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Kim Koo

Kim Koo

South Korean politician
The basics
Occupation Autobiographer Politician
Country South Korea
Date of birth Haeju, South Hwanghae Province, North Korea
Date of death Jun 26, 1949 Seoul, South Korea
Authority VIAF id Library of congress id
The details

Kim Koo (김구; 金九; Kim Gu or Kim Ku Korean pronunciation: [kimɡu]; also known by his pen name Baekbeom (백범; 白凡; [pɛkpʌm]), August 29, 1876 – June 26, 1949) was a Korean nationalist politician. He was the sixth and later the last Premier of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, a leader of the Korean independence movement against the Japanese Empire, and a reunification activist after 1945.


Early life

Kim was born on August 29 (11th day of the 7th month in the Lunar Calendar), 1876 in Teot-gol (텃골), Baek-un-bang (백운방), Haeju (해주; 海州), South Hwanghae Province, Korea, the only son of a farmer Kim Soon-young (김순영) and his wife Kwak Nack-won (곽낙원). His name at birth was Kim Changahm (김창암; 金昌巖; [kimtɕʰaŋam]). When he was nine years old, he started to study Chinese classic texts such as Zizhi Tongjian (자치통감; 資治通鑒), and Great Learning (대학; 大學) at local seodangs.

Kim's family Andong Kim clan was a famous noble, Distant descendant of King Kyung Soon. founder of Andong Kim clan's Kim Suk-seung was grandson of King Kyung Soon, Kim Koo's 31G-grandfathers. Kim's 21G-grandfather Kim Sa-hyeong(김사형;金士衡) was one of meritorious retainer at the founding of a Joseon dynasty. but later, Kim Ja-jeon( 김자점;金自點) was treason of King Hyojeong, Kim Ja-jeon's family was massacre. his 11G-grandfather Kim Dae-chung was escape to Hanyang and go to Haeju. later Kim Dae-chung's was conceal one's identity. Kim Ja-jeom was his 11G-grandfather Kim Dae-chung's third cousin.

Leader of Donghak movement

At the age of 16, Kim applied for the Gwageo (Imperial Examination) of Joseon but failed. After that, he joined the Donghak Movement (동학; 東學), a rebellion against government and foreign oppressions in 1893 and changed his name to Kim Changsoo (김창수; 金昌洙). As the organization grew rapidly, he was appointed the district leader of Palbong (팔봉) at the age of 17 and a Donghak army regiment. Under the instruction of Donghak leader Choi Si-hyung (최시형; 崔時亨), Kim's troops stormed the Haeju fort in Hwanghae-do, but the army was eventually defeated by governmental forces. After that, he was defeated by his companion, Lee Dong-yeop (이동엽) in the turf war of Donghak’s organization. Thereafter, the Royal Army's General An Tae-hun (안태훈; 安泰勳; (father of Ahn Jung-geun (안중근; 安重根) who would in 1909 assassinate the Japanese governor Ito Hirobumi (伊藤博文)), gave Kim's Donghak rebels a safe pass, but other government troops ignored An's safe pass and attacked them. At 20, with I-eon Kim whom he had met around Yalu River, Kim attacked the Royal Army unit holding the Gang-gye fort, supported by the Qing Dynasty's army. However, the attack failed and he went into hiding.

Assassination of Josuke Tsuchida

In February 1896, Kim stayed at an inn in Chihapo, Hwanghae Province while traveling to southern regions. There he found a Japanese man named Tsuchida Josuke (土田譲亮), who was a trader from Tsushima, Nagasaki, Japan, and killed him believing that he was a Japanese army lieutenant involved in the assassination of the queen.

In his autobiography, 'Baekbeom Ilji' (백범일지, 白凡逸志, Baekbeom Journal), Kim describes his motivation at the time as follows:

Since many Japaneses go through Chihapo every day, there is no reason for him to disguise as a Korean if he were an ordinary merchant or workman. Could he be Miura or one of his accomplices who killed the queen, fled from Seoul and hiding here? Even if he is not, a Japanese man with a disguise and a sword can do nothing but harm to my country and people. I will revenge for my queen by killing this Japanese man.

— Baekbeom Ilji

The following morning, Kim attacked Tsuchida, and killed him. The "Report from acting administrator Hagihara Moriichi of Incheon Consulate on the current situation of Incheon" describes Tsuchida as a "commoner from Nagasaki Prefecture" and an "employee of a Nagasaki trader on a business trip".

However, Kim argued in his autobiography that Tsuchida was concealing a sword and had identification papers that showed him to be a Japanese army lieutenant.

Jailbreak, and educational activities

Educational activities

Kim was tortured and sentenced to death. According to 'Baekbeom Ilji', however, many Korean people were sympathetic and admired him for his patriotism and bravery, as shown by the facts that his execution was suspended by order of Emperor Gwangmu, that Korean judicial officials behaved politely to him despite Japanese pressure to execute him promptly, and that influential Koreans at the time (including major merchants of Incheon) made efforts to rescue him by repeated petitions to Korean Justice Department Officials and by collecting money for his ransom before his scheduled execution date.

In prison, Kim had a chance to read newly published textbooks about Western culture and science such as Taeseo Shinsa (태서신사; 泰西新史) and Saegye Jiji (세계지지; 世界地誌). He was deeply impressed by the strengths of the new Western science and recognized the importance of education for the Korean people. He started to teach about 100 illiterate fellow prisoners. The Korean newspaper Hwhangsung Shinbo (황성신보; 皇城新報) reported at the time that by his teaching of prisoners Kim Chang Soo changed the Incheon Prison into a school.

In 1898 he broke out of prison and escaped into Magoksa (마곡사; 麻谷寺), a Buddhist temple in Gongju (공주; 公州), Chungcheong province, and entered the Buddhist priesthood. A year later Kim left the priesthood and returned to Hwanghae, where he devoted himself to the enlightenment and education of the Korean people, founding (장연학교; 長淵學校) and the Yangsan School (양산학교; 楊山學校) in 1907, becoming the principal of the Yangsan School. In 1904, he married Choi Jun-rye (최준례; 崔遵禮) from Sinchon (신천), Hwanghae Province.

Joins Korean Independence Movement

In 1905, the Eulsa Treaty (을사조약; 乙巳條約) was made between Japan and Korea, making Korea a protectorate of Japan. Kim participated in a mass protest against the treaty in Seoul and presented a memorial to Emperor Gwangmu urging him to withdraw from the treaty. In 1908, Kim joined Sinminhoe (신민회; 新民會; New People's Association), a national-level underground organization established by Ahn Changho (안창호) for nonviolent Korean independence movement.

105 persons Incidents

In 1910, the Japanese colonial government arrested An Myung-geun (안명근; 安明根), a cousin of the An Jung-geun who killed Ito Hirobumi, for plotting to assassinate Governor-General Terauchi Masatake (寺內正毅). Kim, who was a close friend of An, was suspected of being an accomplice and arrested as well. Like other jailed suspects, Kim was severely tortured, but no evidence linking him to the assassination attempt was found and he was released from prison after 3 years.

This term of imprisonment left Kim with damage to cartilage and his left ear disfigured for life, due to beating by Japanese in the prison, in addition to his calves that were already permanently scarred in his earlier imprisonment torture for the killing of Tsuchida. At the time, Han Pil-ho (한필호; 韓弼昊), a member of Sinminhoe, was killed, Shin Suk-choong (신석충; 申錫忠) killed himself, and An tried to commit suicide during the severe interrogation but failed. Kim also tried to kill himself with a self-inflicted injury in his head, but failed.

In prison, Kim changed his name from 'Kim Changsoo' to 'Kim Koo' and adopted the pen name of 'Baekbeom' (백범, 白凡). Kim stated in his biography that the change of his name symbolized breaking free from Japanese nationality records and that he chose the pen name Baekbeom, which means "ordinary person", hoping every ordinary Korean person would fight for the independence of Korea.

Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea

Kim Koo (1919)

Kim exiled himself to Shanghai, China in 1919 after a nationwide non-violent resistance movement, known as the March 1st Movement (3.1 운동), which was violently suppressed by the Japanese imperialist government. In Shanghai, Kim joined the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (대한민국 임시정부; 大韓民國 臨時政府), which vowed to liberate Korea from Japanese occupation.

In 1922 Kim was Assassination of Korean Communists Kim Rip(김립;金立). Reason Kim Rip was give to 2million $ from Lenin. but Kim Rip was money not given to Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. Kim Koo made a false charge against, Kim Rip is peculator.

After serving as the Police Minister, Kim became the president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in 1927. He was re-elected to the office many times by the Provisional Assembly.

In 1931 he organized a nationalist group, the Korean Patriotic Corps (한인애국단; 韓人愛國團). One of the members, Yun Bong-gil (윤봉길; 尹奉吉), ambushed and assassinated the Japanese military leadership in Shanghai on April 29, 1932. The commander of the Japanese Army and Navy died instantly. Another member, Lee Bong-chang (이봉창; 李奉昌), tried to assassinate the Japanese emperor Hirohito in Tokyo on January 8 of the same year but failed.

After escaping to Chongqing where Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist Government was established, Kim established the Korean Liberation Army (광복군; 光復軍), commanded by General Ji Cheong-cheon (지청천; 池靑天). When the Pacific War broke out on December 8, 1941, Kim Koo declared war on Japan and Germany and committed the Korean Liberation Army to the Allied side; the Korean Liberation Army took part in warfare in China and Southeast Asia. Kim arranged for the Korean Liberation Army to advance to Korea in 1945 but, days before the departure of the leading unit, the war ended.

After Korean Liberation

Kim Koo and Bang Eungmo (1946)
Kim Koo and Kim Il-sung (1948)

Kim returned to Korea upon the Japanese surrender to the Allies in 1945. He was known as "the Assassin" and reportedly travelled with an entourage of gunmen and concubines.

In December 27 1945, USA and England, USSR, China's head state was conference at Moscow, there was trusteeship agreed upon. immediately Kim was oppose trusteeship. December 27 he was attempt come to power, Song Jin-woo was said to virtually impossible. December 30, Song was murdered, enthusiastic supporters of Kim Koo. one Song Jin-woo's Assassin Han Hyeon-woo was connected of Kim. Cho Byeong-ok was tell to order assassination is Kim Koo. reason Kim was hate for moderate ideas of Song Jin-woo.

In 1947, USA and USSR was negotiation result. creation to The Joint Soviet-American Commission. Kim was opposite to AmericanSoviet Joint Commission. Chang Deok-soo, 2nd leader of Korean Democratic Party, Chang was positive agreement of Joint Commission. also oppose consolidation plan of conservative force, Kim and Chang was argue. In December 2, 1947, Chang Deok-soo was Killed by Park Kwang-ok and Bae Hee-beom, there was a member of Korean Independence Party. Chang Taik-sang was review of arrest to Kim

As the division of the newly independent country became obvious, he led a team of former independence activists to Pyongyang to hold unification talks with Kim Il-sung (김일성; 金日成), who later became the president of North Korea. Talks deteriorated rapidly after he voiced his hostility toward the growing communist presence in North Korea.

In 1948, the inaugural National Assembly of South Korea nominated Kim as a candidate for the office of the first president of the Republic. In the election by the National Assembly, Kim was defeated by Rhee Syngman (이승만; 李承晩), the first president of the provisional government, who had been impeached in 1925 by a vote of 180-16. He lost the election for the vice presidency to Lee Si-yeong (이시영; 李始榮) by a vote of 133-59. Kim did not know about his nomination until after the election. He did not approve the nomination, considering it a ploy to discredit him. Kim would never have participated in the election as he fiercely opposed the establishment of separate governments in North and South Korea.

Death and legacy

On June 26, 1949, Kim was assassinated by Lieutenant Ahn Doo-hee (안두희; 安斗熙). Ahn burst in and shot him four times while he was at home, reading poetry. Ahn stated that he killed Kim because he saw him as an agent of the Soviet Union. On April 13, 1992, a confession by Ahn was published by Korean newspaper Dongah Ilbo. In the confession, Ahn claimed that the assassination had been ordered by Kim Chang-ryong (김창룡; 金昌龍), who served as the head of national security under the Rhee administration. Ahn was murdered by Park Gi-sheo (박기서), a follower of Kim's, in 1996. According to Bruce Cumings in his 1981 books, another possible motive for the assassination was Kim's alleged connection to the assassination of Song Jin-woo (송진우; 宋鎭禹), a leader of the Korean Democratic Party (KDP) who had chosen to work closely with the American military government. In 2001, declassified documents revealed that Ahn had been working for the U.S. Counter-Intelligence Corps, leading to suggestions of US involvement in the assassination. However, some have questioned the evidence for these accusations.

Kim Koo's funeral, 5 July 1949

Kim was posthumously awarded the Republic of Korea Medal of Order of Merit for National Foundation (건국훈장 대한민국장; 建國勳章 大韓民國章), the most prestigious civil decoration in the Republic of Korea, as well as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's National Reunification Prize. His autobiography, Baekbeomilji (Journal of Baekbeom, 백범일지) is an important source for study of history of Korean independence movement and has been designated as cultural treasure No. 1245 by the Korean government. A steady seller in Korea, the autobiography was first published in 1947 and republished in more than 10 versions in Korea and abroad.

Kim has been constantly regarded as one of the greatest figures in Korean history. For example, he was voted in a 2004 online poll as the greatest leader after the restoration of Korean independence and in 2005 as the most revered figure by Korean National Assemblymen. In 2007 national surveys, Kim received the most vote as the Korean historic figure whose portrait should be featured in new Korean banknotes to be issued in 2009. On November 5, 2007, the Bank of Korea, the national central bank of the Republic of Korea, announced the new 100,000 Korean won bill would feature Kim's portrait. However, the issuing of the new bill was delayed indefinitely as of 2009 for an unknown reason.


Kim's second son, Kim Shin (김신; 金信; 1922-), was a founding member of Republic of Korea Air Force, the Chief of Korean Air Force, a National Assemblyperson, and the Minister of Transportation, and is currently the Director of Kim Koo Museum and Library. Kim Koo's grandson, Kim Yang (김양; 金揚; 1953-), was appointed as the Korean Consulate General in Shanghai, China in 2005 and as the Minister of Patriots and Veteran Affairs of Korea (국가보훈처; 國家報勳處) in 2008.

In 2010, Kim Koo's great-grandson, Kim Yong-man (김용만; 金容萬; 1987-) was appointed second lieutenant of Korean Air Force, and in 2011, Kim's great-grandson on her daughter's side, Kim Dong-man (김동만; 金東萬; 1987-) was also appointed second lieutenant of Korean Air Force.

'My desire'

At the end of his autobiography Baekbeomilji, Kim expressed his desire with which he carried all his lifetime:


  • 《Baekbeom Ilji》 (백범일지; 白凡逸志)
  • 《Dowae Silgi》 (도왜실기; 屠倭實記)
  • 《Baikbeom Urok》 (백범어록; 白凡語錄)

Popular culture

  • Portrayed by Lee Young-hoo in the 2010 KBS TV series Freedom Fighter, Lee Hoe-young.
  • Portrayed by Kim Hong-pa in the 2015 film Assassination.
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