Australian Female Volunteerism in Modern Korea (1889–1941): An Enlightenment Campaign

Author/s (editor/s):

David William Kim

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

The Australian diplomatic relationship with the People’s Republic of China began in December 1972, when Gough Whitlam, together with Richard Nixon of the United States, ceased to recognize the government of Chiang Kai-shek (the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975). However, the foreign relationship between Australia and the Republic of South Korea was launched a decade earlier under the international economic policy of the Menzies government in May 1963. Since that time they have become close trading partners in the Asia-Pacific region. Korea is a key market for Australian minerals, energy, travel and education services, and Australia is a major market for Korean vehicles, petroleum, and electronic goods and parts. The economic relationship received a boost on 8th April 2014 with the signing of the Korea Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA). The countries have also been engaged in important regional activities as active members of the G20, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) the East Asia Summit (EAS), and used to be non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). What, then, could have precipitated this early and steady rise of official diplomacy and forged the sound economic relationship between the two nations? In this regard, it cannot be denied that decades earlier, there were many Australian females (as well as males) involved in non-government activities in modern Korea (1889–1941). For example, an aunt of the 12th Australian Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies spent 33 years (between 1891 and 1924) in Korea as a volunteer.1 How did female Australians come to be in Korea? What was their social motivation? Where did they primarily reside in Korea? What did they do in the poverty-ridden and politically chaotic land?

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