Philip Jaisohn: He is the celebrated Korean Independence Movement Leader.
Dr. Philip Jaisohn, aka So, Jae-pil, was a trailblazer for early Korean enlightenment and modernization ideology. How did he come up with a more American-sounding name? It is said that he got Philip Jaisohn by reversing the syllables of his Korean name So, Jai-pil. He was actively involved in the Gapsin coup (which lasted for only three days) for Korean reforms with Kim, Ok-kyun (his adoptive mother’s cousin), Pak, Yong-hyo et al. in 1884, at age twenty. After the abortive coup, he hastily exiled himself to Japan and, ultimately, to the United States. He worked his way through medical school from George Washington University. He could claim many firsts: Like first naturalized Korean Ameri- can citizen, the first to be a Western medical doctor, and founder / organizer of the first Korean newspaper The Independent and The Independent Society. He revolted against the closed Joseon dynasty to instill new ideology and reforms with the Koreans. His coup was short-lived and a failure. After arriving in America, his life was committed to the cause of the independence movement. Subsequent to the March First Independence Movement, he held the same movement in Philadelphia on April 14, 1919. It was the First Korean Congress, and from there he declared the urgency of Korean independence with Syngman Rhee, and in 1922, he personally met with U.S. President Warren G. Harding to garner his support for Korean in- dependence. Korea was liberated on August 15, He was invited by the U.S. Commanding Army General John R. Hodge to be the Chief Advisor. His long life was truly marked by vicissitudes of 20 years in Korea with two later returns there, 63 years in Philadelphia, and 8 years in Washington, D.C. He sold all of his own assets, and with the proceeds of $76,000, he used solely for the Korean independence expenses. In 1926, Jaisohn became as poor as a church mouse. He married in 1894 to Muriel Armstrong and had two children. Jaisohn passed away on January 5, 1951 at the age of 87. The South Korean government repatriated his remains back to Dong Jak Dong National Cemetery on April 8, His once residence now stands as a Philip Jaisohn Memorial Hall. The Korean government officially dedicated Dr. Jaisohn’s bronze statue in front of the Korean Consulate General building in Philadelphia on May 6, 2008. In 1997, the South Korean government posthumously recognized him with the Order of Merit of National Foundation / Republic of Korea Award for his unwavering and indelible sacrifice and service for the Korean independence movement.