Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An Unexpected Look at Syngman Rhee

A few days ago, I received an email from Professor Lew Seok Choon (류석춘) of Yonsei University, a sociologist, but also the director of the Syngman Rhee Institute. The message was all in Korean, so my initial thought was that the email was spam, but I happened to see the Yonsei address, so I clicked on "Translate" and received a Google-garbled version that I just managed to make out as a serious message. I therefore asked my wife to decipher it for me. She explained that Professor Lew wanted to show me the Syngman Rhee Institute. Why? That wasn't clear. Nevertheless, the honor of being asked was sufficient for me to reply that I would be honored to visit.

My wife and I set up a meeting for Monday the 29th, around 11:00 a.m., and when we arrived, we were shown two documents -- Syngman Rhee's log book, which includes up through World War Two, but stopping before Liberation from Japan, and his wife Franziska's Korean War diary -- both in English. The institute wants to publish both documents in transcription and facsimile. They have a Korean-American assistant transcribing and a Korean scholar checking the transcription, particularly the names.

What did the institute want from me? A careful editing to ensure that the transcription was accurate. I think that I can do that, despite my inexpertise on Korean history.

After settling the duties, we went out for lunch in a nearby restaurant for excellent Korean food and a great view of Inwang Mountain -- the very one that Park Wan-suh had to go over as a child to reach her school. We followed up the tasty lunch with an even more inspiring view of that same mountain from a coffee shop at a higher elevation, where we enjoyed excellent coffee and talked politics and economics -- concerning not only South Korea, but the North as well!

Professor Lew promised another meeting some time after the work is done so that we have more time to discuss such things as the National Security Law, North Korean markets, and China's changing view on the North and the South . . .

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