James Scarth Gale
19, 1863 – January 31, 1937)
Missionary, Scholar, Translator

Brother Anthony writes:
Having been for 10 years the President of the RAS Korea which James Gale helped found in 1900, and in which he gave the first paper presentation, it is only natural that I should venerate his name. Moreover, he and I share a passion for translating Korean literary texts, especially poetry, into English, although our notions of suitable poetic style might diverge! Gale loved Korea, and he deeply regretted its passage into the modern world  (as his biographer Richard Rutt was also inclined to do). He tried hard to help his fellow missionaries understand and accept Korean culture and traditions. In Korea, the name of his colleague Homer Hulbert is better known, but Gale remained active here in many ways for twenty years after Hulbert was forced to return to the US. Moreover, it has been my joy to meet and befriend Gale's two wonderful grand-daughters who live in England, Wendy living only a few miles from my own birthplace in Cornwall. This page is my celebration of Gale, with various texts from the Korea Mission Field which have not easily been available online before, as well as the translations inserted into his History, and  Richard Rutt's very detailed Biography from the same source.

This translation by James Gale of an old Korean poem
is the first-ever published English translation of a Korean poem.

A Brief Biography

A very full 88-page Biography of James Scarth Gale by Richard Rutt forms the Introduction to his edition of Gale's History.

 1863 Born February 19th in the village of Alma, Wellington County, Ontario to John and Miami (née Bradt) Gale.  [Why Scarth? Gale's uncle Alexander, when he was studying in Aberdeen before moving to Canada, met and fell for a young lady, Margaret Scarth. Then he moved to Canada and received no response to his letters to her. Ten years later, she wrote to explain that the aunt she was living with had intercepted his letters,and she had found them after the aunt died. Alexander wrote back inviting her to join him in Canada, which she did. They had a son, whom they called James Scarth Gale, using the mother's maiden name as a middle name, a common practice. The talented son died of tuberculosis a little before our James was born, so he received the dead boy's name in memory of him.]
  1886 Spent the summer in Paris, studying French. He spent some time visiting London on the way to France but did not much enjoy either country.

 1888 Graduated from University College at the University of Toronto with a B.A. in arts. Registered at Knox College to study theology, then left for Korea as a missionary volunteer with the YMCA.

 1891 Joined the U.S.A. Presbyterian Mission in Korea.

 1892 Married Hattie (née Gibson) Heron, widow of his friend, Dr. J.W. Heron, who had died in 1890.

  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.

 1894 Published Korean Grammatical Forms (Seoul: Trilingual Press)

1895 Published a Korean translation prepared by his wife and himself  of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (Seoul: Trilingual Press) as 로역정 天路歷程 with illustrations in archaic Sino-Korean style.
1897 Published Korean-English Dictionary (Yokohama: Kelby) and Korean Sketches (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell) .
 Spent one year in Washington, D.C. where he was ordained by the New Albany Presbytery.

1898 Returned to Korea.

1900 Gale founded Yeondong Church in Seoul, where he remained as pastor until he left Korea. In the same year, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Asiatic Society Korea Branch, of which he became the first Corresponding Secretary, and on October 24 he presented the first paper, on "The Influence of China upon Korea." Later, in 1915, he served as the Society's President. In 1900 Mrs. Gale and her daughters went to Switzerland where they remained for six years.

 1903 Gale was one of the founding members of the Hansong Young Men’s Christian Association, presently the Korean YMCA and was elected as its first president. Travelled via the Trans-Siberian Railway to Switzerland where he spent six months.  Wrote and published The Vanguard (New York: Fleming H. Revell) Received an honorary degree, Doctor of Divinity, from Howard University, Washington, D.C.

 1906 Spent a year’s leave in Washington

 1907 Returned to Korea with his family. Mrs. Gale became ill and died the following year.

 1909 Published Korea in Transition (New York: Young People’s Missionary Movement of the United States and Canada)

 1910 Married Ada Louise Sale, from England, who had grown up in Japan

 1911 Birth of George James Marley Gale
 1913 Published a. translation of tales by Im Bang and Yi Ryuk, Korean Folk Tales (London: J.M. Dent)
 1916 their second son Vivian Scarth Gale was born on February 14

 1917 Vivian Scarth Gale died in Chemulpo on August 7 during a viisit to Fr, Drake (Anglican), causing his father intense grief.

 1917-1919 Edited (and wrote the contents of) the Korea Magazine, a monthly review, until just after the March 1 1919 Independence Movement, when it ceased to appear.

 1918 Birth of Ada Alexandra Gale

 1922 Published a translation of a work by Kim Man-Choong, The Cloud Dream of the Nine (London: Daniel O’Connor)

 1924-6 Wrote his History of the Korean People, publishing it in installments in The Korea Mission Field.
 1925 Published his Korean translation of the Bible prepared after rejecting the over-literal official versions.
 1927 Retired from missionary work in Korea; leaving Korea on 22 June 1927 to visit Canada, then in late October went to live in Bath, England, with his wife and daughter Alex.
 1929 George Gale left England to wrok in Canada

 1937 Died in Bath January 31st at the end of a gradual decline. Gale is buried in Lansdown cemetery, overlooking Bath.


A Brief Bibliography of Works by Gale which are available online

Books in English
James Scarth Gale, Korean Grammatical Forms (1894)
James Scarth Gale, A Korean-English Dictionary (1898) PDF download
James Scarth Gale, Korean Sketches (1898) PDF download 
James Scarth Gale, The Vanguard, a Tale of Korea (1904) PDF download
     James S. Gale, The Vanguard: A Tale of Korea. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1904.
James Scarth Gale, Korea in Transition (1909) PDF download
James Scarth Gale, Im Bang & Yi Ryuk,  Korean Folk Tales (1913) PDF download
     James Scarth Gale: Im Bang and Yi Ryuk. Korean Folk Tales: Imps, Ghosts, and Fairies. Trans. by James S. Gale. London: Dent, 1913.
James S. Gale  The Cloud Dream of the Nine, a 17th-century novel by Kim Man-jung (1922)


Gale, James S. The Influence of China upon Korea.Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. I:1-24
Gale, Jas. S. Korean Coolie. The Korean Repository, Vol.III (December, 1896), pp. 475-481.
Gale, Jas. S. Trip Across Northern Korea. The Korean Repository, Vol.IV (March,1897), pp. 81-89
Gale, Jas. S. Hanyang (Seoul). Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. II, Part II (1902), pp. 1-43.
Gale, Jas. S. "The Korean Alphabet". Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. IV, Part I (1912), pp. 13-61.
Gale, Jas. S. Selection and Divorce. Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. IV, Part III (1913), pp. 17-22.
Gale, Jas. S. Shipwreck (Korean) in 1636 A.D., Transactions of the Korea Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. XV (1924), pp. 1-22.

Books and articles in Korean

Rutt's Bibliography
lists no less than 28 published books written by Gale in Korean, from his version of "Pilgrim's Progress" to his 1925 privately printed Bible, as well as many articles in Korean.

In his edition of History of the Korean People Richard Rutt included a copious Bibliography of all his own sources, and also a Bibliography of all the publications by James Gale (English and Korean) which is here available as a PDF scan

   Texts by and about James Gale available through Brother Anthony's site

James Gale published short installments of his History in the monthly magazine The Korea Mission Field from July 1924 until September 1927. The work was never otherwise published until Richard Rutt published his edition in book form as History of the Korean People in 1972. The book, published by RAS Korea, is still available for purchase from RAS Korea). The History itself has not yet been scanned but it is here possible to read the translations included in it as well as Gale's other articles from the Korea Mission Field

An extremely detailed biography of Gale by Richard Rutt fills the first 88 pages of his edition and is here available as a PDF file.

Gale was a tireless translator of old Korean texts, especially of poetry, and mainly from the Classical Chinese.
His History is richly illustrated by translations, which were mostly not published elsewhere.

It is extremely difficult to gain access to online or printed texts of The Korea Mission Field, which was published from 1904 until 1941. The links to various online sites offering access to the Korea Mission Field can be found near the bottom of this page.

Translations of prose texts included in Gale’s History

Translations of poems included in Gale’s History

Texts of articles by Gale published elsewhere in The Korea Mission Field. These are often rather slight texts but 2 stand out: a text by Gale on Bible translation and his thoughts on missionary work, including respectful comments on Buddhism and the early Catholic martyrs, published just before he left Korea in 1927.

The Korea Magazine

From January 1917 until April 1919, Gale was the main editor of the monthly magazine The Korea Magazine and most though not all of the contents were written by him.
Brother Anthony has made the full text of the Magazine available online. That page also gives links to:

Gale's translation of the story of Choon Yang  (full text)

Anonymous translations of older texts (Goryeo and Joseon) assumed to be by Gale, published in the Magazine

The Korean Envoy’s Journey to Peking in 1712 A. D. By Kim Ch’ang­up

A detailed list of Gale's contributions to the Korea Magazine, whether signed, anonymous, or using a pen-name, are given by Rutt in his Bibliography.

A number of completed translation projects by Gale have remained unpublished, preserved with his other papers in the University of Toronto Library. Now a team of scholars led by Prof. Ross King (UBC) are preparing to publish annotated editions of these in the James Scarth Gale Library of Korean Literature.

Additional information about Gale and his work is available from the pages about the Gale Archive in the Library of the University of Toronto.

There is also a Wikipedia entry

Gale's translation of the Bible

The first translation of the bible into Korean had been published in 1911, but its deficiencies were recognized immediately. Gale was one of the committee of fifteen appointed in 1912 for the revision of the Old Testament. Not all the other members had his feeling for Korean style. Yi Wŏnmo was appointed in 1917 as one of the committee's four Korean members; but again and again the pleas that he and Gale made for smooth Korean diction were voted down by other members of the committee who favoured literal adherence to the grammatical structure. Gale became the principal drafter of the revision, and in 1916 chairman of the revision committee, a post he held till he resigned from the committee in 1923. He then took control of his draft and the 'Gale Bible' was published privately on the last day of 1925. The event marked the end of four years of great unhappiness. Yi Wŏnmo had been his chief assistant in preparing the text, but Yi Ch'angjik and Yi Kyosŭng, the other two members of his regular team, had also helped. Gale's friend, the great educator Yun Ch'iho's generosity made it possible for Gale to publish his Korean bible. It was never reprinted, but it had a great influence on the Bible Society's revised official translation that was published in 1937.

Gale's dedication to his wife of the copy now belonging to his granddaughter

(Back row)Kim Chung-sam, Kim Myong-jun, Yi Jang-jik
(Front row) W.D. Reynolds, H.G Underwood, J.S Gale

Yonsei University Library holds and offers scans, not only of  a large number of Gale's works (notably those in Korean) but also many books and articles about him. A reader has to be downloaded.

  From the Korean translation of Pilgrim's Progress 천로역정


From 1900 until he left Korea, Gale was pastor in charge of the church first known as Yeonmotgol Church and now known as Yeondong Church. His memory is treasured in a small museum there

The Gale family lived in 35, St. James Square, Bath, the house where the writer Walter Savage Landor lived in the first half of the 19th century. Charles Dickens often visited him there and these literary associations meant a lot to Gale. (The house is that to the right of the arch, with plaques commemorating Dickens and Landor, but not Gale.


In Lansdown Cemetery, Bath