Lee Neung-hwa, an unknown historical figure and a stamp collector in a time of turmoil

Old Korea

In Joseon (Korea) in the 33rd year (1896) of King Gojong‘s rule a French person, Emile Martel (1874-1949), established the French Language School in Seoul as a governmental institute in Jong-ro-gu, now known as Susong-dong (Korean: 수송동). Martel arrived in Korea in July 1894 at the age of only twenty years old. Subsequently this school closed in King Gwangmu’s 10th year (1906). 

A student of the French School in Pak-dong

The establishment of a French school was based on the edict “Official Regulation No. 88” for the foreign language school dated May 12, 1895, but it actually opened the following year, in 1896.

To: Mr. YI NEUNG HWA at the Pak-dong French School, Seoul. “DAE-HAN” Red Overprint On Taegeuk 5 Poon (Triple pair). “SEOUL 10 JAN 1900 COREE” Inland usage.

Regarding the establishment of a French school by Martel, according to a reporter of the Joseon newspaper named Kosaka Sadao, Hutchison at that time became the principal of the English school and opened the first foreign language school.

After Martel came to Chosun he tried to have the French language school to be viable, however he couldn’t recruit students because of the turmoil of the Japanese-Sino War. As a result, he taught at Hutchison’s school.

“DAE-HAN” Red Overprint on Taegeuk 5, 10 Poon. HAN-SUNG Kwang-mu year 4, January 10, 1900 Gab-chae. “漢城 光武 四年 (1900) 一月 十日 甲遞

After the war, the French consul petitioned the Joseon government several times to open the French School, but no progress was made, and eventually there was no place for the establishment of the school. Martel then recruited students himself, and started to teach at his dining room of his house in front of the French-legation building in Jeongdong.

At the time, there were 18 students who were the sons of the aristocratic. Among them there were two sons of cabinet members, and both became famous dignitaries.

Lee Neung-hwa (1869-1943), who had resigned from the Governor-General’s School of Education a few years previously, and was working for king Lee’s government, was also a student at the time.

“DAE-HAN” Red Overprint On Taegeuk 10 Poon. Both envelopes are dated for the same day. “SEOUL 21 FEVR 1900 COREE”.

Scholar of History and Enlightenment

Born in Goesan, Chungbuk, in 1869 (Gojong 6). Lee Neung-hwa studied Chinese literature as a child, and by 1887 learned the languages of English, Chinese, French, and Japanese at various schools in Seoul, and he spoke all of these languages fluently.

In 1895, he was hired by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce as one of the clerical staff, and then worked at the government-established foreign language school , and at the Hansung French School.

In 1907, he toured Japan and was a member of the Korean language study Institute. In 1912, he established the Neung-in primary school as the principal, and participated in the Buddhist Promotion Association which was founded in 1915.

“DAE-HAN” and “One” Black Surcharge Issue. “SEOUL 16 AVRIL 1900”. On the Independent Newspaper.

From 1922 he became engaged in the “History of Chosun” compilation project. His service on this project lasted 15 years. He was a member of the Chosun History Compilation Committee and the Chosun History Committee, the last one chaired by the Chosun Governor-General to help govern the Japanese colony of Korea.

In 1930, he participated with Chung-gu scholars association which had been organized by the Japanese scholars; and in 1931, he organized the Kye-myung Club with Park Seung-ri and Oh Se-chang, and performed ethnic enlightenment and academic research activities.

In 1940, he was working also as a member of the Cultural Committee of the Ministry of Culture of the National Federation of Korea, a pro-Japanese organization. He has written a lot of books.

(My Online Exhibition of KOREA Stamps 1884-1905 can be seen at: https://blog.naver.com/coree1884

Dr. Joel Lee
Born in Korea, Vietnam war participation as ROK marine, Dr. of Ministry, Retired Presbyterian Pastor. 40 years collected for Korea stamps 1884-1905.

2 thoughts on “Lee Neung-hwa, an unknown historical figure and a stamp collector in a time of turmoil

  1. An excellent article Joel. When Ivo and I were writing the Plum Blossom article for the American Philatelic Society’s “The American Philately” magazine and looking at the history of Korean in the late 1880’s, I found a bit of information about the establishment of the French School. Your article adds so much more to what I had previously discovered ….thanks. Robert

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