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Korean Prince Charming Woos America
Second son of Emperor Kojong studied in the U.S. in the early 20th century
Robert Neff (neff)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-30 17:28 (KST)   
This article is part of the Korea firsts series written by historian and long-time resident of Seoul Robert Neff.  <Editor's Note>
It is common now in South Korea for families to send their children abroad for an education in the hope that they will be successful in later life. Many parents worry about the trouble their children might encounter while studying abroad. Not only are there the problems of communication, but there are also the differences in cultures, thinking, and laws. More than a hundred years ago these differences were even more pronounced, but there were still some adventuresome parents.

Perhaps one of the least known, but highest ranking, Korean students to attend school in the United States was Prince Eui-wha -- the second son of Emperor Kojong.

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Prince Eui-wha was arguably the most adventurous of Emperor Kojong's sons. He was well liked by the foreign community in Korea and was described as "a young man of pleasant and agreeable manners." In 1897, at the young age of 17, he was escorted to the United States by a missionary to attend school. He studied in the United States for a short time before returning to Korea and then went on to Japan to continue his education.

Although he was under the care -- per se -- of a missionary family in Japan, the young prince soon ran into some difficulties. It was alleged in some of the idle talk of the Westerners in Seoul that the young prince was spending too much of his time entertaining Japanese women and not enough time studying. It is unclear how accurate these rumors were, or if they were merely fabrications of a bored community, but later events in the United States seem to give credence to them.

Nonetheless, in June 1901, Prince Eui-wha again returned to the United States to study first at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia and later at Ohio Wesleyan university. Unlike the first time he came to the United States, this time he was relatively on his own -- only accompanied by two subordinates: Sun-koo Sin and Eung-ni Han, who were also enrolled in school with him.

Like many students who have lived under the constant scrutiny of their parents or guardians, once they are on their own they tend to go overboard and get into trouble and the royal prince was no exception.

A newspaper reporter described, somewhat biased, a most embarrassing incident involving Prince Eui-wha.

"The prince went to Coney Island while going through the 'seeing New York' process. He spent days and days there; also nights. Coney looked upon him as a good thing. The barkers, the grafters, the card sharks, even the peanut vendors took unwarranted toll of the imperial purse. Then there was of course an unlimited supply of the prince's chief delight -- the unveiled American woman. [Blond] beauties, chorus girls in tights, beach sprites in bathing suits, all attracted the prince's attention and subtracted his coin. He gave suppers to bevies of blonds and bunches of brunettes. Champagne went down, but the price of it went up. As a consequence the prince had to borrow."

How much was he forced to borrow? According to a law suit by Wolf Brothers & Co., of New York, Prince Eui-wha borrowed nearly $30,000 to pay for his "extravagant trip to Coney Island."

The Korean Legation was alleged to have explained it away as: "Oh, his imperial highness has merely exceeded his allowance a little -- that's all!" Prince Eui-wha did not deny the debt and Emperor Kojong was forced to pay the sum. Considering the young prince was given an annual allowance of $4,000 it would be safe to say that his father was furious.

Apparently Prince Eui-wha was somewhat of a ladies' man. There are three alleged romances he had while studying in the United States.

The first was with Miss Angie Graham of Wheeling, West Virginia, whose father was a missionary. According to the accounts, the prince called upon the young woman several times and there were rumors that they would become engaged but nothing ever developed.

The second was Miss Clara Bull, a young woman who worked in a hat store in Delaware, Ohio, and was described as being so beautiful as "to make the ugliest bonnet a dream." She was unlike any woman the prince had ever set eyes upon. He sent his aid to ask her for a date but she refused insisting that the prince himself should come and ask her -- which he did. She eventually returned to her home in Cincinnati and the prince followed her.

"There were flowers and candies and theater parties for her delectation ... and a diamond ring blossomed on one of the fair one's fingers," but because she would not leave the United States for Korea; the romance died.

The third reported love of the young prince was the 17-year-old Miss Mary Buttles. With her dark blue eyes and light brown hair she "bewitched the Korean Adonis" at a hotel in western Maryland where she was on vacation. She knew that he was of the nobility but she was not "dazzled by the imperial glamour" and instead treated him as she would a normal American male. When she suggested hiking in the nearby mountains and the prince balked at the idea -- claiming he did not like to walk -- she merely told him to suit himself and remain in the hotel, but she was going to do it with or without him. He reluctantly agreed to attend her. It was not the last time, and in fact she forced him to go on several mountain hikes with her prior to her returning home to Columbus, Ohio. The prince followed her to Ohio, but like the others, she was unwilling to return to Korea and the romance died.

Although he never married an American woman, his father allegedly did -- which later proved to be a hoax. Prince Eui-wha vigorously denied the alleged marriage of his father, but despite his vivid protests the story became more and more accepted as truth -- even to this day.

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The great popularity that the young prince enjoyed with the American women was not always appreciated by the American men.

In June 1903, Prince Eui-wha was at a small garden party in Delaware, Ohio, when he was suddenly attacked by Joseph Stout, a young farmer. Stout claimed to have been so incensed to see the young prince, who he thought was Chinese, at the center of attention of so many young American women that he lost it. He was immediately arrested and on June 13, the Korean legation in Washington D.C., sent its attorney, Charles Needham, to investigate the unprovoked assault. Needham met with Delaware's city officials and the eye-witnesses and he made it clear that the Korean government was not taking the attack lightly.

Mayor Clippirger, under pressure from the federal government, declared he was taking a personal interest in the case and held Stout on a bond of $500 while awaiting the grand jury. The mayor would have probably been more severe except the attorney for Stout argued that the mayor had no jurisdiction in the case.

On Oct. 26 Stout was hauled before Judge Coyne and pleaded guilty to assaulting the Prince. His defense was one of racism. He attacked the Prince "because he didn't like 'chinks' and thought the girls paid too much attention to the young foreign nobleman." His punishment, considering the circumstances, was extremely lenient: he was sentenced to 30 days in county jail, a fine of $25 dollars, and was ordered to pay the costs of the prosecution.

Stout was taken away and locked up in the local jail, but because his victim was East Asian and the crime was committed out of passion, he was not deemed much of a threat and was thus made a trusty of the jail. However, after being in jail for only a short time, he walked out and escaped. The Korean government was furious but little could be done. n Nov. 13, Stout surrendered to the sheriff and claimed that he left the jail because he "could not resist the temptation to go hunting." He then presented the sheriff with a freshly killed rabbit -- proof of his claim.

Prince Eui-wha remained in the United States for several years before returning to Korea after the Japanese took over. A newspaper had this to say of his return:

"He had eighty-seven suits of American clothes, with a beflowered vest for every suit, and he had experienced love suits and once [a] considerable lawsuit. His imperial highness left his divided heart in three American maidens' keeping."

Despite the many problems he experienced, including being robbed, he seems to have had a good impression of the United States. While he was not always treated kindly or fairly by the press, he was, nonetheless, one of the most popular Korean nobles to visit or live in the United States.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Robert Neff

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