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

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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Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

(p.178) Chapter 7 Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner
The Making of the First Korean President

Young Ick Lew

University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter details events in Syngman Rhee’s life in the early 1930s. Still smarting from his impeachment by the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai in 1925, the bankruptcy of his Tongji Investment Company, and the subsequent Democratization Revolt in Hawaii in the early 1930s, Rhee saw a diplomatic opening in Japan’s advance into Manchuria. He hoped to take advantage of heightened anti-Japanese concerns in the United States and Europe—as well as in China and Korea—to press for the cause of Korean independence. He found significant backing on November 10, 1932, when the cabinet of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai asked that he travel to Geneva “for the presentation of the freedom of our Country and disclosing the Japanese [aggression] to her neighbor country contrary to the treaty with her neighbor” to the League of Nations. Rhee was formally appointed the head plenipotentiary of the Korean delegation. While in Geneva, Switzerland, Rhee met Francesca Maria Donner (1900–1992), an Austrian woman whom he married in October 1933.

Keywords:   Syngman Rhee, Korean independence, Japan, Francesca Maria Donner

Diplomatic and Publicity Efforts in Geneva and Moscow

On March 9, 1932, Japanese military officials proclaimed the establishment of Manchukuo, with Henry Pu-yi (1906–1967), the “last emperor of China [Emperor Xuan-tong],” as its nominal head of state. This promulgation of a new political entity was little more than a diplomatic follow-up to the successful invasion and occupation of Manchuria by Japan’s Guandong Army, which had begun on September 18, 1931. Indeed, the Guandong Army kept a firm hold on the reins of power; its commanding officer was also appointed the Japanese ambassador to Manchukuo, a post that gave him veto power over the passive Pu-yi.

Japanese rhetoric about Manchukuo’s independent status and China’s previous mismanagement of the area was unconvincing, and despite the puppet state’s early efforts to gain diplomatic recognition, by 1934 only El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and the Vatican had extended this courtesy. Western observers’ suspicions about Japan’s imperialistic ambitions were for the most part confirmed when the Lytton Report became available on October 1, 1932. This comprehensive document was the end result of China’s appeal to the League of Nations for assistance, made shortly after the initial “Manchurian Incident” unfolded in September 1931. But by the time the League Commission of Enquiry, led by Lord Victor A. Lytton, arrived in Manchuria in 1932, the puppet regime of Manchukuo was solidly entrenched. The commission studied the circumstances surrounding the outbreak of hostilities and the potential legitimacy of an independent Manchukuo state, and it found the Japanese claims unjustified and generally vindicated China’s position. After receiving the Lytton Report, the plenary session of the League of Nations started its process of deliberation by setting up a special committee, the Committee of Nineteen, on December 9, 1932.1

Syngman Rhee, still smarting from his impeachment by the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai in 1925, the bankruptcy of his Tongji Investment Company, and the subsequent Democratization Revolt in (p.179) Hawai‘i in the early 1930s, saw a diplomatic opening in Japan’s advance into Manchuria. He hoped to take advantage of heightened anti-Japanese concerns in the United States and Europe—as well as in China and Korea—to press for the cause of Korean independence. Coincidentally, members of the Comrade Society in Hawai‘i were urging him to go to Geneva and present Korea’s case before the League of Nations.2 Such hopes were undoubtedly stirred by intermittent reports of fervent anti-Japanese activities by Korean independence activists in both Japan and China. In January 1932, Yi Pong-ch’ang (1900–1932) had attempted to assassinate the Japanese emperor by lobbing a hand grenade in front of the Sakurada Gate in Tokyo. Three and a half months later, at Hung-k’ou Park in Shanghai, Yun Ponggil (1908–1932) had set off a bomb as a group of high-ranking Japanese military and civil officials assembled for a celebration of the emperor’s birthday, killing or wounding a number of them. Among those wounded was Shigemitsu Mamoru (1887–1957), who would later become Japan’s minister of foreign affairs and was famously on board the USS Missouri to sign the Japanese surrender in 1945; his walk across the ship’s deck was made all the more laborious by the artificial leg that had replaced the limb he had lost to Yun’s bomb thirteen years earlier.

Although Rhee welcomed support from the Comrade Society to embark on diplomatic endeavors, he found more significant backing on November 10, 1932, when the cabinet of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai (by then under the control of the pro-Rhee Seoul Faction) asked that he travel to Geneva “for the presentation of the freedom of our Country and disclosing the Japanese [aggression] to her neighbor country contrary to the treaty with her neighbor” to the League of Nations (Fig. 7.1). Rhee was formally appointed the head plenipotentiary (t’ŭngmyŏng chŏn’kwŏn susŏk taep’yo) of the Korean delegation.3 Consequently, on December 11, Rhee called on Dr. Stanley Hornbeck, head of the Far Eastern Division of the State Department in Washington, D.C., and asked him for a passport. Surprisingly, within days he was granted a “diplomatic passport”—“the like of which had never been heard of,” according to Rhee—signed by Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, the author of the Non-Recognition Doctrine of January 1932.4 With the promise of funding from the Comrade Society, chaired by Yi Wŏn-sun,5 Rhee sailed from New York to Geneva on December 23, 1932, on his first diplomatic journey to Europe.

Arriving in Geneva on January 4, 1933, Rhee was greeted by a Korean, Sŏ Yŏng-hae (Ringhai Seu, 1902–?), who in May of 1932 had also received an official title from the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai; Sŏ was the “special diplomatic commissioner” (oegyo t’ŭkp’awŏn) to Paris. This position had been awarded to Sŏ because of his singular record of operating a private information agency on Korea, Agence Korea (Koryŏ T’ongsinsa), in Paris since 1927.6 With Sŏ’s help Rhee launched his (p.180)

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.1. Syngman Rhee in front of the League of Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 2, 1933.

diplomatic and publicity campaign in Geneva by contacting the head of the Chinese delegation to the League of Nations, Ambassador to Soviet Russia Yen Hui-ch’ing (Yan Huiqing; W. W. Yen, 1877–1950), and two other delegation members, minister to England Kuo T’ai-ch’i (Guo Taiqi; Quo Tai Chi, 1889–1952) and minister to France Ku Wei-chun (Gu Weijun; V. K. Wellington Koo, 1887–1985). Rhee contacted them individually the week after his arrival in the hopes of establishing a Sino-Korean diplomatic collaboration vis-à-vis the league.7 Simultaneously, he began associating actively with prominent American journalists who had assembled in Geneva, including Associated Press correspondent Plantus J. Lipsey, Jr., (p.181) New York Times correspondent P. I. Streit, former New York World correspondent Albin E. Johnson, and former United Press International correspondent Harry Wood.8 On January 12, Rhee interviewed Dr. Ludwik Rachmann (also spelled Rajchman), the head of the league’s Health Department, and tried to convince him that the Korean question should be an item on the league’s Sino-Japanese agenda. Rachmann responded by promising to contact league members and solicit their support for the Korean cause.9 Rhee then met Prentiss B. Gilbert, the United States consul in Geneva and permanent observer to the League of Nations, on January 13, at Gilbert’s initiative. Gilbert suggested that Rhee lobby the delegates of the small nations in the league, whom he said were all anti-Japanese, and gave Rhee a long list of names.10 Acting on Gilbert’s advice, Rhee met with the representatives of these nations, including Sean Lester of Ireland, Holsti Rudolph of Finland, August Schmidt of Estonia, and Christian L. Lange of Norway, between January 20 and February 4 (Fig. 7.2).11

After thus paving the ground for a diplomatic and publicity campaign, Rhee concentrated on drafting a petition to submit to the league secretariat through the Chinese delegation, demanding that the league recognize the Korean Provisional Government and admit it as a full member.12 But the members of the Chinese delegation who examined Rhee’s draft were reluctant to sponsor it. They advised Rhee to take up the Korean question in conjunction with the Manchurian problem, on the grounds that the Lytton Report referred to the Korean question as a part of the Manchurian

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.2. Rhee on the Mont Blanc Bridge over Lake Geneva, May 1933. Seen behind is Hotel De Russie, where he stayed and met his future wife, Miss Francesca Donner.

(p.182) problem—“so as to make our claim justifiable at first and [have] no danger of being thrown out.” Rhee accepted their well-meaning advice “because [it would] open the way so that we [might] bring up the question of independence and so forth later.”13 Consequently, Rhee ended up writing a “Statement of the Koreans in Manchuria” in his capacity as the “Representative of the Koreans in Korea, Manchuria and Elsewhere” (see appendix K) on February 7 and sent it to the secretariat of the league by registered mail the following day (February 8). He also sent about sixty copies to all league members and press correspondents by regular mail on the same day. Sŏ Yŏng-hae distributed a hundred copies to his friends as well.14

In the statement, Rhee pointed out that after 1910, the Japanese drove one million Koreans into Manchuria from their homeland. He argued that the Japanese had attempted, and were continuing to attempt, to stamp out Korean nationhood and cultural identity through their policy of assimilating the Korean people. Rhee then highlighted the sections of the Lytton Report that revealed Japan’s policy of “elbowing the Koreans out of their own land” and using them as “a vanguard” in northern Asia. Rhee also countered the Japanese government’s claims that all Koreans were Japanese “subjects” and that it had dispatched police and gendarmeries to Manchuria for their protection. He pointed out that the Japanese refused to recognize or allow the naturalization of Koreans as Chinese citizens, even though their ancestors had migrated to Manchuria before the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910. Rhee concluded that if the league allowed Japan to control Manchuria, “all the horrors and indignities which the Koreans … so painfully experienced … will be repeated in this land,” and that the Koreans there would have no place to seek refuge.15

Rhee’s electric statement successfully aroused the interest of the press.16 On February 9, the New York Times covered Rhee’s statement under the headline, “Plea is Made for Korea; Alleged Representative Asks that Geneva Take Up Relations of His Country.” The report quoted Rhee’s cover letter calling the league’s attention to “the fact that a just and equitable solution of the Korean problem must form part of any solution of the Manchurian problem now before the League, if that solution is to be a permanent and lasting one.” Moreover, it referred to “Dr. Rhee” as the “President of the Provisional Government of Korea … who allegedly represents 23,000,000 Koreans.”17

On February 22 La Tribune d’Orient, published in Geneva, also covered Rhee’s activities on its front page, under the headline “De la Mandchourie à la Corée” (From Manchuria to Korea; Fig. 7.3). After presenting a short biography of Rhee, the report delved into the political aspects of his mission in Geneva. In reference to his February 8 statement, the article said, “This request expresses the solidarity between the problems of Manchuria and those of Korea and their deep connections to the rising nationalistic spirit of Koreans that cannot be ignored much longer. In support (p.183) of this request, we may say that Korea’s voice as that of China must be heard.”18 Further press coverage followed, as Dr. Edwin Debries of the Swiss News Syndicate interviewed Rhee on February 11. Debries’ article appeared in the February 23 issue of the German newspaper Der Bund (Confederation).19

In the meantime, Rhee had delivered an address, titled “Korea and the Crisis in the Far East,” on February 16, using the League of Nations’ own broadcasting facility—most likely through the courtesy of Dr. Rachmann.

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.3. An interview article on Syngman Rhee that appeared on the front page of La Tribune d’Orient on February 22, 1933.

(p.184) In this address, Rhee traced the origin of the Manchurian Incident to Japan’s longtime ambition of conquering China via the Korean Peninsula, dating back to the Hideyoshi Invasions of 1592–1598. He stressed that the only way to check Japanese aggression into continental Asia and preserve peace in the region was to restore the independence of Korea as a neutral country under the joint military protection of major powers.20

While Rhee was stressing the importance of restoring Korean independence as a means of thwarting Japan’s imperialistic aggression, the General Assembly of the League of Nations rendered a momentous decision. On February 24, by a vote of 42 to 1 (with one abstention), it adopted the Lytton Report, along with the following recommendations of the Committee of Nineteen:

The evacuation of Japanese troops outside the zone of the South Manchurian Railway; establishment of a political organization in Manchuria under the sovereignty and administrative integrity of China; settlement of the Sino-Japanese conflict; establishment of an international organization to fulfill the recommendation to open negotiations between China and Japan; and non-recognition of the existing regime in Manchuria.21

The league’s decision of February 24 must have been highly gratifying to Rhee. Although it is difficult to determine to what extent Rhee influenced league members, it can be safely assumed that his February 8 statement and multifaceted lobbying with the press thereafter contributed at least indirectly to the league’s decision.

Be that as it may, Japan’s reaction to the Committee of Nineteen’s recommendations had clear and profound ramifications for the future of the Asian Pacific region and for the League of Nations itself. In Tokyo, the Saitō cabinet, hardly surprised by the league’s anti-Japanese stance, instructed the head of the Japanese delegation to prepare to quit the international body. The final notification of Japanese withdrawal from the league came on March 27, 1933. This decision served to further isolate the growing Japanese empire from the world’s major powers, and in particular to increase the likelihood of conflict with the United States. It also quickly exposed the inability of the League of Nations to enforce its judgments in a meaningful way, raising serious concerns as to whether the league was capable of carrying out its original mandate of preventing war through collective security.

The March 27 withdrawal also essentially ended Rhee’s mission as the representative of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai. There was no compelling reason for him to stay on in Geneva, though Rhee remained there until early May. During this interval he toured various scenic spots in Switzerland with Yi Han-ho, a former student of his at the (p.185)

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.4. Rhee with Mr. And Mrs. Yi Han-ho and Mr. And Mrs. Henry Muller on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1933, during Rhee’s tour of Switzerland. From left to right: Mr. Muller, his wife Molly, Yi Han-ho, his wife Annie, and Syngman Rhee.

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.5. Rhee with Mrs. And Mr. Yi Han-ho while sightseeing near Zurich, Switzerland, April 17, 1933. Rhee is on the left.

Seoul YMCA in the early 1910s, whom Rhee had run into in Geneva on March 5. Yi, a world-class hockey player, had married a Swiss woman and was teaching judo in Zurich (Figs. 7.4 and 7.5).22

Rhee also accomplished three important self-imposed tasks during his additional months in Europe. First, he completed a thirty-five-page booklet, titled The Koreans in Manchuria—Extracts from the Lytton Report with Comments by Dr. Syngman Rhee, which he had been writing since February 13 “for the purpose of arousing the League’s interest in the (p.186) problem of the Koreans’ right to be naturalized in China or other state as they may choose in Manchuria.” He published it through Agence Korea sometime before March 20 and immediately distributed it to League of Nations secretary-general Eric Drummond and members of the league.23 In this booklet, Rhee refutes the Japanese excuses for their aggression in both Manchuria and Korea by referring to relevant passages in the Lytton Report. He also presents relevant sections of other Western reports on the atrocities that the Japanese had committed in Korea and Manchuria during the March First Movement of 1919, the Hunchun Incident of 1920, and the Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923.24

Second, Rhee tried to register with the league the treaties and official agreements that the old Chosŏn Kingdom (renamed the Taehan Empire in 1897) had signed with Western powers. On May 5, Rhee mailed letters to the governments of all the nations that had signed a treaty with the late Taehan Empire (with the exception of Russia), requesting that they supply him with a certified copy of their treaty for the league’s official catalogue of treaties.25 Rhee wanted to pressure those league nations that had signed a treaty with old Korea to fulfill the obligation of good offices in the future. As it turned out, the Belgian government was the only one to comply with Rhee’s request by June 10.26

Third, Rhee tried to persuade the league to apply a punitive measure against Japan in accordance with Article XVI of the league covenant. On May 5, he mailed a letter to the league’s secretary-general and members of the league requesting that they impose economic sanctions on Japan on the grounds that it had violated the league’s covenant and its treaties with other foreign nations, namely, the 1929 Kellogg-Briand Pact and the 1922 Nine-Power Treaty. Rhee argued that Japan deserved to be penalized because it had broken its public pledges, openly defied the League of Nations and world opinion, and was threatening to provoke another world war.27

Rhee finally left Geneva on May 18 and proceeded to London via Paris for the dual purposes of observing the World Economic Conference, which was scheduled to convene from June 12, and obtaining a visa to Moscow with the aid of the Chinese minister to England, Kuo T’ai-ch’i. He arrived in London on June 11, too late to obtain a letter of invitation to the opening ceremony of the World Economic Conference, which was held in the Theological Museum on the afternoon of June 12. He nevertheless put his twelve-day sojourn in London (from June 11 to 23) to good use by meeting leading British politicians and journalists. These included Lord Mamhead, a member of the House of Peers and former chairman of the League of Friends of Korea in London, and Mr. Grey [sic], editor of the London Times, the latter through an introduction from W. Llew Williams, the incumbent chairman of the League of Friends of Korea in London.28 On the afternoon of June 12, he shared a long talk with Williams over tea, listening to the radio coverage of the economic conference and commenting (p.187) on the speeches of the king and the prime minister of England. Rhee made the following points to Williams on British policy toward Japan, according to his log book:

I told him that the foreign policy of the British Government in relation to the Far Eastern problems is shortsighted and as long as that policy continues, we have no chance to see Britain doing anything that might offend Japan. No European nation will ever be able to face Japan. It is only the United States which will some day challenge the growing menace of Japan. If the British statesmen are far-sighted enough to see how Japan undermines the British interests, they should join hands with the United States, stop flirting with Japan and check the military aggression which threatens the peace of the world, etc.29

Rhee paid a visit to the Chinese legation on June 17 in London, to ask Minister Kuo for a visa to Moscow from the Russian embassy in London.30 Kuo, however, did not succeed in getting the visa for Rhee.

The reason Rhee was eager to be allowed to enter the communist homeland was that ever since he had run into his old student Yi Han-ho in Geneva in early March, he had been formulating a bizarre, albeit logical strategy that involved a visit to Soviet Russia. Rhee had disclosed his plan to the U.S. consul in Geneva, Prentiss Gilbert, and to the permanent Chinese delegate to the league, Hu Shih-tse (Hu Shizei; Victor Hoo, 1894–1972), on April 25 and 28, respectively.31 Gilbert submitted the following confidential report to the U.S. secretary of state on April 28:

He [Rhee] stated that the Korean people had been greatly stirred by recent events in the Far East and that they were hopeful that some turn of affairs might bring Japan into conflict with certain of the Great Powers, which would eventuate in presenting to Korea an opportunity to attempt to regain its independence. He said that with this in view the Korean[s] resident in Siberia, whom he estimated at approximately a million, were secretly organizing themselves and were being drilled by Russian officers.

It appears that he obtained information respecting this from a Korean living in Zurich who had long been a resident of Vladivostok and had but recently returned from a visit to Siberia. Dr. Rhee informed me that he was contemplating visiting Siberia in company with this Korean of Zurich for the purpose of forming contacts with Korean leaders in Siberia with a view to arranging for financial assistance in their present endeavors on the part of their compatriots in other parts of the world.

Dr. Rhee further informed me that he contemplated proceeding to Siberia via Moscow where he hoped that Dr. Yen, Chinese (p.188) Ambassador in Moscow, would put him in touch with Soviet officials. He anticipated gaining their cooperation and proceeding to Siberia under their protection, this being in line with his theory that the Soviets, being basically opposed to Japan, would be favorable to such a project.32

Thus Rhee was contemplating a visit to Siberia via Moscow with Yi Han-ho for two purposes: (1) to meet with high-ranking officials of the Soviet foreign ministry to discuss forming a four-party alliance among Soviet Russia, the United States, China, and Korea against Japan,33 and (2) to meet with leaders of the Korean communities in Siberia to contrive methods of promoting Korean independence among the Korean diaspora.

As it turned out, Rhee succeeded in securing a visa on June 27 from the Russian consulate in Paris, whereas for unknown reasons, Yi Han-ho did not.34 Rhee therefore left for Vienna alone on July 7, 1933, bound for Moscow. Arriving in Vienna late on July 7, he sought a meeting with acting Chinese minister Tung Te-chen (Dong Deqian; Dekien Taung, 1892–1944) and gained an introduction to Russian minister Adolf Markovich Petrovsky. On July 14, Rhee met Minister Petrovsky at the Imperial Hotel in Vienna and explained “the need of cooperation between R.A.C. [Russia, America, China] and Korea against the growing menace of Japan.” The Russian minister, according to Rhee, “promised to wire immediately to his Government telling them of my coming and requesting them to see to it that I be taken proper care [of] upon my arrival in Moscow.”35

Full of hope, Rhee arrived in Moscow at 9:30 a.m. on July 19 and promptly checked into the New Moscow Hotel across from the Kremlin. Yet before the day was over, Rhee was ordered by the Soviet Foreign Ministry to leave the country. An emissary from the ministry apologized, explaining that Rhee’s visa had been issued in error, but he nevertheless insisted on Rhee’s immediate departure.36 According to Rhee, the Russians’ sudden change of heart was due to pressure from a Japanese delegation that happened to be in Moscow at the time. The members of the delegation, who were negotiating the purchase of the Chinese Eastern Railway from the Soviet government, had gotten wind of Rhee’s arrival and demanded his expulsion.37 Rhee left Moscow at 11 p.m. on July 20, thirty-seven and a half hours after his arrival. His four-party anti-Japanese alliance had dissolved before it was even proposed.

Rhee described his impressions of Moscow in his log book:

In Moscow streets, no taxi could be hired, only the shabby looking carriages were seen waiting for chance passengers for service. An American whom I met on the train told me that he had actually seen people dying of hunger in the street. Some said Russia is improving but some said the contrary.38

(p.189) On his way back from Moscow, Rhee stopped in Zurich and enjoyed visiting many scenic spots in Switzerland with Yi Han-ho and his family until the end of July. He then toured Milan, Florence, Rome, the Vatican State, Genoa, Monaco, and Nice by himself before he finally left for New York on August 8.39 Although his months in Europe had not accomplished all he had hoped they would, none of his plans had failed for lack of ambition or effort. He had certainly achieved more for the cause of Korean independence during this mission than many Western observers would have thought possible.

Marriage to Francesca Donner

The romantic encounters of presidents, kings, and other men of power have always been of considerable interest to biographers and the general public alike. History has often shown that love can make men brave, noble, reckless, and extraordinarily foolish. The study of American presidents is replete with sordid tales of secret affairs and romantic stories of sincere love. In the last century alone, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton are known to have been involved in extramarital affairs. South Korea has had its share of speculation as to what presidents did and did not do in their private lives before, during, and after they were in office. And while the personal lives of presidents no doubt make interesting reading in biographies and history texts, they are also a reminder that these men of power are, after all, human, filled with human desires and human faults, for better or for worse.

At first glance, Syngman Rhee’s romantic life seems uneventful in comparison to those of other presidents, both on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere. After all, much of his life appears to have been spent without significant female companionship. His first marriage was short-lived, and he spent six years in prison when he was a young man in the prime of life. Released from prison, he spent the next five years in the United States, technically still married but living alone. He officially separated (i.e., divorced) from his wife in 1912 and spent the next twenty-two years apparently devoting every last bit of energy to the Korean cause and leaving no room in his schedule for wining and dining pretty young women. We might even be led to believe that Syngman Rhee was married to his country, as clichéd and overly idealistic as that may sound.

A closer look reveals that Rhee was actually surrounded by young women, many of whom adored him, for much of his time in the United States, and particularly in Hawai‘i (Fig. 7.6). This can be ascertained not so much from Rhee’s personal records—for he understandably did not document any romantic feelings for the women he encountered on a day-to-day basis—but from the well-documented circumstances of Korean immigration to the Hawaiian Islands in the opening decades of the twentieth (p.190)

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.6. Syngman Rhee, the bachelor independence movement leader, surrounded by female supporters during his days of exile in Hawai‘i.

century. Though the first Koreans who came to the archipelago to work on the plantations were men looking for economic opportunities, soon there was an influx of young Korean “picture brides” who were brought there as marriage partners.40 In most cases the women were much younger than the men, and although the men tended to be hard-working and interested in raising a good family, they were for the most part uneducated and conservative in their attitudes.

Youthful and restless, some of these intelligent and ambitious women were enamored of Rhee. Though he was nearly forty when he finally settled in Hawai‘i in 1913, he was strong, had handsome features, was very well spoken in both Korean and English, held a doctorate from Princeton University, was a devout Christian, and was practically revered by segments of the Korean population there. He was also a man of passion and energy, and this rubbed off on his admirers. When Rhee called on the picture brides to serve their country, many of them heeded the call and began pooling their resources to help fund his diplomatic activities, usually doing so through the Korean Christian Church and organizations such as the Korean Women’s Relief Society (Taehanin Puin Kujehoe) throughout the Hawaiian Islands (Figs. 7.7 and 7.8).41


Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.7. The officers of the Korean Women’s Relief Society in Honolulu, 1919.

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.8. Members of the Korean Women’s Relief Society of Honolulu. Hye-suk (Nodie) Kim is seated second from the left in the front row (wearing a necklace).

(p.192) This phenomenon was not confined to Hawai‘i. Korean women across the United States lent their support to Rhee’s cause and worked with him closely when he passed through their cities on fund-raising or publicity trips. Though more than a few may have felt their hearts skip a beat when they met with Rhee, it will probably never be known to what extent any of them captured his attention. What is known with a fair amount of certainty is that between 1913 and 1934, Rhee formed special bonds with three women: the first he worked very closely with, the second he proposed to, and the third he married. It is especially interesting that after working with and meeting numerous Korean women in America, it was a non-Korean who eventually became his wife. This was unprecedented in Korean modern history, and given the staying power of Korea’s racial homogeneity, it will probably remain for a long time to come the only case of a Korean president marrying a foreigner. Looking back on Rhee’s earlier relationships, it is likely that Rhee himself would not have guessed that his First Lady would be anyone other than a proper Korean woman from a suitable Korean family.

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.9. Miss Hye-suk (Nodie) Kim of Honolulu, who for many years served as Syngman Rhee’s secretary.

(p.193) The first young woman who shared a relationship with Rhee that might be considered more than simply professional was Nodie Dora Kimhae Kim (Kim Hye-suk, 1898–1972, later Mrs. Nodie Kimhaikim Sohn; Fig. 7.9). Born Kim Hye-suk in Koksan, Hwanghae Province, in central Korea, she had come to Hawai‘i in 1905 with her parents. Her father, Yoon-chong Kimhaikim, was largely unsatisfied with the life he found in Hawai‘i. Unable or unwilling to adapt, he abandoned his family and left for Manchuria. Nodie, her brother, and her sister never saw their father again and were raised by their mother under difficult circumstances.42

Nodie was something of an academic and often displayed signs of scholarly ambition and drive that were uncommon among Korean women of the day. In 1915, two years after Rhee settled in Honolulu, Nodie graduated from Kaahumanu School in Honolulu and with Rhee’s recommendation went to Wooster Academy in Wooster, Ohio. She then attended Oberlin College, graduating with a BA in history and political science in 1922.43 Her interest in these fields was more than mere curiosity; much like Rhee, she intended to use her education to serve her country. In 1919, while still at college, she attended the First Korean Congress held in Philadelphia, where she was in the limelight, making several passionate speeches.44

After graduating from college, Nodie returned to Hawai‘i and headed the Korean Christian Institute in place of Rhee, who was in Washington engaging in diplomatic activities. At the same time, she either headed or became a board member of other pro-Rhee organizations, including the Korean Christian Church, the Korean Women’s Relief Society, the Korea-America Friendship Society, and the Korea-U.S. Consultative Association.45 As a driving force raising support for both Korean independence and for Syngman Rhee, Nodie maintained contact with Rhee, and the two patriots often discussed various aspects of Korea’s ongoing plight.

For Rhee, Nodie was a constant source of encouragement. She stuck by him through the good years and the bad, and she refrained from jumping on the bandwagon of Rhee’s critics after his 1925 impeachment and the failure of his business ventures. Much later, in recognition of her efforts, President Rhee invited her to Korea, where she served as director of the Office of Procurement (Oeja Kumae-ch’ŏng-jang) from November 1953 to February 1955. Until her return to Hawai‘i in 1958, she then served as vice president of the Korean Red Cross, as liaison officer for the Korean Women’s Association, and on the board of governors of Inha University in Inch’ŏn, Korea.46

Because of Nodie Kim’s close and long association with Rhee, there were rumors within the Korean community about just how intimate the two independence activists had become. In 1935, the year after Rhee married Francesca Donner, Nodie Kim married a Korean widower named Son Sŭng-un (Syung Woon Peter Sohn).47 At the time, she had an eight-year-old daughter who went by the name of Winifred Lee (Korean name: Lee [Yi] (p.194)

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.10. Leaders of the Korean community in Hawai‘i at a welcoming party for President and Mrs. Syngman Rhee, when the presidential couple visited there in 1954. Seated third from the right in the back row under the window is Mrs. Winifred Namba, the daughter of Nodie Kim; fourth from the right, is President Rhee. Mrs. Francesca Rhee is standing toward the middle of the photo, wearing a dark garland.

Po-gyŏng; Fig. 7.10). Speculation abounded as to the paternity of the girl, and Rhee’s detractors suspected that Winifred’s father was Rhee himself. According to Winifred’s own account of her mother’s life, Nodie Kim was briefly married to a businessman named Lee Pyeung Won in 1927, and Winifred was the daughter born of that marriage.48

There is no real evidence that Syngman Rhee and Nodie Kim were anything but very close friends with a shared passion for the Korean cause. Though rumors and conjecture were common, they remained unsubstantiated. Given the political struggles that Rhee often became embroiled in, his rivals were probably looking for ways to discredit him. The fact that the rumors of an illegitimate daughter were never anything more than rumors suggests that they were indeed false.

The second woman in Rhee’s personal life was Im Yŏng-sin (Louise Yim, 1899–1977). Born in Kŭmsan, North Chŏlla Province, in southern Korea, Im led a demonstration in the provincial capital of Chŏnju during the March First Movement in 1919 and subsequently spent six months in prison. She later went to Japan and graduated from Hiroshima Women’s Junior College. Back in Korea, she taught at Yŏngmyŏng School in Kongju and Ihwa Girls’ High School in Seoul before leaving for the United States in 1923 to study. She smuggled in an album of pictures of the Japanese massacre of Koreans during the Great Tokyo Earthquake earlier that year. Upon her arrival in San Francisco, she handed this important record of Japanese atrocities against the Korean people to Rhee, who was visiting the West Coast at the time.49 With that, the two became close and trusted friends (Fig. 7.11).

(p.195) Im went on to study at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, eventually obtaining a master’s degree in theology in 1931. Before returning home, she visited Washington, D.C., where she received a marriage proposal from Rhee conveyed by an elder of the Korean church named Yi Sun-gil (the father of Dr. Sammy Lee [b. 1920], the diving champion at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics in London and Helsinki). Im pondered the proposal for more than ten days. After consulting her brothers and friends, she decided that it was unbecoming for a young woman to marry a divorced man in his fifties.50 Her lasting admiration for Syngman Rhee, however, was reflected in her adoption later of the pen name Sŭngdang (“Hall of Syng”), using the first character of Rhee’s given name. In 1937, she married a U.S. resident, a successful Korean businessman in Chicago, named Han Sungyo (Soon Kyo Hahn), and stayed in the United States. She separated from her husband when she returned to Korea in 1940, effectively ending the marriage.51

When Rhee returned to Korea alone after its liberation, Im Yŏng-sin stayed with Rhee’s secretary Yun Ch’i-yŏng (later the first home minister of the Republic of Korea) and his wife, and she served as Rhee’s loyal personal secretary until Rhee’s wife Francesca joined him in March 1946.52 Upon Rhee’s recommendation, Im later served as the envoy of the Representative Democratic Council of South Korea to the United Nations. After the Republic of Korea was established in 1948, she became the first minister of commerce and industry—and also the first woman cabinet member in Korean history.53 In February 1953 she assumed the presidency of Chungang University in Seoul, which she had founded in 1944 as Chungang Women’s College. To this day, she is remembered as one of the role models for aspiring young women in Korea.

Im’s rejection of Rhee’s proposal of marriage in 1931 must have left him at least slightly dejected, aware that he might very well live the rest of his days as an unmarried man. Fifty-six years of age and without much personal wealth or even a reliable flow of income, he was less the object of feminine admiration and affection than in the past. Yet he still had work to do and plans to carry out—particularly after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in September of 1931. He devoted himself to making preparations for a diplomatic mission to Europe, leaving little time to feel sorry for himself.

It was in February 1933, while in Geneva, Switzerland, that Rhee first met Francesca Maria Donner (1900–1992), an Austrian woman in her early

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.11. Syngman Rhee with Miss Im Yŏng-sin in 1930. The inscription on the photo shows that Miss Im sent this photo to Rhee from Los Angeles.

Son Ch’ung-mu, Han’gang ŭn hŭrŭnda: Sŭngdang Im Yŏngsin ŭi saengae (Seoul: Tonga ch’ulp’ansa, 1972).


Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.12. A photo of Miss Francesca Donner taken in 1916, when she was sixteen years old.

thirties. Theirs was an improbable relationship, forged under unlikely circumstances after a single coincidental meeting in Geneva. The fact that they stayed together despite their various differences (not to mention the criticism that their engagement elicited among Koreans) suggests that they felt very strongly for each other.

Francesca (Fig. 7.12) had been born in Inzersdorf, on the outskirts of Vienna, the third and last daughter of Rudolph Donner, the owner of a bottling plant for mineral water, and his wife Francesca. Both parents were of German stock, middle class, generally conservative, and Catholic. Everybody called Francesca “Fanny.” Noting how Fanny excelled in math and foreign languages at school, Rudolph, who had no son, wanted her to eventually take over the family business, and to this end he sent her to business school. After graduating she worked at an agricultural control office before going to Scotland to continue her studies in English. She later obtained an international certificate as an English interpreter.54

Thanks to her upbringing and her education, Francesca was fluent in German, English, and French and had a broad knowledge of the important issues of the day. She had an adventurous streak and was not afraid to converse about politics and world affairs. She was also proficient in shorthand and typing, which proved useful when she later served as Rhee’s secretary in an effort to aid his diplomatic activities. It was her adventurous streak earlier in life, however, that some must have seen as a drawback. In her twenties, Francesca had become romantically involved with a professional race car driver named Helmut Boering.55 Despite the danger inherent in Boering’s chosen career and the fact that he was Protestant rather than Catholic, she had thrown caution to the winds and married him. Their union had been short-lived, however, and by the time she met Rhee in Switzerland, she was a divorcée. Rhee was a well-respected leader of the Korean independence movement who could trace his ancestral roots back to the Korean royal family. To some, marriage to a headstrong Austrian divorcée may have seemed unbefitting for a man of his refined background. But Rhee did not see it that way. Reflecting on his own past experience with marriage, he did not consider Fanny’s prior marriage to be an obstacle should they decide to wed.

They first met on February 21, 1933.56 Rhee was staying at the Hotel de Russie in Geneva and had wandered into the dining room for supper. February 21 happened to coincide with an opening session of the General Assembly of the League of Nations, so the hotel was filled with dignitaries and guests from the league’s member countries. With the dining room (p.197) at capacity, guests were obliged to share tables, and as fate would have it, Rhee found himself seated with Fanny and her mother. According to Fanny’s own account, the dignified old Oriental gentleman was taciturn in nature. After confirming that he was from Korea, she started asking about the Diamond (Kŭmgang) Mountains and the hereditary aristocracy of yangban, and thus gradually drew Rhee into conversation.57

It was probably not love at first sight. For one thing, Rhee did not bother to mention meeting Fanny and her mother in his journal. The journal’s February 21 entry only notes that he had lunch with an American student from Lausanne University, Anne Meriam, and her landlady, Mrs. Brown, and took them to the League of Nations for the opening session.58 Francesca was not mentioned in Rhee’s journal for another two and a half months, and when he did mention her, he misspelled her name. The May 9 entry dryly records the difficulty he had had in collecting a loan from a bank in Berlin, and having asked for the help of one “Miss F. Downer.”59 Since no other mention of a Miss Downer is made in any of Rhee’s surviving records, it can be presumed that it is a misspelling of Donner. This May entry suggests that Rhee and Francesca had maintained contact since that fateful day in February.

Whatever the nature of their initial relationship, it seems that by the time Rhee visited Vienna in July 1933, on his way to Moscow, they were in love. One of the few things he did upon his arrival on July 7 was write to Miss Donner. In between seeking the support of his Chinese colleagues, worrying about the drop in the dollar exchange rate, and lamenting the delay in the remittance of funds from Hawai‘i, Rhee managed to spend some leisure time with Francesca. On the evening of July 9, Rhee noted, Francesca took him out to Hermes Villa. They returned later in the evening. His next entry about her is dated July 15, when he was leaving for Moscow. Taking care of last-minute business, Rhee barely reached the station in time to board the train. Rhee noted that Francesca had already had his luggage put into a compartment and that she waved to him until the train turned the bend. Sometime during his stay in Vienna, it seems, Syngman and Francesca had become engaged. Rhee was later to refer to his days in Vienna—probably chastely, given his traditional background and strict Christian faith—as “the Vienna affair.”60

On the way back to the United States from what turned out to be a futile trip to Moscow, Rhee stopped in Vienna overnight. His journal does not mention seeing Francesca, but it is safe to assume that he did. After returning to the United States, Rhee started working on the logistics of bringing Francesca to Washington. A January entry in his journal talks about revealing the “Vienna affair” to his American friend Jay Jerome Williams, a reporter for the International News Service, in order to enlist his help in securing a visa for Francesca. The U.S. consulate in Vienna, however, was not forthcoming with a visa for an Austrian woman wishing (p.198) to go to America to marry an Oriental man. In July, Rhee called on his acquaintance Dr. Stanley Hornbeck, political counselor at the State Department, for help. Nevertheless, it was not until September 26 that Francesca Donner was issued a U.S. visa.61

Francesca arrived in New York on October 4. Rhee did not waste any time. He and Francesca obtained a marriage permit at City Hall the next day. They were married on October 8 at the Hotel Montclair on Lexington Avenue. Rhee’s old Princeton friends Colonel Kimberland and his wife, who were staying at the hotel, had offered to help with the wedding. The ceremony was officiated jointly by the Revs. Yun Pyŏng-gu and John Haynes Holmes, with Colonel Kimberland and another American friend named Reimer as best men, and Mrs. Kimberland and a Korean friend by the name of Namgung Yŏm (1888–1961) as matrons of honor.62

In a memorandum titled “Marriage,” which Dr. Robert T. Oliver wrote in 1944 on behalf of Mrs. Francesca Rhee based on a personal interview with her, Oliver described in more detail the process of how she had married her husband:

Because of all the publicity given Rhee when he was in Geneva concerning his plan to bring the Korean cause up to the League, he was a well known figure in Geneva at that time. At the same hotel were staying a Mrs. Donner and her daughter and one day the maitre d’hotel placed Rkhee [sic] at the same table with Miss Donner. Rhee found her quite familiar with the Korean question, which surprised him, because during all the years past he had found so few people with much knowledge of the situation. Miss Donner confessed she had followed up all the articles about Korea and was very happy to meet the person who represented the great cause. From then on there began a friendly and cordial relationship. Francesca Donner was an eager auditor for Rhee’s stories of the oppression suffered by his Korean people, and from her own Central European background she was enabled to understand their plight with full sympathy. Their friendship acquired a deep understanding affection which inevitably grew to love. After this remarkable Korean statesman returned to the United States he opened the Korean Commission again, paying $15 a month for a room. He and Miss Donner maintained a lively correspondence, and decided to marry. As Rhee could not return to Europe, Miss Donner arranged to travel to America under the immigration quota. This proved very difficult. She applied at the American Consulate in Vienna for a visa but ran into great difficulties because the Consul did not think she should marry an Oriental. Rhee tried to get help from the State Department to obtain a visa and finally it was granted. Miss Donner arrived on the Europa on October 4 and Mr. and Mrs. Namkoong, General [sic] and Mrs. Kimberland and (p.199) Mr. Yongchin Choi took her to the Hotel Montclair. There they discussed plans for the wedding and secured a marriage licence at the City Hall the next morning. Miss Donner also applied for naturalization because she did not believe in dual citizenship. She and Rhee were married on 8 October at 6:30 at the Special Hall at the Hotel Montclair with Dr. John Haynes Holmes and Reverend P. K. Yoon jointly officiating. The vows were said in both languages—Korean and English. After the ceremony they had dinner in the Hotel’s main dining room and the hotel orchestra played the wedding march in their honour.63

In retrospect, there were plenty of reasons to believe that the marriage would not be a successful one. The newlyweds certainly had their differences. At the very least, the twenty-five-year age gap between the two must have raised some eyebrows. At the time of their marriage, Rhee was fifty-nine years old, the same age as Francesca’s father (who was already deceased), and the bride was thirty-four. Neither of them spoke the other’s native language, though both of them must have entered the marriage with an open mind to each other’s distinctly different cultural backgrounds. Rhee had the added hindrance of having to listen to numerous objections from members of the Korean communities in the United States, who saw the entire undertaking as highly improper and detrimental to Rhee’s claim to be the leader of the Korean independence movement.

Syngman and Francesca proved them all wrong: the marriage was a resounding success. They were utterly devoted to each other and consistently drew strength from each other in the years to come. Much to Rhee’s delight, Francesca quickly developed a strong passion for all things Korean and was eager to help her new husband’s cause in any way she could. She had an energetic work ethic derived from her relative youth, and her past experiences in organizing business affairs made her an efficient and valuable partner, both in running day-to-day affairs as well as in planning for particular diplomatic events. All in all, she was an indispensable comrade and companion to Rhee.64

In the months following their wedding, Rhee had to decide how he was going to deal with the criticism pouring in from certain Korean individuals and groups across the United States. The Comrade Society in Hawai‘i had even fired off two telegrams immediately after the wedding, demanding that Rhee return alone and explain his reasons for demeaning himself with an international marriage. The leaders of the society were protective of Rhee and felt he had seriously erred by making himself susceptible to new attacks from rival groups, such as the Korean National Association. But Rhee showed few signs of apprehension. He simply ignored what he considered to be unreasonable demands and enjoyed life to the fullest with his new bride.

(p.200) The first order of business was the honeymoon. The newlyweds traveled leisurely through the continental United States by automobile before setting sail for Honolulu, arriving there in January 1935 (Fig. 7.13). Rhee’s lack of concern about the telegrams from the Comrade Society proved justified. The Koreans in Hawai‘i, long a source of support and friendship for Rhee, extended their warmth once again (Fig. 7.14). Informed ahead of time of Rhee’s arrival, a welcome rally was planned to show Rhee that he was still loved and still their leader no matter whom he chose to marry. When the Rhees arrived, they were mobbed by “more than 3,000” Korean well-wishers.65

The support given to Francesca was repaid over the years by her tireless efforts on behalf of the Korean people (Fig. 7.15). She doted on her husband, as any loving wife would, but she also took a keen interest in the affairs of the Korean nation, particularly after the outbreak of the Pacific

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.13. Dr. And Mrs. Syngman Rhee upon their arrival at the port of Honolulu from their honeymoon, in January 1935.


Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.14. Leaders of the Korean community in Hawai‘i giving a warm welcome to Dr. And Mrs. Syngman Rhee upon their arrival in Honolulu. The newlyweds are at the center of the second row. Standing at the far left is Mr. Yi Wŏn-sun, leader of the Comrade Society of Hawaii.

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.15. Mrs. Francesca D. Rhee in 1939, when she was helping her husband write Japan Inside Out in Washington, D.C. The caption is in her own hand.


Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.16. A photograph taken aboard the USS Astoria, anchored at the port of Inch’ŏn on a courtesy visit to the Republic of Korea, January 24, 1949. From left: U.S. ambassador John J. Muccio, Mrs. Francesca Rhee, and prime minister Yi Pŏm-sŏk.

Solo Drive for Korean Independence in Europe and Marriage to Francesca Donner

Figure 7.17. A calligraphic scroll, handwritten by President Syngman Rhee and presented to Mrs. Rhee as a present on Christmas Day, 1953. The eight-character phrase extols the female virtue of deferring to one’s father, husband, and son, and the wisdom of enjoying poverty and work.

War in 1941 and the eventual election of her husband to the presidency of the ROK in 1948. Rhee valued her suggestions and seemed to enjoy their long discussions on domestic and international politics. This made Francesca something of a rarity, in that she was able to exert an influence over Korean affairs to a degree perhaps second only to Queen Min (myŏngsŏng Hwanghu, 1851–1895), the renowned queen of the late Chosŏn dynasty (Figs. 7.16 and 7.17).


(1.) On the actions taken by the League of Nations after the outbreak of the Mukden Incident in September 1931 toward establishing the Committee of Nineteen in December 1932, see Willoughby, The Sino-Japanese Controversy and the League of Nations, pp. 379–463; Umino Yoshirō, Kokusai renmei to Nihon, pp. 209–246; and Yi Kyo-dŏk, “Manju sabyŏn kwa kukche yŏnmaeng,” pp. 178–234.

(2.) Entry of December 11, 1932, in LBSR; Yi Wŏn-sun, Segi rŭl nŏmŏsŏ, pp. 188–190.

(3.) The sinimjang (credential) and a copy of its English translation are both preserved in the Syngman Rhee Archives, SRI, Yonsei University.

(4.) For details on how Rhee obtained this passport in December 1932 and eventually lost it in August 1933, see the entry of December 11, 1932, in LBSR. Syngman Rhee submitted three letters to Secretary of State Stimson on December 16, 1931, in which he argued that the United States should take strong action on the Japanese invasion of Manchuria to prevent the outbreak of a major world war. According to Pang Sŏn-ju, the officials in the Office of Far Eastern Affairs in the State Department left a memo on Rhee’s letters that they were worthy of perusal because they reflected the opinions of the leaders of the Korean independence movement who were still active. See Pang Sŏn-ju, “1930-nyŏndae ŭi chae-Mi Hanin ŭi tongnip undong,” pp. 440–441. It is likely that these letters, which Rhee addressed to Stimson, influenced Stimson’s decision to grant Rhee a “diplomatic passport.”

(5.) The Comrade Society eventually furnished about $3,000 to Rhee for his expenses in Europe. See Yi Wŏn-sun, Segi rŭl nŏmŏsŏ, p. 190.

(6.) The entry of January 4, 1933, in LBSR. For the background of Sŏ Yŏng-hae, see Chŏng Yong-dae, Taehanmin’guk imsijŏngbu imsijŏngbu oegyosa, pp. 113, 150; Ko Chŏng-hyu, “Taehanmin’guk imsijŏngbu ŭi kukche yŏnmaeng (LN) kukche yŏnhap (UN) e taehan insik kwa kaip kyosŏp” (The perception of the League of Nations and the United Nations [shared by the leaders of] the Korean Provisional Government and their efforts to join them), an unpublished draft paper, April 2009, pp. 7–8. In late 1947 or early 1948, Sŏ actively persuaded Kim Ku to oppose Rhee’s line of holding a general election in south Korea and consequently encouraged Kim Ku to visit P’yŏngyang in April 1948 to confer with Kim Il Sung and Kim Tu-bong. See Son Se-il, Yi Sŭng-man kwa Kim Ku, p. 286; Yang Tong-an, Taehanmin’guk kŏn’guksa, pp. 473, 503. Sŏ defected to North Korea sometime in late 1948 from Paris, after he had failed in his quasi-diplomatic mission to thwart the ROK delegation’s effort to obtain the recognition of the newly established ROK from the Third General Assembly of the United Nations as an advance agent of a Delegation of the Society to Promote Unified [Korean] Independence (T’ongil Tongnip Ch’okchinhoe Yu-en Taep’yodan) (p.371) headed by Kim Kyu-sik. See Yi Chu-yŏng, Unam Yi Sŭng-man kŭnŭn nugu in’ga, p. 125.

(7.) See the entries of January 6–12, 1933, in LBSR.

(8.) See the entries of January 7–12, 1933, in LBSR.

(9.) See the entry of January 12, 1933, in LBSR.

(10.) See the entry of January 13, 1933, in LBSR.

(11.) See the entries of January 20, 28, and February 4, 1933, in LBSR.

(12.) See the entry of January 19, 1933, in LBSR.

(13.) See the entries of January 19 and 20, 1933, LBSR.

(14.) See the entry of February 8, 1933, in LBSR.

(16.) Rhee noted in his diary on February 13 that “Since the presentation of our letter to the League Feb. 8, many friends highly [sic] commented on the ‘dignified’ and ‘experienced’ way of stating the situation.” See the entry of February 13, 1933, in LBSR.

(18.) Ibid., p. 24.

(20.) Son Se-il, “Son Se-il ŭi pigyo p’yŏngjŏn 53,” Wŏlgan Chosŏn (August 2006): pp. 12–13.

(22.) See the entries of Rhee’s diary on March 4 and 5, 1933, in LBSR, and the quotation of Prentiss Gilbert’s report to the U.S. secretary of state cited below. Yi Han-ho was appointed the Korean consul general in Germany by President Rhee in 1948.

(24.) For a summary of Rhee’s The Koreans in Manchuria in English, see ibid., pp. 25–29.

(25.) The entry of May 5, 1933, in LBSR.

(26.) See the entry of June 10, 1933, in LBSR.

(27.) See Syngman Rhee’s letter addressed to Eric Drummond on May 5, 1933, SRCE 1, pp. 508–510.

(28.) See the entries of June 12 and 16, 1933, in LBSR. Rhee seems to have made a mistake in referring to the name of the editor of the Times in his journal. The editor of the Times during 1922–1941 was Geoffrey Dawson rather than “Grey.” I would like to express my appreciation to Ms. Chongsook L. Kim, a retired librarian of the East Asian Library of Princeton University, who kindly conducted research on this point and furnished me with the correct information.

(29.) The entry of June 12, 1933, in LBSR.

(30.) The entry of June 17, 1933, in LBSR.

(31.) See the entries of April 25 and April 28, 1933, in LBSR.

(32.) “Alleged Project of Dr. Syngman Rhee Respecting Siberia,” a confidential report of Prentiss B. Gilbert, American Consul, Geneva, Switzerland, to the secretary of state, dated April 28, 1933, in U.S. Department of State, “Records of the U.S. Department of State Relating to Internal Affairs of Korea, 1930–1939,” LM78, #895.01/718.

(33.) See the discussion below for confirmation.

(34.) The entry of June 27, 1933, in LBSR.

(35.) The entry of July 14, 1933, in LBSR.

(36.) See the entries of July 19, 1933, in LBSR.

(37.) Ibid.

(38.) The entry of July 20, 1933, in LBSR.

(39.) See the entries from July 25 to August 8, 1933, in LBSR.

(41.) On the Korean Women’s Relief Society, see Chang, The Koreans in Hawai‘i, pp. 164–165.

(42.) Namba, “Sohn, Nodie Kimhaikim,” in Peterson, ed., Notable Women of Hawaii, pp. 356–357; and “Life History of Mrs. Nodie Kimhaikim Sohn,” a typewritten curriculum vitae I received from Mrs. Winifred Lee Namba through the mail in July 1995. Mrs. Namba further handed me a memorandum stating, “What I wrote about my mother, Nodie Kimhaikim Sohn, in the book Notable Women of Hawaii is entirely true” on August 28, 2001, when I interviewed her at her residence in Honolulu.

(45.) “Life History of Mrs. Nodie Kimhaikim Sohn,” a typewritten curriculum vitae; and Winifred Lee Namba, untitled handwritten answers to questions posed by me on July 24, 1995.

(47.) On Syung Woon Peter Sohn, see Patterson, The Ilse, pp. 192, 201, 202, 203.

(51.) Ibid., pp. 309–314.

(54.) Ch’oe Chŏng-ho, “Pin che-5-gu raurentsu kase 4-ponji rŭl ch’ajasŏ,” Han’guk ilbo, August 5, 1965; Ri P’uraench’eska (Francesca Rhee), Taet’ongnyŏng ŭi kŏn’gang, p. 17.

(55.) Ch’oe Chŏng-ho, “P’u-yŏsa ch’injŏng kwa kŭ rangdaebyu sijŏl,” Han’guk ilbo, August 10, 1965; idem, “P’u-yŏsa ŭi haengbang,” Han’guk ilbo, October 17, 1965.

(56.) The date given here is deduced from February 22, 1933, the date when Syngman Rhee’s interview article appeared on the front page of La Tribune D’Orient.

(58.) The entry of February 21, 1933, in LBSR.

(59.) The entry of May 9, 1933, in LBSR. Francesca Donner’s name appears as “Miss F. Downer” in this journal entry.

(60.) The entries of July 7–9, 15, and January 10, 1934, in LBSR.

(61.) The entries of June 7, July 22, September 26, and October 10, in LBSR.

(62.) The entries of October 4–6 and 8, 1934, in LBSR. Namgung Yŏm was appointed the first consul general in New York by President Rhee in 1949 and maintained this post until April 1960. See Cho Chong-mu, Amerika taeryuk ŭi Hanin p’ung’una-dŭl 1, pp. 167–169; Yun Pyŏng-uk, Nara pakkesŏ nara ch’ajŏnne, p. 493.

(63.) Francesca Donner Rhee, “Marriage,” RTOC. Mrs. Rhee seems to have succeeded in acquiring American citizenship sometime after the wedding because Syngman Rhee pointedly said that “I wish to say my wife is an American citizen and I am not” in a speech he delivered at American University on February 28, 1942, during the Korean Liberty Conference. United Korean Committee in America, ed., Korean Liberty Conference, p. 43.

(64.) According to Oliver, the twosome was “one of the most devotedly married couples in history.” Oliver, “A Study in Devotion,” p. 2.

(65.) Yi Wŏn-sun, Segi rŭl nŏmŏsŏ, pp. 192–194. For the life of Mrs. Francesca Rhee after the death of President Rhee in 1965, see Yu Yang-su, “Han’guk ch’odae p’ŏsŭtŭ reidei (p.373) ŭi ch’osang.” Yi Wŏn-sun, one of Syngman Rhee’s closest friends from 1928 to 1944, confided in 1986 that Rhee’s marriage to Francesca Donner was a blunder for Rhee and a source of his political misfortunes during his ROK presidency. See the record of Yi Wŏn-sun’s interview with Professor Yi Hyŏn-hŭi in Yi Hyŏn-hŭi, ed., Han’guk tongnip undong chŭngŏn charyojip vol. 86-2 (Sŏngnam: Han’guk chŏngsin munhwa yŏn’guwŏn, 1986), p. 276.