six representatives from nine organizations, including the Korean Righteous Fighters League, the Chosŏn hyŏngmyŏngdang (Korean Revolutionary Party), the Chosŏn tongnipdang (Korean Independence Party), the Sin-Han tongnipdang (New Korea Independence Party), and the Tae-Han tongnipdang (Great Korean Independence Party) met in Nanjing with a goal of creating a united organization. Present among them were individuals from the KNA in America and from the New York Residents’ Association. The five mentioned above were the largest political organizations among Koreans in China, and they decided to dissolve themselves into a united political party called the Chosŏn minjok hyŏngmyŏngdang (Korean National Revolutionary Party, KNRP) on July 5, 1935. At its founding conference, the party adopted seventeen principles as its platform. The first three principles of the platform stated: (1) The party will defeat Japan’s forces of aggression and accomplish the nation’s independence; (2) it will eliminate all feudalistic and anti-revolutionary forces and establish a democratic republic; and (3) it will do away with an economic system where a minority exploits the majority, and will develop an economic system that is fair to all individuals. These principles suggest that the party had some leftist tendencies.3
At the time of its organization the KNRP had no chairman of its Central Executive Committee. Kang Man-gil stated that the position of chairman was left vacated for Kim Ku, who had refused to join the party.4 The Central Executive Committee consisted of fourteen members, including Kim Wŏn-bong, whose
nom de plumewas Yaksan, Yi Ch’ŏng-ch’ŏn, Sin Ik-hŭi, Kim Tu-bong, Kim Kyu-sik (Kiu Sik Kimm), Yang Ki-t’aek, Ch’oe Tong-o, and Yun Ki-sop. Yaksan also served on the Central Standing Committee with six other people, including Kim Tu-bong, Sin Ik-hŭi, Ch’oe Tong-o and Yi Ch’ŏng-ch’ŏn. In addition, Kim Wŏnbong served on the Central Inspection Committee along with Kim Tu-bong, Sin Ik-hŭi, Ch’oe Tong-o and Yi Ch’ŏng-ch’ŏn. Besides these three committees, the party also had six departments, and Yaksan was in charge of the party’s Secretariat. Therefore, judging from the various positions Yaksan occupied in the party, he was truly a major figure in the party.5
It was reported that there was a great deal of gambling and prostitution. Also men drank a lot and led rather disorderly lives. For an excellent study on the effort to create unity among the various Korean organizations in China, see Kim Hi-gon, et. al. Taehanminguk imsijŏngbu ŭi chwau hapchak undong (The Leftist-Rightist Cooperation Movement of the Korean Provisional Government) (Seoul: Hanul academi, 1995), pp. 60–61. Ibid., p. 94. See also Yun Pyŏng-sŏk, Kŭndae Han’guk minjok undong ŭi sajo (The Ideological Trend of the Nationalist Movement in Modern Korea) (Seoul: Chimundang, 1996), p. 587. Kang Man-gil, author of Chosŏn minjok hyŏn’gmyŏngdang kwa t’ongil chŏnsŏn (The Korean National Revolutionary Party and the United Front) (Seoul: Hwap’yŏngsa, 1991), reports on the suggestion that the party adopted the executive committee system in lieu of chairmanship system with view towards enticing Kim Ku into the party to serve as chairman. This is, however, rather doubtful in view of the fact that Kim Ku told Kim Wŏn-bong that he was not interested in joining the party, saying that “I could not participate in the unity movement that brings under one covering people who would dream different dreams, even though I like unity.” See the cited above, p. 62, passim, p.72. Kang Man-gil, Chosŏn minjok hyŏngmyŏngdang kwa t’ongil chŏnsŏn (The Korean National Revolutionary Party and the United Front) (Seoul: Hwap’yongsa, 1991), pp. 72–6.
After the Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1937, Koreans in America organized the Chungguk huwŏnhoe6 (China Aid Society, CAS), because they believed that the Chinese resistance against Japan’s military aggression was inseparably related to their efforts to liberate Korea from Japan. Organizational efforts were made throughout the United States as Pyŏn Chun-ho in New York, Kang Yŏng-sŏng in Chicago, and Kim Kang (Diamond Kimm) in Los Angeles led the movement to found the CAS in their respective communities. The CAS established in the three communities was later converted into the Jae-Mi Chosŏn ŭiyŏngdae huwŏnhoe (Korean Volunteer Corps Aid Society in America, KVCASIA) between 1939 and 1940 in order to support the Chosŏn ŭiyongdae (Korean Volunteer Corps, KVC). The Corps was the military arm of the Chosŏn minjok chŏnsŏn yŏnmaeng (Federation of the Korean National Front) which was made up of the leftist leaders within the Korean independence movement in China. It was established in Wuhan, China on October 10, 1938, and was led by Kim Wŏn-bong.7
Between 1938 and 1940, dissension gradually developed within the KVC over the question of military strategy to be used against the Japanese military forces in China; one group insisted on moving north to fight against the Japanese armed forces, while another group wanted to join the Kuomintang and fight against Japan under the leadership of Chiang Kai-shek. By the spring of 1941, the group wanting to move north succeeded in extricating itself from the region under the Kuomintang control and found itself in the area controlled by the Chinese Communists. This group was reorganized to become the Chosŏn ŭiyŏnggun8 (Korean Volunteer Army, KVA), while the other group remaining in the Kuomintang–controlled area retained its original name until it was incorporated into the Han’guk kwangbokkun (Korean Restoration Army, KRA) on May 15, 1942. The Chinese Military Affairs Committee under Chiang Kai-shek appointed Kim Wŏn-bong as vice commander of the KRA.9
The KVCASIA, reorganized to aid the KVC, recruited enough members by the end of 1939 to publish its first newsletter,
Ŭiyŏngbo(the Volunteer News) on January 1, 1940 and in May of the same year, the organization of the Chosŏn ŭiyŏngdae huwŏnhoe yŏnhaphoe (Federation of the Korean Volunteer Corps Aid Society) was completed. The impact of the Federation on the existing Korean community organizations must have been considerable in view of the fact that the KNA reacted rather stridently against it, denouncing it not only as part of the Communist movement, but also as attempting to divide the united capacity of the Korean community in America. The executive branch of the KNA denied use of the Sinhan minbo(The New Korea), the KNA news organ, by its own members who were also members of the Federation, to express their opinions through the newspaper. It also refused them the use of its headquarters office as a meeting place.10 In response to such a reactionary position taken by the KNA, the Federation attempted to appease the KNA by issuing a public statement to the effect that there should be no cause for alarm, since it was organized to support the independence movement by military means and Chinese military resistance against Japan. The statement claimed that people were in support of “the temporary unity,” and any person, regardless of the federation membership, could work together to support its program. It further stated that the Federation had never been against the KPG, and it had even entertained the idea of encouraging the KPG to take on the responsibility for leading the independence movement. It defended itself against the accusation that it was a Communist organization by stating that its major goals were to defeat Japanese imperialism and to establish a democratic republic in Korea. It may be possible, the response continued, that some individual members could be supporters of Communism, but they could not be prevented from expressing their opinions.11
The Federation needed to adjust its goals and purposes to the changing conditions facing the Korean independence movement, particularly after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. With the American entry into the Pacific War, there arose a need to coordinate more closely the financial and material support of Koreans in America with the military strategies of the KRA and political affairs of the KPG in China. Because of these developing situations, the Federation was reorganized into the Chosŏn minjok hyŏngmyŏngdang mijujibu (American Branch of the Korean National Revolutionary Party) on June 30, 1942. Subsequently, its Hawaii branch was later established.
Ibid., p. 304. Ibid., p. 305. A report claimed that the branch that had moved out of the Kuomintang area was reorganized into the Chosŏn ŭiyŏngdae hwabuk chidae, or the North China Regiment of the Korean Volunteer Corps before it was changed into the Korean Volunteer Army. There is no mention of the North China regiment of the Korean Volunteer Corps in Kang Man-gil’s work. Sim Ji-yon (Sim Chi-yŏn), in his book Chosŏn sinmindang yŏn’gu (The Korean New People’s Party), claimed that Kim Wŏn-bong was refused entry into the North China region by Chou En-lai, who stated that Kim Wŏn-bong should stay in Chungking for the good of revolution. For this report, see Yŏm In-ho, Kim Wŏn-bong yŏn’gu (A Study on Kim Wŏn-bong) (Seoul: Ch’angjak kwa pip’yŏngsa, 1992), p. 244. Kim Hŭi-gon, et. al., p. 150. The Korean Independent, September 18, 1946. Kang Man-gil, op.cit., pp. 306–07.
Little has been written about Soon Hyun, whose nom de plume is Sokchong, although he occupies an important place in the history of the Korean independence movement as well as of the development of the Methodist church in Korea and Hawaii. One could speculate on a variety of reasons for his being neglected by contemporary Korean historians. One of the reasons might have to do with his involvement in Korean National Revolutionary Party (KNRP) as chairman of its Hawaii branch. He was known as a communist or a communist sympathizer because of his association with the organization, and his contributions to the development of Korean Methodist churches and the Korean independence movement have been ignored by historians in South Korea. Another might have to do with the fact that the 3000-page manuscript Hyun left behind after his death has not been made readily available to historians for research.12 Consequently, there is virtually no written material about him. Yet another reason might be related to the fact that Hyun was branded as a Communist or a Communist sympathizer during the years of the Syngman Rhee regime in South Korea. There was no love lost between Unam and Sokchong due to the feud between the two while the latter was serving as chairman of the Korean Commission to America and Europe between 1920 and 1921.
Hyun was born on March 21, 1879 at Hang-dong, Sŏkchŏk-myŏn, Yangju, Kyŏnggi Province as first son of Hyŏn Che-ch’ang, who was a member of the Tongnip hyŏphoe (The Independence Club). He learned to read a primer of one thousand Chinese characters at the age of six and was introduced to Tongmun sŏnsŭp (What Children Ought to Learn First) at the age of nine. When he was twelve, he was married to a fourteen-year-old girl. He continued to study the Chinese classics until he was able to read
Sojŏnin 1896. The following year he entered the Hansŏng kwallip yŏng’ŏ hakkyo (Seoul Public English School). Hyun left the school with two of his friends and went to Japan where he began to attend Juten jugakko in 1899. He attended the school for the next four years and graduated from the school in 1902. He returned to Korea and found employment with the East-West Development Company established by David W. Deshler, who was in need of an English interpreter.13
On February 10, 1903 Hyun and his wife went aboard the
Kiso Maruthat carried them to Nagasaki, Japan, where they transferred to the S.S. Copticthat brought them to Honolulu on March 2. Hyun worked as an interpreter during the first five months after his arrival, and then was employed as a sugar plantations camp manager. Resigning from this position in January 1905, he moved to Honolulu to work for the Reverend John Wadman, who sent Hyun to Mokuleia to take care of the pastoral needs of Korean Christians there.14 He and his family, including his two daughters, Alice and Mary in birth order, and his son, Peter, returned to Korea in May 1907. He taught English, Mathematics, Geography, History and General Science at Paejae haktang, but resigned from the school sometime in 1908 due to his disagreement with its principal, D. H. Bunker.15 He worked as assistant minister to the Reverend Ch’oe Pyŏng-hŏn at Chŏngdong Church, and the following year he took a position as an evangelist for the Seoul area, while attending the Union Methodist Theological School from which he graduated on December 21, 1911. He was ordained as assistant minister of Sangdong Methodist Church in 1912. Before the March First Movement broke out on March 1, 1919, he worked as minister of Chŏngdong Church between 1914 and 1915, and served as Sunday School Superintendent of the Methodist Churches in Korea.16
Hyun participated in the planning for the March First Movement as part of the eight-member committee representing the Methodist churches in Korea. He was, however, dispatched to Shanghai, China on February 24, 1919 to inform Korean residents in the city and the nations of the world of the nation-wide demonstration in Korea on March 1. Upon arrival in Shanghai, Hyun contacted foreign correspondents in Shanghai and sent telegrams to Korean overseas organizations to inform them of the March First Movement. Hyun also participated in the founding of the Korean Provisional Legislative Assembly (KPLA) that was responsible for bringing the KPG into existence in Shanghai. He was elected to serve the KPG as vice minister in the Foreign Affairs Ministry. While serving on the cabinet, he was given two major assignments; first, he was asked to escort An Ch’ang-ho from Hong Kong to Shanghai; second, he was sent to Vladivostok to bring Yi Tong-hwi to Shanghai. He carried out both assignments successfully.17
In May 1920, Rhee asked Hyun to come to Washington, D.C. to assume the position of interim chairman of the Korean Commission to America and Europe. He was to succeed Kim Kyu-sik, who had resigned from the chairmanship due to a conflict with Rhee. Hyun accepted the position and came to Washington, where he carried out a number of tasks, including raising money from within the various Korean communities in America for the purpose of supporting the diplomatic work of Rhee and the KPG. However, Hyun was asked to resign over the controversial issue of whether or not Hyun had been authorized not only to establish the Korean legation in Washington, D.C., but also to send a petition to the U.S. government for its recognition of the KPG. Refusing to resign from office, Hyun maintained that Unam had authorized the establishment of the legation. Nevertheless, Rhee dismissed him.18
Hyun went back to Shanghai by way of Hawaii and the Philippines and continued to participate in various activities on behalf of the Korean independence movement. One of the activities Hyun carried out while in Shanghai was a trip he made in 1922 to Moscow, where he met Lenin and Trotsky. Reminiscing on this journey later in life, Hyun said he learned from the trip that revolution means destruction and “life comes out of wreckages” (
sic).19 Upon returning to Shanghai, he was employed by a British company as a salesman before he was called to come to Hawaii. Hyun came to Honolulu in February 1923 where he worked as a pastor for a period of three years. He was then sent to Kauai by Bishop Herbert Welch in March 1926 where he continued to do church work until his retirement in September 1947. In a statement he wrote on February 14, 1936, he said that he “traveled 1,200 miles every month visiting camps, individual homes, holding preaching services, and conducting Sunday schools.”20 He also helped to build two new churches; one was built at Kapaa with contributions made by Mr. G. N. Wilcox, Mrs. Dora R. Isenberg, and the Hawaiian Cannery Company; the other was at Kekaha built with money donated by the Kekaha Sugar Company. At the time of his writing, the church membership at Kauai grew from 80 to 220, and three Sunday schools had a total enrollment of 120 children, while two Young People’s Clubs had 40 members. In July of 1945 Hyun worked for the U.S. Army as a training instructor for 3,000 Korean prisoners of war who had served in the Japanese army during the war. Indeed, Soon Hyun’s career was filled with various achievements that left a great legacy of which Koreans in America should be proud.21
The manuscript is in the possession of Soon Hyun’s third son, David Hyun, who now lives in Los Angeles, California. He deposited it with the Library of the University of Southern California, which digitalized it and made it available for public use. This author presented a more detailed biography of Hyun in a study, “Soon Hyun and His Place in the History of the Independence Movement: With Emphasis on the Korean Commission,” published in Acta Koreana, Vol. 12, No. 2, (December 2009), pp. 127–183. The reader is referred to this study for more information on Hyun. Soon Hyun, “My Autobiography” (a type-written manuscript), p. 65. Ibid., p.74. Han Kyu-mu, “Hyun Sun ŭi inmul kwa hwaldong (Character and Activities of Hyun Sun),” Kuksa nonch’ong (Essays on Korean History), vol. 40, p. 70. Robert Hyung-chan Kim, “Soon Hyun (Hyŏn Sun) and His Place in the History of the Korean Independence Movement: With emphasis on the Korean Commission,” Acta Koreana, Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 152. Ibid., p. 175. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, vol. 13, p. 131. Soon Hyun, “The Korean Methodist Work in Kauai,” a two-page typewritten article included in his unpublished manuscript, Vol. 19, pp. 181–182. This was written on February 14, 1936. Soon Hyun, unpublished manuscript, XV, p. 70. Hyun wrote a poem sometime in the middle of August 1945 indicating that he was writing at the place where Korean prisoners of war were incarcerated.
As mentioned before, the Hawaii Branch of KNRP was established following the founding of the American Branch on June 30, 1942. The founding date of the Hawaii branch is not clear. Yet, we might be able to guess the date of its founding by examining a number of dates reported in relation to the party’s activities. On July 22, 1944, the
Honolulu Star-Bulletinpublished a group picture with a caption that read, “at the first anniversary observance of the Korean National Revolutionary Party, Hawaii branch, Sunday, in the Kaahumanu school auditorium, a trophy was presented to Mr. and Mrs. Philip E. Shin by the party in appreciation of their sympathetic support and loyal service.”22 Hyun was the person holding the trophy in the picture. In another article published in the Honolulu Star-Bulletinon August 31, 1943 under the title, “New Revolutionary Group Here Formed by Koreans,” the establishment of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP was announced with a list of officers serving in various capacities: Min Ch’an-ho, Chairman; Kim Yŏng-sun, Vice chairman; Yi Chung-kŭn, Recording secretary; Chŏn Chin-hwa, General secretary; Mrs. Sara Shin, Treasurer; Pak Sangha, Corresponding secretary; and O Chang-ik, Assistant treasurer.23 However, Hyun’s name was not included in the list. The Hawaii branch ran an article on December 6, 1943 in Honolulu Star-Bulletinunder the title, “Koreans Happy at Cairo Announcement,” indicating that the party was alive and active by then.24
Hyun’s name appeared on March 22, 1944 in the
Korean Independent, a weekly newspaper run by the KNRP, as one of the leaders of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP. The paper published the names of fifteen people in a group picture taken for the occasion. Hyun’s name appeared in the mass media of Honolulu for the first time in relation with the Hawaii branch of the party. The Honolulu Advertiser ran a letter to the editor written by Hyun that was published on May 25, 1944.25 He sent the letter while in the capacity of Executive Secretary, the KNRP, Hawaii Branch. In the letter, Hyun said that “Koreans in Hawaii feel good reason to express their happiness and renewed enthusiasm because of General order No 59…. which removed the hateful stigma of ‘enemy aliens’ from all Koreans in Hawaii.” On July 16, Hyun penned a poem in his diary to commemorate the first anniversary of the founding of the KNRP,26 and it was later published in the Korean Independenton September 6. The poem, written in a traditional Chinese style of sixty-four Chinese characters equally divided into eight lines, expressed Hyun’s deep feelings:
Therefore, it is safe to assume that the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP was established sometime between July 22 and August 31, 1943. Since July 22, 1944 marked the first anniversary of the party, and August 31, 1943 was when the
Honolulu Star-Bulletinreported that the party had been recently founded, it is reasonable to locate the founding day between the two dates. However, one may also surmise that the party was founded before July 16, 1943, because Hyun penned the poem on July 16, 1944 to commemorate the founding of the party. The title of the poem, “A Poem to Commemorate the Founding of the Revolutionary Party,” did not state that it was for the first anniversary, although one may assume it was written for that occasion. Hyun did not assume any leadership position within the organization at the time of its founding. About six months later, Hyun accepted an office within the organization. When he served as executive secretary of the organization, its central executive committee consisted of nine members that included Min Ch’an-ho, Pak Sang-ha, Soon Hyun, Hong Ch’i-bŏm, Hong Han-sik, Mun Dora, Kim I-je, Kim Yŏng-sun, and Sin Sera (Sara). Serving on its standing committee were five people: Min Ch’an-ho, Chairman; Hyun Soon, Executive Secretary; Yi Ch’ung-gŭn, Recording secretary; Sin Sera, Treasurer; and O Ch’ang-ik, also Treasurer. In addition, Hyun also served as bureau chief of the regional office of Korean Independent.28
Before he became executive secretary of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP, he was involved in raising money to support the independence movement by the KPG and its military operations under the leadership of Kim Wŏn-bong. In 1932, Hyun collected an unspecified amount of money in the form of head taxes from thirty-nine people, and the following year, he raised a total of $92 of head taxes from thirty-three people.29 According to his report, between September 1937 and April 1938, he sent $1,722.69 presumably to the KPG in support of its military operations. Between January and September 1939, he forwarded to the KPG a total of $1,610 and the amount included $87 earmarked for Kim Ku. On January 26, 1940, Hyun remitted $100 to Kim Ku to cover his medical expenses. During the same year, he received $102.50 as special contributions from thirty-three people.30
While he was raising money for the KPG in Chungking, he also was in frequent communication with Yaksan. Evidently, the Korean Volunteer Army Aid Society had been organized in Hawaii, and the meeting of the organization first reported in Hyun’s diary was held in March 1942 when they had five agenda items to discuss. During the meeting they considered the activities of Haan Kil-soo (Han Kil-su) and issues surrounding the naturalization of Koreans, among others.31 The first time Hyun mentioned the name of Kim Wŏn-bong in his diary was in early March 1942, when a small group of Koreans held a meeting to commemorate the March First Independence Movement. Hyun wrote an entry in his diary to the effect that he had sent to Yaksan two telegrams concerning the military activities and structure of the revolutionary organization.32 The group continued to hold its monthly meetings, the agendas of which Hyun entered in his diary after the March meeting. For instance, a meeting was held on April 5, 1942, to commemorate the military victory of the KVA. The meeting was convened with the opening address of Hong Han-sik that was followed by a report on the present conditions of the KVA by Yi Kyŏng-son. Min Ch’an-ho offered a prayer and Hong Ch’i-bŏm gave a congratulatory speech for the occasion.33
There were eight agenda items for the May 1942 meeting. Included in the agenda was a report on money remitted to the KVA and Haan Kil-soo, who had been working with Hyun for the formal recognition of the KPG in Shanghai by the United States of America. Hyun exchanged a number of telegrams with Haan Kil-soo and Kim Wŏn-bong during the month of May. On May 4, he received a telegram from Han, who reported that he had received $100 and that he was working hard in spite of Rhee’s strong opposition. Responding to this report, Hyun cabled Han on May 7, telling him that he should not be discouraged and that money would be sent soon. Hyun received on May 16 a telegram, presumably from Kim Wŏn-bong or his associates, informing him that the KVA had acquired new weapons, and they had been preparing for a major battle behind Japanese lines. Hyun was also told that the KVA was suffering from financial problems. In response to this message, Hyun cabled back, stating that he expected good results from the military operations of the KVA and that he was going to send $200. Finally, on May 13, Yaksan cabled Hyun to inform him that he had received $550, but he had not been able to achieve the merger with the KPG.34
Hyun was particularly busy on May 18, 1942. On that day he sent $500 to Yaksan, $300 more than he had promised him. Hyun requested Yaksan to report on the military operations of the KVA in Manchuria and the number of soldiers of the KRA. Then Hyun asked Yaksan if there was a possibility of his working together with the KPG. Hyun also sent $200 to Han as he had pledged. On the same day, he learned from a newspaper report by Ŏm Hang-sŏp that the KVA had been disbanded, that the KRA had been created, and that Yaksan had been appointed vice commander of the KRA.35
The June monthly report was rather brief, but there were two major activities Hyun carried out in relation to his work with Yaksan. First, Hyun cabled Yaksan on June 3, asking him to report on the possibility of combining the KVA and KRA. Second, Hyun sent Yaksan $1,000 on June 22, asking him to work with loyalty and courage. The monthly report for July had three items, and one of them had to do with telegrams Hyun sent out to three people. One of them was addressed to Yaksan who was asked by Hyun to report on the recognition of the KPG.
The August report was rather long with the report from Yaksan concerning his activities. It included a telegram to Hyun from Yaksan who stated that he had received the $500 with joy. Yaksan also said that he had not aligned himself with the KPG. Then Yaksan asked Hyun to work towards strengthening the national united front. In reply, Hyun cabled Yaksan to inform him that a representative had been chosen on behalf of the united front, and Hyun advised Yaksan that the united front should be strengthened among the overseas Koreans. Finally, Hyun told Yaksan to ask the Chinese government to guarantee Korea’s independence.
Yaksan must have sent a separate telegram to Ch’oe Nŭng-ik, who reported it to Hyun. The gist of Yaksan’s telegram included the following: First, due to the Pacific War, our (
sic) communication had been disrupted, and our ( sic) activities had been influenced very much; second, because of the order of the Chinese Military Affairs Council, the Korean Volunteer Corps was incorporated into the Korean Independence Army, but only the Korean Volunteer Corps was recognized as the First Route Army, while the Second Route Army, formerly the Korean Independence Army, was not recognized by the Chinese Military Affairs Council; third, the Council declared Yaksan as vice commander, and it did not appoint anyone as commander; fourth, the KPG appointed Yi Ch’ŏng-ch’ŏn as its commander, but it did not have any effect since the KPG had no relationship with the Korean Independence Army.
In the same minutes of the August meeting, Hyun raised the following questions: First, did not the Japanese characterize Koreans fighting against Japan as Communists before the war between Japan and America?; second, why are Dr, Rhee and the new regime characterizing Koreans in Manchuria and Siberia who are fighting against Japan as Communists?; third, if Dr. Rhee and the new regime exclude all anti-Japanese Koreans in Manchuria and Siberia, where are they going to recruit soldiers?; finally, why do Dr. Rhee and the new regime claim that they alone represent the Korean people?36
Then, Hyun sent off a telegram to Kim Ku under his signature, advising him to cooperate with Kim Wŏn-bong. Hyun urged Kim Ku to form a coalition government and to ask China and the United States for recognition. Hyun told Kim Ku that if he did not follow his advice, he would fail. The information on this particular telegram was included in the September monthly report. In view of the fact that the KPG had asked China, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union for recognition on March 1, it is obvious that Hyun had not been kept up to date on the latest diplomatic development by the KPG, Yaksan, or his associates.37
It is not clear how Hyun came to be involved in the KNRP in Hawaii. He must have been kept informed by Yaksan, Chairman of the KNRP in China, and his associates of the latest political developments among the Korean independence movement activists in Hawaii, who later joined the Hawaiian Branch of the KNRP, although there is no written record to that effect. As already mentioned, less than eight months after the party was established, Hyun, as Executive Secretary of the KNRP, issued a statement about the Koreans’ legal status which the
Honolulu Advertisercarried, and during the meeting that celebrated the second anniversary of the founding of the Party, Hyun was elected its president on August 15, 1945. Once Hyun became involved, however, he played a major role in drafting and adopting the constitution of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP. It is not clear who wrote the first draft of the constitution, but Hyun revised the draft by adding crucial words and deleting those that were unnecessary or insufficient to express the necessary meaning. The constitution consisted of eight articles, the by-laws, and a preamble. In the preamble the philosophy of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP was clearly explained, when it declared: “We Koreans living in the Territory of Hawaii, U.S.A., are fully aware, upon the outcome of the present World War will depend the destinies of millions of people all over the world....” It then continued to say, “We are resolved to take our full share in all the war efforts of this country through the communities of the Territory in which we live and work.”38
Article One specified the name of the organization as the Korean National Revolutionary Party, Hawaii Branch, and Article Two defined the purpose of the organization. Two major purposes were clearly stated. Firstly, the organization proposed to develop and to direct the moral and material resources of the Korean people in the Territory of Hawaii toward the final defeat of the Axis Powers and toward the complete victory of the United Nations and the independence of Korea. Secondly, the organization was to foster the unity of all the Korean fighting forces through the active support of the Korean National Revolutionary Party and the Korean Provisional Government. The first purpose specified here was in complete accord with the philosophy of revolution Hyun articulated in his diary. On May 28, 1944, he delivered a speech at the United Korean Committee meeting held to celebrate the new formation of the KPG. He said that the revolutionary work should be carried out not only by the KNRP, but also by all other organizations whose purpose was Korea’s political freedom.39 In revolutionary work, according to Hyun, mental and material activities should go together like a hand in glove. Revolution brings both destruction and construction.
Article Three is related to the party’s program that included, among other items, “the promotion and the cooperation in all activities and campaigns of war effort in the communities of the Territory.”40 Article Four had to do with the membership of the Hawaii branch, and it established the party’s “honorary membership for any person living in the Territory of Hawaii, not of Korean ancestry, but who sympathizes with and supports the aim and program of the organization.”41 In Article Five Hyun paid close attention to the procedure through which officers of the party were to be elected to serve the party. Hyun was a firm believer in majority rule and made it clear that all committee chairpersons should be elected by majority vote. The organization required that all active members pay membership dues of $3 per month. The membership fee was to be used in the following manner: one-third to the Korean National Revolutionary Party in Chongqing (Chungking), China; one-third to the KPG in Chongqing; and one-third to the account of the Hawaii Branch, KNRP. Article Six was about election of officers and chairmen of the organization’s permanent committees who were to be nominated and elected to serve for one year. Article Seven dealt with the finances of the organization and stated that the majority vote of active members could impose special assessments on the active members for the purpose of meeting any special needs of the party. Finally, Article Eight stipulated that a regular membership meeting was to be called once a month. Of course, this does not mean that the party held a meeting every month. During the year of 1942, the organization held its meetings without skipping any month.42
The American branch of the party had its own statement of programs and principles, according to one study, but no document has been found to date that suggests that the Hawaii branch had its own separate purpose.43 Hyun included in his personal papers a typewritten statement of a program adopted by the party’s headquarters office in Chongqing, China. The program had twelve points and Hyun penciled in a number of corrections concerning the various points. For instance, the third point in the program originally stated:
The latter statement was adopted by the KNRP in Chunking. Although there are no great differences between the two statements, it is important to point out that the party had asked for Hyun’s suggestions before the final draft of the party’s program was made public. The first statement left little room for alternatives other than the nationalization of seized properties and land redistribution to farmers. Hyun’s corrections would enable policy-makers of Korea, after its liberation from Japan, to use the seized properties for other purposes than nationalization and land distribution.45
Likewise, Hyun’s advice was sought in the drafting of the party’s statement of seven principles. Each principle was revised by Hyun. The two versions of seven principles are presented here for comparison and analysis. The first is the original document before Hyun’s corrections, whereas the second is the final document after revision:
1. The intensification of the national unity through the cooperation and unification of all revolutionary forces within and outside of Korea.
2. The recognition of the Korean Provisional Government by the United Nations as the organ of all Korean revolutionary parties.
3. The concentration of all forces in Korea, Russia, and America for the purpose of launching a large scale offensive against the Japanese and coordinating with the offensive of the Allies.
4. The organization and training of the people in Korea toward the final general uprising.
5. Organization and training of the Koreans outside of Korea for participation in revolutionary activities.
6. The full participation in China’s war of liberation and in the greater struggle against Fascism.
7. Assistance in all the oppressed peoples’ struggle in Asia against Imperialist Japan, and in the Japanese people’s fight to overthrow their Fascist militarists.
1. Intensification of the national unity through the cooperation and unification of all revolutionary forces within Korea.
2. Recognition of the Korean Provisional Government by the United Nations as the organ of all national revolutionary parties.
3. The mobilization of all forces in Korea, China, Russia, and the Americas for the purpose of launching a large scale offensive against the Japanese in coordination with the offensive of the Allies.
4. The organization and training of the people in Korea toward the final uprising against Japanese military power.
5. Organization and training of the Koreans outside of Korea for participation in the national independence movement.
6. Full participation in China’s war of liberation and in the greater worldwide struggle against Fascism.
7. Mutual aid in all the oppressed peoples’ struggle against Japanese military rule, and in the Japanese people’s fight to overthrow their Fascist government.
The revisions Hyun made to the original document seem rather insignificant, but they were important in that Hyun made the Korean struggle against Japanese imperialism as an international stance against not only the Japanese but also world Fascism. For instance, Number Three in the policy statement mentioned America, but Hyun changed this into “the Americas” to include not only the United States, but also all other countries in North and South America. Again, in Number Three Hyun’s concern with the world-wide struggle against Japan was noticeable as he changed “greater struggle” in the policy statement to read, “greater world-wide struggle.” Finally, Hyun dropped two words, “in Asia,” from Number Seven in the policy statement. He must have felt that the struggle against Japanese military oppression was not confined to Asia, but extended beyond the Asian continent. Although there were no specific countries placed under Japanese military rule in other continents, Hyun probably felt that Japanese military rule influenced the lives of Koreans and of Chinese in the United States and Hawaii.
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, July 22, 1944. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, August 31, 1943. Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 6, 1943. Honolulu Advertiser, May 25, 1944. The July 17, 1944 entry of his diary found in Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 12. This is Soon Hyun’s own English translation of the poem. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 13, pp. 73–6. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 6, p. 23. This particular volume has the heading of “Head Taxes; remarks on money collected sent. Koreans in Kauai.” See various reports on head taxes included in Vol. 6. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 14, p. 51. Ibid., p. 52. Soon Hyun, unpublished manuscript XIV, p. 57. Ibid., p.70. Ibid., p. 71. For the reports on all these monthly meetings, see Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 14, pp. 56–90. Many conservative Koreans in America who had been staunch supporters of the KPG were against Kim Ku cooperating with Kim Wŏn-bong, because the latter was known to them as a Communist. On the other hand, Hyun urged Kim Ku to cooperate with Kim Wŏn-bong. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 6, p. 69. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 13, 130–32. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 6, p. 69. Ibid., p. 70. See Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript Vol. 14, pp. 57–90. For a thorough analysis of the principles and programs of the American Branch of the KNRP, see Kang Man-gil, Chosŏn minjok hyŏngmyŏngdang kwa t’ongilchosŏn , pp. 311–18. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 6, p. 73. Ibid., p. 75. Ibid., pp. 73–74. Ibid., pp. 75–76.
Hyun left unpublished manuscripts that number more than 3000 pages, where he often expressed his opinions on many topics ranging from the Korean independence movement to the most desirable form of Korea’s body politic after its liberation from Japan. Since our topic here has to do with Soon Hyun and his involvement in the Hawaiian Branch of the KNRP, the examination of Hyun’s thoughts will be confined to the periods between 1942 when he worked as a member of the China Aid Society and 1947 when he was involved in the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP. Particular emphasis will be on the examination and analysis of his opinions and ideas either published in the
Korean Independent, or expressed in his diary.
One of the most enduring themes to which Hyun paid considerable attention was the relationship between the
minjung, or the masses, and the government. In an entry in his diary that was probably written after May 6, 1944, he wrote on the proper relationship between the masses and government. According to this entry, the minjunggives birth to government and nurtures it, while government protects the minjungand educates it. The government that has not been brought into existence by the minjung, cannot either protect or educate it. On the basis of this kind of philosophy, according to Hyun, Abraham Lincoln said; “the government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Then, what qualities should the minjunghave? Firstly, it has to become aware of freedom through history, tribulation and poverty. Secondly, it has to be comprised of people who have been trained for cooperation and choose their leader(s) by themselves. Thirdly, it has to possess a strong will. Then, Hyun was in a lightmood when he said that there are three kinds of people in the world: the wills, the won’ts, and the can’ts. “The first will accomplish everything; the second oppose everything; and the third fail in everything,” so Hyun wrote in his diary.48
Then Hyun asked, “What kinds of qualifications should government possess that was brought into existence and nurtured by minjung?” According to Hyun, agovernment is qualified if it knows how to govern itself. In order to clarify what he meant by this statement, he wrote in English, “the best of all governments is that which can govern itself.” The next qualification government should have is1the ability to educate the
minjungin truth and justice. Again, Hyun relies on Lincoln, who allegedly said; “you may fool part of the people part of the time; but not all the people all the time.” Government should also have the qualification to lead people into prosperity. Hyun, again to clarify his meaning, wrote in English, “government ought to exist for the purpose of leading and protecting the prosperity of its people.” Hyun wrote that when such a minjungbrings into existence such a government, there should be no problem of its recognition by the nations around the world. Hyun opined in the diary and said: “Kopogo (the Korean Provisional Government) should consolidate people’s support by presenting concrete plans, rather than inclining toward the recognition issue.” Hyun seemed to have believed that the people associated with the KPG in Shanghai should unite and develop programs to receive support from the masses, and discontinue their political bickering. If they demonstrate that they can govern, then major powers of the world would recognize the KPG.49
Hyun published four articles in the
Korean Independent. The first of these articles was published on May 17, 1944 under the title, “Chosŏn ŭn ojik Chosŏn minjung ŭi kŏt (Korea is only for the Korean masses).” He believed that ideas are expressed through the press and the press promotes public opinion. Public opinion then leads to action. When ideas and the press work together, they give rise to the public opinion among the masses, and they go into action. This is the principle on which the people of democratic nations stand to fight for freedom. Simply, Korea is not for one heroic person. Korea is not for a group either. Korea is for neither the rich nor the poor. Korea is for the masses, and when the masses realize that Korea is theirs, they will move to correct “the irrational and unnatural Korean Provisional Legislative Assembly (KPLA) and the corrected KPLA will then rectify the KPG.” Hyun seemed to believe that the KPG in Chungking was in disarray because it was isolated from the masses.50
In the second article published on June 28, 1944 under the title, “Hyŏngmyŏng,” or “Revolution,” the revolution in which Koreans had been engaged had not made much progress, according to Hyun, because there had been no destruction from which construction would emerge. There was no construction without destruction, and the masses had to go through the destruction of the mind before they could have its reconstruction; the masses had to experience the destruction of matter before they could have its reconstruction. The Korean people had to destroy their old habits before they could construct new habits commensurate with the democratic era.51
Then, what were these old habits the Korean masses had to destroy? They were individual heroism, dependency, need for recognition, jealousy, and criticism. Individual heroism had to be replaced with the heroism of the cooperative masses; dependency with self-reliance; need for recognition with sacrifice; jealousy with competition; and criticism with acceptance.52
In the third article published under the title, “Sae Chosŏn e sae saram (New man in a renewed Korea),” Hyun expressed his belief that Korea would be freed from Japanese totalitarianism, because it was in conformity with the course of nature. The outbreak of World War I was in accord with the course of nature, and it was natural that World War II resulted from all the things that were unnatural. It followed that the heads of the three nations, China, Great Britain, and the United States declared that Korea would become independent in due course. And it was certainly natural for the Korean masses to be mobilized to fight for their freedom. They would renew Korea with new thoughts, a new ideology and a new spirit. Thus revived, Korea would require a new man with technical and professional knowledge who was dedicated to promote the happiness of the masses.53
In the last article published under the title, “Minjung ŭi chŏngbu (Government of the masses),” Hyun repeated the ideas on the relationship between the masses and government which he entered in his diary. Hyun seemed to have given more thought to the question of how the masses become aware of the need for freedom. In the diary he said that the masses become aware of their need for freedom by experiencing history, tribulation, and poverty. But in the newspaper article, he said that the masses become aware of freedom by experiencing oppression, tribulation and poverty. As his evidence, he presented the cases of the United States and the Soviet Union. In the United States, according to Hyun, the masses experienced poverty and tribulation under British oppression, and they became aware of the need for freedom. This awareness led them to declare, “Give us liberty or give us death.” In the Soviet Union, the masses experienced poverty and tribulation under the Czarist oppression and prepared for revolution for a hundred years. During World War I, the Russian masses demanded freedom with the slogan, “Land to the peasants and factories to workers.”54
Hyun was of the opinion that the KPG had failed to receive recognition from the United States and China, because the Korean masses had not brought the KPG into existence. In the absence of concrete plans and strategies developed by the KPG, the Korean masses had not become aware of the need to establish it. Only when the masses become aware of the need for the KPG, will they support it. Of course, the masses should discuss the need for the KPG. This is the step to be taken first before any discussion of the ecognition of the KPG by other nations, because the latter will come when the Korean masses support their government.55
Hyun’s position on the mass line was well articulated in another newspaper article published on November 21, 1945 under the title, “Haebang ch’ogi e imhan Chosŏn minjok (The Korean People at the Beginning of Liberation).” Less than three months after Korea’s liberation from Japan, Hyun wrote this article to express his thoughts on what the Korean people should do to achieve their complete independence. According to Hyun, the Korean people must demonstrate
chi, chaeand tŏk Chi. refers to the ability to know as well as to ask proper questions; chaerefers to the ability to discern what to do and what not to do with one’s knowledge; and tŏkrefers to the ability to use one’s knowledge in the most opportune way.56
Liberation finally came to the Koreans after a thirty-five year struggle, so Hyun reasons, but it fell short of their expectations. Therefore, the Koreans should know how to bring about a complete liberation. They should ask the question: How can we achieve complete liberation? According to Hyun, Korea’s complete liberation will come when the Korean people partake in the revolution of carrying out the mass line in cooperation with world masses and do away with the class system of the past. The Korean masses should destroy any political leadership centering on one person, any partisanship centering on factional party struggles, and any political authoritarianism that attempts to concentrate power. The Korean masses should establish firmly their mass line of living together, working together and sharing power together. When this type of mass line is established in Korea, then they could ask the United States and the Soviet Union to work towards opening communications between North and South and establishing harmonious political relations between the two countries. The Koreans should become a mediator between the United States and the Soviet Union and leave a good impression on the two nations, which will eventually withdraw from Korea, provided that their natural human compassion is aroused by Koreans’ goodwill towards them.57
Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 13, pp. 92–94. Ibid., pp. 94–95. Soon Hyun, “Chosŏn ŭn ojik Chosŏn minjung ŭi kŏt (Korea is only for the Korean masses),” Korean Independent, May 17, 1944, p. 3. Soon Hyun, “Hyŏngmyŏng (Revolution),” Korean Independent, June 28, 1944, p. 3. Ibid. Soon Hyun, “Sae Chosŏn e sae saram (A New Man in a Renewed Korea),” Korean Independent, July 26, 1944, p. 3. Soon Hyun, “Minjung ŭi chŏngbu (Government of the masses),” Korean Independent, August 26, 1944, p. 3. Ibid. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 6, pp. 121–122. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 13, p. 95.
Few Koreans spent as many years in America as Hyun did, and he had a very active life as interpreter, Chairman of the Korean Commission in Washington, D.C., and Methodist minister in Hawaii. At a young age he came under the influence of many American missionaries and the institutions they established, and their influence on him increased as he matured both as a person and a professional. He spent more than four decades continuously in America, and it would be incomprehensible to think of Hyun and his life without American culture and society. However, for the purpose of this paper, a lengthy examination of Hyun’s life in America will not be made. Since the present discourse is about Hyun and his involvement in the KNRP, it will discuss only Hyun’s view of America during the Pacific War and his thoughts and opinions about American involvement in Korea after the end of World War II. It will also discuss what America did in response to Hyun and his associates.
With the declaration of war against Japan on December 7, 1941, the U.S. government subsequently took some drastic measures against persons of Japanese ancestry in the United States and Hawaii. President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, making it possible to incarcerate more than 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry in the continental United States in ten internment camps established by the War Relocation Authorities. However, persons of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii were not put into internment camps. But they were classified as enemy aliens. Korean residents in Hawaii, whose country had been annexed into the Japanese empire in 1910, did not have a separate nationality status in the United States and were deemed as “enemy aliens” by the U.S. government, since they had been considered as Japanese nationals in the past. There was confusion over whether or not Koreans were enemy aliens, however, as General Order No. 6 did not mention specifically Koreans as being classified as enemy aliens. The confusion was later clarified temporarily, as Lt. Col. Moe D. Baroff, Provost Judge, ruled against a Korean resident in the territory, when a case of an 8:00 p.m. curfew violation came to his court for ruling. A Korean resident in Hawaii since 1904, Syung Woon Sohn, was found in violation of the 8:00 p.m. curfew law by being out at 8:15 p.m. on March 28, 1942. Baroff found Sohn guilty of violation of the curfew law and fined him $10. In his ruling that came on April 30, Baroff stated that Koreans in Hawaii “must be classed as enemy aliens in enforcing blackout travel restrictions.”58
Before the ruling Hyun agonized over the U.S. government classification of Koreans as enemy aliens and made inquires about whether or not Koreans should register as enemy aliens. On April 14, 1942 Henry Appenzeller came to his office and advised Hyun to register, and the following day, Hyun was taken to the office of Lt. Meullot, who asked Hyun why he had troubles with Dr. Appenzeller. Hyun told him that it was because of the registration matter as well as the proceedings of changing Korean status from Japanese nationals. Hyun was told by him that “the army needs your registration,” although it does not urge you to do so.59
The ruling of Lt. Col. Baroff had been appealed by Wilson C. Moore, attorney for Mr. Sohn, to Lt. General Delos C. Emmons, military governor of Hawaii, who upheld the decision handed down by Baroff. Moore received a letter from the general on June 1, 1943, stating that “I desire to inform you that the findings and judgement of the provost court are sustained.”60 As a result of this decision, Koreans in Hawaii remained classified as enemy aliens until May 6, 1944, when General Order No. 59 was issued by Lt. General Robert C. Richardson, Jr., Military Governor of Hawaii. The order stated that “Title 2 General Order No. 6, Office of Military Governor, 10 March 1943, shall not include nor mean any Korean or any person of Korean ancestry or of Korean racial extraction.” For almost a year, many Koreans in Hawaii, including Soon Hyun, continued to protest against the injustice to which they were subjected, while at the same time they supported America’s war effort by donating money for the cause of the American victory. For instance, they launched a campaign of the American- Korean Victory Fund organized by a committee led by Duke Chung, and it collected $26,265.35 which was presented to Lt. Gen. Robert C. Richardson Jr. on August 31, 1943. Hyun was one of the twenty-two prominent Koreans on the committee.61
Although Korean residents were considered enemy aliens from the start of the Pacific War to May 6, 1944, certain restrictions were eased so as to allow them to purchase drugs and medical supplies as well as photographic materials by July 1943. Five months later, on December 4, 1943, the Office of the Military Governor issued General Order 45 to amend General Orders 3 and 6, which required enemy aliens to observe the blackout at the 8:00 p.m. curfew. According to the new order, Koreans were no longer required to observe the blackout since it stated that “the term enemy aliens as regards to curfew and blackout restriction shall not include or mean any Korean or any person of Korean ancestry or of Korean racial extraction.”62 Under the new order, the daily life of Koreans in Hawaii took on a semblance of normalcy, as they were allowed to observe the 10:00 p.m. curfew order and were able to leave their homes after 5:30 a.m. to report to work on early morning shifts. Hyun in his capacity as executive secretary of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP, sent a letter to the
Honolulu Advertiserthat carried his letter on May 25, 1944. In the letter, Hyun said that classifying Koreans as enemy aliens along with Japanese was a “serious miscalculation of loyalties,” and it “hampered the patriotic activities of Koreans in the allied cause.”63
On December 1, 1943 the heads of the three great powers, namely the United States, England and China, issued the Cairo Declaration, promising that “in due course Korea shall become free and independent.” In response to the declaration, the Hawaiian Branch of the KNRP issued a statement that was carried by the
Honolulu Star-Bulletinon December 6. It initially welcomed the announcement by the three as it made their intention clear as to what would happen to Korea after the end of World War II. It stated that “In America and elsewhere, this clear statement of policy comes as a beam of light on a previously clouded issue. Now that they know where they stand, Koreans must redouble their work in the war effort.”64 But later the KNRP expressed its concern with the phrase “in due course.” It said that the declaration “arouses a bit of suspicion, because of an ambiguous phrase in regard to the question of Korea’s independence.” Then, it questioned if Korea’s freedom would follow immediately after the termination of the war or if Korea would be free and independent after going through an alien mandate. It stated firmly that if it meant the latter, then the KNRP categorically opposed the intent and the purpose of that “in due course.”65 This position taken by the KNRP was in stark contrast with that of Syngman Rhee, who issued a statement, saying that Koreans received the news with great appreciation and that “We receive it, too, in gratitude for the sense of justice demonstrated by the great leaders.”66 His Tongji-hoe issued a statement to the effect that Koreans were very grateful for the historic declaration made at Cairo by President Roosevelt, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Prime Minister Churchill that Korea shall become free and independent. Neither expressed any concern with the phrase, “in due course.”67
Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonialism came at the end of the Pacific War on August 15, 1945, but two foreign armies occupied the Korean peninsula. The United States armed forces moved into Korea south of the 38th parallel, while the Soviet Red army came into Korea north of the 38th parallel. Reacting to this unfortunate situation, Hyun expressed his concern in an article entitled, “Democracy for Korea,” which was later edited by and published in a Honolulu newspaper sometime in October 1945. In the article, Hyun lamented on the sad situation which Korea was thrown into by the occupation armies, when he stated:
The representatives of the Three Powers, namely the United States of America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, met in Moscow to discuss many post-war problems, including what should be done about Korea. They agreed on the Moscow Accords at the end of the conference on December 27, 1945 to put Korea under a four-power trusteeship for a period of five years before Korea can become free and independent. Upon receiving the news of the trusteeship, almost immediately resistance arose against it among many patriotic Koreans both inside and outside the Korean peninsula who had hoped for immediate independence. In protest against the trusteeship, Hyun wrote a letter that was published on January 3, 1946 by the
Honolulu Advertiser. Characterizing the Moscow Accords as “un-American policy, he claimed it was “not only contradictory to the principles of the Atlantic Charter and the spirit of the Cairo pledge, but it was a great disgrace to the honored death of precious American youths for the freedom of oppressed peoples in the world.” Continuing his letter, he proposed a five-point program which he asked both America and Russia to consider:
On December 7, 1946, Drew Pearson, a noted Washington columnist, wrote a short, but blistering essay in his usual Washington Merry-Go-Round column on the conflict between Major General Archer L. Lerch, Chief of Civil Administration in Korea, and Lt. General John Reed Hodge, Commanding General of the United States Armed Forces in Korea. Pearson said that Lerch had complaints against Hodge over alleged discrimination in food supplies and vehicles. According to Pearson, Lerch was known to have said that he could not do a satisfactory administrative job with what Hodge gave him, but was afraid to complain about Hodge because he was his superior officer. Then Pearson said that “Korean conditions probably will not improve until either Hodge or Lerch is removed—and insiders who know all the facts say it should be Hodge.”69 Pearson was referring to the fact that an angry mob of Koreans had killed about fifty civilian policemen in the city of Taegu and factories had been at a standstill and part of the civilian population had been on the verge of starvation.70 Soon Hyun translated the essay in its entirety into Korean and kept it in his files, partly because it reflected the failure of the American Military Government to establish an effective administrative rule over Korea, and partly because it was a serious charge against the two top generals. Ever since the Moscow Accords, there had been almost daily mass demonstrations on the streets of major cities in Korea. A minority of leftist Koreans in support of the trusteeship were involved in physical clashes with the majority of their countrymen who were against it. Lawlessness and disorder were so rampant and pervasive in South Korea due to these mass demonstrations that the American military forces had to be put on alert in January 1947. General Hodge issued a statement on January 16, warning “ill-advised actions by Korean groups may operate against the interest of Korea in future international conferences.” This warning was supported by the government in Washington, D.C. that “called on dissident groups in Korea to cease agitation which may work against ultimate independence for that country.”71
Hyun issued a statement in the name of Hawaii Branch of the KNRP, and as a member of the Korean Democratic People’s Front, and it was published by the
Honolulu Star-Bulletinon February 6, 1947. On the statement Hyun thanked General Hodge for his “amicable settlement with the Korean people on the matter of vicious uprisings against the American military government policy.”72 Hyun praised Gen. Hodge, not because he was in full support of what the American Military Government (AMG) was doing under Hodge’s leadership, but because Hodge had accepted and implemented the five-point report Hyun and his group of Korean Americans had submitted to help ease the causes of the uprising in South Korea. The five-point recommendations Gen. Hodge was advised to consider were (1) people’s ill-feeling against the AMG police force, (2) pro-Japanese elements still holding important positions in the AMG, (3) misrepresentation by AMG interpreters, (4) corruption of certain Korean officials, and finally (5) fabrications by agitators against the interest of Korea.73
The two great powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, established the Soviet-American Joint Commission in accordance with the Moscow Accords to deal with the problems of implementing trusteeship in Korea. Its first meeting was held on March 20, 1946 in Seoul, and subsequently it held a series of meetings, but it failed to come to a mutually acceptable agreement. It finally ceased to function in May 1947. By then the Cold War was in full swing and it began to affect negotiations between America and the Soviet Union. Both sides then started to work on the formation of two separate governments, and by the end of September 1948 the Republic of Korea (ROK) in South Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in North Korea were established, thus sealing the division of the Korean peninsula. No sooner had the two regimes been established than sporadic military clashes occurred along the 38th parallel that separated them, and on June 25, 1950 a full-scale war broke out on the Korean peninsula. The North Korean military forces, assisted with Soviet-made tanks, were victorious during the first few months of the war, but were driven back to the Korea-China border in October, when China sent its volunteer army to fight against the United Nations forces led by the United States.
Hyun retired from active Christian ministry and moved to Los Angeles in 1947, where he spent time with his family and close friends. He seldom preached at local churches, but when he was invited to speak on occasion; he was more than willing to tell what was on his mind. During the Korean War he was given an opportunity to speak on behalf of Korea, when the Committee for Peaceful Alternatives invited him. In a long speech entitled, “The Christian Basis for a Peaceful Settlement in Korea,” he appealed to American Christians by saying that “big Christian brothers are beating down little Christian brothers beyond our imagination that a single weak nation is resisting against the greatest might of the U.S. including the U.N. I could do nothing but crying unto God day and night for his help for a peaceful settlement in Korea.”74 Then he listed all the good things America did for Korea and Koreans since the opening of Korea to America in 1882, when the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed between the two nations. Particularly he mentioned tremendous accomplishments American missionaries made in the fields of evangelism, education, medical work, and social reform. He praised them for their love and sacrifice they had for Koreans. Returning to the topic of war in his speech, however, he said that “Koreans in the past received the baptism of joy, comfort, happiness, peace and life from the Americans, but today they are receiving the baptism of terror, discomfort, fear, destruction and death from the same Americans.75” Continuing his speech, he said that it was not the time to argue who was right and wrong. He said that as a Christian minister, “I cannot condemn North Koreans nor South Koreans, but I rather consider the present crises as a family dispute over the reunion of that unfortunately divided nation.” Claiming that man cannot solve his problem by his brain alone, but must go with his heart, a sympathetic heart, a forgiving heart, he asked American Christians the following three questions:
He concluded the speech by saying that “the love of God alone will eventually bring a peaceful settlement in Korea and will prevent the World War III.”76 At the end of the hand-written speech which he kept in his files, he quoted from Psalm 76:10, “The wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shall thou restrain.” The modern version of this verse reads: “People praise you for your anger against evil. Those who live through your anger are stopped from doing more evil.”77
Evidently, Hyun must have thought that what America was doing to North Koreans during the war was evil and had to be stopped. Due to Hyun’s association with Yaksan and his leadership in the KNRP, the American military government in South Korea and the government of the United States considered Hyun as a persona non grata. During the Pacific War Hyun had been placed under surveillance in Hawaii. One report filed by an American intelligence officer characterized Hyun as the “most violent member of the group.”78 After the American military government was established in south Korea, Hyun asked for permission in a letter dated February 12, 1946 to go to South Korea to “make immediate contact with two of the outstanding party leaders in the city of Seoul: Dr. Kiu Sik Kimm and Mr. Yak san Kim (
sic).” In a subsequent letter, dated March 19, 1946, Col. E. P. Crandell, representing the Commanding General of the United States Armed Forces, Middle Pacific, denied Hyun permission to go back to his own country, stating that the headquarters office of the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, advise that “such business trips are not feasible at this time.”79
The surveillance over Hyun was probably related to the fact that he was known for his association with a number of people who were considered Communist or Communist sympathizers. Included among them were Pyŏn Chunho, Yi Kyŏng-sŏn, Kim Kang, Alice Hyun, and Peter Hyun. Hyun’s first child, Alice, born in Hawaii on May 8, 1903, was actively involved in a labor union movement in Hawaii. She moved to North Korea sometime in the spring of 1949 to work with Pak Hŏn-yŏng, former head of the South Korean Communist Party and foreign minister in Kim Il Sung’s regime in P’yŏngyang. Pak and Alice Hyun came to know each other in the early 1920’s, when Soon Hyun and his family lived in China. Immediately after the end of the Korean War, Pak was arrested by North Korean authorities on fabricated charges of espionage for the American government. Alice was named in the indictment against Pak as an American spy who was sent to North Korea to assist Pak in his spying activities on behalf of America. Pak was sentenced to death and was imprisoned for two years before he was executed on December 15, 1955. Alice was also put to death.80
Hyun’s first son, Peter, born also in Hawaii on August 15, 1906, was allegedly a Communist. He harbored some radical ideas by the standard of his times and expressed them in his letters to his father. For instance, in a letter dated July 11, 1938, he wrote, “Today, we live in a society in which less than 10% of the population controls nearly 90% of the wealth and the remaining 90% of the population has to live on 10% of the material resources. Furthermore, today, this 10% controls all established industries, creative and technical avenues of employment.” Expanding further this idea of the scarcity of resources for the poor, he continued in the same letter to elaborate on how it works in society, as follows:
Then, he pleaded with his father, saying, “Please don’t simply say this is communistic ideas and conveniently dismiss it, because whether we recognize this fact or not the situation remains true.” This was in a letter written by a mature man of thirty-one years of age who was working in New York for a Federal Theatre project for which he directed and staged three productions. This was not written by a young person politically misguided by some romantic notions of righting the wrongs in society through one man’s rash actions. He believed that the two political parties in America were not representing the interests of the people and that the people should choose the Farmer-Labor Party as the people’s party in the coming election.82
Pyŏn Chun-ho, Yi Kyŏng-sŏn and Kim Kang had been members of the YKA, a rather conservative organization that was devoted to the moral character training of young Koreans to work for Korea’s independence. They made effortsto steer the YKA towards a more progressive stance, but met stiff resistance from a group of well established members such as Song Chong-ik, Ch’oe Chin-ha, Yi Am, and Kim Pyŏng-yŏn. Then they left the YKA and started to organize the KVCASIA with 40 progressive people, most of whom were members of the Korean Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Its pastor Hwang Sa-yong and Yi Kyŏng-sŏn, its assistant pastor, joined them soon later. They raised money for use by the Korean Volunteer Corps led by Kim Wŏn-bong and sent it to him by way of the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles. According to Harold Hakwon Sunoo (Sŏnu Hagwŏn), the author of
Arirang kŭ sŭlpŭn karagiyŏ(Arirang, That Sad Melody), Pyŏn Chun-ho, Chairman of the American Branch of KNRP, who had joined the Communist Party in New York, ran a liquor store and his partner, Yi Ch’ŏl, was also a Communist. Yi went back to P’yŏngyang, when Korea was freed from Japanese colonialism. Yi Kyŏng-sŏn followed him soon, after he had been invited by Yaksan and Kim Tu-bong, former Chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK. Yi Kyŏng-son and Sŏnu Hagwŏn had written a letter addressed to “Dear Kim Il Sung and Pak Hŏn-yŏng,”83 which was intercepted by an American intelligence agency, according to Sŏnu Hagwŏn. After he moved to P’yŏngyang, he began to criticize Syngman Rhee and his dictatorship in South Korea, and published an article in the official organ of the Korean Workers Party, Nodong Sinmun(The Labor News), on Syngman Rhee’s dictatorial rule. A copy of the article was later sent to Sŏnu Hagwŏn, when he was studying in Prague, Czechoslovakia between 1949 and 1950.84
Sŏnu Hagwŏn said that the progressive movement among Korean intellectuals in America started with the arrival of Yi Kyŏng-sŏn from P’yŏngyang in 1938. He met Kim Kang as the latter was preparing to go back to Korea after his study of mining in Colorado. Yi told Kim that Korea was suffering under Japan that was forcing Korean intellectuals to cooperate with Japan in her war against China. No Christian minister was free from it, and Yi came to America to escape from cooperating with Japan. Kim was persuaded not to go back to Korea. Instead, he joined the KNRP and worked to publish its organ, the
Korean Independent, as its president. During the Korean War, the newspaper began to publish articles that were critical of the American involvement in the war, and Kim was arrested for violation of immigration laws. He was ordered to be deported, but applied for an order suspending his deportation. In an administrative hearing on his application, he was asked if he was a Communist, but he refused to answer, claiming the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.85 After trials in the lower courts, his case, Kim v. Rosenberg, District Director, Immigration and Naturalization Service, went to the Supreme Court of the United States that sustained the lower court’s decision, denying his application on the basis of the Internal Security Act of 1950. The law made Communists ineligible for suspension of deportation, and therefore the court ruled that the burden of proof was on the petitioner to show that he was eligible for such suspension. Even before the court reached its decision, however, Kim Kang had left America for North Korea.86
“Hope to Clarify Status of Koreans in the U.S.,” a newspaper clipping inserted in Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 14, p. 95. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 14, p. 57. “Koreans Here to Remain as Enemy Aliens,” a newspaper clipping inserted in Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 14, p. 97. “American-Korean Victory Fund Drive Progresses,” a newspaper clipping inserted in Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 14, p. 104. Honolulu Advertiser, December 5, 1943. Honolulu Advertiser, May 25, 1944. Star-Bulletin, December 6, 1943. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 13, No. 2, p. 119. Ibid. Ibid. Op. cit., Vol. 14, No. 2, p. 171. Ibid., p. 209. Ibid. Ibid Star-Bulletin, February 6, 1947. Honolulu Advertiser, February 6, 1947. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 13, No. 2, p. 646. Ibid., p. 651. Ibid., p. 655. Word Publishing, The Answer: To Happiness, Health, and Fulfillment in Life: The Holy Bible, Dallas, London, Vancouver, Melbourne: Word Publishing, 1993, p. 587. “Summarization of Korean Political Organizations,” Intelligence Files, as reported in Wayne Patterson, The Ilse: First-Generation Korean Immigrants in Hawaii, 1903–73, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000, p. 185. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 6, p. 95. Kim Nam-sik, Nam Chosŏn nodongdang (The Study of South Korean Labor Workers Party) Seoul: Dolbegae, 1984, p. 577. Soon Hyun’s unpublished manuscript, Vol. 8., p. 94. Ibid., p. 88. Harold Hakwon Sunoo (Sŏnu Hagwŏn), Arirang kŭ sŭlpŭn karagiyŏ (Arirang, That Sad Melody), Seoul: Daehŭnggihoek, 1994, p. 136. Ibid., p. 189. Hyung-chan Kim, Asian Americans and the Supreme Court, Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1992, p. 390. Ibid.
Ever since Korean immigrants arrived in Hawaii in 1903, they established social, religious and political organizations for a variety of purposes. Most of them were, however, very conservative in their political programs. There was no progressive organization that proposed to create a mass line in its political programs and to conduct a sweeping land reform until the establishment of the American and Hawaii branches of the Korean National Revolutionary Party. It is not clear if the Korean National Revolutionary Party established in China had much intellectual and ideological influence upon either its American or Hawaii branch. Nevertheless, there are strong indications that people associated with the American branch such as Yi Kyŏng-sŏn, Ch’oe Nŭng-ik,87 Kim Kang, and Pyŏn Chun-ho were left-leaning intellectuals who were against the establishment of the American military government in South Korea. Subsequently, when the Korean War broke out in June 1950, they became critical of the American involvement in the war. Their opposition against the American military government and the American government policy towards Korea during the Korean War should be further studied.88
Being patriotic to his homeland and desiring to help the cause of Korea’s independence, Soon Hyun worked very closely with Kim Wŏn-bong, who received financial support from the organization. There is ample evidence to support claims that Kim depended on the financial support of the Hawaii Branch of the KNRP for his weapons purchase as well as other military operations. Because he was known as a Communist, Kim had to flee to North Korea from South Korea under the American military government control, and later became a member of Kim Il Sung’s first cabinet in charge of state control. Even though Hyun led the Hawaiian Branch of the KNRP and was associated with known Communists, he was not a Communist himself. Because of his close association with Kim Wŏn-bong and a company of co-workers he kept and his children, however, he was considered suspect and became persona non grata to the American government. This was probably what was to be expected of the American political environment where McCarthyism was allowed to raise its ugly head. Hyun advocated a political philosophy that a government has to be supported by the masses, and this was very much misunderstood by a number of people who suspected that he was a Communist or a Communist sympathizer. Hyun believed that a government should be for the people, not people for the government. Even today many in high places in government give lip service to the Lincoln statement of “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but few put it into practice. Hyun simply tried to practice what he preached.
Ch’oe Nŭng-ik was a brother of Ch’oe Nŭng-jin (1899–1951), who was executed by the Syngman Rhee regime on charges of “aiding the enemy and subversion,” probably because he ran against Syngmam Rhee in an election. See An Chin, Migun chŏnggi oeapkigu yŏn’gu (A Study on Oppressive Agencies during the American Military Government), Seoul: Saegil sinsŏ, 1996, pp. 257–264. For instance, as early as February 2, 1946, the Korean Independent ran an article under the title, “Stop AMG (The American Military Government) Fascist Policy in Korea,” accusing the AMG of helping the pro-Japanese Koreans to oppress the Korean working class in southern Korea. See Korean Independent, February 6, 1946, p. 1.
5. 1944 [Honolulu Advertiser]
6. 1947 [Honolulu Advertiser]
8. 1943 [Honolulu Star-Bulletin]
9. 1944 [Honolulu Star-Bulletin]
10. 1947 [Honolulu Star-Bulletin]