Seoul Rotary Club

Founded in 1927

Welcome to the English speaking Rotary Club of Seoul

국제로타리 3650지구에 오신것을 환영합니다

 

History

The history of the Seoul Rotary Club embodies the history of Rotary Club in Korea as well a slice of twentieth century Korean history itself. As the first Rotary club in Korea, Seoul Rotary Club had its genesis during the Japanese colonial period under a different club name - Keijo Rotary Club. The club was dissolved under Japanese military pressure during the Second World War. However, this allowed its reestablishment under the new Republic of Korea under its current name of the Seoul Rotary Club. A year after the rebirth of the Seoul Rotary Club, the outbreak of the Korean War and its turmoil caused the members to temporarily flee to Busan. Like Korea itself, the Seoul Rotary Club has weathered these hardships and continued to grow and prosper, accomplishing its mission for the betterment of society through its credo: ¡°Service Above Self¡±. 

The genesis of the Seoul Rotary Club can be traced to the initiative of Bishop H.R. Boaz of the Southern Methodist Church, who was assigned to Seoul. In 1922, Bishop Boaz wrote to Rotary International to inquire into the possibility of forming a Rotary Club in Seoul with his friends and associates. Bishop Boaz and his group were planning to call it the ¡°Seoul Rotary Club¡±. However, this original plan never came to fruition due to intervening events. 

A group of Japanese businessmen heard about the plan of Bishop Boaz and formed an alternative plan to start a Rotary Club. These businessmen approached the Japanese Governor-General, Saito Minoru, to enlist his support for their plan. The plan was to name the club the ¡°Keijo¡± (pronounced ¡°Kyung Sung¡± in Korean) Rotary Club, which was the name for Seoul during the Japanese colonial period. These Japanese businessmen advocated against Bishop Boaz¡¯s plan, arguing that a Rotary Club centered on a Christian missionary would not be beneficial and only attract second-tier businessmen. They advocated a plan to form a club made up of elite businessmen of their day. Governor-General Saito took the lead in promoting their plan, which eventually led to the establishment of the Keijo Rotary Club in 1927. 

The Keijo Rotary Club, the predecessor to the Seoul Rotary Club, filed for membership with Rotary International on August 27, 1927, and received its official Charter on November 10, 1927. It was granted the Rotary International club number 2703. The original charter membership consisted of 21 members, of which 17 members were Japanese, and 4 members were Korean. The 4 Korean members were: Sung Soo Kim (President of Dong-A Ilbo Daily and Founder of Korea University), Sang Yong Han (President of Chosun Fire Insurance), Yong Joo Kim (Editor-in-Chief of Seoul News), and Sang Kyu Baek. The membership grew steadily to 52 members by 1934. 

The advent of the Second World War brought an end to the Keijo Rotary Club with the formal cancellation of its charter by Rotary International on February 14, 1941. The Japanese military put pressure on the government to close down organizations that were deemed to promote western ideas or culture. Bowing to such pressure, the Keijo Rotary Club filed for cancellation of its charter, thus formally ending its existence under the Japanese colonial period. However, while there was no longer any official ¡°Rotary¡± club in Korea, many members continued to meet regularly under the new name of ¡°Wednesday Club¡±. 

After the end of the Second World War, Korea gained its independence as the Republic of Korea, and with it the reestablishment of the Seoul Rotary Club. In March 29, 1949, a group of 38 organizing members, including Dr. George Fitch of YMCA, met to agree on the reestablishment of the Rotary Club in Korea. On November 10, 1949, they received a reinstatement of the original charter and number from Rotary International under the new name of Seoul Rotary Club. The inaugural president of the Seoul Rotary Club was Dr. Soon Ju Chey (PhD, New York University, 1930), who served as the Governor of the Bank of Korea under the government of President Syngman Rhee, while the Vice-President was Mr. Young Seol Lee. 

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, it forced many members of the Seoul Rotary Club to flee to other Korean cities like Busan. The members of the Seoul Rotary Club continued to meet in Busan to hold regular meetings. Members of the Seoul Rotary Club were instrumental in the reestablishment of the Busan Rotary Club in 1952. Seoul Rotary Club and its members have played an important role in the growth of Rotary Clubs in Korea. 

As the Rotary Clubs in Korea have grown with the number of clubs in the hundreds and individual membership in thousands, Seoul Rotary Club is proud of its unique status in that history. As the first Rotary Club in Korea, and one which continues to use English as the official language, Seoul Rotary Club continues its proud tradition within the larger Rotary International organization. As we progress into the twenty-first century, Seoul Rotary Club plans to transform itself as the vibrant and welcoming gateway between the global Rotary International membership and the local Korean Rotary Clubs.
 
The original charter of Seoul Rotary Club from 1927. The name of Seoul Rotary Club during the Japanese colonial period was the Keijo Rotary Club. Keijo is pronounced Kyungsung in Korean, and was the Japanese name for Seoul during the colonial period. The Rotary Club number 2703 under Rotary International is still valid today, making Seoul Rotary Club the first and oldest Rotary Club in Korea. You will note that the charter was canceled in 1941 by Rotary International due to the World War II, until it was reinstated in 1949 under the new name of Seoul Rotary Club.This is a Seoul newspaper article written during the Korean War detailing the continuing meetings held by the Seoul Rotary Club in Busan. When North Korean invaded Seoul, many of Seoul¡¯s citizens fled to Busan, including most members of the Seoul Rotary Club. It was also during this time that the Seoul Rotary Club members helped to launch the Busan Rotary Club. Note the picture of Dr. M.M. Lee, who is the father of Rotarian Kyung.This is the picture of Rotary Club members at the 6th Annual Rotary District 375 Conference held in Seoul on October 1966. Many members of the Seoul Rotary Club were in attendance at the meeting.This was the Rotary International Asia Regional Conference held in 1979. This was the very first official international conference of any type to be held in Korea. While this picture illustrates another history making event on the part of Rotary Clubs, it also illustrates how truly recent and rapid Korea¡¯s emergence was onto the world stage. The International Olympics were to be held in Korea only 9 years later.The International Convention of Rotary International was held in Korea in 1989, just one year after the 1988 Olympics. The Rotary Clubs in Korea are very active, and the holding of the International Convention in Korea is recognition of the importance of Korea for Rotary International.