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318 Elmer L. Andersen Library, University of Minnesota, 222 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455

An Inventory of Its Records

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Creator: YMCA of the USA. International Division.
Title: Records of YMCA International work in Korea
Date: 1900-1997 (bulk 1900-1986)
Collection Number: Y.USA.9-2-21
Abstract: Correspondence, reports, and printed material from YMCA international work in Korea, particularly from the Seoul Association. A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning the financial campaigns and building projects of the Korean YMCAs, but also includes information on Korean-Japanese relations, physical education, rural work, and student work, as well as scattered correspondence describing political events in Korea. .
Quantity: 4.5 cubic feet (13 boxes).
Location: See Detailed Description section for box listing.


Although the first YMCA activities in Korea were begun in 1888 under the guidance of missionaries from the University of Toronto, formal organization of a Korean association was not initiated until 1899 when missionaries in Seoul requested assistance from the American YMCA's International Committee. In 1901, Philip L. Gillett became the first secretary of the Seoul Association, launching the start of the YMCA's long and significant history on the Korean Peninsula.

During the early years of the YMCA in Korea, the association was tied to the national Y association of China, headquartered in Shanghai. In Korea, the YMCA introduced the nation to baseball and offered bible study, career training, and agricultural assistance programs, among many other activities. As a result of the organization's openness and promotion of democratic values, the YMCA became popular among Korean nationalists who opposed the Japanese annexation of the country. In 1912, the Seoul Association was accused of playing a role in a plot to assassinate the Japanese governor of Korea, and in 1919, many Christians affiliated with the YMCA were involved in a revolt against Japanese occupation.

Despite pronounced tensions between the Koreans and Japanese, the Korean Association separated itself from the National Association of China in 1914 to become part of the YMCAs of Japan. During this period, Japanese and Koreans attended separate YMCAs in both nations. Notably, the first President of Korea, Syngman Rhee, was a student secretary of the Korean YMCA in Tokyo. In 1922, the Korean Association was formally separated from the YMCAs of Japan; however, the Japanese resumed control of the YMCA's 10 Korean associations in 1938, becoming increasingly oppressive as the Japanese empire expanded its control in Asia.

The outbreak of war forced the North American YMCA to cut its ties with Korea in 1937. Following the Second World War in 1945, Korea was split along the 38th parallel by the Soviet Union and the United States. Although the war had damaged the Korean leadership, the YMCA quickly expanded its operations in South Korea, establishing nine new city associations and 72 student associations in high schools and universities by 1948. The start of the Korean War in 1950, however, stifled the reemergence of the Korean YMCA movement. During the war, communist troops destroyed the Seoul Association building and killed many Christians and YMCA leaders.

Following the Armistice Agreement in 1953, the Korean YMCAs shifted their focus to reconstruction and nation building. YMCAs provided rice and milk lines for refugees, rural reconstruction programs, and English typing classes to meet the needs of the United Nations. In addition, the Seoul YMCA established Boy's Town, an orphanage that would operate for several decades following the war. By 1955, the Korean YMCA regained its momentum and had grown to include 25 city associations, 29 university associations, and 145 boy's clubs.

The growth of the YMCA in Korea was aided by funding from the Buildings for Brotherhood Program during the late 1950s and 1960s, which supported the construction of YMCA buildings in a number of cities. In 1969, the Korean YMCA announced that they would shift their focus from building-centered activities to outreach programs, which included constructing roads and community centers in rural areas, as well as anti-poverty efforts in six city slums. Many of these outreach programs were led by Korean students who appreciated the opportunity to assist in the advancement of their quickly industrializing nation. In 1971, the Korean YMCAs established programs to promote financial self-sufficiency and increased Korean leadership in the organization.

Starting in the early 1960s, periods of political turmoil in Korea impacted the YMCA and members of Korea's Christian community, who were largely supportive of pro-democracy efforts. During the 1970s, the government of Park Chung-hee arrested student demonstrators and Christian leaders who opposed the government's authoritarian rule. Following Park Chung-hee's assassination in 1979, the Seoul YWCA was the first organization to resist the imposition of martial law by holding a gathering in downtown Seoul. The meeting was violently dispersed by police and security officials. In addition, Korean YMCAs assisted the victims of the Gwangju Rebellions in 1980, and protested the government's imprisonment of two YMCA leaders in the same year.

During the 1980s, Korean YMCAs continued their community outreach efforts, and worked to maintain an effective Christian program that maintained its relevance to the changing social needs of the Korean people. Korean YMCAs offered a range of activities that included physical and religious education, as well as more modern services like computer programming classes and free legal clinics. Today, the YMCA in Korea maintains its traditional services in addition to a variety of social betterment programs that include environmental conservation, electoral transparency, and consumer protection.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Korea along with their dates of service:

Avison, Gordon Wilberforce (1925-1939) Kazmiroff, Boris M. (1969-1972)
Baker, Robert Harter (1957-1968) Lucas, Adolph Edward (1915-1920)
Barnhart, Byron Pat (1916-1937) Nash, William Lewis (1921-1932)
Brockman, Frank Marion (1905-1929) Osborne, William Terry (1953-1958)
Bunce, Arthur Cyril (1928-1934) Shields, Donald Whitman (1957-1959)
Clark, Francis Orville (1929-1933) Shipp, Fred Thomas (1925-1928)
Coston, William Porter (1951-1954) Snyder, Lloyd H. (1911-1916)
Fitch, George Ashmore (1946-1952) Strong, Robbins (1950-1951)
Gillett, Philip Loring (1901-1913) Sweet, Lennig (1956-1958)
Greenberg, Marc R. (1976-1978) Webster, Mary Rita (1976-1979)
Gregg, George Arthur (1906-1927) Wilbur, Hollis Adelbert (1931-1935)
Hagg, Howard Lee (1961-1962) Zehner, Jan R. (1962-1963)
Holland, Ira Howard (1949-1950)

Historical information largely adapted from the collection, as well as from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth LaTourette.


The collection includes correspondence, reports, and printed material from YMCA international work in Korea, particularly the Seoul Association. A significant portion of the records consist of correspondence and documents concerning the financial campaigns and building projects of the Korean YMCAs, but also includes information on Korean-Japanese relations, physical education, rural work, and student work, as well as scattered correspondence describing political events in Korea.


Use of Materials:
This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.
Preferred Citation:
[Indicate the cited item and/or series here]. Records of YMCA International Work in Korea. Kautz Family YMCA Archives. University of Minnesota.
See the Chicago Manual of Style for additional examples.
Processing Information:
Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP024. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.
Catalog Record ID number: 6315576


The following section contains a detailed list of the materials in the collection. To request materials, please note the corresponding box number.

Box 1 Annual reports, 1902-1920, 1923-1929, 1933-1937, 1951-1954 and 1976-1986. 15 folders.
Box 2 Correspondence and reports, undated and 1900-1913. 9 folders.
Box 3 Correspondence and reports, 1914-1930. 8 folders.
Box 4 Correspondence and reports, 1949-1953. 9 folders.
Box 5 Correspondence and reports, 1953-1959. 9 folders.
Box 6 Correspondence and reports, 1930-1948. 9 folders.
Box 7 Correspondence and reports, 1966-1968. 8 folders.
Box 8 Correspondence and reports, 1969-1972. 8 folders.
Box 9 Correspondence and reports, 1973-1980. 10 folders.
Box 10 Correspondence and reports, 1981-1986. 2 folders.
Box S7 Correspondence and reports, 1905-1980.
Box 10 Printed material, 1907-1921 and 1961-1980. 4 folders.
Maps, 1945.
Building plans, undated.
Tourism pamphlets, undated.
Policy study, 1943.
Correspondence and reports, 1954.
Correspondence and reports, 1947-1963.
Handbook and Officer's Roster, 1996-1997.
Box 11 Correspondence and reports, 1960-1965. 9 folders.
Box S6 International relations, 1990.
Camping ministry, 1990.


See also Records of YMCA International Work in China, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.
Biographical information on many of the secretaries involved YMCA work in Korea (see list of individuals in the historical note) is available in the YMCA Biographical Files, separately cataloged in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.


A card index of individuals represented in the correspondence and major topics in the articles and reports is also available in the Archives.


This collection is indexed under the following headings in the catalog of the University of Minnesota Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Korean War, 1950-1953.
Orphanages -- Korea.
Rural development -- Korea.
Students -- Korea.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Administration.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Buildings.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Korea.
Young Men's Christian Associations -- Korea (South).
Korea -- Foreign relations - Japan
Korea -- History - Japanese occupation, 1910-1945.
Seoul (Korea).
Korea (South).
Avison, Gordon Wilberforce.
Baker, Robert Harter.
Barnhart, Byron Pat.
Coston, William P.
Gillett, Philip L. (Philip Loring).
Gregg, George Arthur.
Nash, William Lewis.
International Committee of YMCAs. World Service.
National Board of the Young Men’s Christian Associations. International Division.
YMCA of the USA. International Division.
Young Men’s Christian Associations of North America. International Committee.