Project Eagle: The American Christians of North Korea in World War II

Project Eagle: The American Christians of North Korea in World War II

Project Eagle: The American Christians of North Korea in World War II

Project Eagle: The American Christians of North Korea in World War II


Robert S. Kim contributes to a fuller understanding of Asia in World War II by revealing the role of American Christian missionary families in the development of the Korean independence movement and the creation of the forgotten alliance between that movement and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), called Project Eagle.

Project Eagle tells the story of the American Christian missionaries in Korea from 1884 to 1942, who brought a new religion, modern education, and American political ideals to a nation conquered and ruled by the Japanese Empire. The missionaries' influence inextricably linked Christianity and American-style democracy to Korean nationalism and independence, establishing an especially strong presence in Pyongyang. Project Eagle connects this era for the first time to OSS-Korean cooperation during the war through the story of its central figures, American missionary sons George McCune and Clarence Weems and one of the leading national heroes of Korea, Kim Ku. Project Eagle illuminates the shared history between Americans and Koreans that has remained largely unexamined over the past seventy years. The legacy of these American actions in Korea, ignored by the U.S. government and the academy since 1945, has shaped the relationship of the United States to both North Korea and South Korea and remain crucial to understanding the future of the U.S. relations with both Koreas.


On September 20, 1884, a young physician from the United States arrived in the little-known country of Korea, which was ending a long period of isolation and opening itself to foreigners for the first time in centuries. He was the first of hundreds of American Christian missionaries who served in Korea for over half a century, establishing a special relationship between Americans and Koreans at a time when few in the United States had ever heard of Korea. They spread Christianity throughout Korea, established its first universities and hospitals, and brought Western ideas and science. They began the process that made South Korea the modern, successful, and technologically advanced society that it is today.

Sixty years later, during the final months of the Second World War, an army of Koreans in exile was poised to return to Korea to start the liberation of their country from the empire of Japan. It was the product of the first alliance between the United States and Korea, made between the Korean government in exile and the U.S. intelligence service, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Called Project Eagle, it united oss officers who were sons of the first American missionaries in Korea with a Korean liberation movement led by Christians inspired by American ideals, brought to Korea by the missionaries.

Memory of this first American alliance with the people of Korea is nonexistent in the United States. Other than a few Korean Americans, no one remembers that Americans once had a special relationship with . . .

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