Kim Koo, the most admired man in Korean history
In 2007, a media outlet surveyed 299 members of the Korean National Assembly and asked them who they most admired. Of the 263 who responded, Admiral Yi Sun-shin, famous for his integral role in defeating the Japanese navy in the Imjin War of 1592-98, was chosen by 31 people, placing him as the second most admired. Blowing him out of the water in first, was famous nationalist and leader of the Korean independence movement Kim Koo, with an incredible 79 votes.
Born on August 29, 1876, Kim Koo was involved in rebellion from an early age, joining the famous Donghak Movement against the government and Japan at the age of 16, quickly rising to become leader of the district of Palbong and his own army regiment. In 1905, after Korea became on official protectorate of Japan, Kim participated in a mass protest, and in the following years was arrested and mistreated a number of times, before exiling himself to Shanghai in 1919, where he joined the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.
After Korea was liberated from Japan following the end of World War Two, Kim Koo was nominated to be the first president of South Korea, but his fierce opposition to the establishment of separate governments splitting his beloved and newly liberated nation in two led him to strongly disapprove.
Sadly, on June 26, 1949, Kim was assassinated in his home by Lieutenant Ahn Doo-hee. Ahn later stated he saw Kim as an agent of the USSR, and that the head of national security ordered the assassination.
During his life, Kim Koo wrote an autobiography titled "My Desire". Inside it, he wrote a compellingly beautiful passage describing his wishes for the future of Korea, which many world leaders would do well to learn from today:
I want our nation to be the most beautiful in the world. By this, I do not mean the most powerful nation. Because I have felt the pain of being invaded by another nation, I do not want my nation to invade others. It is sufficient that our wealth makes our lives abundant; it is sufficient that our strength is able to prevent foreign invasions. The only thing that I desire in infinite quantity is the power of a noble culture. This is because the power of culture both makes ourselves happy and gives happiness to others.