Willard D. Straight was born on January 31, 1880 in Oswego, New York. Having spent four years in Japan during his childhood, he early on developed an interest in all things connected to the Far East. After majoring in architecture at Cornell University (1897-1901), he was appointed to a position with the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, and from 1902-04 he was personal secretary to Sir Robert Hart, Inspector General of the Service in Peking. Also in 1902, he illustrated Verse and Worse for J.O.P. Bland. In 1903, Reuters (some sources say Associated Press) hired Straight as a correspondent during the Russo-Japanese war, which brought him for the first time to Korea on March 16, 1904. In that capacity, he remained in Korea (mostly in its northern parts around Pyongyang, the port city of Nampo and the Yalu River). In June 1905, he was appointed personal secretary to the American ambassador to Korea, Edwin V. Morgan, and was at the same time named vice-consul to Seoul by the Foreign Affairs Office. He resided in Korea until December 25th of the same year, recording the dramatic events of the Japanese takeover of Korea in great detail.
Having left Korea, and after a brief spell in Cuba, he returned to China in June 1906 as the appointed Consul-General at Mukden (now Shenyang), Manchuria. In 1909 he illustrated Houseboat Days in China, again for Bland. That June he left the consular service to represent J.P. Morgan and Company and other banks and investors, the so-called American Group.
In 1911, he married Dorothy Payne Whitney. They left China in 1912 when the revolution broke out, returning to the United States. Straight continued to encourage investment in China through the American Asiatic Association (active from 1898 to 1941), of which he became president in 1913. In 1914, the Straights began publication of The New Republic, a weekly magazine which is still in print to this day.
In 1915 Straight resigned from J.P. Morgan and was appointed third vice president of the American International Corporation. Having founded the Asia Magazine in 1917 (Asia Publication Co., New York; the magazine stopped being published in 1942), he enlisted in the U.S. Army to participate in WWI in the same year. In 1918, while arranging for the arrival of the American Peace Mission in Paris, Straight, exhausted from his toils and labors in France, contracted pneumonia, passing away (to the great dismay of all who ever had come to know him) on December 1, 1918.
Willard Straight's exact days of entry and exit to and from Korea 1st stay: Working in the northern part of the peninsula, but also out of Seoul, representing Associated Press (or Reuters) as a reporter. He arrived there on Korean soil March 16, 1904. Straight leaves Korea for the first time for Japan on July 28 or 29, 1904. He arrives in Tokyo on the 30th.
2nd stay as vice-counsel in the American legation: Arrives in Korea around June 20, 1905. Goes to Shanghai some time in July (recuperating from a friend's death), but returns to Korea towards the end of August. Straight leaves Korea for Japan and then the U.S. on Dec. 25th, 1905.