James Scarth Gale

Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch Collège de France Bible translations into Korean

James S. Gale (February 19, 1863 – January 31, 1937; in modern Korean 제임스 스카스 게일, in old Sino-Korean characters 奇一 (기일)) was a Canadian Presbyterian missionary, educator and Bible translator in Korea.

Early life

Gale was born on February 19, 1863 in Alma, Ontario, Canada. His father John Gale was a Scottish immigrant who moved to Canada in 1832. His Pennsylvania Dutch mother Miami Bradt was from Hamilton, Ontario. Together they had six children, of which James was the fifth.[1]:137–138

In 1882 Gale entered St. Catharine's Collegiate Institute, St. Catharines, Ontario. From 1884 to 1888 Gale studied arts at the University of Toronto,[1]:138 including the summer of 1886 at the Collège de France, Paris on a language course.[1]:142 During his first year of study he heard Dwight L. Moody preach and was deeply impressed.[citation needed] Gale graduated with a B.A. from the University College of the University of Toronto in 1898.[1]:138


After graduation, on April 12, 1888, he was appointed a missionary of Toronto University's YMCA and was sent to Korea.[1]:490 On November 13, 1888, he set sail from Vancouver, arriving in Pusan on 12 December, from where he took a coastal vessel to Jemulpo, present-day Incheon.[1]:145

In 1889 he visited Haeju, in Hwanghae province and from there moved to Sollae (often called Sorae) village, in Jangyeon District, Hwanghae from March to June.[1]:145–46 This village was home to Seo Sang-ryun, one of the first Korean Protestants[1]:146 and his brother, who had been baptized by Horace Grant Underwood.[citation needed] From August 1889 to May 1890 he lived in Pusan.[1]:146 In 1890 he taught English at the "Christian School" (예수교 학당). In February 1891 he and Samuel A. Moffet visited John Ross (who had first attempted to translate the Bible into Korean) in Mukden, Manchuria and returned to Seoul in June.

In August 1891, terminating the relationship with the Toronto University YMCA, he moved to the American Presbyterian Mission Board, North. From 1892-1897 the Gales lived in Wonsan while Gale served as member of the "Board of Official Translators" of the Korean Bible. He worked with Henry G. Appenzeller, Horace G. Underwood, William B. Scranton, and William D. Reynolds.

In 1897 he returned to Canada and the US, and on May 13 was ordained as a Presbyterian minister at New Albany Presbytery, Indiana. In 1900 he became the first minister of Yondong Presbyterian Church (연동교회) in Seoul.

As an educationalist, he founded the Jesus Church Middle School, present Kongsin Middle and High School, as well as Yondong Girls’ School, presently Chongsin Girls’ School, in Seoul. He was also a professor of Pyongyang Theological Seminary.[citation needed] In 1904 he organized the Association of Korean Education with the members of the Yondong Church. In 1917 he founded the Korean Music Society.

In May 1927 he resigned as pastor of Yondong Church, leaving Korea on June 22, a year before official retirement (he officially retired from mission work on August 31, 1928). Gale died on January 31, 1937 at the age of 74 in Bath, England. He is buried in Lansdown Cemetery, Bath.

Personal life

He married twice. On April 7, 1892, he married to Harriet E. Gibson Heron, the widow of John W. Heron, M.D., also of the American Presbyterian Mission, North, who had died in Korea on June 26, 1890. Harriet Gale died on March 29, 1908, aged 48. On April 7, 1910, he was remarried to Ada Louisa Sale (born in Cheshire, England, 1871). Her father, George Sale, was a businessman in Japan.[1]


Gale was talented in so many ways, his influence was great, although he was often frustrated by the rivalries, jealousies and personality clashes that too often characterized the missionary community in Korea. His linguistic skills were essential in the work of Bible translation, while his literary and poetic sensitivity gave his writing an added charm. He was unable to publish a considerable portion of what he wrote or translated and much remains to be published in his papers in the University of Toronto.

The title page of Gale's translation

James Scarth Gale online

Korean-English Dictionary (Yokohama: Kelby) 韓英字典, Part 2 Korean Sketches (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell) The Vanguard (New York: Fleming H. Revell) Korea in Transition (New York: Young People's Missionary Movement of the United States and Canada) Korean Folk Tales (London: J.M. Dent) (Translation) Kim Man-Choong, The Cloud Dream of the Nine (London: Daniel O’Connor)

Scholarly articles Korean Coolie. The Korean Repository, Vol.III (December, 1896), pp. 475–481. Trip Across Northern Korea. The Korean Repository, Vol.IV (March,1897), pp. 81–89

In Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch

The Influence of China upon Korea. I:1-24. 1900. Han-Yang (Seoul). II, part Il:1-43. 1902. The Korean Alphabet. IV, part I:12-61. 1912–13. Selection and Divorce. IV, part III:17-22. 1913. The Pagoda of Seoul. VI, part II:1-22. 1915. The Diamond Mountains. XIII:1-67. 1922. A Shipwreck (Korean) in 1636 A.D. XV:3-22. 1924.

Korean mythological origins

James Scarth Gale said that Koreans claimed to be descended from the gods with slight admixture from Chinese.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Yoo, Young-sik (1996). The Impact of Canadian Missionaries in Korea: A Historical Survey of Early Canadian Mission Work, 1888-1898 (PDF) (Ph.D. thesis). University of Toronto. pp. 137–218, 490–93.
  2. ^ (in Korean) http://www.bskorea.or.kr/bskorea/history/bib100/bibtrans03.aspx Archived 2011-07-22 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Gale, James Scarth. (1898). Korean Sketches. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company. Page 12. Retrieved June 15, 2017 from link.