Lee Wha Rang, March 30, 2000
Kim Gu is one of the few Korean nationalists respected in both North and
South Korea. A recent poll in South Korea shows that Kim Gu is the second
most popular leader (after Park Jung Hee) after more than half a century
after the most noted independence fighter (nicknamed The Assassin by the
Japanese) was assassinated by Rhee Syngman in 1949.
Kim Gu was born on August 29, 1976 at Pah-san-dong, Oh-dam-ri, Hwang-hae-do.
His father was Kim Soon Young and his mother was Kwak Nak Won. He studied
the Chinese classics and military arts.
Photo: Kim Gu on March 1, 1946.
In 1893, 18-year old Kim Gu joined the Tong-hak movement. In 1894, his
Tong-hak army attacked the Haeju fort but the attack failed. Gen. Ahn Tae
Hoon (father of Ahn Joon Gun) of the royal troops gave the Tonghak rebels a
safe pass, but other troops attacked them. Kim Gu escaped and went into
Photo: Kim Gu's Tong-hak mentor Choe Si Hyon in 1893. Choe ordered Kim Gu's
Tonghak rebel troops to attack Haeju.
In 1895, Kim Gu joined the Righteous Army of Kim Yi Uhn and attacked the
Kangge fort. They failed to take the fort. The following year, Kim Gu killed
Japanese army Lt. Su-chi-da, who killed the Korean Queen. He was caught and
tortured at the Haeju prison. He was sentenced to death and about to be
hanged when the King commuted his sentence.
In March 1898, Kim Gu escaped from prison. He roamed the country for awhile
and became a Buddhist monk. In 1900, he left the monastery and became a
teacher using a fake name. In 1903, Kim Gu became a Christian after his
fiancée died. He founded Bong-yang Institute and pushed for progressive
literature and nationalism among the youth. In 1904, he married Choe Joon
In 1908, he and 104 other patriots (including Ahn Chang Ho) formed the New
People's Society, which worked to counter Japanese intrusion. In Oct. 1909 -
Ahn Chung Gun killed Ito Hirobumi - the Japanese architect of the Korean
colonization. Ahn was born in 1879 in Haeju. In 1905, he went to Manchuria
and formed a guerrilla army. Ahn killed Ito at Harbin as Ito was getting off
a train. Ahn was arrested and after months of torture, was executed on March
Photo: Ito Hirobumi, left, second row, with his Korean friends. Many of the
Korean elite favored annexation of Korea by Japan.
On October 26, Kim Gu was arrested by the Japanese military police for his
role in the assassination of Ito Hirobumi by Ahn Joon Gun. He was released
and linked up Lee Jae Myong and Roh Baik Lin who killed traitor Lee Wan
In January 1911, Kim Gu was again arrested and tortured. He was given a
17-year prison term and incarcerated in the Suh-dae-moon prison, Seoul. In
1914, he was mercy-released upon his daughter's death in July. He founded a
grade school and became a teacher again.
After the March First movement of 1919 failed, he escaped to Shanghai,
China. He became the security chief of the Korean Provisional Government
(KPG) established on April 8, 1919 in the French Concession of Shanghai. The
KPG had its own parliament, press, and a military school in Shanghai. The
original founders of KPG represented a broad spectrum of the Korean
political ideologies united in the common cause of Korean independence. It
included Yi Tong Whi, the main Communist leader based in Siberia.
In May 1919, Kirin (Manchuria), Kim Wong Bom (alias Kim Yak San) organized
the Uiyoldan (Practice Justice Bravely Society), a secret terrorist group
with members in Korea, Japan and China - and a number of foreigners
including a German (Martin) specialist on making bombs. Kim Wong Bom joined
forces with Kim Gu.
The Society was to commit some 300 acts of terrorism against the Japanese
from 1919 to 1924; and more than 300 Uiyoldan members are to be captured and
executed. One of the most prominent members was Chon Kwang (alias O So ng
Yun); another is Kim Won Bong. Among Uiyoldan's notable actions are: (1)
bombing of Gov. Gen. Saito's office in Seoul on Sept. 12, 1921, (2) Shooting
of Gen. Tanaka on March 28, 1922, (3) Attempted assassination of the
Japanese Emperor on Jan. 4, 1924 and (4) Bombing of the Tokyo Takushoku on
Dec. 28, 1926.
Photo: Kim Gu. The Security Section Chief of the Korean Provisional
In Aug. 1920, Lenin met in Moscow a Korean delegation led by Han Hyong Gwon
(a member of Gen. Yi's staff) and authorized 2 million rubles (1 ruble = 50
cents) for the Korean Provisional Government. Since Russian paper rubles
were not negotiable in China, Han was handed 400,000 gold rubles in seven
boxes, each box contained 20 sacks of gold rubles and weighed 700 pounds.
Han was promised the balance after he had delivered the first payment to
Gen. Yi. Han handed over the boxes to Kim Rip (Gen. Yi's secretary) at the
border town of Omsk and went back to Moscow for the rest of Lenin's money.
On Dec. 8, 1920, Rhee Syngman arrived in Shanghai. Rhee was elected
president of the KPG in 1919, in absentia, but this was the first time Rhee
set foot in the KPG office. Unfortunately for the KGP, Rhee was to ferment
dissension in the ranks.
In June 1923, 48-year old Kim Gu became the prime minister of the
Provisional Government. His wife died the following year. In 1926, he became
the President of the Provisional Government. In 1930, he was reelected
President and founded the Korean Independence Party.
In June 1924, the Korean People's Delegates Congress convened in Shanghai to
form a united front against the Japanese. More than 600 delegates came from
Korea, Japan, Russia and Manchuria. In the end, no consensus was reached.
Its organizer Kim Rip was assassinated by Kim Ku and the 200,000 rubles Kim
Rip received from Lenin in 1922 were confiscated by Kim Ku.
In 1925, Kim Ku forced Rhee Synmgan out of the KPG for embezzling Lenin's
rubles. Rhee returned to his adopted country - America, as the "Washington
Representative of the KPG".
In 1931, he formed a covert operations unit, Yiyol-dang, whose primary
mission was to assassinate Japanese officials and Korean collaborators.
Photo: Yun Bong Gil under arrest after his bomb attack on Gen. Shirakawa on
April 28, 1932
In January 1932, he sent Lee Bong Chang to Tokyo to kill the Japanese
Emperor. Lee threw a grenade at the emperor's car but failed to harm him. On
April 28, 1932 (Shanghai), Yun Pong-Gil threw a bomb at a Japanese ceremony
in Hingkew Park killing several Japanese officials and wounding scores of
others, including the top military man in China, Gen. Shirakawa (who was to
sign the surrender document in 1945, with one leg crippled by Yun's bomb).
In 1933, Kim Gu met with Chiang Kaisek in Nanking. Chiang agreed to allow
Korean cadets into the Chinese Military Academy. In 1935, he formed the
Korean National Party with Lee Dong Young and Lee Si Young.
In 1937, he formed the Korean Independence United Front. In 1938, he
survived an assassination attempt by Lee Woon Han at a joint conference of
Korean National Party, Korean Revolutionary Party and Korean Independence
Party. In 1939, he moved to Chungking.
On Sept. 17, 1940, Kim Ku formed the Korean Independence Army. Lee Chung
Chun was appointed the Supreme Commander and Lee Bom Suk the Chief of Staff.
In 1941, KPG declared war on Japan. In 1942, he formally asked China, the US
and Britain to recognize his government.
Photo: Korean Independence Army unit in Hawaii (1942)
In 1943, he formed a special forces unit of the Independence Army in
conjunction with a US OSS detachment in China.
On November 23, 1945, he was finally allowed by the US military to return to
Korea. Gen. Hodge was not happy with Rhee and hoped to use Kim Ku as a
possible replacement for Rhee. Kim Ku was forced to sign a statement
promising that he would not install the Korean Provisional Government in
Seoul. Gen. Hodge provided American MP escorts and living quarters for Kim
Ku and his men. The other members of the KPG returned home a few days later.
Hodge was to find soon that Kim Ku was no puppet who could be manipulated
like Rhee Syngman.
Photo: Kim Ku's Korean Independence Army 2nd Brigade officers with US OSS
instructors in 1945. The man in the middle front row is Lee Bom Suk.
Photo: Kim Ku's home-coming.
To Hodge's dismay, Kim Gu proclaimed upon his return -- "We will have to
discharge all officials appointed by the interpreters of the US Military
Government. After August 14, 1945 all pro-Japanese and national traitors
under the Japanese first went into hiding.. And later come out to buy off
the interpreters so that they would get positions in the provincial
governments, the district government and the police. We must clean out all
these people, and at the same time stop this spirit of dependence on foreign
On Dec. 29, 1945 (Moscow), the Big Three foreign ministers (US, USSR and
Britain) agreed upon a limited 4 to 5 years of trusteeship and a provisional
government in the immediate future under US-Soviet tutelage. Hodge informed
Song Chin U (a tutelage supporter) on the same day.
Next day, Song was assassinated by Kim Ku who was passionately against any
tutelage. Whereupon, Hodge began propaganda against the Moscow agreement.
Kim Ku called a nationwide strike and ordered all Korean employees of the
USMGIK to take orders from him (and not the Americans). Kim Ku demanded
immediate recognition of the KPG.
On Dec 30, 1945, Kim Gu was hauled into Hodge's office and told that US
would kill him if he "double crossed" Hodge again. Kim Ku threatened to
commit suicide in Hodge's office. The failed coup put Kim Ku and the KPG out
of action and gave rise to Syngman Rhee's acceptance by Hodge as "the lessor
of two evils."
On Feb. 14, 1946, Kim Ku joined Rhee's RDC (Representative Democratic
Council) and blocked Yo Ung Hyon and his "communists" from forming a
pan-national alliance. Yo then formed the Democratic National Front to
oppose Rhee and Kim Ku. The Front was supported by Park Hyong Yong's
Communist Party, the leftist faction of the KPG led by Gen. Kim Won Bong
(famed for his anti-Japanese covert ops in China and went over to the Kim Il
Sung camp in 1948), the Yenan communists, and Yo's followers.
On March 5, 1946, Kim met with the US military governor Gen. Brown and asked
for an immediate self rule. He and Rhee jointly announced non-partisan
stance. On May 1, he suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. He
received the remains of the Korean martyrs Yun Bong Gil, Lee Bong Chang and
Paik Chung Gi from Japan. He agreed to a left-right cooperation with Rhee
Syngman and US. Gen. Hodge.
Photo: April 22, 1947: Kim Gyu Sik, Kim Gu, Gen. Chi Chun Chung, Rhee
Syngman and Francisca Rhee on Gen. Chi's return home. He was the commander
of Kim Ku's Independence Army.
In 1947, he formed the right-wing Anti-Trusteeship Committee. He publicly
breaks with Rhee's move to establish a separate state in South Korea. On
February 25, he and Kim Gyu Sik proposed a joint meeting with Kim Il Sung
and Kim Du Bong. He stated that he along with Kim Gyu Sik, Kim Chang Sook,
Cho So Ang and other nationalist would not participate in the UN-sponsored
election in South Korea.
On July 18, 1947, Yo Ung Hyon was assassinated by Kim Ku's forces. Yo is
about the only pre-liberation nationalist who is respected in both halves of
Korea today. (Yo Un Hyong was an authentic patriot. He was born in 1885 in
Yangpyong-gun, Kyonggido, into a yanban family. One of his uncles was a
Tonghak leader. He went to a missionary school (Paejac School) and learned
English. Yo went to China in 1914, and then played an important role in the
Samil movement in 1919. Yo helped found the Korean Provisional Government in
In 1921, Yo, Kim Kyu Sik and other Koreans attended the Congress of the
Toilers of the Far East in Moscow, where Yo met Lenin in person. After his
return to Shanghai, he served Chiang Kai Sek as a propagandist. He escaped
Chiang Kai Sek's purge of communists in Shanghai in 1927, only to be
arrested by Japanese agents and returned to Korea. Yo served a three-year
prison term in Korea. Yo became chief editor of the Joong Ang Ilbo in
On March 10, 1948 - US CIA reported: "The Korean leadership is provided by
that numerically small class which virtually monopolizes the native wealth
and education of the country... Since this class could not have acquired and
maintained its favored posit ion under Japanese rule without a certain
minimum of collaboration, it has experienced difficulty in finding
acceptable candidates for political office and has been forced to support
imported expatriate politicians such as Syngman Rhee and Kim Ku. These,
while they have no pro-Japanese taint, are essentially demagogues bent on
Photo: Kim Ku and Kim Gyu Sik enjoying a picnic on the way back to Seoul
from Pyongyang on May 4.
On April 20, 1948, Kim Gu met with Kim Il Sung and ironed out concrete steps
to prevent permanent division of Korea. He and Kim Gyu Sik returned to Seoul
and made public their pact with Kim Il Sung on May 5.
On June 26, 1949, Kim Gu was shot and killed by Ahn Du Whi on Rhee Syngman's
order. He was given a state funeral on July 5.
Ahn was sentenced to life in prison for his crime in 1949 but he was quietly
released less than a year later. He assumed a false name and lived a
"normal" life until his death on October 22, 1996.
Ahn was beaten to death by an assassin with a wooden club inscribed
``justice stick." Rhee Syngman's government claimed that Ahn, a disciple of
Kim Ku, acted alone, but Ahn later confessed that he was ordered to kill Kim
Ku by Rhee's secret police chief. Ahn was 79 and all of his five children
live in the United States. His common-law wife was not harmed.
Photo: Kim Gu's state funeral on July 5, 1949
Please visit Munwha Sinmum's Kim Gu Home Page