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Wellington Koo

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Wellington Koo

V. K. Wellington Koo
V.K. Wellington Koo in 1945
Premier of the Republic of China
In office
2 July 1924 – 14 September 1924
President Cao Kun
Preceded by Sun Baoqi
Succeeded by Yan Huiqing
In office
1 October 1926 – 16 June 1927
Preceded by Du Xigui
Succeeded by Hu Weide
President of the Republic of China
In office
1 October 1926 – 16 June 1927
Preceded by Du Xigui (Acting)
Succeeded by Zhang Zuolin
Ambassador of the Republic of China to the United States
In office
27 June 1946 – 1956
Preceded by Wei Daoming
Succeeded by Dong Xiangguang
Personal details
Born (1888-01-29)29 January 1888
Shanghai, Qing China
Died 14 November 1985(1985-11-14) (aged 97)
New York City, New York, United States
Nationality Chinese
Spouse(s) Zhang Run'e (m. 1908)
Tang Baoyue (m. 1913–1918)
Oei Hui-lan (m. 1920–1985)
Juliana Yen (m. 1959–1985)
Children Gu Dechang, Gu Juzhen, Gu Yuchang, Gu Fuchang
Alma mater Columbia University
Occupation Diplomat, politician
Wellington Koo
Traditional Chinese 顧維鈞
Simplified Chinese 顾维钧

V. K. Wellington Koo (29 January 1888 – 14 November 1985), whose Chinese name is variously romanized as Koo Vi Kyuin, Ku Wei-chün, and Gu Weijun, was a Chinese diplomat from the Republic of China. He was one of China's representatives at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919; served as an Ambassador to France, Great Britain and the United States; was a participant in the founding of the League of Nations and the United Nations; sat as a judge on the International Court of Justice in The Hague from 1957 to 1967. Between October 1926 and June 1927, while serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Koo briefly held the concurrent positions of acting Premier and interim President of the Republic of China.[1] Koo is the first and only Chinese head of state known to use a Western name publicly.


  • Life and career 1
  • Personal life 2
  • Death 3
  • References 4
    • Sources 4.1
  • External links 5

Life and career

Born in Shanghai in 1887, Koo attended Saint John's University, Shanghai, and Columbia College, where he was a member of the Philolexian Society, a literary and debating club, and graduated in 1908. In 1912 he received his Ph.D. in international law and diplomacy from Columbia University.[1]

Koo returned to China in 1912 to serve the new Republic of China as English Secretary to President Yuan Shikai. In 1915, Koo was made China's Minister to the United States and Cuba. In 1919, he was a member of the Chinese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, led by Foreign Minister Lu Zhengxiang (Lou Tseng-Tsiang). Before the Western powers and Japan, he demanded that Japan return Shandong to China. He also called for an end to imperialist institutions such as extraterritoriality, tariff controls, legation guards, and lease holds. The Western powers refused his claims and, consequently, the Chinese delegation at the Paris Peace Conference was the only nation that did not sign the Treaty of Versailles at the signing ceremony.

Koo also was involved in the formation of the Northern Expedition toppled the government in Beijing in 1928, he was briefly wanted for arrest by the new Nationalist government in Nanjing, but through Zhang Xueliang's mediation he was reconciled with the new government and returned to the diplomatic service. He represented China at the League of Nations to protest the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. He served as the Chinese Ambassador to France from 1936–1940, until France was occupied by Germany. Afterwards, he was the Chinese Ambassador to the Court of St James's until 1946. In 1945, Koo was one of the founding delegates of the United Nations. He later became the Chinese Ambassador to the United States and focused in maintaining the alliance between the Republic of China and the United States as the Kuomintang began losing to the Communists and had to retreat to Taiwan.[2]

Koo retired from the Chinese diplomatic service in 1956. In 1956 he became a judge of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and served as Vice-President of the Court during the final three years of his term. In 1967, he retired and moved to New York City, where he lived until his death in 1985.[1]

Personal life

In 1908, Koo married his first wife, Chang Jun-e (simplified Chinese: 张润娥; traditional Chinese: 張潤娥; pinyin: Zhāng Rùn'é). They divorced prior to 1912.[3]

Koo's second wife, Tang Pao-yu "May" (simplified Chinese: 唐宝玥; traditional Chinese: 唐寶玥; pinyin: Táng Bǎoyuè; c. 1895–1918), was the youngest daughter of the former Chinese prime minister Tang Shaoyi and a first cousin of the painter and actress Mai-Mai Sze.[4][5][6] Their marriage took place soon after Koo's return to China in 1912. She died in an influenza epidemic in 1918.[7] They had two children: a son, Teh-chang Koo (1916–1998),[8] and a daughter, Patricia Koo (b. 1918). Koo's third wife was Oei Hui-lan (simplified Chinese: 黄蕙兰; traditional Chinese: 黃蕙蘭; pinyin: Huáng Huìlán; 1899–1992).[9][10][11] She married Koo in Brussels, Belgium in 1921.[12][10] (She was reportedly previously the wife of Count Wittingham or of Count Hoey Stoker.)[13][14][15] Much admired for her adaptations of traditional Manchu fashion, which she wore with lace trousers and jade necklaces,[12] Oei Hui-lan was one of the 42 acknowledged children of the Peranakan Chinese sugar magnate Oei Tiong Ham.[16] She wrote two memoirs: Hui-Lan Koo (Mrs. Wellington Koo): An Autobiography (written with Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer, Dial Press, 1945)[17][18] and No Feast Lasts Forever (written with Isabella Taves, Quadrangle/The New York Times, 1975).[19] Koo had two sons with her: Yu-chang Koo (1922–1975, also Wellington Koo, Jr.) and Fu-chang Koo (1923–1977, a.k.a. Freeman Koo).[20][21]

On 3 September 1959, Koo married his fourth wife Yen Yu-ying (a.k.a. Juliana Yen / Juliana Koo; simplified Chinese: 严幼韵; traditional Chinese: 嚴幼韵; pinyin: Yán Yòuyùn; b. 1905),[22] the widow of Clarence Kuangson Young.[23][24] He had three stepdaughters from this marriage: Genevieve (wife of American photographer and film director Gordon Parks), Shirley and Frances Loretta Young.[7][25]


Koo lived long enough to see two of his sons die before him. He died surrounded by his family in the night of November 14, 1985 at the age of 97. Wellington Koo was survived by his fourth wife, two children, nineteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.[26]


  1. ^ a b c Saxon, Wolfgang (November 16, 1985). "V.K. Wellington Koo Dies. A Former Premier Of China".  
  2. ^ Chervin, R. H. (2013). "Turmoil in the Taiwan Strait: Wellington Koo and ROC Foreign Policy 1953–1956". East Asia 30 (4): 291.  
  3. ^ Burns, Richard Dean and Bennett, Edward Moore (1974) Diplomats in Crisis: United States-Chinese-Japanese Relations, 1919–1941. ABC-Clio. ISBN 0686840127. pp. 127 and 148
  4. ^ "CAMPAIGNS: China Man". Time. 30 April 1928. 
  5. ^ "Foreign News: Wise Wives". Time. 21 February 1927. 
  6. ^ "Chinese Minister to Mexico Chosen, V.K. Wellington Koo, Graduate of Columbia, Also Envoy to Peru and Cuba. Japanese Objected to the Appointee as a Delegate to European Peace Conference".  
  7. ^ a b "Ku Wei-chun," in Howard Boorman, Richard Howard, eds. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China New York: Columbia University Press, 1968, Vol 2 pp. 255–259.
  8. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KOO, TEH, CHANG". The New York Times. 14 July 1998. 
  9. ^ "Tracy Tang to Wed Stephen Limpe". The New York Times. 12 August 1990. 
  10. ^ a b Index to Lafayette photographs of Asian sitters.
  11. ^ No Feast Lasts Forever. 26 February 2004
  12. ^ a b Van Rensselaer Thayer, Mary (5 February 1939) "Mme. Koo Sees Our Future Linked With China's", The New York Times
  13. ^ "General News", The Herald and Presbyter, 20 October 1920, page 21
  14. ^ "Alumni Notes", Columbia Alumni News, Volume 12 (1 April 1921), page 378
  15. ^ Mann, Susan (2010) Margaret Macdonald: Imperial Daughter. McGill-Queen's Press. ISBN 0773538003. p. 147
  16. ^ "Obituary: Mme. Oei Tong Ham, Mother in Law of Dr. Koo, Chinese Ambassador to U.S.", The New York Times, 1 February 1947
  17. ^ "Mrs. Koo Explains Withdrawal of Book", The New York Times, 27 April 1943
  18. ^ "Mrs. Wellington Koo's Life Story", The New York Times, 31 October 1945
  19. ^ Khor, Neil (April 1, 2007) An era on the cusp, captured.
  20. ^ "Koo's Son Made Citizen; Daughter-in-Law of Ex-Envoy of China Also Takes Oath", The New York Times, 15 August 1956
  21. ^ Jacobs, Herbert (1982) Schoolmaster of Kings.
  22. ^ "Lessons of 107 Birthdays: Don't Exercise, Avoid Medicine and Never Look Back", The New York Times (online), 24 September 2012
  23. ^ Patricia Burgess, The Annual Obituary, 1985 (Gale Group, 1988), page 592
  24. ^ Frances C. Locher and Ann Evory, Contemporary Authors: Volumes 81–84 (Gale Research Company, 1979), page 303
  25. ^ Wife's maiden name given in William L. Tung, Revolutionary China: A Personal Account, 1926–1949 (St. Martin's Press, 1973), page 33
  26. ^ Wellington Koo survivors


  • Chervin, Reed H. "Turmoil in the Taiwan Strait: Wellington Koo and ROC Foreign Policy 1953-1956." East Asia: An International Quarterly, 2013, Vol 4 pp. 291–306.
  • Clements, Jonathan. Makers of the Modern World: Wellington Koo. London: Haus Publishing, 2008.
  • Craft, Stephen G. V.K. Wellington Koo and the Emergence of Modern China. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004.
  • Hui-lan Oei Koo, with Mary Van Rensselaer Thayer, Hui-Lan Koo: An Autobiography New York: Dial Press, 1943.

External links

  • Biography at Columbia
  • Funny anecdote at the Wayback Machine (archived January 25, 2008)
  • A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with V.K. Wellington Koo" is available for free download at the Internet Archive
  • A film clip "Longines Chronoscope with Dr. V.K. Wellington Koo (26 May 1952)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive
  • V.K. Wellington Koo (Gu Weijun) 顧維鈞 from Biographies of Prominent Chinese c.1925.
Political offices
Preceded by
Sun Baoqi
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Yan Huiqing
Preceded by
Du Xigui
President of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Zhang Zuolin
as Generalissimo of the Military Government
Preceded by
Du Xigui
Premier of the Republic of China
Succeeded by
Pan Fu
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Wei Daoming
Ambassador of China to the United States
Succeeded by
Chai Zemin
(Representing the People's Republic of China)
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