EKU Sociology's Dr. Underwood recently gave two virtual talks to Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea about her research into her family's history in that country. The first talk was in commemoration of her great-grandmother, Lillias Horton Underwood, who died in 1921. Dr. Horton went to Korea in 1888 and served as the personal physician to the last Queen of Korea, Empress Myeongseong.
Her son, Horace Horton Underwood and his wife Ethel VanWagoner Underwood were the subjects of the second talk, given as the Underwood International College Asian Studies Program 10th anniversary lecture. This talk, based on Dr. Underwood's recent publication, Korean Sovereignty, Liberal Democratic Society, and the Underwoods, 1916-1951, detailed the political, social service, and educational activities of her grandparents who worked in Korea until their deaths.
Horace Horton Underwood was professor, dean, and president of Chosen Christian College (which later became Yonsei University) as well as an advisor to the U.S. military government in Korea from 1945-1947. Ethel Underwood was also an instructor at the college, but her primary area of work was with women's organizations in Korea. During the final years of Japan’s colonial rule of that land, she worked to bring the issue of Comfort Women, the sexual slavery of girls for the Japanese Empire’s military, to the attention of the US officials.
Ethel was shot and killed in her home in 1949 in midst of the political turmoil in Korea early in the history of the Republic of Korea (established in 1948). Horace, again serving as an advisor for the US in Korea in the early months of the Korean War, died there in early 1951.
Throughout their lives and work in Korea, the Underwoods sought to influence American opinion of Korea, to promote awareness of Korea's rich culture and history, and to support Korean efforts to achieve autonomy, sovereignty, and social justice.
Published on November 09, 2021