Dosan Ahn Chang Ho | 도산안창호 | 島山
November 9, 1878 - March 10, 1938
Dosan Ahn Chang Ho is one of Korea's most respected patriotic figures and a historical figure in America. He ultimately gave his life for Korea never wavering in his commitment to serve his people. He stayed true to the causes of democracy, human rights, women's rights, modern education and fair labor. His philosophy and the way he lived his life are pure examples of sincerely serving people as a true leader.
Dosan was born on November 9, 1878 in Pyongyang (now the capital of North Korea). At a young age, he realized the weak and corrupt Korean feudalism desperately needed to be reformed to allow Korea to modernize and evolve with the Western world. In order to help reform the nation and become a great leader with a keen vision of modernization, Dosan and his new bride, Yi Hye Ryon (Helen Ahn), left Korea on their first journey to America in 1902 to study Western education. Dosan is his pen name. He chose it after seeing Hawaii for the first time from the ship he was traveling on. "Dosan" means "island mountain." Dosan realized he was going to be on his own like an island and had to rise up strong like a mountain to lead Korea to become a modern and democratic nation.
Japanese imperialists annexed Korea in 1910. Japan stole the opportunity to modernize Korea out of Dosan's hands. The Japanese closed down the chain of bookstores, the schools, the businesses and patriotic organizations he started. Dosan whole-heartedly fought the Japanese to keep their Imperialism from obliterating Korea. He sacrificed his time with his family and left them behind in America, while he forged Korea's destiny to become a powerful, independent nation of patriotic citizens.
Dosan gave up his freedom to save his people. He was arrested and held in Japanese prisons at least six different times. After his 1932 arrest, he spent nearly four years in Taejon Prison for violating Japan's Preservation of Peace Law in Korea. Dosan endured countless painful experiences as a prisoner. He was persecuted for his patriotism and complete love of his country and his people. At the age of 60, he died on March 10, 1938 after being imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese. Many scholars believe there would be no division of North and South Korea if he would have lived beyond Korea's liberation in 1945.
He died after leading an extremely meaningful and honorable life. His legacy leaves a clear lesson for any person anywhere to improve their character and broaden their spirit.