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The Making of the First Korean PresidentSyngman Rhee's Quest for Independence$
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Young Ick Lew

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824831684

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824831684.001.0001

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Birth of a Christian Reformer

Birth of a Christian Reformer

(p.1) Chapter 1 Birth of a Christian Reformer
The Making of the First Korean President

Young Ick Lew

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter details Syngman Rhee’s early life including his family background, education, imprisonment, and conversion to Christianity. Rhee (Yi Sŭng-man) was born in 1875 in P’yŏngsan County, Hwanghae Province, in what is now part of North Korea. As he grew older, he gradually became interested in the progressivism of the West and the need for political and social reform under the influence of North American Protestant missionaries, yet he also had a healthy respect for Korean customs and traditional East Asian modes of thought. Rhee became the first major Christian political leader in the annals of Korean history. His severe criticism of Emperor Kojong’s conservative regime led to his imprisonment at the age of twenty-four, where he accepted Jesus Christ and began the process of blending religion with his political beliefs.

Keywords:   Syngman Rhee, family background, education, imprisonment, Christianity, religious conversion, Emperor Kojong

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