When Franziska Donner first met the Korean asylum politician Rhee Syng-man in Zurich, who was 25 years older than her, nobody could have guessed that she would become Korea's first First Lady almost 10 years later. Donner, born in 1900 in Inzersdorf, when Inzersdorf was still an independent, small community, studied languages at the University of Vienna and worked for the League of Nations. She had taken the inheritance of her father, a well-known soda water manufacturer, and had gone out into the world.

Korea was then occupied and dominated by Japan. Ree Syng-man was one of the Korean politicians who fought in the diaspora in the USA for the independence of his homeland. Franziska and Ree fell in love and got married. Franziska followed her husband first to the USA and then to Hawaii, where a small group of exiled politicians worked on their return.

With the support of the USA, who fought for influence in the region against the UdSSR and China after World War II, elections were held in 1948 and Ree Syng-man became the first freely elected President of Korea, and Doctor Francesca Rhee therefore the first First Lady. This was a sensation for Korea and its inhabitants, who until this day follow a very strict class consciousness, almost iron-clad rules of manners and conduct, and who still have almost extreme socio-cultural reservations towards strangers.

During these years of her husband's presidency, Francesca Rhee adopted the style and behaviour of a Korean woman in her position. This earned her great respect and recognition, despite the growing criticism of her husband's presidency, and until today, (she died in Seoul in 1992), she is still recognised and respected in Korea.


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