THE KOREA REVIEW
Volume IV, 1904
Homer B. Hulbert A. M., F. R. O. S.
The Methodist Publishing House,
A point of ethics 1
Ajun, The 63, 249
Alliance, The Korea-Japanese 74
Battle of Chemulpo 53
„ of Kang-gye 214
Book on Korea, A new 109
Book on Japan, New 505
Bridge, The 10,000 year 305
Burning of the Palace, The 155
Cemetery, The foreign 453
Chemulpo, The Battle of 53
Code Penal de la Coree 357
Condition of Korea 163. 199
Corea, the Hermit Nation 502
Corea and Coreani 504
Cremanzy, Laurent 357
Decadent Korea - 75
Dowager, The late Queen 6
Editorials 23, 70, 168, 260, 306, 360, 402, 456, 508. 549
Educational needs of Korea 443, 481, 533
Fifteen years among the top-knots 215
Folk-tales 1, 20, 21, 22 , 259, 298, 499
Foreign cemetery, The 453
Fortune-teller’s dilemma, A 21
Fusion of Korean Society 337
Gale, D. D., Rev. J S. 170
Ghost of a Ghost, The 499
Ha-ju, Note on 207
Hamilton, Angus 109
History of Korea 33, 81, 129, 177, 225, 273, 321, 369, 417, 465, 513, 561
Hospital, The Severance 494
Imperial residence. The 202
Industrial projects in Korea,
Korea decadent 75
Korea, Northeast 393
Korea owes Japan, What 350
Korean history (see History)
Korean neutrality 70
Korean society, Fusion of 337
Korean relations with Japan 9
Koreans in Manchuria 443
Ladies’ days 461
Late Queen Dowager, The 6
Lie on the left side 20
Map making 211
Meum et teum 298
Neutrality, Korean 70
New book on Korea 109
News calendar 24, 77, 120, 172, 216, 261, 312, 362, 408, 462, 508, 555
Northeast Korea 393
Note on Ha-ju 207
Odds and Ends 20, 259, 305
Oldest relic in Korea 255
Palace burned. The 155
Penal code in Korea 357
Point of ethics, A 1
Queen Dowager, The 6
Railroad construction 204
Reform spelling 385, 440
Relations with Japan, Korean 9
Relic in Korea, The oldest 255
Retrospect of 1903 13
Retrospect of 1904 529
Reviews 109, 215. 170, 357, 504, 505
Rossetti, Carlo 504
Russians burn bridge 214
,, dash at An ju 213
Russo-Japanese war 49, 97, 145, 193, 241, 302
Russians in Northeast Korea 438
Severance Hospital, The 494
Sorcery exposed 22
Spelling reform 385, 440, 539
Straight official, A 259
Stripling, A. B. 118
Ten thousand year bridge 305
Underwood, Mrs. H G. (review)
Vanguard. The 170
War anecdotes 211
Waste lands, The 306, 344
What Korea owes Japan 350
Wonsan incident. The 204
THE KOREA REVIEW
A Point of Ethics.
Chai Che-gong belonged to the noble army of literati martyrs. By this we mean that he spent all his time wrestling with the problems of Confucian lore and let his wife look out for his support. Perhaps it was she who belonged to the martyr army rather than he. At any rate the family fell into the lower depths of poverty. Fortunately for them, however, they lived in those good old days when letters were in some sense their own reward, for a hard-working merchant next door, named Kim, came to their relief and drew them out of the depths, or at least held them on the brink without letting them fall completely in. During the years that passed the needy family leaned more and more heavily upon him until at last his resources were exhausted and he too joined them in the procession.
But as fortune would have it, the literary gentleman was suddenly raised to comparative affluence by receiving a government appointment. His rise was rapid and before long his knowledge of the Chinese Classics placed him in the governor’s chair in the northern capital, Pyengyang. Under these circumstances it was but natural that the impoverished merchant should follow in his wake like a sea-gull behind a steamship, to pick up such scraps as his generosity might drop. And besides this he may have felt, though he would never breathe it to a soul, that the governor owed him a little consideration.
[page 2] The governor picked up the thread of life in the provincial capital as if he were “to the manner born” as indeed he was, though long time banished from its more favored precincts. Kim the merchant knew his place and only by his constant attendance impinged upon the consciousness of the governor. The latter gave him a small commission now and again which sufficed to support him and give him hope for something better.
At last his great opportunity came, the “tide which taken at the flood--.” The son of a wealthy gentleman in the far north, while in his cups, committed manslaughter and was lodged in prison at Pyeng-yang awaiting judgment. The young man’s father hastened up to the city determined to find some flaw in the governor’s mask of rectitude through which he might strike him with a bribe. It was through Kim the merchant that the attack was made but it was quite unavailing. The governor would listen to no words of entreaty even uttered to the accompaniment of rippling silver. The gentleman offered a million cash. He might as well have thrown it at a stone wall. He offered five million but he might as well have tried to dam the Tadong with his cash. The governor was ice and naught would thaw him.
As a last desperate move the felon’s father placed in the hands of the merchant ten bundles of mountain ginseng which represented a fabulous sum, and begged him to present it to the governor with his humble compliments. The merchant took the costly gift, summoned every last remaining shred of his assurance and entered the presence of the governor. On his knees he pleaded for the condemned man and deposited the ginseng on the floor. The governor eyed it suspiciously.
“What is that stuff?”
“It is only a poor little tribute to your goodness and clemency vouchsafed by the hand of the erring man’s father. It is only ten pounds of mountain ginseng that he begs you to accept.” He said it in great humility but there was a latent gleam in his eye which proclaimed the incredible value of the gift. But the eye of the governor never gleamed. He was far above the reach of riches.
[page 3] He glanced scornfully at the treasure, waved his hand toward a closet beside him and said in the coldest of tones :
“Put the stuff on that shelf and leave me. I will show these people what it is to tamper with my honesty!’’ The trembling man obeyed and slunk from the room. He had taken the tide at its flood and it had overwhelmed him. Doubtless the governor would keep the bribe and kill the offender as well. All was lost. He told the anguished parent and together they waited for the dreadful end of the tragedy.
Early the next morning there was an unusual stir in the governor’s palace. Bugles were sounding and excited messengers were hurrying in and out. Something was about to happen. At ten o’clock a herald announced that the people should congregate in the great open space inside the outer wall of the palace. They came from all directions bent upon curiosity to see what the governor had to say. At the appropriate moment the governor apppeared, clad in his robes of office and supported on each side by a full retinue of officials and retainers. The place was crowded to suffocation but the guards kept a space clear in the center of the court full forty feet square.
The governor spoke a quiet word and a herald cried: “Bring forth the condemned criminal.” Ah! it was a killing they had been sent for, to witness. They almost trod on each other to get a better view. The wretch, was brought out, his arms bound with a cord and his face already grey with the certainty of approaching death. The father, bowed with grief, stood behind him on the edge of the crowd. The governor spoke another word to his attendants, and the herald cried:
“Dig a hole in the ground the depth of a man’s stature.” A muffled “Oh” ran through the crowd. The man was to be buried alive! Quick hands dug the hole. The prisoner writhed and the father wrung his ineffectual hands.
“Fill it half full of burning charcoal.” What! was the man to be burned to death? Horrible! — but interesting. The father, now on his knees, rocked back and forth in an [page 4] agony of apprehension. The son looked on in dumb fear which gripped him too tight for speech.
The burning charcoal sent up its noxious fumes to the nostrils of the crowd and they smelt death in air. The governor stepped forward.
“Before you stands a condemned criminal who merits death. Yesterday at this hour a monstrous bribe was offered me. Shall I accept it or not? Shall I stain the ermine of my office? Nay verily! Bring forth the bribe.” A servant came bearing the ten bundles in his arms.
“Cast them into the fire — first.” Down they fell into the lurid flames of the pit. The governor pointed to the fire.
“That is mountain ginseng!” At this word the people stood dumb for a moment but as the monstrous truth opened upon them that a kingdom’s ransom was feeding that flame to save the honor of their governor the matchless rectitude of the man elicited a roar of approbation that startled the bullock drivers far out on the country-roads.
The smoke of the burning went up to the heavens and a strange sweet odor floated through the palace and over the heads of the wondering crowd. They drew long draughts of it, as one would fasten eyes upon the face of a departing friend, never to be seen again. But the offering was only half complete; the victim was yet to be immolated. The crowd bent eagerly forward to see the final act. The governor raised his hand.
“Such be the fate of all bribes! But be it known that, though I cannot be touched with perishable wealth, I can be touched by pity. Behold the stricken father whose last remaining hope I might crush to the earth. But mercy cries to me with louder voice than vengeance. Cut the prisoner’s bands and let him go!”
The prisoner fell forward to the earth, overcome by the sudden weight of joy; the father still on his knees opened wide his arms and stared about him as if he could not believe the cruel dream. The people, thrilled to ecstasy by this crowning act of greatness gazed at one another in amazement. And then another shout went up, which dwarfed the first one to a whisper and made [page 5] the age-old walls of Pyeng-yang think the Im-jin year had come again when the beleaguered hordes of Hideyoshi manned them against their double foe.
The crowd pressed forward, some to cast themselves with tears of joy before their over-lord while others raised the reviving prisoner on exulting hands and bore him like a paladin forth from the presence of the governor.
But Kim the merchant wended his way sadly homeward. It was all well enough to exhibit these high qualities. They were very pretty but they helped him not a whit to rice and kimchi. Just to think of it, a princely fortune swallowed in the flames just to satisfy a whim; it was monstrous! The more he thought about it the less reconciled he became and after a restless night he arose with a hard resolve in his face. He would give that governor a piece of his mind and then leave the ungrateful man forever.
When he found himself in the governor’s presence he was a little ashamed of his mission but he lashed himself by the memory of his wrongs, and began to upbraid the official for having forgotten the days when he, Kim the merchant, spent his money unsparingly to help the indigent scholar. When he stopped for breath the governor shrugged his shoulders and smiled at him. This fanned his anger to the flaming point.
“Yes all this and more I have borne for you and you turn from me in your day of fortune! What of your boasted mercy in sparing that felon yesterday? You have showed no mercy to me who deserved every thing at your hands. I will leave the place with my curse and shake the dust of this city off my feet.”
“Yes, Kim, I think you had better go home now,” said the governor in a quiet tone.
The merchant turned and quitted the room with a muttered curse between his lips. He packed up his small belogings and fared southward on foot toward his home in Seoul. On the way he was taken ill and it was five months before he reached home.
So it was that, foot-sore, ragged and weary he dragged himself into the capital and drew near his home. [page 6] Here was the street and here the lane that led to his door but there was a great change. The entrance had been widened, and instead of his little door there stood a great gate. Someone had seized his house and torn it down. He stood for a moment dazed by this new misfortune but at that moment, who should emerge from the gate but his own son clad in costly silken raiment. When the boy saw his father he rushed to him and cried.
“Why, father, what does this mean? You are ragged and foot-sore. Is it possible that you have come home on foot?” The father answered in turn : —
“And what does all this mean, my son? Who has torn down my house to build this palatial residence and how come you to be clad in this silken garb?’’
“Why father, don’t you know? The governor of Pyeng-yang sent us down ten packages of mountain ginseng and all this cost only one of them. The other nine are still intact and we have—”
And just here the point of ethics obtrudes itself and leaves us wondering whether, taking it all in all, the governor was justified in his action or not. Sure it is that to this day that governor’s memory is redolent with the perfume of the ginseng which he did not bum.
The Late Queen Dowager,
The late Queen Dowager whose death occurred on the 2nd of January 1904 was the second queen of King Honjong the twenty-sixth of this dynasty who ruled from 1835 till 1850. His first queen died in 1843 and he married the second in 1844. She was the daughter of Hon Cha-yong who after the elevaticm to the royalty was made Prince Pu-wim. She was bom in Chulla Province, district of Ham-yul, in 1831; so it appears that she was thirteen years old when she became Queen of Korea. The King her [page 7] husband died in 1849 when she was only eighteen. No children had been born to them. The new king, known by his posthumous title of Ch’ul-jong, was nineteen years old when he ascended the throne and his wife, of course, became queen and the former queen, who is the subject of this sketch, became Queen Dowager. At the same time there were two other Dowagers still living, in the persons of the queen of King Sun-jo (1801-1834) and the queen of King Ik-chong who reigned only a few months in 1834 after the death of his father, King Sun-jo. These three Dowagers are known as (1) Queen Dowager Kim who died in 1857 (2) Queen Dowager Cho who died in 1890 and Queen Dowager Hong who died this month. Later there was another Queen Dowager Kim the widow of King Ch’ul-jong (1850-1863) who died in 1878.
In 1897 the Queen Dowager Hong received the title Myung-hon Ta-hu (明憲太后). This was upon the occasion of the elevation of His Majesty to imperial rank. She died in her seventy -third year. Next summer would have been the sixtieth anniversary of her marriage. The great cycle of sixty years would have been completed and a grand celebration would have been held. In the eyes of the Koreans she was greatly to be pitied for three things, first because she was left a widow at such an early age, second that she was childless, and third because she just missed seeing this sixtieth anniversary of her wedding.
She was a woman of great common sense, in that she never interfered in politics nor became the tool of sorceresses and fortune-tellers. During her long and lonely life she lived quietly through all the alarms that were sounded about her. It was always necessary that she live in the palace where the king resided and there must have been many an anxious day. But she was possessed of great self control and equipoise and none of these things moved her. She died of sheer old age and will probably be buried outside the Northeast gate of Seoul, perhaps beside her husband King Hon-jong, whose body lies at Yang-ju.
On the 5th the body was removed from the palace to the Heung-duk-jun, behind the British Legation. On the seventh all the officials donned the mourning garb consisting [page 8] of a white head-band, white shoes and linen clothes. The Emperor himself dressed in mourning and will continue to wear it for five months. The officials and people will wear it one year but the surviving concubine of King Hon-jong, the palace women who attended the deceased, the grave keepers and a few others will wear mourning three years. All the female relatives of the Emperor and of the deceased and all the wives of the high officials will wear half mourning for 100 days. A family conclave including all the nearer male relatives of the Emperor and of the deceased was held soon after the death. This is called the Chong-ch’uk Chip-sa. It is their duty to consult about funeral ceremonies in conjunction with other officials specially appointed for the purpose. Among the members of this conclave are such well-known men as Yi Seung-ong, Yi Cha-geuk, Yi Cha-sun, Yi Chi-yong, Hong Sun-hyang and others. Then there is the Ch’ong-ho-sa or Master of the Funeral Ceremonies who has supreme charge of the obsequies. This duty devolves upon Yun Yong-sun, lately Prime Minister. Under him are three Kuk-chang To-gam Tang-sang or Chiefs of the Imperial Burial Bureau. These are Yi Chong-no, Yun Yong-gu and Sung Keui-un. Besides these there are the three San-neung To-gam Tang-sang or Chiefs of the Imperial Tomb. These are Pak Chong-yang, Yi Kun-ho and Kim Se-keui. Three officials, called Pin-jon To-gam Tang-sang or Chiefs of the Temporary Mausoleum, are Hong Sun-hyang, Kim Chonghan and Cho Chong-heui. The Chief of the Tomb-keeping Bureau is Prince Yi Cha-sung. The Commissioner of Posthumous Titles is Kim Pyong-guk, with Min Yung-so as his assistant. Min Pyung-suk is appointed Commissioner of Eulogy and Inscription, with Cho Chung-heui as assistant. Sim Sun-tak is the Commissioner of Obituary, with Cho Pyong-sik as assistant. The Commissioner for burying the tablet before the grave of the Queen Dowager is Cho Pyung-se, with Min Yong-whan as assistant. The Comissioner on Biography is Kim Hak-chin with Yi Chageuk as assistant. Another official is appointed to write the inscription in the tomb. After the casket is deposited in the ground it is covered with earth nearly to the general [page 9] surface of the ground but the last few inches are filled in with lime plaster. When still but partially dry this official writes upon the plaster, with dry charcoal dust, the inscription telling the name, office, age and condition of the deceased and in which direction the head lies. When this is done the whole is covered by the great circular mound. The official appointed to this duty is Yi Keunmyung the present Prime Minister, with Yi Sun-ik as assistant and Hong Sun-hyung and Kim Chong-han as scribes.
The funeral ceremony will take place in May and the entire cost is estimated at $650,000.
Korean Relations with Japan.
Continuing the description of the Trading Station at Fusan we read that within the wall of the enclosure there was a fire signal station set in a conspicuous place so that it could be seen from every direction and by it news was flashed from mountain top to mountain top all over the country.
There was also a great banquet house of thirty-five kan and a guest house of twenty-eight kan. These two were united, and had a great gate of three kan, a middle gate of a kan and a half and an apron wall inside it. There was a store house for charcoal of ten kan and there was a guest reception hall. In the very center of the enclosure was a council house of forty -four kan and on each side, like wings, were extensions of two kan each.In this building were rooms for a teacher whose business it was to instruct new comers as to the proper etiquette to be observed in the various functions, and there were inner rooms of eight kan for any women, wives of Korean officials who might be there. Besides these there were apartments for interpreters and rooms for examination of goods to or from Japan.
It was in 1679 that these buildings were all erected by Japanese workmen from Tsushima but at Korean expense. [page 10] They were two years in building them. The total cost was 9,000 bags of rice and silver 6,000 ounces. As this station was built close to the sea it was supposed that the houses would deteriorate rapidly, so workmen were permanently stationed there to effect repairs. As soon as the houses were built they were destroyed by fire. This occurred in 1680, but in 1684 the work was again begun and was finished in 1690. Repairs were effected in 1700. From that time on repairs were made from time to time until 1874 when, in the first year of the present ruler, the buildings were repaired for the last time.
SALARIES OF PERMANENT OFFICIALS AT THE TRADING POST.
The two men who acted as masters of ceremonies at all official functions received a monthly salary of one bag and nine pecks of rice, twelve pecks of beans and two pieces of cotton cloth. Besides this, between the third and eighth moons, they received extra for tiffin at noon. These were the highest permanent officials on the post. Next came the secretaries who received one bag of rice and six pecks of beans. The three gate-keepers each received ten pecks of rice and two pieces of linen. The thirty cadets, some of whom acted as interpreters, received each six pecks of rice a month. The man who had charge of the guest house received six pecks of rice. The four messengers received each six pecks of rice. The two grooms received between the third and eighth moon three pieces of cotton cloth or in lieu of this 450 cash. During the rest of the year they received one piece of cotton or 150 cash. The master of the gate keepers received his pay in linen cloth. The men who furnished fuel received for the fuel during spring and summer 1,836 cash and during autumn and winter 2,004 cash. So the total cost of fuel for a year was only 3,840 cash.
Every man who wished to enter the Station had to be provided with a wooden tag on one side of which was [page 11] written the characters **** and on the the other the date and the seal of the envoy who was temporarily in charge. This seal was burned into the wood.
SEATING AT BANQUETS.
Upon the arrival of a Japanese envoy there was first the tea drinking ceremony. At this the Korean commissioner sat facing the south and opposite him the Japanese envoy facing the north while between them on either side were two lines of Koreans and Japanese the former facing the east and the latter the west.
At the banquets which followed this order was reversed, the Korean commissioner facing the west and the Japanese the east.
RECEIVING THE GIFTS.
Upon the arrival of the Japanese envoy the presents which he brought to the Korean Government were carefully examined by the Korean officials, wrapped carefully in paper and placed together in the center of the examination house. Then the Japanese envoy and the Korean commissioner came in their court dress and, standing on either side of the pile of gifts, bowed ceremoniously as if in the presence of royalty. The same ceremony was gone through when the gifts from the Korean Government were to be shipped to Japan.
THE RECEPTION CEREMONY.
When the Japanese envoy disembarked he was ushered into the enclosure of the Trading Station by way of the west gate and took his stand facing the east. The Commissioner sent from Seoul to meet him stood facing the south. The Korean master of ceremonies stood with the envoy. The prefect of Tongna stood with the commission. On the south side stood a servant who burned incense. On the east and west were placed red umbrellas. On either side stood Korean boys who chanted in the Japanese language. Then the Envoy and the Commissioner [page 12] both of whom were in court dress bowed ceremoniously to each other four times. They went into the reception hall and had a feast, where there were flowers, music and dancing. First they pledged each other in nine cups of wine in a solemn manner beginning with the Envoy and going down through the different ranks of Japanese and Koreans. Young Korean boys acted as waiters.
The ceremony of receiving the gifts was as follows. The Korean officials clad in white linen court robes with long flowing sleeves entered from the east and took their places on the north side of the apartment. The Japanese were stationed on the south side and the gifts were placed between the two parties. Candles made of bean oil and beeswax were lighted and incense was burned. Then both parties bowed before the gifts. Japanese interpreters were introduced and through them the ceremonial greetings were expressed.
There also was the ceremony of the exchange of perfumes. A special day was selected from the calendar, that would be most auspicious and on that day the Japanese brought out their perfume and the Koreans brought theirs and a ceremonious exchange was made with many genuflections and mutual compliments.
In cases where the Japanese Envoys could not come to Seoul there was a sort of mock audience arranged at the port, which resembled a real one except, of course, that the King was not present. The governor of the province personated the King at such functions. The Japanese presented such memorials as they had prepared, offered their congratulations and went through the regular forms of an audience. Cheers were given as now with the “Man-se, man-se’’ or the “Ch’un-se, Ch’un-se.’’ The Japanese wore dark clothes but at these functions they wore white badges of some kind to distinguish them.
If the ceremony happened to be at the time when a King had died there was the additional ceremony of the changing of the fo-su or seal which the Daimyo of Tsushima held from the Korean Government. This was prepared in Seoul. It was a brass seal with the name [page 13] Tsushima written on the side. It was inclosed in a bees box, wrapped in cotton and carried to Fusan to give the Envoy.
Retrospect of 1903.
The past year has been full of important events for Korea. We cannot say that it has been a year of progress but it has seen a steady movement toward an in-, evitable end and as the year opens there is every sign that a crisis in the history of the country has arrived.
In January Yi Yong-ik, who had gone to Port Arthur, returned to Korea without successful opposition. Whether this was for his country’s good remains to be seen, but at any rate it has exercised a tremendous influence over the course of events during the past year, whether for good or ill. As soon as he returned he ordered a large invoice of rice from Annam and by so doing probably prevented a great deal of suffering in the capital. This, among the common people, is his one redeeming act. At about this time Yi Keun-tak began cultivating the good graces of Yi Yong-ik and with such good success that in the latter months of the year he gave promise of superseding his master. These two men dominated the situation and there can be no doubt whatever that the condition in which the country now finds itself is directly due to the policy of this duumvirate. That policy is illustrated by two significant acts which were at least attempted in January. The first was the attempt of Yi Keun-tak to have Mr. Waeber appointed to an important post as adviser to the Korean Government but it was foiled, so report has it, by the opposition of the Russian Minister. Yi Yong-ik, on the other hand, added to his record as a financier by securing the foundation of The Central Bank of Seoul. This of course was in opposition to the Japanese who have always demanded that the Korean Government should have a reliable currency. Japanese trade had been suffering severely because of the deterioration of Korean currency [page 14] and the Dai Ichi Ginko had, with the consent of the Korean Government, issued a bank note to be circulated only in Korea. Yi Yong-ik was always the determined enemy of this movement which looked toward the strengthening of Japanese influence here, and the Central Bank idea which included the scheme of putting out Korean bank notes was a direct act of hostility, and yet could not be taken up by the Japanese, as it did not directly infringe upon their rights.
In February, however, the opposition to the Japanese bank notes took form in the fatuous placards posted about the city threatening the people with all sorts of dire punishments if they dared to circulate the Japanese notes. As a piece of financiering this act hardly has its parallel in history. It was a severe blow not only at the Japanese but at the Koreans as well, who held hundreds of thousands of this money. The result was an immediate and heavy run on the Japanese Bank, the suspension of many business plans and a general upheaval in the monetary conditions. As a natural result the Japanese Government took hold of the matter with a firm hand and within a few days forced the Koreans to stultify themselves, by taking it all back, apologizing abjectly and posting notices that were diametrically opposed to the former ones. In this same month the budget for the year was published showing that the revenue amounted to about eleven millions in Korean money and the disbursements about an equal sum. This month also saw the appointment of a commissioner to proceed to Whangha Province and investigate the charges made against Roman Catholic adherents. We need not enlarge upon this subject except to say that the charges were proved and a scandalous condition of things revealed which was settled later by the condemnation of several of the leading disturbers of the peace.
March began with a rather significant event. The government subsidized the two native daily papers of Seoul, the only native dailies in the country. It also wasted some of its revenues in the purchase of a so-called man-of-war from Japanese. It later thought better of [page 15] this and tried to get out of it, but without success.
April brought another kind of difficulty. Russia had secured a concession on the Yalu for the cutting of timber. It was understood that Korea was to have one fourth of the net proceeds of the business, but in April when the Russians began to cut the timber it was found that Koreans were not supposed to take any cognizance of the work nor to watch proceedings in their own interests to find out how much timber was cut or what it brought in the market. The most valuable asset of the Korean government was thus definitely and forever lost. The same month saw a quarrel on the island of Quelpart between Japanese and Koreans which necessitated the presence of a Japanese gun-boat.
May saw a further advance of Russia in the north when her first gun-boat anchored in Yongampo. Russia obtained some sort of hold on that port and by so doing demonstrated to the Japanese more clearly than by anything else that Russia did not intend to confine her operations to Manchuria.
The month of June passed with comparative quiet except for the attempt to blow up Yi Yong-ik at the Japanese hospital in Seoul. How this was done or by whom has never transpired. An official census of the capital and suburbs gave the population as 194,100, but this is surely an under-estimate.
The rainy season of July seems to have kept everybody quiet.
August witnessed the departure of Hyun Sang-geun for Europe where he hoped to raise a loan for the Korean government and do some other impossible things. At about this same time there began a discussion as to the opening of Eui-ju to foreign trade. In September the Russians began to carry on operations at Yong-ampo which were believed to be fortifications.
October was an especially busy month. It saw an accident on the Seoul electric road which led to a miniature riot in which a Japanese shop was wrecked. The report arrived that Russian guns were being landed at Yongampo. The Japanese were employed to handle the annual ginseng [page 16] crop. The eighth passed without Russia redeeming her pledge to evacuate Manchuria. A treaty was signed between China and the United States by the terms of which Alukden and Antong were to be, or rather are to be, opened to foreign trade next October. A guard of twenty-six men came to the Russian Legation. A Belgian gentleman was appointed adviser to the household department. Mr. Hagiwara of the Japanese Legation in Seoul went to Yongampo but was refused permission to land. Russia prevented the joining of the Korean Telegraph system with the Chinese. The Home Minister was cashiered for selling offices. Exchange went down to its lowest point, one yen bringing over two and a half Korean dollars. The Seoul-Chemulpo and Seoul-Fusan Railroads were joined under the latter name.
In November occurred a serious riot in Chemulpo between Japanese and Russian sailors which threatend to make complications. The government stopped the coining of nickels. The Russians named Yongampo Port Nicholas. The Western Palace at Pyeng-yang was finished. U Pom-sun the refugee in Japan was assassinated. A riot occurred in Mokpo between Japanese and Korean coolies.
December was spent in efforts on the part of various foreign representatives to induce the Korean Government to open a port in the north. All these attempts were blocked by Russia and the new year opened with Korea firmly impaled upon the Russian horn of the dilemma.
Such are some of the most prominent events during the year 1903 in Korea and they all point one way. They have demonstrated the absolute necessity which faces Japan of showing her hand in Korea, and that in no uncertain way or of seeing her commerce ruined and all her efforts of the past three decades come to naught. We are not desirous of seeing war. Almost anything were better than that. But when two radical ideas come in opposition to each other and are not only different but radicaly incompatible there is little room for compromise. Were Russian and Japanese interests both of a commercial nature there might be some hope of a compromise. [page 17] Were they both of a merely strategic nature they might come to an understanding, but as it is there seems to be little hope of such an issue. It becomes rightminded men therefore to look at the question impartially and decide each for himself on which side right lies, if on either side exclusively, or on which side it preponderates. This suggests several questions.
(1) The success of which contention will bring the greatest good to the greatest number?
(2) The contention of which of the contestants in this threatened war is based upon the tenets of recognized international justice?
(3) What does each stand to lose in case there is no war?
(4) What does each stand to gain or lose in case of war?
(5) The success of which party will mean the most good to Korea?
(6) What has history to say as to the relative benefits that Korea has received from Japan and Russia respectively and what may be argued from the past as to the probable benefits that Korea would receive should either the one or the other withdraw from Korea?
It would be presumptuous for us to attempt to answer questions of such moment as these without having much more data than we have. Our interest in the matter is of two kinds, general and particular. We want especially to know what is best for Korea. There are those who say that in any case Korea must lose her autonomy and become a mere appendage of one of the two hostile powers, and they argue that this would be a good thing, on the ground that this country does not contain material out of which a good government can be formed. This sounds much like saying that New York cannot be well governed simply because Tammany is temporarily in power. We believe that material exists in Korea out of which could be built a fairly efficient government. It may be that outside help might be required for a short time while this material was being hunted up [page 18] and the decks cleared for action, but that it could be done we fully believe.
But there is one difficulty in the way. It would be of no use, for instance, to have half a dozen powers guarantee the independence of Korea and then leave her to her own devices. The same difficulties which now oppress her would come again. In order to have anything like order restored in Korea it is necessary that besides having her real independence declared some one or more of the powers should with her consent be appointed to give her the assistance which she needs in order to get things into proper running order. We are talking now of what Korea needs, not of what she seems to want nor what she seems likely to get in the near future.
Some think that to make Korea a buffer state would settle the difficulty yet it takes but a glance to see that Korea is not in a situation to be a buffer state, for she is essential to the plan of Japan’s commercial and industrial expansion and she is essential to the plan of Russia’s territorial aggrandizement in the Far East. If you put a piece of bread between two hungry men one of two things is going to happen; either they will divide it or else one will get the whole of it. Humiliating and unjust as this may be to Korea it is fact and must be faced. And yet this simile is not wholly applicable to the situation; for while the two hungry men want the bread for the same purpose the interests of these two powers in Korea are of an entirely different nature. As everyone knows, Japan desires to see the Korean government established on a progressive basis and to be administered in such a manner that the people shall have the greatest incentive to industry and enterprise, for in this way alone can the resources of the country be developed both for Korea’s good and Japan’s as well. The railroad which the Japanese are building from Fusan to Seoul cannot but be of enormous benefit to the Korean people in spite of the sneers of some who think that the Japanese are intending to use it as an entering wedge for the accomplishment of some purpose inimical to the interests of Korea. The attitude which the Japanese have taken toward the [page 19] matter of coinage is one that is thoroughly in the interests of Korea. Can anyone deny that the Japanese trade with Korea is a valuable thing for this country? And if so anything that tends to destroy that trade is an injury to the country. The demands for the opening of more ports to foreign trade are also in line with this same idea, the opening up of Korea’s resources.
Again, which one of the points of Japan’s policy in Korea is not in direct line with the policy of the open door? Everything she has done in regard to the currency, in regard to opening ports, in regard to the encouragement of good government is as much to the interest of British, American, German and Russian trade as it is to Japanese trade.
Such is Japan’s evident policy in Korea. As to Russia’s policy the public can not be so sure, for Russia seldom explains her policy in advance; but it is natural to suppose that the development of her vast Siberian domain would be the main point in her Eastern policy. In this great and laudable work the whole world without exception wishes her success. Every acre of arable land added to the grain producing area of the world is a distinct triumph. In the development of Siberia the great railroad that Russia has built must play an important part, nor should anyone object to seeing Russia have a commercial outlet on the Yellow Sea. As this is necessary to the development of Siberia she has a right to it; but Russia is not much interested in Korean trade nor in any object that makes for the direct advancement of the Korean people. We look in vain for any evidence of increasing prosperity in Korea due to the moral ascendency which Russia has exercised during the past three years or more. It would be difficult to explain how the present state of Korean finances and government could injure Russia in any way, while on the other hand they are a serious detriment to Japanese trade.
It should be no small consideration with thinking men that what will conduce to Japanese interests in Korea will also conduce to the welfare of the Korean people themselves.
[page 20] If we ask what Russians interests are in Korea we must frankly confess that we do not know. If we take the Russian press as evidence, it would seem that Korea is strategically necessary to Russia. If it is true that the wants to get a port in southern Korea which she handle as she has Port Arthur, than the Russian press is apparently correct. There is no considerable Russian trade in Korea, and geographical considerations seem to point in the same direction as the Russian papers have pointed. In what way the realization of this policy on the part of Russia will benefit Korea it is hard to see. We do not know that any Russian publicist has tried to show how it would help the people of Korea. In the absence of any difinite statement or any evident plan on the part of the northern power it must be left to time to decide. We wish that someone thoroughly acquainted with the Russian side of the question would give to the world the ways in which predominant Russian influence in Korea would be of benefit to the people of the peninsula. We do not doubt there are arguments, but we have never seen than frankly stated and therefore are not in a position to compare them with the Japanese side. We do know that the demands which Japan makes on Korea do not include a single point that will not work as much to the interests of every other treaty power as to Japan herself. If the advocates of Russian predominance in the peninsula can make as good a showing as this, no reasonable man can object.
Odds and Ends.
Lie on the left side
There is a Korean proverb which says “Even if a tiger catches you, if you keep your wits about you, you may live.”This is used when speaking of some great calamity or danger, that there is always some way of escape if one has the wit to find it. The proverb is based upon the general belief that a tiger will not eat a man who lies on [page 21] his left side. This is because tiger corresponds to “West”and dragon to “East.” Now with the head to the north and the feet to the south a man’s left side will be toward the east, the dragon side, and his right side toward the west, the tiger side. So when a tiger catches you by the ear (that is not complimentary as to the size of your ear, but “that is never mind”) and swings you across his shoulder and makes for his den, just do some tall thinking for a few minutes and when the brute drops you on the ground just roll over on your left side and you will be quite safe. He dare not touch you. Just put this in your note book for future reference. It may come in handy .
A fortune-teller’s dilemma.
A high official conceived the idea of going incognito to a blind fortuneteller and having his fortune told. Donning poor garments as a disguise he went to the fortune teller’s house and consulted him. The blind man fumbled his book and then opened it at random. His finger rested on the character 問 which means “to ask”but the 門 means “gate” and the 口 means mouth, so the fortune-teller said, “It is plain that you will become a beggar for he opens his mouth in every man’s gate.” The official smiled, paid the fee and departed: The next day he happened to be talking with the young prince and told him the joke on himself, how he was to become a beggar. The prince laughed with him but then said : “We could have a good joke on that fortune teller aud get some fun out of him. Call him in and make him tell my fortune, and when he opens the book tell him that it is this same character that his finger is on. Then we will see how he gets out of telling me that I will become a beggar.”
They did this very thing, the fortune teller prostrated himself and then opened the book. Aha, he had struck the character 問. “Now what do you make of it my good man? Yesterday you interpreted it for somebody, I believe. Let us see whether you can do as much for me.” The poor fellow saw he was trapped but he thought as quick as lightining and said without even seeming to consider the matter :
[page 22] “Circumstances alter cases. Now you will see that this character 問, if looked at from the left side only, becomes * which means king and if looked at from the other side it is * or king turned around; so from whichever side you are looked upon the beholder will see king all over you. You will surely succceed your royal father on the throne” The two jokers had to laugh at their own discomfiture and as the fortune teller passed out the gate with a substantial reward in his sleeve he muttered to himself: “Its a mighty small hole that a fortune-teller of my experience cannot crawl out of.”
A Korean gentleman never allows a mudang or sorceress to perform her incantations at his house, but in this case there was an exception to the rule. The gentleman’s wife was so anxious to have it that he reluctantly assented : but he was determined to test the truth of the mudang’s professions. So he secretly removed one the heads of the double ended drum that she would use in her incantation, stuffed a tiger skin into the belly of the drum and then replaced the head. The hour came for the ceremony to being. The mudang arrived in all her fantastic toggery, the food and drink were all placed in order on the tables, and there seemed to be no obstacle to the performance of her ghosth’ function. But when the music struck up, the drum, instead of booming out as usual, only emitted a snarl. This called for immediate consideration. The mudang declared that it was because the spirits were displeased that the food was not good enough, and the silk and cotton cloth used in the ceremony were not sufficient. The gentleman said, “Oh, is that all? Well, give her more food and silk, to her heart’s desire.” This was done but still the drum refused to “go.” The mudang then declared that it was because some of the dishes or utensils were dirty. They were all examined and cleaned but still the drum would only snarl. At last a blind exorcist was sent for. He might be able to solve the mystery. He was told what the matter was and heard the sound of the bewitched drum. Then he cast the dice with which he was accustomed to tell fortunes and [page 23] pronounced the following enigma: “When a tiger catches a dog he roars but when a dog tries to catch a tiger there is only a plaintive whine.” When the gentleman heard this he clapped his hands and laughed a full minute. “Take the head off that drum.” It was done, and out rolled the tiger skin. “You see it was the dog that caught the tiger.” For drum-heads are made of dogskin. The mudang was therefore driven away and all the food and silk were given to the exorcist. The blind are proverbially quick of ear and the man’s ready wit probably divined the cause of the trouble and improvised the clever enigma.
The Kobe Chronicle has again attempted to discredit the position taken by this magazine relative to Korean refugees in Japan and has challenged us to the following question: If the Korean government were wholly dominated by the Roman Catholic element and a price were put on the head of every Protestant, would the Japanese government be justified in sending back Protestant refugees to be dealt with by their enemies in Korea? We answer no, and in so answering we would ask the Chronicle on what page of the Review it found the statement that Korean refugees ought to be sent back to Korea. The Chronicle should choose its questions with more care. In the second place we challenge the editor of that journal to show us the page where the Review stated that economic and international law do not apply in the case of Korea. We still affirm that those sciences are not like mathematics; that only their most general laws are universally applicable; that each economic or international complication must be treated as a case by itself, arguments pro and con must be balanced and the solution found in the preponderance of evidence. There are other international laws beside that of asylum and when we said that “considering all the facts of the case and all that has occurred during the last two decades we may be [page 24] allowed to wonder that Japan should show such highmindedness at such a cost,” we were referring to events that it is not pleasant to recall but which the readers of the Chronicle know very well. We said there is no question of the high-mindedness of Japan in giving these men asylum, but if, as we fully believe, Japan is interested in the development and progress of Korea it would be fully as high-minded to ask these men to cross to America and thus relieve Japan of the suspicions of the Korean government which are the main obstacle to Japan’s usefulness in the peninsula.
Yi Chi-yong was made Minister of Foreign Affairs on Dec. 30th1903
On the 20th instant the Korean News Company began the publication of a Daily Bulletin in Seoul, giving telegrams from Tokyo and general news. In case of war they propose to have a number of men with the Japanese army.
About the 21st inst. the Korean Government issued a declaration of strict neutrality in view of the apparent approach of war.
Yi Keun-sang has been appointed Minister to Italy.
On the 22nd a young woman alighted from a chair in front of the palace gate, announced that she was the daughter of Heaven and had come to give the Emperor some good advice as to the proper course to pursue in these troublous times. The police took her in hand. It is rather a pity she was not given a chance!
Yi Yong-ik again became Finance Minister on the 27th inst. And Yun Ung-yul became Minister of War on the 25th.
On the 23rd fifty people departed for Hawaii.
General Ichiji arrived on the 22nd to act as Military Attaché of the Japanese Legation.
Rumors of preparations for a great popular uprising in the south are rife. There is something in them, without doubt, and we are likely to see lively times in the Spring.
A painful accident happened on the Electric road outside the South Gate on the 24th. On a steep grade and frosty track the motorman lost control of the car and it ran into a cartman who had been loudly warned but had insolently refused to budge. A crowd gathered and began to stone the car but United States marines arrived promptly on the scene and dispersed them. The Korean police made no attempt to quell the disturbance.
[page 25] Queen Dowager Hong died on the second instant at the age of seventy-three.
On the fourth inst. the Emperor ordered the Home Office to send a proclamation to all the country districts with commands to make every exertion to put down the robbers which infest the country.
A serious movement has begun in the two Southern provinces of Korea where thousands of ajuns have been banding together and preparing to raise an insurrection. This is considered by well-informed Koreans to be more serious than the Tonghak uprising of 1893 because of the greater intelligence of its partisans.
Cho Min-heui has been appointed Minister to Japan to which place he will soon start from Washington. Yun Hon has been appointed Minister to the United States.
Ko Yung-geun the assassin of U Pom-son in Japan has been condemned to death and his accomplice has been condemend to imprisonment for life.
At the end of 1903 there were 6,400 Japanese residents of Chemulpo.
On Dec. 27th fifty more Koreans started for Hawaii to engage in work on the sugar plantations.
The barley imported by the Japanese is estimated by the Koreans to amount to 20,000 bags.
The Italian Minister early in January intimated to the Foreign Office that as the Korean Government had granted gold mining concessions to various other nationalities it would be proper to grant one to an Italian company.
On January 5th a United States Legation guard of thirty-six men arrived in Seoul. The U. S. gunboat Vicksburg and the transport Zafiro from Manila had arrived in Chemulpo a few days before. A protest was made by the Foreign Office on the ground that the Korean soldiers were sufficient to secure quiet in Seoul. The American Minister replied to the effect that such protection was not deemed sufficient and that a further force would be brought in to guard the property of the Seoul Electric Company’s property.
On Jan. 6th thirty additional Russian soldiers marched up from Chemulpo. This also brought forth a protest from the Foreign Office.
According to custom the Korean people of Seoul donned the mourning garb for the late Queen Dowager and proclamation was sent throughout the country ordering all classes to do the same and to turn their faces toward Seoul and wail.
The night of January 6th was excessively cold and owing to this eight Korean soldiers deserted and fled. The rumors of wholesale desertion on the part of Korean soldiers seems to have been false. These eight men were Pyeng Yang soldiers.
Japanese residents of Fusan are said to number upwards of 13,000.
On the eighth inst. a British Legation Guard of twenty men arrived in Seoul and on the following day the Russian guard was increased by the arrival of forty-five more men.
[page 26] Yi Po-hyun bought 2,000 bags of rice at Chemulpo, transported them by sea to Kang-neung on the eastern coast, and distributed them among people who are suffering for want of food. They cannot praise him highly enough, and demand that he be given office.
Early in January the Japanese brought eleven Gatling guns into Chemulpo and immediately transported them to Seoul.
The Emperor of Japan sent a message of condolence to the Korean Court on the occasion of the death of Queen Dowager Hong.
Six hundred thousand dollars have been appropriated to cover the expenses of the funeral of the Queen Dowager.
The gate of the apartment where the body of the late Queen Dowager lies is guarded day and night by thirteen members of the peddlars guild.
All operations have been suspended both by Japanese and Korean pawn-shops. This entails an enormous amount of suffering on the people, thousands of whom depended upon loans from these places. The suspension is of course due to fears of disturbances.
On Jan. 8th the Emperor put forth an edict stating that the condition of the government was anything but ideal and that there must be a radical change. He ordered that all mudang, fortune-tellers and others of the same ilk be expelled from the palace.
On the 9th inst twenty-two Italian soldiers arrived to act as a legation guard in Seoul.
The impression has prevailed generally among foreigners all through the month that there was more or less danger of Korean insurrection in Seoul. This led to extra precautions on the part of most foreigners. The electric car motormen were under strict orders to go slowly for fear of some accident which might precipitate trouble. The common people have been however very apathetic and the curious tirades of one of the daily native papers seem to have caused very little excitement. The Koreans have seemed unable to realize that the coming of half a dozen legation guards is but a precautionary or preventative measure but the wonder has been of a very mild character.
In Yong-in the owner of a fine bullock refused an offer of 900,000 cash for his beast. The man who made the offer sued the owner before the magistrate for charging so much for the animal! The magistrate gave them both a beating and sent them about their business!
Besides the $600,000 appropriated for the funeral expenses of Queen Dowager Hong, the Emperor donated $10,000 out of his private purse for incidental expenses which the commission may incur.
The members of the Household Department in Tokyo have decided to assume mourning for nine days in honor of the late Queen Dowager.
On the 9th inst. thirty-one more Koreans started for Hawaii.
There are one hundred and six prisoners in the central prison in Seoul .
The Whale-fishing Japanese Company have secured a twelve years extension of their franchise.
[page 27] Nine secondary bereaus and commissions have been abolished for reasons of economy. They are the Famine Relief Bereau, Irrigation Bureau, Government Hospital, the Buddhist Monastery Bureau, Bureau of Decorations, Bureau of Surveys, Imperial Library Bureau, Bureau of Weights and Measures and the Supreme Court. The latter has not been actually abolished but merged into the Law Department,
Hyun Sang-geun, who was sent to Europe last Autunm to raise a loan for Korea, returned via Siberia and arrived in Seoul on the 11th inst. strongly impressed with the might and prestige of Russia. We hear that he told the Emperor that Japan would have no chance against the northern power, but we are unaware of his having made a careful investigation of Japanese military and naval resources.
Directly opposite reports are given of the advice sent by Yi Pomchin, Minister at St. Petersburg, to the Emperor. Some say he advised the Emperor to make friends with the Japanese and others say he advised him to cleave to Russia.
On the 12th inst. Yen 4,000 were appropriated for the support of Prince Eui-wha in America.
Great suffering is being caused in Kong-ju by the failure of the semi-annual fair. People are afraid of highwayman and war rumors are rife; so neither buyers nor sellers came up to the fair and the people of the town find it extremely difficult to get rice at any price. A foreigner recently offered to pay any reasonable figure for a few bags of rice but found it impossible to buy. No one would even name a figure.
Kil Yung su advised the Emperor to place Pyeng-yang soldiers as guards of the palace instead of Seoul men and there would be no possibility of trouble. Hardly complimentary to the Seoul soldiers!
Yi Nam-heui, Supreme Judge in Seoul, imformed His Majesty personally that the Japanese were planning to depose His Majesty and place Prince Eui-wha on the throne. For this breach of etiquette the Judge was immediately imprisoned and if the matter is pressed he may lose his life.
The exodus from Seoul, for fear of trouble, has begun though as yet not many have gone. A few high officials have sent their families and valuables to the country.
The number of Korean policemen in each of the open ports has been lowered to thirty except in Chemulpo and Fusan and at these places forty have been left.
There is evidently some anxiety at home over news of possible danger to foreigners in Seoul, as telegrams have been coming to many private individuals inquiring as to their safety. It is a pity that sensational reports should have been sent home at such a time as this.
On the 14th Sim Sang-hun was appointed Minister of Finance.
On the 13th Ex-Prime Minister Cho Pyungse told His Magisty that in the present disturbed state of things it was necessary first to deprive Yi Yong-ik and Yi Keun-tak of power and then matters could be settled on a safe and satisfactory basis.
The annual stone fights have begun outside the East and West
[page 28] gates. It is rather early for this sort of thing but evidently the people feel more enthusiastic about it than is their custom.
On the 10th inst. Baron Gunzberg removed all his effects from his home in Sa-jik-kol to the Russian Legation .
From the Che-guk Sin-mun.
It has been generally believed by foreigners in Seoul that the editorials lately appearing in the Che-guk Sin-mun are offensive and even threatening to foreigners. If so it is a rather serious matter. We have made a careful investigation of the matter both by translation of the editorials and by interviews with the editor of the paper in question. , In the first place the Editor disclaims any intention of speaking disrespectfully or injuriously about foreigners and he disavows any intention of exciting the populace against them. He grants that what he has written might perhaps cause a little feeling against foreigners among the more ignorant people but he claims that they already had that feeling. If he has increased that feeling it was with no intention of so doing. Whether his statement is a candid one or not we do not know but we give it for what ii is worth. And now let us examine briefly what has been said. In the Jan. 12 issue the editorial bewails the condition of the country, saying that though a new year has begun the people have not prepared for it, that robbers swarm in the country because of the oppression of the prefects, that in the open ports many foreigners come, especially Chemulpo, where foreign solders swarm, that Japan and Russia quarrel over Yongampo regardless of the rights of Korea in the matter, that the whole Korean people seem to be asleep, that many foreign soldiers come to Seoul and the Koreans can see no reason for it. Then comes an expression that has been misinterpreted by foreigners. The Editor says “What are the Korean soldiers good for? Why have they been training all these years?” This has been interpreted to mean that if the Korean soldiers had been good for anything they would have successfully opposed the entrance of foreign soldiers; but it is safe to say that no Korean so understands it. It simply means that if the Korean soldiers had been up to the standard, foreigners would have relied on them for protection instead of sending for foreign soldiers. It is simply a criticism of the Korean army, on the ground that foreigners could not put faith in them, The Editor goes on to ask what the ‘‘peddlars” are good for. He denounces them as useless. If there had been any intention of inciting people to insurrection this hardly would have been said. His next statement is open to rather more objection. He says that foreigners go about the town with glowering faces and evidently intent on serious business while the Koreans slouch along as if cowed. The implication is natural that the foreigners are oppressing the Koreans and doubtless among certain classes this statement might be a cause of additional anti-foreign feeling. The term used in describing the foreigners in this sentence just quoted is that there was sal keui in their looks. This sal keui (**) means “killing [page 29] force.” but this is an hyperbola often used by Koreans in describing the looks of an angry man and so it is not so offensive an expression as its literal force might imply. It is the exact equivalant of our expression “There was murder in his eye.” But even so the sentence is sufficiently offensive, and suggestively so, to excite the people of the lower orders and the Editor is much to blame for indulging in such exaggerations, especially as the facts do not bear him out. There has been no more truculency in the looks of foreigners of late than there has always been. He drew upon his imagination for the whole thing. At such a time as this such statements are doubly reprehensible. He goes on to charge the police with being quite useless, and the people with exchanging falsehoods, (which in view of the above would include his own.) Then after bewailing the fact that there are no officials who will speak the word which will break the deadlock and free the government from the charge of supineness he says there is no man who will shoulder his axe and come forth to help the country . This sounds very incendiary and may be so to some Koreans but very many of the people know that this refers to Choe Ik-byon who in the year 1873, when another high official secured the imposition of a tax upon wood merchants, took an axe. went to the palace gate and placing his written memorial upon the axe waited for it to be presented to His Majesty the present Emperor. The memorial denounced the tax and said “lf my words are not true, take this axe and kill me but if they are true take it and kill the man who proposed this tax.” The editor means there is no man bold and patriotic enough to tell the truth to the Emperor even though it might cost his life. We hold no brief for the editor of the Che-guk Sin-mun and there can be no doubt that his writing in this vein is worse than useless but in common fairness we should give him what benefit of the doubt there may be and in censuring him not follow his own example of exaggeration. But on the 22nd inst. this same editor lashes himself into a verbal frenzy and makes all sorts of absurd charges against the foreigners and gives every evidence of trying to cover up the weakness and pusillanimity of the present officials by an outburst of vituperation against those who because of that very weakness have been obliged to bring in foreign guards to defend themselves. On the whole this attempt on the part of the editor to relieve his pent-up feelings is very foolish, and might be very harmful if the people were in the mood to follow his lead.
A Russian and a French engineer employed in the Korean military shops have been released from service under the Korean Government, their terms of contract having expired.
On the 14th inst. forty-one French naval men arrived in Seoul to act as a Legation guard.
On the 16th inst. sixty-four American marines arrived in Seoul and took up their quarters in the Seoul Electric Company’s building.
The Koreans report that many white hats have been bought by Japanese and their inference is that many Japanese are going out into the country dressed as Koreans.
[page 30] News comes from foreign residents in Pyeng Yang that Korean soldiers and police are breaking into the houses of all the well-to-do people of that city and stealing their goods. The authorities remonstrated but could effect nothing. The soldiers threaten to disband if they are interfered with. The people can get no redress whatever. At the same time the Tong-hak movement is assuming larger and larger proportions and the local government seems almost to be favoring the movement. Foreigners’ houses have not been attacked. Foreigners of long years’ residence in Korea say they have never seen such a state of things in the north. An American missionary was lately driven in from one of the neighboring towns and told that if he showed his face there again he would be killed In this state of things it would not be wondered at that foreigners in the northern city should feel a little uneasy. Our correspondent states positively that the facts as stated, about the soldiers and police, can be fully corroborated.
Many robbers, taking advantage of the frozen river, come across the ice at night and rob houses in the river towns. “Peddlars” have been sent to act as guards for these towns.
There were rumors that the Independence Club was to be revived and so the government sent fifty soldiers to guard the Independence Arch so as to prevent any gathering there. Some former leaders of that Club, so it is reported, desired to start the same movement again under another name, Yu-sin-whe or “Reform Club,” but were warned by the police and gave up the idea.
The machinery for making guns, which was imported from Japan, costs yen 180,000. This is to be paid from the Finance Department by order of the Emperor, but in the present state of the national finances we may confidently expect that there will be a little delay in the payment.
In Musan on the nothern border Koreans failed in an attempt to drive back Manchu robbers, and 394 houses and 19,820 dollars worth of grain were burned.
Pak Chong-yang has succeeded Min Yong-so as Minister of Education. Ku Yung-jo has succeeded Chong Keui-tak as Chief of Police. Yun Eung-yul was made Minister of War on the 23rd.
Because of the severe cold Yi Yong-ik has distributed four hundred dollars among the men of each of the twelve regiments in Seoul.
Great suffering has attended the severe cold of January. Three people froze to death one night and a woman and a baby at her breast were found frozen one morning.
About the 20th inst. it was reported that Russia had suggested to Japan that northern Korea be made a neutral zone and that Japan exercise predominant influence in the south, but that Japan immediately rejected the proposal.
Yun Chi-ho, under orders from the government, came up to Seoul from Mokpo on the 22ud inst. It is generally believed that he will be given an important post in Seoul.
[page 31] Rev. G. L. Pearson of Honolulu Hawaii sends the following for publication, about the Koreans in Hawaii.
The Koreans who have come to Hawaii have found ready employment. With the exception of a few incidents they have received good treatment and they generally are well pleased with their homes, advantages and prospects. A few have come who are not at all fitted for the work, being unused to hard toil, having too little strength or an enfeebled health. A small number of such characters are dissatisfied and are a burden to the Korean community. Men who are unable or unwilling to work find a hard time in Hawaii as do all such per-sons in any country. Nearly all are industrious and are hopeful.
Our public schools are open to Korean children. Where schools are located near plantations many are able to take the opportunity of learning English. The religious work for the Koreans is being done by the Methodist Episcopal Church, there being no organized bodies of Presbyterians or Baptists. The Hawaiian Board of Missions which aflfiliates with the Congregational Church on the main land, is not intending to give any special attention to this work, thus leaving the field to the Methodists. We have organized a class wherever there is any considerable number of Koreans and are doing work under the supervision of the Presiding Elder, by Korean Local Preachers. Exhorters and Bible Teachers. We are giving it our best attention and are hopeful of conserving the work already done for these people and of carrying on the work of evangelization.
It would be a great advantage to me if all protestant Missionaries in Korea, would send me the names, certificates of membership, and advices concerning any of their members, or flock, who may come to Hawaii. This would enable me to more wisely select men for the responsible positions in our societies, to assign believers to their proper classes and to give special attention to the needs they may severally have.
I am pleased to say that the loyalty, zeal, spiritual power, observance of the Sabbath etc., on the part of the Koreans who are here testify to the thorough work of the Missionaries in Korea.
On Jan. 3rd a great fire occurred in Taiku which threatened the whole city but it was brought under control.
Real estate is going up rapidly in Taiku. This is due to the influx of Japanese merchants. The woman’s winter training class of the Presbyterian mission has grown from fifteen to forty. The present governor is not very friendly to Japanese. The report circulated recently that any Korean who sold land or houses to Japanese would be beheaded. The Seoul-Fusan railway passes the city to the south running east and west but does not touch the city proper nor will it necessitate the tearing down of any houses. The station will be not far from the south gate. The missionaries (Protestant) of Taiku have opened a sleeping-room for the beggar boys and some thirty-five enjoy its hospitality. Nothing could be more pitiable than their lot.
[page 33] KOREAN HISTORY.
In spite of the oath that he had taken, the young king built a separate shrine to his father and worshiped at it in the same manner as at the ancestral temple. This was in accord with the letter of the oath, for he religiously refrained from calling his father by that name. He likewise honored the memory of his father by decreeing that if anyone mentioned the fact that he had been enclosed in a box and starved to death it would mean death. He banished the son of the princess who had encompassed his father’s death. The highhanded Hong In-han who had worked so hard to prevent his accession was first banished to Yosan and enclosed in a thorn hedge, and then was poisoned by royal edict.
Being without issue, the king, at the instigation of his mother, took a concubine, the sister of one of his favorites, Hong Kuk-yung. This resulted very unfortunately, for when this concubine died her father was drawn into treasonable operations.
Many of the present customs of Korea date from this reign. The king first made the law that after the closing of the gates, they could not be opened except by special permission from himself.
It was in his first year that the scholar Kwun Chul-sin gathered about him a company of disciples and went to a mountain retreat to study. They possessed one copy of a Christian work. This they diligently studied, and one and all determined to adopt the belief there inculcated. So far as they understood it, they practiced its teachings in secret.
Two years later the king took as a second concubine the daughter of Yun Chang-yun, and Hong the father of the first concubine, because of his opposition to it, was banished .
[page 34] Up to this time very few officials had been drawn from the northern provinces or from Song-do, but now the king decreed that they were as worthy to receive office as any others and said that they should share in the gifts of the government. He ordered that a record be kept of all the decisions in council and that they be preserved in a book called the Il-deuk-rok. Those were days of severe famine in the land and the king did all in his power to relieve the distress, giving from his private treasure large quantities of silver bullion, black pepper and dyewood, things of great value in Korea.
In the year 1783 strange rumors were afloat. It was said that war had been declared against Korea by some foreign power which was about to throw an immense army into the peninsula. No one knew where it was to come from, but many believed it was Japan. The excitement grew so strong that crowds of people fled to the country, and so great was the influx into the southern provinces that real estate rose rapidly in value. Such was the haste of these deluded people that on the road families became separated and children were lost. Out of pity for the latter the king founded an asylum in Seoul for their maintenance.
Yi Tuk-cho of Kyong-ju was one of the men who had accepted the teachings of the Roman Catholic books and in this year he induced a young attaché of the embassy to Peking to look up the missionaries there and get such light as he could on the subject. This young man, Yi Sung-hun. met at Peking the Portugese Alexaudré de Govea of the Franciscan order. He accepted Christianity and was baptized under the name of Pierre. He brought back with him many books, crosses, images, and other religious emblems. Some of these he gave to Yi Tuk-cho who redoubled his studies and at the same time began to do some proselyting. Two of his most celebrated converts were two brothers Kwun Ch’ul-sin and Kwun Il-sin of Yang-geun, thirty miles from Seoul. This town is called the birth place of Roman Catholicism in Korea. Yi Tuk-cho took the baptismal name of Jean Baptiste and Kwun Il-sin that of Francois Xavier. The propagation of the Christian faith soon began in Seoul and from there rapidly spread in the south.
In 1785 the Minister of Justice began active operations [page 35] against the new faith and in the third moon of that year a courtier memorialized the king on the subject. This caused the defection of many of the converts.
In 1786 Kim Yi-so informed the king that when envoys came back from China they brought in their train many Catholic books, which caused a “conflagration” in the country, and he denounced it as a bad religion. He .said the books were flooding the land and that the only way to stop it was to make Eui-ju, on the border, a customs port and have all baggage strictly examined before being allowed to pass.
Many Chinese had settled on Sin Island off Eui-ju but the Koreans on the adjacent mainland resented it. They collected a considerable band of men and crossed to the island where they burned all the houses of the settlers and destroyed all their property. When the king heard of it he condemned it as a brutal outrage. This year was marked by one of the most destructive scourges that ever visited the country. Cholera swept the land from end to end. It is asserted that 370,979 people perished, among whom was the infant Crown Prince. The government found it necessary to undertake the work of interment The king gave out from the dispensary 29,000 pills, and in Seoul alone there were 8,149 recoveries. Knowing as we do the frightful ravages of this disease when it takes a virulent turn, the fact that there were over 8,000 recoveries in Seoul indicates that there must have been at least 60,000 deaths. Probably this was more than half the population of the city at that time. It was during this same year that the great mound in Kang-dong, P’yung-an Province, was found. It is some 680 feet in circumference. It was called, from the first, the grave of the Tan-gun, though there is of course no evidence to show that this is more than the merest fancy.
The king had a half brother named Prince Eun-on for whom he had a great affection; but Hong Kuk-Yung whose daughter had been the king’s first concubine and had violently opposed a second union, now conspired with two other choice spirits with a view to putting Prince Eun-on on the throne. The vigilant Queen Mother discovered the plot and the conspirators were executed. All likewise demanded the death of the young prince but to this the king would not [page 36] listen. He was forced to banish him to Quelpart, but a short time after had him brought back as far as Kang-wha, where comfortable quarters were provided for him.
The king interdicted the use of silk excepting by very high officials and by very old people. He set up stones to mark the place where the great-grandfather of T’a-jo Ta-wang had lived, where his grandfather had fished and where that king himself had once lived, in Ham-gyung Province. Someone found in P’yung ch’ang, Ham-gyung Province, the grave of T’a-jo Ta-wang’s great-grandmother and the king had it repaired and guarded.
Up to that date the women had been accustomed to wear the hair in a great bunch on top of the head as female professional mourners do to-day in Korea. Large amounts of false hair were used and it was decorated with long pins and with flowers. It is said that a full headdress cost as much as the furnishings of a house. The king ordered a change in this expensive custom, and since that day only mourners and palace women have been allowed to wear them.
The city of Su-wun dates its importance from the year 1789, for at that time the king removed his father’s grave to that place and went there several times to sacrifice. He secretly called his banished brother from Kang-wha, but when his mother learned of it she made such an ado about it that he was fain to send him back. At Ham-heung, near the ancestral seat of the dynasty, there was an immense tree, so large that ten men holding each other’s hands could but just encircle it. The shadow which it cast was “A hundred furrows wide.” So goes the story. The king had it enclosed in a wall, as being the place where his great ancestor practiced archery.
The year 1791 will always be memorable for the persecution of the Roman Catholics. During the preceding year the Roman Catholic converts had sent a man to Peking to arrange for the coming of a priest who could administer the sacraments, for the Koreans had been strictly forbidden by the Catholic authorities in China to administer them among themselves without the services of a regularly consecrated priest. At the same time certain important questions about ancestor worship were asked. A priest was promised to the Korean [page 37] church but the answers to the questions about ancestor worship were very unsatisfactory to the Koreans and in consequence there were many defections. It is much to the credit of the Roman propaganda that from the very first it set its face hard against the practice of ancestor worship. In the fifth moon it is said the, “flame of Roman Catholicism burned high.” In other words it was discovered then what had been going on quietly for many years. Two men of Chin-san in Chul-la Province were caught and killed because they had burned their ancestral tablets. It was only after long discussion and with great hesitation that the order was given for their decapitation, and at the very last moment, after the men had already been carried to the place of execution, the king changed his mind and sent a reprieve; but it was too late. The king called the new religion not Ch’un-ju-hak or “Religion of the Lord of Heaven,” but Sa-hak or “The Deceiving Religion.” The Minister Chon Che-gong advised the king to annihilate all Roman Catholics, but the king answered, “We must do it by elevating Confucianism.” He had found the only rational way to deal with religious differences. He said, in substance, let the fittest survive. This is all that Christianity asks in any land, and the opposition of it by force always has been and always will be an acknowledgment of inferiority. The king knew well that China was the source from which the new influences came and he made a very strict law against the bringing across the border of Christian books. An edict was promulgated threatening with punishment all who did not deliver up their Christian books within twenty days, and the prefect of Chin-san, where the two men hid been working, was cashiered and forty-nine other prefects were degraded one or two degrees, because Christian converts were numerous in their districts. The Roman Catholic writers attribute the numerous defections at this time to the entire lack of pastoral care, the absence of the sacraments and the paucity of Christian literature.
The king did not live up to his advanced ideas about using physical force to combat Christianity, for in the eleventh moon of this year four high officials who had embraced Christianity were seized and put to death, together with a considerable number of the common people.
[page 38] In 1792 the pope formally put the care of the Korean church in the hands of the Bishop of Peking.
Sacrifices were offered at the tombs of Tangun, Ki-ja, Su-ro-wang (the founder of Karak) and of T’a-jo Ta-wang. Whether this was done to aid in combatting Christianity we are not told but it is not improbable. This was a time of general prosperity among the people and it witnessed a rapid increase in the population of Korea. These things were evidenced by the strong colonizing spirit which sprang up. Thousands flocked northward to the banks of the Yalu and to the islands on the coast, and the area of arable laud was largely increased. Two years later this period of prosperity terminated in a terrible famine in all the southern and central provinces, and the government was obliged to dispense 280,000 bags of rice among the sufferers. This same year envoys from the Liu Kiu Islands were well received. The King told them that two hundred years before Liu Kiu officials had been given honorary titles by the king of Korea. In view of the friendly relations that had always existed between Korea and these islands, the envoys were feasted and sent off in grand style. Late in this same year, 1794, the Chinese Roman Catholic priest Tsiou crossed the Yalu and entered Korea. The government was aware of it and his arrest was ordered, but he escaped from Seoul in disguise. Two of his companions were taken, and as they refused to give information as to his whereabouts they were immediately put to death. At the time of his coming the Catholics estimate that there were 400 believers in Korea, but within a very few years the number increased to 6,000.
The year 1796 was signalised by a most important event in the field of letters. In the beginning of the dynasty a fount of 100,000 pieces of moveable copper types had been cast, and these had been supplemented soon after by 200,000 more. Now the king began to add to them. First he put out 50,000 and a year later he added 150,000 more; then 80,000 more were made, and moveable wooden types were made to the number of 320,000. Already during this reign the following works had appeared. “The Gradation of Penalties,” “A Commentary on the Chinese Classics,” “The Proper Conduct of the king,” “The Record of the Decisions in Council,” [page 39] “On Korean Customs,” “On Military Tactics,” “On Forms of Official Correspondence,” “On the Science of Government.” These were now followed by several editions of military and Confucian works, one of which was a digest of all the Confucian Classics in ninety-nine volumes. The King was a great lover of books and gathered all the best books that could be procured. One work whose publishing he superintended in person reached the modest number of 191 volumes.
The Minister of Finance advised the minting of five-cash pieces but all the officials united in a protest against it and advised retrenchment as the alternative. In this they were right, for the policy of meeting a deficit by minting money could not but be disastrous.
A peculiar plague .... a peculiar remedy. . . . a new king . . . varions reforms. . . .beginning of the policy of Roman Catholic opposition . . . Christianity and politics. . . .causes of opposition. . . .prisons full. . . . Chinese evangelist killed. . . . a traitorous letter intercepted .... end of the persecution. . . .conflagration . . . eight severe charges . . . the miners’ rebellion . . . .siege of Chong-ju . . . . the mine explodes . . . Catholics send to Peking for a priest. . . a long list of calamities. . . . cholera. . . .taxes remitted . . . Europeans fail to enter Korea . . . nine years’ famine .. terrible suffering... a new king . . . reform . . .French priests enter Korea . . . the persecution of 1839 . . . the first French naval expedition against Korea . . . The Koreans answer the French charges . . . . a new king . . . reforms . . . .rapid spread of Christianity . . . . consternation upon hearing of the fall of Peking. . . . a noteworthy memorial . . . panic . . . a good opportunity lost . . . a women’s riot.
In 1799 a peculiar plague broke out in P’yeng-yang and spread with great rapidity. It began with fever and ague, accompanied by a cough, and death was very sudden. The king decided that if people so afflicted should eat beef they would recover. So he ordered cattle to be killed and the beef to be distributed among the people. The plague suddenly ceased and the people have always believed that it was the [page 40] marvelous acumen of the king that enabled him to see the remedy and stop the ravages of the disease.
Early in 1800 he made his son heir to the throne, and none too soon, for in the sixth moon he sickened and died. It is said that his death was caused by his mourning over the terrible fate of his father, whose cruel and untimely death preyed upon his mind. Others say that the cause of his death was a malignant boil.
The infant king, known by his posthumous title of Sunjo Ta-wang, was of too tender an age to undertake the duties of royalty and so the government was administered during his minority by his grandmother, the woman who had wielded such a strong influence over his father. She began by instituting various reforms. Outside the West Gate, which was then some distance to the west of the present New Gate, there was a monastery where sorceresses and fortune-tellers congregated. The Queen Mother drove them all out and razed the monastery to the ground. The tax by which the palace body-guard was kept up was very distasteful to the people and it was now remitted. Up to this time the government medical dispensary had been supported by revenue in money or herbs from the country, but this tax was also remitted. If we may believe the records when they say that she freed all the government slaves, we can not but confess that in some directions at least this Queen Regent was of exceeding liberal mind.
It is from the year 1801 that we may date the determined and systematic opposition on the part of the government against the Roman Catholic propaganda in the peninsula. Two other factions had grown up in Seoul, the Si and the Pyuk. The latter were violent opponents of the new religion but they had been held in check by the neutral attitude of the late king. But now he was dead, and the Queen Regent, being a member of that faction, determined to give full rein to the anti-Christian prejudices of her partisans. It must be remembered that the Koreans were extremely sensitive to outside influences. The terrible invasion of the Japanese on the one hand and of the Manchus on the other had made the Koreans hate all suggestions of commerce with the outside world, and they sedulously avoided every possible contact [page 41] with foreigners. This is one of the main causes of the opposition to Christianity. But besides this, they had been told that Roman Catholicism struck at the very foundation of the state and was more than likely to assume a political aspect, a charge which, from the very claims which it puts forth to universal temporal as well as spiritual sovereignty, would be somewhat hard to refute. We can scarcely wonder then that there was severe opposition to it. It was looked upon as a danger which menaced the state. It is said that Roman Catholicism had assumed large proportions in Korea. Many were now seized and put to death. Among them were eleven high officials. Release was granted in case the accused would consent to curse Christ. The agents of this persecution went everywhere haling forth believers from city and village. Soon the prisons were running over. Eleven men were executed in April and fourteen in the following month. It is said that two princesses who had adopted the foreign faith were put to death. It was at this time that Tsiou, the Chinese evangelist, whom the Koreans call Chu Mun-rao, was seized and put to death outside the Little West Gate. He had at first fled north to the Yalu and was on the point of crossing, when he suddenly thought better of it, turned back, gave himself up and heroically met his death.
A Korean named Whang Sa-yong had been instrumental in bringing this Chinaman to preach the faith to his fellowcountrymen. Now that the evangelist was executed this Whang sent out a letter to the European residents of China asking that a military expedition be gotten up to come to the shores of Korea, overthrow the dynasty and set up another in sympathy with the Christian faith. This letter was intercepted, the man seized and cruelly torn to pieces. As to the accuracy of these statements it would be rash to vouch. The contents of that letter may or may not have been what is generally believed by the Koreans, but judging from the active interest which European governments rightly take in missionaries from their shores, it is not unlikely that the letter contained substantially what is here stated. The persecution terminated the following year when the government ordered the execution of those already apprehended but ordered that no more Christians be proceeded against. Between three and [page 42] four hundred people had perished and the church seemed to have been crushed.
It was in this year 1803 that a terrible conflagration swept P’yong-yang, and a thousand houses were destroyed. It was repeated the following year, and it is asserted that almost the entire city was destroyed.
Upon the death of the Queen Regent in 1805 the last remnant of persecution ceased and even the law which prohibited the import of books was allowed to remain a dead letter. Corruption in government circles ran riot. The state of things is well epitomized in a memorial which was sent in at this time, (1) The Ministers spend all their time reading books. (2) Nepotism and bribery are the rule rather than the exception. (3) The judges sit and wait for bribes. (4) The examiners of the candidates’ papers receive money in advance, and merit can make no headway against cupidity. (5) The censors have been struck dumb. (6) The prefects do nothing but extort money from the people. (7) Luxury saps the strength and wealth of the land. (8) The whole commonwealth is diseased and rotten to the core.
The year 1811 is marked by an uprising in the north, where Hong Kyong-na attempted to set up a kingdom of his own. He was a resident of P’yung-an Province and was a man of enormous wealth. He was disaffected against the government because the men of his section were discriminated against in the distribution of offices; so he conferred with the miners who were engaged in digging gold in various places, and he told them an exaggerated story of how ill they were being treated by the government. He ended by proposing that, as he had enough money for them all, they set up a kingdom of their own. The hardy miners, 5,000 in number, accepted the proposal with alacrity and war was on foot. This company of undrilled but hardy miners were formidable and at first carried everything before them. They first took the town of Chongju, putting to death the prefect and his whole family. When news of this reached Seoul the king appointed Yi Yohon as general-in-chief against the rebels. Five thousand soldiers were given him with which to do the work. He acted in a characteristic manner, settled himself comfortably at the governor’s house outside the New Gate and called it the [page 43] headquarters From that point he sent to the front Generals Su Kum-bo, Kim Kye-on and Pak Keui-p’ung. Meanwhile the rebels were carrying everything before them. Ch’ul-san, Ka-san, Song-chun, Yong ch’un, Pakch’un and Son-ch’un fell in quick succession. All the government provisions and arms fell into their hands. The main camp of the rebels was in the vicinity of An-ju and they wished to take that place. Here they met with strenuous opposition and it was only after a desperate struggle that they ever took the town. It took ten days to reduce the place; but the back bone of the revolt was broken before the government troops from Seoul arrived on the scene. The various captains and local commanders joined their forces, and by the time the government troops had collected in Pyung-yang the rebels had been driven into their last remaining fortress, Chong-ju, and were being held in siege. During the retreat of the rebels four of Hong’s lieutenants were captured and, being sent to Seoul, were there summarily executed. The reduction of Chong-ju by siege was a work of some time, and the king becoming impatient, supplanted Gen. Pak Kye-p’ung and put Gen. Yu Hyo-wun in his place. The latter immediately decided to attempt to blow up the town of Chong-ju. Constructing a fence, or barrier of some kind, a hundred and fifty paces from the wall, he began, under cover of this, to mine the wall, supporting the passage with beams of wood. When he had extended the passage well under the wall he placed a large amount of powder in it and attached a long fuse. After igniting the fuse the soldiers all hastened out of the mine. No explosion followed. No one dared to go in, for fear that the fuse might be burning slowly and that the mine might explode while they were within. After waiting two days, and finding no one who would venture in, Gen. Yu himself entered and found that the fuse had become wet. He remedied the difficulty and soon there was a tremendous explosion that tore down a long stretch of the wall and buried many of the garrison in the debris. The place was soon taken. Hong was caught, “The Man who Would be King,” and his head was sent to Seoul.
The Christians had now begun to recover in some measure from the terrible persecution of 1801 and a man was sent to [page 44] Peking to urge that a qualified priest be sent to Korea, but the Peking church itself was in great vicissitudes and no help could be promised.
From this time on the reign was one long list of calamities which followed thick and fast upon each other. In 1813 there was a serious rebellion on the island of Quelpart; in 1814 occurred one of those fearful famines that sometimes happen in the southern provinces; this was followed by a flood in Kyung-sang Province which wrecked thousands of houses and cost many lives; Seoul was without rice and the government had to open its granaries and sell at starvation rates; 414,000 bags of grain were distributed to the sufferers in the country and 15,000.000 cash, 5,000 pounds of dye-wood and 500 pounds of black pepper were donated toward relief. The next year thousands who had been made destitute by the famine flocked to Seoul and the government had to feed them till the barley crop was harvested; then the native fever, a kind of typhus, broke out and mowed the people down, and the government had to erect pest houses for their accommodation. In 1816 two thousand houses fell in a freshet in Ch’ung-ch’ung Province and the government gave timber to help the people rebuild. The year 1821 beheld one of the most terrible scourges of cholera that the country ever experienced. It began in the north, and sweeping southward soon involved the capital. Ten thousand people died in Seoul in ten days. In the south it was equally destructive. The government was obliged to appoint a commission to attend to the interment of the dead bodies along the road. The following year it broke out again with unbated fury. Houses were built at intervals along the roads, by the government, for the sake of those who might be struck down with the plague while traveling and gangs of men were kept busy along the main road burying the dead. It even crossed to the island of Quelpart where two thousand people died. In 1824 the government had to remit 69,300 bags of revenue grain in the north because of the depredations of robber bands.
In 1827 the Crown Prince was appointed deputy king and the same year a son was born to him. But troubles continued. The government was obliged to remit taxes of seaweed, salt, ginseng and fish in Kangwun Province. The [page 45] following year a terrible freshet swept away whole villages in Ham-gyung Province and the king sent large quantities of grain to feed the destitute there.
Still troubles multiplied thick and fast. In 1830 the Crown Prince died. He is the grandfather of the present Emperor of Korea. The son who had been born to him is known as the Ta wun gun, who died in the spring of 1898. The building in which the body of this Crown Prince was placed burned to the ground and nothing but the charred bones of the prince were recovered. Two years later, in 1832 an English vessel appeared off Hong-ju and its captain, Basil Hall, sent the king a letter saying that he had come to trade, but the king refused permission. As the flag of the ship bore the device “Religion of Jesus Christ,” some Roman Catholic converts boarded her, but when they found that they were protestants they beat a hasty retreat. It is said that several boxes of books were landed and that some of them were sent to the king, who promptly returned them. The foreigners who made this attempt to enter Korea were Gutzlaff and Lindsay.
During this year there were destructive fires and floods, but the greatest calamity of all was a famine that began at that time and continued for nine successive years, each year being accompanied with cholera. It is said that bodies were piled in heaps inside the South Gate. Many people are still living who remember that terrible time. The next year, in addition to famine and plague, the palace burned down. In the following year there was a devastating epidemic of native fever in Seoul, and a flood in Eui-ju which wrecked 2,000 houses. That summer, the people driven wild with hunger mobbed the government granaries but found nothing in them. They laid the blame on the Prime Minister and threatened his life. He fled precipitately to the country.
In the last moon of 1834 the king died and his grandson a boy nine years old came to the throne. He is known as Hon jong Ta-wang. His grandmother Kim became regent. She is known as Sunwun Whang-ho. She immediately began a work of reform. The law that made the relatives of prefects’ clerks liable to punishment for their crimes was abrogated. Many burdensome taxes were remitted. The government [page 46] revenue collectors were kept to a strict account for all the monies passing through their hands. A conspiracy, headed by one Nam Ong-jung, was put down with a strong hand. The people were commanded not to slaughter their cattle for food, for the only hope for future crops was the cattle, without which the land could not be tilled. All prefects were commanded to have regular office hours during which they should attend to government business exclusively.
In 1831 Pope Gregory XVI had made Korea a bishopric and appointed M. Brugniere as Bishop. A Chinaman named Yu who was then in Europe was appointed to accompany him to Korea This man Yu went ahead and found means of entering Korea secretly. M. Bruguiere worked three years in the attempt to enter the country by way of the north across the Yalu and at last died on the very border. Yu who had preceeded him desired to hold supreme power in the Korean church, and so put obstacles in the way of the entrance of the Bishop. But in the following year Pierre Philibert Maubant, who had been appointed to Korea, succeeded in entering the country and began work in Seoul at once, but of course in secret. By 1837 two other French priests had arrived, including Bishop Imbert. It is said that at the time of his arrival there were 9,000 adherents of the Roman Catholic church.
While the king was still but fourteen years old, in 1839, there occurred a cruel persecution of the Catholics. Three foreigners were in Korea, as we have seen, and they were known to the Koreans as Pom Se-hyung, Na-ba Do-ru and Chong-a Kak-bak-i.
The persecution began as usual with a change of ministry. Yi Chi-on became Prime Minister. He hated Christianity and averred that the reason why there were so many Christians was that the work of extermination had not been thoroughly carried out in 1801. He demanded a house to house inspection. This was done and soon the prisons were full to overflowing. Hundreds were cruelly beaten, but the yamen runners were not allowed to loot the houses of the prisoners, which cooled their ardor not a little. Finally the three foreigners were arrested. Being ordered to leave the country they firmly refused. Thereupon they were declared high criminals and were executed on Sept. 21st, 1839. This was [page 47] followed by still severer persecutions and even the Koreans themselves grew tired of the horrors that were enacted. It is said that seventy were decapitated and that sixty died of beating and strangulation. This is but a fraction however of those who perished in consequence of this persecution.
The last ten years of the reign were marked principally by events connected with the Roman Catholic propaganda. In 1844 two more French priests entered the country by way of Quelpart after a most difficult and hazardous passage from China in a Korean junk. Two years later the French government sent a message to Korea by a gun-boat, complaining of the death of the three Frenchmen and threatening her with punishment if these cruel actions were continued. This only excited the Koreans the more against Christianity, for it seemed to imply that Roman Catholicism had behind it a temporal power, and was therefore of political significance. In consequence of this a new outbreak occurred which cost the lives of several more Koreans, while the two priests were obliged to hide away very closely in the country.
In the summer of 1847 two French boats, the frigate La Gloire and the corvette La Victorieuse set sail from the Gulf of Pechili to go to Korea and ascertain what had been the result of the former letter. These two boats both struck a mud-bank and when the tide went down they broke in two. The crews to the number of 600 escaped to the neighboring island of Kogeum off the province of Chulla, and a pinace was immediately despatched to Shanghai for aid. The Koreans gave every assistance in their power and supplied them with food and other necessaries, and even offered to provide boats to take the men back to China. In fact the action of the Korean government was most creditable throughout. An English ship happened to come by and it carried the survivors all back to China. The Korean government, fearing further visits from the French, decided to answer the letter of the previous year. It was couched in the following terms:
“Last year we received a letter from the foreigners. It was addressed to the ministers of this realm and read as follows : ‘Three of our countrymen, Imbert, Chastan and [page 48] Maubant, have been put to death by you. We come to demand why you have killed them. You will say perhaps that your law forbids foreigners entering your country, but if Chinese or Manchus should happen to enter your realm you would not kill them, but you would have them carried back to their own country. Why then did you not treat these men the same way? If they had been convicted of murder, sedition or a like crime we would have nothing to say, but they were innocent, and in condemning them unjustly you have committed a grave injury against the French government.’ To this letter we beg to reply as follows : In 1839 there were arrested here certain strangers who were brought into the country at a time unknown to us. They wore Korean clothes, they spoke the Korean language, they traveled by night and slept by day; they veiled their faces, concealed their whereabouts and consorted with men whom we consider rebels, godless men and enemies of the government. When brought before the tribunal they claimed that their names were Pierre No and Japanese Gang. Are these the men you refer to? When interrogated, they said nothing about being Frenchmen, and even if they had we could not have sent them back, for we did not know where your country is. What could we do but apply our law, which forbids secret entrance into our kingdom? On the other hand, their conduct in changing their names and wearing Korean dress shows that they had ulterior motives, and they cannot be compared to those who have been shipwrecked upon our shores. Such men we save if possible and aid to send back home. Such is our law. Had your fellowcountrymen been shipwrecked upon our coast, they would have received precisely the same treatment as Chinese, Japanese or Manchus under like circumstances. You say that these men were killed without cause and that we have committed a grave offense against the French government. This is most astonishing. We have never had any communication with France. We do not know even how far she is from Korea. What motive could we possibly have for injuring her? How would you act if a foreigner should enter your country secretly and in disguise and do what you consider evil? Would you leave him alone? If a Chinaman or a Manchu should come here and do as your people did they would be treated in
THE KOREA REVIEW
The Russo-Japanese War.
The vexed question has at last been settled and war has begun. But this brings up another question. How will it end? The impatient onlooker will attempt to sum up the chances on one side and on the other and will be eager to catch at every event however insignificant which gives any indication of the actual ability of either of the belligerents. It is claimed by some that Japan is not what she was in 1894 and the counter claim is made that Russia is not what she was in the days of the Crimean war. The letter of each of these statements may be taken for granted but the inference that neither power is as strong as she once was must be put to the test before it can be accepted.
In 1895 Japan, by virtue of her victory over China took possession of the Liao-tung peninsula. This was a severe blow to the settled policy of Russia who, as has been abundantly proved since, intended to become mistress of the whole of Manchuria. On the plea of preserving the integrity of China, Russia succeeded in securing the cooperation of France and Germany, whereby Japan was forced to give up the conquered territory for a money consideration. Unfortunately British sympathies were largely with the Chinese in that war and they looked with more or less complaisancy upon the forced retrocession of the Liao-tung peninsula. Had the British known what they know now [page 50] this never would have happened except at the price of war. Japan in actual possession could have beaten back the Russian forces on land while the Japanese and British fleets combined would have prevented any danger from France and Germany.
From the moment Japan left Manchuria, Russia began to do the very thing which she had urged as the cause for the dislodgment of the victorious troops of the Mikado. This in itself was a direct insult to Japan and an insult as well to France and Germany, unless they were privy to the ulterior motives of Russia, and this, at least in the case of Germany, we cannot believe.
This we may confidently claim to be the cause of the present war; but not merely because it wounded the vanity of the Japanese. It surely did that, but the continued encroachments of Russia upon the sovereignty of China also menaced the commercial success of the Japanese. The Russians attacked them at two vital points, their national honor and their national prosperity. But in addition to this the subjects of the Czar at the capital of Korea began to make use of the most corrupt officials at court and through them opposed Japanese commerce at every possible point, encouraged the continuation of a debased coinage which was destroying Japanese trade, caused the Korean Government to stultify itself by forbidding the use of the Japanese bank notes and then making an abject apology therefor, and in every possible way thwarted the legitimate operations of the Japanese. Furthermore they made continual demands for exclusive rights in different Korean ports and by cajolery and intimidation made a secret agreement whereby Russia encroached upon Korean sovereignty in the harbor of Yongampo. The evident policy of Russia was to supplant Japan in Korea, and no reasonable person can fail to see that it was their ultimate plan to add Korea to the map of Russia. To say, therefore, that Japan struck the first blow in this war is the same as saying that a man is the aggressor because he knocks up the hand of a burglar who is reaching for his throat. The cause of this war, therefore, was the necessity laid upon Japan to safeguard [page 51] her own legitimate interests and her life itself by checking the encroachments of Russia upon Chinese and Korean territory. This at least is what we deem to be its purpose.
Before submitting her cause to the arbitrament of the sword Japan has exerted every effort to make Russia define her intentions in the Far East. As the latter had leased Manchuria from China and then, upon the expiration of the extreme limit set by herself, had refused to execute either the letter or the spirit of her solemn engagements it became necessary not only for Japan but for other powers as well that Russia should be nailed down to some definite proposition, and set a limit to her ambition. For months Japan, with a patience which elicited the admiration of the world, kept plying Russia with pertinent questions until at last it was revealed that Russia proposed to deal with Manchuria as she wished and would consult no one but China about it. In the second place she would concede Japanese interests in southern Korea only and then only as Japan would engage not to act in that sphere as Russia is acting in Manchuria. All this time the Japanese people had been clamoring for war; they wanted to get at the throat of their manifest foe, but the Government in a masterly way held them in check, kept its own secrets so inviolable as to astonish the most astute diplomatists of the day, and at last when the proper moment arrived it declared itself for war without having weakened the enthusiasm of the people by an ounce weight and at the same time without giving the outside grumblers the least opportunity to hint that she had given way to popular importunity. Nothing could be saner or less sensational than her action throughout.
At last Japan communicated to Russia her irreducible minimum and one would think that even the blind could see that war was certain to follow, and follow soon. It was the one subject of conversation throughout the Far East. It is safe to say that everybody except the Russians felt sure that the time had come, but even then, if there is any truth in direct evidence, the great majority [page 52] of Russians laughed the matter aside as impossible. The Japanese had shown such moderation and self-control that the Russians had apparently counted it for hesitation; so that when the moment came for action and Japan sprang upon her like a tigress robbed of her whelps Russia cried loudly that she had not been notified. She must be formally notified, she must be given twenty-four hours in which to get under cover! What did they suppose the Foreign Office had handed back to Baron Rosen his credentials for? This took place at least as early as the morning of the seventh. Notice had already been given to the powers that negotiations had been broken off. Diplomatic relations were broken off on Saturday the sixth and on that same evening the Japanese Minister left St. Petersburg. This was over forty hours before the Japanese committed any hostile act against Russia. Even had the Japanese refused to send notification of this to the Russian Minister in Seoul it could have been sent straight to Port Arthur from St. Petersburg and the boats lying in Chemulpo harbor could have been notified in time to retire from their dangerous position. The Russian complaint that the Japanese made no formal declaration of war and sent no notification falls to the ground. In these days, as everyone knows, the formal withdrawal of a minister is tantamount to a declaration of war. The hour Minister Kurino left St Petersburg the two powers were virtually at war with each other. If the Russian authorities thought there was no hurry about warning their isolated warships it was their own lookout and they have no cause to complain because their dilatoriness cost them two war vessels, one of which was among their fastest cruisers. But under any circumstances, granting, for the sake of argument, that Japan acted with undue promptness, what business has Russia to try to hold Japan to the letter of the law when she herself has broken every canon of international justice in her dealings with Manchuria? The proverb that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones applies with peculiar force at this point; and while we do not believe that Japan overstepped [page 53] the rules of international propriety by her promptness we are free to confess that there would have been some excuse if she had.
The Battle of Chemulpo.
It was on the sixth and seventh that reports circulated in Seoul that the Japanese were landing large bodies of troops at Kunsan or Asan or both. These rumors turned out to be false, but beneath them was the fact that a fleet was approaching Chemulpo. The question has been insistently asked why the Russian Minister did not inform the commanders of these Russian vessels and see to it that they were clear of the harbor before these rumors were realized. The answer as given is that the Russian Minister had no control over these boats. They had their orders to remain in Chemulpo and there they must stay. One would think that there would be at least enough rapport between the civil and military (or naval) authorities to use the one in forwarding the interests of the other.
Even yet the Russians did not appreciate the seriousness of the situation, but they decided that it was time to send notice to their authorities in Port Arthur of what was rumored at Chemulpo. So the small gunboat Koryetz made ready to move out. Her captain, Belaieff proposed to the Russian Consul that the Russian steamship Sung’ari, which was in port, should go with the Koryetz and thus enjoy her protection, but the agent of the company which owned the steamship strongly objected to her leaving the neutral port at such a time. He evidently realized in part the acuteness of the situation. So the Sungari remained at her anchorage and the Koryetz steamed out of port at two o’clock in the afternoon. Now, the harbor of Chemulpo is a somewhat peculiar one, for in one sense it is land-locked and in another it is not. It is formed by islands between which there are many openings to the open sea, but most of these are so shallow that ships of medium draught do not dare attempt them. There is but one recognized entrance and that is from the southwest, or between that and the south. This entrance is several miles wide and in the center of it lies Round Island. When the Koryetz [page 54] arrived at the exit of the harbor she suddenly found herself surrounded by torpedo-boats. The only witnesses of what occurred at this point are the Japanese and the Russians and we can only give their accounts. The Russians say that the Japanese launched four torpedoes at the Koryetz, none of which took effect. One man affirms that a torpedo came straight toward the Koryetz and when within ten feet of her side sank. Another statement is that a shot was fired on board the Koryetz but it was a mere accident! The Japanese claim that the Koryetz fired first. If we try to weigh the probabilities it seems impossible that the torpedoes of the Japanese should have missed the Koryetz if the torpedo-boats were as near as the Russians claim. On the other hand the admission on the part of a single Russian that the first gun was fired on the Koryetz even though by accident, is rather damaging, for it is more than singular that an accident should have happened at that precise time. As the cow-boy said, “Accidents don’t happen in the West — leastways not with guns.”
In any care it makes little difference who began the firing. The Japanese had already seized the Russian steamer Mukden in the harbor of Pusan and the war had begun. The Japanese doubtless held with Polonius, as quoted by Terrence Mulvaney, that if it is necessary to fight it is well to hit the enemy “fur-rst and frequint.”The Koryetz turned back to her anchorage and the Russians became aware of the extreme precariousness of their position. Whatever attitude one may take toward the general situation it is impossible not to extend a large degree of sympathy to these Russians personally. Through no fault of their own they were trapped in the harbor and found too late that they must engage in a hopeless fight in order to uphold the honor of the Russian flag. But even yet it was not sure that the neutrality of the port would be ignored by the Japanese. Lying at anchor among neutral vessels in a neutral harbor, there was more or less reason to believe that they were safe for the time being.
About four o’clock in the afternoon of February eighth, which fell on Monday, three Japanese transports [page 55] entered Chemulpo harbor from the south, convoyed by cruisers and torpedo-boats. They seemingly took no notice of the two Russian boats lying at anchor and were evidently sure that the Russians would not fire upon the transports. It would be interesting to know whether the Japanese were relying upon the declared neutrality of the port in thus venturing or whether they felt sure that their own superior strength would keep the Russians still, or whether, again, they were certain that the Russians had orders not to fire the first gun. But it is bootless to ask questions that can never be answered. Here is where the assailant has the advantage. He can choose the time and method of his attack. We may surmise that had the Russians divined the intentions of the Japanese and had foreseen the outcome they would have acted differently, but divination of Japanese intentions does not seem to be Russia’s strong point.
As soon as the Japanese came to anchor preparations were made for the immediate landing of the troops, and the cruisers and torpedo-boats that had convoyed them in, left the port and joined the fleet outside. This fleet consisted of six cruisers and several torpedo-boats. The Asama and the Chiyoda were the most powerful of the cruisers, the former being nearly half as large again as the Variak.
Night came on, and throughout its long hours the Japanese troops, by the light of huge fires burning on the jetty, were landed and marched up into the town. When morning came everyone was in a state of expectancy. If there was a Japanese fleet outside they doubtless had other work on hand than simply watching two Russian boats. Nor could they leave them behind, for one of them was Russia’s fastest cruiser and might steam out of the harbor at any time and destroy Japanese transports. Knowing, as we do now, that an immediate attack on Port Arthur had been decided upon we see it was impossible to leave these Russian boats in the rear. Japan had never recognized the neutrality of Korea, for she knew that the declaration was merely a Russian move to embarrass her, and [page 56] she never hesitated a moment to break the thin shell of pretense.
About ten o’clock a sealed letter was handed to Captain Rudnieff of the Variak. It was from the Japanese Admiral and had been sent through the Russian Consulate. It was delivered on board the Variak by the hand of Mr. N. Krell, a Russian resident of the port. This letter informed the Russian commander that unless both Russian boats should leave the anchorage and steam out of the bay before twelve o’clock the Japanese would come in at four o’clock and attack them where they lay. Captain Rudnieff immediately communicated the startling intelligence to Captain Belaieff of the Koryetz and to the commanders of the British, American, French and Italian war-vessels. We are informed that a conference of the various commanders took place and that the Russians were advised to lie where they were. The British commander was deputed to confer with the Japanese. This was done by signal and it is said a protest was more against the proposed violation of neutrality of the port and that the neutral boats refused to shift their anchorage. But all complications of this nature were avoided by the determination of the Russians to accept the challenge. This they deemed to be due their flag. It is not improbablethat they now foresaw that the neutrality of the port would not avail them against the enemy. By remaining at anchor they could only succeed in involving France, Italy, Great Britain and the United States and there would be sure to be those who would charge the Russians with cowardice. If this was to begin the war it must at least prove the dauntless courage of the servants of the Czar. So the commander of the Variak ordered the decks cleared for action. It has been stated that he would have preferred to have the Koryetz stay at her anchorage, for by a quick dash it was just possible that the swift Variak alone might be able to evade the Japanese and run the gauntlet successfully. But the commander of the Koryetz refused to listen to any such preposition. If the only honor to be gotten out of the affair was by a [page 57] desperate attack he was not going to forego his share of it. He would go out and sink with the Variak, So the Koryetz also cleared for action. It was done in such haste that all moveables that were unnecessary were thrown overboard, a topmast that would not come down in the usual manner was hewn down with an axe and by half past eleven the two vessels were ready to go out to their doom. It was an almost hopeless task— an entirely hopeless one unless the Japanese should change thier minds or should make some grave mistake, and neither of these things was at all probable. The Russians were going to certain destruction. Some call it rashness, not bravery, but they say not well. The boats were doomed in any case and it was the duty of their officers and crews to go forth and in dying inflict what injury they could upon the enemy. To go into battle with chances equal is the act of a brave man, but to walk into the jaws of death with nothing but defeat in prospect is the act of a hero, and the Japanese would be the last to detract from the noble record that the Russians made. Time has not yet lent its glamor to this event, we are too near it to see it in proper proportions, but if the six hundred heroes of Balaclava, veterans of many a fight, gained undying honor for the desperate charge they made how shall not the future crown these men who, having never been in action before, made such a gallant dash at the foe? Nor shall we wonder that when they weighed anchor and turned their prows toward the overwhelming power of the enemy a cheer was torn from the very throats of the men on board the neutral ships, whether those men sympathized with Japanese or Russian. And herein lies the intrinsic damnableness of war, that causes which will not bear the search-light of abstract justice can marshall to their support the noblest qualities of which men are capable.
It was a cloudless but hazy day and from the anchorage the Japanese fleet was all but invisible, for it lay at least eight miles out in the entrance of the harbor and partly concealed by Round Island which splits the offing into two channels. The two boats made straight for the [page 58] more easterly of the channels, their course being a very little west of south. When they had proceeded about half the distance from the anchorage to the enemy’s fleet the latter threw a shot across the bows of each of the Russian boats as a command to stop and surrender, but the Russians took no notice of it. The only chance the Russians had to inflict any damage was to reduce the firing range as much as possible for the Variak’s guns were only six inches and four-tenths in caliber and at long range they would have been useless. This was at five minutes before noon. The Japanese fleet was not deployed in a line facing the approaching boats and it was apparent that they did not intend to bring their whole force to bear upon the Russians simultaneously. We are informed that only two of the Japanese vessels, the Asama and the Chiyoda, did the work. It was not long after the warning shots had been fired that the Japanese let loose and the roar that went up from those terrible machines of destruction tore the quiet of the windless bay to tatters and made the houses of the town tremble where they stood. It beat against the bare hills like the hammer of Thor and startled the denizens of distant Seoul with its muffled thunder. As the Variak advanced she swerved to the eastward and gave the Japanese her starboard broadside. All about her the sea was lashed into foam by striking shot and almost from the beginning of the fight her steering-gear was shot away so that she had to depend on her engines alone for steering. It became evident to her commander that the passage was impossible. He had pushed eastward until there was imminent danger of running aground. So he turned again toward the west and came around in a curve which brought the Variak much nearer to the Japanese. It was at this time that the deadly work was done upon her. Ten of her twelve gun-captains were shot away. A shell struck her fo’castle, passed between the arm and body of a gunner who had his hand upon his hip and, bursting, killed every other man in the fo’castle. Both bridges were destroyed by bursting shell and the Captain was seriously wounded in the left arm. The watchers on shore and on the shipping in the [page 59] harbor saw flames bursting out from her quarter-deck and one witness plainly saw shells drop just beside her and burst beneath the water line. It was these shots that did the real damage, for when, after three quarters of an hour of steady fighting, she turned her prow back toward the anchorage it was seen that she had a heavy list to port which could have been caused only by serious damage below the water-line. As the two boats came slowly back to port, the Variak so crippled by the destruction of one of her engines that she could make only ten knots an hour, the Japanese boats followed, pouring in a galling fire, until the Russians had almost reached the anchorage. Then the pursuers drew back and the battle was over. The Koryetz was intact. The Japanese had reserved all their fire for the larger vessel. The Variak was useless as a fighting machine, for her heavy list to port would probably have made it impossible to train the guns on the enemy, but all knew that the end had not yet come. The Russians had neither sunk nor surrendered. The threat of the Japanese to come in at four o’clock was still active. As soon as the Variak dropped anchor the British sent off four hospital boats to her with a surgeon and a nurse. Other vessels also sent offers of aid. But it was found that the Russians had decided to lie at anchor and fight to the bitter end and at the last moment blow up their vessels with all on board. What else was there for them to do? They would not surrender and they could not leave their ships and go ashore only to be captured by the enemy. They would play out the tragedy to a finish and go down fighting. Upon learning of this determination the commanders of the various neutral vessels held another conference at which it was decided that the Russians had done all that was necessary to vindicate the honor of their flag and that, as it was a neutral port, the survivors should be invited to seek asylum on the neutral vessels. The invitation was accepted and the sixty-four wounded on board the Variak were at once transferred to the British cruiser Talbot and the French cruiser Pascal, As the commanders of the neutral vessels knew that the Variak and Koryetz were to be sunk by the Russians [page 60] they paid no particular attention to the reiterated statement of the Japanese that they would enter the harbor at four and finish the work already begun. The passengers, crew and mails on board the steamship Sungari had already been transferred to the Pascal and an attempt had been made to scuttle her but she was filling very slowly indeed. It was about half-past three in the afternoon that the officers and crew of the Koryetz went over the side and went to the Pascal. A train had been laid by which she would be blown up and it is supposed that she was entirely abandoned, but some spectators assert that they saw several men on the forward deck an instant before the explosion took place.
It was generally known throughout the town that the Koryetz would be blown up before four o’clock and everyone sought some point of vantage from which to witness the spectacle. Scores of people went out to the little island on which the light-house stands, for this was nearest to the doomed ship. It was thirtyseven minutes past three when the waiting multitude saw two blinding flashes of light one following the other in quick succession. A terrific report followed which dwarfed the roar of cannon to a whisper and shook every house in the town as if it had been struck by a solid rock. The window-fastenings of one house at least were torn off, so great was the concussion. An enormous cloud of smoke and debris shot toward the sky and at the same time enveloped the spot where the vessel had lain. A moment later there began a veritable shower of splintered wood, torn and twisted railing, books, clothes, rope, utensils and a hundred other belongings of the ship. The cloud of smoke expanded in the upper air and blotted out the sun like an eclipse. The startled gulls flew hither and thither as if dazed by this unheard of phenomenon and men instinctively raised their hands to protect themselves from the falling debris, pieces of which were drifted by the upper currents of air for a distance of three miles landward where they fell by the hundreds in peoples’ yards.
[page 61] When the smoke was dissipated it was discovered that the Koryetz had sunk, only her funnel and some torn rigging appearing above the surface, if we except her forward steel deck which the force of the explosion had bent up from the prow so that the point of it, like the share of a huge plow, stood several feet out of water. The surface of the bay all about the spot was covered thickly with smoking debris and several of the ship’s boats were floating about intact upon the water.
The Russians were intending to blow up the Variak as well, but the magnitude of the explosion on board the Koryetz led the commanders to suggest that the Variak be allowed to sink where she lay. She was already in a sinking condition and was burning freely. It was evident that she could not become a Japanese prize, so she was simply, abandoned and left to the elements. The forty-one dead could hardly have been carried on board the friendly ships, so they were, with a few exceptions, placed in a cabin together and the ship for which they had fought and died became their fitting tomb. As viewed from the deck of the United States Gunboat Vicksburg she was lying far over to port at an angle of nearly thirty degrees at five o’clock in the afternoon. The fires in her after part would break out and then subside while every few moments came the detonation of a cartridge which the fire had reached. Two of her four funnels were partly shot away and her deck presented a scene of wild confusion. Just before dark, when it seemed that any moment might be her last, a boat was seen putting off from the Pascal and manned apparently by five or six naval men. They went straight to the Sungari and remained on board for perhaps fifteen minutes. Then they pushed off but they had not left her side by more than a half dozen lengths before a tongue of flame appeared from the region of her cabin and it was quite apparent that she had been deliberately fired. But soon all eyes were again centered on the Variak. She was preparing for the final plunge. Slowly she dipped, further and [page 62] further to port— now her rail is under water — an excited murmur arises from the men who crowd the side of the Vicksburg to see her go. And now she begins visibly to lie over on her side; slowly and majestically she turns until at last her funnels touch the water and with a great surging, choking groan she goes to her resting place like some mighty leviathan that has received his death wound. As the water reaches the fires a cloud of steam goes up which, illuminated by the dying flash of fire forms her signal of farewell. It was expected that the Japanese would demand as prisoners of war the men who had been taken on board the neutral ships, but it would have been refused on the plea that the men had been rescued off sinking ships in a neutral harbor; but it was recognized that these rescued men had become noncombatants by seeking asylum, and so it was subsequently arranged that the British vessel should carry to a British port those whom she had rescued and guarantee their parole until the end of the war. The French are carrying theirs to Saigon while those on the Italian boat will be disposed of in a similar manner.
This wholly unexpected annihilation of the Russian boats naturally caused consternation among the Russians of Chemulpo and Seoul. The Russian Consulate was surrounded by Japanese troops and the Consul was held practically a prisoner. The Japanese Minister in Seoul suggested to the Russian Minister through the French Legation the advisability of his removing from Seoul with his nationals and every facility was given him for doing this with expedition and with comfort. A few days later all the Russians were taken by special train to Chemulpo and there, being joined by the Russian subjects in Chemulpo, they all went on board the Pascal. This vessel must have been crowded, for it is said that when she sailed she had on board six hundred Russians, both civilians and military men.
Twenty-four of the most desperately wounded men on board the neutral ships were sent ashore and placed in the Provisional Red Cross Hospital. For this purpose the English Church Mission kindly put at the disposal of [page 63] the Japanese their hospital at Chemulpo. Several of these wounded men were suffering from gangrene when they came off the Pascal but with the most sedulous care the Japanese physicians and nurses pulled them through.
The ajun is one of the most important social and governmental factors in Korea. He is the man who brings the administration of the Government into direct contact with the populace, the individual, the political unit. This word is of pure Korean origin and is not a Chinese importation. It is true that the Chinese characters used to express the word are 衙前 which mean “before the yamen” and are in some sense descriptive of this class of men, but this is only a transliteration of the word. The Koreans were fortunate enough to strike two characters pronounced a and jun which at the same time had meanings in Chinese which, put together, are partially descriptive of the office. There is no real Chinese word ajun. The idea is always expressed in China by the character 吏 yi. The fact that this pure Koreanword has survived while almost every other official term has been borrowed from the Chinese argues that this was the term used in Korea before the great influx of Chinese ideas and words which took place during the days of the Tang Dynasty 627-905 a. d. Another thing that would make this more probable is that the ajun is the official who comes in close and daily contact with the common people and his name becomes a household word which could be changed only with great difficulty. The Chinese character yi was commonly used in official documents in the place of ajun from the year 680 a. d. or thereabout but the common word was two strongly intrenched in the habit of the people to be eradicated.
We must first determine just what the ajun is before we can discuss his duties. Some have the notion that [page 64] the word is synonymous with “yamen runner” but this is an error. Every prefect in the land is an ajun. Whenever a prefect refers to himself in an official note he calls himself a 吏 or ajun. The term Chang-yi or “Chief Ajun” is a common one for a prefect among the common people in the country. The word sa 使 is simply the word for ajun with the radical for man placed before it. This is used in the words Kam-sa, “govemor” and Sa-sin, “Envoy.” The term ajun itself means an agent or factor and the prefect is an agent of the King just as the ajun is the agent of the prefect. At the time when this office came into use and for many centuries thereafter society was not divided into upper and lower classes as it is now. The yangban sprang up in the days of Koryu 7181392 A. D. So the ajun was at first a real officer but after the segregation of the classes the position of ajun failed to acquire the dignity of an official rank of p’yu-sal (or paysil, pesil or pestle according to various foreign pronunciation). It is therefore called “doing Government business without rank.” In former times the office of prefect was to some extent hereditary and stayed for generations in some local family of high repute, but at that time there had not entered the caste spirit which was fostered later by the close imitation of the Chinese. The prefect was only a higher sort of ajun. When, therefore, the spirit of exclusiveness took hold upon the Koreans and certain men found that they could secure greater distinction by holding themselves aloof from the common people it was inevitable that they should seize the opportunity. It was the same movement that put an end to the early Roman republic, the natural human weakness for personal distinction. The line of demarcation was drawn between the prefects and the ordinary ajuns, the former being enrolled in the upper class. At the same time this caste feeling tended toward a rapid centralization of power and every man who wanted a position had to seek it at the capital. This broke up the monopoly of the hereditary prefectural families and resulted in the appointment of prefects directly from the capital, men who in most cases knew nothing about the conditions prevailing [page 65] in the prefectures to which they were sent. It is easy to see what a demoralization this would effect. In former times each prefect was a son of the soil. His family and clan were native to the prefecture where he governed and so became hostages to his good behavior. He simply dared not oppress the people beyond a “reasonable” limit. His family’s reputation was at stake as well as his own. But when the new order was established and an unknown and unconnected individual would appear upon the scene and assume the prefectural ermine there was no reason why he should be careful to protect the interests of his people. He could squeeze them to the limit of their endurance and then gracefully resign and leave for the capital or for his native place without any particular odium attaching to his family.
But there is one saving element in this new order of things. The ajuns did not secure a footing in the upper class and therefore have retained much of their old hereditary status. In addition to this, their influence is increased by the fact that each prefect who comes is utterly ignorant of local conditions and usages and is forced to depend entirely upon them for his information. In fact each prefecture is a miniature of the central government. The prefect becomes as it were the king of his little state and the ajuns are his ministers. So closely is this resemblance carried out that each prefect has his six ministers, namely of the interior, of finance, of ceremonies, of war, of agriculture and of law. It was through these that all prefectural business was done. It is these men who come into direct contact with the people. Besides the six leading ajuns there are others under them varying in number according to the size and importance of the prefecture, but all of them are native to the soil and their families are rooted in local traditions. It is this one thing that has held the body politic together. Foreigners wonder how the Korean people have endured this form of government for so many centuries, but they judge mostly from the gruesome tales told of high [page 66] officials at the capital or of rapacious prefects. The reason of it all lies with the ajuns who like anchors hold the ship of state to her moorings. We choose this figure deliberately. A ship is supposed to sail across the sea but Korea has long since been content to lie in harbor. Even this is dangerous unless the anchor holds. The ajuns are this anchor and have held Korea to her moorings in spite of the tides which periodically sweep back and forth and threaten to carry her on the rocks. It will seem strange to some that anything good should be said for the ajun. The general impression is that they are a pack of wolves whose business it is to fleece the people and who lie awake nights concocting plans for their further spoliation. This idea is radically wrong. The Koreans put the matter in a nutshell when they say that a high official will escape censure for his evil acts and receive fulsome adulation for small acts of merit but that a small man’s good acts are taken for granted and his smallest faults are exaggerated. So it is that the ajun is the scape-goat for everyone’s sins, the safety valve which saves the boiler from bursting. It is right to pile metaphors on him since everyone uses him as a dumping-ground for their abuse. There is no manner of doubt that the ajuns abuse the people frequently but if they were the fiends that they are painted the people would long since have exterminated them. They are fixtures in their various districts and having forfeited the good will and forbearance of the people there theycannot move away to “pastures new.” Their families and local interests are their hostages to fortune and their normal attitude is that of a buffer between the rapacity of the prefect and the exasperation of the people. They must be friends with both if possible. The prefect wants to get as much as he can and the people want to give as little as they may. It is the ajun’s business to steer between this Scilla and Charybdis, disappoint each party as little as possible, since neither can be satisfied, and all the time uphold his own prestige with the prefect and preserve the good [page 67] will of the people. Is it any wonder that we hear only evil of the ajun?
Another mistaken idea is that the ajun is simply a yamen-runner in the sense of an official servant who with his own hand arrests people, hales them before the magistrate and inflicts punishment in person. The ajun is much higher in the social scale than this. He superintends the doing of these things but he does not do them with his own hand. He holds the place of an upper servant and gives more orders than he takes. That he has no special dress, no livery, also indicates his superiority to the common servant.
Another and more important consideration is found in the literary culture of the ajun. It is very uncommon to find one who is not skilled in the use of the Chinese character. He is necessarily so, for he has to do all the writing at the prefectural headquarters and he has to handle deeds, mortgages and all sorts of documents. It often happens that among the ajuns will be found the best Chinese students in the prefecture. Looking at them from this side they are the clerks of the office and as such are far removed from the ordinary yamen-runner.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the ajun is the peculiar system called the i-tu which requires a word of explanation. When the Chinese language and literature were introduced into Korea in the seventh and eighth centuries it was the official class, of course, that first cultivated the new and fashionable art. At that time the ajuns formed the great bulk of the official class ^ and they became the clerks, just as in England during the middle ages it was not the highest officials but the clerks who could read and write. At that time it was found that the Chinese and Korean languages were so different that Koreans found great difficulty in reading the Chinese text, owing to the absence of verbal and nominal endings. In order to overcome this difficulty the great scholar Sal-ch’ong invented a system whereby these endings were interpolated in the Chinese text and reading became comparatively easy. This system he called the i-tu (吏讀) or “ajun’s talk.’’ This very name shows that the ajuns were [page 58] the first to become familiar with the Chinese as the official language. But gradually as education spread among the upper classes and became the rule rather than the exception, the higher officials and the wealthy who had more leisure than the ajuns learned to read Chinese without the aid of the i-tu, and the pride of letters speedily relegated this system to the clerks in the government offices. At last there came the segregation of the classes caused in large part by this very pride of letters and so the i-tu became the sole possession of the same official ajun class. But all this time it had become stereotyped so that by the time the present dynasty began, the language of the ajuns, this official language, had been left in the rear by the ordinary language of the people just as colloquial English outstripped the stereotyped language of the law and left the latter cumbered with obsolete forms or at least forms that were peculiar to itself. To this very day the ajuns use this stilted official language in their records and reports and such peculiar endings as sal-che, olka, sinji, iogo and many others abound in them just as the words to wit, escheat, and such like terms are used in English legal documents. This i-tu system is the oldest literary relic of Korea and is of great value in determining the history of the Korean vernacular.
The number of ajuns in any district depends upon the size and wealth of the community. There are some prefectures that have only six ajuns, enough to represent the six departments already mentioned. In others there will be ten, twenty, fifty or even a hundred ajuns. However many there may be, they form a class by themselves, a sort of little guild in each prefecture. It is very seldom that this guild in any place contains a member who was not born and brought up in that same district. The position is an hereditary one and any ajun’s son may follow in his father’s footsteps if he will. Of course they may elect to become farmers or merchants or join some other craft but the ranks of the ajuns are recruited almost wholly from their own number. As a rule they are looked up to by the people of their respective communities as being almost equivalent to the veritable yangban or gentleman. This [page 69] is because of their literary attainments as well as their political position. It is the ajuns who influence most largely the popular taste and feeling. They come into such close contact with the people that the latter copy after them. As a rule the way to reach the people is through the ajun. He holds in his hands the greatest possibilities for good or for evil. If he is good it will be practically impossible for an evil prefect to oppress the people. If he is bad it will be almost equally difficult for a good prefect to govern well. Without doubt the ajun is the most important factor in practical government in Korea. In almost every case he can keep the prefect informed or misinformed and thus can influence the prefectural commands, and when commands have been issued it is he who has the execution of the orders. The saving, clause in the whole system is the fact that the ajun is a fixture in the community and he stakes not only the rep-, utation and welfare of himself but also that of his family. In other words he gives hostages to the public and if ever the time comes when he oversteps the limits of the people’s endurance he is sure to see his family suffer with him.
The temptations of the ajuns are very great. The whole revenue of the district passes through their hands. In a sense they have to work against both the people and the prefect. The latter wants all that he can get and watches the ajuns closely for it and the ajuns are ever trying to make the people give, up to the limit of their ability. Much is said about the way the ajuns squeeze the people and this is doubtless true but the people are forever trying to evade their taxes and use every subter* fuge to jump their revenue bills. It is a case of diamond cut diamond and the people realize it as well as the ajun. The qualities necessary to become a successful ajun make a long and formidable list. He must be tactful in the “management” of the prefect; exact in his accounts; firm yet gentle with the people; resourceful in emergencies; masterful in crises : quick to turn to his advantage every event and in fact he must have all the qualities of the successful politician. One of his most brilliant attainments is [page 70] the ability to make excuses. If the people blame him for extortion he spreads out expostulatory hands and says that the prefect orders it and he has no option. If the prefect blames him for shortage in revenue returns he bows low and asserts upon his honor that the people have been squeezed dry, and can endure no more.
Political and international situations are like leaves on the trees in that no two of them are alike. Each one must be separately interpreted in the light of large and general laws, and each one helps to define the application of these laws. The recent fight at Chemulpo will do not a little to define the bearing and application of the laws which govern the action of belligerents in a neutral port. We are not competent to pass upon these delicate questions but we note the factors in the problem. The first is as to the actual neutrality’ of Korea. Neutrality does not consist simply in the declaration of neutrality. Many a man declares himself to be well when he is ill or viceversa. But even if a government is not neutral at heart it is legally neutral if it commits no acts that give the lie to its declaration. And no power has the right to deny to the said government the benefits and immunities of neutrality so long as that government preserves the spirit as well as the letter of its declaration.
At the time when the Korean Government published its declaration of neutrality, the officials who guided the imperial action were notoriously pro-Russian in their sympathies. It is of no consequence now what their names are, but of the fact there can be no doubt. It is generally understood that the Foreign Office, at the time, was shorn of all real power and was only the mouthpiece through which these friends of Russia spoke, in order to make their pronouncements official. The Japanese were well aware that this declaration of neutrality was only a Russian move to embarrass Japan and put her in the wrong before the world in case she should find [page 71] it necessary to land troops on the peninsula. It was already known that two of these pro-Russian officials had strongly urged that Russia be asked for troops to protect the palace in Seoul and the Japanese were on the lookout for evidences of bad faith in the matter of declared neutrality. When, therefore, the ubiquitous Japanese picked up a boat in the Yellow Sea and found on it a Korean carrying a letter to Port Arthur asking for Russian’ troops and discovered that this letter, while unofficial in form, had come from the very men who had caused the promulgation of the declaration of neutrality, it became clear that while the strict letter of the law had not been broken the spirit of neutrality was non-existent. This letter was seized about the ninth of February and must therefore have been written before Japan had done anything to impair the neutrality of the Korean Government. We do not pretend to pass judgment upon this phase of the question. That must be left to the international lawyers. We merely state some of the facts which will enter into the problem.
Another question is in regard to the neutrality of the port of Chemulpo. If Korean neutrality was genuine the action of Japan in forcing the Russian vessels out could be made a casus belli on the part of Korea, but as Korea has no power to prosecute such a war the Japanese were physically safe in ignoring the neutrality of the port. As between Russia and Japan the harbor of Chemulpo was the same as the high sea. Korea was the only power that could by international right shoot a gun in the defence of its neutrality. Others might protest, as they did, but they could go no further. It is the duty of neutral powers to say to belligerents in their ports “You shall not fight in my ports, and you shall not leave the harbor within twenty-four hours of each other,” but if there is no power with which to enforce the demand, then the two belligerents will be answerable to any neutral powers whose shipping they injure. The neutrality of the harbor of Chemulpo was genuine as regards the shipping of neutral powers and this is why the British, French and other commanders refused to shift [page 72] their anchorage at the suggestion of the Japanese. It was the privilege of these neutral commanders to say “This is a neutral port and you will come in and cause injury to our shipping at your peril, even though such injury should be unintentional.” And if the Japanese had come in and attacked the Russians where they lay they would have been answerable for any injury done to neutral ships whether by their own guns or by those of the Russians, since the latter would be acting in self-defense. We do not presume to make the above statement as a definite interpretation of international law in the premises but only as a possible explanation of the actions of both the Japanese and the neutral commanders.
The next question is in regard to the reception of the Russians on board the neutral ships. We already said that as between the Japanese and the Russians the port was the same as the high sea and this appears from the fact that had the Russians abandoned their vessels and gone ashore they would have fallen into the hands of the Japanese as surely as if the shore had been another Japanese vessel on the high sea. The land was already held by the Japanese and was to all intents and purposes hostile soil to the Russians. But to the neutral vessels the port was not the high sea and they felt at liberty to act toward the Russians exactly as if there were no belligerent force outside—that is, as they would act, for instance, if these Russian boats had come into port in a sinking condition due to any accident at sea. The neutral commanders would not have invited these Russians on board their boats if it had been on the high sea, for that would have been an act of interferance hostile to Japan for which they would have had to answer before the bar of international law; but in a neutral port they recognized no war. The Variak was in a sinking condition but the Koryetz was intact, nevertheless the neutral commanders had a perfect right to take every one of the men on board their vessels if they saw fit. The Russian ships had not struck their flags to the Japanese nor had they indicated any intention to surrender. They had not compromised themselves by asking for a truce. They [page 73] had simply withdrawn from the fight, technically unbeaten, and had entered a neutral port where, according to the letter of international law, they were safe. They could blow up or scuttle their vessels if they pleased and they could visit other vessels at their pleasure. Such seems to have been the basis of the action of the neutral commanders, and it was sound, or they would not have acted as they did.
Some question has been raised as to the legality of the action of the French in letting a boat go from the Pascal to set fire to the Sungari, This act was plainly seen by competent witnesses. The question is whether, after the Russians went on board the French boat, they did not immediately become noncombatants and thereby incapacitated for any act of war. But even so the further question arises whether the burning of that merchant vessel was an act of war. It may be that it was done by the officers of the ship and not by Russian naval men. In any case this is one of the questions raised by the event. That the neutral commanders look upon these refugees as noncombatants is seen from their subsequent action.
In the final adjustment of the matter the neutral commanders engaged to take these men to ports belonging to their respective countries and there guarantee their parole till the end of the war. It is hard to see how this could be done without keeping them in confinement. If this is to be the outcome of it all there are some who will think that it would have been more soldierly to surrender at discretion and become Japanese prisoners of war whereby they would have stood some chance of an exchange of prisoners. They did not want to surrender, for that would have impaired their honor; but some will ask whether by becoming virtual prisoners to neutral powers and causing them annoyance and expense they did not impair their honor more than they would have done by surrendering. It is universally recognized that to surrender to overwhelming odds is an honorable proceeding for it saves useless shedding of blood; but circumstances alter cases and it must be left to those who are expert in [page 74] the technicalities of martial etiquette to determine to what extent these Russians preserved the luster of their nation’s fame by accepting the offer of the neutral commanders.
Another phase of the matter appears when we attempt to surmise what the Japanese would have done had the situation been reversed. It is our opinion that if they had gone forth to a hopeless fight they would have fought it to a finish and when their vessels sank under them they would either have gone down with them or they would have abandoned ship and been picked up by the Russians as prisoners of war.
On the twenty-third of February the Korean and Japanese governments through their proper representatives signed a treaty of offensive and defensive alliance. Of course there is no use in discussing the degree of spontaneity with which the Korean government entered into this compact. It was, as the Koreans say, a case of halsu epso; but if we look at it from a democratic standpoint and ask what the majority of the Korean people think about it we shall get another aspect of the question. The present chaotic state of the national finances and of popular discontent show something of what Russian influence has accomplished in Korea; and the people are coming to realize the fact. They are passionately attached to the theory of national independence. We say theory advisedly. This word independence is a sort of fetich to which they bow, but they think that independence means liberation from outside control alone, forgetting that genuine independence means likewise a liberation from evil influences within, and that liberty so far from being carte blanche to do as one pleases is in truth the very apotheosis of law. What Korea wants is education and until steps are taken in that line there is no use in hoping for a genuinely independent Korea. Now, we believe that a large majority of the best informed Koreans realize that Japan and Japanese influence stand for education and enlightenment and that while the paramount influence of any one, outside power is in some sense a humiliation, the [page 75] paramount influence of Japan will cause far less genuine cause for humiliation than has the paramount influence of Russia. Russia secured her predominance by pandering to the worst elements in Korean officialdom. Japan holds it by strength of arm, but she holds it in such a way that it gives promise of something better. The word reform never passed the Russians’ lips. It is the insistent cry of Japan. The welfare of the Korean people never showed its head above the Russian horizon but it fills the whole vision of Japan; not from altruistic motives mainly but because the prosperity of Korea and that of Japan rise and fall with the same tide.
Korea has reached a definite crisis in her history. If Russia wins, Korea will become a small fraction of that heterogeneous mass called the Holy Russian Empire, for by signing an offensive and defensive alliance with Japan Korea becomes the foe of Russia and this will be all the excuse Russia needs for seizing the whole peninsula in case the war terminates favorably for her. Having made this alliance, therefore, it is the business of all Koreans both official and non-official to bend every energy to the securing of a Japanese victory.
Korea has never had a better chance than the present to disprove the statements of those who say that the Koreans are a decadent people and lacking in stamina. Those who know best are aware that with a proper incentive and proper leadership the Koreans of the northern and eastern provinces would fight magnificently. They have not had an opportunity to show what they are made of since the days of the Tai-wun-kun when in 1866 they defeated the French in Kang-wha and in 1871 when they held a little fort on that Island against an overwhelming force of Americans and died every man at his post rather than give up their position. It should be remembered that there are some twelve or fifteen million people in Korea. From this number an army of two hundred thousand could be raised. Such an army properly fed, clothed, paid and led would prove a powerful weapon in the hands of the Japanese. Korea produces [page 76] enough rice and other food stuff to feed both the Korean people and the Japanese army and when once the Russians were driven out of Manchuria the Japanese army could leave behind them a competent Korean army to safeguard the frontier. This army at first under Japanese leadership would be a better military school than any built in Seoul, it would inspire the Koreans with selfrespect and would soon break down the prevalent notion that military rank is inferior to civil rank.
What is meant by a decadent people? We say the North American Indian is decadent because he is unable to adjust himself to the changed conditions of life and is fast becoming extinct, but the Korean people are no more decadent than the Chinese. They are physically virile and can be proved to be cowards only when put to proper tests. These have never been applied during recent years excepting in the instances cited, which go to prove the opposite. Why does the Korean allow himself to be cuffed about at the pleasure of the alien when a Japanese would leap to his own defense? It is because the Korean knows that he has no means of proper redress, no consul to appeal to, no Government which considers the physical and property rights of its subjects its main objects for being. Give a Korean the right and the ability to summon his assailant before an unbiased tribunal and do the readers of this Review imagine the people even of Seoul would not leap to avenge themselves of the cuffs and kicks which are so freely bestowed upon them? That court would have to sit night and day for the first few weeks, until it should be discovered that Koreans have personal rights which people are bound to respect.
The coming of the Japanese troops has prevented the bringing of rice up to Seoul from the country, for the country-people are uncertain as to the safety of travel; and for this reason it will not be many weeks before Seoul is face to face with a very serious proposition. If the rice should give out there would be many deaths in [page 77] Seoul in a very short time. It should be one of the first things for the government to attend to. There is plenty of rice in the country, and ways and means for bringing it up to Seoul should be immediately considered. It would be a great pity if the coming in of the Japanese should even indirectly cause such a calamity. The one thing that Yi Yong-ik is praised for is the fact that he brought in Annam rice and relieved Seoul from starvation. If now there should be a scarcity here it would do much to cause disaffection against the Japanese. We hope that this important matter is already under consideration.
On January 24th the Korean Government sent to various Powers a declaration of her neutrality. This was done without the knowledge of the Foreign Office. The announcement was made to the various legations in Seoul at a late date.
On Jan. 24 the contract of the Belgian adviser to the Home Department was signed. It was dated from June 1904 and for a term of three years.
On the same day there came one hundred and forty-seven men to superintend the pushing of the construction of the Seoul-Pusan railway.
On Jan. 26 Pak Che-sun was appointed Foreign Minister; being in Peking he was immediately sent for. Min Yong-chul was appointed Minister to China in his place.
Pak Chung-yang, was appointed Minister of Education late in Jan. but as his duties in connection with the royal funeral demanded his attention Han Kang-ho was appointed Acting Minister.
About Jan. 27 Russia, France, Germany, and England formally commended the declaration of neutrality. The other powers reserved their opinion.
All through the latter part of January the Korean soldiers and police levied blackmail on all wealthy houses in Pyeng-yang and the foreigners there were rather uneasy. Threats had been made against them by the tonghak and many of the natives were leaving the city, but on the 26th it was learned that one hundred Japanese residents of that city had formed a home guard and that all there were safe.
Because of the general uneasiness several foreigners in the employ of the government were asked to go to the palace and act as a sort of body-guard to His Majesty, beginning from about the 26th of January.
Tales of robberies all over the country came in to Seoul in rapid succession but we have not space to give them in detail. It is sufficient to say that great disaffection was evident throughout the country. There [page 78] were the tonghaks in the north, the nanihak in the south and at the same time the ajuns throughout the country threatened to lead the people in a general insurrection.
All through January the Japanese were busy arranging military stations every forty li between Seoul and Pusan. In various places small buildings were erected sufficient to house twenty or thirty men.
On the 22nd of January Gen. Ijichi arrived in Seoul and became the military attaché of the Japanese legation. On the 26th he asked the Foreign Office what the position of the Korean Government actually was as between Russia and Japan and he demanded some definite statement. The Foreign Minister of course answered that Korea favored neither exclusively but was neutral.
On the 28th. ult. the Japanese brought in a large quantity of barley to Kunsan and landed it there. It appeared as if they intended to land troops there instead of at some more northerly port.
On Jan. 29 the Foreign Office complained to the Russian Legation of the disorderly actions of Russian soldiers in the street, who caught Korean women and forcibly kissed and otherwise insulted them. The Russians took steps to stop the outrages.
On Jan. 29 all military students in Japan were recalled by the Korean Government.
Instructions were sent to Min Yong-chan to attend the Red Cross Society’s convention in Switzerland this Spring.
The Peddlars began their real work in January by levying on all the wealthy people in Seoul except high officials, under the pretense that was it payment for protection.
By the beginning of February it began to be plain that trouble was brewing. Hopes of peace which had up to that time been held out were withdrawn and the general feeling that Russia would back down at the last moment were shown to be false. Reports came continually of Russian movements toward the Yalu and the tone of the negotiations between the two countries became distinctly more uncompromising. The Korean people watched events with great interest but not so as to interfere with the annual stone fights which began rather earlier than usual this year.
On Feb. sixth a very unpleasant collision took place between Korean gendarmes and Russian soldiers. Two of the latter seized a woman on the street near the Japanese quarter and insulted her. A crowd gathered and assumed a most threatening attitude. The Russians drew their weapons and held the crowd at bay but some gendarmes came along who, after a brisk fight, succeeded in disarming the Russians and taking them to the Russian Legation.
Out of 154 pawnshops in Seoul there are now only 70 in operation. This is a good gauge of the feelings of the people as to the security of property in war times.
The race of counterfeiters is not extinct. Japanese have lately been counterfeiting the Dai Ichi Ginko notes and passing them at Chemulpo. One culprit was caught and imprisoned for eight months, another for six months and another for three.
[page 79] In the town of Chungju about 130 miles South from Seoul the Tonghaks gathered in force in January and declared that they were no longer Korean subjects and would not listen to the commands of the government.
Pak Che-sun the newly appointed Foreign Minister started from Peking on his way to Korea on Feb. 2nd but having come as far as Chin-whang Island near Port Arthur he put back to Tientsin because of the beginning of hostilities.
On Feb. 1st twenty-nine more Koreans started for Hawaii. We learn that recently the Koreans sent jen 500 of their earnings home to Korea in a single draft.
There is said to be a shortage in taxes from South Chulla Province of some $370,000, due to excessive rains and other causes.
On Feb. and the Russians stored 1,500 tons of coal in their storehouses on Roze Island, also 100 bags of barley and other food stuffs.
About the middle of February Mr. W. F. Sands left Korea on his way to America.
On the eighth the Japanese authorities posted notices in Seoul saying that what Japan was about to do was dictated by motives of righteousness and that the property and personal rights of Koreans would be respected. If any Korean was ill-treated by a Japanese he must report the case and justice would be done him.
On the eighth persistent rumors of the approach of the Japanese were verified by the appearance of a large fleet of Japanese transports and war vessels off Chemulpo. The Russian Gunboat Koryetz attempted to leave for Port Arthur but was stopped by the Japanese fleet at the mouth of the bay and turned back. A shot was fired from the Koryetz but it is claimed by the Russians that it was by accident. The Japanese fired two torpedoes at the Koryetz neither of which took effect. Thereupon the Russian boat put back to her anchorage. At four o’clock three Japanese transports came into the harbor convoyed by two cruisers and three torpedo-boats The work of disembarkation began almost immediately and continued all night by the light of huge fires built on the jetty. The cruisers and torpedo-boats went out the same day and rejoined the fleet, commanded by Admiral Urui, his flagship being the Naniwa,
Early in February the people of Yichun seventy-two miles north of Seoul arose in revolt and drove their prefect away because of his extor, tions.
On Feb. 7th the government received a despatch from the prefect of Wiju saying that 8,000 Russians were approaching the border and that the Japanese were preparing to flee.
From the eighth of February the port of Chemulpo was in a sense blockaded by the Japanese, only by their consent could boats go in or out.
On the seventh the Foreign Office sent to all the Korean ports ordering that news should be immediately telegraphed of any important movements.
[page 80] On the seventh the Japanese authorities posted up a notice in various parts of Seoul saying that the people must not be disturbed if Japanese troops should arrive; on the same day telegraphic connection with Pyongyang, Sungjin, Taiku, Chungju, Fusan and Masanpo was broken. The Japanese took possession of Prince Euiwha’s house in Seoul and set a guard, but about the twentieth they gave it back again. It is said that the seizure was because of a debt and that when this was liquidated the house was again given up. The same day the Osaka Shosen Kaisha suspended their regular schedule of steamers to Korea.
On the ninth occurred the Battle of Chemulpo which we have described elsewhere. The troops which had landed during the night came up to Seoul by rail. A large number of Japanese officials and others were at the South Gate Station to welcome them. It was not known whether there would be any popular demonstration against the entrance of the troops into the city but all such fears were groundless for everything remained perfectly quiet and the entrance took place without any excitement at all. Even the Korean crowd that gathered to witness the event was comparatively small. His Majesty was considerably disturbed by this coming of the Japanese in force but no Japanese went near the palace nor was there any cause for alarm. At twelve o’clock the noise of the cannonading at Chemulpo was plainly heard in Seoul and people listened in awe to the distant thunder of battle wondering what it portended. There was no such exodus from the city as might have been expected but it is said that a considerable number of wealthy men sent their families and their valuables out of the city. It was on this same day that the Japanese took possession of the Korean telegraph offices at Masanpo and Fusan. Immediately after the battle the Japanese authorities put a guard about the Russian Consulate in Chemulpo and no one could see the Russian Consul without first securing a pass from the Japanese Consul. Some understand that this was for the purpose of protecting the Consul. A guard was also put over the offices of the Eastern Steamship Company of which Mr. Sabatin was agent, and other Russian houses were also guarded. This same day the Japanese began coaling the Korean war-vessel the Yang-mu-ho, This boat had been partially paid for by the Korean government. The beginning of active hostilities immediately affected exchange and the price of a yen fell from $2.30 to $1.60 in Korean money.
Great uneasiness is said to exist in Pyengyang among the natives and many are fleeing to the country because of the near approach of the Russians. One thing is certain, the Koreans feel very differently toward the Japanese than toward the Russians.
On the twelfth of February at half past seven in the morning the Russian Minister and all the other members of the Legation Staff and all Russian residents in Seoul went to the West Gate Station and took a special train for Chemulpo. They were attended by about eighty Russian soldiers. Many of the other Foreign Representatives were on the station platform to bid the Russian Minister and his suite good bye but not a single Korean official was there.
On Feb. 2tid the Russian Minister replied to a protest of the Korean Government against the cutting of timber at Pyuk-dong, some distance back from the Yalu, saying that the concession covered not only the banks of that river but of all its tributaries!
On Feb. 2nd Dr. Furuichi the new president of the Seoul-Fusan Railway arrived at Fusan and a few days later he reached Seoul.
On Feb. 5th the Japanese Minister ordered all Japanese subjects to remove from Wiju and Sungjin.
About the 23rd inst Dr. Takaki of the First Japanese Bank started for Tokyo. His departure was due to a difference of opinion as to the policy to be adopted by the bank in Seoul. It may not be generally known that the Seoul Branch of the Dai Ichi Ginko is the third largest one, only Chemulpo and Yokohama exceeding it in size. Dr. Takaki will soon be back in Seoul.
On the eleventh Yun Ung yul was made Minister of War.
The prefect of Nam-won in Chulla Province telegraphed on the eleventh saying that Japanese had demanded 1,000 bags of rice, 1,000 loads of firewood and 300 telegraph posts. That same evening the only places that were still connected with Seoul by Korean telegraph were Haiju, Songdo, Chemulpo and Wonsan.
A goodly number of war-correspondents have arrived on the scene and more are expected. They are having difficulty in securing their credentials from Tokyo. Several of them have gone north without their papers, trusting, probably, that these will come on later. Horse flesh is soaring, one Korean refusing to sell his animal for less than Yen 400. Japanese interpreters have been in brisk demand, some getting as high as Yen 200 a month for following the war with correspondents. Mr. Jack London who represents the Hearst syndicate had a hard time in getting here. He succeeded in making Mokpo in small coasting steamers but from there he had to come in a sampan. He made Kunsan in twenty-seven hours but from there to Chemulpo occupied five days, owing to strong head winds and rough seas.
All through the month persistent rumors have been circulating to the effect that the Russians had crossed the Yalu. About the 20th of February Major Togo together with six gendarmes and two interpreters were seized by the Russians at Wiju. These Japanese were on a scouting tour but were not technically within the Russian lines, so they will doubtless be treated as prisoners of war. Then it was reported that the Russians were in Chongju some two thousand strong while 400 more were in Kasan. Then scouts were seen opposite the river from Anju and at last reports Russian videttes were seen by Japanese between Pyengyang and Anju but both sides retired without attacking. The telegraph wires were cut between Pyengyang and Anju. It is the thought that the Russians will attempt to impede the progress of Japanese toward the Yalu so as to gain time and prevent the Japanese utilizing ice to cross that river. In her unprepared state every day’s delay means much to Russia and this policy is quite easy to understand. In [page 82] spite of the Russians being in Anju the Americans at the Unsan mines came down to Pyengyang on the 24th. It is not known yet whether they got out before the Russians appeared in the vicinity or whether they came through the Russian lines.
At midnight of the 23rd of February the final seal was put upon the Korea-Japan alliance, whereby, among other things, Korea grants Japan leave lo use her territory in the present campaign against Russia, Japan guarantees Korea her independence subject to certain conditions necessary under the circumstances. There are those who claim that Korean independence is a thing of the past, and it is true that for the time being it is slightly adumbrated by the coming of the Japanese but it remains to be seen whether, after the present crisis is over. Japan will not accord to Korea the same degree of genuine independence as the United States has granted Cuba. It will depend much upon Korea herself whether this desirable goal is ever reached. If she proves that there are Koreans capable of carrying on an enlightened administration here her chances of real independence may be good, but the future alone can decide this. Of one thing there can be little doubt, that the present action of Korea gives promise of better things in the future than any other action could have done. It is a right step if rightly followed up. It may not be a satisfactory situation for the Koreans to contemplate but it is a necessary result of coquetting with Russia, from whom she has nothing to hope and every thing to fear.
It is said, with what truth we do not know, that when a person is being fascinated by a snake it causes him an unpleasant shock when a third party comes in and breaks the spell. Whether the simile applies we leave it for our readers to determine.
The need for Japanese barracks has caused some commotion in Seoul. Every Japanese house is full, half the Government barracks and nineteen other public buildings are crowded, among them all the Government schools.
On the night of the Yi Yong-ik was taken to Chemulpo by the Japanese and put on board a boat bound for Japan. The country is thus rid of a man who though possessed of a certain degree of ability has done very much to bring the Korean government into difficulties. He was detested by the common people and hated by officials. It shows his ability that, without any family backing, he held his own so long against the almost unanimous opposition of the official class. We will give a resum6 of his his career later.
About the 26th Yi Keun-tak, one of the leading pro-Russians, left Seoul for the country, having seen all his promises of Russian help fall to the ground. Hyun Sang-geun is said to be in asylum in one of the Foreign Legations. He is probably safer there than in his own home at this juncture. It is a credit to the Japanese that this radical change has been effected without bloodshed among Korean officials. In time these men who have deceived the Emperor so long may be brought to book but if so it will be by proper process of law.
The peddlars guild dropped to pieces like a house of cards. They were evidently a pack of cowards intent only upon plunder, if the opportunity should come.
As a rule the Japanese soldiers are very orderly but we were sorry to hear that an American lady while passing through the Japanese quarter on the 25th was struck violently in the back by a Japanese soldier who was off duty. It seems to be best for foreign ladies to go about either in chairs or rickshas rather than on foot at such a time as this. There is no doubt that the Japanese authorities have every intention of keeping exemplary order among the troops but it is the best thing to give as little opportunity as possible to the Japanese soldiers to show incivility, by refraining from walking about among them more than is absolutely necessary.
We were sorry to learn that Dr. O. R. Avison’s two youngest children were bitten by a pet dog which died later under very suspicious circumstances. It is not absolutely certain that the dog was rabid but Dr. Avison has taken the children, to Nagasaki to be treated at the Pasteur Institute there.
It has been repeatedly stated that the Korean troops are to join the Japanese in the present campaign and as the month draws to an end it begins to look as if it were true. On the 27th, it was stated that after the funeral of the Queen Dowager several thousand will go north.
Telegraphic news from the north on the 27th stated that Russian forces crossing Ma-jun Pass in the north were opposed by Korean soldiers and several of the latter were killed.
On the twenty-sixth the Japanese asked the Korean government to permit them to build a railroad between Seoul and Wiju. Up to the time of going to press the reply had not been given but there can be no doubt that it will be given. It is believed that the Japanese contemplate beginning the construction of the road very soon.
Koreans of certain classes are reaping a golden harvest by the coming of the Japanese. Coolies who received about thirty sen a day are now receiving Yen 3 per day for carrying loads north. From this amount thirty sen are deducted and given to the foreman of each gang. There are certain other fees to be paid out of it but at the very least they get Yen 2 a day for their labor. The sudden demand for Korean money to use in the country is what has driven exchange to its present figure. It will spell ruin to many a Korean who receives his twenty or thirty Korean dollars a month, for prices remain at the point where they were when exchange was double what it is now. It is easy to push prices up but hard to pull them down again.
One of the Korean refugees in Tokyo has given Yen 10,000 to the Japanese war fund.
The Japanese seem to be prepared for every contingency. They are masters of detail and they may be depended upon to know what their resources are and how to utilize them at any moment. It is this ability to handle large bodies of men with ease and facility that augurs well for their success Someone put it very well the other day when he said that the Russians are stubborn fighters but each man must be given a definite command at every move while with the Japanese each man, while thoroughly amenable to orders, is an intelligent fighter and uses his head as well as his muscles.
It has been said that when the Americans in Pyengyang find it necessary to remove from that place they will be sent to Shanghai rather than to Seoul, for if the need should arise of foreigners leaving Seoul as well there would be double work. It is to be hoped that war will work northward rather than southward.
All Russian property in Seoul was put in care of the French when the Russians left Seoul.
For a few days it was rather difficult to get mail out of Korea but as soon as the landing of troops began in earnest, the returning transports began to carry mail nearly every day to Japan.
The Chief Eunuch, Kang Suk-ho, who has been strongly pro-Russian in his sympathies is reported to be about to make a protracted visit to the country.
Min Sang-ho, the popular chief of the Postal and Telegraph Bureau has resigned and Yi Ha-yong has taken his place.
On Feb. 28th the rather startling news arrived in Seoul that fifty Russian cavalrymen appeared outside the north gate of Pyeng-yang near the tomb of Kija. They were fired upon by the Japanese guards at the gate. They returned the fire but soon retired in the direction they had come. Only a part of the Americans living in Sun-chun arrived in Pyang-yang before this skirmish took place and there is some anxiety as to their condition. It is said the Russians are treating the natives very well in the north and there is very little danger that these foreigners will be molested.
[page 81] KOREAN HISTORY.
If a Chinaman or a Manchu should come here and do as your people did they would be treated in the same manner as we did your people. In fact, we did put to death a Chinaman because he came here in disguise and changed his costume; and the Chinese government never said a word about it, for they knew this to be our law. Even had we known their nationality, their actions were so contrary to our laws that we could hardly have spared them, how much less then when we did know it. This matter hardly needs more explanation. Your letter was sent without the proper formalities and we are not bound to answer it. This is not a matter that a mere provincial governor can handle. As we are China’s vassal it is our duty to consult the court at Peking on all foreign matters. Tell this to your chief and do not be surprised that in order to show the true state of the case we have been led to speak thus plainly.”
One needs but to read this to see that it is an unanswerable argument. From a merely political and legal point of view the Korean government had all the facts on her side, though from the standpoint of humanity they were wrong. It is strange that they omitted the strongest argument of all namely, that they asked the Frenchmen to leave and they refused. It is evident that by so doing they made themselves amenable to Korean law, and took the consequences, good or bad. One cannot admire enough the heroism which they displayed in staying to suffer with their coreligionists, though the opportunity was given them to save themselves by departure. It cannot be doubted that the rapid spread of Catholicism in Korea is due in large measure to the heroic self-sacrifice of those men and others like them, who literally gave their lives to the work. It would be wrong however to say that the government was wholly without excuse.
This answer was not accepted as satisfactory by the French government and a rejoinder was sent saying that thereafter French subjects who should be taken on Korean soil must be sent to Peking, otherwise the Korean government would lay itself open to grave evils. But soon after [page 82] this the revolution of 1848 took place in France and these eastern questions were all forgotten for the time being.
In 1849 the king died without male issue and his grandmother Kim nominated his nephew, the son of a banished brother. The young man entered upon the duties of his office at the age of nineteen and he is known by his posthumous title of Ch’ul-jong Tawang. This reign of fourteen years beheld some important reforms. The law was reaffirmed that the families of banished men might follow them into exile. Gambling was severely interdicted. The merchants’ monopolies were broken up. A hard fight was made against bribery and peculation in high places. Country gentlemen were forbidden to seize and beat any one belonging to the lower orders.
This king was the son Prince Chun-gye by a slave woman named Kang. He was the great-grandson of the Crown Prince, Sado, whom his father nailed up in the box.
His reign was an important one in two respects. First the very rapid spread of Roman Catholicism and second the settled policy which was adopted toward all outside influences. When the reign began there were about 11,000 Christians in Korea and when it closed in 1863 there were in the vicinity of 20,000, or almost double. Everyone knew that to combat it there would be need of a king of a different calibre from Ch’ul jong; and so during these years the work of propagating the new faith went on steadily and without any considerable drawbacks. The picture of the country as drawn by the French is indeed a sad one. They say the king had shown himself quite incapable and had become a mere debauche. The highest officials were fattening off the people and the latter were frequently consulting the books of prophecy which foretold the disolution of the dynasty. And now foreigners began to enter the country in greater numbers. Maistre, Janson, Berneux followed each other in quick succession in the early fifties. The latter became Bishop of Korea.
About the end of 1860 came the news of the fall of Peking before the combined French and English forces, the flight of the Emperor and the burning and looting of the Summer Palace. The news was that thousands of foreigners had come [page 83] to overthrow the empire. The utmost consternation prevailed in Seoul. An official memorialised the throne giving three causes for lively concern.
(1) The Emperor, fleeing before his enemies, might wish to find asylum in Korea, or at least might take refuge in some Manchu fortress just beyond the border. Every possible approach ought to be strictly guarded so that the Emperor might not dare to force his way into Korean territory. (This shows the depth of Korea’s loyalty to China.)
(2) The outlaw bands that infested the neutral strip between Korea and China might attempt an invasion of Korea and forts ought to be built to prevent such an enterprise.
(3) Worst of all, there might be a possible invasion of Korea by the foreigners. Korean cities would be wrecked, the morale of the people would be lowered, a depraved religion would be established. As the foreigners were strong only on the sea or on level ground the mountainous character of Korea would be of material advantage to her. The army .should be reorganised, and forts should be built along the principal approaches to Seoul; also at Tong-na, Nam-yang, Pu-byung and In-ju. A fort should be built on high ground commanding the passage of the narrows at Kang-wha. Western boats could not of course ascend the Han River. As the foreign religion spread rapidly in the provinces every precaution should be taken to prevent the foreign priests communicating with their countrymen abroad.
The ministry and the people all applauded this plan and the memorialist was made a judge and given power to carry out his scheme. But news came thick and fast telling of the killing of thousands of Chinese soldiers, and the returning embassy in February 1851. gave definite news of the flight of the Emperor and the treaty wrested from the great Chinese empire. This news electrified the people. All business was suspended. The well-to-do people all fled to mountain retreats, the doughty memorialist among the first. The ministers sent away their families and their goods. Many of the high officials asked the protection of the Roman Catholics, and tried to procure Roman Catholic books or badges of any kind, and many wore these at their belts in broad daylight. The yamen-runners were loud in their protestations that they had [page 84] had nothing to do with the persecution of the Catholics. It was believed by the French in Korea at the time that a most favorable treaty could have been concluded just at that time; but no effort in that direction was made by the French.
Gradually, the excitement abated and preparations for war were pushed, the wealthy classes supplying the money for the same. Old arms were resurrected, and cannon were cast on the model of one obtained from the French wrecks. At this time there were nine Frenchmen in Korea.
The year 1861 was a hard one for the people. They were taxed to the last farthing and local riots were exceedingly common. The French give us an amusing incident, where the widows of a certain prefecture were taxed. They rose up en masse and mobbed the prefect’s office, caught his mother, tore off all her garments and left her well nigh naked. This of course meant that the prefect was disgraced for life.
Beside the death-bed of King Ch’ul-jong. . . .a bold woman . . . . rise of the Tong-hak . . . . its founder killed. . . .the King’s father becomes regent. . . .his two mistakes . . .he selects a Queen . . . Russian request . . . . the Regent pushed by the conservative party . . . . death-warrant of .... Bishop Berneux . . . .French priests executed . . . priceless manuscript lost . . . . a French priest escapes to China and tells the news . . . .China advises Korea to make peace . . . shipwreck of the “Surprise” . . . face of the “General Sherman” . . . . persecution renewed . . . French reconnoitering expedition . . . blockade of the Han announced . . . . French expedition under Admiral Roze . . . preparations for defen.se correspondence. . . .French defeat. . . .the French retire . . .Koreans exultant . . . . persecution redoubled . . . . the Kyung-bok Palace rebuilt . . . . American expedition under Admiral Rodgers . . . . American victory on Kang-wha . . . . the fleet retires . . . . monument erected in Seoul.
The events of the present reign, which began in January 1864, are fresh in the memory of many still living, and the account here given is taken largely from statements of eyewitnesses of the scenes therein described. A detailed history of the present reign would fill a volume in itself and of course we can but briefly touch upon the leading events in it.
[page 85] The circumstances which ushered in the reign are graphically described by Dallet and are substantially as follows. King Ch’ul-jong had been suffering for some time with a pulmonary affection, but in January of 1864 he seemed better and he began to walk about a little. On the fifteenth, feeling greater uneasiness than usual, he went into his garden for a walk. There he was suddenly taken with faintness and was just able to drag himself back to his room, where he fell in a dying condition. The Minister Kim Choa-geun, his son Kim Pyung-gu and three other relatives were immediately in attendance. As they were deliberating, the nephew of the Dowager Queen Cho, widow of the King Ik-jong, happened to pass, and seeing what was going on, he hastened to his aunt’s apartments and exclaimed, “What are you doing here? The king is dead.” He advised her to hasten to the king’s apartments, gain possession of the royal seals and nominate to the throne some one of her choice, declaring him to be the son and heir of King Ik-jong, her husband. This woman thereupon hastened to the side of the expiring king where she found the attendants, as we have said, and with them the queen, who held the royal seals in a fold of her skirt. The Dowager Queen peremptorily demanded these seals, and when the queen demurred she snatched them violently from her. No one dared oppose the determined woman who thus took fortune by the forelock and in the course of a moment turned the course of empire. She then made proclamation in the name of the king, saying “The king says the royal seals shall be in charge of Queen Cho. The throne shall go to Myungbok, second son of Prince Heung-sung (whose name was Yi Ha-eung). Minister Chong shall be executor of the king’s will and Minister Kim shall go and find the newly appointed king.” The Dowager Queen Cho thus became Regent and the queen’s party, the Kim family, had to retire from power.
It was at the very beginning of the reign that the peculiar sect called the Tong-hak arose in the south. Its founder was one Ch’oe Pok-sul of Kyong-ju in Kyung-sang Province. The great formula of the sect was the mysterious sentence Ch’un Ju cho a chung yung se bul mang man sa eui, which means “May the Lord of Heaven aid our minds that we may ever [page 86] remember, and may He make all things turn out according to our desire.” The adherents of this sect would sit and sing this formula by the hour. They would also dance, brandishing swords in a sort of frenzy, and pretend to be rising to heaven. The name Tong-hak or “Eastern Sect” was given by themselves to distinguish themselves from the Su-hak or “Western Sect,” namely Roman Catholicism. So at least some affirm. Its rise was exceedingly rapid and soon it had enrolled an enormous number of people. The government was at last obliged to take cognizance of it, and a body of troops was sent south, who captured and put to death the founder of the sect. This put an end for the time to its active propagandism but it was by no means dead, as we shall see.
The Dowager Queen Cho was a violent opponent of Christianity and filled all the offices with enemies of the Roman Catholics. But she was not to hold the reins of power long. The king’s father in view of his son’s elevation to the throne had received the title Prince Ta-wun, or Ta-wun-gun as he is usually called. He was a man of commanding personality and inflexible will and on the whole he was the most striking character in modern Korean history. He has been variously estimated. Some have considered him the greatest statesman in Korea; others have taken him for a mere demagogue. His main characteristic was an indomitable will which took the bit in its teeth and swept toward the goal of its desire irrespective of every obstacle, whether of morals, economics, politics or consanguinity. He was withal unable to read the signs of the times. The two great mistakes of his life were, first in supposing he could eradicate Roman Catholicism by force, and second in supposing that he could prevent the opening of Korea to treaty relations. The regency naturally passed into his hands and he tacitly agreed to uphold the principles of the conservative party that had raised him to power.
His first act was to order a remeasurement of the tilled land of the country with a view to the increasing of the revenue. The treasury was empty and he had plans in mind that would require money. One of these plans was the erection of a new palace on the ruins of the Kyung-bok Palace, an enterprise which the finances of the country by no means [page 87] warranted. His next act was to betroth his son the king to his wife’s niece. His wife had two brothers one of whom was living but the other had died leaving one daughter. It was this daughter of Min Ch’i-rok who became queen. She was the king’s senior by four years. As her father was dead she became the foster child of her uncle Min Ch’i-gu. In this union, as everyone knows, the Regent sought to cement his own power, but, as everyone likewise knows, he made a serious mistake.
In January 1866 a Russian gunboat dropped anchor in the harbor of Wun-san and a letter was sent to Seoul asking for freedom of trade with Korea. The answer given was that as Korea was the vassal of China the matter must be negotiated at Peking, and an envoy was dispatched for that purpose.
It is said that Roman Catholic adherents made use of the great uneasiness which prevailed in government circles respecting Russia to compose a letter urging that the only way to ward off Russia was by making an alliance with France and England. It is said that the Regent received this communication and gave it special and, as some believe, favorable attention. We are told that the Roman Catholics were all in a most hopeful state of mind, fully believing the hour had come for the awakening of Korea. In the light of subsequent events it is difficult to determine whether the Regent’s interest in the plan was real or whether it was a ruse whereby to make the final coup all the more effective. All things considered, the latter theory fits the facts more perfectly. The French themselves believed the Regent was pushed on to the great persecution of 1866 by the violent anti-Christian party that had put him in power, and that it was simply another case of “If thou do it not thou art not Caesar’s friend.” They found fault with him for harboring the idea of a combination with this foreign element and demanded the death of the foreign priests and a general persecution. It is said the Regent reminded them of the burning of the Summer Palace at Peking and the taking of that Imperial Capital, but that they answered that they had killed Frenchmen before without harm resulting, and they could do it again.
Whatever may have been the pressure brought to bear on him, he finally signed the death warrant of all the foreign [page 88] priests in the land, and on February 23rd Bishop Berneux was seized and thrown into the common jail, but two days later he was transferred to the prison where noble prisoners were confined. On the 26th he was brought before the tribunal where he gave his name as Chang. He said he had come to save the souls of the Koreans and that he had been in the country ten years. He refused to leave except by force. As the government had made up its mind as to its course, his death warrant was then made out, and it ran thus: “The accused, Chang, refuses to obey the king. He will not apostatize. He will not give the information demanded. He refuses to return to his own country. Therefore, after the usual punishments, he will be decapitated.” While he was awaiting his end, Bretenieres, Beaulieu, and Dorie were taken, and after similar trial were condemned to death. All four of these heroic men were decapitated at the public execution ground near the river on the eighth of March and their bodies were buried together in a trench, from which they were recovered six months later and given burial by Roman Catholic adherents. Four days later two more priests. Petitnicolas and Pourthie, were executed at the same place. It was the latter who lost at this time not only his life but his priceless manuscripts, a Korean Grammar and a Latin-Korean-Chinese Dictionary, on which he had been at work for ten years. Three more of the priests, Daveluy, Aumaitre and Huin were seized soon after this and put to death, but not till the latter had despatched a letter to China, which was destined to turn up long afterward. There were three priests left, Calais, Feron and Ridel. The last of these was selected to attempt the journey to China and give information of these terrible events. After almost incredible labors he succeeded in getting away from the shore of Whang-ha Province in a junk together with eleven native believers, and made his way to Chefoo. From there he hastened to Tientsin and informed Admiral Roze of the death of his fellow-countrymen. The Admiral promised to hasten to the rescue of the remaining two and the avenging of those who had been slain; but a revolt in Cochin-China prevented him from redeeming his promise until the following September. .
The Chinese government, through the annual embassy, [page 89] informed the king of Korea that the killing of foreigners was an exceedingly foolish proceeding and that he had better make peace with France on the best terms possible, for if China could not withstand her surely Korea could not. The Regent replied, however, that it was not the first time French blood had remained unavenged in Korea.
On June 24th an American sailing vessel, the “Surprise,” was wrecked off the coast of Whang-ha Province. Her captain and crew were hospitably treated and conducted to the Chinese border with great care, by order of the Regent, who thus illustrated the truth of the assertion that Korea would do no harm to men who were ship-wrecked on her coast. Even in the midst of an anti-foreign demonstration of the most severe type, these men were humanely treated and sent upon their way.
Early in September the sailing vessel “General Sherman” entered the mouth of the Ta-dong River. She carried five white foreigners and nineteen Asiatics. Her ostensible object was trade. The governor of P’yung-au Province sent, demanding the cause of her coming and the answer was that they desired to open up trade with Korea. Though told that this was impossible, the foreign vessel not only did not leave but. on the contrary, pushed up the river until she reached a point opposite Yangjak Island not far from the city of P’yungyang. It was only the heavy rains in the interior and an exceptionally high tide that allowed her to get across the bar, and soon she was stuck in the mud, and all hopes of ever saving her were gone. This rash move astonished the Koreans above measure. Something desperate must be the intentions of men who would drive a ship thus to certain destruction. After a time word came from the Regent to attack her if she did not leave at once. Then the fight began, but without effect on either side until the Koreans succeeded in setting fire to the “General Sherman” with fire-rafts. The officers and crew then were forced to drop into the water, where many of them were drowned. Those that reached the shore were immediately hewn down by the frenzied populace. The trophies of this fight are shown today in the shape of the anchor chains of the ill-fated vessel, which hang in one of the gateways of P’yung-yang. No impartial student of both sides [page 90] of this question can assert that the Koreans were specially blame-worthy. The ship had been warned off but had rashly ventured where no ship could go without being wrecked even were all other circumstances favorable. The Koreans could not know that this was a mere blunder. They took the vessel, and naturally, to be a hostile one and treated her accordingly.
In September the persecution of Roman Catholic adherents was resumed. This is said to have been caused by a letter from one of the Christians to the Regent urging a treaty of peace with France. But by this time Admiral Roze was ready to redeem his promise, and on the tenth of that month Bishjp Ridel boarded his flag-ship at Chefoo. The French authorities had already informed the Chinese at Peking that France did not recognise the suzerainty of China over Korea and asserted that the land about to be conquered would be disposed of as France wished without reference to the Pekin government. It was decided to send the corvette la Primauguet, and the aviso, le Deroulede, and the gunboat, Tardif, to make a preliminary survey of the approaches to Seoul. Bishop Ridel accompanied this expedition in the capacity of interpreter. Arriving off Clifford Islands on the twentieth, the little fleet entered Prince Jerome Gulf, and the following day le Deroulede was sent to explore the entrance to the Han River. Finding the channel between Kang-wha and the main land satisfactory, she returned to the anchorage and together they steamed up the river the only casualty being the loss of the false keel of the Primauguet. These vessels steamed up the river as far as the river towns opposite the capital, silencing a few forts on the way. Bishop Ridel used all his powers of persuasion to induce the commander to leave one of these boats here while the others went to China to report, but without avail. They all steamed away together.
Meanwhile there was panic in Seoul. The end had come, in the estimation of many of the people. A general stampede ensued and nearly a quarter of the citizens of Seoul fled away, leaving their houses and goods. We will remember that when Ridel escaped from Korea he left two companions behind. These made a desperate attempt to communicate with the French boats on the river, but so fierce was the persecution [page 91] and so watchful were the authorities that they were quite unable to do so. They finally escaped, however, by means of junks which carried them out into the Yellow Sea, where they fell in with Chinese boats that carried them to China.
Before the surveying expedition sailed back to China Bishop Ridel was informed by native Christians of the burning of the “General Sherman” and the fate of her crew, the renewal of the persecution and the order that all Christians be put to death after only a preliminary trial. He urged the commandant to stay, but the fleet sailed away and reported in China, where the real punitive expedition was rapidly preparing. On October eleventh the blockade of the Han River Was announced to the Chinese authorities and to the various powers through their representatives at Peking, and then the French fleet sailed away to the conquest of Korea. The flotilla consisted of the seven boats Querriere, Laplace, Primauguet, Deroulade, Kienchan, Tardif and Lebrethom,
But while these preparations were going on, other preparations were going on in Korea. The total complement of troops throughout the peninsula was called into requisition. Arms were forged and troops drilled. The Japanese government, even, was invited to take a hand in the war that was impending, but she did not resppnd. Japan herself was about to enter upon a great civil war. and had no force tospare for outside work, even if she had had the desire.
On October thirteenth the French fleet reached Korea and three days later the attack on Kang-wha commenced. In an hour’s time the town was in the possession of the French and large amounts of arms, ammunition and provisions were seized, besides various other valuables such as treasure, works of art, books and porcelain. This reverse by no means disheartened the Koreans. Gen. Yi Kyung-ha was put in charge of the forces opposed to the “invaders.” This force was led in person by Gen. Yi Wunheui who found the French already in possession of the fortress. The Koreans were in force at Tong-jin just across the estuary from Kangwha, and, fearing that the vessels would attempt to ascend the river, they sank loaded junks in the channel. This channel must have been much deeper than it is today.
[page 92] The Regent swore that any man who should suggest peace with the enemy should meet with instant death. A letter was sent to the French saying that the priests had come in disguise and had taken Korean names and had desired to lay their hands on the wealth of the land. It declared that the priests had been well killed. In reply the French said they had come in the name of Napoleon, Sovereign of the Grand French Empire, who desired the safety of his subjects, and that since nine of his subjects had been killed, it must be explained. They also demanded the three ministers who had been foremost in the persecution and in the killing of the priests should be handed over to them and that a plenipotentiary be appointed for the ratifying of a treaty. To this letter no answer was received.
Meanwhile Gen. Yang Hon-su had led 5,000 men to the fortress of Chong-jok on Kang-wha where a celebrated monastery stands. These men were mostly hardy mountaineers and tiger-hunters from Kang-gye in the far north, the descendants of those same men who in the ancient days of Koguryu drove back an army of Chinese 300,000 strong and destroyed all but 700 of them. This fortress is admirably situated for defense, lying as it does in a cup formed by a semi-circle of mountains and approachable from only one direction, where it is guarded by a crenellated wall and a heavy stone gate.
The great mistake of the French was in supposing this place could be stormed by a paltry 160 men. The whole French force could not have done it. No sooner had this little band come well within range of the concealed garrison than it was met by a withering fire which instantly put half of them hors de combat. After some attempts to make a stand in the shelter of trees, huts, rocks and other cover, a retreat was called and the French moved slowly back carrying their dead and wounded. They were closely pursued and with difficulty made their way back to the main body. The result would probably have been much more serious had not the retreating party been met by a body of reinforcements from the main body. The next day orders were given to fire the town and re-embark. This caused great surprise and dissatisfaction among the men, but we incline to the belief that [page 93] it was the only thing to do. The number of men that had been mustered to effect the humiliation of Korea was ridiculously small compared with what was necessary. Six thousand French might have done it, but six hundred — never. We need seek no further than this for the cause of the abandonment of the enterprise. To be sure, it had done infinitely more harm than good, and if it had been possible to succeed even at a heavy cost of life it would have been better to go on; but it was not possible.
The effect of this retreat upon the Regent and the court may be imagined. Peking had fallen before these “barbarians” but the tiger-hunters of the north had driven them away in confusion. If the reader will try to view this event from the ill-informed standpoint of the Korean court, he will see at once that their exultation was quite reasonable and natural. The last argument against a sweeping persecution of Christians was now removed and new and powerful arguments in favor of it were added. The fiat went forth that the plague of the foreign religion should be swept from the land. No quarter was to be given. Neither age nor sex nor quality were to weigh in the balance. From that time till 1870 the persecution was destined to rage with unabated fury and the French estimated the number killed at 8,000. The hardships and sufferings of this time are second to none in the history of religious persecutions. Hundreds fled to the mountains and there starved or froze to death. The tales of that terrible time remind one of the persecutions under the Roman Emperors or the no less terrible scenes of the Spanish Inquisition.
But to return to 1866. There were other events of interest transpiring. The pet scheme of the Regent to build his son a new palace was being worked out. The palace was in process of erection, when suddenly the funds gave out. Here the Regent committed his next great blunder. This time it was in the realm of finance. He entertained the fallacy that he could meet a deficit by coining money. Of course the only way to meet a deficit in this way was to debase the currency. He did it on a grand scale when he once determined upon it, for whereas the people had from time immemorial used a one-cash piece, he began to mint a hundred-cash piece [page 94] which was actually less than fifty cash in weight. One of these was given as a day’s wage to each of the workmen on the palace. This coin bore on its face the legend “The great Finance Hundred Cash Piece,” but it proved to be very small finance indeed, for of course its issue was immediately followed by an enormous rise in the price of all commodities, and rice went up two hundred per cent. The government was thus plunged deeper in the mire than ever; but the Regent had set his will on this thing and was determined to carry it through at any cost. His next move, taken in the following year, was to bring in old, discarded, Chinese cash literally by the cart-load, across the border. This he had bought in China at auction prices and forced on the people as legal tender. At the same time he forced the people to work in gangs of 300 at a time on the palace without pay. In this way the work was finished, but it is safe to say that to this day the country has not recovered from the effects of that mad financiering. Wealthy citizens were called upon to make donations to the building fund, and this gained the soubriquet of “The Free-will Offering.”
The year 1868, which meant so much for Japan, was not otherwise signalised in Korea than by a demand on the part of Russia that Korean refugees beyond the border be recalled. It also beheld the publication of the work “The Six Departments and their Duties.” In September alone 2,000 Christians were killed, five hundred of them being residents of Seoul.
The United States had not forgotten the fate of the “General Sherman.” She had no intention of letting the matter drop. In the early spring of 1871 minister Frederick F. Low, at Peking, received instructions from his government to go in company with Rear admiral Rudgers to the shores of Korea and attempt to conclude a treaty relative to the treatment of American seamen who might be cast upon the shores of that country. He was also instructed to try to make a trade convention with Korea looking toward the opening of Korea to foreign commerce. The fleet consisted of the war vessels Colorado, Alaska, Bernicia, Monocacy and Palos, These vessels rendezvoused at Nagasaki and on May sixteenth they set sail for Korea. Minister Low’s correspondence with his [page 95] government shows that he had accurately gauged the probabilities of the situation. A long acquaintance with the Korean could not have rendered his diagnosis of the case more accurate than it was. From the very first he considered it to be a hopeless case, and he was right. But this in no way lessened the care he exercised in doing everything in his power to render the expedition a success. After fourteen days of struggle against dense fogs, tortuous channels and swift tidal currents the fleet dropped anchor off the islands known as the Ferrierre group, not far from Eugénie Island. This was on May 30th. They had not been there long before they were boarded by some small officials with whom Minister Low was of course unable to treat, but through them he sent a friendly message to Seoul asking that an official of equal rank with the American envoy be sent to confer with him on important matters. The Koreans had already received through the Chinese an intimation of what the Americans desired but they argued that as their policy of carrying ship-wrecked mariners safely across the border was well known abroad and as they did not care to open up relations with other countries, there was no call to send an envoy to treat with the Americans. The Regent shrewdly, though mistakenly, suspected that the “General Sherman” affair was at the bottom of this, as the death of the French priests had been the cause of the French expedition and he decided to garrison Kang-wha and deal with the Americans as he had with the French. Gen. OYo-jun was sent with 3.000 troops to Kwang Fort on the island of Kang-wha. A part of this force was stationed as garrison at Tokchin, a little fort at the narrowest part of the estuary between Kang-wha and the mainland, where the tide runs through with tremendous force and a dangerous reef adds to the difficulty of navigation.
Thus it was that when the Monocacy and Palos steamed slowly up the channel on a tour of inspection they were fired upon by the guns of this little fort. No special damage was done, and as soon as the gunboats could be gotten ready to reply to this unexpected assault they opened fire upon the little fort and speedily drove its garrison out. The Koreans supposed these gunboats were approaching for the purpose of assault. Indeed, as no intimation had been given the Korean government [page 96] that such a reconnoitering expedition was planned, and as this narrow passage was considered the main gateway of approach to the capital, the Koreans argued strictly from the book and the American contention that the attack was unprovoked was groundless, for to Korean eyes the very approach to this stronghold was abundant provocation.
When the fort had been silenced, the two gunboats steamed back to the main anchorage and reported. It was instantly decided that an apology must be forthcoming from the government, but as none came, retaliation was the only thing left to vindicate the wounded honor of the United States. A strong force was despatched, which, under cover of the ship’s guns was landed near the fort, and after a hard hand to hand struggle in which every man of the garrison was killed at his post the place was taken. Thus was the tarnished honor of the Great Republic restored to its former brightness. But mark the sequel. The Admiral plainly was entirely unequal to the task of pushing the matter to the gates of Seoul, and so he withdrew and sailed away to China exactly as the French had done. The great mistake in this lay in ignorance of the Korean character. The government cared little for the loss of a few earth-works on Kang-wha. In fact, even if the Americans had overrun and ravaged half the peninsula and yet had not unseated the king in his capital or endangered his person, their departure would have left the Koreans in the firm belief that the foreigners had been whipped. In the last decade of the twelfth century the Japanese overran the country, forced the King to flee to the very banks of the Yalu, killed hundreds of thousands of the people and for seven years waged equal war in the peninsula, and yet when Hideyoslii died and his troops were recalled Korea claimed that the Japanese had been defeated; and it was true. The approach of United States gunboats up to the very walls of the “Gibraltar” of Korea was nothing less than a declaration of war, and the paltry loss of the little garrison was a cheap price to pay for their ultimate triumph in seeing the American ships “hull down” in the Yellow sea.
When this glad news was published in Seoul the already plethoric pride of the Regent swelled to bursting. Another briliant victory had been scored.
THE KOREA REVIEW
The Russo-Japanese War.
As can be seen at a glance, it will be some time before there can be a general engagement between the Russian and Japanese forces. The question is now being eagerly asked what tactics the Russians will pursue. Will they come forward and stubbornly contest every foot of ground beyond the Yalu or will they mass their forces at some strategic point and risk their whole cause upon a single great battle? It is the opinion of some that they will try to draw the Japanese further and further north as they did the French in Napoleon’s time, but this is hardly credible, for even the novice in war will see that the Japanese will reconstruct the railway in their rear and so be able to withdraw at any time. And in addition to this, the Russians have no great towns and cities to retire to, as they had in Europe. It would even be worse for them than for the Japanese.
The last month has given some evidence of their intentions. We hear that they are throwing up strong redoubts at Andong, just across the Yalu, and it seems more than likely that they will try to defend that line. The few bands of Russian horsemen that are this side the Yalu amount to little; in fact they aid the Japanese cause, for they commit excesses which exasperate the Koreans and are making them rise in defense of their homes. .News came from the north lately that a hundred or more Russians entered the far northern town of Kang-gei [page 98] and took people’s grain and other food and offered insults to the women of the town. The prefect called together a strong force of tiger-hunters, who form a regular guild throughout the north, and set upon the Russians and inflicted severe injuries. We do not yet know which side suffered the more but it seems that the Koreans drove the obnoxious intruders across the Yalu. News of such things enrages the Koreans all over the country and the officers in the army are asking that they be sent to aid the Japanese. One difficulty that the Russian meets in the north of Korea is that he has no money excepting Russian paper roubles with which to pay for provisions. These notes are quite useless to the Koreans and therefore the Russians can live only by bringing all their supplies or by stealing from the people. Now that the Korean government has made an alliance with Japan, the Russians doubtless feel at liberty to treat Korean territory as hostile ground, and levy whatever supplies they may want. If food was all they extorted it might fall within the limits of civilized warfare, but they take other liberties which are entirely outside the pale of modern military methods.
Meanwhile, the Japanese are moving steadily northward and in a short time will have the Russians all the other side of the Yalu, That the Japanese recognize the seriousness of the situation and the probability of a long and exhausting war, is seen in the fact that they have already begun the building of a railway from Seoul to the Yalu River. At the same time the road from Fusan up to Seoul is being pushed to completion and when the two are finished there will be a continuous line from Fusan to the northern boundary of Korea. This road will serve a double purpose, for besides supplying a ready means of transport for troops, it will be still more useful as a means for carrying Korean food stuffs from the southern districts, the “garden of Korea,” to the north, where the Japanese army is at work.
The past few weeks have witnessed the last dying flurry of the “peddlar’s” guild. This was once a simple mercantile society composed of travelling merchants or [page 99] peddlars, but they disbanded long ago and in their place there arose a so-called peddlar’s guild which was in truth a gang of desperadoes who under cover of the name “private police” were prepared to do any dirty work that unscrupulous officials in high places saw fit to give them. They have been the most dangerous element in Seoul all these weeks, and the only anxiety of the foreigners in Seoul was lest this gang of hoodlums should break out in some manner before the arrival of Japanese troops. Now that the Japanese are in power here they have caused a royal edict to be promulgated doing away with the Peddlar’s Guild. This naturally was not pleasant to the peddlars and they began plotting against the officials who had injured them. A few weeks ago a man armed with a sword climbed the wall of the Foreign Minister’s house and searched the place, but as the Minister was fortunately spending the night elsewhere the assassin could not find him. Enraged at his failure, the felon struck the door-sill of the Minister’s private room a vicious blow with his sword and then decamped. The same night three other houses were attacked with explosive bombs but the material with which they were charged was of such poor quality that they could do little damage. Since that time it has been found out that the ring-leaders in these cowardly assaults were officials who lately held high power on the Russian side of the fence and at the present moment these men are being sought for and arrested as rapidly as possible. It is certain that when the Russians were influential in Seoul they used the very worst elements in the government and among the people to effect their ends. The real head of this “Peddlar’s Guild’’ was an official high in the favor of the Russians.
Nothing could exceed the moderation and good sense of the Japanese in handling the delicate question of nominal Korean independence and virtual Japanese domination in Korea. We believe that Japan fully intends to preserve the independence of the country but at the present crisis it is manifestly impossible to let the Koreans do just as they please; nor would it be for their [page l00] own best interests. Many people have predicted that the Japanese would secure the decapitation, or at least the execution, of the leading pro-Russian officials in the Korean government; but so far from this, the Japanese have taken one of them, and the leading one, in safety to Japan lest Korean people should fall upon him and tear him to pieces as they would have been glad to do. It is a wise policy of conciliation that the Japanese have adopted and not one of spite or revenge, and they will gain by it in the end. Just now the Koreans are complaining that the Japanese do not kill the pro-Russian officials, but they will come to see that it is better to make a friend of an enemy than to kill him. Many of these pro-Russians honestly believed that they were working in the interests of the country and all they need is to have their eyes opened to the truth. This is what is happening now and it is safe to say that most of them are converted already.
Since the above was written we learn that the Korean tiger-hunters in the north are taking things into their own hands. Most foreigners imagine that the Koreans are a mild people who have no fight in them, but if so they have either never heard or have forgotten how these hunters stood their ground against the French on the island of Kang-wha in 1866 and against the Americans in 1871. They fought with conspicuous bravery and in the fight with the Americans they stood their ground until every one of them was killed. The reports that are coming from the north at the present time show that these hunters have lost none of their old-time prowess, and though poorly armed and without anything that could be called proper military training they are attacking the Russians wherever they can get at them on Korean soil.
In the town of Yung-byun a band of Russian cavalry attacked and seized the Korean telegraph office, but the Korean hunters rallied and surrounded the Russians, and in the fight that followed they drove the intruders out, although the Koreans suffered heavier losses than the Russians. This was doubtless due to the [page 101] fact that the Russians are so much better armed than the Koreans.
The coming of Marquis Ito to Korea as a special Envoy from Tokyo is the most important subject of conversation at present. His mission is ostensibly a merely complimentary one but it is as clear to the Koreans as to the foreigners that there underlies it a very important move on the part of the Japanese. The Koreans are to be congratulated on the coming of a man so eminently fitted, in every way, to help the Korean government over this crisis. The Marquis is a man who has been intimatety connected with the whole process of Japan’s national regeneration and his wide experience, his advanced age, his wise conservatism and his conciliatory tendencies make it almost sure that the Korean people of every class will welcome him here.
It may be that Marquis Ito will not stay here but that Count Aoki will come to aid the Korean Government during these transition days. Some such statement is abroad. We wish the Marquis might stay but in Count Aoki Korea will have an adviser thoroughly capable of handling the situation.
The impossibility of foretelling anything with accuracy is illustrated by the fact that, even as we write this, news comes that the Russians have crossed the Yalu in force and occupied the Korean port of Yongampo. Whether this is true or not it is too early to say, but it is not at all improbable. It looks as if the Japanese were waiting till all Korean territory as far as the Yalu is cleared of Russians before throwing in their main force, which would land at this same port of Yongampo, thus saving a long and costly march over-land. This the Russians seem to have foreseen, and they apparentlywish to stop it if possible by the occupation of Yongampo. How they can hope to hold it against a combined attack by land and sea on the part of the Japanese does not appear and time alone will tell.
The foreign war correspondents seem to be having a hard time, or at least a slow time, securing their credentials from the Japanese authorities to proceed to the front. [page 102] It seems likely that they will be provided with their papers only when the time comes to send the main body of Japanese troops to the scene of war. As yet only a few Japanese, comparatively, have come to occupy Korea and prepare the way for the coming of the main army. The permits have not yet been issued to the war correspondents, but they are so eager to get to the front that they have, a few of them, gone north hoping that their papers will follow them. As the Japanese have control of all the telegraph lines in Korea it will be hard to get news out of the north except such as the Japanese authorities wish should come. We imagine that it would be very wise to consult the wishes of the Japanese so far as possible, for it is sure that if information detrimental to the interests of the Japanese transpires, those responsible for it will have small chance of success at the front when the real fighting begins.
There was a busy scene about the hotels when these correspondents were bidding on horses and other necessary things for their trips to the north. Horseflesh naturally soared in price until it nearly got out of sight of even the plethoric purses of the representatives of the journalist magnates. One correspondent was offered a beast at the fancy figure of Yen 400. Another found, when he had secured his mount, that it was unfortunately blind in both eyes. Japanese who could speak a smattering of English and who had considered themselves happy at a salary of twenty yen a month held themselves cheap at a hundred yen, and one interpreter secured a position at two hundred. But then, one naturally wants a little more if he is expected to stand and watch a fight without being able to take a hand in it.
As the month of March draws to a close, we see that there has been some little development in the war situation. The number of Japanese troops in the peninsula has not yet materially increased but the Korean territory is gradually being cleared of Russians troops, except along the Yalu. Just how many there are in that vicinity it is impossible to tell, but there may be three or four thousand. There is no evidence as yet that they intend [page 103] to attempt to hold any of the Korean soil against the Japanese. If there had been any large number of Russians this side of the Yalu we would surely have heard of it. It is not certain as yet even that they intend to try to prevent the Japanese crossing that historic stream. If, as has been intimated, the Russians are massing at Harbin, it is more than likely that the Japanese will have to penetrate Manchurian territory some distance before touching any real army. At this stage of the game it is useless to attempt any surmise as to what will happen. If authentic information should come that large detachments of Russians were approaching the Korean border by different roads it would then be time to predict that the Japanese will have to fight soon, but at the present moment no forecast can be made. Of course, we catch at every straw of evidence which would help to decide this important question. A few days ago the rumor prevailed that a prominent Russian has said that the Japanese would be crushed within four months. This may be true, but if the boast that Port Arthur was impregnable be taken as a criterion it will be well to add a few months to this estimate, or even to substitute the word Russian for Japanese.
The Royal Funeral.
Meanwhile Seoul has been entertained with a royal pageant. The funeral of the late Queen Dowager was a very spectacular event. She was the queen of King Honjong who reigned from 1835 to 1850. She was married in 1844 at the age of thirteen and was left a widow at the age of eighteen.
We have given a sketch of her life in a former issue of this magazine, but we will try to give a brief account of the funeral pageant.
According to the usual custom, this funeral would not have come for two months yet, but for reasons of state it was thrown forward and occurred on March 14. Royal funerals always take place early in the morning, sometimes before light. It was still dark when the main part of the procession took their places along the wide street which runs through the center of the city, but they [page 104] had to wait some hours before the final ceremonies at the palace were completed and the royal catafalque was borne out to take its place in the long line.
All night long the streets were made picturesque with flaring lanterns, hurrying messengers, impatient horses in gay trappings, groups of soldiers and grooms warming their hands by little fires built along the sides of the great street and by companies of guild-men bringing out their streaming banners and getting in place for the march in the morning. And around and among it all poured a constant stream of white-clad Koreans of every class, to whom this was a festive rather than mournful occasion.
The Queen Dowager’s tomb is on a beautiful hill-side about ten miles outside the East Gate, near the spot where, as a young widow, she saw her husband buried. The road thither had been specially prepared for the occasion and it offered a wide and smooth avenue for the impressive cortege that was soon to wind its slow way to the Queen’s last resting place. The procession was about two miles in length, for it stretched from the Big Bell, which has tolled the curfew for every king of the dynasty, to the Great East Gate. Down the center of the broad street there was laid the usual line of red earth which intimates that royalty cannot tread the common way but must have a new road to traverse. On either side of the road, all the way to the tomb, huge brush torches were placed at intervals of eighty or a hundred feet. These were a foot in diameter and about eight feet high. When the funeral starts on time and the procession goes out before the light has come, these huge flaming torches add just the necessary touch of wierdness to the impressive picture.
First in the procession come the great embroidered banners of the guilds, which make one think of the guilds of medieval Europe. They represent the industries in silk, linen, shoes, paper, tobacco, silver, furniture,, fruit, rice, fish, furs, bronze, wedding outfits, cord, figured silk, and the river towns of Han-gang, Su-gang, No-dol, Kungduk-yi, Sam-ga, Yong-san, Su-bing-go, Tuk-sum and [page 105] Wang-sim-yi. Each of these great banners, hanging from a cross-piece, bears the name of the guild that furnished it, and the guilds vie with each other in making the banners as conspicuous as possible.
Behind the banners come gaily ornamented litters borne high on the shoulders of four men, and in the litters are placed the toilet articles and other utensils of the dead queen; such as mirrors, cosmetic dishes, writing utensils, jade ornaments and other jewelry. All these are to be deposited in her grave. This represents an ancient idea that the spirit of the dead will use the utensils in the other world.
Third in the procession come some more four-man litters in which are carried all the diplomas and other written honors that the dead queen received during her life-time. What use they can be, it is hard to say; for it is hardly to be believed that the dead can use these as passports at the gate of paradise. If so a good many queer people have gotten in.
After these come a crowd of small officials in chairs or on horse-back. They are the people who have charge of the mere manual part of the funeral arrangements. They are all dressed in deep mourning which consists of linen roughly woven and of the natural color, a very light brown.
A body of Korean troops, about 200 in number, comes next. They carry muskets with fixed bayonets, but not reversed. These soldiers are dressed in what is intended as foreign uniform, but it is a rather queer imitation. All the suits seem to be made on a single pattern, whether the wearer be five foot two or six foot one. Perhaps it helps to give a semblance of uniformity but it is sometimes accomplished only with an inordinate exhibition of neck and shank. In the old days, say 1889, these soldiers, in their long flowing skirts, with red sleeves, looked far more imposing than they do in this painful attempt at foreign uniform. On each side of this body of troops walks a line of lantern-bearers. These are fortunately dressed in the old-time Korean garb, with long skirts, flowing sleeves and horse-hair plumed hats. The [page 106] lanterns are simply oval iron frames two feet long by a foot wide, over which blue and red silk gauze is draped. The candle is attached to the’ point where the iron ribs join and the whole is carried by a long wooden handle from the end of which the lantern hangs like the lash of a whip. The whole ensemble is remarkably picturesque to those who have not seen it too many times.
Then come some forty or fifty banners inscribed, in Chinese characters, with eulogistic biographical notes on the dead queen. Sometimes, in the case of an exceptionally renowned man, the number of these flattering banners runs up into the hundreds. We now jump from the sublime to the ridiculous, for these stately banners are followed by four men of low birth who are hidden under the ugliest masks that human ingenuity could invent. The wildest fancy can imagine nothing more grotesque and hideous. We have here a manifestation of one phase of the real underlying religion of the Korean, stripped of all its Confucian and Buddhistic embellishments. These repulsive figures are intended to scare away all malignant spirits, who at such times make special endeavors to play their malicious pranks upon helpless humanity. The Korean has his own peculiar brand of devil, whose abilities along certain lines are so great and along others so circumscribed that it requires a careful study to really place him.
But even more interesting and striking are the six great paper horses that are trundled on carts behind these devil-scarers. The beasts are cast in heroic mould and are of various colors, gray, white and spotted red. The carts are drawn by means of ropes, and a dozen or more of the Seoul shop-keepers supply the tractive power. In some countries, among savage tribes, a horse is killed at the grave and its spirit follows the dead man to the land of shades, where he rides it as of yore; but in Korea they carry these paper horses instead. It is cheaper and satisfies the requirements as well. Besides, it is more spectacular, and that is a paramount consideration.
All these things are the preliminaries, the grand overture. [page 107] But now comes the real thing. It is led off by the Grand Marshal, an official of the highest grade, who is master of ceremonies. He is dressed in a well-fitting foreign uniform and is mounted on a fine horse. His appearance is tame compared with the flaunting splendor of an official of his grade in the olden times, but with his large retinue of soldiers flanked with lantern-bearers he is sufficiently imposing. The curious mixture of modem and medieval in this procession adds an element of humor which was lacking in the old-time pageant.
The Marshal is followed by the great chair of state in which the queen was wont to be carried in her lifetime. It is draped in gaudy colored trappings and is carried high on the shoulders of thirty-two men. Behind it comes what is called the “Small Catafalque” or Soyu. The casket is not in it, but in the Great Catafalque which follows. It is a curious custom, that of always carrying two of each royal vehicle. Whenever the Emperor goes out, an empty litter is carried in front and the Emperor follows in another. To the foreigner it looks as if there might be fear of a possible break-down, but the Korean would be horrified at such a suggestion. As the smaller catafalque is almost the same as the great one except in size we will describe but one. The Great Catafalque is formed of a heavy frame-work carried on the shoulders of 108 bearers. Thick transverse poles support the framework and stout padded ropes are run fore and aft between these poles so that the shoulders of the bearers shall not be galled. On the high frame-work is a structure like a little house ten feet long six feet high and five feet broad. The roof and sides of this little pavilion are painted and draped in the most highly colored paints and silks. All the tints of the rainbow compete for the supremacy in the war of colors. It is open at the front and rear, and the casket containing the remains of the queen is drawn in by a large number of men by means of ropes. When it had been carefully deposited the silken curtains which had been rolled up were let down and a crowd of palace women came to mourn for the last time beside the body of the queen whom they had served so [page 108] many years. They stood behind the bier and wept volubly, bending the body and wiping their faces with their skirts. When this lamentation was over the catafalque was ready to proceed. Two men took their stand on the platform, one in front of the casket and one behind it. These were to guide the bearers. The one in front held a hand bell which he rung as a signal.
After a good deal of running about and confusion the 108 bearers took their places with the heavy padded cords over their shoulders and with a rhythmic sort of chant lifted the catafalque from the wooden horses on which it rested and slowly forged ahead. Four long ropes led forward from the catafalque and two others led back. These were held by some seventy men each. Those in front were supposed to help it forward and those behind to ease it down a hill. As the catafalque passed down the street it had on either side a sort of screen or curtain of black cloth behind which some women walked or rode. This was perhaps the most curious part of the whole procession from an historical point of view. It is well known that in ancient Korea two or more people were buried alive with the body of a king. We find it expressly stated in the history of one of the kings about twelve hundred years ago that he gave specific directions to omit this ceremony in connection with his funeral. During a part at least of the dynasty which existed in Korea between 918 and 1392 A. D. it was customary to bury kings in vaults which had several apartments. In one the body was placed and in the others three or four persons voluntarily took their place, provided with a small amount of food. Then the whole structure was covered deep with earth and the buried persons died of starvation or lack of air.
On the platform in front of the casket stood a man in full mourning dress, and behind the casket, facing backwards, stood another. The one in front held a bell in his hand with which he enforced his commands to the bearers. Beside him was a great brush pen such as the Koreans use in writing, but enlarged a hundred fold. It was a bamboo pole on the end of which was a huge [page 109] brush and when the “driver” saw any man shirking his work he would dip this brush in a bowl of paint and touch the shoulder of the miscreant with it. This would make it possible to single him out for punishment later. This man standing in front of the casket is the chief of the carpenters who have had the work of making the casket and other paraphernalia of the funeral. The man behind is the chief of the painters who have decorated the bier and the casket.
Immediately behind the catafalque comes a crowd of soldiers in the midst of whom rides the Emperor, when he attends in person. And behind all comes a mass of police and various kinds of messengers, servants and hangers-on.
A New Book on Korea.
Korea, by Angus Hamilton, London, William Heinemann, 1904, pp.xiii and 309. Illustrated.
We have received this new volume on Korea and have read it with great interest. Mr. Hamilton, as correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette spent three or four months in Korea during which time he secured a considerable amount of information. The book is printed on extremely fine and heavy paper and although much of the type used was old and broken the general get up of the work is good. Mr. Hamilton excels in descriptions of scenery, and the accounts of travel in the country are admirable. He has been able to catch the spirit of the occasion in a most happy manner and we consider this to be the best thing in that line that has yet appeared. But speaking of the Korean archipelago which he passed through on the regular steamers he says.
The coral beds display many violent tints and delicate shades forming in their beautiful colorings a sea garden of matchless splendor. Many varieties of cactus grow side by side with curious ferns, palms and creepers. In passing from group to group shoals of whales are to be seen blowing columns of spray aloft or sleeping idly on the surface.
[page 110] With all regard for Mr. Hamilton’s correct intentions we must still be left to wonder where these coral beds form a sea garden of matchless splendor. His description is that of some tropic island, for it is quite sure that Korea produces neither cacti nor palms. The writer was peculiarly fortunate in getting such a good view of the whales, for in twenty voyages or more between Chemulpo and Fusan we have never been able to see one, and it is difficult to realize how whales can haunt the tide-swept estuaries of the southern coast. We had supposed that the whales were found mostly off the eastern coast.
The writer however, had a correct eye for natural beauty and in his description of inland scenery he is specially felicitous. For this, reason it is much to be regretted that the book should be marred by an occasional sentence like the following :
From Pak-tu-san to Wiju there is one mighty and natural panorama of mountains with snow-clad cloud-wrapped summits, and beautiful valleys with rich crops and quaintly placed, low-thatched houses, through which rivers course like angry silver.
We may safely say that this happens only when the rivers are swollen with the summer rains and is not a permanent phenomenon. On another page he speaks of practically this same region in the following terms :
Cut off from the eastern division of the Kingdom by ranges of mountains and extending from near Chinnampo to the northern frontiers of the Kingdom, is a stretch of country, partly inhabited. It is frequented by bands of Korean robbers and Chinese bandits — the haunt of the wild beast, barren and almost impenetrable. It is almost untouched by western civilization. Its groves of pines and firs recall the time when Korea was one vast forest. The soil is productive and the time is ripe, &c., &c.
This leaves us in grave doubt as to the author’s meaning. It is a land of beautiful valleys, rich crops, the haunt of the wild beast, barren and almost impenetrable and infested with Korean robbers and Chinese bandits. No doubt all these conditions prevail in different sections of the north but unfortunately the author has failed to segregate the favorable and the unfavorable aspects of the country.
[page 111] He gives us a very fine description of Yongampo, and what appears to be a correct account of the methods by which it was taken and held by the Russians. We have seen nowhere else so vivid a description of the monastery region of Diamond Mountains. He gives us not so much a physical description but reproduces the feelings inspired by a visit to those venerable institutions. We may differ with him as to the statement that the pillars upholding the temple roofs are of teak wood, which must have come from Singapore or that vicinity, but we draw from his whole account the feeling of being on the spot and sharing the experience with him.
When we turn to his account of actual conditions as prevailing in Korea we see at once that three or four months is not long enough to make a correct estimate.
Speaking of the opening of Korea and the attitude of China he makes the following statement :
It was in 1876 that Korea made her first modern treaty. It was not until three years later that any exchange of envoys took place between the contracting party and herself. Despite the treaty Korea showed no disposition to profit by the existence of the new relations until the opening of Chemulpo to trade in 1883 revealed to her the commercial advantages which she was now in a position to enjoy. All this time China had been in intercourse with foreigners. Legations had been established in her capital: consuls were in charge of the open ports : commercial treaties had been arranged. She was already old and uncanny in the wisdom which came to her by this dealing with the people of Western nations. But, in a spirit of perversity without parallel in constitutional history, China retired within herself to such a degree that Japan, within one generation, has advanced to the position of a great power, and even Korea has become, within twenty years, the superior of her former liege.
How it happened that Japan’s advance was dependent upon China’s retrogression and in what genuine particulars Korea is the superior of China the writer leaves entirely to the imagination of the reader.
Mr. Hamilton draws the most flattering picture of Korea’s progress toward enlightenment which we vainly wish was a true one. He says :
In less than a decade Korea has promoted works of an industrial and humanitarian character which China, at the present time, is bitterly opposing. It is true that the liberal tendencies of Korea have been [page 112] stimulated by association with the Japanese. Without the guiding hand of that energetic country the position which she would enjoy today is infinitely problematical. The contact has been wholly beneficial.
We understand by “infinitely problematical” that the author don’t know. Compare this fulsome praise of the Japanese and their influence upon Korea with what the author says on a subsequent page:
The extraneous evidence of the power of the Japanese irritates the Koreans, increasing the unconquerable aversion which has inspired them against the Japanese through centuries, until, of the various races of foreigners in Korea at the present, none are so deservedly detested as those hailing from the Island Empire of the Mikado. Nor is this prejudice remarkable, when it is considered that it is the scum of the Japanese nation which has settled down upon Korea. It is, perhaps, surprising that the animus of the Koreans against the Japanese has not died out with time, but the fault lies entirely with the Japanese themselves. Within recent years so much has occurred to alter the position of Japan and to flatter the vanity of these island people that they have lost their sense of perspective. Puffed up with conceit, they now permit themselves to commit excesses of a most detestable character. Their extravagant arrogance blinds them to the absurdities and follies of their actions, making manifest the fact that their gloss of civilization is the merest veneer. Their conduct in Korea shows them to be destitute of moral and intellectual fiber. They are debauched in business and the prevalence of dishonorable practices in public life makes them indifferent to private virtue. Their interpretation of the laws of their settlements, as of their own country is corrupt. Might is right; the sense of power is tempered neither by reason, justice nor generosity. Their existence from day to day, their habits and manners, their commercial and social degradation, complete an abominable travesty of the civilization which they profess to have studied. It is intolerable that a government aspiring to the dignity of a first class power should allow its settlements in a friendly and foreign country to be a blot upon its own prestige and a disgrace to the land that harbors them.
And yet he says distinctly that the contact has been wholly beneficial! In view of the publicity given to these strange and extravagant statements we cannot pass them by without a strong protest. It is the purpose of this Review to discuss everything bearing upon Korea in a fair spirit and it would be unjust to the public to allow such preposterous charges to pass unchallenged. We do not think that they are true. We appeal to the whole foreign community who have spent some years in [page 113] Korea to say whether in this tirade the occasional ill treatment of a Korean by a Japanese has not been made the ground for a sweeping condemnation of the whole Japanese community, a thing which turns the writer’s charge of unreason and injustice upon his own head. We deny his charge that the Japanese settlement is the curse of every treaty port in Korea. We deny that the modesty, cleanliness and politeness so characteristic of the Japanese are conspicuously absent in this country. We deny the sweeping charge that the Japanese merchant is a rowdy and that the Japanese coolie is more prone to steal than to work. In the same breath he says that contact with the Japanese has been only beneficial and that it has been a disgrace. Both these statements are gross exaggerations.
Speaking of Chemulpo and its relative importance he remarks :
Chemulpo, however, the center in which an important foreign settlement and open port have sprung up, does not suggest in itself the completeness of the transformation which in a few years has taken place in the capital. It is twenty years since Chemulpo was opened to foreign trade and to-day it boasts a magnificent bund, wide streets, imposing shops and a train service which connects it with the capital. The sky is threaded with a maze of telephone and telegraph wires, there are several hotels conducted on western principles and there is also an international club From small and uncertain beginnings four well-built, well-lighted settlements have sprung up expanding into a general foreign, a Japanese, a Chinese and a Korean quarter. The Japanese section is the best located and the most promising.
This in spite of the fact that “the Japanese settlement is the curse of every treaty port in Korea.” What the writer means by saying that Chemulpo does not suggest in itself the completeness of the transformation which in a few years has taken place in Seoul becomes evident in his decription of Seoul.
A few years ago it was thought that the glory of the ancient city had departed. Now, however, the prospect is suggestive of prosperity ...so quickly has the population learned to appreciate the results of foreign intercourse that, in a few more years, it will be difficult to find in Seoul any remaining link with the capital of yore, . . . Improvements which have been wrought also in the conditions of the city— in its streets and houses, in its sanitary measures and in its methods of communication have replaced these ancient customs. An excellent and rapid train [page 114] runs from Chemulpo and electric trains afford quick transit within and beyond the capital. Even electric lights illuminate by night some parts of the chief city of the Hermit Kingdom. Moreover an aqueduct is mentioned; the police force has been reorganized, drains have come and evil odors have fled. . .Old Seoul with its festering alleys, its winter accumulations of every species of filth, its plastering mud and penetrating foulness, has almost entirely vanished from within the walls of the capital. The streets are magnificent, spacious, clean, admirably made and well drained. The narrow, dirty lanes have been widened, gutters have been covered and roadways broadened, until, with its trains, its cars, its lights, its miles of telegraph lines, its Railway Station Hotel, brick houses and glass windows, Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the highest, most interesting and cleanest city in the east. It is still not one whit Europeanized. for the picturesqueness of the purely Korean principles of architecture have been religiously maintained, and are to be observed in all future improvements.
Will our friends of Chemulpo accept this as a valid reason for granting that Chemulpo does not suggest in itself the completeness of the transformation that has taken place in Seoul? But in the very next sentence the author says:
The shops still cling to the drains, the jewellers’ shops hang over one of the main sewers of the city, the cabinet makers occupy both sides of an important thoroughfare their precious furniture half in and half out of filthy gutters.
It is very difficult for anyone to write an interesting book on Korea, from superficial observation merely, without exaggeration. We read in this book that there are innumerable palaces in the city, that at all hours processions of chairs are seen making for the palace, that the pounding of clothes with sticks is the sole occupation of the women of the lower classes. He gives us to understand that the exposure of the breast is the rule with women on the street but he says it is not an agreeable spectacle as the women seen abroad are usually aged or infirm. The fact is that not one per cent of the women on the street are thus exposed. It is only the slave women and a few others of which this can be truly said, and these never wear the chang-ot over the head so that his remark that “the effect of the contrast between the hidden face and the naked breast is exceptionally ludicrous” is wholly imaginary. We are told that “the girls of the poorer orders are sold as domestic slaves and become attached [page 115] to the households of the upper classes.” It is very uncommon for a parent to sell a daughter in this way. One would think from the text that it was the rule rather than the rare exception.
The author gives six pages of the book to the dancing girl, ending with the following, which will be a surprise to those who have witnessed the inanity of the Korean dance and the execrable shriek of the accompanying native band :
The little figures seemed unconscious of their art; the musicians unconscious of the qualities of their wailing. Nevertheless the masterly restraint of the band, the conception, skill and execution of the dancers made up a triumph of technique.
Many foreigners who have listened to native music have wondered how those men could possibly endure the strident sounds they drew from their crude instruments, but if it is true that “they are unconscious of the quality of their wailings” it is all right. The riddle is solved.
The next chapter is on the Korean Court but we must decline to quote some things that the writer says about the Emperor. The mere quotation would be a discourtesy, but we fancy that the gentlemen of the Diplomatic Corps will hardly agree that the Emperor is “now almost a cypher in the management of his Empire,” which is one of the author’s milder statements. The chapter is a curious mixture of fact and fiction. On the whole the facts predominate though the description and history of Lady Om are given in the most “popular” modem journalistic style.
A bright spot in this book is the chapter devoted to a sketch of J. McLeavy Brown, C.M.G. LL.D.. and the question of the Customs. Here the author was exceptionally well informed and he pays a most graceful and deserved tribute to the man and the system which have played perhaps the most important part in contemporary Korean history. The chapter is well written, thorough and conclusive.
The chapter on education, arts, punishments, marriage and divorce, concubines, children and government [page 116] contains much that is true and interesting though the statements that “the Mandarin dialect of China is considered the language of polite society” and “it is the medium of official communication at Court” will be read with a smile. The Chinese character is the official medium for documents and letters but the Mandarin dialect is not spoken in Korea.
We are told that the cause of the Japanese invasion of 1592 was that the King of Korea refused to renew a former condition of vassalage. No mention is made of the desire of Hideyoshi to invade China. It was Korea’s refusal to help Japan invade China, or even to give the Japanese a free passage through the peninsula for that purpose that brought on the war. Korea was never the vassal of Japan so far as can be discovered in history.
We must protest against the implication that the Japanese government was directly responsible for the death of the late Queen. That implication is found in the following words :
Before she (Japan) had realized the potentialities of her position she had committed herself to a design by which she hoped to secure the King and Queen and direct herself the reins of Government; but her coup d’etat was to recoil disastrously on her own head The Queen fell a victim to the plot and although the King was imprisoned, he, together with the Crown Prince contrived in a little time to find refuge in the Russian Legation.
What we object to in this is the claim that Japan formed and carried out that plot, rather than a few Japanese on their own initiative and in defiance of what they must have known their government would approve.
In dealing with the religions of Korea the writer says that
Statements of ancient Chinese and Japanese writers, and the early Jesuit missionaries, tend to prove that the worship of spririts and demons has been the basis of national belief since the earliest times. The god of the hills is even now the most popular deity. Worship of the spirits of heaven and earth, of the invisible powers of the air, of nature, of the morning star, of the guardian genii of the hills and rivers, and of the soil and grain, has been so long practiced that, in spite of the influences of Confucianism and the many centuries in which Buddhism has existed in the land, the actual worship of the great mass of the people has undergone little material alteration.
[page 117] This, in the main, is quite true, for Confucianism is merely a code of etiquette and Buddhism has been rather assimilated by the native demonolatry than otherwise. For this reason we do not understand the concluding sentence in which he says that Korea must be classed among the Buddhist countries of the world.
Of the native Korean servants he makes the following remarks :
The Korean does not approach the Chinaman as a body-servant; he has neither initiative nor the capacity for the work, while he combines intemperance, immorality and laziness in varying degrees. The Master usually ends by waiting on his man. There is, however, an antidote for this state of things. If sufficient spirit be put into the argument and the demonstration be further enforced by an occasional kick, as circumstances may require, it is possible to convert a first-class, sun-loving wastrel into a willing, if unintelligent servant. Under any circumstances his dishonesty will be incorrigible.
In the concluding pages of the book he gives us an illuminating account of how this kicking argument worked in his own case. He says :
The day had come at last, the horses were pawing in the courtyard. My effects, my guns and camp-bed, my tent and stoves, were picked and rolled. The horses had been loaded; the hotel account had been settled, when my interpreter quietly told me that my servants had struck for ten dollars Mexican monthly increase in the wages of each. I offered to compound with half : they were obdurate. It seemed to me that a crisis was impending. I was too tired and cross to remonstrate. I raised my offer to eight dollars; it was refused—the servants were dismissed. Uproar broke out in the court-yard which my host pacified by inducing the boys to accept my last offer — a raise of eight dollars, my head servant, the brother of my interpreter, repudiated the arrangement, but the significance of this increase had assumed great importance. It was necessary to be firm. Nothing more would be given. The interpreter approached me to intimate that if his brother did not go he also should stay behind. I looked at him a moment, at last understanding the plot, and struck him. He ran into the court-yard and yelled that he was dead — that he had been murdered. The grooms gathered around him with loud cries of sympathy. I strode into the compound. The head groom came up to me demanding an increase of thirty dollars upon the terms he had already accepted. I refused and thrashed him with my whip. The end of my journey had come with a vengeance. The head groom came at me with a huge boulder, and as I let out upon his temple the riot began. My baggage was thrown off the horses and stones flew through the air. I hit and slashed at my assailants and for a few minutes became the center of a very nasty situation. In the end my host cleared the court-yard and recovered my kit, but I was cut a [page 118] little upon the head and my right hand showed a compound fracture — native heads are bad things to hammer. Postponement was now more than ever essential, my fears about my health were realized. By nightfall signs of sickness had developed, the pain had increased in my hand and arm, my head was aching, my throat was inflamed. I was advised to leave at once for Japan; upon the next day I sailed, etc , etc., etc.
I n describing the necessary outfit for travelling in Korea the author gives a valuable list. Among other things he says :
Fresh mint is useful against fleas if thrown about near the sleeping things in little heaps. It is an invaluable remedy and usually effective though by the way I found the fleas and bugs in the houses of New York and Philadelphia infinitely less amenable to such treatment than any I came across in Korea.
The author evidently went to New York by way of Ellis Island; and, so far as we are aware, no mint is cultivated there for the use of immigrants.
This volume is made up, apparently, of a series of articles written at different times and under different conditions and one article contradicts another in such an amusing way that it is impossible to get at the facts of the case. In different parts of the book he speaks in almost diametrically opposite terms of the Japanese, the missionaries, the king, the government, the topography of the country. The best picture in the book is that of a Russian riding a reindeer somewhere north of the Amur River, but there are a number of other good pictures, especially the one of the raft on the Yalu River.
A. B. Stripling, Esq.
It was on Monday March 21st that the foreign community of Seoul was summoned to attend the funeral of one of the oldest foreign residents of Seoul, in the person of Mr. Stripling. The very great measure of respect in which he was held was evinced by the large number of friends and acquaintances who gathered to pay their last sad offices to the dead. The prominent [page 119] part which he played in Korean affairs demands more than a passing notice.
It was some forty years ago that he first came to the Far East as a young man. For some years he held an important post on the Shanghai police force. He afterwards held the position as Chief of the Shanghai Water Police and he was well known among all classes in that city for his absolute fearlessness. He was a man of powerful build and an expert swordsman.
It was in June 1883 that he came to Korea under Herr von Mollendorf as Commissioner of Customs at Chemulpo, a post which he filled until the retirement of von Mollendorff from the post of Chief Commissioner in 1885.
He then spent some time travelling in the interior prospecting for gold and other minerals; it is believed by some that he was the one who first discovered the gold deposit at Eunsan which an English syndicate are now working.
After the Japan-China War Mr. Stripling was appointed Adviser to the Police Department in Seoul, a post which he filled most acceptably for some time. But he found it impossible to get his ideas carried out in connection with the prisons and jails and consequently he resigned and retired to private life.
Some three or four years ago both his eyes were afflicted with cataract and he went to England to have an operation performed. This was partially successful and became back to Korea with one eye fairly restored. For the past year or two his health had been gradually giving way. A shock of paralysis did much to hasten the end and he passed away on the 19th of March.
He was a man of noble nature and generous instincts, of broad education and great literary taste. Even those who knew him best were aware of comparatively only a small part of the kindly acts which he performed among the Koreans. He used to buy medicines in large quantities and give them to needy Koreans without charge. One of those who knew him best says of him that “His kindness of heart has rarely been surpassed. He was [page 120] absolutely unselfish and always gave a large part of his income to needy friends and even to strangers.”
No one could come in contact with him even incidentally and for a short time without discovering the intrinsic warmth of his nature. And those who knew him best are loudest in their praise of him.
Rev. A. B. Turner read the burial service at the residence of the deceased after which the body was taken to the foreign cemetery at Yang-wha-chin for interment.
Ch’oe Sok-cho has been appointed Director of the Imperial Mint in place of Yi Yong-ik.
The following are the terms of the Protocol signed by Japan and Korea about the end of February last.
Mr. Hayashi Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and Major-General Ye Chi-yong Minister of State for Foreign Affairs ad interim of His Majesty the Emperor of Korea being respectively duly empowered for the purpose have agreed upon the following Articles :
Article I. For the purpose of maintaining a permanent and solid friendship between Japan and Korea and firmly establishing peace in the Far East, the Imperial Government of Korea shall place full confidence in the Imperial Government of Japan and adopt the advice of the latter in regard to improvement in administration. Article II. The Imperial Government of Japan shall in a spirit of firm friendship ensure the safety and repose of the Imperial House of Korea. Article III. The Imperial Government of Japan definitely guarantees the independence and territorial integrity of the Korean Empire. Article IV. In case the welfare of the Imperial House of Korea or the territorial integrity of Korea is endangered by agression on the part of a third Power or by internal disturbances the Imperial Government of Japan shall immediately take such necessary measures as circumstances require, and in such case the Imperial Government of Korea shall lend its efforts to facilitate the action of the Imperial Japanese Government.
The Imperial Government of Japan may for the attainment of the above mentioned object, occupy when the circumstances require it, such places as may be necessary from strategic points of view.
[page 121] Article V. The Governments of the two countries shall not in future without mutual consent conclude with a third Power such an arrangement as may be contrary to the spirit of the present Protocol.
Article VI. Details in connection with the present Protocol shall be arranged as the circumstances may require between the Representative of Japan and the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Korea.
Late in February the Home Office sent a Korean to the north to report on the movements of the Japanese.
On 22nd of February the Korean Government threw open the border town of VViju to foreign trade.
Pak Chung-yang was appointed Minister of Finance on Feb. 24.
The Korean authorities at Pyeng-yang wired on the 23rd of Feb. that 2,000 Russian soldiers had arrived at Kasan, 400 at Pak-chun, and that 50 were on the way toward Pyeng-yang from Ch-ing-ju. On the 24th they wired that Japanese soldiers arrived at Pyeng-yang and were guarding the gates. Many officials in the towns along the line deserted their posts and came up to Seoul.
Min Pyung-sak was appointed Household Minister on Feb. 29.
At the beginning of March reports from the north indicated that there were fifty Russians at Anju, 1,400 at Chung-ju and 500 at Kasan.
On Feb. 28 a squad of Russian cavalry appeared near the Chil-sung Gate on the north side of Pyeng-yang. They were promptly fired upon by the Japanese guards at the gate. The range was about 700 yards. No great damage was done. The Russians returned the fire but soon withdrew carrying away, it is said, one wounded man.
It was on the same day that His Majesty gave Y 100,000, the Crown Prince Y50,000, and Prince Yung-chin Y30,000, to the Japanese as a present for the soldiers.
About March 1st Yi Pom-chin the Korean Minister to Russia was ordered by his government to leave St. Petersburg. He went to Paris.
The Japanese are paying the Korean government Y 5,000 a month as charter money for the Korean man-of-war Yang-mu-ko.
The Superintendent of Trade at Chemulpo reported on Mar. 1st that 28,000 Japanese troops had landed at that port up to date.
There has been a great reform in the promptness with which officials go to their offices. Of late, the ministers have fallen into the habit of attending to business at half-past twelve or one o’clock instead of at ten. Now they attend on schedule time and this forces all the lesser officials to do likewise.
The Japanese made a sort of bridge across the ice at Pyengyang.
On Mar. 1st news came that Japanese were buying much property on Ko-je Island in the mouth of Masanpo harbor and preparing to build fortifications.
The privilege of memorializing the Throne has been extended to all officials of any grade instead of being confined to those of high grade only.
[page 122] It was on March 1st that the unsuccessful attempt was made by an assassin on the life of Yi Chi-yong the Foreign Minister. This we have described elsewhere. The same night several other houses were attacked with bombs but without success.
On March 4th by Royal edict the organization known as the “Peddlars Guild” was once, and forever, it is hoped, done away with. The edict applied to the whole country.
The taxes from mining franchises, butchers and crown lands have been again put into the hands of the Agricultural Department. The Household, under Yi Yong-ik, had long held them.
On March 5th the Japanese Minister advised the Korean Government to arrest and try Kil Yung-su, Choe Nak-chu, Yi Kyu-hang and Yi Chai-wha. Some of them were arrested but the chief rascal, Kil Yung-su, “hid somewhere” as the Koreans say.
About March 6th the convalescent Russians in the hospital at Chemulpo were taken to Japan.
Dr. O. R. Avison has received from Nagasaki a supply of the virus of rabies and is prepared to treat a dozen or more patients by the Pasteur treatment. The virus will be good until about April l0th. It is his intention to arrange for the culture of the virus here so that people bitten by mad dogs can be treated at once. If there are any suspicious cases of dog bite it would be well to consult him at once.
Early in March several hundred Russians are said to have appeared at Kang-gye in the far north and to have committed excesses there. The local soldiers rose against them and drove them out.
Yi To-ja became Home Minister about the eighth inst.
The prefect of Yong-chun reported on the eighth that 200 Russian troops left Yongampo for the Chinese side of the Yalu.
On the eighth Min Yung-sun, the son of Min Yung-ik attempted to leave Chemulpo by boat but was stopped by the Japanese. It was suspected that he was carrying messages to Mr. Pavloff in Shanghai.
The British gunboat Phoenix went to Sung-jin early in March and brought the British subjects from that place to Wonsan.
Min Yong-whan became Minister of Education on the 9th inst. Soon after taking this position he issued a statement bearing on this long neglected department. Among other things he said that government appointments should be given only to graduates of the government schools. And that graduates of other schools should be eligible to government positions upon examination. It will have to be done gradually but in three or four years this rule ought to be in running order. He advises that all children should attend the common schools and, having graduated, should attend the middle school and that a. college or university should be established for higher education.
Prince Yi Cha-sun died on the 1st. So far as can be learned the cause of death was pneumonia but as he unfortunately did not have a foreign physician this cannot be verified. He was the great, great-grandson of Sa-do Se-ja, the unhappy son of King Yong-jong, 1724-1777, whom his father nailed up in a box and starved to death [page 123] but who was raised posthumously to royal honors. It was from the second son of this prince that Yi Chi-sun was lineally descended. As he was the fifth generation of the collateral line he was not a prince in his own right. That title expires with the fourth generation as it did in the case of the Tai Won-kun, father of the present emperor. But Yi Chi-sun was a prince because he became the adopted son of the elder brother of the king who preceded the present emperor. His official title was Prince Ch’ung-an. He was still in the prime of life, fifty-four years of age, when he died. Very many of the foreigners of Seoul will remember him as one of the most affable Koreans they ever met. Those who could not remember his Korean name called him the Fat Prince but without casting the least reflection upon him as a genial and courteous gentleman. We remember once when he was taking tea at the Seoul Union one of the little urchins who chase tennis balls happened to pass. The boy had a hare lip, and the Prince called him up, gave him some money and told him to go and have a foreign physician treat his lip. This showed the kindliness of his nature. He will long be remembered by those who knew him, as a man who would make friends wherever he went.
One of the most brilliant social events that Seoul has ever witnessed was the reception given to Marquis Ito, the special envoy from Japan to the Korean Emperor, at his temporary residence in Seoul, on the evening of the 24th inst. A large number of people were up from Chemulpo and it was quite evident that Seoul had turned out in force to grace this final reception to, perhaps, the greatest Japanese statesman, one who has been identified so perfectly with the whole process of Japan’s modern evolution that he may in a sense be said to epitomize it. We trust that the results of his visit to Korea may be as lasting as they are sure to be salutary.
The Japanese Board of Trade in Fusan has petitioned the Japanese Government and the Minister in Seoul to secure the adoption of the following measures :—
( 1 ) A revision of the treaty between Korea and Japan.
(2) The issuance of permanent deeds to real estate.
(3) The management of the Imperial Customs by that power whose trade interests are largest in Korea.
(4) A reform of the agricultural methods in Korea.
(5) Permission for foreigners to reside anywhere in the interior of Korea.
(6) The establishment of four or more Japanese agricultural stations in each of the thirteen provinces as object-lessons to the Koreans.
(7) Permission for Japanese boats to visit and trade along the entire coast of Korea.
(8) The establishment of numerous branches of Japanese banks throughout Korea.
(9) The reorganization of the Korean monetary system so as to effect an equilibrium in exchange.
[page 124] If we examine these nine articles carefully we will see that it is impossible to grant them under existing circumstances. The Japanese ask for extraterritorial rights without any provision being made for their government. It cannot be supposed that the Japanese or any other foreigner would be willing to submit to Korean rule, and yet, under any other conditions, it would be impossible to grant extraterritorial rights. A foreigner in the far interior of Korea must be under some authority. The comparatively few who travel on passport cause little or no trouble, but if large numbers of Japanese should settle in the interior the government must pass into the hands of the Japanese, which would be a violation of the treaty and of the new protocol. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Fusan people ask that the treaty be revised. This desire on the part of the Japanese to spread out over Korea generally seems to us to be the most perplexing question before the Japanese authorities. This desire cannot be gratified, so far as we can see, without seriously impairing Korean sovereignty. The time may come when, under the elevating influence of education and careful guidance, the Korean government will command such a degree of respect that Japanese and other foreigners will be willing to submit to Korean jurisdiction, even as they have in Japan; but that time is evidently not yet.
The meaning of the article dealing with the Imperial Customs is quite evident. It is a request that it be taken out of the hands of the present Customs Service and be put under Japanese control. It seems to us as if this article were quite enough to make the Japanese government ignore the entire petition. If the Customs Service were in native hands and were corrupt and inefficient, or if it were in hands inimical to Japanese interests, this request would be intelligible; but the Customs Service is one of the few departments of Korean administration that is practically beyond criticism both in its personnel and its workings. Moreover it is in the hands of Japan’s friends. The wish to take it over can be prompted neither by a desire for the betterment of the service nor the advantage of the Korean government but simply for the sake of the salaried positions it would give the Japanese. Our surprise at this request grows when we remember that the famous contest over the Customs Service, which occurred a few years ago and in which England scored a conspicuous victory over Russia, made the service of worldwide prominence; so that any attempt by the Japanese to tamper with it at such a time as this is almost inconceivable. We are positive that nothing can be further from the intention of the Japanese authorities and we can only wonder that any Japanese subjects have the temerity to suggest such an obvious absurdity. Our entire confidence in the correct intentions of the Japanese authorities is confirmed by the news that we have heard that the Foreign Office in Seoul has been advised by the Japanese Legation to pay no attention to any applications for concessions on the part of Japanese subjects or companies unless they are made through the Japanese authorities. We feel sure that the government of [page 125] Japan will make it clear to its subjects that the present conditions in Korea do not constitute an open door whereby Japanese subjects can overrun the country and exploit its resources for their own benefit, irrespective of the rights and interests of the Korean government and people. We are told that a large Japanese syndicate offered ¥5,000,000 a year with an immediate bonus of Y 1,000,000 for certain monopolies; this is a considerable amount of money, but when we note that the permanent monopolies asked for cover the best resources of the Korean government we see that it would be selling her birthright for a mesa of pottage
We believe in Japanese influence in Korea for we believe it will be rightly exercised, on the whole. At the same time it is going to de mand the best statesmanship of which Japan is capable to hold in check the impetuousness of the acquisitive faculty in a certain class of Japanese. We believe this will be one of the most searching tests, if one were needed, to prove the genuineness of the claim, which Japan puts forth, to being an enlightened as distinguished from a merely civilized power. Of her ability to stand this test we have no doubt whatever.
Kim Ka-jin was appointed Minister of Agriculture, Commerce and Public works on March 9.
Yi Yong-jik has been appointed governor of South Ch’ung-ch’ung Province.
Since March 8 Japanese gendarmes have been stationed in various parts of Seoul, notably Chong-dong and Chong-no.
On the evening of the 26th inst. Mr. Jack London gave a most interesting reading from his own works at the Y. M. C. A. building for the entertainment of American and British soldiers and a few other friends. We are promised a public reading by this same gifted author, at some not distant date, for the benefit of the Y. M. C. A. Notice will be given in due time.
The governor of North Ham-gyong wired on the 7th of March that 2500 Russians had come to Kyong-sung.
Beginning with March 9 the Law Office began the active prosecution of a large number of actual and supposed offenders. Thirteen of the Koreans who had been military students in Japan were arraigned on the charge of having conspired to overthrow the Government. Three of them were decapitated in the prison and ten were banished for life except two who received a lighter sentence. The Japanese, it is said, interfered, or many more would have been executed. It is said the charges were proved conclusively.
There were fifteen robbers in prison awaiting execution. Four of them met their fate but the other eleven broke jail and escaped. For this reason two officials were cashiered.
Beginning with March 9 the Japanese began the construction of redoubts on the island of Ko-je near Masanpo.
On Mar. 7th a Buddhist priest from the celebrated Sin-heung monastery bought a bull-load of wood but killed the driver threw his body into a ditch and sold the bull. He has been caught.
[page 126] Yi Ching-ha has been made Governor of South Pyeng-an Province.
Min Yung-geui has been made Governor of North Pyeng-an Province
There is a discount of 11 percent on the notes issued for use in the Japanese army.
On March 2nd assassins attempted to lay hands on the Foreign Minister and three other officials. Armed only with a sword. one of the rascals climbed the wall of the Foreign Minister’s compound and searched for him, but without success. At the same time the houses of three other officials were partly wrecked by explosive bombs. It is generally supposed that these acts were committed by, or at least at the instigation of ex-pedlars who had been rendered desperate by the overthrow of their hopes through the coming of the Japanese. These acts have no special political significance, nor do we think there need be any uneasiness for fear of their repetition.
Yun Chi-ho has been made vice-minister of Foreign Affairs. This is a very hopeful sign. It is evident that a salutary change is gradually being made. With Min Yong-whan, Kim Ka-chin. Yi To-chai, Yun Pyung-yul, Sim Sang-hun and a few more men of their stamp in the foremost places there cannot but be a change for the better in political and social conditions throughout the country.
Col Nodzu, who is so well and favorably known in foreign circles in Seoul, has been appointed adviser to the Korean War Department. His knowledge of Koreans and of local conditions generally will add much to the value of his services. The comparatively large sum that is spent upon the army makes it specially appropriate that a man of experience be employed to see that the money so spent brings the maximum returns to the government. What Korea wants of a large army it is hard to discover. If half the money devoted to the army were spent on. education we believe the net results would be far greater. It is not an encouraging sign that education is held in a sort of contempt at the present time This is because the government gives little encouragement to the student. For this reason the new Minister of Education has struck the right note in urging a plan whereby in a few years official positions will open only to those who have graduated from some reputable school.
Marquis Ito has come and gone. It would be pleasant to describe all the festivities that accompanied his visit but these are not the Kernel of the matter. The various social functions must have bored him more or less but they are unavoidable in the case of a man of his standing. What interests us most is the list of twenty-eight suggestions which he made to His Majesty, but the purport of which has not transpired. We shall look eagerly for the real fruits of this visit, feeling that the advice of the Marquis, if followed, must be of great value to this people.
The exaggerated accounts which circulated regarding the accident which Mr. McKenzie of the Daily Mail met in the north were fortunately dispelled when that gentleman returned from the north and reported [page 127] that he only slipped on some stone stairs in Pyeng-yang and suffered a slight sprain.
We learn that M. Takaki, Ph. D., who recently went to Japan, has resigned his position as Manager of the Dai Ichi Ginko. The reason for this lay in the fact that the authorities of the Bank in Tokyo forbade the loaning of money to merchants in Korea. This singular action caused consternation among mercantile circles here and it was opposition to their policy that caused Dr. Takaki’s resignation. We have the best of reasons for believing that he will soon be back in Seoul in a position of equal or greater importance. His intimate knowlege of monetary and financial conditions in the peninsula will surely be utilized in some important post. We shall welcome him back with great pleasure.
The Wiju Railway is definitely under way. This will become evident if one goes to Yong San and sees the great cutting that is being made there to carry the line through the hills westward. Work is going on briskly each way from Song-do and we expect to see the time soon when the wearisome journey to Pyeng Yang will become an easy six or seven hours run by rail.
Wiju and Yongampo have both been opened at last. It was only the stress of war that brought this about. The Russian Minister succeeded, so long as he was here, in blinding the Government to its own best interests but now the thing has been accomplished, and with the opening of these ports of course the Russian Timber Concession falls to the ground. How many millions this will save to the Korean Government it is hard to say but the Korean people are to be congratulated on having escaped so easily.
On March 12th the U.S. war vessel Cincinnati went north to Chinnampo to bring away ladies and children who might wish to get out of the zone of active war. But by the time the boat arrived there, conditions had so changed that it was found necessary to send only a few. This, however, does not detract from the credit due to the American authorities for their prompt and energetic action.
The sending of the Cincinnati to Chinnampo and the Phoenix to Sung-jin for the sake of a few nationals inspires awe in the mind of the Korean, who marvels that a great government like America or England would spend thousands for the sake of the convenience of a mere handful of their subjects. Not until the Koreans realize the reasonableness of such action will they be fitted for the higher reaches of constitutional government.
We learn that the Russians are recruiting the Koreans who have settled on Russian soil north of the Tuman River. It is something of an experiment, we should think, but it is evident that the Russians will have to press into their service every agency possible to ward off the “peril” which in her case is quite real.
On March 28th the Russians and Japanese came again in touch with each other near the town of Chong-ju. This is about half way between Anju and Wiju and the first large town this side of Sun-ch’un [page 128] where Dr. Sharrocks and his family are still stopping. One Japanese cavalry company and one company of infantry were engaged. One Japanese officer and three men were killed and about a dozen wounded. The Russian force is not definitely known but some say it amounted to 600 men. The result, as given by the Japanese, was a retreat on the part of the Russians. It is evident that the Japanese are pushing steadily on toward the Yalu without any serious opposition.
We notice in a recent issue of the Kobe Chronicle a review of a book by one George Lynch who, according to the Chronicle, quoted the Korea Review in support of some abusive statements against missionaries in Korea. It is a sample of the dishonest tricks to which men have recourse in attacking missionaries, for after quoting the statement in the April number of the Review, to the effect that hundreds of Koreans apply to the Christian churches each year for admission, with the idea of escaping official oppression, the writer omits the accompanying statement that extreme care is exercised by Protestant missionaries in preventing the entrance of these people into the churches and on his own authority and in utter ignorance of the facts asserts that all such people readily find entrance to the church and thenceforward are backed up by the foreign missionary. We wish to state very plainly that so far as Protestant missions in Korea are concerned this is the very opposite of the facts.
During the past month a son has been born to Mr. and Mrs. B. C. Donham and one also to Mr. and Mrs. Devose.
We find it necessary this month to enlarge the Review by the issue of a supplement, which we think will prove of great interest to our readers. It gives us a very welcome glimpse of conditions in the north. It is told in a very modest way and one is left to imagine the feelings inspired, for instance, by arriving at night at a Tong-hak village and being ordered out instanter. As there was only one gentleman in the party it must have been a fairly exciting moment. The experiences of the party from the American mines were also very interesting. The two estimates of the Russian cavalry horses will be compared with interest.
[page 129] KOREAN HISTORY.
Another of the great powers of the West had been humbled. Korea could show her great patron China how to handle the barbarians. He immediately ordered the erection in the center of the city of a monument which had been in preparation since 1866. The inscription ran as follows.
“The Western Barbarians have attacked and injured us, with a view either to making war upon us or to forcing treaties upon us. If we consent to the latter it will mean the betrayal of the country. Let our descendants to the ten thousandth generation bear this in mind. Made in the Pyong-in Year and set up in the Sin-mi Year.’*
The “Frontier Guard” . . . . Japanese attempts at making a treaty . . . . agent at the palace . . . the Regent’s power on the wane . . . a “Combination” . . . the Regent retires . . a puppet . . “infernal machine”. . . . reforms . . . . a dangerous memorial . . .fight with the Japanese . . . . two parties in Japan . . . Japanese commission . . . negotiations . . . .treaty signed . . a mysterious conflagration . . . . Japanese minister. . . .French priests released . . . . a curious book. . . .anti-Christian policy abandoned . . .commission to Japan. . . .conspiracy. . liberal party hopeful outlook . . . the Min policy split between the Min and liberal factions . . .Minister to Japan . . . military students . . . .regular troops neglected . . . emeute of 1882 . . . .Japanese legation attacked . . . the palace entered . . . the Queen escapes . . . . the ex-Regent quiets the soldiers a mock funeral.
In order to understand the interesting train of events that transpired in 1873 it will be necessary to go back and review the relations that existed between Korea and Japan.
At the close of the Japanese invasion an arrangement had been arrived at between Japan and Korea by the terms of which the Japanese placed a number of traders at Fusan. The popular belief of the Koreans that the government [page 130] accepted these as hostages in place of an annual tribute of three hundred Japanese female hides is an amusing fiction which is intended to offset the ignominy of the ear and nose monument in Kyoto.
This colony was called the Su-ja-ri or “Frontier Guard.” The Korean government appropriated ten million cash a year to its support. The Japanese claim that these people were not hostages but were merchants and were placed there to form a commercial point d’appui between the two countries. That the money paid for their support was of the nature of a tribute is neither claimed by the Japanese nor admitted by the Koreans; in fact the terms always used in describing these payments implies the coordinate degree of the recipient.
This Japanese colony was continued up to the year 1869 without intermission but it was not destined to remain undisturbed. No sooner had the Imperial government become established in Japan than the Emperor appointed a commission to approach the Korean government through the timehonored avenue of approach, namely Fusan and the prefect of Tong-na, with a view to establishing closer commercial and diplomatic relations. This commissioner transacted the business through the Daimyo of Tsushima who sent the Imperial letter to the prefect of Tong-na and asked that it be transmitted to the capital. After reading it the prefect refused to send it, on the plea that whereas Japan had always addressed Korea in terms of respect she now adopted a tone of superiority and called herself an Empire. The envoy urged that Japan had recently undergone a complete change, that she had adopted Western ideas and had centralised her government, and urged that the missive must be sent on to Seoul. The prefect was prevailed upon to copy the letter and send it on to the Regent but the reply came back forthwith “We will not receive the Japanese letter. Drive the envoy away.” The following year the annual grant of rice was suddenly discontinued without a word of warning and the Japanese in Fusan were greatly exercised thereby. They made a loud outcry and their government made repeated attempts to come to an understanding with the Korean government but without success.
It was in 1870 that the Japanese Hanabusa, called [page 131] Wha-bang Eui-jil by the Koreans, came with an urgent request that a treaty of commerce be signed, but he was likewise unsuccessful. The King, however, was nearing the age when the Regent must hand over to him the reins of power and the Queen, a woman of natural ability and of imperious will, was gathering about her a faction which was wholly inimical to the plans and the tactics of the Regent. The latter found to his chagrin that the woman whom he had placed on the throne with his son with special reference to the cementing of his own power was likely to become the instrument of his undoing. Sure it is that in spite of the hatred which the Regent evinced against the Japanese this same Hanabusa came to Seoul in 1871 or early in 1872, in a quite unofficial manner, and was given quarters at the palace where he was in constant communication with the Queen and the members of her faction, and where, by exhibiting curious objects of western manufacture, such as a toy telephone and the like, he amused his royal patroness and won his way into the favor of the party that was shortly to step into the place made vacant by the retiring Regent.
The queen’s faction were diametrically opposed to the most cherished prejudices of the Regent. They favored, or at least looked with complacency upon, the growth of Roman Catholicism, they favored the policy of listening to China’s advice in the matter of foreign relations. They were doubtless urged in this direction partly by pure opposition to the Regent and partly by the representations of the Japanese who had gained the ear of royalty. The palace was the scene of frequent and violent altercations between the heads of these two factions, but an open rupture did not occur until the year 1873 when an official named Ch’oe Ik-hyun memorialised the throne speaking disparagingly of the presence of the Japanese in the palace and, toward the end, charging the Regent with indirection in the use of the public funds. The king had for some time been growing restive under the control of the Regent, being led to some extent by the new party of which the queen was the patroness and at whose head stood her brother, Min Seung-ho. The memorial was received with marks of approval by the king and he immediately cut off a large part of the revenues of the Regent. At the same time Min Seung-ho [page 132] approached the Regent’s son, Yi Cha-myun, elder brother to the king, and suggested that if the Regent could be removed they two might share the leadership of affairs. The young man accepted the offer and ranged himself in line with the opposition. The Regent was now in great straits. The combination against him had proved too strong, and in the last moon of 1873 be shook off the dust of Seoul from his feet and retired to Ka-p’yung, thirty-five miles to the east of the capital. After five months of residence there he returned as far as the village of Ko-deung, ten miles to the north-east of Seoul,
Among the people there was still a strong element that favored the ex-Regent. They missed a strong personality at the helm of state, for the Koreans have always preferred a strong even if tyrannical leadership. In recognition of this sentiment it was deemed wise to put the ex-Regent’s brother, whom he had always kept severely in the back-ground. in the prominent if not necessarily important position of Prime .Minister. He proved as was intended a rare puppet in the hands of the Min party who by this time had absorbed the whole power of the government. He was allowed, in compensation for this, to control the sale of public offices to his own profit, but always under the vigilant eye of the dominant faction.
A new era in the metamorphosis of Korea had now begun. Public affairs in the peninsula took a new direction. Min Seung-ho was court favorite and it looked as if matters would soon settle down to something like their former tranquility. But the latter days of the year were destined to bring a severe shock to the leaders of the new party. One day Min Seungho received a letter purporting to be from a certain party with whom he was on intimate terms, and with it came a casket wrapped in silk. He was requested to open it only in the presence of his mother and his son. Late at night in his inner chamber he opened it in the presence of these members of his family, but when he lifted the cover the casket exploded with terrific force killing the three instantly and setting the house on fire. As Min Seung-ho had but one enemy bold enough to perpetrate the deed the popular belief that it was done by his great rival is practically undisputed, though no direct evidence perhaps exists.
[page 133] Min T’a-ho immediately stepped into the place made vacant by the terrible death of the favorite. Soon after this the government discontinued the use of the 100 cash pieces with which the Regent had diluted the currency of the country. In the second moon of 1874 the crown prince was born. The year was also signalised by the remittance in perpetuity of the tax on real estate in and about the city of Seoul.
In 1875 three of the ex-Regent’s friends, led by Cho Ch’ung-sik, memorialised the throne begging that the Prince Tai-won be again reinstated in power. For this rash act they were all condemned to death, and it was only by the personal intercession of the ex-Regent that the sentence was commuted to banishment for life. Even so, Cho Ch’ung-sik was killed at his place of exile.
In September the Japanese man-of-war Unyo Kwan, after making a trip to Chefoo, approached the island of Kang-wha to make soundings. Approaching the town of Yong-jung, they sent a small boat ashore to look for water. As they neared the town they were suddenly fired upon by the Koreans in the little fortress, who evidently took them for Frenchmen or Americans. A moment later the small boat was turned about and was making toward the man-of-war again. The commander gave instant orders for summary punishment to be inflicted for this perfectly unprovoked assault. He opened fire on the town and soon silenced the batteries. A strong body of marines was landed which put the garrison to flight, seized all the arms and provisions and fired the town. The man-of-war then steamed away to Nagasaki to report what had occurred.
At this time there were in Japan two parties who took radically different views of the Korean question. One of these parties, led by Saigo of Satsuma, smarting under the insulting way in which Korea had received the Japanese overtures, would listen to nothing but instant war. The other party, which saw more clearly the vital points in the question at issue, urged peaceful measures. The policy of the latter prevailed and it was decided to send an embassy to attempt the ratification of a treaty, and if that failed war was to be the alternative. This peace policy was so distasteful to the war party that Saigo returned to Satsuma and began to set in motion [page 134] those agencies which resulted in the sanguinary Satsuma Rebellion.
For many centuries there had been a strip of neutral territory between the Korean border, the Yalu River, and the Chinese border which was marked by a line of stakes. This strip of land naturally became the hiding piece of refugees and criminals from both countries, for here they were free from police supervision whether Korean or Chinese. The statesman Li Hung-chang recognized this to be a menace to the wellfare of both countries and took steps to put an end to it, by sending a strong body of troops who, in conjunction with a gunboat, succeeded in breaking up the nest of desperadoes and rendering the country fit for colonisation. Two years later this strip of land was definitely connected with China and the two countries again faced each other across the waters of the Yalu,
The Korean attack upon the Unyo Kwan off Kangvvha proved the lever which finally roused Japan to active steps in regard to the opening of Korea. The war party regarded it as their golden opportunity while the peace party believed it would pave the way for a peaceful accomplishment of their purpose. An envoy was despatched to Peking to sound the policy of that government. The Chinese, fearing that they would be held responsible for the misdoings of Korea denied all responsibility and virtually acknowledged the independence of the peninsula. At the same time a military and naval expedition under Kiroda Kiyotaku, seconded by Inouye Bunda, sailed for Kang-wha with a fleet of gunboats, containing in all some 500 men. The Chinese had already advised the Korean government to make terms with the Japanese, and this in fact was the wish of the dominant party; so when the Japanese demand reached Seoul, that commissioners be sent to Kangwha to treat with the visitors the government quickly complied. Two high officials. Sin Hon and Yun Cha-seung, were despatched to Kang-wha and the first definite step was taken toward casting off the old time isolation policy, the fond dream of the ex-Regent.
The Japanese envoy opened the conference by asking why the Koreans had given no answer to the repeated requests of the Japane.se for the consummation of a treaty of [page 135] peace and friendship. The Korean commissioner replied that from the very earliest times Japan had always addressed Korea in respectful language, but that now she had arrogated to herself the title of Great Japan and called her ruler the Great Emperor. This seemed to imply the vassilage of Korea, an entirely new role for her to play. The Japanese replied that the mere assumption of the name of empire on the part of Japan implied nothing as to the status of Korea one way or the other. This seemed to satisfy the Koreans.
The Japanese than asked why they had been fired upon at Yung-jung. The answer was that the Japanese were dressed in European clothes and were therefore mistaken for Europeans. But when the Japanese asked why the Koreans had not recognized the Japanese flag, especially since the Japanese government had been careful to send copies of their flag to Korea and ask that one be sent to each of the prefectures throughout the land, the Korean commissioners could find nothing to say and had to confess that they had been in error.
All these things were duly reported to the authorities in Seoul where daily councils were being held to discuss the important questions. The ex-Regent sent an urgent appeal to the ministers not to make a treaty, but the tide had turned, and after some sharp discussion as to how the two governments should be designated in the treaty it was finally ratified on Febuary 27th 1876, and Korea was a hermit no longer. Three months later a semi official envoy was sent to Japan in the person of Kim Keui-su.
Meanwhile the closing days of 1875 had beheld a curious event in Seoul. In the dead of night the house of Yi Ch’oeeung, the Prime Minister and the brother of the ex-Regent, was set on fire by an unknown hand and burned to the ground. None of the inmates were injured. The culprit was seized and under torture confessed that one Sin Ch’ul-gyun had hired him to do the work. Sin was therefore seized and put to death as a traitor. Whether he was indeed guilty and if so whether he was but an agent in the business are questions that have never been answered.
It was not until the sixth moon of 1879 that, in pursuance of the new treaty, a Japanese Minister, Hanabusa, [page 136] was sent to represent his government at Seoul. We will remember that he had already served his government most successfully at the Korean capital in a private capacity. The new legation was situated at the Ch’un Yun-jung near the lotus pond outside the West Gate. At almost the very same time two French priests arrived in Seoul and took up their quarters outside this same gate and began to proselyte. They were forthwith seized by the authorities, and were for sometime in imminent danger. There was however a strong feeling in the government that this was inconsistent with the new role that it had elected to play and that it was distinctly dangerous. A halt was called and the Japanese Minister took advantage of it to inform the authorities that he had received a message from the French Minister in Tokyo asking him to use his good offices in behalf of these endangered men. The Minister added his own advice that the Korean government should hand over the imprisoned men at once. This was done and the Japanese Minister] forwarded them to Japan.
One year later, in the summer of 1880, Kim Hong-jip, a man of progressive tendencies, went to Japan. Soon after arriving there he met a Chinaman who seems to have made a strong impression on him. This Chinaman had many talks with him and gave him a long manuscript dealing with the subject of Korea’s foreign relations, which he asked should be transmitted to the king of Korea. In it he advised the cementing of friendship with the United States, China and Japan, but he spoke disparagingly of Russia. It mentioned Protestant Christianity as being the basis of Western greatness and advised that its propagation be encouraged. It com• pared the division of Christianity into Roman Catholic and Protestant to the division of Confucianism into the two sects Chu-ja and Yuk-sang-san. When Kim Hong-jip brought this manuscript and placed it in the hands of the king it created a profound sensation, and awakened the bitterest opposition. Many advised that he be killed as an introducer of Christianity. The most violent of all were Yi Man-son, Hong Cha-hak and Pak Nak-kwan who memorialized the throne urging the execution of Kim and the overthrow of all Christian work in the peninsula. This met with the severest [page 137] censure from the king, not because it was in itself seditious but because it was an attempt to reinstate the policy of the Regency. Yi Man-son was banished, Hong Cha-hak was executed and Pak Nak-kwan was imprisoned. This put an end to anti-Christian talk for the time being and it was never again seriously raised.
By the fourth moon of 1881 the progressive tendencies of the new regime had made such headway that the king determined to send a commission to Japan to look about and see something of the world, from which Korea had been so carefully secluded. For this purpose His Majesty selected Cho Chun-Yung, Pak Chung-yang, Sim Sang-hak, Cho Pyung-jik, Min Chong-muk. O Yun-jung, Om Se-yung, Kang Mun-hyong, Hong Yung-sik, Yi Wun-whe, and Yi Pong-eui. These men immediately took passage for Japan. At the same time a party of young men was sent to Tientsin under the chaperonage of Kim Yun-sik on a similar errand.
Late in this year, 1881, four of the adherents of the exRegent conspired to overthrow the government, dethrone the king and put in his place Yi Chilsun, a son of the exRegent by a concubine. The ex-Regent was then to be brought back to power. The last day of the eighth moon was set for the consummation of this plot. But on the day before, Nam Myung-sun and Yi P’ung-na divulged the whole scheme to the favorite Min T’a-ho, and as a result the four arch-conspirators were seized on the morning of the day set for the culmination of the plot and within a few days eleven others were taken. In the eleventh moon they were all beheaded, and at the same time Yi Chi-son was given poison and expired.
By this time a real liberal party had begun to form. Its leading spirits were Kim Ok-kyun, Pak Yung-hyo, So Kwangbom, Hong Yong-sik, Yi To-ja, Sin Keui-sun and Pak Yungkyo. These were all men of very high family and held im-portant positions under the government. They were in favor of the immediate opening of Korea to intercourse with foreign powers and the establishment of reforms such as had been effected in Japan. The king was largely influenced by the progressive policy mapped out by these men and an era of rapid advancement seemed to be dawning. A special department was established called the Ki-mu or Machinery Bureau which [page 138] was to take charge of the introduction of foreign machinery and implements of all kinds.
It is important to note the position of the Min faction at this point. It was with the downfall of the Regent that, through the queen’s influence, the Min faction sprang to life. With the utmost celerity all government positions were filled with them or their sympathizers and it seemed sure that they would have a long lease of official life. The extreme opposition of the Regent to all reforms and to the opening of the country to foreign intercourse naturally inclined his rivals in that very direction and it was directly through the Min faction that the policy of non-seclusion was inaugurated. The queen likewise was in favor of opening up the country to the civilizing influences of the West. But with the Min faction, as a whole, the question of national policy were entirely secondary to the one main idea of preserving the ascendency which they had gained. Here is the key to all that followed. The Mins were not at that time facing China-ward, and they never would have been had it not become necessary in order to preserve the enviable position they occupied. As we have seen, a number of high officials who had imbibed something of the spirit of reform which had permeated Japan were filling the ear of the king and queen with plans for reform. They were meeting with a favorable hearing and in proportion as they succeeded, the power of the Mins must wane; not because the latter disliked the idea of opening up Korea but because it was another faction that had the work in hand, and that faction would naturally attain more and more power at court as success crowned their efforts. It was just here that the difficulty began. If the liberal leaders had been willing to put the working out of the plan into the hands of the Min faction all might have gone along smoothly and Korea might have realized some of the hopes of the would-be reformers. But such self-abnegation could scarcely be expected from men who saw in the carrying out of their brilliant scheme not only rewards for themselves but the advancement of the country. The personal element was present in full force and this was the rock on which the reformation of Korea split. We may believe that it was at this point that the Min faction determined its policy, a policy that led it straight into the arms of [page 139] China. From this point it became not the progressive party but the conservative party. Its leading members were Min T’a-ho, Min Yung-muk, Min Ta-ho, Han Kyu-jik and Cho Ryung-ha. There was one of the Mins however who held with the liberal party, for a time at least. This was Min Yung-ik, nephew to the queen, adopted son of Min Seung-ho who had been killed by the infernal machine in 1874. That this man took his stand at first with, the liberals is shown by the fact that in the spring of 1882 he joined Kim Hong-jip, Kim Ok-kyun, Hong Yung-sik and other liberal leaders in advising the king to select 200 young men and engage a Japanese instructor to drill them in military tactics. The advice was followed, and Lieutenant Isobayachi was employed for that purpose. Without delay he begin work at the Ha-dogam near the East Gate. At the same time a number of young men were sent to Japan to study military matters. Among these the most prominent was Su Cha-p’il who was intimately connected with the liberal movement, though at that time he was too young to take a prominent part.
The first regularly appointed Minister to the Japanese was Pak Yung-hyo the liberal leader. In the early part of 1882 he departed on his mission. It was at Chemulpo on board the little Japanese steamer that the Korean flag was first designed. Pak Yung-hyo, Kim Ok-kyun, Su Kwang-bom and Su Cha-p’il were all present when it was hoisted for the first time in honor of the first Minister to Japan.
While the two hundred men who were being drilled at the Ha-do-gam were being plentifully fed and clothed by the government, the 3.700 troops, called the Hul-lyun To-gam, the former Royal Guard, were being badly neglected. Their pay was two or three months in arrears and for a similar period they had not received a grain of rice. They were naturally incensed and there were angry mutterings against the two hundred men who were being treated so much better than they. When the king was made aware of this he ordered that a month’s allowance of rice be given out to these discontented troops. This work was put into the hands of Min Kyum-ho the overseer of the government finances, and he in turn handed the matter over to his major-domo who, it appears, sold the good rice and with the proceeds bought a large quantity [page 140] of the poorest quality which he mixed with sand and doled out to the hungry troops. The result may be imagined. They congregated in various places and determined that since they must die in any event they would rather die fighting than starving. They strengthened the feeble-hearted among their own number by threats of death in case any proved unfaithful and refused to assist in the work in hand. On the night of the ninth of the sixth moon, in the midst of heavily falling rain, they arose en masse and proceeded to their general’s house, where they announced that they were going to take revenge on those who had wronged them. That they not only did not attack him but that they even had the courtesy to go and tell him what they were about to do shows clearly that he was in no wise to blame for the ill-treatment they had received. They also sent a messenger to the exRegent, but the purport of the message is not known. They then hastened to the residence of Min Kyum-ho. but he had heard of the trouble and had fled to the royal presence for protection. The infuriated soldiery vented their rage on the property by tearing down the house and destroying the furniture. They seized the dishonest major-domo and beat him to death upon the spot. The sight of this aroused all their worst instincts and, separating into bands of two or three hundred, they hastened to different parts of the town to complete what had been begun. Some ran to the prisons and liberated the inmates who naturally joined the ranks of the rioters. One of these prisoners was Pak Nak-kwan who had memorialized the throne in favor of the ex-Regent. They took him on their shoulders and rushed through the streets shouting “Pak Chung-sin” or “Pak the patriot.” For this, a few months later he was torn to pieces by bullocks outside the West Gate. Part of the mob went to the Ha-do-gam, but on their approach the Japanese military instructor took to his heels and made for the Japanese Legation. But he was overtaken and cut down in the streets. Another detachment hastened to the Japanese Legation itself, but found the gates shut and barred. Within were nine Japanese. In order to make it light enough to carry on their dastardly work the assaulting mob threw firebrands over the wall and thus illuminated the place, for it was night. The little company of Japanese soon became [page 141] aware that they could not hope to stand a siege and that their only hope lay in a bold dash. Suddenly the gates flew open and the nine determined men rushed out brandishing their swords and firing their revolvers straight into the crowd. The Koreans were taken wholly by surprise and beat a hasty retreat. In their headlong flight many of them fell into the lotus pond adjoining. As the Japanese hurried along to the governor’s yamen which was not far away, they cut down a few of the mob. They found that the governor had gone to the palace and so they turned their faces toward Chemulpo and hastened away. Another party of the insurgents went outside the city to various monasteries which they burned to the ground. The most important of these was the Sin-heung Monastery outside the Northeast Gate. This move was dictated by hate of the Min faction whose patroness was known to be very well affected toward Buddhism and to have made friends with the monks.
Other parties scattered over the city carrying the torch to the door of every member of the Min faction. The houses of Min Kyum-ho, Min T’a-ho, Min Yung-ik, Min Yung-so, Min Yung-jun. Min Yung-ju Min Ch’ang-sik, Prince Heungin, Kim Po-hyun and Yun Cha-duk were torn down by the use of long ropes. The furniture was piled in a great heap in the street and burned. The only member of the Min clan however that was seized that night was Min Ch’ang-sik who lived at Kon-dang-kol. He had the unenviable reputation of having taken large sums of money from the people by indirection. When he was seized he cried “I am not a Min; my name is Pak.” They bound him and carried him through the streets shouting “Is this a Min or a Pak?” The populace answered fiercely “He is a Min.” So they took him down to the big bell and stabbed him in a hundred places with their swords and cut his mouth from ear to ear.
When the morning of the tenth broke Seoul was in a terrible condition. Bands of frenzied soldiery were ranging through the streets. The people either huddled about their fireplaces with barred doors or else sought safety in flight from the city. At last the mob rendezvoused in front of the palace gate and finding no opposition they boldly entered. Rushing into the inner court of the king’s private apartments [page 142] they found themselves face to face with His Majesty. About him stood a few of the officials who had not fled the city. There were Min Kyum-ho, Kim Po hyun, Cho Ryung-ha and Prince Heung in. Rushing forward the soldiers struck their swords against the floor and the door-posts and demanded that these men be handed over to them. It was quite evident that there was no escape and that by refusal they would only endanger the king’s life. So these men made obeisance to His Majesty and then stepped down into the hands of the soldiers. Min Kyum-ho and Kim Po-hyun were instantly struck down and hacked in pieces before the very eyes of the king. Of Kim nothing remained but the trunk of his body. Cho Ryung-ha was spared but Prince Heung-in died the same day for he was mashed to a jelly by the gun-stocks of the soldiers.
This done, the soldiers demanded the person of the queen. The king sternly demanded how they dared ask of him the person of his Queen. Without answering they rushed away to her private apartments. Seizing palace women by the hair they dragged them about demanding where their mistress was. But while this was going on one of the palace guard named Hong Cha-heui entered the Queen’s presence and said that she was in danger and that her only hope of escape lay in getting on his back and being carried out. This she instantly did. A skirt was hastily thrown over her head and the heroic man took her straight out through the midst of the infuriated soldiery. Some of them seized hold of him and demanded whom he was carrying. He replied that it was one of the palace women, his sister, whom he was conveying to a place of safety. His heroism was rewarded by seeing her safely outside the palace and comfortably housed at the residence of Yun T’a-jun to the west of the palace. The next day she was taken in a closed chair toward the village of Chang-wun in the district of Chung-ju in Ch’ung ch’ung Province, where she arrived several days later. In that place she found refuge in the house of Min Eung-sik. This journey was made not along the main road but along by-paths among the mountains, and it is said that Hong Cha-heui lost several of his toes as a result of this terrible march, for shoes could not be procured.
But we must return to the palace. The ex-Regent [page 143] appeared on the scene while the soldiers were still raging through the palace in search of the Queen. He gave the signal to stop, and instantly the soldiers obeyed and quietly left the palace. That these soldiers, worked up as they were to a perfect frenzy, should have obeyed the commands of the Prince Tai-wun so instantly and implicitly would seem to argue a closer connection with this outbreak than any overt act on his part would give us warrant to affirm.
The ex-Regent was now in power again. He supposed that the Queen had been killed, and on the next day he summoned the officials and said that though the Queen was dead yet her body had not been found; they must therefore take some of her clothing and perform the funeral rites with them instead. The proclamation went forth, and from the middle of the sixth moon the people went into mourning for their Queen.
A panic. . . .Japanese envoy . . .a counter demand. .. .Chinese troops arrive . . . . rioters captured . . . . the Regent kidnapped . . . . the Queen returns . . . .Foreign Office. . . von Mollendorf . . . . minting . . . American Minister . . . . various innovations . . . . special envoy to the United States . . . the American farm . . . . treaties . . . . liberal and conservative parties drift further apart . . . Pak Yung-hyo’s attempted reforms . . . .school for interpreters . . . . fears of the progressive party . . . . a crisis imminent . . . . understanding with the Japanese . . . . the dinner at the Post Office . . . attempted assassination . . . confusion . . . . Liberal leaders hasten to the palace . . . . Japanese called in . . . . conservative leaders put to death . . . . official changes . . . Chinese demands . . . . the fight in the palace . . . . the king goes over to the Chinese. . . . liberals killed . . . . the Japanese retire to Chemulpo . . . . indemnity . . . . executions . . . . Japanese terms . . . . hospital . . . . missions. . . Tientsin convention . . . . corruption . . . .von Mollendorf dismissed . . .China takes over the customs . . . . Judge Denny engaged as adviser . . . . obstacles put in his way . . . . government English School. . . . mission schools. . . . Minister to the United States . . . . the “baby war.”
A few days after the flight of the Queen a rumor was circulated to the effect that a large body of men belonging to [page 144] the peddlar’s guild had congregated outside the East Gate and were about to enter and loot the city. A panic seized the people, and men, women and children might be seen flying in all directions, some out into the neighboring country and some up the steep sides of the surrounding mountains. The gates being all locked the people forced the South Gate and the two West gates and thus made good their escape. The king himself was affected by the rumor and leaving the palace sought safety at the house of Yi Che-wan. But the panic ceased as quickly as it had begun, and within three hours the people were returning to their homes again. The extreme haste with which the people tried to get away is illustrated in the case of one old man who seized his little grandson, as he supposed by the hand, and fled up a mountain but found to his dismay that he had taken the boy by the leg rather than by the hand and that the little fellow had succumbed to this harsh treatment.
On the fifth of the seventh moon Count Inouye arrived in Chemulpo as Japanese envoy and immediately sent word to have a high Korean official sent to Chemulpo to discuss the situation. Kim Hong-jip was sent, and as a result the Korean government was asked to pay an indemnity for the lives of the Japanese who had been killed. It appears that besides the Japanese military instructor five or six others had been killed, also a considerable amount of Japanese money had been seized and destroyed at the Japanese headquarters. The indemnity was placed at a million cash apiece for the Japanese who had fallen. This amounted to something like $2,500 each, a ridiculously small sum, but perhaps all the Japanese thought they could get. The ex-Regent replied that if the Japanese demanded this indemnity the Korean government would feel obliged to levy a tax upon all Japanese merchants doing business in Korea. This was practically a refusal to pay the indemnity and the envoy took his departure.
Hardly had he left before a Chinese force 3,000 strong arrived at Nam-yang off the town of Su-won. They were commanded by Generals O Chang-gyang, Wang Suk-ch’ang, Ma Kun-sang and by a lesser officer named Wun Se-ga who was destined to play a leading part from this time on.
SUPPLEMENT TO THE KOREA REVIEW
An exciting journey through the hostile lines in northern Korea by a party of American ladies and gentlemen.
The following account is by Rev. Mr. Keams of the Presbyterian Mission, and is of great interest, giving us, as it does, a glimpse of actual conditions in the north.
The town of Sun-ch’un is in North Pyeng-an Province, 110 miles north and west of Pyeng-yang city and 55 miles southeast of Eui-ju. The missionaries, of the Presbyterian Mission, nine adults and five little children, were the only foreigners north of Pyeng-yang except the American settlement at the gold mines of Unsan 90 miles away on the east side of the province. The little mission station established in 1901 rapidly developed work among the Koreans, until at the outbreak of the war there were about 5,000 adherents grouped in over 60 churches scattered throughout the province. Nearly 2,000 of these were in the populous magistracy of Eui-ju, which lies along the east bank of the Yalu river. The people were eager to learn and the Christian community soon won the respect and tolerance of the heathen population.
About a year ago Russia first began to encroach upon Korea using the timber concession in the Yalu valley as an excuse. Yongampo near the mouth of the Yalu was selected as an advantageous site for a port, and substantial brick buildings were erected. The Koreans near by resented the coming of the Russians, but their building operations employed a large number of men and as they paid higher wages than had ever been paid before, private animosity gradually died down. The writer visited this port in December and was [page 2] courteously received by the Russian officer in charge, who was interested in hearing of his American neighbors forty-five miles away and asked a great many questions about the people and surrounding country. He stated, what was apparent, that the building operations had stopped for the winter, but that they expected to do greater things the following summer and would employ a great many laborers. He also said frankly that, while there were only a hundred or so of his countrymen in Yongampo for the winter, he hoped in the coming summer to see many more. The communications were poor from Yongampo to the railway but Chinese carts made fairly good time and mail was reasonably quick. A walk about the place showed seven or eight neat brick dwellings, large barracks and stables and substantial breakwater, a very creditable performance for one summer’s work. No fortifications of any kind were apparent though they might easily have been concealed on the surrounding hills. The Russians with one or two exceptions were all military men. The Koreans seemed to both admire and fear their new neighbors. Though there were various complaints of injustice, in was generally conceded among the Koreans that the Russians meant to treat them fairly and that the injustices could nearly all be laid at the doors of the interpreters, who were all Koreans. The Russians not knowing a word of Korean were compelled to do all their business through these men, who could not resist the temptation to squeeze a large part of the money entrusted to them for paying the laborers, and when complaint was made the complainer was usually arrested and beaten on the testimony of the interpreter.
Being so far from the world and with a very slow mail service the rumors of approaching war did not effect the little missionary community at Sun-ch’un seriously. There was always the hope that the question between Japan and Russia might be settled without war and if not, that the fighting would be done in Manchuria and not in Korea. But certain precautions were taken. Orders were left with the larger missionary station at Pyeng-yang for the stoppage of Sun-ch’un mail and its forwarding by private courier at the first sign of disorganization of the Korean post. If it became necessary to remove the ladies and children the only means of transportion was by chairs carried by coolies and the order was left for twenty-four chair bearers to be sent from Pyeng-yang to bring down the ladies and children at the first indication of fighting or an uprising near Sun-ch’un.
[page 3] These precautions taken, all work went on as usual. The Koreans were quiet, but somewhat anxious and a few of the wealthy men began to buy horses in the back country, away from the main road and get their possessions ready to move out suddenly. They knew nothing of our anxiety.
Early in February we heard of the threatened riots in Seoul and of the coming of the foreign legation guards and the lawlessness of the Korean soldiers in Pyeng-yang and the great activity of the Tonghaks, in South Pyeng An and Whang Hai provinces. Russian scouts also began to be seen to the west of us and about February’ 10th, twenty of them passed through Sun-chun and went down the main road toward Pyeng-Yang. Many Koreans began to be frightened and a few moved out. Sunday February 14th, all the Japanese settlers in Eui Ju and the Chinese towns across the river, Antung, about eighty in number, came through Sun-ch’un on their way to Pyeng Yang. They reported that they had been ordered out by a telegram from the Japanese Minister in Seoul. We received a telegram at the same time saying that the U. S. Minister was alarmed by movements towards the Yalu and wished American citizens to stop travelling in the interior, keep together and be ready to come to a place of safety should war break out. Three days later twenty more Russian scouts went down the road and the Koreans began to flee to the country. All the roads leading out of Sun-ch’un were filled with the household goods of the people who were hurrying to get their families as far from the main road as possible.
The Christian population still held firm and looked to the Missionaries to tell them when it should be necessary to leave. The great event of the year, the annual Bible class, had been scheduled to begin on the 18th. This is a sort of Chautauqua assembly that brings hundreds of, Christians from all over the province together for a fortnight of Bible study and conference. In accordance with tne policy of going on with all work and doing everything possible to prevent a panic, this class was allowed to convene in the hope that the war might hold off at least until the conference was over. In spite of the anxious times a larger number appeared for the opening day than ever before, many coming even from the towns near the Yalu river, on the opposite bank of which a large Russian force was lying, which rumor said would soon cross into Korea. The 18th and 19th were very busy days registering and organizing into divisions the hundreds who had come at their own expense, many from [page 4] distances of from 100 to 250 miles, all eager to study and forgetful of the overhanging danger.
Saturday, Feb. 20th a telegram came saying that chair coolies had already been sent from Pyeng-Yang and urging that the ladies and children be sent immediately to Pyeng-Yang. Hasty preparations were begun but were stopped in a few hours by the arrival of 400 Cossacks who seized houses and prepared to camp for the night. Opinions differed as to whether escape was any longer feasible. The Koreans were in a panic and fleeing from their homes by scores. The main road was fast becoming deserted. An American woman travelling in Korea requires at the minimum about eight coolies, four to carry her and four to carry her baggage. To move the five women and five children of Sun-ch’un station to Pyeng-Yang would take at least fifty Korean coolies and if the houses along the road were deserted, how was such a force to be fed? To take food enough for fifty men for a four or five days’ march was impossible. And then would the Russians let us pass through their lines when we overtook them on the road? Would they not be justified in turning back those who might take news of their movements into the Japanese lines? And if we succeeded in getting through the Russian lines we were likely to meet the Japanese advance from Pyeng Yang and a road filled by a marching army woukl hardly be the route for women and children who wanted to go in the opposite direction. And last and worst of all, with the panic at its height, how could men be bribed or argued into going as coolies? The twenty four professional chair bearers from Pyeng Yang, if they came through all right, could be relied on to go back when the route was towards their own home, but could the rest of the force possibly be recruited in Sun-ch’un for any sum? These were real anxieties and there was much discussion, for it was no small hardship to leave the homes that had become dear by long association. The Cossacks went on in the morning and were followed by an equal number during the day. The chair coolies arrived on Sunday morning bearing urgent messages from missionaries in Pyeng Yang. After consultation a narrow mountain path parallel to the main road was selected as a possible route. This side road was longer than the main road and much more difficult, but it was far enough from the beaten track to insure the possibility of getting in to Pyeng Yang without meeting either Japanese or [page 5] Russian troops in any large numbers, and it was also probable that the people along such a narrow by-way would consider themselves safe and not desert their homes. Christian coolies were finally secured after much effort. The only condition on which they would go was that the missionaries who remained behind should attend immediately to sending their families out into the mountains. This was faithfully promised and Monday morning three ladies and one child escorted by one of the men started on the difficult trip with ten professional chair coolies, one horse, and a few Christian men from Sun-ch’un to carry the very small amount of baggage which it was possible to take. This amount was decreased on the journey as coolies gave out or deserted and their loads had to be abandoned. By the end of the second day this force had diminished to nine men, two of whom acted for the rest of the trip as chair bearers, leaving seven men and the horse to carry what was left of the baggage. The missionary walked and his riding donkey was pressed into service as a baggage carrier.
A second party consisting of another missionary with his wife and two small children, left at noon on Monday taking the same road. Notes were left by the first party at all stopping places for the guidance of this second party. The narrow winding mountain path was made doubly difficult by a heavy fall of snow that lay on the ground. There were only two incidents of importance in the five days’ trip. On the third day a Japanese disguised as a Korean and speaking Korean perfectly made himself known to us and told us that the first body of 400 Cossacks which we had seen pass through Sunch’un was then at the very village where we had planned to make our noonday stop. This caused a change of route by which we passed some distance to the northward of the troops. The change. of plan brought us that night to a Tong-hak village the inhabitants of which were very hostile to foreigners. Scarcely were the loads off and everybody comfortably disposed when there was a great uproar outside and we learned that we would not be allowed to stop. There seemed nothing to do but go on if we wished to avoid trouble. Fortunately there was a moon but there was no other inn for thirteen miles. The next day we crossed the river half way between Pyeng Yang and Sun-ch’un and passed within seven miles of Anju, where the telegraph office had been seized by 200 Cossacks. For the next two days we travelled parallel with a party of scouts who [page 6] were going down the main road on the other side of a mountain range. By travelling late on Friday night we reached Pyeng Yang about nine o’clock. The next day a courier from the second party brought word that they had fallen behind and would be in Sunday morning. Saturday night eight Cossacks slept in a village only an hour’s ride from the city walls on the main road and Sunday morning several of them came in sight and exchanged shots with the Japanese sentinels. There was momentary expectation of a battle and the Japanese consul sent a note to the mission compound to say that he would be glad to receive the ladies within the walls if they felt disposed to go inside the city. There was considerable anxiety about the second party from Sunch’un but they arrived safely about noon, having seen nothing of the skirmish, which seems to have been the first exchange of compliments on land and was reported as quite a battle at the time.
It was found on reaching Pyeng Yang that some of the reasons for not coming via the main road were not well grounded. Another party from the mines came down the main road for half of the distance between Sunch’un and Pyeng Yang and were not stopped by the Russians or put to great inconvenience by deserted inns. The Japanese army had not begun to leave Pyeng Yang for the north. However, the first half of the road between Sun-ch’un and Anju would probably have been very difficult, and the men who had conducted the small missionary parties felt that they had chosen the best route.
The station physician and family with one other man remained at Sun-ch’un in spite of the arguments of their colleagues, who felt that the wife and children ought not to remain. They felt that the hardship of forsaking their home, the exhausting journey and the existence for months with but a minimum of baggage was too great a price to pay for the additional safety. They have been able to help the Koreans greatly in this crisis and so far have been unmolested by the Russians. They have trusted servants at hand and a place of refuge prepared should it be necessary to flee suddenly because of a battle at Sun-ch’un. They are in constant touch by couriers with their brethren in Pyeng Yang and the departure of most of the station leaves them supplies enough to withstand quite a siege. It was originally intended that the two men after seeing the ladies safe in Pyeng Yang should return to Sun-ch’un to help look after the mission property but the skirmishing between [page 7] and the peremptory prohibition of the Japanese military authorities has prevented that.
At the present writing Sun-ch’un is still within the Russian lines and the skirmishing and possible battle ground is still between the two mission stations, but the overwhelming Japanese force in Pyeng Yang must soon push its outposts beyond Sun-ch’un. We had a very good chance to observe the Russians, They are physically a very fine lot of men. Their arms and accoutrements seem to a novice inferior to those of the Japanese. Their horses are Manchurian ponies, larger, but akin to the Korean ponies and hardy, but looking ill-fed and overworked. The criticism which the Koreans make is very comical from the wearers of the voluminous Korean dress. They said of the Cossacks, “Those men cannot fight. They have too many clothes on.”
The first bodies of cavalry were followed soon by a couple of full regiments of cavalry and a small field battery. The general in command rode in a carriage, which caused great amusement to the Koreans. They also brought heavy baggage wagons. The comissary department bought provisions of the Koreans, but did the buying through their interpreter and the local magistrates, which means that most of the money lined the pockets of those worthies. The officers took great care to restrain their men and to permit no depredations, but of course there were isolated cases of theft by the Cossacks. When the Koreans understood that the foraging soldiers were unarmed, quite a number of fights occurred in which the offending soldiers were handled pretty roughly.
At the home of the American physician was stored some fodder for the cow which supplied milk for the children of the family. A sargeant with a detail attempted to confiscate this, which resulted in a visit of the two Americans to headquarters to procure an order for protection. They found the general dining on an unsavory mess in the kettle in which it was cooked and after returning home sent a servant with some dainties which were accepted with thanks. As a result of this friendly intercourse proclamations in Russian were posted on the gates of the three foreign houses notifying soldiers that the property was American and to be respected.
The Russians on Korean soil are badly handicapped by their ignorance of the language. Their interpreters take advantage of the people and the Russians are hated for it. Even their spies who are paid fancy wages bring them false reports to alarm them and get them out of the country. There is very good reason to believe that the [page 8] first retreat of the Russians was due to lying reports from Korean spies of overwhelming Japanese forces in front. While they held Anju, the telegraph line was kept in repair. As soon as they retreated from Anju the line was destroyed all the way back to the Yalu river.
The Kobe Chronicle of Mar. 24 contains an interesting account of a journey made by a party of Americans, including several ladies and children, from the American Mines at Unsan, north of Anju, to Pyeng-yang. They fell in with Russian Cossacks at Anju and were politely treated by them. These travellers describe the Russian cavalry as the finest they had ever seen. “The horses were magnificent animals and their riders might have been born in the saddle. As an instance of fine horsemanship, the lady said she herself observed an officer, note-book in hand, making a survey of the surrounding country on horseback under most difficult circumstances. The officer sat his horse, which was mounting a very steep, hill zig-zag fashion, with perfect ease, making notes during the ascent, the reins hanging loose. It was a remarkable feat of horsemanship.” We fail to see anything specially remarkable about it, though, of course, every one knows the Cossacks are excellent horsemen. One of the ladies in the party secured a number of photographs of the Cossacks who good naturedly posed for her. One of the party states that at one of their stopping places these Cossacks regaled themselves on raw Korean pork.
THE KOREA REVIEW.
The Russo-Japanese War.
We are evidently approaching a second crisis in the war. It was inevitable that the scouring of the seas by the Japanese fleet would be followed by a season of waiting for that was a necessary preparation for the transportation of troops to the mainland. The delay may have been increased by the fact that the Japanese could not have known that the sea victory could be so easy.
Be that as it may, things are beginning to look lively once more. The Japanese have driven the Russians back across the Yalu by a series of what the Russians themselves in their dispatches to St. Petersburg call “Japanese reverses.” The Russians considered it a great feather in their cap that they destroyed the two men-of-war in Chemulpo Harbor. The Shanghai Mercury says with the finest touch of irony that the Russians will never despair so long as they can do such things as these. By whatever name we wish to call this victorious retreat of the Russians they are now beyond the Yalu and Korean soil is clear of them. It is not much to be regretted when we read the telegram sent down here by the commissioner who went north to bring back the body of the prefect whom the Russians killed because he refused to supply provisions. The Commissioner found the body decapitated, both arms and legs cut off and the trunk [page 146] frightfully mutilated. We cannot assert that the Russians mutilated the body but there is no doubt that they killed the prefect.
Once more the old Yalu comes into notice. There are few more historic streams than this one. For nearly four thousand years it has seen many armies facing each other across its waters. It is the Rubicon of Korea. The parallel is accurate.
When the Koryu dynasty, away back in 1392, had become so rotten that it was a disgrace to the whole Korean people the great general Yi was ordered by the priest-ridden king to take the army and attack China! Gen. Yi knew it was the command of a maniac but he had to make a “bluff” at obedience; so he took the army as far as an island in the middle of the Yalu and then made a speech to them, to the effect that it was worse than suicide to attempt the invasion of China and asked them if they would follow him back to the capital and engage in a little political house-cleaning. They applauded the speech and recrossed the arm of the river and marched on the Capital, where Gen. Yi soon became king and founded the present dynasty. Old Sindon was the monk who had hypnotized the fallen king. One of his tricks is worth recording. Feeling that his bluff needed a little “upholstering” he dug a hole by night in front of his door; at the bottom of the hole he put a barrel of beans; on top of the beans he put a gilded image of Buddha so that his head would come about two inches from the surface of the ground, and then he filled in the dirt so that nothing could be seen. He had taken good care to throw in a couple of pails of water on the beans. In the morning he called the people about him and said ‘‘By noon a gilded Buddha will come up out of the ground in front of my door.” They sat down to watch. The beans began to swell, and at 11:57 the gilded head broke through the surface of the soil. They went down on their faces as if they had been shot and Sindon’s hold was strengthened for another year or two.
The world is waiting eagerly for news of a land [page 147] fight but this is not likely to come off for several weeks yet. The Japanese might land some troops back of Port Arthur and attack that place by land and sea simultaneously but the strength of Port Arthur has been proved to be so much less than the Russians boasted that even the capture of that stronghold would really not be considered a hard blow. It is when the two armies meet in the death clinch in Manchuria that we shall hear of something definite. Meanwhile we seek for evidences of strength or weakness on either side. The frantic efforts that the Russians are making to secure food in Manchuria and the fact that they have had to bribe the bandits to keep them still, show that the Siberian road is going to prove all but inadequate to supply the army in the Far East.
Manchuria is heavily populated with people hostile to Russia, her railroad runs so near the Arctic circle that in winter it will be an enormous undertaking to keep a large army in Manchuria supplied. At some stations along the road we looked carefully at the track and, as the train moved along, the railroad ties would sink half or three quarters of an inch and mud would ooze up over them. If this was the case with comparatively light passenger cars what must it be with heavily loaded ones? It is probable that to keep that road in running order and to transport what the army will need will require an average of fifty men to the mile along the whole 6,000 miles, or in round numbers a total of 300,000 men who must themselves be fed and provided for and paid. We have lately heard that 100,000 more men are asked for as guards alone for the railroad. So when people talk about Russia’s game being a waiting game, it is true only in case she can concentrate a large army at Harbin or elsewhere and then push the Japanese rapidly and steadily out of Manchuria and Korea. If the statement of the Japanese is true, that the war will take two or three years, we feel confident that its prolongation will be worse for Russia than Japan. It may be that Japan sees that it will be necessary to play the waiting game herself and attempt to drain [page 148] the resources of the Russian government. In order to make it succeed it was necessary to have complete command of the sea and render it impossible to feed the Russian army by any other avenue than the Siberian Railway. This they have done and the next step is to keep things moving enough to make it necessary for Russia to support an enormous army in Manchuria at three times the cost of keeping a Japanese army there. If the Russians want to stop the suicidal expenditure they must drive the Japanese army off the southern point of Korea; but the nature of the Korean country is such that the Russians would be constantly fighting an uphill game with the ever present danger of a Japanese army landing in their rear and cutting off their communications. We very much doubt whether the Japanese wish to bring the matter to the issue of a single great battle. Japan is now paying for something like fifty thousand men on the field while Russia is probably paying for six times that number and when we take into account the vastly greater expense of putting Russian troops in the field than that of putting Japanese troops there we might be within bounds in saying that Russia’s daily expenditure is ten times as great as that of Japan. At that rate Japan can afford to play the waiting game. This looks the more likely when we notice the satisfaction with which Japan views the restriction of the belligerent territory and the arrangement which she has made with Korea, for whereas it prevents Russia from drawing supplies from any Far Eastern territory excepting Manchuria, which in a state of war will produce comparatively little, it leaves Japan free to draw upon the enormous agricultural resources of Korea which, being in the southern part of the peninsula, will be out of the area of actual hostilities at least until the Russians have succeeded in pushing the Japanese to the wall. And before this can be accomplished Russia will have drained every bourse in Europe and beggared her own people.
But even this does not exhaust the indications which point to Japan’s intention of prolonging the war. She [page 149] recently secured an extension of the fishing privileges of the Japanese along the whole western coast of the peninsula and the avowed purpose was to provide another means of supplying the Japanese army with food. This shows that she does not expect to end the war in a single season. We must also add to this the fact that Japan is hastening the building of the railroad between Seoul and Wiju, which cannot possibly be finished inside of two years.
General Kuropatkin’s statement that he expected to finish the war in July probably voices the profound wish of the Russian Government, and to realize this wish they will depend upon the hot-headedness of the Japanese in precipitating a general engagement. But Japan is not out to do what Russia wants and we fully believe that an entirely different policy will be adopted by the Japanese leaders. A prominent Russian official has already foreseen that Japan will adopt the tactics of the Boers. It is an ominous forecast for the Russians; for with Japan’s resources and the number of men she can put into Manchuria it will mean the Boers with thrice their force and backing.
The war correspondents who have been waiting so impatiently in Tokyo have come on at last. They passed through Chemulpo the other day on a Japanese transport. The boat dropped anchor in the harbor at five in the morning and left before noon for the north. Not one of the fifteen correspondents was allowed to land and a newspaper man here who boarded her was allowed to stay only fifteen minutes. Mr. Jack London was waiting in Seoul for that boat. He was told that it would arrive at noon but it arrived and sailed again before that hour, so he was left; but he went north by a subsequent boat.
To show how well Japan keeps her own secrets, I will say that for three weeks a fleet of over forty loaded transports lay off the Korean islands within fifty miles of Chemulpo and yet very few in Seoul had heard a word about it. That fleet was waiting for the Russians to be pushed back across the Yalu and when [page 150] that event was in sight the time had come for this new force to land near the mouth of the Yalu. For this reason the war correspondents in Tokyo were sent forward.
This newspaper crowd, like all crowds, is made up of all kinds. There are veterans like Burleigh, James, London, Davis, and Palmer and then there are callow youth just out of college, whose notions of the East and whose estimate of Russian or Japanese character is based upon a few days observation from the deck of a steamer. One of them called on us the other day to ask questions about Korea, which we gladly answered; but we found that he had formed preconceived notions of it that were decidedly youthful and he disputed with us at every point. We could tell him nothing. He had learned more about Korea in four days than we had in eighteen years. He was like the fellow who crossed from Dover to Calais for the first time, and seeing a redheaded man on the pier at Calais wrote back to his friends that all Frenchmen were redheaded. And, strange to say, this man represented one of the greatest papers in the United States.
The withdrawal of the last Russian force across the Yalu River brings to an end one period in the war; only a preparatory step, of course, a clearing of the decks for action, and yet a very definite step and one in which the Koreans are deeply interested. It means that the war is to be fought on other than Korean soil and only those who have lived in territory which was the actual scene of conflict can properly understand what a blessing this is to the Koreans.
It will be well therefore to give a resumé of what has been done and the manner in which the advance and retreat of the Russians was accomplished. It is evident that the Russians never expected nor intended to attempt to hold any of the Korean territory against the Japanese, but it was necessary that they should send forward a small force to keep in touch with the Japanese so as to be always informed of the movements of the latter. For this purpose they made use of Koreans as spies and through them gained some useful information but, if reports are correct, they were often deceived by these Korean spies as to the number of the Japanese. The passionate longing of the Koreans to see the war carried to the other side of the Yalu evidently affected these Korean spies and more than once their reports of the Rapid approach of strong detachments of Japanese made the Russians decamp in haste when in truth thet could easily have stood their ground and caused delay to the enemy. The question here arises as to whether one of the objects of the Russians was to cause serious delay to the Japanese so as to give more time for preparation to the military authorities in Manchuria.
The rather serious business at Chong-ju might indicate that such were their orders. The little skirmishes at Anju, when shots were exchanged across the river and two or three on either side were killed, could not be called serious opposition. The Russians were looking for the best place to take their stand and see what they could do at holding the Japanese in check. They may have seen the futility of it, and probably did, but an attempt, at least, must be made to obey orders if only to prove that they could not be carried out. The skirmishes at Anju occurred about the middle of March and it was not until nearly a fortnight later that the battle of Chong-ju was fought, namely March 28th.
But before describing that encounter we must note some of the movements of the Japanese that preceded it. The Russians spread out over the southern portion of North Pyeng-an Province in a desultory sort of way. They must have known through their scouts that the Japanese were going north by the main road only but the Russians scattered far to the right and left of this road apparently bent upon forage. On March 15th they entered Yŭng-byŭn, the capital of the province, about a hundred strong and made a demand upon the governor for food. He could do nothing but comply, so he gave them orders on various prefects in the vicinity. These the Russians took and presented at various prefectures saying that the Russians were going to fight the Japanese and that the Koreans must aid them with food. They seem to have had the curious notion that this would be [page 152] pleasing to the people, when in fact nothing could be more distasteful. The Russians gradually came to see their mistake when prefect after prefect announced that orders straight from. Seoul were superior to the governor’s orders and that they could furnish no provisions. The result was that the Russians had to take what they wanted. These provisions were not paid for even though the Russians may have offered Russian money. That money was worthless to the Korean and however much he received it could not be called pay. It is amply proved that they took things without leave, for they entered the grounds of American citizens in Sun-ch’un and were going to walk off with some fodder, and it was only by an appeal to the head officer that the theft was prevented.
On the 22nd a Russian band, twenty-five strong, entered Ch’ul-san and took a hundred pecks of rice and five bullocks. A large majority of the people had run away leaving their houses empty. The Russians entered these houses and took whatever they needed. It was the same in all the towns along the main roads. The number of Koreans who fled from their homes in the north would mount up to thousands. Where did they go with their wives and children? It was bitterly cold. Winter had but just begun to break up. The imagination is taxed to the utmost to form even a faint conception of the terrible suffering those people must have endured. The number of actual deaths among those fugitives must have been ten times the number of Japanese and Russians who were killed or wounded in the various small engagements. We may smile and say that it was quite unnecessary for them to run away from their homes, that they were themselves to blame for their suffering; but we forget that they know of war only as rapine and plunder, the loss of property, of life and of honor more precious than life. They know nothing of “civilized” warfare.
It was on this same day March 22nd that the Russians at Yongampo, connected with the Timber Concession, and the Chinese under them, removed to the other side of the Yalu. Only 100 Russian soldiers and ten Chinese remained. The Koreans say that they put a [page 153] large number of “boxes” into the water at that port. The Koreans took it to be the Russian form of burial but they learned later that these were torpedoes. We cannot be sure as yet that the Russians actually mined the harbor, but these reports would lead us to suppose so. On the next day even the 100 soldiers and the Chinese all left hurriedly and went across the Yalu leaving everything in the hands of the Korean interpreters.
When the Japanese crossed the river at An-ju the Russians being greatly outnumbered evidently determined to move steadily back toward the Yalu but to leave enough men at Chong-ju to hold the Japanese temporarily in check and prevent an attack in the rear. That there was no general concentration of troops at Chong-ju is shown by the fact that on the 20th 500 Russians arrived at K wi-siing which is almost north of Chong-ju and then in a day or so went westward. But still better proof is found in the report that on the 29th just one day after the fight at Chong-ju 2,600 Russians arrived at Sun-ch’un and the following day went toward Wi-ju. These men could not have been in the fight at Chong-ju. There was a little brush between the Japanese and Russians at Pakch’un a few days before the Chong-ju affair and it is plain that the Japanese were hot on their trail for we hear from Ta-ch’un, just north of Pak-ch’un, that on the 26th twenty-nine Japanese cavalry arrived and most of these immediately hurried westward toward Kwi-sung.
It was on the morning of the 28th that the Japanese cavalry scouts approached the walled town of Chong-ju which is on the main road thirty-five miles beyond An-ju. Weare able to give a little sketch map of the situation of Chong-ju, indicating, the main road along which the Japanese came, the lay of the land about the city, the spot where the first firing took place and the position occupied by the Russians and from which they were driven by the Japanese. It will be seen that a stream comes down a valley from the northwest and flows around to the south side of the city where it is joined by a corresponding stream coming down from the northeast, so that the city lies in the fork of the streams, which then flow south into [page 154] the sea a few miles distant. Some of the Japanese scouts came across the stream about half past ten in the morning and approached the south gate of the town while others took a circuit around the eastern side of the town to see what was going on in that direction. It soon became clear that they were in touch with a considerable body of Russians who were in the city and outside the west gate. The scouts started back to report but the Russians seem to have followed them out of the south gate and soon the main body of Japanese appeared and a sharp encounter took place a hundred yards outside the south gate. The Russians were not in force enough to hold this position which was a poor one, so they retired, leaving, as it is reported, two or three dead on the field, who were afterward buried by the Japanese. When the Russians retired they all went outside the west gate up the stream and took their position on rising ground, evidently with the intention of making a stand there. The Japanese cavalry had followed close on their heels, but when it was seen that the Russians had drawn up for business the cavalry retired to the main body of the Japanese and reported. Going around the south side of the city the Japanese attacked the position of the Russians with fifty cavalry and seventy infantry but it was two or three hours before they were dislodged and compelled to retire toward Wiju. If the Japanese could have pushed on and kept up the fight the Russians would perhaps have been more thoroughl3’ beaten but snow was lying deep on the ground and the cavalry alone could have effected nothing. So the Japanese had to let the Russians off without further loss. A few days later the Russians were streaming through Sinch’un carrying their wounded. They were in full cry for the Yalu. This little battle m which there were only aboat fifteen casualties on each side seems to have sufficed for the Russians. No more stops were made until Wiju was reached. The Japanese followed steadily, welcomed every-where by the Koreans who had learned the difference between Japanese and Russian treatment. When they appeared before Wiju the Russians had already crossed to the other side of the [page 155] Yalu and Korea was rid of the Cossack, it is to be hoped forever.
It was on March 4th that Korean soil once more ceased to be belligerent territory. We understand that the Russians have taken a stand on the other side of the river and will dispute its passage. In fact General Kuropatkin is reported to have said that the Russians would attempt to surround the Japanese at the Yalu.
There is little use in trying to forecast the immediate future. General Kuropatkin is an experienced officer and when the Japanese come in contact with him there will be some sharp work.
The Burning of the Palace.
The night of April 14th witnessed one of the greatest conflagrations that Korea has suffered for many years. The new Imperial Palace called the Kyong-un was swept out of existence in a few short hours. It will be remembered that this was the palace built soon after the Emperor took refuge in the Russian Legation in 1896. Compared with the old time palaces it was small and insignificant but even so it was a huge collection of buildings, huddled closely together, some purely native in style some purely foreign and others still a mixture of the East and West. It was about eleven o’clock that the alarm bells were rung, though the fire is said to have begun some thirty minutes sooner. The cause of this fire is not definitely known but rumor states that it came from the overheating of some newly made flues under the floor of a building lately occupied by the Emperor as his private apartment, but in order to understand where the fire originated the reader is invited to refer to the diagram which accompanies this article. This represents only the most important buildings in the palace enclosure but between these and around them were hundreds of kan of buildings; so that when the fire once caught it was sure to sweep clear through.
[page 156] It was in the building numbered 20 in the diagram that the fire started. This was the apartment of His Majesty before the Queen Dowager died. At that time he removed to the building numbered 11. The buildings that he had temporarily left were being renovated. Carpenters, masons and painters had been hard at work upon it. It is said that there were many shavings lying under the maru and when the workmen built a fierce fire in the newly made fireplace some of these shavings, being whirled about by the wind caught fire and communicated the flames to the shavings under the maru. The newly painted wood burned readily and when the fire was first noticed it had already taken a firm hold. It is probable that instant and vigorous measures would have prevented a great conflagration but in a Korean palace ordinary rules do not work. In the first place there must be no outcry or tumult; in the second place the gates must all be tightly closed and guarded. Then the Emperor must be awakened and informed of the fact that the palace is on fire. Then and only then can any attempt be made to stop it. It is quite irregular for any efforts to be made in this direction without the express order of the Emperor. The result is that if a fire once starts in a palace the whole place is practically doomed. History shows us that seditious attempts have often been begun by starting such a fire, so that the first care must be to close the palace gates and give access to no one.
On this occasion matters were made worse by a high wind that was blowing from the northeast and the building where the fire started was in the northeastern part of the palace grounds; so that the flames were practically sure to sweep a clean path through the palace inclosure diagonally to the southwest comer.
Not long after the fire was perceived from the outside the Japanese fire-bell was rung and the Japanese and Chinese firemen hastened to the palace but found all the gates fast closed and no answer was made to their shouts, so they were unable to render any assistance. No noise was heard from the palace enclosure except the angry roar of flames and the crash of falling roofs.
[page 157] There was something sinister about the stillness. Fire in the orient is always associated in the mind with screaming crowds and frantic efforts to dam the tide of flame, but here all was silent. Crowds surged around the palace on the outside but what of the thousand people or more who were within. They might all be burned to death.
The British Legation guard turned out promptly and armed with patent fire extinguishers attempted to get in at the back gate and on the side near the Custom House, but they were foiled at every point. They then went to Mr. Chalmers’ place and secured a hand fire engine and dragged it around to the palace in readiness to enter if an opportunity should be afforded.
Meanwhile the fire was rapidly gaining a firmer hold upon the closely packed buildings in the palace. It leaped from the house in which it started to the adjoining buildings to the west, south and southwest, and it was not long before it threatened the apartments in which the Emperor was anxiously awaiting the issue. Within forty minutes of the time when the fire was discovered he hurriedly moved to building numbered 9 on the diagram and called to him Prince Yung-chin and Lady Om. Of course the Crown Prince was with him all the time. This move was made so hurriedly that His Majesty is said to have gone out in the garments that he wears at night. It soon became evident that the whole palace was doomed and that there was no part of it sufficiently safe for His Majesty to risk remaining there. It was therefore decided to leave the palace and go to the Library building which is just west of the American Legation. To do this he must go out the small gate on the west side of the palace, but when this was reached it was found already open. The reason for this was as follows: Along the west side of the palace enclosure, inside the wall, was a row of buildings used as barracks and magazine. The smoke drove straight in that direction and a shower of burning cinders was falling. The soldiers were drawn up in front of their quarters and it was plain that unless something was done and done very [page 158] quickly they would be burned to death. They had no mind to emulate the example of Casablanca and so made for this west gate to gain egress from their critical position. It was closed, barred and locked but with the flames behind them they soon had the gate unbarred and streamed out. A number of the American Legation guard were there waiting for an opportunity to be of service. The Korean soldiers told these men of the ammunition stored in the threatened buildings and so the Americans together with some of the Koreans made a dash for the building and soon had the ammunition outside the palace where it could do no harm. If this had not been done a very serious explosion might have occurred. It was about this time, approximately 11:30, that the Emperor, the Crown Prince, Lady Om, Prince Yung-chin and a crowd of eunuchs, officials and palace women came hurrying out of the gate to make their way to the Library building.
Soon after this the British Legation guard entered this gate, got their hose-pipe into a large well at the northwest comer of the palace enclosure and set to work to save the new palace building that is in course of construction. They kept a stream of water on the scaffolding and succeeded in preventing the fire from spreading in that direction.
The wind was blowing strongly from the northeast and about midnight the fire reached the great Audience Hall called the Chung-wha-jon or “Middle Harmony Hall.” The fire went around three sides of this great building before it caught fire. The large amount of ornamental work under its double roof made it bum with one great roaring tide of flame. The sight from the British Legation grounds was truly awe-inspiring. In half an hour the enormous pillars which supported the double roof were seen to totter and then the whole pile came with a deafening crash to the ground. Even so the debris stood sixty feet high or more and burned as fiercely as ever. This building alone represented an outlay of something like half a million dollars.
Fears were felt for the safety of some of the foreigners’ [page 159] houses to the southwest of the palace. The constant steam of sparks and cinders which fell upon and around them required careful watching and some of the foreigners were busy pouring water upon the most exposed portions of the buildings. Some gentlemen mounted the roof of the Methodist Church, which was nearest the fire, and kept watch for signs of fire there.
In the room occupied by His Majesty there was a heavy chest containing a large amount of solid gold and silverware of various kinds. As soon as His Majesty left the apartment eight soldiers were detailed to bring out this chest but their combined strength was inadequate to the demand and it had to be left. After the fire the debris was removed and it was found, of course, that the gold and silver had melted and run in all directions but the bullion was recovered. In an adjoining room was another case containing a large number of silver spoons and other implements which had been presented to His Majesty as souvenirs on many festive occasions. The cover of this was burned off and the contents partially melted but many of the spoons though blackened and twisted still retained some semblance of their original shape.
It would be a mistake to suppose that all the buildings were burned or that all the occupants of the palace buildings had to leave. There were seven or eight buildings on the north, northeast and east sides of the enclosure that were not burned and many of the palace women, clerks and others remained in them until morning.
Many valuable books and documents were burned in the cabinet council house numbered in the sketch. These books were histories, secret documents, ceremonial laws and a large number of foreign books. In the house occupied by His Majesty a large amount of Japanese paper money was burned. The furniture of some buildings was hastily carried out and piled up in the road or passage-way and in some instances this was burned, although the building from which it was taken escaped. In the buildings surrounding the great Audience Hall [page 160] were stored the uniforms and instruments of the native musicians. These were all destroyed. Many jinrickshas that had been prepared for use in the jubilee celebration, that was so many times postponed, were also burned. The number of screens, silver utensils, rolls of silk, vases, and other valuables is unknown but the aggregate value must have been very great indeed.
The morning after the fire inquiries were immediately set on foot to discover the parties responsible for the calamity. It was found that the cause was as we have stated already; so the men who had charge of the repairs, and to whose carelessness the fire was due, were immediately arrested and lodged in jail at the Law Department. It is said that these men will be banished nominally for a term of years but that they will be soon reprieved. The matter of the place of the Emperor’s residence was taken up immediately. The various functions of the Household were temporarily lodged in buildings owned by the government in the vicinity of the palace but this could not continue long. Rumors were abroad that His Majesty would go to the Chang-dok Palace, called “The Old Palace” by foreigners. Others said he would lease the Russian Legation while others still believed that he would stay in the Library building until sufficient repairs could be effected on the site of the burned palace to make it habitable. Of these three the last was by far the most congenial to His Majesty and inquiries were set on foot to find out what such repairs could be effected for. An estimate was made that it would require Y 9,000,000 to put the whole palace in the condition it was before the fire. This, being nearly equivalent to a year’s revenue for the whole country, was of course out of the question; but 300,000 dollars were appropriated for temporary repairs and carpenters and other workmen were ordered to be in readiness to begin the work. Most of the leading officials and the Japanese Minister advised that the Court be moved to the “Old Palace’* but this was very distasteful to His Majesty so the matter was not pressed. But as the days passed it became more and more evident that this would [page 161] be the outcome of the matter for the government treasury can ill-afford the tremendous strain and, in addition to this, the “Old Palace” has lately been renovated and put in order so that a very slight expenditure will make it habitable. Strong pressure was again brought to bear upon the court and at the present writing, April 25, it has been practically decided that the court will remove to that palace. It is by all odds the finest situation in the city and much more commensurate with the dignity of an imperial court than the cramped quarters in Chong-dong which are elbowed on every side by foreign legations and other foreign properties. Of course it will mean that we shall be able to have no more of those delightful picnics in the “Old Palace” grounds where one can imagine himself for a time transported far away from the sights and sounds of the city.
In connection with this fire there is an amusing prophecy said to have been unearthed. Someone posted an anonymous statement at Chongno, the center of the city, saying that such a prophecy had been found and that it reads as follows :
The curious thing about it is that this inscription was posted at the beginning of the year. The literal translation is as follows: “The pine forest will suffer a calamity; at first hide in the tiger’s tail; green dragon of ancient times; superior will be attached to twenty.” This means absolutely nothing as it stands but it is one of those curious oriental conundrums in which the Korean delights. It depends upon a clever juggling with the Chinese characters. The first four characters are said to foretell the burning of the palace, as the thousands of posts used in its construction may be called a “forest of pines.” The next four characters are interpreted generally to refer to the fact that the Emperor took refuge in the Library building which, being a sort of annex to the palace, may by a stretch of the imagination be called a “tail.” The use of the word tiger describes the Library building more perfectly, for the tiger is the animal that [page 162] corresponds to “West” even as rat corresponds to north, dragon to east, and bird to south. The third combination, the green dragon, refers to the present year, for each year of the sixty year cycle has its own “animal name” and this year, being the kap-chin year, may be also called the green dragon year. But the character for dragon also means the third moon of the year, for each moon is presided over by some animal. Then the last character, meaning “ancient” is made up of the characters meaning twenty-first day. So the whole of this third line gives the exact year, month and day in which the idea in the last line will be carried out. The day here specified is the sixth of May. The enigmatical meaning of the last line is “The superior will be attached to the double sun’’ now the character sun is * and if two be put together the two characters for day * come together one above the other and this is the character *, chang, which is the name of the “Old Palace.’* So the whole is interpreted as follows : In 1904 a disaster will overtake the palace. Its inmates will find refuge in a building to the west of the palace and on the fifth of May they will remove to the “Old Palace.” When this poster was discovered in the morning by the police it was instantly torn down and taken to the Police Headquarters. If the author could be found he would suffer capital punishment. But many people saw and copied it and it appeared in the native papers a few days since. To say the very least it is a curious coincidence. It will be rather interesting to note whether the last line of the prophecy is fulfilled. If the interpretation of the lines is the right one the only rational explanation would be that the conflagration was incendiary in its origin and that the last line is a clever effort to force its own accomplishment by making the individuals to which it refers hesitate not to follow it lest worse evils befall. It will be noticed that the fifth of May is a lucky day and one on which a moving can be accomplished without fear of the spirits taking offence. If there is anything in this, it gives us just a glimpse into the workings of the oriental mind.
At last advices the plan to rebuild five of the buildings [page 163] has been changed and two only will be built. The two buildings in the diagram marked with a cross are the ones to be rebuilt.
The Internal Condition of Affairs in Korea.
In such a country as this it is rather difficult to gauge the feelings of the people, but everybody who knows anything about them must admit that the whole country is in a very unsettled mental state. The people do not know whether the tide of war will turn and they may be called upon to entertain a Russian army. They do not know just to what extent the Japanese will assume the direction of affairs here. They do not know what the Home Office will do about the prefects throughout the land. They do not know how much or how little the talk of the Tong-haks and other disintegrating factions may amount to. They do not know where the multiplication of robber bands is going to stop. The outlook is not as promising as it might be. Two of the highest officials in the so-called reconstructed government are having a violent quarrel over the appointment of the country prefects. Each has brought in a list of appointees and each insists that his list shall be adopted. This is very suspicious on the face of it, for it looks as if it was a clear case of that same partisanship which has been the bane of good government in Korea ever since the middle of the sixteenth century. This uncertainty at Seoul is thoroughly understood in the country and increases the feeling of insecurity there. The depredations of the bandits, especially in the south, has reached a point where steps must soon be taken to put them down or the people will feel that the only way to be secure is to become robbers themselves. One morning not long ago a band of five armed men entered a town in southern Korea and forced the people to point out all the houses [page 164] of well-to-do citizens. They said that a large number of beggars were on their way north and would soon be passing this town, and the people were warned to feed these tramps or they would suffer for it. The crowd of tramps arrived, a veritable Coxey’s Army, and the people took them in and fed them. As soon as the eating was over these tramps each produced a short sword and began looting the town. They took away some 30,000 dollars with them.
We have received from Dr. W. B. McGill some notes on observations he made recently in Kong-ju, about a hundred miles south of Seoul. He says that about five miles from that place there are some fanatics who have formed a new religion. He went out to the place and saw their antics. He found that they called their cult **** the Sound, Influence, Dance Doctrine. They believe that if they chant the five sounds of the ancient Chinese gamut, the ***** and dance with all their might, God will be pleased, the Holy Spirit will descend and all evil will be taken away. They call God their Father and say that Jesus being fixed in the heavens forms a cross. They say that Christ will come to earth again together with Confucius and Mencius, and that the time is at hand. They dance so hard that the “trees, men and mountains seem to be leaping in unison with them” and the elements seem to be dissolving. The ignorant on-looker is tempted to join in the intoxicating dance. Dr. McGill says that the local “Dowie” approached him and waved over his head some paper on which were written in red certain meaningless characters, apparently trying to hypnotize him. We fancy he was not a very docile subject. These people in the excess of their frenzy have hemorrhages of the lungs and believe that the evil goes out of them with the blood and that renewed spiritual life comes with the renewed flesh. They claim that they and the Christians belong to the same family and believe the same things. They read the “Great Learning” and the “Little Learning” and believe that their doctrine came from Confucius, find that the scholars have forgotten the true doctrine of [page 165] Confucius. They allow women to follow the doctrine equally with men.
One day he was walking through the town and he saw a crowd of beggar boys huddled around some object. He approached and found them seated in a circle about a smouldering fire eating a dead dog that they had found in the sewer. They had made a little fire, enough to bum the hair off and singe the flesh a little. It was a very sad sight to see the little fellows fight for the possession of the only knife in order to cut off a piece of the meat. One little fellow had secured the head of the dog as his share and looked up at the Doctor and smiled and said “I have the best part of all.” The next day he saw five of these boys crowded into a single fireplace at the local butcher shop. After the fire is out, ten of these beggar boys crawl in and sleep. Some’, of course, go clear in out of sight. Several cases brought to him were boys who had been burned by contact with the hot stones on the sides of these fireplaces.
One day he was startled by his boy who came in to say that four men and one woman had just been hanged. The next day he saw three of the bodies hanging from a willow tree just outside the town. There were two other broken ropes showing where the others had been hung. The woman and a boy had been cut down during the night. It was said the woman was a murderess. She had fed her husband lamprey eels in his rice and so poisoned him. When he was dead she tore his face off so that he could not be recognized. The Doctor says—
“I went to the prison and talked through a hole in the door with those inside. Some were thieves and others murderers. There were thirty-seven in all. One of them seemed to show some signs of contrition. He said that he and three others got into a fight on the way home from a funeral and one of them was killed. They were all drunk at the time. Most of these thirty-seven were hanged within a week. I knew of some forty-five who were hanged within a month. From a distance I witnessed nine of them being hung to a single branch, so close to each other that their faces touched. They had [page 166] their hands tied behind them with straw rope and they walked to the tree with the constable holding them by the arm, and put their heads in the noose without any attempt at resistance. They seemed to die without the least struggle. One of the prisoners was sent up the tree to tie the straw ropes. The man to be hanged was held up off the ground a foot or so while the rope was being tied to the limb and then he was dropped and slowly strangled. The first victim was so heavy that the straw rope broke three times, and he looked up and cursed the man in the tree for not tying the rope properly. Death usually followed in three or four minutes. Two little boys stood near me crying. I asked them what the matter was and they said, “That is our father.” Two or three days later these bodies were taken down. Some were thrown into the ditch and some were half buried, so that a hand, a foot or a top-knot showed above the surface. The dogs had been helping themselves. In that same place there were many skulls and other portions of the human skeleton. It was said that a few years ago a large number of tonghaks were placed in a group and a huge fire built around them. I went to the prison again and this time gained admission. There were thirteen inmates, three of whom were in the stocks. The keeper’s house was in front of the outer door of the prison and a meaner face I do not care to see. As I was going home after witnessing the hanging described above, I met an old woman with a grass-hook or sickle in her hand and I asked her where she was going. She said she was going to cut down her son who had been hanged. I also met another old woman and two younger ones with some children going for the same purpose. The ajun told me that there were about forty more to be hanged soon. My servant was going along the road at dusk and neared a village. There were nine policemen just behind him. The door of an inn opened and the first of the policemen fell pierced by a shot. The other policemen scattered in all directions. Three thieves had stopped there to eat and did not propose to be disturbed.
“It isn’t safe to accuse the wrong man in this country, [page 167] though. Once a man was brought to my dispensary with both eyes hanging down on his cheeks. He had lain hands on the wrong man for the thief, and as a penalty had his eyes gouged out.
“Oh yes, he lived.”
It is no pleasure to record these horrors, but they give us just a glimpse at native life in Korea. The cruelty, the brutality, the cheapness of human life are appalling, and such things occur not in Kong-ju only but all over the country.