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Digital Archive International History Declassified


Kim Gyu-sik

Andrew C. Nahm and James E. Hoare

A leader of the Korean independence movement who opposed to Syngman Rhee's plan to establish a separate government in South Korea.


KIM GYU-SIK (1881-1950). Born into a poverty-stricken family near Busan, he became an orphan at the age of nine when his widower-father died. With the help of Dr. Horace G. Underwood, an American Presbyterian missionary and member of the Underwood family, he was able to study at Roanoke College in Virginia from 1896. Returning home in 1904, Kim worked as Dr. Underwood’s private secretary while teaching at the Korean Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Seoul and at a mission school.

Kim became an elder in a Presbyterian church in Seoul, and worked for Korean independence from Japan while teaching English at Baejae College in 1911-1912. Fleeing from the Japanese police, he went to Manchuria in 1912, and then to Shanghai in 1918. There, he met many Korean nationalists and became one of the leaders of the Korean Independence Movement. In Paris in January 1919, as a representative of the Korean YMCA, he solicited the help of Western powers for the Korean cause, and when the Korean Provisional Government in exile was established in April that year, he was appointed as foreign minister, continuing his work for Korea in Paris.

In May 1919, Kim presented the “Petition of the Korean People and Nation for Liberation from Japan and for the Reconstitution of Korea as an Independent State” and the “Claims of the Korean People and Nation” to the Paris Peace Conference. When the Korean Provisional Government was reorganized, he was named the minister of education and was sent to Washington as chairman of the Korean Commission to work with Dr. Syngman Rhee, who as president of the Provisional Government, created the Korean Commission in Washington in 1919.

Kim Gyu-sik arrived in Washington D.C. in September 1919 and remained in the United States until early 1921. After his return to Shanghai, he served in the Provisional Government in various capacities while endeavoring to bring about the unity of the Korean nationalists. In 1930, he and his colleagues formed the Anti-Japanese United League of Koreans in China, and in 1935, they organized the Nationalist Revolutionary Party to lead the united Korean anti-Japanese struggle. In 1944, he became vice president of the Provisional Government in Chongqing, China.

Kim and other members of the Provisional Government returned to Korea in November 1945. A moderate nationalist, Kim and a moderate liberalist leftist formed the Coalition Committee for Cooperation between the Rightists and the Leftists. When the United States Army Military Government established the South Korean Interim Legislative Assembly in 1946, Kim was appointed its chairman. Meanwhile, his opposition to Rhee’s plan to establish a separate government in South Korea, when it became apparent that the United Nations plan would not work in all Korea, led to a growing antagonism between him and Rhee. Kim, along with others who were determined to prevent the permanent partition of Korea, visited Pyongyang in April 1948 to solve the Korean question in cooperation with the North Korean Communists, but they failed to achieve their aims.

During the Korean War he was abducted by the North Koreans and taken to North Korea where he died in 1950.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. (Historical Dictionary of the Republic of Korea, by Andrew C. Nahm and James E. Hoare, published by RLPG Books, appears by permission of the author and publisher).