Due to a coincidence arising from the frequently chaotic situation during the Second World War, the founder of Czechoslovak Korean studies, the historian, archaeologist and translator Han Hŭng-su, also lived in the villa in the years 1943–1945. This scientist had a remarkable life that took him from Vienna, where he was an employee of the State Ethnological Museum from 1941 after finishing his studies in Switzerland, to Prague in 1942, where he contributed to the realisation of a large exhibition dedicated to the art, and art industry, of Japan (the exhibit opened on 25 February 1943). Here he established relations with the Náprstek Museum and the Prague Oriental Institute. The Director of the Oriental Institute (then known as the Orientalisches Institut), Adolf Grohmann, recognised the professional abilities of the young scientist, including his grasp of six languages, and managed to arrange for his transfer to Prague (while keeping a small workload in Vienna). His relocation was helped by the fact that his native land, Korea, was part of the Japanese Empire, which was a close ally of Germany.
Arriving in Prague, Hŭng-su moved into a flat in building no. 501 on Kampa, which Huberta Algermissen (née Protivenská), the wife of the German doctor Heinrich Algermissen, received to live in during the year 1941. She had met Hŭng-su in Vienna when, like him, she was working in the Ethnological Museum. Huberta studied sculpture and medal-making at the Academy in the workshop of Otakar Špaňhel. She alternated living with her husband in Vienna and alone in Prague, where she eventually ended up permanently after getting divorced in 1943. In 1944 another Korean, Kim Kjŏng-han, moved in with Hŭng-su, marrying Huberta in June of 1945.
The period immediately following the war was an interesting time for the villa – there was considerable attention paid to Huberta and her two Asian housemates. Through the media, the public asked how a German and two Asians could live in such a prominent space like the house on Kampa. Employees of the Oriental Institute spoke up for all three of them, though they had to quickly find another place to live anyways, especially after Jan Werich returned from the USA and was assigned the flat on Kampa; he was waiting in the Alcron Hotel for it to free up.
More to illustrate the complicated international situation, we briefly outline the subsequent fate of Han Hŭng-su. With his Japanese passport no longer valid and no chance to get a Korean one due to the nonexistence of an embassy in Czechoslovakia, he continued to run into bureaucratic problems in spite of his intensive efforts to return home. But the period that he spent in Czechoslovakia was, from a working perspective, one of his most interesting times; he led a course on oriental languages, worked on his history of Korea, translated Korean literature to the Czech language and promoted Korean texts over the radio… These activities left a profound imprint in Czech oriental studies and many Czech orientalists were students of Hŭng-su. In addition to this, as a communist he worked in support of the new North Korean regime.
In 1948 he managed to depart, via Moscow, for Pyongyang, where he became the Chairman of the Committee to Preserve Cultural Heritage. In North Korea he intensively promoted Czechoslovakia, with his translation of Julius Fučík’s Notes from the Gallows being published there. Hŭng-su’s cooperation with the North Korean regime ended after a wave of purges in the years 1951 and 1952, concentrated on the leading intellectuals who had experience in the West. There is no information on Han Hŭng-su after the year 1952 and it can be assumed that he perished in one of the “re-education” camps.
(prepared on the basis of the book by Miriam Löwensteinová and Jaroslav Olša: Han Hŭng-su – The Father of Czechoslovak Korean Studies, Prague 2013)