In late December 1945, when the issue of trusteeship over Korea became a political issue a mere two months after the Korean Provisional Government returned to the country, KPG President Kim Gu introduced the Roman Catholic bishop Paul Yu Pin to the Korean people through a newspaper article. Virtually unknown to Koreans, Yu was a great contributor to the Korean independence movement.
Unknown Chinese supporter of the Korean independence movement
The following is quoted from the Dong-a Ilbo article from Dec. 29, 1945 titled “Bishop Paul Yu Pin, the Hidden Savior of the Pledge for Korean Independence; President Kim Gu Recounts Bishop Yu’s Activities as Advisor to Chiang Kai-shek in Potsdam:”
When I first met Bishop Paul Yu Pin, the cardinal expressed his support for the KPG, and the second time we met, he congratulated me, saying, “I am very glad that the topic of public opinion expressing their full support for the KPG now comes up from time to time in the newspapers.” The third time we met, he congratulated and encouraged me, saying “Recently, public opinion advocating support for and actively addressing the issue of the KPG is growing, so please keep your spirits up and do your all.”
Kim recounted how Yu had strongly supported the issue of Korean independence in the Potsdam Conference held by the leaders of the Allied powers — the United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union — before the end of World War II in July 1945. However, Yu did not in fact attend the Potsdam Conference; it seems that Kim confused Yu’s attending the Potsdam Conference with that of the San Francisco Conference.
Yu was a representative figure of those in China who supported the Korean independence movement. He was ordained as a bishop and then appointed Apostolic Vicar of Nanjing in 1936, taking great interest in and actively supporting the Korean independence movement while aiding the Chinese people in the Second Sino-Japanese War as leader of the Roman Catholics in China. He also supported the Korean independence movement in the US in particular, and was widely known among the Korean diaspora there. His close friendship with not only Kim but also Syngman Rhee also originated from these activities.
Paul Yu Pin, the “Envoy of Justice” of the Korean independence movement
Yu first directly aided the Korean independence movement when he attended the inaugural ceremony of the General Headquarters of the Korean Liberation Army held in the Jialing Hotel in Chongqing on Sept. 17, 1940. When the Nationalist government of the Republic of China moved the capital from Nanjing to Chongqing in the latter 1930s, Yu exerted his efforts in advocating for support for the government in the Second Sino-Japanese War in the US and Europe, and then returned in October 1939.
Yu was only able to meet with Korean independence activists when the KPG moved to Chongqing in 1940. At the inaugural ceremony of the general headquarters of the KLA, he delivered an address stating that the KLA would emerge victorious in the end as they were on the side of justice and fairness, and that Sino-Korean cooperation would bring happiness and peace to the world.
When the general headquarters of the KLA moved to Xian that November, Yu began recruiting Koreans and publicizing for the KLA in northern China. On Nov. 11, Yu invited the members of the KPG and KLA general headquarters to the Yi Shih Pao Company for a banquet. The Yi Shih Pao was a Roman Catholic daily newspaper run in China with Yu as its president. On Nov. 12, the Yi Shih Pao ran an article titled “The Leaders of Korea Will Soon Depart for the Frontlines” that explained the banquet and promised the 3.5 million Chinese Roman Catholics to their cause. This article was translated and published as “The Leaders of the KLA Depart for the Frontlines” in the New Korea People’s Daily on March 6, 1941.
At the banquet, Yu presented a silk banner with the words “In Support and Promotion of Justice” in Chinese characters, and in return Kim Gu presented him with a silk banner with the words “The Envoy of Justice” embroidered in Chinese characters. Thus Yu became known by this name to Koreans, and the KPG and KLA were greatly encouraged by the support they received from Yu and the Chinese Catholic Church.