Louise Yim (1889-1977) was born to a well-off Christian family in Kumsan, Korea. After the Japanese Empire annexed Korea in 1910, Yim became one of a rising generation who bitterly resented the brutal manner in which the new rulers imposed their culture upon her homeland. Yim eventually studied in the United States, receiving several advanced degrees before returning to Korea. After independence, Yim served in the South Korean government, represented her country in the United Nations, and was president of Chung Ang University. In her memoir, she described her school days under Japanese rule and the ways in which she and her classmates resisted their policies.

Louise Yim on Japanese Occupation of Korea

One day we demanded that our teachers give us courses in Korean history. When they refused, I called three of my closest friends. "Let us find a Korean history book and each night copy a few pages. It will be slow work, but in time we will have in our possession the treasured story of our nation."

I went alone to Pastor Kim's house and told him what I wanted to do. He looked at me for a few minutes and then smiled.

"You are really determined to save Korea, aren't you? I will take a chance. But remember, you are taking a chance to. If the Japanese should ever find you with this book in your possession, they will chop off your head."

I told him I was not frightened, but I was, and he knew it. Nevertheless, he went to a secret hiding place and took out a beautiful leather-bound book on which were written the words Dongkook Yuksa. Translated literally, this means "Oriental History." but the book was the work of Korean historians writing mainly about our country. He handed the book to meet, saying, "Here is your heritage. Love it. Cherish it. Protect it."


 I wrapped the book in the folds of my sigachima and returned to school. That night, my friends and I began our laborious task. We could light no lamps and we had to keep our candles carefully shaded. At times our eyes felt as though they were going blind.

But we kept on working, month after month. As soon as we finished a copy, we smuggled it out of the school grounds and pastor Kim helped us get it into the hands of a patriotic young men and spiritual leaders who were forming secret study circles that would some day become centers of the resistance movement.

One morning, Miss Golden and a few of the teachers came to our class. Their faces were white. Miss Golden spoke, but she did not look at us.

"Girls, something is happening here that is not good for the school or for any of us. If I do not tell the Japanese police about it and they find out by themselves, the school will be closed and all of you will be jailed, possibly beaten, perhaps even killed.  You all know to what I am referring."

We discussed a new rule that had been made in school which forced us to sing the Japanese national anthem each morning and to bow down before a photograph of the Japanese Emperor.

We decided neither to sing nor to bow. We refused to yield and after a few mornings of helpless rage the Japanese teachers surrendered to reality. The morning routine of bowing and singing became a mere memory…..

One day we became bolder. Pictures of the Japanese Emperor hung in every classroom. Before class began, a few of us slip through the rooms with sharpened pencils and punctured the eyes in all the pictures.

This time the Jap teachers were not to be quieted. With anger in their hearts they burst into Miss Golden's office. Just a corner behind them I followed until, when the doors slam shut, my ear was at the keyhole.

"Now you must find the troublemaker!"

Miss Golden's reply came in a fluttery voice. "Er… I will do all I can. After all, we can't force the girls to speak."

"For such a crime, the Japanese police know how to force and answer… even from little girls!"

I ran away before they came out and reported what I had heard to my classmates. Soon after, Miss Golden walked into our classroom. The two Japanese teachers trailed behind her like monkeys. Girls, you must help me. The latest incident-- the insult to the Japanese emperor-- was really too much. If you are honest Christian girls, believers in the truth, then the one among you who is responsible will speak up."

We all stood up. We all cried out, "I did it! I did it! I did it!" Each tried to shriek louder than the other.

Miss Golden rapped her ruler on the desk.

"Order! Order! Order! Now I'm going to leave this classroom. No one will be permitted to walk out-- for any reason-- until the guilty party confesses."

She left and lock the door. Luncheon hour passed. We sat perfectly quiet in the classroom. No one even whispered. No one even smiled. The sun set and it became dark.

Hourly Miss Golden poked her head through the door, asking, "Which one of you committed the crime?" the response was always the same - a host of "I dids." And then the door would slam shut and we would resume our silence. Finally the supper hour passed and Miss Golden came in-- a beaten woman. She had thought she knew all about Koreans. Now she learned another fact, one which many others have since learned: We are a very stubborn people….


Times were changing. During my two years at [school at] Chunju, I had not been fully aware of it. But returning this summer in 1916 I could see what this tenth year of the Japanese occupation meant. Every where one could see the ugly little islanders and their ill-fitting uniforms. Many Japanese civilians were coming over from the "homeland" and settling in Korean homes. Where a Japanese now resided, a Korean family once lived. The side streets were beginning to show signs of these evictions, as families encamped temporarily in rude shacks near the homes they once owned. Many were dazed. Their new rulers kept saying they were here to" help" them. But what strange ways they had of doing good!


Source: Louise Yim. My Forty Year Fight for Korea. New York: A. A. Wyne, Inc. 1951, pp. 60-61, 66-68, 78.