From the first arrival of Canadian James Scarth Gayle (1863-1937) to Korea in 1888 to the complete expulsion in the early 1940s of all foreign missionaries from Korea, some 200 Canadian missionaries, of various denominations, served on the Korean Peninsula.
The Presbyterian Church in Canada’s history with Korea began in 1893 when William J. MacKenzie went as an independent missionary. The church officially sent the Rev. Dr. Robert and Mrs. Lena Grierson as missionaries to Korea in 1898 where they served until 1913.
Canadian missionaries had dedicated their lives, in the hope of enlightening and empowering the Korean people. Many had left impressive legacies, which transcended the bounds of their religious practices. James Scarth Gale, for instance, wrote the first Korean-English dictionary. And Oliver Avison (1860-1956) established the first Western hospital. Many others partook in various Korean independence movements, touching the hearts of many Koreans along the way.
Commencing in 1888, the exhibit encompasses a broad historical overview of the first Canadian missionaries to Korea and the successive waves which came afterward. A slideshow exhibition depicts the lives of the late 19th and early 20th century missionaries – showcasing their observations and activities on the Peninsula.
The focal point of the exhibition comprises a collection of personal items from James Scarth Gale and Duncan McRae (1868-1949), the very first prominent Canadians missionaries who ventured to the Peninsula. The first Western family to wed and bore children on Korean soil – the Hall family, also have their collection of artifacts on display.
Generously loaned by the Royal Ontario Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the Museum of Canadian Missionaries in Korea, and Korea’s National Gugak Centre, the numerous and varied items in the exhibition range from scrolls of appreciation – bestowed to the missionaries by the Korean people; to eyeglasses, clothes, and books owned by the missionaries. Even a medal of honour, loaned by the Government of Korea, will be on display. Beautifully encapsulated in these rare and most precious historical artifacts are the echoes of stories of a time gone past.
“With their families and their love and respect for the Korean people,” writes Nancy Black, the youngest great-grandchild of Canadian missionary Oliver Avison, “these foreigners supported the transformation of Korea, from a colony invaded by its neighbours, to a modern, independent country; which today shares its knowledge and talents with the world.”
With ‘The Deep-Rooted Friendship’ exhibition, the Korean Cultural Centre and the Korean Embassy aim to place a spotlight on one of the oldest links that bind Korea and Canada together. By introducing this little-known chapter to the general public, we hope to highlight not only the 130th Anniversary of the first Canadian Missionaries to Korea, but the 65th Anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, and the 55th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Korea and Canada as well.
Date: October 4, 2018~January 11, 2019
Venue: Korean Cultural Centre Gallery at 150 Elgin St. Ottawa, Unit 101
Opening Hours: Monday~Friday/ 9am~5pm
Inquiry: canada [at] korea [dot] kr/ 613-233-8008
– Learn more at the Korean Cultural Centre Canada