Dr. Frank Schofield

A Canadian with a Heart for the Korean People

Dr. Frank W. Schofield was born in Warwickshire, England on March 15th, 1889 to a poor middle-class family and immigrated to Canada in 1907 at the age of 18. There, he completed his education and enrolling in the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Toronto. He was at the top of his class and was highly competitive- an attitude that transferred over into sports as well. However, he later discovered that he was in the incubation stage of poliomyelitis, a disease which leaves the body eventually paralyzed. After graduating in 1910, Schofield became part of the faculty at Ontario Veterinary College by teaching bacteriology and pathology. In 1913, he married a young pianist and musical partisan named Alice and in 1916, they together embarked on a trip to Korea as missionaries for the Presbyterian Church.

Once in Korea, Schofield became horrified at the subjugation of the Korean people and the atrocities being committed by the Japanese. Most Christian missionaries in Korea at the time shared a similar disgust for the abuse and even adopted the slogan “No Neutrality for Brutality”. However, where Schofield diverged from his fellow missionaries was his activism and belief in a need for independence in Korea. Out of the many missionaries that operated in the country, only a few shared Schofield’s sentiments for a free Korean people. Schofield became heavily critical of the Japanese occupation in Korea, continuously writing articles for the English-language publications the Japan Advertiser and the Seoul Press. He also continuously documented the human rights abuses in Korea and made an effort to share it with the international community.

In addition, Schofield was the only westerner to have prior knowledge of the March 1st movement in 1919. He was approached by a student of his who handed him a copy of the Declaration of Independence and asked him to distribute it among his colleges and to get it to the United States White House. Schofield agreed and was charged with the responsibility of photographing the movement. His photographs were widely published in relation to the movement in Korea and Japan’s human rights atrocities thereafter and Schofield was able to evade being caught by Japanese police for photographing the event. After the March 1st movement, he travelled to Suchon-ri and Chaem-ri to document the aftermath of Japan’s suppression of the movement that had spread across the nation. In Suchon-ri, Japanese police had set fire to residents’ thatch-roofed homes as they slept and shot at anyone trying to stamp out the fires. In Chaem-ri, Japanese police rounded up the male residents of the village in a local church for a ‘meeting’ and set fire to the building, shooting or bayoneting anyone that tried to escape. Schofield arrived soon after to photograph the aftermath. His first-hand accounts were published in numerous journals and newspapers as a result.

As Schofield worked in Severance Hospital in Seoul, he witnessed the results of the torture inflicted on the Korean people by the Japanese as the victims were taken in to be treated. He documented these accounts as well and even opened up his own home to torture victims and visited many of them in prison and in their homes to administer treatment. However, due to his blatant aiding of the Korean independence movement, Schofield was brought to light by several Japanese officials including the Governor-General of Korea and became ultimately blacklisted by the Japanese government operating in Korea.

This mounting pressure led the Presbyterian Church to ultimately recall Schofield from Korea, contrary to popular belief which states he was deported by the Japanese for his actions. As the church disapproved of Japan’s human rights abuses, they didn’t recall Schofield initially, however as Schofield became widely known for his support for the Korean independence movement, a move which was not approved by the church as it operated with political neutrality. Schofield’s wife Alice had suffered from a declining mental stability shortly after arriving in Korea and thus in 1917, a year after arriving in Korea, returned alone to Canada where she shortly after gave birth to their son, Frank. Despite the distance, Schofield remained adamant on his mission in Korea and continued to stay, aiding the independence movement. However, as of January of 1920, the church recalled Schofield, maintaining that his wife’s condition required him to return home immediately. However, it is believed the church used Alice’s condition as an excuse to recall Schofield.

Once back in Canada, Schofield picked back up teaching at Ontario Veterinary College and stayed in Canada for almost 40 years until 1959. A year after his wife Alice passed, Schofield was invited to come back to Korea by then president Rhee Syng-man. Schofield accepted and moved back to Korea, receiving a grand welcome ceremony upon his arrival. Schofield spent the rest of his years in Korea teaching at Seoul National University, conducting Bible lessons for students, and supporting two orphanages and a vocational school. He was awarded the Republic of Korea Medal of National Foundation in 1968 and passed on April 16th, 1970. His last wish was to be buried in Korea and was buried in the Korean National Cemetery in the patriots section- the only foreigner to be honored so. A statue was erected in memorial in Toronto Zoo as part of a memorial garden in his honor. The Ontario Veterinary College also has a scholarship in his name which is given to a student each year. Schofield is remembered for his contributions to veterinary practices and the Korean independence movement in which he believed independence is a moral and fundamental right to the people.

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