Historic home of UPI Korea correspondent Albert Wilder Taylor restored

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (UPI) — The restored house of a UPI correspondent revered for his coverage of the Korean independence movement a century ago was officially opened as a historic site on Friday in Seoul.

Albert Wilder Taylor, an American goldmining engineer and special correspondent for UPI and the Associated Press, broke the news worldwide about Korea’s March 1 Movement, which began in 1919 with a Declaration of Independence against Japanese colonial occupiers.

Taylor went on to cover the mass demonstrations that followed and the brutal crackdown by the Japanese, including the Jeam-ri massacre in which soldiers killed dozens of civilians inside a church.

Taylor and his wife, British actress Mary Linley Taylor, built their red-brick house in 1923 and named it Dilkusha, meaning “Heart’s Delight” in Hindi.

The Taylors lived there until they were expelled by the Japanese in 1942. In subsequent years, the house’s history was forgotten, and it fell into disrepair before the South Korean government began a renovation process in 2016 that culminated in its opening on Friday, days ahead of the 102nd anniversary of March 1 Movement.

“In an era when there were no phone calls or Internet, the only way to let the world know the voice of Koreans who fought fiercely against Japan’s colonial injustice was a foreigner’s pen,” acting Seoul Mayor Seo Jeong-Hyup said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Taylor was with Koreans as a recorder of the times and a witness of history, even at the risk of Japanese imprisonment and deportation,” Seo said. “The Declaration of Independence of the March 1 Movement that Taylor reported became an important spark for the world to stand up for Korea’s independence.”

According to Chain of Amber, a memoir by Mary Taylor, Albert came across the Declaration of Independence by accident while visiting her at Seoul’s Severance Hospital, where she had just given birth to their son.

Activists had been secretly printing their manifesto in the hospital basement, and when the Japanese raided, a nurse hid copies of the declaration in the Taylor baby’s bed.

Albert Taylor, fluent in Korean, found the copies and immediately wrote an article about the burgeoning movement, which his brother William smuggled to Japan in his shoe and then sent to the United States by telegraph.

His dispatch, which ran in The New York Times, began: “The declaration of Korea’s independence says that it represents the voice of 20,000,000 persons, speaking in the name of justice and humanity.”

As the independence movement swelled, some 2 million Koreans took part in demonstrations, with thousands arrested and killed by the Japanese.

Albert Taylor was imprisoned by the Japanese in 1941 before the Taylors were deported. The newspaperman died in California in 1948 at age 73, three years after Korea’s liberation at the end of World War II.

It wasn’t until 2005, when Bruce Taylor, Albert’s son, reached out to a South Korean professor to help locate the house where he had lived as a child that Dilkusha came back onto the historical radar.

A restoration process began in 2016, which included the donation of over 1,000 family artifacts to the city of Seoul by Taylor’s granddaughter, Jennifer, who traveled from her home in Mendocino, Calif., for the opening of the house on Friday.

“In my heart, I was giving [the artifacts] on behalf of my grandparents to Dilkusha, their rightful place of rest,” she said. “I am so grateful that most of these relics will find their home inside Dilkusha.”

The two-story house, located on a hill not far from Seoul’s ancient royal palace of Gyeongbokgung, now features faithful recreations of a pair of living areas along with several rooms displaying personal items such as Taylor’s typewriter and copies of the articles he filed from Seoul.

Jennifer Taylor said she hopes the renovated Dilkusha will help Korean visitors “discover that there were foreigners that stood in solidarity with Korea and her fight for independence.”

Jennifer Taylor, who is working with a South Korean producer and director on a television adaptation of her grandmother’s memoir, said her grandfather had always hoped to come back to Korea but died of a heart attack before he had the chance. Albert Taylor’s remains were brought by his wife to Korea and are interred at the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul.

“Korea was his homeland,” Jennifer Taylor said. “From the minute he left, his one desire was to return.”

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