Dr. Philip Jaisohn

Back to gallery

Liberty collection point

Dr. Philip Jaisohn

  • Values:
  • liberty
  • justice
  • hope

Activist and Physician

  • Share

Changemaker name [38]: Dr. Philip Jaisohn

Dates [15]: 1864–1951

Quote [200]: He loved his native land, Korea; shook it from its slumbers,

roused the young and thundered at the old. … And, to the end of his life, he

remained a dedicated champion of the cause of humanity. [204]

Quote credit [50]: Chong-Sik Lee, scholar and author, 1975

Image credit [270]: Myron Davis / The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty


Subheader [40]: Inspired by Faith

Synopsis copy [220]: Dr. Philip Jaisohn was the first Korean to obtain

American citizenship. An exiled revolutionary turned Christian political

reformer, journalist, and medical doctor, Jaisohn was a pioneer of Korean

independence and democracy. [204]

Image credit [270]: Archive PL / Alamy Stock Photo

Subheader [40]: Faith in Action

Body copy [220]: On March 1, 1919, independence demonstrations broke out

in Korea. Two million people were involved in street protests against Japanese

rule. There were 23,000 casualties and 46,000 arrests. [213]

Image caption [144]: San Francisco Examiner, April 6, 1919

Image credit [60]: Public Domain

Body copy [220]: Jaisohn convened Korean independence leaders in

Philadelphia for the First Korean Congress, from April 14 to 16, 1919. The

Congress appealed to Americans for peaceful support in opposing Japanese

imperialism. [218]

Image caption [144]: Group photograph of members of the First Korean


Image credit [60]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Body copy [220]: The Congress ended with a march to Independence Hall,

America’s “cradle of liberty.” There, Dr. Syngman Rhee, future first president of

South Korea, read the Korean Declaration of Independence. [194]

Image caption [144]: Vanguard of the march to Philadelphia’s Independence


Image credit [60]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Body copy [220]: After the Congress, Jaisohn established the League of Friends

of Korea and The Korean Review to build American support for Korea’s

independence and a new government modeled after that of the United States.


Image caption [144]: Dr. Jaisohn seated in the Assembly room of

Independence Hall, where American independence had been declared [102]

Image credit [60]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Subheader [40]: A Life of Faith

Body copy [245]: Philip Jaisohn dedicated his life to the cause of Korean

independence and democracy. He also served his adopted country as an

American citizen, a physician, and an entrepreneur. His faith was foundational

to his political thought and actions. [238]

Date [14]: 1884

Title [83]: Participates in the Gapsin Coup in Korea

Description [311]: At age 20, Soh Jai-pil (aka Philip Jaisohn) was part of a

radical progressive group that attempted a coup in 1884 against the

pro-Chinese royal government of Korea. The plotters, or Enlightenment Party,

wanted to adopt Western ideals of equality and democratic government. [285]

Image caption [142]: Soh Jai-pil and members of the Gapsin Coup in 1884

Image credit [278]: The Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Date [14]: 1885

Title [83]: Exiled to the United States

Description [311]: After the failed coup, Soh was exiled and went to San

Francisco, where he was welcomed by Christians. After learning the teachings

of Jesus, he converted. A Christian benefactor funded his college education.

Adopting an American identity, Soh anglicized his name to Philip Jaisohn.


Image caption [142]: San Francisco Chronicle, June 19, 1885

Image credit [278]: The Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Date [14]: 1890–1892

Title [83]: Becomes First Korean American Citizen and First Asian American


Description [311]: Jaisohn moved to Washington, DC, and in 1890 became the

first Korean to become an American citizen. Two years later, he graduated

from George Washington University — the first person of Asian descent to

earn a U.S. medical degree. Marriage to the Washington socialite Muriel

Armstrong followed, in June of 1894. [304]

Image caption [142]: George Washington University medical class

Image credit [278]: The Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Date [14]: 1895–1898

Title [83]: Returns to Korea

Description [311]: In 1895, a new regime allowed Jaisohn to return to Korea.

He taught politics at Paichai, a Methodist college, started a bilingual political

newspaper, The Independent, and organized the Independence Club, a network

of activists. His influence earned him enemies, and he left Korea again. [297]

Image caption [142]: Front page of The Independent, 1898

Image credit [278]: The Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Date [14]: 1919

Title [83]: Leads First Korean Congress

Description [311]: When Japan annexed Korea, in 1910, Jaisohn resumed the

fight for independence while living in the United States. In support of the

March First Movement for independence, Jaisohn led the First Korean

Congress in Philadelphia. Its speakers championed American democracy,

liberty, and Christianity. [297]

Image caption [142]: Group of delegates at Philadelphia’s First Korean

Congress, April 14, 1919

Image credit [278]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Date [14]: 1942–1945

Title [83]: Practices Medicine and Serves During World War II

Description [311]: Jaisohn worked as a pathologist in several hospitals and

was active in medical research and writing. In 1936, he opened a general

practice in Chester, PA. During World War II he volunteered as a medical

examination officer for the Army, serving with distinction. [258]

Image caption [142]: Dr. Jaisohn and his American wife, Muriel Armstrong,


Image credit [278]: The Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Date [14]: 1947–1948

Title [83]: Returns to Korea to Serve as Chief Advisor to U.S. Military


Description [311]: When Korea gained independence in 1945, Jaisohn

returned there to serve as special counselor to the U.S. Military Government of

South Korea. Pressed to run for the presidency of the new Republic of Korea in

1948, he declined. He decided to remain an American citizen and return to the

U.S. [290]

Image caption [142]: Reception of Dr. Jaisohn in Seoul, 1947

Image credit [278]: AB Historic / Alamy Stock Photo

Subheader [40]: The First Korean Congress

Bubble copy [254, 180-200 w/source]: Explore the transcript of the three-day

First Korean Congress to learn how faith informed Jaisohn’s ideas of liberty.

Image credit [270]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Bubble copy [254, 180-200 w/source]: This movement for independence and

Christian democracy is all a revelation to Americans. … Now you have begun,

and I want you to keep it up until Americans understand Korea.

Source [51]: N/A

Image credit [270]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Bubble copy [254, 180-200 w/source]: In a public address to Americans, the

Congress resolved, “Our cause is a just one before the laws of God and man.

Our aim is freedom from militaristic autocracy, our object is democracy for

Asia; our hope is universal Christianity.” [173]

Source [51]: N/A

Image credit [270]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Bubble copy [254, 180-200 w/source]: What we want to do is to start in on

missionary work in the Orient for the principles of Christianity and democracy

… It will be a Christlike act … to afford … the privilege of becoming a believer

in democracy.” [225]

Source [51]: N/A

Image credit [270]: HathiTrust Digital Library

Bubble copy [254, 180-200 w/source]: You have two great missions to

perform and you are adapted for it. You are just the people. The first mission is

to Christianize the Orient, and the second is to democratize the Orient.

Source [51]: N/A

Image credit [270]: HathiTrust Digital Library


Subheader [40]: Legacy of Liberty

Question/alignment statement [179]: Do you think that the biblical religions

of Judaism and Christianity have fostered democracy around the world?

Image credit [270]: Michael Davis / Alamy Stock Photo

Scripture [200]: Our Father in heaven:

May your holy name be honored;

may your Kingdom come;

may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Scripture credit [50]: Matthew 6:9b–10

Image credit [270]: Korean Heritage Library, University of Southern

California.; Korean Heritage Library

Related changemakers: Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Billy


Continue through the museum