From: La Revue de Paris, (15 August, 1894, pages 753-768) "La guerre de Corée"
Émmanuel-Édouard Chavannes (1865 – 1918) was a French Sinologist and a celebrated expert on Chinese history and religion. He lived in China 1889-1893, then on returning to Paris became Professor of Chinese at the Collège de France.
[The part about Hong Jong-U in the following text was reprinted in L’Univers illustré – 25 août 1894]
The conflict that has just broken out between China and Japan has been in preparation for many years; on many occasions it seemed on the point of breaking out; the events which we are witnessing are the violent dénouement of a situation that every day seemed more critical.
To tell the truth, it formerly seemed likely that the storm would break on another point of the dark horizon that enveloped Korea. Seven years ago, England, fearing that Russia might lay hands on Korea, took the lead by seizing the islands of Port Hamilton. The government of the Tsar protested the purity of its intentions. The English no longer felt entitled to warn of a danger they were told was imaginary, so they evacuated Port Hamilton and put it into the hands of China. On the 1st of February, 1887, Sir James Fergusson made the following statement in the House of Commons:
"Her Majesty's Government have decided to withdraw from Port Hamilton only after having received assurances from the Government of China that no part of Korea, including Port Hamilton, will be occupied by any foreign Power."
The solution of this diplomatic incident shows that England has formally recognized the suzerainty of China and that, on the other hand, it reserves the right to intervene on the day this suzerainty proves incapable of protecting its rights. It is also clear that if Russia deemed it opportune to deny any desire to act in Korea in 1887, it could still not fail to be interested in any changes that might occur there and could return to the scene whenever the integrity of the small kingdom might be threatened.
So far, luckily, the only contestants are China and Japan. The origins of their dispute are ancient and many but, as usual, an isolated incident has been enough to cause the discharge of a long-accumulated tension. The account of this incident is not lacking in savor; it was not a common border incident, but a conspiracy such as might make Saint-Réal tremble with pleasure.
On the 4th of December, 1884, the inauguration of the Post Office was celebrated at Seoul; the main members of the Government, the representatives of the United States and England, and M. von Mollendorf, the foreign adviser to the King, were present at a banquet that the Postmaster offered them in the new buildings. Everything was very gay, when towards ten o'clock in the evening a stranger entered the hall shouting "Fire!" Prince Min Yong-ik went out to see what was happening; he had barely passed the door of the house when he was attacked from behind and received seven cuts from a saber. Despite his injuries, he was able to make an effort to retrace his steps; at that moment, M. von Mollendorf, attracted by the noise, rushed out and gathered up in his arms the prince, who was bleeding profusely. The murderers fled and the guests quickly made their escape. During the night M. von Mollendorf transported the prince to his own house and thus saved him from a second attack.
The soul of the plot was a certain Kim Ok-kiun; a former envoy from Korea to Japan; he acted at the instigation of the Japanese. That was proved the very next day. On 5 December, indeed, this personage entered the king’s presence, threatened him strangely and dictated his wishes. The Minister of War was called to the palace; he had barely taken leave of his sovereign when he fell dead, struck down by men lying in wait. In the night, seven of the main Korean leaders are murdered. A new government is formed, at the head of which is placed Kim Ok-kiun.
The conspirators had skilfully chosen their moment; the Chinese were struggling with the difficulties caused by the Tonkin affair. They had counted on their being unable to intervene in Korea. But they had not counted with the energy of the man who was in command of the small Chinese corps stationed in Seoul, Yuen Che-k'ai. Yuen promoted a counter-revolution, and in a few days the new government was defeated and its supporters massacred. Only three members of the cabinet were able to escape; among them was Kim Ok-kiun, who took refuge on a Japanese warship. He was able to reach Japan safe and sound; he was interned, it is said; but in reality, once there he was pensioned by the Government, of which he had merely been the agent. China rewarded Yuen Che-k'ai by naming him, in the year 1885, Minister Resident at the court of the King of Korea.
Among the accomplices of Kim Ok-kiun was the director of the Post Office, who had sent out the murderous invitation. Arrested by Chinese soldiers as he was seeking to justify himself to the King, he was taken out of the palace and was immediately torn to pieces by the populace. His father and his closest relatives killed themselves. One member of his family, named Hong Tjyong-ou, conceived the project of rehabilitating himself by assassinating Kim Ok-kiun. He had to wait nine years before he could execute his plan. He came to Tokio in 1889 and established close relations with Kim Ok-kiun; but, finding no favorable opportunity, he embarked for Europe, it is not clear for what purpose. He spent a long time in Paris, in a hotel in the Rue Serpente, and was received very amiably in various houses. Those visiting the Guimet Museum were able to see him sometimes with his dress of white silk and his conical hat with broad edges. Father Hyacinthe Loyson, whose affability is well known, received him with the greatest cordiality; at the time of his departure, he left him, on July 22, 1893, a card with these words "My dear friend, I wish you a very happy journey and pray God to bless you and yours." At the end of the month of July, Hong Tjyong-ou took passage at Marseilles on the Melbourne bound for Japan.
On March 27, 1894, four passengers, wearing Japanese costume, disembarked at Shanghai and took rooms in a Japanese hotel in the English concession. They were Kim Ok-kiun with his servant, and Hong Tjyong-ou with an interpreter from the Legation of China to Tokio, Ou Po-jen. An invitation, authentic or supposedly so, from Li Ts'ing-fang, the adopted son of Li Hong-tchang who had recently been Minister of China in Japan, had drawn Kim Ok-kiun into the trap. On Wednesday March 28, at three in the afternoon, Kim and Hong were alone in a room of the hotel, on the first floor. Kim was lying down; Hong seized a revolver and fired two shots at his companion. The unfortunate man had the strength to rush out of the room; but at the top of the staircase a third bullet strikes him in the back and he falls, bathed in his blood.
On the night of the same Wednesday, a similar attack was directed, in Tokio, but without success, against Po Yong-hiao, a political co-religionist of Kim Ok-kiun. One of the assailants was arrested on the spot, the two others took refuge in the Legation of Korea. The Japanese government gave notice to the Korean representative to hand over the culprits. After some dithering, the chargé d'affaires, fearing that they might penetrate into his legation by force, had to yield. He asked the Japanese to withdraw their order so that he did not appear to be acting by coercion, then he made his two compatriots leave the building. As soon as they crossed the threshold, the police seized them. The three accused loudly declared that they had obeyed an express command from their king. Soon after, the chargé d'affaires hurriedly left Tokio without taking leave of the Emperor and without giving any reason for this abrupt breach of diplomatic relations.
In Shanghai, Hong Tjyong-ou had been discovered and apprehended by the English police on the day after his crime. He showed no regret for his action, and boasted, too, of having executed the orders of his sovereign. Although the murder had been committed on the territory of the English concession, the treaties do not give the Europeans the right to hear cases which only concern Koreans. Hong Tjyong-ou therefore only came under his compatriots. On April 6, Hiu, the Consul of Korea at Tientsin, arrived in person at Shanghai and had the criminal delivered to him as well as the body of Kim Ok-kiun. The dead and the living were embarked together on a Chinese corvette which, on April 7 in the morning, set sail for Chemulpo. We do not know what happened to Hong Tjyong-ou but it is likely that he was rewarded rather than punished. What is certain is that the death of Kim Ok-kiun caused a lively joy in Korea. His head was exposed in public as that of a traitor. His old, blind father, his mother and his daughter were decapitated.
All this tragic history greatly moved the Japanese. Their newspapers indignantly denounced the ambush of Shanghai, sought the instigators and were not afraid to find them in China. Indeed, although the complicity of China is not demonstrated, it is probable by the axiom Is fecit cui prodest. Besides, was not Kim Ok-kiun drawn to Shanghai by an invitation from Li Ts'ing-fang, and was he not accompanied by the Chinese interpreter Ou Po-jen? If the Celestial Empire cannot be held responsible, for lack of material proofs, can we not at least demand that the King of Korea explain the singular behavior of his chargé d'affaires?
Public opinion in Japan was therefore in favor of action in Korea. Moreover, the government, which is weary of always being in a minority in the Chamber, was not opposed to an external diversion. The general state of excitation gave rise to fears of extreme decisions and these apprehensions were soon shown to be justified.
At the end of May, an insurrection broke out in the South of Korea; the rebels captured Chyeng-chyong, the capital of the province of Chulla. The king, powerless to repress the popular movement, demanded the assistance of the Chinese, who sent two thousand men to recapture the town. The Japanese denounced the action of China as a violation of the Convention concluded in 1885, according to which no military operation in Korea could be undertaken without the assent and cooperation of Japan. On 12 June, six thousand Japanese soldiers disembarked at Chemulpo and on June 15, Mr. Otori, Minister of Japan to Korea, entered Seoul with an escort of six hundred men. For their part, the Chinese concentrated troops in the bay of Asan, about fifty miles south of Chemulpo. One more month of negotiations delayed hostilities. We know how, on the 25th of last month, the Japanese, by attacking and sinking, before any declaration of war, the Kowshung transport which was flying the English flag, made the conflict inevitable.
Leaving now the quarrel to follow its course and the future to be seen, we must trace the conflict back to its most distant past. This will help us better understand how inevitable it is.
This is not the first time that Korea has excited the greed of the Japanese; they deified, more than eighteen centuries ago, their Empress Jingu, who in the year 203 "made the weapons of Japan shine beyond the seas." This expedition, which has remained one of the most glorious memories in the annals of the Mikados, is not the only one that was formerly directed against Korea, as the "Rock of the Weeping Woman" bears witness. A graceful legend tells that in the sixth century of our era, as a general left for Korea, his wife remained there, following with her eyes, weeping, the sail that carried her love, but she stood there so long that she was changed into a rock. It is today that which we see at the tip of a promontory in the form of a rock, the Rock of the Weeping Woman.
Authentic history begins closer to us. It shows us, in the sixteenth century, the Japanese marching in triumph all over the peninsula claimed by the Chinese; the death of the taikoun Hideyoshi, who had been the promoter of the campaign, obliged the invaders to withdraw in 1598. But since this invasion, the Japanese have often considered that Korea was legitimately theirs.
If it were necessary to take account of centuries-old claims, China would have more venerable ones to invoke. Already in the year 108 before our era, the Emperor Ou, of the Han dynasty, seized P'ing-jang on the banks of the Ta-t'ong river, and subjected the country to his officials and institutions. China has not only made incursions into the territory in several period, it has annexed it and administered it as an integral part of its Empire. It has implanted its civilization there with deep roots. Although Koreans do not have strong sympathies for the Chinese, they consider them as their masters, while the Japanese are to their eyes nothing but bold pirates. However, no matter the authority tradition may have in the Far East, it cannot stand against the facts, and the events of recent years are enough to explain the situation today of China and Japan in Korea.
The present king, Li Hi, is the twenty-fourth of the dynasty Li, which began to reign in the year 1392 AD. The second son of a person known as Tai Won Kiun, he was adopted by Queen Tchouo Tai-pi, widow of the previous king; it was on this account that he ascended the throne in 1864. As he was very young, the regency was exercised by his father. It was under the Tai Won Kiun that a French expedition and an American expedition, motivated, one in 1866, by a massacre of missionaries, the other in 1871, by the looting of a wrecked ship, both failed to attack Seoul. This double failure gave European prestige a blow that was to be felt for a long time.
Japan was the first to experience it. Japan had, in 1868, undergone a prodigious revolution which, in a few months, had brought it out of the old Asian rut and thrown it at full speed on the high road of European life. The Koreans no longer had anything but contempt for a people they had hitherto feared. They stopped sending tribute to the Tokio court, and motivated their change of conduct by insolent letters. The Japanese took up the insult and, in 1875, opened hostilities. The Extraordinary Commissioner Kuroda Kiyotaka had only to make a demonstration of naval power in the waters of Korea to bring the small kingdom to the negociating table. Japan was able to obtain serious advantages from its easy triumph, advantages that were guaranteed by a treaty signed at Kokwa on 26 February, 1876.
Article 1 of the treaty stipulated the absolute independence of Korea. Japan was allowed the right to maintain a diplomatic representative in Seoul. Furthermore, it demanded the opening to its trade of Fou-san and two other ports to be determined subsequently; consuls would be established to protect their nationals and would have the right of jurisdiction. The two ports chosen were Yuen-san or Gensan (in Broughton Bay, on the Northeast coast of Korea), which was opened on 1 May 1880, and that of Jen-tch'oan (or Chemulpol, at the entrance of the Salt River, one of the mouths of the Han River that leads to Seoul), where the Japanese settled on January 1, 1883.
As a result of the Kokwa Treaty, relations between Japan and Korea have multiplied greatly; the Japanese fishermen who have obtained, by a special agreement, the right to sell their fish at any point on the coast, take advantage of that to engage in a vast trade in contraband. This smuggling has taken on such importance in the port of P'ing-jang, that there can be no question of doing anything but regularize it, and this is why the Tokio government is demanding with insistence the opening of this place. As for the three ports of Chemulpo, Fou-san and Yuen-san, they are mainly populated by Japanese. Fou-san alone contains five thousand.
However, the Koreans could not see with a good eye these intruders who, first, broke the barriers behind which the "Hermit State" had isolated itself with jealous care. They found in 1882 an opportunity of expressing their displeasure. The troops demanded a backlog of pay, they were offered sacks containing sand under a thin layer of rice. They mutinied and on 23 July put to death the superintendent of grain, Min Kyom-ho, an uncle of the queen. The Queen was threatened and, to escape from the populace, handed over a young maid, whom she had adorned with royal robes, then poisoned for the circumstance. But the party of the Queen was subservient to the Japanese cause; that was a sufficient reason for the insurgents to attack all the Japanese. They attacked them in their legation, driving them out after a fight lasting seven hours and burning their dwellings. Twenty-six Japanese out of forty managed to escape to Chemulpo where they were taken on board an English boat. As a result of this insult, Japan demanded and obtained a compensation of five thousand dollars. The royal government had to make apologies, replace the former legation which was outside the walls of Seoul by new buildings located inside the city, finally pay for the maintenance of a garrison to guard the representative of the Mikado.
If the riot of 1882 was directed against Japan, it was also what provoked the conspiracy of 1884. We have seen how it was thwarted by the energy of the Chinese commander Yuen Chek'ai. Japan, however, succeeded in obtaining compensation from Korea, and even concluded with China an agreement which gave it the right to intervene in concert with China whenever order was disturbed.
During the last ten years, although Korea has enjoyed relative calm, Japan has not let pass any occasion to protest when the grievances of its nationals lent themselves to it. Pretexts have not been lacking. I will give an example. One of the main articles of Korean trade is beans; as the cultivators are very poor, the traders make them advances of money in the spring, in exchange for which half of the crop is guaranteed to them. In 1889, the Japanese of Yuen-san had lent five thousand dollars to the peasants of the province of Ham-gyondo. Autumn came, Governor Tchouo, without warning, promulgates an edict prohibiting any Korean from selling or buying beans. The Japanese make remonstrances to the governor who refers the matter to the king and asks permission to suspend exports for one year from October 23, on the pretext that the province was suffering from famine. The Japanese chargé d'affaires proved, on the contrary, that the harvest had never been so abundant; the case was referred to Tokio; however the edict remained in force and the merchants lost the money they had committed.
It is not only against the bad practices of the government of Korea that Japan has protested, but also against the "encroachments" of China. On December 22, 1890, the deputy Inouyé Hakugoro denounced them in an interpellation addressed to the government. As early as 1882, he said, the Japanese Specie Bank had made to Korea a loan of 170,000 dollars guaranteed by the revenue of the maritime customs; China, at a later time, advanced 200,000 taels on the same guarantee and took advantage of it to seize the administration of the Korean customs authorities, without taking any account of the earlier loan. In November 1883, Japan established a telegraph cable to Fou-san, stating that no rival line would be installed for twenty years; in November 1885, a line linking China to Seoul and Fou-san was put into operation. Lastly, although the treaties with Korea formally state that all foreign nations will be treated on an equal footing, China has a monopoly on the export of jinseng.
To these indiscreet questions Viscount Aoki did not reply until three weeks had passed and it was to make this dry declaration: “The Government considers that it is not obliged to submit its acts to the public, whether to gain its approval, or for any other reason."
Japanese deputies do not readily understand that foreign policy sometimes needs a certain mystery; they would have been wrong, however, to misinterpret the negative reply offered to them by the Ministry. The latter had not lost sight of the case of Korea and sought to establish a kind of Chinese-Japanese condominium but these openings were ill received by the Celestial Empire. On 9 July I893, a Japanese cruiser brought to Tien-tsin an admiral who was supposed to agree with Li Hong-tchang on the common measures to be taken regarding Korea. The Viceroy invited his guests to dinner but at the last moment he claimed to be ill and wanted to be replaced by Taotai Cheng and Mr. Detring, Commissioner for Customs. The Japanese officers considered themselves insulted; on July 12, the day fixed for the dinner, they raised anchor and returned to their country to announce the failure of their undertaking. Japan realized once again the impossibility of reaching agreement with China. One year later, war broke out.
While Japan was giving its claims an increasingly imperious form, China, following a very skilful line of conduct, did not miss an opportunity to prove and to define its suzerainty, and sought to establish by facts that Korea was not only its tributary, but its vassal. Indeed, tribute does not constitute a sufficient proof of vassal status and the very abuse which the Chinese have made of the notion of a tributary people would suffice to prove it. Because the first embassies from the Netherlands brought gifts for the Son of Heaven, it does not follow that Holland depends on China, as one can read in many serious writers of the Far East. If the English allowed Burmese priests to come every ten years to present their tributes to the Emperor, that does not prevent Burma from remaining a British colony. Moreover, tribute can be paid simultaneously to two or more nations. Korea itself has often had to send representatives to prostrate themselves in Tokio as well as at Peking. China understood that the old Asian concept of tribute no longer had any value in the international law of the nineteenth century; it therefore tended to make of Korea a semi-sovereign state which, insofar as its actions are subject to the control of another depends only on this one power and not on a third. Li Hong-tchang is the statesman whose efforts have gradually brought about this transformation. When Japan signed the Kokwa Treaty, Li Hongtchang, who excels in putting into practice the maxim that, to reign, it is necessary to divide, no longer opposed Korea being bound by diplomatic acts with other nations Moreover, he took part in the negotiations and took great care that they should always be subject to his approval. Japan alone treated directly; all the others powers have admitted the intermediary role of China; the United States did so in 1882, England and Germany in 1883, Russia in 1884, France in 1886. During the discussion of the American Treaty, Li Hong-tchang wanted to insert a clause by which Korea would be recognized as a vassal of China. His claim was not admitted; however, at his instigation the King wrote to the President of the United States an autograph letter in which he admitted to being a tributary of the Celestial Empire.
The European nations have had some difficulty in gaining a clear idea of the nature of the link between Korea and China; the diversity of their assessments translates into the very titles of their representatives in Seoul. England admits complete dependency and its agent is a consul-general who depends directly on the British legation in Peking; at the other extreme, Japan and the United States treat the king as an absolute sovereign; they have therefore appointed, the first, a resident minister and chargé d'affaires, the second, a Minister Plenipotentiary. The other powers have given their representatives hybrid situations that prejudge nothing. France has a consul-government commissioner; Russia a consul-general-chargé d’affaires; Germany, a consul who does not depend on the Peking legation.
In the case of the Japanese claims which followed the riot of 1882, Li Hong-tchang felt the need to establish more firmly his authority. The unrest had been caused by the ex-regent, the king’s father. Tai Won Kiun received an invitation from the officers of a Chinese cruiser. No sooner was he on board than the ship raised anchor and headed for China; he was taken to Pao-ting-fou, the capital of Tche-li, where he remained interned for three years. This arbitrary sequestration did not prevent Li Hong-chang from resorting to less violent means at the same time. By a treaty dated October 1882, it was agreed that a Korean mandarin with the title of commercial agent would stay in Tieti-tsin and would be accredited to the Superintendent of the Northern Harbors, and that, on the other hand, a Chinese official would reside at the court of Seoul. The form given to the arrangement was clumsy, because to make a treaty with Korea was to recognize implicitly its independence. But Li was able to regain the advantage by the prerogatives which he conferred on his representative. Only the Chinese resident had the right to enter the palace in a chair, while the other diplomatic agents must dismount at the entrance. He has under his orders an armed force whose size is not limited and which has always been at least 500 men. In short, he occupies a situation similar to that of an English Resident to a Rajah of India.
The following year, in 1883, another ingenious maneuver permitted the Chinese to fortify singularly their position in Korea. Taking advantage of the country's financial difficulties, the China Merchant Steamship Company, whose head is Li Hong-tchang, lent it 200,000 taels (about one million francs), provided that reimbursement would be guaranteed by customs revenue. Under the cover of this clause, and, as we have seen above, to the great indignation of the Japanese, the Inspector General of Imperial Customs, Sir Robert Hart, attached to his service all the maritime trade of the three ports opened since then. The Korean Customs have operated by the care and under the authority of China. M. von Mollendorf, who was placed at their head, bore at the same ime the title of foreign adviser to the king.
After the troubles of 1884, Li Hong-tchang appears to have had a moment of weakness that he must regret at present. He undertook never to send troops to Seoul without notifying Japan, which would thereby be allowed to land an equal number of soldiers. He also withdrew from M. von Mollendorf the title of foreign adviser to the king. These functions were immediately taken over by an American, Mr. Denny, who had no interest in favoring China and who wanted to help the Koreans enjoy the benefits of independence. On the other hand, Li Hong-chang appointed, in 1885, as Resident at the court of Seoul, the soldier whose presence of mind had, the previous year, caused the failure of the Japanese conspiracy, Yuen Chek'ai. From then on, a constant struggle was engaged between Mr. Denny and the representative of China.
It was Yuen who began the attack. On the 4th of October, 1885, the Tai Won Kiun, tamed by his forced stay in Pao-ting-fou and completely won to the Chinese cause, had returned to Korea. Yuen planned to dethrone the king and replace him by his son under the regency of the Tai Won Kiun. The conspiracy was uncovered when, in 1886, Prince Min Yong-ik, who had suffered so much in the past from the assassins in the service of Japan, had been, it was believed, gained by means of 3,000 taels; but, the money once paid, he immediately went and reported everything to the king. Then, knowing by experience how little price human life has in Korea, he ran to implore the assistance of the Russian consul, Mr. Wæber, who sent him off to Hong Kong. There he lives in retirement; the scars of his seven saber blows and the bitterness of exile must often remind him of the disadvantages of the profession of conspirator. The danger which the king had incurred diminished the sympathies which he might have for China. Now only listening to the inspirations of his American director of conscience, he attempted to have Korea’s independence recognized by the foreign nations by sending them diplomatic representatives. Pak Tyêng-yong was appointed minister to the United States and Tchouo Tch'en-he had the same pompous title for England, Germany, Russia, Italy and France. The former reached America at the end of 1887. As for the second, he never got beyond Hong Kong.
As soon as he learned of the initiative taken by the king, Li Hong-tchang intervened and to mark the vassalage of Korea, after the most bizarre correspondence, managed to make it accept the following conditions: (1) the Korean envoy, upon arrival in a foreign capital, will immediately contact the Chinese Minister and will be introduced by him to the Minister for External Relations; (2) in public ceremonies, the Chinese envoy will take precedence over the Korean; (3) the Korean envoy will always discuss important matters with the Chinese Minister and be guided by his opinions. The Convention being well and duly ratified, the first care of Pak Tyêngyong, when he was settled in Washington, was to visit the Minister for Foreign Affairs without saying a word to his Chinese colleague. The Government of the United States, despite all its good will, could hardly take this strange diplomat seriously. Pak Tyeng-yong returned in 1889 to his country without having increased its dignity in any way. The Korean embassies were a lamentable failure. Mr. Denny's credit succumbed to it; on 15 April 1890, his contract expired, he left Seoul and with his departure faded forever the chimerical dream of the independence of Korea.
Resident Yuen regained all his authority and soon found a new opportunity to affirm it. At the beginning of June 1890, the old queen, Tchouo Tai-pi, died at eighty-one. To convey to the King the condolences of the Emperor, Li Hong-chang demanded that they should follow a ceremonial governed by the rites concerning tributary peoples. In the first week of November, two high-ranking mandarins, Tchang Lo and Hiu Tchang, left Tien-tsin and went to Seoul. The king came meet them, humbly prostrated himself before the Imperial Missive and treated the two envoys as representatives of a suzerain power. Korea's dependency could not be established in a more striking or formal manner. From this moment, Chinese influence has only increased. The Japanese may deny its legitimacy, it will be difficult for them to ignore the precedents that Li Hong-tchang has acquired in recent years.
In the Korean imbroglio, the nation that plays the most self-effacing role is Korea itself. Its king, weak and fearful, undergoes by turns every influence. The powerful are divided into two parties, that of the Min or party of the Queen and that of the Ni or party of the Tai Won Kiun. To tear each other to pieces, they are ready to co-operate with the foreign power that will lend them its support in the game of infinitely complicated conspiracies in which they engage. There is no sign of national feeling. Korean society, from top to bottom, is rotten. The nobles or niangpan alone can hold public office and to obtain it they buy it; once they have obtained it, they exert the worst exactions. The ordinary people, who know that caste prejudice will always prevent them from escaping from their miserable condition, do nothing to improve their lot. Much more, as they have learned from experience that all they can earn will be taken by the nobles, they do not even try to make their fortune. They work only within the strict limits of what is necessary; there is not a single great merchant in Seoul; shops themselves are unknown. Korea is dying for lack of capital. The King, nobles, craftsmen and laborers, all are plunged into irremediable poverty. Korea alone may derive some advantage from the war which has just broken out. Having nothing to lose, it has everything to gain; no matter what condition is imposed on it in the future, it could not be worse than that in which it now vegetates.
As for the belligerents, it is unfortunately too late to introduce them to the finer points of our literature and tell them the story of the oyster and the two litigants. Experience may perhaps reveal to them its lesson.