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On August 10, 1914, a Board of Special Inquiry, consisting of inspectors J.P. Lawler, D.J. Griffiths, and J.A. Robinson, held an unusual hearing on the case of an eight-year-old Korean adoptee who had arrived in San Francisco on the S.S. Persia that day. The Korean child’s birth name was Chansuna Kim; however, the passport that was issued by the Japanese government gave her name as Chom Soon Kim. The child was accompanied by her legal guardian, Dr. Amanda Francis Hillman, who had been a medical doctor for the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society in Korea for three years prior to arriving at Angel Island.
Dr. Hillman was one of six medical missionaries, along with four nurse missionaries, who helped run the PoKuNyoKwan, a medical institution that took care of women’s mental and physical health in Korea. It also provided a place for Korean women to get a Western form of education, medical training, and become involved in evangelical activities such as Bible studies and prayers. PoKuNyoKwan helped produce the first-ever Korean female medical doctor in Korea by the name of Esther K. Pak.
When Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the Japanese colonial government began to suppress American Christian missionary institutions based on the premise that Koreans gathered there to organize rebellious activities against Japanese colonial rule. In 1913, the government abolished the East Gate Lillian Harris Memorial Hospital in Seoul, where Dr. Hillman was working as an evangelical doctor.
During the hearing, Dr. Hillman told the inspectors that one day when she was called to see a patient, “there was a woman with a real pretty little girl,” and she remarked that she would like to adopt the little girl. However, another woman who was there told Dr. Hillman that she had a little girl in need of assistance. The woman was very poor and was having a difficult time taking care of the child. She asked Dr. Hillman if she could adopt her little girl. Dr. Hillman agreed. As Dr. Hillman told the inspectors, “I went with this woman to see the little girl, and did take her [away] with me. She is the little girl who is here now. I got a paper from the [Japanese] government that I was to take care of the child, and the child’s mother signed the paper.”
According to Dr. Hillman’s statement, the child’s name was Chansuna Kim. Her biological mother’s name was Suni Kim. She was a widow with three children. The family lived in Seoul, Korea, where Dr. Hillman was working as a medical missionary at the time. After Dr. Hillman decided to adopt Chansuna Kim, she filed legal papers with the Japanese government in Seoul. After Chansuna took and passed her physical examination on July 21, 1914 in Kobe, Japan, the two boarded the S.S. Persia for San Francisco.
Because Chansuna was but a young child, the inspectors only interrogated Dr. Hillman. Fortunately, the process did not take long and both of them were released on the same day. Most of the questions asked were to make sure the girl was not going to become a public charge and that Dr. Hillman had the financial resources to raise her in the United States. In the end, Chansuna Kim was admitted into the country after Dr. Hillman posted a $500 bond on her behalf.
What became of Chansuna Kim after she was released from Angel Island is a mystery. I do not know whether she stayed in America or returned to Korea as an evangelist as Dr. Hillman had planned. However, I was able to find out that Dr. Amanda Francis Hillman was the author of the article, “Chong Dong Dispensary and Medical Work in Ewha Haktang, Seoul,” which is cited in numerous academic articles and books on the evangelical work in Korea before the Korean War. Moreover, she was an active member of the Illinois Medical Association until she retired. According to the website, “Genealogy Trails Illinois,” Dr. Hillman passed away on February 3, 1946, in Beardstown, Illinois.
Case File # 13710/10-1, Investigation Arrival Case Files, San Francisco, RG 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, National Archives at San Francisco.
Hageman, P. & Whitaker, R. (2000). Cass County, Illinois Deaths…. presented by Illinois Trails History & Genealogy. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from https://genealogytrails.com/ill/cass/deaths-h.htm
Hillman, A.F. (1912). “Chong dong dispensary and medical work in Ewha Haktang,” Annual Report of the Korea Woman’s Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Lee, B., W. (2008). “Establishment and Activity of PoKuNyoKwan,” Korean J Med History, 17 (1), 37-55.
Dennis Nguyen wrote this story when he was an intern at AIISF from San Francisco State University. If you know what became of Chansuma Kim or Dr. Amanda Hillman, please contact AIISF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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