Dr Frank W Schofield archive

Dr Frank W Schofield archives (1919) 

Introduced by Peter Allen, historian and retired book dealer

In the late 1970s I bought this collection of documents from Hay Cinema Bookshop (then owned by Richard Booth). At the time I realised the significance of the documents in Korean history and I bought them for a trifle!

The collection of documents was created by one of the most revered figures in Korean history—Dr Frank W Schofield. The archive items, dated between April and December 1919, are central to the most important event in modern Korean history, the ‘March 1st Independence Movement’, when the nation rose up against the harsh repression of their Japanese colonists after annexation of the country in August 1910. Forced reforms to assimilate Koreans into Japanese culture soon followed. This included the suppression of the Korean language, systematic destruction of Korean history books and literary works and closure of all Korean periodicals and newspapers. Koreans were excluded from any employment that provided them with authority or wealth.

Rugby-born Frank Schofield emigrated to Canada in 1905 and soon after entered the Ontario Veterinary College, graduating as a veterinary scientist in 1910. He remained at the College until 1916 when he was commissioned by the Presbyterian Church of Canada to go to Korea as a missionary teacher to give instruction in bacteriology and hygiene at Severance Medical College, Seoul. Schofield quickly became involved with Korean patriots seeking freedom for their besieged country.

On March 1st 1919, after nearly a decade of forced assimilation and military rule under Japanese administration, the Korean people demanded their independence. The mass demonstrations that followed became known as the ‘March 1st Independence Movement.’ Despite the peaceful nature of the movement, it was brutally repressed by the Japanese military forces in Korea, and resulted in the arrest and torture of thousands of Koreans.

Whereas missionaries commonly opposed the brutal mistreatment of Koreans, the fundamental difference that set Schofield apart was that he also supported Korean independence. Schofield  is widely recognised as one of the most outspoken critics of Japan’s imperial rule and the only missionary to have prior knowledge of the demonstrations.

At the close of last year, after 2½ years of negotiations this precious archive has finally been acquired for the Korean nation. Funding was secured from a benevolent Korean multinational company by Chung Un-Chan, former Korean prime minister. Dr Jaehyun Kim, secretary-general of the Tiger Schofield Memorial Foundation, flew in from Seoul with an assistant and the low-key handover took place in a London hotel.

Handover of Korean Archives 21-11-2015

The archive, that had somehow found its way to Hay-on-Wye, and is now safely in Korean hands, contains letters and articles smuggled to the west by Schofield at the height of the uprising. They were addressed to Arthur Mee, the most prolific children’s publisher of his age. Schofield recognised the importance of engaging with the younger generation and the archive contains articles specifically written for children. There is no evidence Mee published any of the material.

Dr Schofield returned to Canada in 1919 and spent the rest of his academic career as a veterinary scientist on the staff of Ontario Veterinary College, later Guelph University. He is said to have been an outstanding lecturer and teacher. He went back to Korea in 1958 as an honorary professor to give lectures in veterinary pathology at Seoul National University. He remained in Korea until his death in 1970.

In recognition of his outstanding services to Korea, Dr Schofield was awarded the Republic of Korea Medal by the government in 1960 and was decorated with the Order of Merit in 1968. He died on April 12, 1970 and was buried in the Patriot’s Section of the National Cemetery of the Republic of Korea at Seoul, the only foreigner to receive such an honour.


Although not strictly speaking ‘a book’, this entry is included on a book a day in Hay as these documents survived a time when books and printed materials were being systematically destroyed in Korea. This archive is not bound or published in book form, but nevertheless performs the function of a book and was bought from a Hay-on-Wye bookseller.

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