Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Late Chosun period--Korea

Here is how a Korean professor describe the late chosun period.

Current North Korea is a clone of 500 years of Yi Dynasty

Yi dynasty had been the hisroty of cruelty inbuled in blood, with full of slanders and lies. This was inherited to the present North Korea
Regretably, about 500 years of Yi dyanasty and the present North Korea are similar in that both of them made people slave, Just as the population of North Korean is decreasing , that of Yi dyanasty had decreased due to exploitation and starvation during this 500 years, when the yanban class treated people like a magot insect
Rewriting history by distorting facts for his purpose is called fabrication, and that is exactly what most of South Korean historian is doing・・・・・・not teaching the political disorder at all, history is written as if Yi dynasity could transform itself into independent state without annexisation・・・・・・this is ignorant historical view..
The final period of Yi dyanasity was like uncivilized world, the country witout history and the sociall condition was so bad that deserted people and stravers was rampant with noble class (yang-bang) living wihout work, extorting heavy taxes ,exploiting people endlessly. p28日韓併合崔 基鎬加耶大学客員教授[1]

You might think he is a revisionist,then let's see how western people saw the late chosun period.

Western Perceptions of Koreans[2]


I shrink from describing intra-mural Seoul. I thought it the foulest city on earth, till I saw Peking, and its smells the most odious, till I encountered those of Shao-shing.For a great city and capital its meanness is indescribable.Etiquette forbids the erectoin of two storied houses, consequently an estimated quater of a million people are living on "the ground,"chiefly in labyrinthine alleys, many of them not wide enough for two loaded bulls to pass, indeed barely wide enough for one man to pass a loaded bull, and further narrowed by a series of vile holes or green, slimy ditches, which receive the solid and liquid refuse of the houses, their foul and fetid margins being the favorite resort of half-naked children, begrimmed with dirt, and of big, mangy, blear-eyed dogs, which wallow in the slime or blink in the sun. There too the itinerant vendor of "small wares," and candies dyed flaring colors with aniline dyes, establishes himself, puts a few planks across the dithch, and his goods, worth perhaps a dollar, thereon.But even Seoul has its "sprin cleaning," and I encountered on the sand plain of Han, on the ferry, and on the road from Ma-puto Seoul, innumerable bulls carrying panniers laden with contents of the city ditches.Bishop p40


The attitude of korean official class, with the exception of a small number who were perosonally interested in the success of Japan , was altogether unfavorable to the new regime, and every change was regardedwith indignation.Though destitute of true patriotism, the common people looked upon the King as a sacred person, and they were furious at the indigities to which he had been subjected. The official saw that the reform meant the end of "squeezing" and ill-gotten gain, and they , wihth the whole army of parasites and hangers-on of yamens, were all pledged by the strongest personal interest to oppose it by active oppostion or passive resistance. Though corruption has its stronghold in Seoul, every provisional government repeats on a smaller scale the iniquities of the capital, and has its own army of dishonest and lazy officials fattening on the earnings of the industrious classes.
In Korea when the Japanese undertook the work of reform there were but two classes, the robbers and the robbed, and the robbers included tha vast army which constituted the highest to the lowest, and every position was bought and sold.Bishop p 262


The dynasty is worn out, and the King, with all his amiability and kindness of heart, is weak in character and is at the mercy of designating men,as has appeared increasingly since the strong sway of the Queen was withdrawn. I believe him to be at heart, according to his lights, a patriot sovereign, .Far from standing in the way of reform, he has accepted most of the suggestions offered to him. But unfortunately for a man whose edicts become the law of the land, and more unfortunately for the land,he is peruaded by the last person who gets his ear, he lacks backbone and tenacity of purpose, and many of the best projects of reform become abortive through his weakness of will. To subsitute constitutional restraints fro absolutism would greatly mend matters but cela va sans dire this could only be successfull under foreign initiative.Bishop p255


The shop partake of the general meanness.Shops with a stock-in-trade which may be worth six dollars abound. It is easy to walk in Seoul without molestation, but any one standing to look at anything attracts a great crowd, so that it is as well that there is nothing to look at.The shops have literally not a noteworthy feature.Their one characteristic is that they have none!Bishop p41


Undoubtedly, [the Korean coolie] is the greatest living example of the absence of all excitement or animated interest of any kind whatever….Nothing short of a bowl of vermicelli (ku-kou), or the crack of doom, can creat the slightest interest in him or prove that he has nerves at all.”Underwood 96) frog

Koreans earn a hundred cash a day and eat a thousand cash worth, while Japanese on the contrary, earn a thousand cash a day and eat a hundred cash worth.’ Never were truer words spoken, with regard to the Japanese at least. If these people have a virtue, which their worst enemies cannot gainsay, it is their industry and thrift.”(Gale 53) Frog in a well

In Korea I had learned to think of koreans as the dregs of a race, and to regard their conditoin as hopelss but in Primosk I saw reason for considerable modifying my opionion, It must be borne in mind that these people , who have raised themselves into a prosperous farming class・・・・they were mostlyl starving folk who fled from farmine, and their prosperity and general demeanor give me the hope that their countrymen in Korea, if they ever have an honest administeration and protection fro their earnings, may slowly develope into men Bishop p236


One of the "sight" of Seoul is the stream or drain or water course, a wide, walled, open conduit, along which a dark -colored festering stream slowly drags its malodorous length, among manure and refuse heaps which cover up most of what was once its shingly bed.There, tired of crowds masculine solely, one may be refreshed by the sight of women of the poorest class, some ladling into pails the compound which passes for water, and others washing clothes in the field pools which is peculiar to the capital, a green silk coat---a man's coat with the "neck" put over the head and clutched below the eyes, and long wide sleeves falling from the ears It is as well that the Korean woman is concealed, for she is not a houri.Biship p45

“The hardest crust to break will doubtless be that which encompasses and crushes the Korean lady. In Japan there has never been anything quite comparable to the still present degrading influences bearing upon the womanhood of the upper classes in Korea.” (Ladd 87)

“The women of the lower classes in Korea are ill-bred and unmannerly, far removed from the gracefulness of the same class in Japan or the reticence and kindliness of the Chinese peasant women.”(Bishop 339)


Every house has a dog and a square hole through which he can just creep. He yelps furiously at a stranger, and run away at the shaking of an umbrella.He was the sole scanvenger of Seoul, and a very inefficient one.He is neither friend nor companion of man. He is ignorant of Korean and every other spoken language. His bark at night announces peril from thieve. He is almost wild.When young he is killed and eaten in spring.Bishop p47


The country was eaten up by offcialism. It is not only that abuses without number prevailed, but the whole system of Government was an abuse, a sea of corruption without a bottom or a shore, an engine of robbery, crushing the life out of all industry. Offices and justice were bought and sold like other commodities, and Government was fast decaying, the one principle which survived being its right to prey on the governed.
The new order of things, called by the Japanese the "Reformation," dates from the forcible occupation of the Kyengpok Palace by Japanese troops on the 23rd of July 1894.Bishop p372


With spelended climate, an abundant, but not superabundant, rainfall, a fertile soil, a measure of freedom from civil war and robber bands, the Koreans ought to be a happy and farily prosperous people. If "squeezing" yamen runners and their excutions, and certain malign practices of officials can be put down with a strong hand, and the land tax is farly levied and collected, and law becomes an agent for protection rather than an instrument of injustice, I see no reason why the Korean peasant should not be as happy and industrious as the Japanese peasant. But these are great 'ifs"・・・・・・
・・・・・Every man in Korea knows that poverty is his best security, and that anythinghe possesses beyond that which provides himself and his familywith food and clothing is certain to be taken from him by voracoious and corrupt officials. it is only when the exactions of officials become absolutely means of providing the necessaries of life and the he resorts to the only method of redress in his power・・・・・
 Among the modes of squeezing are forced labor, doubling or trebling the amount ofa lligitimate tax, exactin bribes in cases litigation, forced loans, etc.if a man is reproted to have saved money, an official asks for the loan of it. If it is granted, the lender frequently never see principal or interest, it it is refused, he is arrested, thrown into prison on some charge invented fro his destruction, and beaten until either he or his relations for himi produce the sum demanded.

p446The upper classes paralyzed by the most absurd of social obligations, spend their lives i inactivity. To the middle class no careers are open: there are no skilled occupations to which they can turn their energies. The lower classes work no harder than is necessary to keep the wolf from the door, for very sufficient reason. Even in Seoul, the largest mercantile establishments have hardly risen tothe level of shops. Everything in Korea has been on a low, poor, mean level.Class privileges, class and official exactions, a total absence of justice, the insecurity of all earnings, a Government which has carried out the worst tradtions on which all unreformed Oriental Govenments are based, a class of official robbers steeped in intrigue,a monarch enfeebled by the seclusion of the palace and the pettinessesof the Seraglio, a close alliance with one of the most corrupt empires, the mutual jealousies of interested foreigner,and an all -pervading and terrosizing supersition have done their best to reduce Koera to that condition of resourcelessness and dreay squalor in which I formed my first impression of her.Bishop p336

A great and universal curse in Korea is the habit in which thousands of able-bodied men indulge of hanging, or "sorning," on relations or friends who are better off than themselves.p446 (written after the second trip)


Among the more important of the Edicts which have nominally become law are the following;---
Agreement with China cancelled. Distinctions between patrician and Plebeian abolished.Slavery abolished. Eary marriages prohibited.Remarriage of windows permitted.Bribery to be strictly frobidden. No onw to be arrested with out warrant for civil offences.Couriers, mountebanks, and butchers no longer to be under degradation,.Local Councils to be established. New coinage issued. Organization of Police force. No one to be punished without trial. Irregular taxation by Provincial Governments forbidden.Extortion of money by official forbidden. Family of a criminal not to be involved in his doom. Great modifications as to torture.Superfluous Paraphernalia abolished. School of instituition in Vaccination. Hair-cropping Proclamation. Solar Calendar adopted."Drilled Troops"(kunrentai) abolished. Legal punishment difined. Slaughter House licenced.Committe punishment deifned. Slaughter house licenced.Commitee of legal Revision appointed. Telegraph Regulations. Postal Regulation.Railways placed under Bureau of Cmmunications. These ordinaces are a selection from among several hundred promulgated since July, 1894.
Of the reform notified during the last three and a half years several have not taken effect;and concerning others there has been a distinctly retrograde movement, with a tendency to revert to the abuses of the old regime; and others whichwere taken in hand earnestly, have gradually collapased, owing in part to the limpness of the Korean character, and in part to the oppositon of all in office and of all who hope for office to any measures of reform.・・・・・・on the whole the recoginized systemis a great improvement on the old one.Bishop p385

In spite of reforms the Korean nation still consists of but two classes, the Robbers and the Robbed,---the official class recruited from the yang-bans, the licenced vampires of the country, andthe Ha-in, literallly "low men" a residuum of fullyfour-fifths of the population, whose raison d'etre is to supply the bloodfor the vampires to suck.
The reform are not hopeless, if carried out under firm and capable foreign supervision, is shown by what has been accmplished in the Treasury Department in one year. No korean offcice was in a more chaotic and corrupt condition, and the ramifications of its corruption were spread all through the Provinces, Much was hoped when Mr. M!leavy Brown accepted the thankless position of Financial capacity, but no one could Bishop p448(written affter the second trip)

(I think she is talking about Edict reccomended or "forced" by Japan and other nations.)
Althouth his(Mr.M'leavy Brown,Financial Adviser) efforts at financial reform have been thwarted at every turn, not alone by therapacity of the King's male and famale favorites, and the measureless cunning adn craft of corrupt officials, who incite the Soveregn to actions concerning the money....p448

it is slowly dawing upon the Korean peasant farmer through the medium of Japanese and Western teaching, that to be an ultimate sponge is not his inevitable destiny, that he is entitled to civil rights, equality before the eye of the law, and protection for his earning.

Though the Koreans of today are the product of centuries of disadvantages, yet after neary a year spent in the counry, during which I made its people my chief study i am by no means hopelss of their fututure, in spite of the distinctly retrograde movements of 1897, Two things, however are essential.
Ⅰ As Korea is incapable of reforrming herself from within, that she must be reformed from without.
Ⅱ That the power of the Sovereign must be placed under strigent and permanent constitutional checks.Bishop p452Note that this is written aftter the second trip in 1897)

Mr, Waeber , the Russian Minister, had then been in Korea twelve years.・・・・
His guidance might have prevented the King from making infamous appointments arbitrary arrests, from causelessly removing officials who were working well, and from such reckless extravagances as a costly Embassy to the European Courts and a foolish increase of the army and the police force.But he remained passive, allowing the Koreans to "atew in their own juice," acting possibly under orders from home to give Korea" rope enough to hang herself, a proceeding which might hereafter give Russia a legitimate excuse fro interference.・・・・
Be that as it may,the liberty which the King has enjoyed at the Russian Legation and since has not been for the advantage of Korea, and recent policy contrasut unfavorably with that pursued during the period of Japanese ascendary, which on the whole, was in the direction of progress and righteous.Bishop p435


In a heated discussion with a Korean nationalist woman,
Failed states, corrupt and plagued by domestic violence as they are, become a threat to everyone,

“Left to themselves the Koreans would rot, which would affect not Korea alone but the whole world…No nation, however insignificant, however mean its contribution to mankind, can be allowed to fall into neglect and decay.” (Drake 148)Drake, H. B. 1930. Korea of the Japanese. London, New York,, John Lane; Dodd Mead and company.frog in a well

St. Petersburg(Russia)
St. Petersburg and Tokyo reached a number of compromises, agreeing that Korea was "incapable of being independent" and establishing a "joint co-protectorate over Korea."2

2 These agreements consisted of the Komura-Waeber Memorandum of May 14, 1896, the Lobanov-Yamagata Agreement of June 9, 1896, and the Nishi-Rosen Agreement of April 25, 1898. [Back]Alexandre Y. Mansourov Global politics

Russia's Alexis de Speyer commented,

It is difficult to imagine how terrible the condition of the Korean Kingdom is. The most widespread arbitrariness, lack of justice, extortion, corruption, bribery - all this is raised here to the level of principles of state.project

(On july 29, 1894, the United States representative in Korea, mr.Sill wrote,
Japan seems to be very kindly dsiposed toward Korea, She seems only to desire once for all to throw off the yoke of Chinese sovereignty and then to assist her weak neighbor in strenghing her position as an independent state, by aiding her in such reforms as shall bring peace, prosperity and enlightment to her people, a motive which pleases many korean officials of the more intelligent sort and one which I imagine may not meet with disapproval in America[3]

Minister Horace Allen wrote to Washington
We will make a serious mistake if we allow sentimental reasons to induce us to attempt to boloster up this "Empire" in its independence.These people cannnot govern themselves.....
I am no pro-Japanese enthusiast, as you know, but neither am I opposed to any civilized race taking over the managementof these kindly Asiastics for the good of the people andthe suppression of oppresive officials, the establishment of order nd the development of commercep442

Steven, an adviser to the foreign ministry of King Kojong,
In Korea, the King is feebleminded, the public officials are abusing and exploiting the people, so the people have not been supporting the government. Furthermore, the Koreans are so illiterate and backward that they are not qualified to be responsible citizens of an independent nation. If it had not been for Japan's protection, Korea would have been lost to Russia. Fortunately there were men like Lee Hwan-yong in Korea and Marquis Ito in Japan who were wise enough to reform the Korean government and bring a better life to the people of Korea. Since these facts are true, I cannot retract my statements.minjok.com[2]

In resopond to Katsula's observation,
If left to herself after the war, Korea will certainly draw back to her habit of improvidently entering into any agreements or treaties with other powers, thus resuscitating the same international complications as existed before the war. In view of the foregoing circumstances, Japan feels absolutely constrained to take some definite step with a view to precluding the possibility of Korea falling into her former condition and of placing us again under the necessity of entering upon another foreign war. Secretary Taft fully admitted the justness of the Count’s observations and remarked to the effect that, in his personal opinion, the establishment by Japanese troops of a suzerainty over Korea to the extent of requiring Korea to enter into no foreign treaties without the consent of Japan was a logical result of the present war and would directly contribute to permanent peace in the East. His judgment was that President Roosevelt would concur in his views in this regard, although he had no authority to give assurance of this..."

President Roosevelt concurred with Taft’s understanding in a telegram on July 31 1905.

"Your conversation with Count Katsura absolutely correct in every respect. Wish you would state to Katsura that I confirm every word you have said..."link

And Roosevelt said of Korea,
"To be sure, by treaty it was solemnly covenanted that Korea should remain independent. But Korea itself was helpless to enforce the treaty, and it was out of the question to suppose that any other nation, with no interests of its own at stake, would do for the Koreans what they were utterly unable to do for themselves .. .Korea has shown its utter inability to stand by itself." wiki

The New York Times commented after the meeting in the Hague and said “The Law of survival of the fittest prevails among states as well as plants and animals. Corea has been conspicuously unfit…”

In a Paris newspaper (Le Temps)declared that the “passivity of the Korean people rendered them incapable of all sustained exertion or methodical activity…”frogmouth at marmot

I wonder if these western perceptions about the late Chosun period is brainwashed by evil Japanese or mainstream historians in South Korea are brainwased. I leave the judgement to the readers.

internatinal relation
Right panel of the second figure shows the national flag of Goryo (=Korea) described in a diplomatic document of Qing Dynasty in 1883. Chinese writings above the flag say “大清國属 高麗國旗”, which mean “Flag of Goryo (=Korea) belonging to Great Qing.”

The same page says that oldest version of Korean flag was found in “Flags of Maritime Nations” issued by the U.S. Navy Department’s Bureau of Navigation in July 1882. This book listed color pictures of flags from 49 nations in alphabetical order. Korean flag was listed in a column to the right of Qing China’s flag in a column titled “Corea”. Thus, “Corea” was listed with the Qing China, when other independent countries were listed in alphabetical order. This indicate that “Corea” was internationally recognized as a country belonging to Qing China in late 19th century.Aki at occidentalism

The Treaty of Shimonoseki ( on April 17, 1895)
Article 1

China recognises definitively the full and complete independence and autonomy of Korea, and, in consequence, the payment of tribute and the performance of ceremonies and formalities by Korea to China, in derogation of such independence and autonomy, shall wholly cease for the future.treaty of shimonoseki

[0]The blogger on Plunge Pontificates cites the following.
In 1904, an American by the name of Angus Hamilton visited Korea. After doing so, he wrote a book about his experiences. He said of Korea, “The streets of Seoul are magnificent, spacious, clean, admirably made and well-drained. The narrow, dirty lanes have been widened, gutters have been covered, roadways broadened. Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the highest, most interesting and cleanest city in the East.” He continued on to say, “Seoul was the first city in East Asia to have electricity,
trolley cars, water, telephone and telegraph systems all at the same time.”

Here are photos of Soeul
1880 souel
1897 south gate
1897 south gate
1900 souel
1908 south gate
1930 south gate
I am not sure Angus Hamilton's description is accurate as a whole,If he is talking about Souel in 1930, it is a perfect description.But anyway, I think it was not adequate for the blogger to cite Angus Hamilton to support his thesis.The following is from Bruce Cumings

I happened to find a few years ago in the library a book by an American named Angus Hamilton, who visited Korea in 1904. Korea, to him, was a land of exceptional beauty, and Seoul, a city much superior to Beijing. And I'm quoting him now, "The streets of Seoul are magnificent, spacious, clean, admirably made and well-drained. The narrow, dirty lanes have been widened, gutters have been covered, roadways broadened. Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the highest, most interesting, and cleanest city in the East." (Foreigners were always concerned about cleanliness in their various travels at the turn of the century.) There was, for Angus Hamilton, no question of the superiority of Korean living conditions, both urban and rural, to those of China, if not Japan. "Seoul," he wrote, "was the first city in East Asia to have electricity, trolley cars, water, telephone, and telegraph systems all at the same time." Most of these systems were installed and run by Americans. The Seoul Electric Light Company, the Seoul Electric Trolley Company, the Seoul Fresh Spring Water Company, were all American firms. At the turn of the century Korean imports from the U.S. included Standard Oil Company kerosene, Richmond Gem cigarettes, California fruit and wine, Eagle Brand milk, Armour canned meats, Crosse and Blackwell canned foods, and so on. Hamilton concluded that the period since the opening of the country in the 1870s had afforded Koreans countless opportunities to select for themselves such institutions as may be calculated to promote their own welfare. This is powerful evidence supporting the Korean claim that their route to modernity was not facilitated by Japan, but derailed and hijacked. Still, note the indexes that the American Hamilton chooses to highlight: electricity, telephones, trolleys, schools, consumption of American exports, and cleanliness. If we find that Japan brought similar facilities to Seoul and Taipei, do we place them on the ledger of colonialism or modernization? The Korean answer is colonialism; the Japanese and Taiwanese answer is modernization.Bruce Cumings

I have found another blogger presenting a differt perspective from mine.link
But again,the blogger seems to forget that in the early 1900 before the annexation,,Korea had changed because of the help from western and Japanese advisers and investment.And notice that my quotes from Bishop contain the one after the second trip.Even after the second trip, she said, Korea could develop only with the the help from another country.

[1]Here is the original paragraph.Please correct my poor translation.

[2]The blogger on frog in a well cites the following books.I think this is a useful list.
Bishop, Isabelle L. 1970 [1898]. Korea and her neighbors; a narrative of travel, with an account of the recent vicissitudes and present position of the country. Seoul, Korea, Yonsei University Press.

A long and detailed work by an English missionary who spend a number of years in Northeast Asia. Knew both Gale and Underwood.

Drake, H. B. 1930. Korea of the Japanese. London, New York,, John Lane; Dodd Mead and company.

A relatively obscure British paranormal fiction writer who taught English in Korea for a time. Some of his fiction is set in China and East Asia and probably borrows on his experiences there.

Gale, James Scarth. 1898 Korean Sketches. New York, Chicago [etc.]: F. H. Revell company, 1898.

A Canadian missionary, translator and scholar who wrote several books about Korea, including a history, a collection of tales, and worked on a Korean dictionary.

Ladd, G. Trumbull 1908. In Korea with Marquis Ito : Part I. A narrative of personal experiences ; Part II. A critical and historical inquiry. London, Longmans Green.

A well-known American philosopher and psychologist who was invited to visit Korea as a guest of then Resident-General Itô Hirobumi when Korea was a protectorate of Japna, and left an account of his experiences in Korea along with a political analysis filled with praise for Japan.

Patterson, W. 1988. The Korean frontier in America : immigration to Hawaii, 1896-1910. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press.

Patterson’s work on Korean immigration includes a number of passages showing American perceptions of Korean laborers.

Underwood, L. H. 1904. Fifteen years among the top-knots; or, Life in Korea. Boston, American tract society.

The blogger insists that those western perception is biased.I agree.
Likewise, interpreters at present are biased.
So I leave the judgement to the readers as to how to interpret.

[3]payson Treat, Japan and the United States,p.154 Boston:houghton Mifflin Company 1927 in mirror for americansp194
]Some Korean people do not take Steven's words literally.To be fair,I'll cite thier interpretation too. The emphasis is done by me.
(For the detailed analysis of the incident, see dreamtale
Stevens, who was said to have received several tens of thousands of dollars from the Japanese, made a false statement that the Korean people in general welcomed the Korea-Japan treaty.f Infuriated by this canard, Korean emigrants Jang In-hwan and Jeon Myeong-un assassinated him in March 1908.asianinfo

Stevens' collaborative role in the Japanese invasion of Korea was a well-known fact among the Koreans in America. Stevens, much like Prince Ito who was assassinated by Korean patriot, Ahn Jung-kun in the Harbin railroad station, was a target of assassination by Korean patriots abroad.

Stevens was sent to the United States by the Japanese government for the purpose of making Japan's annexation of Korea easier since there were some complaints among the American residents in Seoul at that time.
Stevens arrived in San Francisco on March 20, 1908. As soon as his ship, the S.S. Nippon Maru docked, he didn't waste a moment in declaring that the Korean people are happy under the Japanese protectorate administration of which he was an important part. Korea was making much progress as a nation, and the people were benefited by a new arrangement with Japan. There were some who complained the situation among the Koreans, but the Japanese were actually doing a far better job than the Americans in the Philippine Islands for the Filipinos. Steven's comment appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Koreans were enraged by Stevens' remarks.

These Korean immigrants were in America leaving their loved ones in Korea because they wanted to avoid the Japanese oppression there. They couldn't believe that any sane American could make such remarks which Koreans believed untrue.

On March 22, 1908, a Korean mass meeting was held in San Francisco in order to discuss the matter of Stevens' comment. The meeting was sponsored jointly by two existing Korean organizations: Dai-dong and Kong-rip. Mr. Lee Ha-chun was one of few who understood English and read Stevens' comment in the San Francisco Chronicle. Mr. Lee made a report of what he had read. Much discussion took place about the strategy of replying to Stevens and the press.

According to our taped interview, Mr. Yang Choo-run who had attended the meeting told us that those at the meeting appointed four delegates: Lee Ha-chun, Moon Yang-mok, Chung Myong-won, and Choi
Chin-ha. They were told to go to the Fairmont Hotel and see Mr. Stevens. The four men went up to the Fairmont and demanded to see Stevens, and the hotel receptionist, assuming these men to be Japanese, called Mr. Stevens to the hotel lobby. Mr. Stevens was asked to retract his statements to the press, but he had reiterated his position and tried to justify his stance on Japanese policy in Korea. Mr. Stevens told the Korean delegates:

In Korea, the King is feebleminded, the public officials are abusing and exploiting the people, so the people have not been supporting the government. Furthermore, the Koreans are so illiterate and backward that they are not qualified to be responsible citizens of an independent nation. If it had not been for Japan's protection, Korea would have been lost to Russia. Fortunately there were men like Lee Hwan-yong in Korea and Marquis Ito in Japan who were wise enough to reform the Korean government and bring a better life to the people of Korea. Since these facts are true, I cannot retract my statements.

Mr. Yang recalled the incident;

Mr. Chun, the quick-tempered one, picked up a chair and started to beat him up. This was very scandalous at this time when racial prejudices were high against Orientals.

The hotel manager immediately called the police to the scene. There was obviously much confusion in the hotel lobby, but all the hotel guests could make out of the situation was that several despicable orientals were after a white man. What's happened? No one could clearly understand the problem. Mr. Lee with his limited English tried to explain to the police and those calling for order, that Mr. Chun had no intent for violence but he could not restrain his anger at Stevens' comments. Some of the hotel guests understood the problem and even sympathized with the Koreans but it was no use. A commotion not clear ended there temporarily at the lobby.

These four Korean delegates rented a hotel room nearby and late into the night discussed what should be done. One of them asked: Is there anyone who speaks Japanese? There was one. The group suggested that he call the Japanese Consulate in town and get Stevens' itinerary. Next morning the group found out that Mr. Stevens was to leave San Francisco for Washington from the ferry building on the 9:30 train March 23. Stevens arrived at the ferry building accompanied by the Japanese Consul, Chozo Koike, and a crowd of Japanese people to bid farewell to Mr. Stevens.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chang In-whan volunteered to shoot Stevens. He was given a gun. In those days, it was unlawful for Koreans to carry arms. Nevertheless, Chang had a gun and was ready to use it to shoot Stevens although he did not know how to use such a weapon. Mr. Chun, meanwhile, acquired a weapon--a toy pistol and a live bullet. Of course, the two couldn't be used together. It is not clear whether Chun knew about this. The situation indicates that they were not really prepared to shoot someone. In any event, these Koreans went out to the ferry building to meet Stevens in the early morning. Mr. Yang recalled the scene of the historical moment in the following manner:

Mr. Chun stepped out first and poked the toy pistol into Stevens'
jaw and attacked him; remember Chun is very quick tempered. Meantime, Mr. Chang couldn't just stand by and watch, after all he volunteered for the job, but Chang 'can't even shoot a bird'... nevertheless, Chang took a shot at Stevens, and grazed Mr. Chun's left shoulder and Mr. Stevens' right side. He took another shot and hit him on the other side. Stevens fell and was taken to the hospital.
There was a large crowd of Japanese to bid Stevens farewell.minjok

[5]Here is a part of the conversation between Japan’s Count Katsura and Secretary of War (later President) William Howard Taft on July 29, 1904 and President Roosevelt's resoponse on July 31 1905.
If left to herself after the war, Korea will certainly draw back to her habit of improvidently entering into any agreements or treaties with other powers, thus resuscitating the same international complications as existed before the war. In view of the foregoing circumstances, Japan feels absolutely constrained to take some definite step with a view to precluding the possibility of Korea falling into her former condition and of placing us again under the necessity of entering upon another foreign war. Secretary Taft fully admitted the justness of the Count’s observations

Your conversation with Count Katsura absolutely correct in every respect. Wish you would state to Katsura that I confirm every word you have said..."link

A powerless Taewongun and a new premiership under Kim Hong-jip provided the fig leaf for Otori Keisuke, the Japanese minister, and a host of Japanese and Korean aides to send reform after reform through for the signature of Kojong (who duly signed every one, and no doubt any autumn leaves that wafted across his desk). Known as the kabo reforms, 203 separate laws were from the end of July 1894 endorsed by the king: class distinctions, slavery, the exam system, even the clothes Koreans wore, even the long pipes that symbolized yangban status, were abolished; a new State Council, with eight ministries on the Japanese model (Home Affairs, Finance, etc.) was established and new and stable coinage circulated; new tax laws unified the extraction system, with rational taxes now to be paid in cash; the practice of punishing whole families for the transgressions of ciminals came to an end. No more would the high officials ride in sedan chairs, hustled along by several groaning wretches.

Now the man who had shepherded the first Korean mission to new Japan, Inoue Kaoru, arrived in Seoul to replace Otori. He quickly sent the Taewongun into his last retirement. The old man hated the new reforms almost as much as he did the Japanese; he had come back to government only because he loathed Queen Min even more. ….

Under Inoue still more new laws sprewed forth, calling for Japanese advisers in every ministry and reorganizing the justice system. Korea now had a legal-rational court system and a countrywide national police. All of these reforms were capped in a new constitution, promulgated in January 1895. Inoue also brought from Japan two of the 1884 conspirators, Pak Yong-hyo and So Kwang-bom, placing them in high posts. Korean nationalists naturally see in these reforms and these people only the furtherance of Japan’s economic and political interests in Korea, and it is true that however indispensable the measures might have been, change under foreign auspices cannot substitute for autonomously activated reform. No one else saw Japan’s actions in this light, however. For most Westerners, Japan in this period was a shining beacon of enlightenment; for other Asians, it was a mecca of progress; and for Koreans who had groaned under the yoke of an aristocracy that, as it neared total collapse, seemed only to exact more privilege for itself, the reforms were a welcome antidote.
What would a slave or a butcher care for the pride of yangbang, now shamed by Japan? Think of what Japan had done in the space of two decade it had transformed its small country into a power that could humiliate China.page 120 Korea’s place in the sun

I am going to quote Bruce Cuming from his book, “Korea’s Place in the Sun,”/Gerry

toron pepper
Korean history project







The Korean Post Office Massacre

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