[KS] The Origins of the Korean Alphabet

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreanstudies.com
Sat Aug 31 06:12:07 EDT 2013

> I presume the hangul  version of his name is 정계원 but does anybody 
> have the Chinese characters?

Almost but not quite. You guys are all too linguistically messed up :)
Just joking … "kei" or "key" would in the U.S. from the 1910s to the 
1950s mostly be "ki 기" when in personal names. In general would "ei" 
usually be a Korean "i." For example, the other day I had a "H.K. Rey" 
and the family name "Rey" would actually be "Yi 李". That of course, 
same as with the transcription of Chinese names, would also be an 
attempt of disguising 'race' and non-Western origin, probably from both 
sites, white America and Asian immigrants. With a family name like 
"Rey," for example, and a given name just represented by the two 
initials, that name is not immediately detectable as Korean (or 
Chinese, etc.), and a medical doctor like H.K. Rey (Yi Hoe-gyŏng) would 
have at the time likely attract more non-Asian patients. In various 
ways you see this continuing until the 60s and 70s, of course, and 
maybe even today with the use of "Christian" given names.

ed States Government wartime strategic intelligence agency chief 
information officer honor soldiers for the Asia Society President

Chung Kei-won:
Anyway, the thesis author must be Chŏng Ki-wŏn 鄭基元, and that is 
likely why it was Bill Streifer who rediscovered him -- yes Bill? -- 
with the interest in colonial and immediate post-liberation North 
Korean weapons development, if I understand that correct. Chŏng was not 
only an academic, he also, because of the situation during World War 
II, took the position of the U.S. Government Wartime Strategic 
Intelligence Chief Information Advisor (re-translation from Korean, 
original title might be different). The dates there are very concrete: 
March 16, 1899-June 17, 1986. Elsewhere the birth year is given as 
1898. I do not know where from Dr. Shulman's dates come, the birth year 
given as 1902. But very likely this was his "official" birth year in 
U.S. documents. It is clear that he came very early to the U.S., could 
have well been with a Chinese passport (that was later changed to a 
U.S. one, possibly, typically), and at that time he might have been too 
old to be accepted at a college, and thus the birth year was changed to 
a later one. I am *speculating* here, but this would be the typical 
case and the best explanation without knowing all the facts--that was a 
very usual case.  
It is also interesting to see that Chŏng comes from Haeju. 
Coincidentally, just last and this week, I had to deal a lot with 
Haeju--it is the place where the An Chung-gŭn family comes from also. 
And that seems to have been an amazing "battle ground" for early 
missionaries, one where Catholics and Presbyterians nicely intrigued 
against each other. The An Chung-gŭ clan was all Catholic, under the 
hand of Father Joseph Wilhem, whom Mutel kicked out after An had 
assassinated Itō Hirobumi … but there was more going on … years 
earlier, I think it was 1896 or 1897, a brother of An (a rich yangban 
family, of course), had been overtaxing his peasants, was then being 
punished by the governor, and was blaming this punishment to be a case 
of Christian persecution (keyword "rice riots"), AND on the protestants 
who would be jealous of Father Wilhem's missionary success. In English, 
all this is wonderfully and in much detail been dealt with in Franklin 
D. Rausch's dissertation at UBC and several of his other publications 
as well as it a chapter in Yumi Moon's brand new (2013) _Populist 
Collaborators_ book. Fascinating reads! Since Chŏng Ki-wŏn graduated 
from Soongsil [Sŭngsil] Union Christian College in P'yŏngyang, it means 
he was of the Presbyterian camp, and that would typically tie him to 
the U.S., and he would thus continue his career in the U.S.  

Please find his bio with links to documents at the Korean History DB:


Frank Hoffmann

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