Sunday, May 02, 2021

The life of Frank Schofield and 1974 RAS parodies

For my latest Korea Times article, I looked at the life, death, and burial of Canadian missionary and "eternal Korean" Frank Schofield, who was the only foreigner to be told of the Samil Independence Movement of 1919 before it happened, allowing him to be ready to take most of the photos associated with it that we know of today. While that part of his life is quite well known (along with his being recalled home in 1920 due to his pro-independence activism), I also looked at his experiences in Korea after he returned in 1958 and criticized his former friend Syngman Rhee's autocratic rule, celebrated the April 19, 1960 student revolution that overthrew Rhee, and supported orphans and poor students until his death in 1970. 

Not mentioned in the article is that Schofield spent his time in Canada (1920-58) teaching at the Ontario Veterinary College, which ultimately developed into my alma mater, the University of Guelph. Much like in 1919 when he wrote sarcastic letters to the Seoul Press criticizing Japan's policies, in Guelph in the 1940s he wrote a letter to the Guelph Mercury criticizing his superiors at OCV for not hiring his maid's daughter for a secretary position due to her skin colour. It seems no matter where he was, he liked to write sarcastic letters targeting people in power. 

A few other posts I've written deal with the Samil Movement; the first features many photos Schofield took:

Unseen photos of the Samil movement, 1919

The battle for American perceptions of the Samil Movement

Lawmaker criticizes textbooks for correctly describing the violence of the Samil protests

A few of Schofield's photos are also on display in this article about him I wrote years ago on behalf of the Royal Asiatic Society at the official Korean government website... an article that basically ended the RAS's relationship with that site because they were so offended by what I wrote. Was this because Park Geun-hye's propagandists didn't like a foreigner being highlighted in an article about a Korean independence movement? I really don't know.

Speaking of the RAS, another article I wrote for the Korea Times is an April Fools-esque romp through a parody of RAS tours written by James Wade in 1974. I’d first come across it in Wade’s 1975 book ‘West meets East’ years ago, but after it was suggested I find the original ‘Scouting the City’ Korea Times column, I discovered a reference in it to ‘Corny’s art scavengers.’ 

I then remembered a serendipitous email exchange from 8 years ago with Angie Huse, who lived in Seoul in the early 1980s, in which she mentioned Cornie Choy and the ‘Korea Art Club’ he ran. Though mention of it makes up only a small part of my article, Angie connected me with Cornie and it turns out he's one of those larger-than-life people who is not only happy to share memories of the past but does so with panache and humour. I'll be writing about him again, no doubt.

Some more links:

The oldest colour footage from Korea, taken circa 1938 by Swedish diplomat Tor H. Wistrand, appears in his film of China and Korea here. The Korean section is at the end and begins at 25:45. (Hat tip to JiHoon Suk.)

 A history of Korea's gangsters going back to the colonial period can be seen on youtube here.

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