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Horace G. Underwood


Yonsei University


No living American can match Horace G. Underwood's unique and continuing contributions to Korea and to U.S.-Korea relations. Born in Korea, the son and grandson of Presbyterian missionaries, Underwood has, throughout his life and in many capacities, worked to enhance Korean higher education. In 1939, following his education at Hamilton College and New York University, Underwood returned to Seoul and taught English at Chosen Christian College, which is now known as Yonsei University. Interned by the Japanese occupiers of Korea in 1941, Underwood was repatriated to the United States in 1942, when he joined the U.S. Navy and served as a Korean and Japanese language officer in the Pacific.

Following the surrender of Japan, Underwood was assigned to the U.S. Military Government in Korea, and was instrumental in forming Seoul National University out of a multiplicity of existing Japanese institutions. In 1947, he returned to Yonsei University, where he served until the North Korean attack in June 1950. Underwood rejoined the U.S. Navy and served throughout the Korean War. He was often decorated for his service and received the Bronze Star and Legion of Merit among other decorations. From July 1951 to 1953, Underwood served as senior interpreter for the armistice negotiations at Panmunjom.

Following completion of his graduate work in 1955, Underwood returned to Yonsei University where he served as a professor of education and later as head of the university library. Yonsei University's emergence as a leader in the field of international education in Korea is directly attributable to Underwood's tireless efforts. He remains active to this day in his service to the university, and is a beloved figure on the campus.

Underwood has been involved in countless other educational and social activities as well, including the Fulbright program, the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, the Korean American Association and the Seoul USO. In 2001, Underwood was given the U.S. Department of Defense medal for distinguished public service in recognition of his decades of outstanding service.