An influential thinker, social activist, and industrious educator, Ahn Chang-Ho, widely known by the pen name of Dosan, epitomized a true leader of Korea and the Korean people during a grim period of Japanese imperialism. His persistence, through social and humanitarian action, spiritual and innovative thought, consummate personality, and above all, construct of mutual trust, is etched in the minds of countless Koreans today who owe it to him their freedom and independence.
Driven by his belief in civic responsibility and community, Dosan strived to break free from hypocrisy of seeking national independence without the requisite of social and personal independence by instilling within Korean society a theme of self-reliance and moral character. Dosan embodied his own ideals on character by overcoming self-interest and desire so that other Koreans could follow his lead.
In order to attain independence, he believed that Koreans had to first develop their strength through social reform and character innovation. Dosan consistently maintained his unwavering standards of sincerity, love, self-control, and morality in both speech and deed. Constantly self-reflecting, Dosan pursued a steadfast commitment to a set of character ideals, inspired by his view on leadership that one had to “elevate himself to the height of a great personality whom all the people admire... to become a great man himself.”
His sacrifices of personal indulgences, especially in regard to his family, highlighted the extent of his dedication to both Korea and the Korean people. He took initiative to fill the void left by a lack of proper guidance and instruction by becoming a paragon of consummate character for all Koreans to emulate. Because self-reform would “bring about national reform, and character innovation [would] result in national innovation,” Dosan aimed to renovate “national character through unity and training.” Furthermore, Dosan stressed expansion of national power and self-reliance through civic responsibility and community. His emphasis on self-reliance derived from the belief that growth of individual strength would consequentially burgeon national strength. Dosan felt that independence achieved by relying on other countries was antithetical to the foundation of their independence movement. In an open letter to his comrades of Hungsadan, Dosan earnestly urged for them to build up their strength, calling for civic responsibility among the Korean people.
Dosan’s sense of urgency for sacred unity was further strengthened after witnessing two Koreans in San Francisco fighting each other amidst a crowd of overseeing Americans, prompting his establishment of the Chinmokhoe(Friendship Association), Tongnip Hyophoe, Tongnip Shinmmun newspaper and “Cleaner Homes, Hands and Habits” campaign in the United States. Dosan worked to engender innovation and development within Korean society and its people through practice since “one deed [was] more persuasive and effective than one hundred written articles.” Dosan’s humanitarian contributions along with his democratic way of leadership 9 dispelled the hypocrisy of intrasocietal conflicts and strengthened the mutual bond of trust between him and the people. Dosan’s ideals and objectives represented his pragmatic yet innovative approach to the Korean independence movement in that independence relied on an expansion of national growth inspired by character innovation and self-reform. Dosan has left a monumental impression and effect on not only Korean history but also social theory and philosophy around the world.
Wonjun Kim / The Lawrenceville School 11th Grade
<Wonjun Kim / The Lawrenceville School 11th Grade