An analysis of American Presbyterian (Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, PCUSA) missionary activities in Korea from 1931 to 1948 allows a better understanding of critical shifts in Korean-American relations. As the largest Protestant missionary denomination in Korea under the Japanese colonial rule (1910-45), the Presbyterian Chosen (Korea) Mission maintained eight mission stations. Four of the eight maintained eight secondary schools. By the mid-1930’s, the colonial government had granted "designated schools" status to the seven schools, thus making them equivalent to government schools. In collaboration with other missionary groups, the Chosen Mission even managed institutions of higher education such as Union Christian (Soongsil) College, Pyungyang Theological Seminary, Chosen Christian (Yeonhi) College, and Severance Medical College. As Protestant missionaries had been active in the areas of education and medical care since the 1880’s, the Japanese Government-General of Korea was inclined to acknowledge their special roles. The fact that the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, had condoned the Japanese take-over of Korea also assured that the colonial regime had no issues with the missionaries. The 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria had an adverse effect on their relations. Not only was Japan unable to enlist Western support for its action, worshipping at Shinto shrines was to become a key feature of wartime mobilization, both in mind and body. The Government-General increasingly enforced the worship to commemorate the war dead and to pacify unstable Korean peninsula. Adjacent to Manchuria, the initial target region was none other than Korea’s northwest, the Protestant stronghold where conservative missionaries had already prohibited ancestor worship as an idolatry and viewed the government’s Shinto-related policy with suspicion. All the same, even after beginning to formally require schools to comply, the colonial government did not seek immediate enforcement, though Japanese veteran associations agitated pro-worship demonstrations. In fact, in an effort to maintain good relations with the Chosen Mission, the Government-General did not force any mission school to obey. Seeing no serious problem, the U. S. State Department did not intervene. As the Japanese consolidation of the emperor system shaped colonial policies in the 1930’s in Taiwan and Korea, tension escalated over the worship issue. In November 1935 when the principals of Presbyterian schools in Pyungyang—George S. McCune of Soongsil Boy’s Academy and College and Velma L. Snook of Soongeui Girl’s Academy—refused to comply with the provincial governor’s order concerning the worship, they suffered eviction. The incident effectively marked the end of good relations between the colonial government and the Chosen Mission. At this juncture, the Pyungyang mission station decided to withdraw from educational ministry as the Shinto shrine worship requirement applied to the overall education system in colonial Korea. The 1936 annual meeting of the Chosen Mission backed the decision, but holding on to school properties aroused criticism among Korean Presbyterians. To them, rejecting the Shinto shrine worship was one thing, not offering education to Koreans another. Forming the committees for taking over mission schools from the missionaries, they rushed to effect the transfer, and what resulted was a conflict between Koreans and the Chosen Mission. Similar committees sprang up in Cheolla and South Kyeongsang regions where, respectively, Southern Presbyterians and Australian Presbyterians maintained a mission. Southern Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions even dispatched its Secretary to Korea to resolve the matter, and this precipitated the withdrawal of missionaries in spite of vehement Korean protests. In contrast, Methodists and Canadian Presbyterians obeyed the Government-General on the Shinto shrine worship issue, and no serious trouble arose. While the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions concurred with the 1936 decision by the Chosen Mission, educational missionaries in Seoul, Daegu, and Seoncheon dissented. To be sure, they and other missionaries who advocated continuing missionary schools were in the minority in the Chosen Mission. Led by Horace H. Underwood and Edwin W. Koons, the minority group appealed to the Board of Foreign Missions and argued for the necessity of missionary-managed secondary schools and institutions of higher education in Korea. The American missionaries and diplomats in Japan supported this position, according to which the Shinto shrine worship requirement was a matter of patriotic obligation. After several conferences, the Board of Foreign Missions decided to transfer the mission schools in Korea to Koreans except the schools in Pyungyang—a concession to the minority view. The Chosen Mission’s majority dissented, and some left the denomination for a more "conservative" one. After Korea’s liberation in 1945, some of them would support Koryeo Theological seminary in South Kyeongsang Province. Eventually, Presbyterian mission schools in Pyungyang were closed, and those in other regions were taken by Korean Presbyteries and school boards. Upon commencing its attack on mainland China in 1937, Japan began mobilizing Korea for war. The Government-General found that increasing the Korean people’s access to basic education will be good for securing Korean cooperation. In this milieu, it allowed Koreans to continue running the mission schools as well as even allowing Japanese schools to absorb them. Thus even before the commencement of the Pacific War (1941-45) with the U. S., American missionaries had withdrawn from the area of education in colonial Korea. With bitterness and anger, they returned to America except for a small number that remained in Korea. The latter eventually suffered internment upon the outbreak of the war, but in June 1942 Japan returned them to the U. S. in exchange for interned Japanese nationals. Repatriated Americans produced vivid reports on the conditions in wartime Korea. During the early stage of the war when the Japanese advancement continued and the Republic of Korea Provisional Government (ROKPG) in China sought recognition by Allied powers, Korea-related information from the returning Americans was invaluable to the U. S. government. In spite of the reports stressing Korean zeal for independence, however, returned Americans generally deemed mobilizing Koreans for anti-Japanese activity virtually impossible. And pessimism expressed in the reports about Korean independence and descriptions of divisions among Korean independence activists further strengthened the State Department’s skepticism. Most repatriated missionaries actively cooperated with the American government, and some worked for intelligence agencies. Among them, a new generation of Americans wanted the U. S. government to support the ROKPG and various Korean coalitions in the U. S.—a stance different from that of old Asia hand’s. Even among the older missionaries that had spent decades in Korea, some formed an organization to help the Korean independence movement under Syngman Rhee. The Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions recognized that the post-war missionary activity in Korea will require Korean cooperation, and the Board’s stance foreshadowed power shift in the Protestant leadership in post-liberation Korea. Horace. H. Underwood in particular wielded strong influence on the Board’s post-war plans for Korea. Upon the end of the war and Korea’s liberation, many missionaries joined the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK, 1945-48) which, otherwise without adequate information on Korea, found their service valuable. The missionaries returning to Korea collaborated with the USAMGIK in various ways. As exemplified by Underwood who served as a special advisor to the American Military Governor and the Minister of Education, most missionaries did not differentiate "democracy" and Christianity. Throughout this period, the Board of Foreign Missions considered the missionaries’ participation in the USAMGIK as a part of their normal work. Most missionaries did not explicitly criticize the American occupation authority and the U. S. policy toward Korea, but a small number were outspoken advocates of political and economic reforms necessary for turning Korea into a strong bulwark against Communism. They were to lose ground, however, with the emergence of rival regimes on the peninsula and ensuing hostility between the two. After Korea’s liberation from Japan, missionaries gradually returned to Korea and by 1947 most missions were reestablished. Missions again managed schools and hospitals where Koreans served as principals. Missionaries secured their position of influence by providing increasingly large financial support. Not only did they expand their activity sphere to include radio broadcasting and vocational education, their cooperation with the American occupation authority also facilitated Protestant Korean participation in the governing process, wherein the graduates of mission schools and American universities became especially conspicuous. Unlike the colonial era, now the Protestant elite of Korea enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to increase their presence in the government, be it the American military government or the succeeding Republic of Korea (1948-present) government. With its Protestant elite regarding government service as an important mission for Christians, Korea faced a new challenge: defining proper relationship between the state and religion.

Miguk pukchangrogyo sŏnkyosadŭl ŭi hwaltong kwa hanmikwankye, 1931-1948 [The Activities of American Presbyterian (PCUSA) Missionaries and Korean-American Relations, 1931-1948]

Jongchol an
2008

Abstract

An analysis of American Presbyterian (Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, PCUSA) missionary activities in Korea from 1931 to 1948 allows a better understanding of critical shifts in Korean-American relations. As the largest Protestant missionary denomination in Korea under the Japanese colonial rule (1910-45), the Presbyterian Chosen (Korea) Mission maintained eight mission stations. Four of the eight maintained eight secondary schools. By the mid-1930’s, the colonial government had granted "designated schools" status to the seven schools, thus making them equivalent to government schools. In collaboration with other missionary groups, the Chosen Mission even managed institutions of higher education such as Union Christian (Soongsil) College, Pyungyang Theological Seminary, Chosen Christian (Yeonhi) College, and Severance Medical College. As Protestant missionaries had been active in the areas of education and medical care since the 1880’s, the Japanese Government-General of Korea was inclined to acknowledge their special roles. The fact that the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, had condoned the Japanese take-over of Korea also assured that the colonial regime had no issues with the missionaries. The 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria had an adverse effect on their relations. Not only was Japan unable to enlist Western support for its action, worshipping at Shinto shrines was to become a key feature of wartime mobilization, both in mind and body. The Government-General increasingly enforced the worship to commemorate the war dead and to pacify unstable Korean peninsula. Adjacent to Manchuria, the initial target region was none other than Korea’s northwest, the Protestant stronghold where conservative missionaries had already prohibited ancestor worship as an idolatry and viewed the government’s Shinto-related policy with suspicion. All the same, even after beginning to formally require schools to comply, the colonial government did not seek immediate enforcement, though Japanese veteran associations agitated pro-worship demonstrations. In fact, in an effort to maintain good relations with the Chosen Mission, the Government-General did not force any mission school to obey. Seeing no serious problem, the U. S. State Department did not intervene. As the Japanese consolidation of the emperor system shaped colonial policies in the 1930’s in Taiwan and Korea, tension escalated over the worship issue. In November 1935 when the principals of Presbyterian schools in Pyungyang—George S. McCune of Soongsil Boy’s Academy and College and Velma L. Snook of Soongeui Girl’s Academy—refused to comply with the provincial governor’s order concerning the worship, they suffered eviction. The incident effectively marked the end of good relations between the colonial government and the Chosen Mission. At this juncture, the Pyungyang mission station decided to withdraw from educational ministry as the Shinto shrine worship requirement applied to the overall education system in colonial Korea. The 1936 annual meeting of the Chosen Mission backed the decision, but holding on to school properties aroused criticism among Korean Presbyterians. To them, rejecting the Shinto shrine worship was one thing, not offering education to Koreans another. Forming the committees for taking over mission schools from the missionaries, they rushed to effect the transfer, and what resulted was a conflict between Koreans and the Chosen Mission. Similar committees sprang up in Cheolla and South Kyeongsang regions where, respectively, Southern Presbyterians and Australian Presbyterians maintained a mission. Southern Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions even dispatched its Secretary to Korea to resolve the matter, and this precipitated the withdrawal of missionaries in spite of vehement Korean protests. In contrast, Methodists and Canadian Presbyterians obeyed the Government-General on the Shinto shrine worship issue, and no serious trouble arose. While the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions concurred with the 1936 decision by the Chosen Mission, educational missionaries in Seoul, Daegu, and Seoncheon dissented. To be sure, they and other missionaries who advocated continuing missionary schools were in the minority in the Chosen Mission. Led by Horace H. Underwood and Edwin W. Koons, the minority group appealed to the Board of Foreign Missions and argued for the necessity of missionary-managed secondary schools and institutions of higher education in Korea. The American missionaries and diplomats in Japan supported this position, according to which the Shinto shrine worship requirement was a matter of patriotic obligation. After several conferences, the Board of Foreign Missions decided to transfer the mission schools in Korea to Koreans except the schools in Pyungyang—a concession to the minority view. The Chosen Mission’s majority dissented, and some left the denomination for a more "conservative" one. After Korea’s liberation in 1945, some of them would support Koryeo Theological seminary in South Kyeongsang Province. Eventually, Presbyterian mission schools in Pyungyang were closed, and those in other regions were taken by Korean Presbyteries and school boards. Upon commencing its attack on mainland China in 1937, Japan began mobilizing Korea for war. The Government-General found that increasing the Korean people’s access to basic education will be good for securing Korean cooperation. In this milieu, it allowed Koreans to continue running the mission schools as well as even allowing Japanese schools to absorb them. Thus even before the commencement of the Pacific War (1941-45) with the U. S., American missionaries had withdrawn from the area of education in colonial Korea. With bitterness and anger, they returned to America except for a small number that remained in Korea. The latter eventually suffered internment upon the outbreak of the war, but in June 1942 Japan returned them to the U. S. in exchange for interned Japanese nationals. Repatriated Americans produced vivid reports on the conditions in wartime Korea. During the early stage of the war when the Japanese advancement continued and the Republic of Korea Provisional Government (ROKPG) in China sought recognition by Allied powers, Korea-related information from the returning Americans was invaluable to the U. S. government. In spite of the reports stressing Korean zeal for independence, however, returned Americans generally deemed mobilizing Koreans for anti-Japanese activity virtually impossible. And pessimism expressed in the reports about Korean independence and descriptions of divisions among Korean independence activists further strengthened the State Department’s skepticism. Most repatriated missionaries actively cooperated with the American government, and some worked for intelligence agencies. Among them, a new generation of Americans wanted the U. S. government to support the ROKPG and various Korean coalitions in the U. S.—a stance different from that of old Asia hand’s. Even among the older missionaries that had spent decades in Korea, some formed an organization to help the Korean independence movement under Syngman Rhee. The Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions recognized that the post-war missionary activity in Korea will require Korean cooperation, and the Board’s stance foreshadowed power shift in the Protestant leadership in post-liberation Korea. Horace. H. Underwood in particular wielded strong influence on the Board’s post-war plans for Korea. Upon the end of the war and Korea’s liberation, many missionaries joined the United States Army Military Government in Korea (USAMGIK, 1945-48) which, otherwise without adequate information on Korea, found their service valuable. The missionaries returning to Korea collaborated with the USAMGIK in various ways. As exemplified by Underwood who served as a special advisor to the American Military Governor and the Minister of Education, most missionaries did not differentiate "democracy" and Christianity. Throughout this period, the Board of Foreign Missions considered the missionaries’ participation in the USAMGIK as a part of their normal work. Most missionaries did not explicitly criticize the American occupation authority and the U. S. policy toward Korea, but a small number were outspoken advocates of political and economic reforms necessary for turning Korea into a strong bulwark against Communism. They were to lose ground, however, with the emergence of rival regimes on the peninsula and ensuing hostility between the two. After Korea’s liberation from Japan, missionaries gradually returned to Korea and by 1947 most missions were reestablished. Missions again managed schools and hospitals where Koreans served as principals. Missionaries secured their position of influence by providing increasingly large financial support. Not only did they expand their activity sphere to include radio broadcasting and vocational education, their cooperation with the American occupation authority also facilitated Protestant Korean participation in the governing process, wherein the graduates of mission schools and American universities became especially conspicuous. Unlike the colonial era, now the Protestant elite of Korea enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to increase their presence in the government, be it the American military government or the succeeding Republic of Korea (1948-present) government. With its Protestant elite regarding government service as an important mission for Christians, Korea faced a new challenge: defining proper relationship between the state and religion.
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