Media, PA and Seoul, Korea are separated by over 11,000 miles, one continent, and an ocean. However, the places are unexpectedly connected by one incredible man, Philip Jaisohn (born Soh Jaipil), who deeply influenced the histories of both his native homeland and adopted country.
Philip Jaisohn is recognized as the first naturalized Korean American citizen, the first Korean to receive an American medical degree, and as part of the first interracial marriage on record between a Korean and an American in the United States. Jaisohn is also recognized for his military service — particularly his service as Chief Advisor for the United States Army Military Government in Korea following World War II.
Jaisohn came to the United States in exile in 1884 following a failed political coup in Korea. As he built his new life in the U.S.— making a home on Lincoln Street in Media — he continued to play a critical role in championing the Korean independence movement. While living in Philadelphia, Jaisohn established 21 chapters of the League of Friends of Korea all over the U.S., founded the Korean Information Bureau, and held the first Korean Congress.
Jaisohn was heavily involved in what would eventually become the Republic of Korea. He returned to Korea for a time and founded the The Independent, a newspaper aimed at keeping all Korean citizens informed. The newspaper was regarded as the beginning of modern Korean journalism, and was the first newspaper written entirely in Hangul, a dialect that allowed for broader readership across classes. Jaisohn also organized the Independence Club, a space where Koreans could openly engage in political dialogue. His decades of political leadership made him the primary choice as president of the new nation; however, Jaisohn declined candidacy due to illness.
Earlier this month, the Philip Jaisohn Memorial Foundation held a groundbreaking ceremony at the Jaisohn House in Media to expand the museum which chronicles Jaisohn’s life and work. Site improvements will begin in January 2020 and will include an addition, landscaping, and a new parking lot. Work will be completed this spring in preparation for an event in June, which will likely include Korean dignitaries and prominent members of the Korean-American community.
Mayor Bob McMahon attended the groundbreaking ceremony in December and was very enthusiastic about the upcoming work on the Jaisohn House. Commenting on the upcoming renovations, he explained, “We are thrilled that the Jaisohn Foundation is here in Media, and more people are being made aware of what a unique piece of history it is. The ideas and influence of Philip Jaisohn are extraordinary. I would love for many people, particularly the many Korean-Americans in the Philadelphia area and students learning history for the first time, to visit when the renovations are complete. We are lucky to have such a personal connection to one of the most impactful men on modern Korean history.”
To learn more about the Philip Jaisohn House and its namesake, visit http://jaisohn.com/.