Korea's Fight for Freedom
Part 2 out of 5
that Japan should lend Korea 2,000,000 yen. The residents in a prosperous
district near Seoul, the "Five Rivers," informed the Emperor that if he
wanted money, they would raise it and so save them the necessity of
borrowing from foreigners. Soon afterwards these people were all served
with notice to quit, as their land was wanted by the Japanese military
authorities. The district contained, it was said, about 15,000 houses. The
inhabitants protested and a large number of them went to Seoul, demanding
to see the Minister for Home Affairs. They were met by a Japanese
policeman, who was soon reenforced by about twenty others, who refused to
allow them to pass. A free fight followed. Many of the Koreans were
wounded, some of them severely, and finally, in spite of stubborn
resistance, they were driven back. Later, a mixed force of Japanese police
and soldiers went down to their district and drove them from their
The Japanese brought over among their many advisers, one foreigner--an
American, Mr. Stevens--who had for some time served in the Japanese Foreign
Office. Mr. Stevens was nominally in the employment of the Korean
Government, but really he was a more thoroughgoing servant of Japan than
many Japanese themselves. Two foreigners, whose positions seemed fairly
established, were greatly in the way of the new rulers. One was Dr. Allen,
the American Minister at Seoul. Dr. Allen had shown himself to be an
independent and impartial representative of his country. He was friendly to
the Japanese, but did not think it necessary to shut his eyes to the darker
sides of their administration. This led to his downfall. He took
opportunity, on one or two occasions, to tell his Government some
unpalatable truths. The Japanese came to know it. They suggested indirectly
that he was not _persona grata_ to them. He was summarily and somewhat
discourteously recalled, his successor, Mr. E.V. Morgan, arriving at Seoul
with authorization to replace him. The next victim was Mr. McLeavy Brown,
the Chief Commissioner of Customs. Mr. Brown had done his utmost to work
with the Japanese, but there were conflicts of authority between him and
Mr. Megata. Negotiations were entered into with the British authorities,
and Mr. Brown had to go. He was too loyal and self-sacrificing to dispute
the ruling, and submitted in silence.
As the summer of 1905 drew to a close it became more and more clear that
the Japanese Government, despite its many promises to the contrary,
intended completely to destroy the independence of Korea. Even the Court
officials were at last seriously alarmed, and set about devising means to
protect themselves. The Emperor had thought that because Korean
independence was provided for in various treaties with Great Powers,
therefore he was safe. He had yet to learn that treaty rights, unbacked by
power, are worth little more than the paper upon which they are written.
The Emperor trusted in particular to the clause in the Treaty with the
United States in 1882 that if other Powers dealt unjustly or oppressively
with Korea, America would exert her good offices to bring about an amicable
arrangement In vain did the American Minister, his old friend Dr.
Allen--who had not yet gone--try to disillusion him.
Early in November the Marquis Ito arrived in Seoul on another visit, this
time as Special Envoy from the Emperor of Japan. He brought with him a
letter from the Mikado, saying that he hoped the Korean Emperor would
follow the directions of the Marquis, and come to an agreement with him,
for it was essential for the maintenance of peace in the Far East that he
should do so.
Marquis Ito was received in formal audience on November 15th, and there
presented a series of demands, drawn up in treaty form. These were, in the
main, that the foreign relations of Korea should be placed entirely in the
hands of Japan, the Korean diplomatic service brought to an end, and the
Ministers recalled from foreign Courts. The Japanese Minister to Korea was
to became supreme administrator of the country under the Emperor, and the
Japanese Consuls in the different districts were to be made Residents, with
the powers of supreme local governors. In other words, Korea was entirely
to surrender her independence as a State, and was to hand over control of
her internal administration to the Japanese. The Emperor met the request
with a blank refusal. The conversation between the two, as reported at the
time, was as follows.
The Emperor said--
"Although I have seen in the newspapers various rumours that
Japan proposed to assume a protectorate over Korea, I did not
believe them, as I placed faith in Japan's adherence to the
promise to maintain the independence of Korea which was made by
the Emperor of Japan at the beginning of the war and embodied in
a treaty between Korea and Japan. When I heard you were coming to
my country I was glad, as I believed your mission was to increase
the friendship between our countries, and your demands have
therefore taken me entirely by surprise."
To which Marquis Ito rejoined--
"These demands are not my own; I am only acting in accordance
with a mandate from my Government, and if Your Majesty will agree
to the demands which T have presented it will be to the benefit
of both nations and peace in the East will be assured for ever.
Please, therefore, consent quickly."
The Emperor replied--
"From time immemorial it has been the custom of the rulers of
Korea, when confronted with questions so momentous as this, to
come to no decision until all the Ministers, high and low, who
hold or have held office, have been consulted, and the opinion of
the scholars and the common people have been obtained, so that I
cannot now settle this matter myself."
Said Marquis Ito again--
"Protests from the people can easily be disposed of, and for the
sake of the friendship between the two countries Your Majesty
should come to a decision at once."
To this the Emperor replied--
"Assent to your proposal would mean the ruin of my country, and I
will therefore sooner die than agree to it."
The conference lasted nearly five hours, and then the Marquis had to leave,
having accomplished nothing. He at once tackled the members of the Cabinet,
individually and collectively. They were all summoned to the Japanese
Legation on the following day, and a furious debate began, starting at
three o'clock in the afternoon, and lasting till late at night. The
Ministers had sworn to one another beforehand that they would not yield. In
spite of threats, cajoleries, and proffered bribes, they remained steadfast
The arguments used by Marquis Ito and Mr. Hayashi, apart from personal
ones, were twofold. The first was that it was essential for the peace of
the Far East that Japan and Korea should be united. The second appealed to
racial ambition. The Japanese painted to the Koreans a picture of a great
united East, with the Mongol nations all standing firm and as one against
the white man, who would reduce them to submission if he could. The
Japanese were determined to give the Cabinet no time to regather its
strength. On the 17th of November, another conference began at two in the
afternoon at the Legation, but equally without result. Mr. Hayashi then
advised the Ministers to go to the palace and open a Cabinet Meeting in the
presence of the Emperor. This was done, the Japanese joining in.
[Footnote 1: As it may be questioned whether the Japanese would use such
arguments, I may say that the account of the interview was given to me by
one of the participating Korean Ministers, and that he dealt at great
length with the pro-Asian policy suggested there. I asked him why he had
not listened and accepted. He replied that he knew what such arguments
meant. The unity of Asia when spoken of by Japanese meant the supreme
autocracy of their country.]
All this time the Japanese Army had been making a great display of military
force around the palace. All the Japanese troops in the district had been
for days parading the streets and open places fronting the Imperial
residence. The field-guns were out, and the men were fully armed. They
marched, countermarched, stormed, made feint attacks, occupied the gates,
put their guns in position, and did everything, short of actual violence,
that they could to demonstrate to the Koreans that they were able to
enforce their demands. To the Cabinet Ministers themselves, and to the
Emperor, all this display had a sinister and terrible meaning. They could
not forget the night in 1895, when the Japanese soldiers had paraded around
another palace, and when their picked bullies had forced their way inside
and murdered the Queen. Japan had done this before; why should she not do
it again? Not one of those now resisting the will of Dai Nippon but saw the
sword in front of his eyes, and heard in imagination a hundred times during
the day the rattle of the Japanese bullets.
That evening Japanese soldiers, with fixed bayonets, entered the courtyard
of the palace and stood near the apartment of the Emperor. Marquis Ito now
arrived, accompanied by General Hasegawa, Commander of the Japanese Army in
Korea, and a fresh attack was started on the Cabinet Ministers. The Marquis
demanded an audience of the Emperor. The Emperor refused to grant it,
saying that his throat was very bad, and he was in great pain. The Marquis
then made his way into the Emperor's presence, and personally requested an
audience. The Emperor still refused. "Please go away and discuss the
matter, with the Cabinet Ministers," he said.
Thereupon Marquis Ito went outside to the Ministers. "Your Emperor has
commanded you to confer with me and settle this matter," he declared. A
fresh conference was opened. The presence of the soldiers, the gleaming of
the bayonets outside, the harsh words of command that could be heard
through the windows of the palace buildings, were not without their effect.
The Ministers had fought for days and they had fought alone. No single
foreign representative had offered them help or counsel. They saw
submission or destruction before them. "What is the use of our resisting?"
said one. "The Japanese always get their way in the end." Signs of yielding
began to appear. The acting Prime Minister, Han Kew-sul, jumped to his feet
and said he would go and tell the Emperor of the talk of traitors. Han
Kew-sul was allowed to leave the room and then was gripped by the Japanese
Secretary of the Legation, thrown into a side-room and threatened with
death. Even Marquis Ito went out to him to persuade him. "Would you not
yield," the Marquis said, "if your Emperor commanded you?" "No," said Han
Kew-sul, "not even then!"
This was enough. The Marquis at once went to the Emperor. "Han Kew-sul is a
traitor," he said. "He defies you, and declares that he will not obey your
Meanwhile the remaining Ministers waited in the Cabinet Chamber. Where was
their leader, the man who had urged them all to resist to death? Minute
after minute passed, and still he did not return. Then a whisper went round
that the Japanese had killed him. The harsh voices of the Japanese grew
still more strident. Courtesy and restraint were thrown off. "Agree with us
and be rich, or oppose us and perish." Pak Che-sun, the Foreign Minister,
one of the best and most capable of Korean statesmen, was the last to
yield. But even he finally gave way. In the early hours of the morning
commands were issued that the seal of State should be brought from the
Foreign Minister's apartment, and a treaty should be signed. Here another
difficulty arose. The custodian of the seal had received orders in advance
that, even if his master commanded, the seal was not to be surrendered for
any such purpose. When telephonic orders were sent to him, he refused to
bring the seal along, and special messengers had to be despatched to take
it from him by force. The Emperor himself asserts to this day that he did
The news of the signing of the treaty was received by the people with
horror and indignation. Han Kew-sul, once he escaped from custody, turned
on his fellow-Ministers as one distraught, and bitterly reproached them.
"Why have you broken your promises?" he cried. "Why have you broken your
promises?" The Ministers found themselves the most hated and despised of
men. There was danger lest mobs should attack them and tear them to pieces.
Pak Che-sun shrank away under the storm of execration that greeted him. On
December 6th, as he was entering the palace, one of the soldiers lifted his
rifle and tried to shoot him, Pak Che-sun turned back, and hurried to the
Japanese Legation. There he forced his way into the presence of Mr.
Hayashi, and drew a knife. "It is you who have brought me to this," he
cried. "You have made me a traitor to my country." He attempted to cut his
own throat, but Mr. Hayashi stopped him, and he was sent to hospital for
treatment. When he recovered he was chosen by the Japanese as the new Prime
Minister, Han Kew-sul being exiled and disgraced. Pak did not, however,
hold office for very long, being somewhat too independent to suit his new
As the news spread through the country, the people of various districts
assembled, particularly in the north, and started to march southwards to
die in front of the palace as a protest. Thanks to the influence of the
missionaries, many of them were stopped. "It is of no use your dying in
that way," the missionaries told them. "You had better live and make your
country better able to hold its own." A number of leading officials,
including all the surviving past Prime Ministers, and over a hundred men
who had previously held high office under the Crown, went to the palace,
and demanded that the Emperor should openly repudiate the treaty, and
execute those Ministers who had acquiesced in it. The Emperor tried to
temporize with them, for he was afraid that, if he took too openly hostile
an attitude, the Japanese would punish him. The memorialists sat down in
the palace buildings, refusing to move, and demanding an answer. Some of
their leaders were arrested by the Japanese gendarmes, only to have others,
still greater men, take their place. The storekeepers of the city put up
their shutters to mark their mourning.
At last a message came from the Emperor: "Although affairs now appear to
you to be dangerous, there may presently result some benefit to the
nation." The gendarmes descended on the petitioners and threatened them
with general arrest if they remained around the palace any longer. They
moved on to a shop where they tried to hold a meeting, but they were turned
out of it by the police. Min Yong-whan, their leader, a former Minister for
War and Special Korean Ambassador at Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, went
home. He wrote letters to his friends lamenting the state of his country,
and then committed suicide. Several other statesmen did the same, while
many others resigned. One native paper, the _Whang Sung Shimbun_, dared to
print an exact statement of what had taken place. Its editor was promptly
arrested, and thrown into prison, and the paper suppressed. Its lamentation
voiced the feeling of the country:--
"When it was recently made known the Marquis Ito would come to
Korea our deluded people all said, with one voice, that he is the
man who will be responsible for the maintenance of friendship
between the three countries of the Far East (Japan, China, and
Korea), and, believing that his visit to Korea was for the sole
purpose of devising good plans for strictly maintaining the
promised integrity and independence of Korea, our people, from
the seacoast to the capital, united in extending to him a hearty
"But oh! How difficult is it to anticipate affairs in this world.
Without warning, a proposal containing five clauses was laid
before the Emperor, and we then saw how mistaken we were about
the object of Marquis Ito's visit. However, the Emperor firmly
refused to have anything to do with these proposals and Marquis
Ito should then, properly, have abandoned his attempt and
returned to his own country.
"But the Ministers of our Government, who are worse than pigs or
dogs, coveting honours and advantages for themselves, and
frightened by empty threats, were trembling in every limb, and
were willing to become traitors to their country and betray to
Japan the integrity of a nation which has stood for 4,000 years,
the foundation and honour of a dynasty 500 years old, and the
rights and freedom of twenty million people.
"We do not wish to too deeply blame Pak Che-sun and the other
Ministers, of whom, as they are little better than brute animals,
too much was not to be expected, but what can be said of the
Vice-Prime Minister, the chief of the Cabinet, whose early
opposition to the proposals of Marquis Ito was an empty form
devised to enhance his reputation with the people?
"Can he not now repudiate the agreement or can he not rid the
world of his presence? How can he again stand before the Emperor
and with what face can he ever look upon any one of his twenty
"Is it worth while for any of us to live any longer? Our people
have become the slaves of others, and the spirit of a nation
which has stood for 4,000 years, since the days of Tun Kun and
Ke-ja has perished in a single night. Alas! fellow-countrymen.
Suicides, resignations, and lamentation were of no avail. The Japanese
gendarmes commanded the streets, and the Japanese soldiers, behind them,
were ready to back up their will by the most unanswerable of
Naturally, as might have been expected by those who know something of the
character of the Japanese, every effort was made to show that there had
been no breach of treaty promises. Korea was still an independent country,
and the dignity of its Imperial house was still unimpaired. Japan had only
brought a little friendly pressure on a weaker brother to assist him along
the path of progress. Such talk pleased the Japanese, and helped them to
reconcile the contrast between their solemn promises and their actions. It
deceived no one else. Soon even, the Japanese papers made little or no more
talk of Korean independence. "Korean independence is a farce," they said.
And for the time they were right.
The Emperor did his utmost to induce the Powers, more particularly America,
to intervene, but in vain. The story of his efforts is an interesting
episode in the records of diplomacy.
Dr. Allen, the American Minister, wrote to his Secretary of State, on April
14, 1904, telling of the serious concern of the Korean Emperor over recent
happenings. "He falls back in his extremity upon his old friendship with
America.... The Emperor confidently expects that America will do something
for him at the close of this war, or when opportunity offers, to retain for
him as much of his independence as is possible. He is inclined to give a
very free and favourable translation to Article I of our treaty of Jenchuan
of 1882" (_i.e._, the pledge, "If other Powers deal unjustly or
oppressively with either Government, the other will exert their good
offices, on being informed of the case, to bring about an amicable
arrangement, thus showing their friendly feeling").
In April, 1905, Dr. Allen transmitted to Washington copies of protests by
an American missionary and certain Koreans against the conduct of Japanese
subjects in Korea. Dr. Allen was shortly afterwards replaced by Mr. Edwin
In October, 1905, the Emperor, determined to appeal directly to America,
enlisted the services of Professor Homer B. Hulbert, editor of the _Korea
Review_, who had been employed continuously in educational work in Seoul
since 1886, and despatched him to Washington, with a letter to the
President of the United States. Mr. Hulbert informed his Minister at Seoul
of his mission and started off. The Japanese learned of his departure (Mr.
Hulbert suggests that the American Minister may have informed them) and
used every effort to force a decision before the letter could be delivered.
On the same day that Mr. Hulbert reached Washington the Korean Cabinet were
forced to sign the document giving Japan a protectorate over their land.
Formal notification had not yet, however, arrived at Washington, so it was
resolved not to receive Mr. Hulbert until this had come.
"I supposed that the President would be not only willing but
eager to see the letter," said Mr. Hulbert in a statement
presented later to the Senate; "but instead of that I received
the astounding answer that the President would not receive it. I
cast about in my own mind for a possible reason, but could
imagine none. I went to the State Department with it, but was
told that they were too busy to see me. Remember that at that
very moment Korea was in her death throes; that she was in full
treaty relations with us; that there was a Korean legation in
Washington and an American legation in Seoul. I determined that
there was something here that was more than mere carelessness.
There was premeditation in the refusal. There was no other
answer. They said I might come the following day. I did so and
was told that they were still too busy, but might come the next
day. I hurried over to the White House and asked to be admitted.
A secretary came out and without any preliminary whatever told me
in the lobby that they knew the contents of the letter, but that
the State Department was the only place to go. I had to wait till
the next day. But on that same day, the day before I was
admitted, the administration, without a word to the Emperor or
Government of Korea or to the Korean Legation, and knowing well
the contents of the undelivered letter, accepted Japan's
unsupported statement that it was all satisfactory to the Korean
Government and people, cabled our legation to remove from Korea,
cut off all communication with the Korean Government, and then
admitted me with the letter."
On November 25th Mr. Hulbert received a message from Mr. Root that
"The letter from the Emperor of Korea which you intrusted to me
has been placed in the President's hands and read by him.
"In view of the fact that the Emperor desires that the sending of
the letter should remain secret, and of the fact that since
intrusting it to you the Emperor has made a new agreement with
Japan disposing of the whole question to which the letter
relates, it seems quite impracticable that any action should be
based upon it."
On the following day Mr. Hulbert received a cablegram from the Emperor,
which had been despatched from Chefoo, in order not to pass over the
"I declare that the so-called treaty of protectorate recently
concluded between Korea and Japan was extorted at the point of
the sword and under duress and therefore is null and void. I
never consented to it and never will. Transmit to American
"THE EMPEROR OF KOREA."
Poor Emperor! Innocent simpleton to place such trust in a written bond. Mr.
Root had already telegraphed to the American Minister at Seoul to withdraw
from Korea and to return to the United States.
No one supposes that the Washington authorities were deceived by the
statement of the Japanese authorities or that they believed for one moment
that the treaty was secured in any other way than by force. To imagine so
would be an insult to their intelligence. It must be remembered that Japan
was at this time at the very height of her prestige. President Roosevelt
was convinced, mainly through the influence of his old friend, Mr. George
Kennan, that the Koreans were unfit for self-government. He was anxious to
please Japan, and therefore he deliberately refused to interfere. His own
explanation, given some years afterwards, was:
"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 interest of its own at stake,
would do for the Koreans what they were utterly unable to do for
There we have the essence of international political morality.
The letter of the Emperor of Korea to the President of the United States
makes interesting reading:
"Ever since 1883 the United States and Korea have been in
friendly treaty relations. Korea has received many proofs of the
good will and the sympathy of the American Government and people.
The American Representatives have always shown themselves to be
in sympathy with the welfare and progress of Korea. Many teachers
have been sent from America who have done much for the uplift of
"But we have not made the progress that we ought. This is due
partly to the political machinations of foreign powers and partly
to our mistakes. At the beginning of the Japan-Russia war the
Japanese Government asked us to enter into an alliance with them,
granting them the use of our territory, harbours, and other
resources, to facilitate their military and naval operations.
Japan, on her part, guaranteed to preserve the independence of
Korea and the welfare and dignity of the royal house. We complied
with Japan's request, loyally lived up to our obligations, and
did everything that we had stipulated. By so doing we put
ourselves in such a position that if Russia had won, she could
have seized Korea and annexed her to Russian territory on the
ground that we were active allies of Japan.
"It is now apparent that Japan proposes to abrogate their part of
this treaty and declare a protectorate over our country in direct
contravention of her sworn promise in the agreement of 1904.
There are several reasons why this should not be done.
"In the first place, Japan will stultify herself by such a direct
breach of faith. It will injure her prestige as a power that
proposes to work according to enlightened laws.
"In the second place, the actions of Japan in Korea during the
past two years give no promise that our people will be handled in
an enlightened manner. No adequate means have been provided
whereby redress could be secured for wrongs perpetrated upon our
people. The finances of the country have been gravely mishandled
by Japan. Nothing has been done towards advancing the cause of
education or justice. Every move on Japan's part has been
"The destruction of Korea's independence will work her a great
injury, because it will intensify the contempt with which the
Japanese people treat the Koreans and will make their acts all
the more oppressive.
"We acknowledge that many reforms are needed in Korea. We are
glad to have the help of Japanese advisers, and we are prepared
loyally to carry out their suggestions. We recognize the mistakes
of the past. It is not for ourselves we plead, but for the Korean
"At the beginning of the war our people gladly welcomed the
Japanese, because this seemed to herald needed reforms and a
general bettering of conditions, but soon it was seen that no
genuine reforms were intended and the people had been deceived.
"One of the gravest evils that will follow a protectorate by
Japan is that the Korean people will lose all incentive to
improvement. No hope will remain that they can ever regain their
independence. They need the spur of national feeling to make them
determine upon progress and to make them persevere in it. But the
extinction of nationality will bring despair, and instead of
working loyally and gladly in conjunction with Japan, the
old-time hatred will be intensified and suspicion and animosity
"It has been said that sentiment should have no place in such
affairs, but we believe, sir, that sentiment is the moving force
in all human affairs, and that kindness, sympathy, and generosity
are still working between nations as between individuals. We beg
of you to bring to bear upon this question the same breadth of
mind and the same calmness of judgment that have characterized
your course hitherto, and, having weighed the matter, to render
us what aid you can consistently in this our time of national
[Private Seal of the Emperor of Korea.]
THE RULE OF PRINCE ITO
Marquis Ito was made the first Japanese Resident-General in Korea. There
could have been no better choice, and no choice more pleasing to the Korean
people. He was regarded by the responsible men of the nation with a
friendliness such as few other Japanese inspired. Here was a man greater
than his policies. Every one who came in contact with him felt that,
whatever the nature of the measures he was driven to adopt in the supposed
interests of his Emperor, he yet sincerely meant well by the Korean people.
The faults of his administration were the necessary accompaniments of
Japanese military expansion; his virtues were his own. It was a noble act
for him to take on himself the most burdensome and exacting post that
Japanese diplomacy had to offer, at an age when he might well have looked
for the ease and dignity of the close of an honour-sated career.
The Marquis brought with him several capable Japanese officials of high
rank, and began his new rule by issuing regulations fixing the position and
duties of his staff. Under these, the Resident-General became in effect
supreme Administrator of Korea, with power to do what he pleased. He had
authority to repeal any order or measure that he considered injurious to
public interests, and he could punish to the extent of not more than a
year's imprisonment or not more than a 200 yen fine. This limitation of his
punitive power was purely nominal, for the country was under martial law
and the courts-martial had power to inflict death. Residents and
Vice-Residents, of Japanese nationality, were placed over the country,
acting practically as governors. The police were placed under Japanese
inspectors where they were not themselves Japanese. The various departments
of affairs, agricultural, commercial, and industrial, were given Japanese
directors and advisers, and the power of appointing all officials, save
those of the highest rank, was finally in the hands of the
Resident-General. This limitation, again, was soon put on one side. Thus,
the Resident-General became dictator of Korea--a dictator, however, who
still conducted certain branches of local affairs there through native
officials and who had to reckon with the intrigues of a Court party which
he could not as yet sweep on one side.
To Japan, Korea was chiefly of importance as a strategic position for
military operations on the continent of Asia and as a field for emigration.
The first steps under the new administration were in the direction of
perfecting communications throughout the country, so as to enable the
troops to be moved easily and rapidly from point to point. A railway had
already been built from Fusan to Seoul, and another was in course of
completion from Seoul to Wi-ju, thus giving a trunk line that would carry
large numbers of Japanese soldiers from Japan itself to the borders of
Manchuria in about thirty-six hours. A loan of 10,000,000 yen was raised on
the guarantee of the Korean Customs, and a million and a half of this was
spent on four main military roads, connecting some of the chief districts
with the principal harbours and railway centres. Part of the cost of these
was paid by the loan and part by special local taxation. It may be pointed
out that these roads were military rather than industrial undertakings. The
usual methods of travel and for conveying goods in the interior of Korea
was by horseback and with pack-ponies. For these, the old narrow tracks
served, generally speaking, very well. The new roads were finely graded,
and were built in such a manner that rails could be quickly laid down on
them and artillery and ammunition wagons rapidly conveyed from point to
point. Another railway was built from Seoul to Gensan, on the east coast.
The old Korean "Burglar Capture Office," the native equivalent to the Bow
Street Runners, or the Mulberry Street detectives, was abolished, as were
the local police, and police administration was more and more put in the
hands of special constables brought over from Japan. The Japanese military
gendarmerie were gradually sent back and their places taken by civilian
constables. This change was wholly for the good. The gendarmerie had earned
a very bad reputation in country parts for harshness and arbitrary conduct.
The civilian police proved themselves far better men, more conciliatory,
and more just.
One real improvement instituted by the Residency-General was the closer
control of Japanese immigrants. Numbers of the worst offenders were laid by
the heels and sent back home. The Residency officials were increased in
numbers, and in some parts at least it became easier for a Korean to obtain
a hearing when he had a complaint against a Japanese. The Marquis Ito spoke
constantly in favour of a policy of conciliation and friendship, and after
a time he succeeded in winning over the cooeperation of some of the
It became more and more clear, however, that the aim of the Japanese was
nothing else than the entire absorption of the country and the destruction
of every trace of Korean nationality. One of the most influential Japanese
in Korea put this quite frankly to me in 1906. "You must understand that I
am not expressing official views," he told me. "But if you ask me as an
individual what is to be the outcome of our policy, I only see one end.
This will take several generations, but it must come. The Korean people
will be absorbed by the Japanese. They will talk our language, live our
life, and be an integral part of us. There are only two ways of colonial
administration. One is to rule over the people as aliens. This you British
have done in India, and therefore your Empire cannot endure. India must
pass out of your rule. The second way is to absorb the people. This is what
we will do. We will teach them our language, establish our institutions,
and make them one with us."
The policy of the new administration towards foreigners was one of gradual,
but no less sure, exclusion. Everything that could be done was done to rob
the white man of what prestige was yet left to him. Careful and systematic
efforts were made, in particular, by the Japanese newspapers and some of
the officials to make the native Christian converts turn from their
American teachers, and throw in their lot with the Japanese. The native
press, under Japanese editorship, systematically preached anti-white
doctrines. Any one who mixed freely with the Korean people heard from them,
time after time, of the principles the Japanese would fain have them learn.
I was told of this by ex-Cabinet Ministers, by young students, and even by
native servants. One of my own Korean "boys" put the matter in a nutshell
to me one day. He raised the question of the future of Japan in Asia, and
he summarized the new Japanese doctrines very succinctly. "Master," he said
to me, "Japanese man wanchee all Asia be one, with Japanese man topside.
All Japanese man wanchee this; some Korean man wanchee, most no wanchee;
all Chinaman no wanchee."
It may be thought that the Japanese would at least have learnt from their
experience in 1895 not to attempt to interfere with the dress or personal
habits of the people. Nothing among all their blunders during the earlier
period was more disastrous to them than the regulations compelling the men
to cut off their topknots. These did Japan greater harm among the common
people than even the murder of the Queen. Yet no sooner had Japan
established herself again than once more sumptuary regulations were issued.
The first was an order against wearing white dress in wintertime. People
were to attire themselves in nothing but dark-coloured garments, and those
who refused to obey were coerced in many ways. The Japanese did not at once
insist on a general system of hair-cutting, but they brought the greatest
pressure to bear on all in any way under their authority. Court officials,
public servants, magistrates, and the like, were commanded to cut their
hair. Officials were evidently instructed to make every one who came under
their influence have his topknot off. The Il Chin Hoi, the pro-Japanese
society, followed in the same line. European dress was forced on those
connected with the Court. The national costume, like the national language,
was, if possible, to die. Ladies of the Court were ordered to dress
themselves in foreign style. The poor ladies in consequence found it
impossible to show themselves in any public place, for they were greeted
with roars of derision.
The lowered status of the white in Korea could be clearly seen by the
attitude of many of the Japanese towards him. I heard stories from friends
of my own, residents in the country, quiet and inoffensive people that made
my blood boil. It was difficult, for instance, to restrain one's
indignation when a missionary lady told you of how she was walking along
the street when a Japanese soldier hustled up against her and deliberately
struck her in the breast. The Roman Catholic bishop was openly insulted and
struck by Japanese soldiers in his own cathedral, and nothing was done. The
story of Mr. and Mrs. Weigall typifies others. Mr. Weigall is an Australian
mining engineer, and was travelling up north with his wife and assistant,
Mr. Taylor, and some Korean servants, in December, 1905. He had full
authorizations and passports, and was going about his business in a
perfectly proper manner. His party was stopped at one point by some
Japanese soldiers, and treated in a fashion which it is impossible fully to
describe in print. They were insulted, jabbed at with bayonets, and put
under arrest. One soldier held his gun close to Mrs. Weigall and struck her
full in the chest with his closed fist when she moved. The man called them
by the most insulting names possible, keeping the choicest phrases for the
lady. Their servants were kicked. Finally they were allowed to go away
after a long delay and long exposure to bitter weather, repeated insults
being hurled after them. The British authorities took up this case. There
was abundant evidence, and there could be no dispute about the facts. All
the satisfaction, however, that the Weigalls could obtain was a nominal
Then there was the case of the Rev. Mr. McRae, a Canadian missionary living
in northeastern Korea. Mr. McRae had obtained some land for a mission
station, and the Japanese military authorities there wanted it. They drove
stakes into part of the property, and he thereupon represented the case to
the Japanese officials, and after at least twice asking them to remove
their stakes, he pulled them up himself. The Japanese waited until a
fellow-missionary, who lived with Mr. McRae, had gone away on a visit, and
then six soldiers entered his compound and attacked him. He defended
himself so well that he finally drove them off, although he received some
bad injuries, especially from the blows from one of the men's rifles.
Complaint was made to the chief authorities, and, in this case, the
Japanese promised to punish the officer concerned. But there were dozens of
instances affecting Europeans of all ranks, from consular officials to
chance visitors. In most cases the complaints were met by a simple denial
on the part of the Japanese. Even where the offence was admitted and
punishment was promised, the Europeans would assure you that the men, whom
it had been promised to imprison, came and paraded themselves outside their
houses immediately afterwards in triumph. In Korea, as in Formosa, the
policy was and is to humiliate the white man by any means and in any way.
Two regulations of the Japanese, apparently framed in the interests of the
Koreans, proved to be a dangerous blow at their rights. New land laws were
drawn up, by which fresh title-deeds were given for the old and complicated
deeds of former times. As the Koreans, however, pointed out, large numbers
of people held their land in such a way that it was impossible for them to
prove their right by written deeds. Until the end of 1905 large numbers of
Koreans went abroad to Honolulu and elsewhere as labourers. The
Residency-General then framed new emigration laws, nominally to protect the
natives, which have had the result of making the old systematic emigration
impossible. Families who would fain have escaped the Japanese rule and
establish themselves in other lands had every possible hindrance put in
Act after act revealed that the Japanese considered Korea and all in it
belonged to them. Did they want a thing? Then let them take it, and woe be
to the man who dared to hinder them! This attitude was illustrated in an
interesting fashion by a bit of vandalism on the part of Viscount Tanaka,
Special Envoy from the Mikado to the Korean Emperor. When the Viscount was
in Seoul, late in 1906, he was approached by a Japanese curio-dealer, who
pointed out to him that there was a very famous old Pagoda in the district
of P'ung-duk, a short distance from Song-do. This Pagoda was presented to
Korea by the Chinese Imperial Court a thousand years ago, and the people
believed that the stones of which it was constructed possessed great
curative qualities. They named it the "Medicine King Pagoda" (Yakwang Top),
and its fame was known throughout the country. It was a national memorial
as much as the Monument near London Bridge is a national memorial for
Englishmen or the Statue of Liberty for Americans. Viscount Tanaka is a
great curio-collector, and when he heard of this Pagoda, he longed for it.
He mentioned his desire to the Korean Minister for the Imperial Household,
and the Minister told him to take it if he wanted it. A few days
afterwards, Viscount Tanaka, when bidding the Emperor farewell, thanked him
for the gift. The Korean Emperor looked blank, and said that he did not
know what the Viscount was talking about. He had heard nothing of it.
However, before long, a party of eighty Japanese, including a number of
gendarmes, well armed and ready for resistance, swooped down on Song-do.
They took the Pagoda to pieces and placed the stones on carts. The people
of the district gathered round them, threatened them, and tried to attack
them. But the Japanese were too strong. The Pagoda was conveyed in due
course to Tokyo.
Such an outrage could not go unnoticed. The story of the loss spread over
the country and reached the foreign press. Defenders of the Japanese at
first declared that it was an obvious and incredible lie. The _Japan Mail_
in particular opened the vials of its wrath and poured them upon the head
of the editor of the _Korea Daily News_--the English daily publication in
Seoul--who had dared to tell the tale. His story was "wholly incredible."
"It is impossible to imagine any educated man of ordinary intelligence
foolish enough to believe such a palpable lie, unless he be totally blinded
by prejudice." The _Mail_ discovered here again another reason for
supporting its plea for the suppression of "a wholly unscrupulous and
malevolent mischief-maker like the _Korea Daily News."_ "The Japanese
should think seriously whether this kind of thing is to be tamely suffered.
In allowing such charges at the door of the Mikado's Special Envoy who is
also Minister of the Imperial Household, the _Korea Daily News_
deliberately insults the Mikado himself. There is indeed the reflection
that this extravagance will not be without compensation, since it will
demonstrate conclusively, if any demonstration were needed, how completely
unworthy of credence have been the slanders hitherto ventilated by the
Seoul journal to bring the Japanese into odium."
There were instant demands for denials, for explanations, and for
proceedings against the wicked libeller. Then it turned out that the story
was true, and, in the end, the Japanese officials had to admit its truth.
It was said, as an excuse, that the Resident-General had not given his
consent to the theft, and that Viscount Tanaka did not intend to keep the
Pagoda himself, but to present it to the Mikado. The organ of the
Residency-General in Seoul, the _Seoul Press_, made the best excuse it
could. "Viscount Tanaka," it said, "is a conscientious official, liked and
respected by those who know him, whether foreign or Japanese, but he is an
ardent virtuoso and collector, and it appears that in this instance his
collector's eagerness got the better of his sober judgment and discretion."
But excuses, apologies, and regrets notwithstanding, the Pagoda was not
It may be asked why the white people living in Korea did not make the full
facts about Korea known at an earlier date. Some did attempt it, but the
strong feeling that existed abroad in favour of the Japanese people--a
feeling due to their magnificent conduct during the war--caused complaints
to go unheeded. Many missionaries, while indignant at the injury done to
their native neighbours, counselled patience, believing that the abuses
were temporary and would soon come to an end.
At the beginning of the war every foreigner--except a small group of
pro-Russians, sympathized with Japan. We had all been alienated by the
follies and mistakes of the Russian Far Eastern policy. We saw Japan at her
best, and we all believed that her people would act well by this weaker
race. Our favourable impressions were strengthened by the first doings of
the Japanese soldiers, and when scandals were whispered, and oppression
began to appear, we all looked upon them as momentary disturbances due to a
condition of war. We were unwilling to believe anything but the best, and
it took some time to destroy our favourable prepossessions. I speak here
not only for myself, but for many another white man in Korea at the time.
I might support this by many quotations. I take, for instance, Professor
Hulbert, the editor of the _Korea Review_, to-day one of the most
persistent and active critics of Japanese policy. At the opening of the war
Professor Hulbert used all his influence in favour of Japan.
"What Korea wants," he wrote, "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 paramount influence of Japan will give 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."
[Footnote 1: _Korea Review_, February, 1904.]
Month after month, when stories of trouble came from the interior, the
_Korea Review_ endeavoured to give the best explanation possible for them,
and to reassure the public. It was not until the editor was forced thereto
by consistent and sustained Japanese misgovernment that he reversed his
Foreign visitors of influence were naturally drawn to the Japanese rather
than to the Koreans. They found in the officials of the Residency-General a
body of capable and delightful men, who knew the Courts of Europe, and were
familiar with world affairs. On the other hand, the Korean spokesmen had no
power or skill in putting their case so as to attract European sympathy.
One distinguished foreigner, who returned home and wrote a book largely
given up to laudation of the Japanese and contemptuous abuse of the
Koreans, admitted that he had never, during his journey, had any contact
with Koreans save those his Japanese guides brought to him. Some foreign
journalists were also at first blinded in the same way.
Such a state of affairs obviously could not last. Gradually the complaints
of the foreign community became louder and louder, and visiting publicists
began to take more notice of them.
The main credit for defending the cause of the Korean people at that time
must be given to a young English journalist, editor of the _Korea Daily
News_, Mr. Bethell took up an attitude of strong hostility to the Nagamori
land scheme, and came, in consequence, in sharp hostility to the Japanese
officials. This naturally led to his close association with the Korean
Court. The _Daily News_ became openly pro-Korean; its one daily edition was
changed into two separate papers--one, the _Dai Han Mai Il Shinpo_, printed
in the Korean language, and the other, printed in English, still calling
itself by the old name. Several of us thought that Mr. Bethell at first
weakened his case by extreme advocacy and by his indulgence in needlessly
vindictive writing. Yet it must be remembered, in common justice to him,
that he was playing a very difficult part The Japanese were making his life
as uncomfortable as they possibly could, and were doing everything to
obstruct his work. His mails were constantly tampered with; his servants
were threatened or arrested on various excuses, and his household was
subjected to the closest espionage. He displayed surprising tenacity, and
held on month after month without showing any sign of yielding. The
complaint of extreme bitterness could not be urged against his journal to
the same extent after the spring of 1907. From that time he adopted a more
quiet and convincing tone. He attempted on many occasions to restrain what
he considered the unwise tactics of some Korean extremists. He did his best
to influence public opinion against taking up arms to fight Japan.
Failing to conciliate the editor, the Japanese sought to destroy him. In
order to cut the ground from under his feet an opposition paper, printed in
English, was started, with an able Japanese journalist, Mr. Zumoto, Prince
Ito's leading spokesman in the press, as editor. Few could have done the
work better than Mr. Zumoto, but his paper, the _Seoul Press_, failed to
destroy the _Daily News_.
Diplomacy was now brought into play. During the summer of 1906, the
Japanese caused the translations of a number of articles from the _Dai Han
Mai Il Shinpo_ (the Korean edition of the _Daily Mail_) to be submitted to
the British Government, with a request that Mr. Bethell's journal might be
On Saturday, October 12th, Mr. Bethell received a summons to appear on the
following Monday at a specially appointed Consular Court, to answer the
charge of adopting a course of action likely to cause a breach of the
The trial took place in the Consular building, Mr. Cockburn, the very able
British Consul-General, acting as Judge. The short notice made it
impossible for Mr. Bethell to obtain legal aid, as there were no British
lawyers nearer than Shanghai or Kobe. He had to plead his cause under great
Eight articles were produced in court Six were comments on or descriptions
of fighting then taking place in the interior. They were no stronger, if as
strong, as many of the statements published in this book.
The Consul-General's decision was as anticipated. He convicted the editor,
and ordered him to enter into recognizances of L300 to be of good behaviour
for six months. The _Korea Daily News_ in commenting on the matter, said,
"The effect of this judgment is that for a period of six months this
newspaper will be gagged, and therefore no further reports of Japanese
reverses can be published in our columns."
In June, 1908, Mr. Bethell was again prosecuted at a specially convened
court at Seoul, presided over by Judge Bourne of Shanghai. The charge, made
by Yagoro Miura, Secretary to the Residency-General and Resident for Seoul,
was of publishing various articles calculated to excite disorder and to
stir up enmity between the Government of Korea and its subjects.
Mr. Bethell was represented by counsel and applied to have the case heard
before a jury. The application was refused. He was convicted, sentenced to
three weeks' imprisonment and required to give security for good behaviour
for six months. He did not very long survive his sentence.
The people of Korea cherish his memory, and the name of "Beth-ell," as they
call him, is already becoming traditional. "We are going to build a great
statue to Beth-ell some day," they say. "We will never forget the man who
was our friend, and who went to prison for us."
THE ABDICATION OF YI HYEUNG
The Court party was from the first the strongest opponent of the Japanese.
Patriotism, tradition, and selfish interests all combined to intensify the
resistance of its members. Some officials found their profits threatened,
some mourned for perquisites that were cut off, some were ousted out of
their places to make room for Japanese, and most felt a not unnatural anger
to see men of another race quietly assume authority over their Emperor and
their country. The Emperor led the opposition. Old perils had taught him
cunning. He knew a hundred ways to feed the stream of discontent, without
himself coming forward. Unfortunately there was a fatal strain of weakness
in his character. He would support vigorous action in secret, and then,
when men translated his speech into deeds, he would disavow them at the
bidding of the Japanese. On one point he never wavered. All attempts to
make him formally consent to the treaty of November, 1905, were in vain. "I
would sooner die first!" he cried. "I would sooner take poison and end
all!" In July, 1906, the Marquis Ito began to exercise stronger constraint
on the personal life of the Emperor. One evening a number of Japanese
police were brought into the palace. The old palace guards were withdrawn,
and the Emperor was made virtually a prisoner. Police officers were posted
at each gate, and no one was allowed in or out without a permit from a
Japanese-nominated official. At the same time many of the old palace
attendants were cleared out. The Resident-General thought that if the
Emperor were isolated from his friends, and if he were constantly
surrounded by enthusiastic advocates of Japan, he might be coerced or
influenced into submission. Yet here Marquis Ito had struck against a vein
of obstinacy and determination that he could scarce have reckoned with.
The Emperor had taken every opportunity to send messages abroad protesting
against the treaty. He managed, time after time, still to hold
communication with his friends, but the Japanese took good care that
traitors should come to him and be loudest in their expressions of loyalty.
Little that he did but was immediately known to his captors. In the early
summer of 1907 the Emperor thought that he saw his chance at last of
striking a blow for freedom through the Hague Conference. He was still
convinced that if he could only assure the Powers that he had never
consented to the treaty robbing Korea of its independence, they would then
send their Ministers back to Seoul and cause Japan to relax her hand.
Accordingly, amid great secrecy, three Korean delegates of high rank were
provided with funds and despatched to the Hague under the guardianship of
Mr. Hulbert. They reached the Hague only to be refused a hearing. The
Conference would have nothing to say to them.
This action on the part of the Emperor gave the Japanese an excuse they had
long been looking for. The formation of the Korean Cabinet had been altered
months before in anticipation of such a crisis, and the Cabinet Ministers
were now nominated not by the Emperor, but by the Resident-General. The
Emperor had been deprived of administrative and executive power. The
Marquis Ito had seen to it that the Ministers were wholly his tools. The
time had come when his tools were to cut. The Japanese Government assumed
an attitude of silent wrath. It could not allow such offences to go
unpunished, its friends declared, but what punishment it would inflict it
refused to say.
Proceedings were much more cleverly stage-managed than in November, 1905.
Nominally, the Japanese had nothing to do with the abdication of the
Emperor. Actually the Cabinet Ministers held their gathering at the
Residency-General to decide on their policy, and did as they were
instructed. They went to the Emperor and demanded that he should abandon
the throne to save his country from being swallowed up by Japan. At first
he refused, upon which their insistence grew greater. No news of sympathy
or help reached him from foreign lands. Knowing the perils surrounding him,
he thought that he would trick them all by a simple device. He would make
his son, the Crown Prince, temporary Emperor, using a Chinese ideograph for
his new title which could scarce be distinguished from the title giving him
final and full authority. Here he overreached himself, for, once out, he
was out for good. On July 19th, at six o'clock in the morning, after an
all-night conference, the Emperor was persuaded to abdicate.
The new Emperor, feeble of intellect, could be little more than a tool in
the hands of his advisers. His father, however, intended to remain by his
side, and to rule through him. In less than a week the Japanese had
prepared a new treaty, providing still more strictly for the absolute
control of everything in the country by Japan. The six curt clauses of this
measure were as far-reaching as they could possibly be made. No laws were
to be acted upon or important measures taken by the Government unless the
consent and approval of the Resident-General had been previously given. All
officials were to hold their positions at the pleasure of the
Resident-General, and the Government of Korea agreed to appoint any
Japanese the Resident-General might recommend to any post. Finally, the
Government of Korea was to engage no foreigner without the consent of the
A few days later a fresh rescript was issued in the name of the new
Emperor, ordering the disbandment of the Korean Army. This was written in
the most insulting language possible. "Our existing army which is composed
of mercenaries, is unfit for the purposes of national defence," it
declared. It was to make way "for the eventual formation of an efficient
army." To add to the insult, the Korean Premier, Yi, was ordered to write a
request to the Resident-General, begging him to employ the Japanese forces
to prevent disturbances when the disbandment took place. It was as though
the Japanese, having their heel on the neck of the enemy, slapped his face
to show their contempt for him. On the morning of August 1st some of the
superior officers of the Korean Army were called to the residence of the
Japanese commander, General Hasegawa, and the Order was read to them. They
were told that they were to assemble their men next morning, without arms,
and to dismiss them after paying them gratuities, while at the same time
their weapons would be secured in their absence.
One officer, Major Pak, commander of the smartest and best of the Korean
battalions, returned to his barracks in despair, and committed suicide. His
men learnt of what had happened and rose in mutiny. They burst upon their
Japanese military instructors and nearly killed them. They then forced open
the ammunition-room, secured weapons and cartridges, posted themselves
behind the windows of their barracks, and fired at every Japanese they saw.
News quickly reached the authorities, and Japanese companies of infantry
hurried out and surrounded their barracks. One party attacked the front
with a machine-gun, and another assaulted from behind. Fighting began at
half-past eight in the morning. The Koreans defended themselves until noon,
and then were finally overcome by a bayonet charge from the rear. Their
gallant defence excited the greatest admiration even among their enemies,
and it was notable that for a few days at least the Japanese spoke with
more respect of Korea and the Korean people than they had ever done before.
Only one series of incidents disgraced the day. The Japanese soldiers
behaved well and treated the wounded well, but that night parties of
low-class bullies emerged from the Japanese quarter, seeking victims. They
beat, they stabbed and murdered any man they could find whom they suspected
of being a rebel. Dozens of them would set on one helpless victim and do
him to death. This was stopped as soon as the Residency-General knew what
was happening, and a number of offenders were arrested.
Late in August the new Emperor of Korea was crowned amid the sullen silence
of a resentful people. Of popular enthusiasm there was none. A few flags
were displayed in the streets by the order of the police. In olden times a
coronation had been marked by great festivities, lasting many weeks. Now
there was gloom, apathy, indifference. News was coming in hourly from the
provinces of uprisings and murders. The Il Chin Hoi--they call themselves
reformers, but the nation has labelled them traitors--attempted to make a
feast, but the people stayed away. "This is the day not for feasting but
for the beginning of a year of mourning," men muttered one to the other.
The Japanese authorities who controlled the coronation ceremony did all
they could to minimize it and to prevent independent outside publicity. In
this they were well advised. No one who looked upon the new Emperor as he
entered the hall of state, his shaking frame upborne by two officials, or
as he stood later, with open mouth, fallen jaw, indifferent eyes, and face
lacking even a flickering gleam of intelligent interest, could doubt that
the fewer who saw this the better. Yet the ceremony, even when robbed of
much of its ancient pomp and all its dignity, was unique and picturesque.
The main feature of this day was not so much the coronation itself as the
cutting of the Emperor's topknot.
On the abdication of the old Emperor, the Cabinet--who were enthusiastic
hair-cutters--saw their opportunity. The new Emperor was informed that his
hair must be cut. He did not like it. He thought that the operation would
be painful, and he was quite satisfied with his hair as it was. Then his
Cabinet showed him a brilliant uniform, covered with gold lace. He was
henceforth to wear that on ceremonial occasions, and not his old Korean
dress. How could he put on the plumed hat of a Generalissimo with a topknot
in the way? The Cabinet were determined. A few hours later a proclamation
was spread through the land informing all dutiful subjects that the
Emperor's topknot was coming off, and urging them to imitate him.
A new Court servant was appointed--the High Imperial Hair-cutter. He
displayed his uniform in the streets around the palace, a sight for the
gods. He strutted along in white breeches, voluminous white frock-coat,
white shoes, and black silk hat, the centre of attention.
Early in the morning there was a great scene in the palace. The Imperial
Hair-cutter was in attendance. A group of old Court officials hung around
the Emperor. With blanched faces and shaking voices they implored him not
to abandon the old ways. The Emperor paused, fearful. What power would be
filched from him by the shearing of his locks? But there could be no
hesitating now. Resolute men were behind who knew what they were going to
see done. A few minutes later the great step was taken.
The Residency-General arranged the coronation ceremony in such a manner as
to include as many Japanese and to exclude as many foreigners as possible.
There were nearly a hundred Japanese present, including the Mayor of the
Japanese settlement and the Buddhist priest. There were only six white
men--five Consuls-General and Bishop Turner, chief of the Anglican Church
in Korea. The Japanese came arrayed in splendid uniforms. It was part of
the new Japanese policy to attire even the most minor officials in
sumptuous Court dress, with much gold lace and many orders. This enabled
Japan to make a brilliant show in official ceremonies, a thing not without
effect in Oriental Courts.
Shortly before ten o'clock the guests assembled in the throne-room of the
palace, a modern apartment with a raised dais at one end. There were
Koreans to the left and Japanese to the right of the Emperor, with the
Cabinet in the front line on one side and the Residency-General officials
on the other. The foreigners faced the raised platform.
The new Emperor appeared, borne to the platform by the Lord Chamberlain and
the Master of the Household. He was dressed in the ancient costume of his
people, a flowing blue garment reaching to the ankles, with a robe of
softer cream colour underneath. On his head was a quaint Korean hat, with a
circle of Korean ornaments hanging from its high, outstanding horsehair
brim. On his chest was a small decorative breastplate. Tall, clumsily
built, awkward, and vacant-looking--such was the Emperor.
In ancient days all would have kow-towed before him, and would have beaten
their foreheads on the ground. Now no man did more than bow, save one Court
herald, who knelt. Weird Korean music started in the background, the
beating of drums and the playing of melancholy wind instruments. The Master
of Ceremonies struck up a chant, which hidden choristers continued. Amid
silence, the Prime Minister, in smart modern attire, advanced and read a
paper of welcome. The Emperor stood still, apparently the least interested
man in the room. He did not even look bored--simply vacant.
After this there was a pause in the proceedings. The Emperor retired and
the guests went into the anterooms. Soon all were recalled, and the Emperor
reappeared. There had been a quick change in the meantime. He was now
wearing his new modern uniform, as Generalissimo of the Korean Army. Two
high decorations--one, if I mistake not, from the Emperor of Japan--hung on
his breast. He looked much more manly in his new attire. In front of him
was placed his new headdress, a peaked cap with a fine plume sticking up
straight in front. The music now was no longer the ancient Korean, but
modern airs from the very fine European-trained band attached to the
palace. The Korean players had gone, with the old dress and the old life,
The Japanese Acting Resident-General and military commander, General Baron
Hasegawa, strong and masterful-looking, stepped to the front with a message
of welcome from his Emperor. He was followed by the doyen of the Consular
Corps, M. Vincart, with the Consular greetings. This Consular message had
been very carefully sub-edited, and all expressions implying that the
Governments of the different representatives approved of the proceedings
had been eliminated. Then the coronation was over.
Two figures were conspicuous by their absence. The ex-Emperor was not
present According to the official explanation, he was unable to attend
because "his uniform had not been finished in time," Really, as all men
knew, he was sitting resentful and protesting within a few score yards of
the spot where his son was crowned.
The second absent figure was the Russian Consul-General, M. de Plancon. It
was announced that M. de Plancon was late, and so could not attend. Seeing
that M. de Plancon lived not ten minutes' walk from the palace, and that
the guests had to wait nearly an hour after the time announced before the
ceremony began, he must have overslept very much indeed on that particular
morning. Oddly enough, M. de Plancon is usually an early riser.
A JOURNEY TO THE "RIGHTEOUS ARMY"
It was in the autumn of 1906. The Korean Emperor had been deposed and his
army disbanded. The people of Seoul, sullen, resentful, yet powerless,
victims of the apathy and folly of their sires, and of their own indolence,
saw their national existence filched from them, and scarce dared utter a
protest. The triumphant Japanese soldiers stood at the city gates and
within the palace. Princes must obey their slightest wish, even to the
cutting of their hair and the fashioning of their clothes. General
Hasegawa's guns commanded every street, and all men dressed in white need
But it soon became clear that there were men who had not taken the filching
of their national independence lightly. Refugees from distant villages,
creeping after nightfall over the city wall, brought with them marvellous
tales of the happenings in the provinces. District after district, they
said, had risen against the Japanese. A "Righteous Army" had been formed,
and was accomplishing amazing things. Detachments of Japanese had been
annihilated and others driven back. Sometimes the Japanese, it is true,
were victorious, and then they took bitter vengeance, destroying a whole
countryside and slaughtering the people in wholesale fashion. So the
How far were these stories true? I am bound to say that I, for one,
regarded them with much scepticism. Familiar as I was with the offences of
individual Japanese in the country, it seemed impossible that outrages
could be carried on systematically by the Japanese Army under the direction
of its officers. I was with a Japanese army during the war against Russia,
and had marked and admired the restraint and discipline of the men of all
ranks there. They neither stole nor outraged. Still more recently I had
noted the action of the Japanese soldiers when repressing the uprising in
Seoul itself. Yet, whether the stories of the refugees were true or false,
undeniably some interesting fighting was going on.
By the first week in September it was clear that the area of trouble
covered the eastern provinces from near Fusan to the north of Seoul. The
rebels were evidently mainly composed of discharged soldiers and of hunters
from the hills. We heard in Seoul that trained officers of the old Korean
Army were drilling and organizing them into volunteer companies. The
Japanese were pouring fresh troops into these centres of trouble, but the
rebels, by an elaborate system of mountain-top signalling, were avoiding
the troops and making their attacks on undefended spots. Reports showed
that they were badly armed and lacked ammunition, and there seemed to be no
effective organization for sending them weapons from the outside.
The first rallying-place of the malcontent Koreans was in a mountain
district from eighty to ninety miles east of Seoul. Here lived many famous
Korean tiger-hunters. These banded themselves together under the title of
Eui-pyung (the "Righteous Army"). They had conflicts with small parties of
Japanese troops and secured some minor successes. When considerable
Japanese reinforcements arrived they retired to some mountain passes
The tiger-hunters, sons of the hills, iron-nerved, and operating in their
own country, were naturally awkward antagonists even for the best regular
troops. They were probably amongst the boldest sportsmen in the world, and
they formed the most picturesque and, romantic section of the rebels. Their
only weapon was an old-fashioned percussion gun, with long barrel and a
brass trigger seven to eight inches in length. Many of them fired not from
the shoulder, but from the hip. They never missed. They could only fire one
charge in an attack, owing to the time required to load. They were trained
to stalk the tiger, to come quite close to it, and then to kill it at one
shot The man who failed once died; the tiger attended to that.
Some of the stories of Korean successes reaching Seoul were at the best
improbable. The tale of one fight, however, came to me through so many
different and independent sources that there was reason to suspect it had
substantial foundation. It recalled the doings of the people of the Tyrol
in their struggle against Napoleon. A party of Japanese soldiers,
forty-eight in number, were guarding a quantity of supplies from point to
point. The Koreans prepared an ambuscade in a mountain valley overshadowed
by precipitous hills on either side. When the troops reached the centre of
the valley they were overwhelmed by a flight of great boulders rolled on
them from the hilltops, and before the survivors could rally a host of
Koreans rushed upon them and did them to death.
Proclamations by Koreans were smuggled into the capital. Parties of
Japanese troops were constantly leaving Chinkokai, the Japanese quarter in
Seoul, for the provinces. There came a public notice from General Hasegawa
himself, which showed the real gravity of the rural situation. It ran as
"I, General Baron Yoshimichi Hasegawa, Commander of the Army of
Occupation in Korea, make the following announcement to each and
every one of the people of Korea throughout all the provinces.
Taught by the natural trend of affairs in the world and impelled
by the national need of political regeneration, the Government of
Korea, in obedience to His Imperial Majesty's wishes, is now
engaged in the task of reorganizing the various institutions of
State. But those who are ignorant of the march of events in the
world and who fail correctly to distinguish loyalty from treason
have by wild and baseless rumours instigated people's minds and
caused the rowdies in various places to rise in insurrection.
These insurgents commit all sorts of horrible crimes, such as
murdering peaceful people, both native and foreign, robbing their
property, burning official and private buildings, and destroying
means of communication. Their offences are such as are not
tolerated by Heaven or earth. They affect to be loyal and
patriotic and call themselves volunteers. But none the less they
are lawbreakers, who oppose their Sovereign's wishes concerning
political regeneration and who work the worst possible harm to
their country and people.
"Unless they are promptly suppressed the trouble may assume
really calamitous proportions. I am charged by His Majesty, the
Emperor of Korea, with the task of rescuing you from such
disasters by thoroughly stamping out the insurrection. I charge
all of you, law-abiding people of Korea, to prosecute your
respective peaceful avocations and be troubled with no fears. As
for those who have joined the insurgents from mistaken motives,
if they honestly repent and promptly surrender they will be
pardoned of their offence. Any of you who will seize insurgents
or will give information concerning their whereabouts will be
handsomely rewarded. In case of those who wilfully join
insurgents, or afford them refuge, or conceal weapons, they shall
be severely punished. More than that, the villages to which such
offenders belong shall be held collectively responsible and
punished with rigour. I call upon each and every one of the
people of Korea to understand clearly what I have herewith said
to you and avoid all reprehensible action."
The Koreans in America circulated a manifesto directed against those
of their countrymen who were working with Japan, under the expressive
title of "explosive thunder," which breathed fury and vengeance.
Groups of Koreans in the provinces issued other statements which, if
not quite so picturesque, were quite forcible enough. Here is one:--
"Our numbers are twenty million, and we have over ten million
strong men, excluding old, sick, and children. Now, the Japanese
soldiers in Korea are not more than eight thousand, and Japanese
merchants at various places are not more than some thousands.
Though their weapons are sharp, how can one man kill a thousand?
We beg you our brothers not to act in a foolish way and not to
kill any innocent persons. We will fix the day and the hour for
you to strike. Some of us, disguised as beggars and merchants,
will go into Seoul. We will destroy the railway, we will kindle
flames in every port, we will destroy Chinkokai, kill Ito and all
the Japanese, Yi Wan-yong and his underlings, and will not leave
a single rebel against our Emperor alive. Then Japan will bring
out all her troops to fight us. We have no weapons at our hands,
but we will keep our own patriotism. We may not be able to fight
against the sharp weapons of the Japanese, but we will ask the
Foreign Consuls to help us with their troops, and maybe they will
assist the right persons and destroy the wicked; otherwise let us
die. Let us strike against Japan, and then, if must be, all die
together with our country and with our Emperor, for there is no
other course open to us. It is better to lose our lives now than
to live miserably a little time longer, for the Emperor and our
brothers will all surely be killed by the abominable plans of
Ito, Yi Wan-yong, and their associates. It is better to die as a
patriot than to live having abandoned one's country. Mr. Yi Chun
went to foreign lands to plead for our country, and his plans did
not carry well, so he cut his stomach asunder with a sword and
poured out his blood among the foreign nations to proclaim his
patriotism to the world. These of our twenty million people who
do not unite offend against the memory of Mr. Yi Chun. We have to
choose between destruction or the maintenance of our country.
Whether we live or die is a small thing, the great thing is that
we make up our minds at once whether we work for or against our
A group of Koreans in the southern provinces petitioned Prince Ito, in the
"You spoke much of the kindness and friendship between Japan and
Korea, but actually you have drawn away the profits from province
after province and district after district until nothing is left
wherever the hand of the Japanese falls. The Korean has been
brought to ruin, and the Japanese shall be made to follow him
downwards. We pity you very much; but you shall not enjoy the
profits of the ruin of our land. When Japan and Korea fall
together it will be a misfortune indeed for you. If you would
secure safety for yourself follow this rule: memorialize our
Majesty to impeach the traitors and put them to right punishment.
Then every Korean will regard you with favour, and the Europeans
will be loud in your praise. Advise the Korean authorities to
carry out reforms in various directions, help them to enlarge the
schools, and to select capable men for the Government service;
then the three countries, Korea, China, and Japan, shall stand in
the same line, strongly united and esteemed by foreign nations.
If you will not do this, and if you continue to encroach on our
rights, then we will be destroyed together, thanks to you.
"You thought there were no men left in Korea; you will see. We
country people are resolved to destroy your railways and your
settlements and your authorities. On a fixed day we shall send
word to our patriots in the north, in the south, in Pyeng-yang
and Kyung Sang, to rise and drive away all Japanese from the
various ports, and although your soldiers are skillful with their
guns it will be very hard for them to stand against our twenty
million people. We will first attack the Japanese in Korea, but
when we have finished them we will appeal to the Foreign Powers
to assure the independence and freedom of our country. Before we
send the word to our fellow-countrymen we give you this advice."
I resolved to try to see the fighting. This, I soon found, was easier
attempted than done.
The first difficulty came from the Japanese authorities. They refused to
grant me a passport, declaring that, owing to the disturbances, they could
not guarantee my safety in the interior. An interview followed at the
Residency-General, in which I was duly warned that if I travelled without a
passport I would be liable, under International treaties, to "arrest at any
point on the journey and punishment."
This did not trouble me very much. My real fear had been that the Japanese
would consent to my going, but would insist on sending a guard of Japanese
soldiers with me. It was more than doubtful if, at that time, the Japanese
had any right to stop a foreigner from travelling in Korea, for the
passport regulations had long been virtually obsolete. This was a point
that I was prepared to argue out at leisure after my arrest and confinement
in a Consular jail. So the preparations for my departure were continued.
The traveller in Korea, away from the railroads, must carry everything he
wants with him, except food for his horses. He must have at least three
horses or ponies: one for himself, one pack-pony, and one for his bedding
and his "boy," Each pony needs its own "mafoo," or groom, to cook its food
and to attend to it. So, although travelling lightly and in a hurry, I
would be obliged to take two horses, one pony, and four attendants with me.
My friends in Seoul, both white and Korean, were of opinion that if I
attempted the trip I would probably never return. Korean tiger-hunters and
disbanded soldiers were scattered about the hills, waiting for the chance
of pot-shots at passing Japanese. They would certainly in the distance take
me for a Japanese, since the Japanese soldiers and leaders all wear foreign
clothes, and they would make me their target before they found out their
mistake. A score of suggestions were proffered as to how I should avoid
this. One old servant of mine begged me to travel in a native chair, like a
Korean gentleman. This chair is a kind of small box, carried by two or four
bearers, in which the traveller sits all the time crouched up on his
haunches. Its average speed is less than two miles an hour. I preferred the
bullets. A member of the Korean Court urged me to send out messengers each
night to the villages where I would be going next day, telling the people
that I was "Yong guk ta-in" (Englishman) and so they must not shoot me. And
so on and so forth.
This exaggerated idea of the risks of the trip unfortunately spread abroad.
The horse merchant demanded specially high terms for the hire of his
beasts, because he might never see them again. I needed a "boy," or native
servant, and although there are plenty of "boys" in Seoul none at first was
to be had.
I engaged one servant, a fine upstanding young Korean, Wo by name, who had
been out on many hunting and mining expeditions. I noticed that he was
looking uneasy, and I was scarcely surprised when at the end of the third
day he came to me with downcast eyes. "Master," he said, "my heart is very
much frightened. Please excuse me this time."
"What is there to be frightened about?" I demanded.
"Korean men will shoot you and then will kill me because my hair is cut"
The rebels were reported to be killing all men not wearing topknots.
Exit Wo. Some one recommended Han, also with a great hunting record. But
when Han heard the destination he promptly withdrew. Sin was a good boy out
of place. Sin was sent for, but forwarded apologies for not coming.
One Korean was longing to accompany me--my old servant in the war, Kim
Min-gun. But Kim was in permanent employment and could not obtain leave.
"Master," he said contemptuously, when he heard of the refusals, "these men
plenty much afraid," At last Kim's master very kindly gave him permission
to accompany me, and the servant difficulty was surmounted.
My preparations were now almost completed, provisions bought, horses hired,
and saddles overhauled. The Japanese authorities had made no sign, but they
knew what was going on. It seemed likely that they would stop me when I
Then fortune favoured me. A cablegram arrived for me from London. It was
brief and emphatic:--
"Proceed forthwith Siberia."
My expedition was abandoned, the horses sent away, and the saddles thrown
into a corner. I cabled home that I would soon be back. I made the hotel
ring with my public and private complaints about this interference with my
plans. I visited the shipping offices to learn of the next steamer to
A few hours before I was to start I chanced to meet an old friend, who
questioned me confidentially, "I suppose it is really true that you are
going away, and that this is not a trick on your part?" I left him
thoughtful, for his words had shown me the splendid opportunity in my
hands. Early next morning, long before dawn, my ponies came back, the boys
assembled, the saddles were quickly fixed and the packs adjusted, and soon
we were riding as hard as we could for the mountains. The regrettable part
of the affair is that many people are still convinced that the whole
business of the cablegram was arranged by me in advance as a blind, and no
assurances of mine will convince them to the contrary.
As in duty bound, I sent word to the acting British Consul-General, telling
him of my departure. My letter was not delivered to him until after I had
left. On my return I found his reply awaiting me at my hotel.
"I consider it my duty to inform you," he wrote, "that I received
a communication on the 7th inst. from the Residency-General
informing me that, in view of the disturbed conditions in the
interior, it is deemed inadvisable that foreign subjects should
be allowed to travel in the disturbed districts for the present I
would also call your attention to the stipulation in Article V.
of the treaty between Great Britain and Korea, under which
British subjects travelling in the interior of the country
without a passport are liable to arrest and to a penalty."
In Seoul no one could tell where or how the "Righteous Army" might be
found. The information doled out by the Japanese authorities was
fragmentary, and was obviously and naturally framed in such a manner as to
minimize and discredit the disturbances. It was admitted that the Korean
volunteers had a day or two earlier destroyed a small railway station on
the line to Fusan. We knew that a small party of them had attacked the
Japanese guard of a store of rifles, not twenty miles from the capital, and
had driven them off and captured the arms and ammunition. Most of the
fighting, so far as one could judge, appeared to have been around the town
of Chung-ju, four days' journey from Seoul. It was for there I aimed,
travelling by an indirect bridle-path in order to avoid the Japanese as far
The country in which I soon found myself presented a field of industry and
of prosperity such as I had seen nowhere else in Korea. Between the
somewhat desolate mountain ranges and great stretches of sandy soil we came
upon innumerable thriving villages. Every possible bit of land, right up
the hillsides, was carefully cultivated. Here were stretches of cotton,
with bursting pods all ready for picking, and here great fields of
buckwheat white with flower. The two most common crops were rice and
barley, and the fields were heavy with their harvest. Near the villages
were ornamental lines of chilies and beans and seed plants for oil, with
occasional clusters of kowliang, fully twelve and thirteen feet high.
In the centre of the fields was a double-storied summer-house, made of
straw, the centre of a system of high ropes, decked with bits of rag,
running over the crops in all directions. Two lads would sit on the upper
floor of each of these houses, pulling the ropes, flapping the rags, and
making all kinds of harsh noises, to frighten away the birds preying on the
The villages themselves were pictures of beauty and of peace. Most of them
were surrounded by a high fence of wands and matting. At the entrance there
sometimes stood the village "joss," although many villages had destroyed
their idols. This "joss" was a thick stake of wood, six or eight feet high,
with the upper part roughly carved into the shape of a very ugly human
face, and crudely coloured in vermilion and green. It was supposed to
frighten away the evil spirits.
The village houses, low, mud-walled, and thatch-roofed, were seen this
season at their best. Gay flowers grew around. Melons and pumpkins,
weighted with fruit, ran over the walls. Nearly every roof displayed a
patch of vivid scarlet, for the chilies had just been gathered, and were
spread out on the housetops to dry. In front of the houses were boards
covered with sliced pumpkins and gherkins drying in the sun for winter use.
Every courtyard had its line of black earthenware jars, four to six feet
high, stored with all manner of good things, mostly preserved vegetables of
many varieties, for the coming year.
I had heard much of the province of Chung-Chong-Do as the Italy of Korea,
but its beauty and prosperity required seeing to be believed. It afforded
an amazing contrast to the dirt and apathy of Seoul. Here every one worked.
In the fields the young women were toiling in groups, weeding or
harvesting. The young men were cutting bushes on the hillsides, the father
of the family preparing new ground for the fresh crop, and the very
children frightening off the birds. At home the housewife was busy with her
children and preparing her simples and stores; and even the old men busied
themselves over light tasks, such as mat-making. Every one seemed
prosperous, busy, and happy. There were no signs of poverty. The uprising
had not touched this district, save in the most incidental fashion.
My inquiries as to where I should find any signs of the fighting always met
with the same reply--"The Japanese have been to Ichon, and have burned many
villages there." So we pushed on for Ichon as hard as we could.
The chief problem that faced the traveller in Korea who ventured away from
the railways in those days was how to hasten the speed of his party. "You
cannot travel faster than your pack," is one of those indisputable axioms
against which the impatient man fretted in vain. The pack-pony was led by a
horseman, who really controlled the situation. If he sulked and determined
to go slowly nothing could be done. If he hurried, the whole party must
The Korean mafoo regards seventy li (about twenty-one miles) as a fair
day's work. He prefers to average sixty li, but if you are very insistent
he may go eighty. It was imperative that I should cover from a hundred to a
hundred and twenty li a day.
I tried a mixture of harsh words, praise, and liberal tips. I was up at
three in the morning, setting the boys to work at cooking the animals'
food, and I kept them on the road until dark. Still the record was not
satisfactory. It is necessary in Korea to allow at least six hours each day
for the cooking of the horses' food and feeding them. This is a time that
no wise traveller attempts to cut. Including feeding-times, we were on the
go from sixteen to eighteen hours a day. Notwithstanding this, the most we
had reached was a hundred and ten li a day.
Then came a series of little hindrances. The pack-pony would not eat its
dinner; its load was too heavy. "Hire a boy to carry part of its load," I
replied. A hundred reasons would be found for halting, and still more for
It was clear that something more must be done. I called the pack-pony
leader on one side. He was a fine, broad-framed giant, a man who had in his
time gone through many fights and adventures. "You and I understand one
another," I said to him. "These others with their moanings and cries are
but as children. Now let us make a compact. You hurry all the time and I
will give you" (here I whispered a figure into his ear that sent a
gratified smile over his face) "at the end of the journey. The others need
know nothing. This is between men."
He nodded assent. From that moment the trouble was over. Footsore mafoos,
lame horses, grumbling innkeepers--nothing mattered. "Let the fires burn
quickly." "Out with the horses," The other horse-keepers, not understanding
his changed attitude, toiled wearily after him. At night-time he would look
up, as he led his pack-pony in at the end of a record day, and his grim
smile would proclaim that he was keeping his end of the bargain.
"It is necessary for us to show these men something of the strong hand of
Japan," one of the leading Japanese in Seoul, a close associate of the
Prince Ito, told me shortly before I left that city. "The people of the
eastern mountain districts have seen few or no Japanese soldiers, and they
have no idea of our strength. We must convince them how strong we are."
As I stood on a mountain-pass, looking down on the valley leading to Ichon,
I recalled these words of my friend. The "strong hand of Japan" was
certainly being shown here. I beheld in front of me village after village
reduced to ashes.
I rode down to the nearest heap of ruins. The place had been quite a large
village, with probably seventy or eighty houses. Destruction, thorough and
complete, had fallen upon it. Not a single house was left, and not a single
wall of a house. Every pot with the winter stores was broken. The very
earthen fireplaces were wrecked.
The villagers had come back to the ruins again, and were already
rebuilding. They had put up temporary refuges of straw. The young men were
out on the hills cutting wood, and every one else was toiling at
house-making. The crops were ready to harvest, but there was no time to
gather them in. First of all, make a shelter.
During the next few days sights like these were to be too common to arouse
much emotion. But for the moment I looked around on these people, ruined
and homeless, with quick pity. The old men, venerable and dignified, as
Korean old men mostly are, the young wives, many with babes at their
breasts, the sturdy men, had composed, if I could judge by what I saw, an
exceptionally clean and peaceful community.
There was no house in which I could rest, so I sat down under a tree, and
while Min-gun was cooking my dinner the village elders came around with
their story. One thing especially struck me. Usually the Korean woman was
shy, retiring, and afraid to open her mouth in the presence of a stranger.
Here the women spoke up as freely as the men. The great calamity had broken
down the barriers of their silence.
"We are glad," they said, "that a European man has come to see what has
befallen us. We hope you will tell your people, so that all men may know.
"There had been some fighting on the hills beyond our village," and they
pointed to the hills a mile or two further on. "The Eui-pyung" (the
volunteers) "had been there, and had torn up some telegraph poles. The
Eui-pyung came down from the eastern hills. They were not our men, and had
nothing to do with us. The Japanese soldiers came, and there was a fight,
and the Eui-pyung fell back.
"Then the Japanese soldiers marched out to our village, and to seven other
villages. Look around and you can see the ruins of all. They spoke many
harsh words to us. 'The Eui-pyung broke down the telegraph poles and you
did not stop them,' they said. 'Therefore you are all the same as
Eui-pyung. Why have you eyes if you do not watch, why have you strength if
you do not prevent the Eui-pyung from doing-mischief? The Eui-pyung came to
your houses and you fed them. They have gone, but we will punish you.'
"And they went from house to house, taking what they wanted and setting all
alight. One old man--he had lived in his house since he was a babe suckled
by his mother--saw a soldier lighting up his house. He fell on his knees
and caught the foot of the soldier. 'Excuse me, excuse me,' he said, with
many tears. 'Please do not burn my house. Leave it for me that I may die
there. I am an old man, and near my end.'
"The soldier tried to shake him off, but the old man prayed the more.
'Excuse me, excuse me,' he moaned. Then the soldier lifted his gun and shot
the old man, and we buried him.
"One who was near to her hour of child-birth was lying in a house. Alas for
her! One of our young men was working in the field cutting grass. He was
working and had not noticed the soldiers come. He lifted his knife,
sharpening it in the sun. 'There is a Eui-pyung,' he said, and he fired and
killed him. One man, seeing the fire, noticed that all his family records
were burning. He rushed in to try and pull them out, but as he rushed a
soldier fired, and he fell."
A man, whose appearance proclaimed him to be of a higher class than most of
the villagers, then spoke in bitter tones. "We are rebuilding our houses,"
he said, "but of what use is it for us to do so? I was a man of family. My
fathers and fathers' fathers had their record. Our family papers are
destroyed. Henceforth we are a people without a name, disgraced and
I found, when I went further into the country, that this view was fairly
common. The Koreans regard their family existence with peculiar veneration.
The family record means everything to them. When it is destroyed, the
family is wiped out It no longer exists, even though there are many members
of it still living. As the province of Chung-Chong-Do prides itself on the
large number of its substantial families, there could be no more effective
way of striking at them than this.
I rode out of the village heavy-hearted. What struck me most about this
form of punishment, however, was not the suffering of the villagers so much
as the futility of the proceedings, from the Japanese point of view. In
place of pacifying a people, they were turning hundreds of quiet families
into rebels. During the next few days I was to see at least one town and
many scores of villages treated as this one. To what end? The villagers
were certainly not the people fighting the Japanese. All they wanted to do
was to look quietly after their own affairs. Japan professed a desire to
conciliate Korea and to win the affection and support of her people. In one
province at least the policy of house-burning had reduced a prosperous
community to ruin, increased the rebel forces, and sown a crop of bitter
hatred which it would take generations to root out.
We rode on through village after village and hamlet after hamlet burned to
the ground. The very attitude of the people told me that the hand of Japan
had struck hard there. We would come upon a boy carrying a load of wood. He
would run quickly to the side of the road when he saw us, expecting he knew
not what. We passed a village with a few houses left. The women flew to
shelter as I drew near. Some of the stories that I heard later helped me to
understand why they should run. Of course they took me for a Japanese.
All along the route I heard tales of the Japanese plundering, where they
had not destroyed. At places the village elders would bring me an old man
badly beaten by a Japanese soldier because he resisted being robbed. Then
came darker stories. In Seoul I had laughed at them. Now, face to face with
the victims, I could laugh no more.
That afternoon we rode into Ichon itself. This is quite a large town. I
found it practically deserted. Most of the people had fled to the hills, to
escape from the Japanese. I slept that night in a schoolhouse, now deserted
and unused. There were the cartoons and animal pictures and pious mottoes
around, but the children were far away. I passed through the market-place,
usually a very busy spot. There was no sign of life there.
I turned to some of the Koreans.
"Where are your women? Where are your children?" I demanded. They pointed
to the high and barren hills looming against the distant heavens.
"They are up there," they said. "Better for them to lie on the barren
hillsides than to be outraged here."
WITH THE REBELS
Day after day we travelled through a succession of burned-out villages,
deserted towns, and forsaken country. The fields were covered with a rich
and abundant harvest, ready to be gathered, and impossible for the invaders
to destroy. But most of the farmers were hiding on the mountainsides,
fearing to come down. The few courageous men who had ventured to come back
were busy erecting temporary shelters for themselves before the winter cold
came on, and had to let the harvest wait. Great flocks of birds hung over
the crops, feasting undisturbed.
Up to Chong-ju nearly one-half of the villages on the direct line of route
had been destroyed by the Japanese. At Chong-ju I struck directly across
the mountains to Chee-chong, a day's journey. Four-fifths of the villages
and hamlets on the main road between these two places were burned to the
The few people who had returned to the ruins always disclaimed any
connection with the "Righteous Army." They had taken no part in the
fighting, they said. The volunteers had come down from the hills and had
attacked the Japanese; the Japanese had then retaliated by punishing the
local residents. The fact that the villagers had no arms, and were
peaceably working at home-building, seemed at the time to show the truth of
their words. Afterwards when I came up with the Korean fighters I found
these statements confirmed. The rebels were mostly townsmen from Seoul, and
not villagers from that district.
Between 10,000 and 20,000 people had been driven to the hills in this small
district alone, either by the destruction of their homes or because of fear
excited by the acts of the soldiers.
Soon after leaving Ichon I came on a village where the Red Cross was flying
over one of the houses. The place was a native Anglican church. I was later
on to see the Red Cross over many houses, for the people had the idea that
by thus appealing to the Christians' God they made a claim on the pity and
charity of the Christian nations.
In the evening, after I had settled down in the yard of the native inn, the
elders of the Church came to see me, two quiet-spoken, grave, middle-aged
men. They were somewhat downcast, and said that their village had suffered
considerably, the parties of soldiers passing through having taken what
they wanted and being guilty of some outrages. A gardener's wife had been
violated by a Japanese soldier, another soldier standing guard over the
house with rifle and fixed bayonet. A boy, attracted by the woman's
screams, ran and fetched the husband. He came up, knife in hand. "But what
could he do?" the elders asked. "There was the soldier, with rifle and
bayonet, before the door."
Later on I was to hear other stories, very similar to this. These tales
were confirmed on the spot, so far as confirmation was possible. In my
judgment such outrages were not numerous, and were limited to exceptional
parties of troops. But they produced an effect altogether disproportionate
to their numbers. The Korean has high ideals about the sanctity of his
women, and the fear caused by a comparatively few offences was largely
responsible for the flight of multitudes to the hills.
In the burning of villages, a certain number of Korean women and children
were undoubtedly killed. The Japanese troops seem in many cases to have
rushed a village and to have indulged in miscellaneous wild shooting, on
the chance of there being rebels around, before firing the houses. In one
hamlet, where I found two houses still standing, the folk told me that
these had been left because the Japanese shot the daughter of the owner of
one of them, a girl of ten. "When they shot her," the villagers said, "we
approached the soldiers, and said, 'Please excuse us, but since you have
killed the daughter of this man you should not burn his house.' And the
soldiers listened to us."
In towns like Chong-ju and Won-ju practically all the women and children
and better-class families had disappeared. The shops were shut and
barricaded by their owners before leaving, but many of them had been forced
open and looted. The destruction in other towns paled to nothing, however,
before the havoc wrought in Chee-chong. Here was a town completely
Chee-chong was, up to the late summer of 1907, an important rural centre,
containing between 2,000 and 3,000 inhabitants, and beautifully situated in
a sheltered plain, surrounded by high mountains. It was a favourite resort
of high officials, a Korean Bath or Cheltenham. Many of the houses were
large, and some had tiled roofs--a sure evidence of wealth.
When the "Righteous Army" began operations, one portion of it occupied the
hills beyond Chee-chong. The Japanese sent a small body of troops into the
town. These were attacked one night on three sides, several were killed,
and the others were compelled to retire. The Japanese despatched
reinforcements, and after some fighting regained lost ground. They then
determined to make Chee-chong an example to the countryside. The entire
town was put to the torch. The soldiers carefully tended the flames, piling
up everything for destruction. Nothing was left, save one image of Buddha
and the magistrate's yamen. When the Koreans fled, five men, one woman, and
a child, all wounded, were left behind. These disappeared in the flames.
It was a hot early autumn when I reached Chee-chong. The brilliant sunshine
revealed a Japanese flag waving-over a hillock commanding the town, and
glistened against the bayonet of a Japanese sentry. I dismounted and walked
down the streets and over the heaps of ashes. Never have I witnessed such
complete destruction. Where a month before there had been a busy and
prosperous community, there was now nothing but lines of little heaps of
black and gray dust and cinders. Not a whole wall, not a beam, and not an
unbroken jar remained. Here and there a man might be seen poking among the
ashes, seeking for aught of value. The search was vain. Chee-chong had been
wiped off the map. "Where are your people?" I asked the few searchers.
"They are lying on the hillsides," came the reply.
Up to this time I had not met a single rebel soldier, and very few
Japanese. My chief meeting with the Japanese occurred the previous day at
Chong-ju. As I approached that town, I noticed that its ancient walls were
broken down. The stone arches of the city gates were left, but the gates
themselves and most of the walls had gone. A Japanese sentry and a gendarme
stood at the gateway, and cross-examined me as I entered. A small body of
Japanese troops were stationed here, and operations in the country around
were apparently directed from this centre.
I at once called upon the Japanese Colonel in charge. His room, a great
apartment in the local governor's yamen, showed on all sides evidences of
the thoroughness with which the Japanese were conducting this campaign.
Large maps, with red marks, revealed strategic positions now occupied. A
little printed pamphlet, with maps, evidently for the use of officers, lay
on the table.
The Colonel received me politely, but expressed his regrets that I had
come. The men he was fighting were mere robbers, he said, and there was
nothing for me to see. He gave me various warnings about dangers ahead.
Then he very kindly explained that the Japanese plan was to hem in the
volunteers, two sections of troops operating from either side and making a
circle around the seat of trouble. These would unite and gradually drive
the Koreans towards a centre.
The maps which the Colonel showed me settled my movements. A glance at them
made clear that the Japanese had not yet occupied the line of country
between Chee-chong and Won-ju. Here, then, was the place where I must go if
I would meet the Korean bands. So it was towards Won-ju that I turned our
horses' heads on the following day, after gazing on the ruins of
It soon became evident that I was very near to the Korean forces. At one
place, not far from Chee-chong, a party of them had arrived two days before
I passed, and had demanded arms. A little further on Koreans and Japanese
had narrowly escaped meeting in the village street, not many hours before I
stopped there. As I approached one hamlet, the inhabitants fled into the
high corn, and on my arrival not a soul was to be found. They mistook me
for a Japanese out on a shooting and burning expedition.
It now became more difficult to obtain carriers. Our ponies were showing
signs of fatigue, for we were using them very hard over the mountainous
country. It was impossible to hire fresh animals, as the Japanese had
commandeered all. Up to Won-ju I had to pay double the usual rate for my
carriers. From Won-ju onwards carriers absolutely refused to go further,
whatever the pay.
"On the road beyond here many bad men are to be found," they told me at
Won-ju. "These bad men shoot every one who passes. We will not go to be
shot." My own boys were showing some uneasiness. Fortunately, I had in my
personal servant Min-gun, and in the leader of the pack-pony two of the
staunchest Koreans I have ever known.
The country beyond Won-ju was splendidly suited for an ambuscade, such as
the people there promised me. The road was rocky and broken, and largely
lay through a narrow, winding valley, with overhanging cliffs. Now we would
come on a splendid gorge, evidently of volcanic origin; now we would pause
to chip a bit of gold-bearing quartz from the rocks, for-this is a famous
gold centre of Korea. An army might have been hidden securely around.
Twilight was just gathering as we stopped at a small village where we
intended remaining for the night The people were sullen and unfriendly, a
striking contrast to what I had found elsewhere. In other parts they all
came and welcomed me, sometimes refusing to take payment for the
accommodation they supplied. "We are glad that a white man has come," But
in this village the men gruffly informed me that there was not a scrap of
horse food or of rice to be had. They advised us to go on to another place,
fifteen li ahead.
We started out. When we had ridden a little way from the village I chanced
to glance back at some trees skirting a corn-field. A man, half-hidden by a
bush, was fumbling with something in his hands, something which he held
down as I turned. I took it to be the handle of a small reaping-knife, but
it was growing too dark to see clearly. A minute later, however, there came
a smart "ping" past my ear, followed by the thud of a bullet striking
I turned, but the man had disappeared. It would have been merely foolish to
blaze back with a .380 Colt at a distance of over a hundred yards, and
there was no time to go back. So we continued on our way.
Before arriving at Won-ju we had been told that we would certainly find the
Righteous Army around there. At Won-ju men said that it was at a place
fifteen or twenty miles ahead. When we reached that distance we were
directed onwards to Yan-gun. We walked into Yan-gun one afternoon, only to
be again disappointed. Here, however, we learned that there had been a
fight that same morning at a village fifteen miles nearer Seoul, and that
the Koreans had been defeated.
Yan-gun presented a remarkable sight. A dozen red crosses waved over houses
at different points. In the main street every shop was closely barricaded,
and a cross was pasted on nearly every door. These crosses, roughly painted
on paper in red ink, were obtained from the elder of the Roman Catholic
church there. A week before some Japanese soldiers had arrived and burned a
few houses. They spared one house close to them waving a Christian cross.
As soon as the Japanese left nearly every one pasted a cross over his door.
At first Yan-gun seemed deserted. The people were watching me from behind
the shelter of their doors. Then men and boys crept out, and gradually
approached. We soon made friends. The women had fled. I settled down that
afternoon in the garden of a Korean house of the better type. My boy was
preparing my supper in the front courtyard, when he suddenly dropped
everything to rush to me. "Master," he cried, highly excited, "the
Righteous Army has come. Here are the soldiers."
In another moment half a dozen of them entered the garden, formed in line
in front of me and saluted. They were all lads, from eighteen to
twenty-six. One, a bright-faced, handsome youth, still wore the old uniform
of the regular Korean Army. Another had a pair of military trousers. Two of
them were in slight, ragged Korean dress. Not one had leather boots. Around
their waists were home-made cotton cartridge belts, half full. One wore a
kind of tarboosh on his head, and the others had bits of rag twisted round
I looked at the guns they were carrying. The six men had five different
patterns of weapons, and none was any good. One proudly carried an old
Korean sporting gun of the oldest type of muzzle-loaders known to man.
Around his arm was the long piece of thin rope which he kept smouldering as
touch-powder, and hanging in front of him were the powder horn and bullet
bag for loading. This sporting gun was, I afterwards found, a common
weapon. The ramrod, for pressing down the charge, was home-made and cut
from a tree. The barrel was rust-eaten. There was only a strip of cotton as
a carrying strap.
The second man had an old Korean army rifle, antiquated, and a very bad
specimen of its time. The third had the same. One had a tiny sporting gun,
the kind of weapon, warranted harmless, that fathers give to their fond
sons at the age of ten. Another had a horse-pistol, taking a rifle
cartridge. Three of the guns bore Chinese marks. They were all eaten up
with ancient rust.
These were the men--think of it--who for weeks had been bidding defiance to
the Japanese Army! Even now a Japanese division of regular soldiers was
manoeuvring to corral them and their comrades. Three of the party in front
of me were coolies. The smart young soldier who stood at the right plainly
acted as sergeant, and had done his best to drill his comrades into
soldierly bearing. A seventh man now came in, unarmed, a Korean of the
better class, well dressed in the long robes of a gentleman, but thin,
sun-stained and wearied like the others.
A pitiful group they seemed--men already doomed to certain death, fighting
in an absolutely hopeless cause. But as I looked the sparkling eyes and
smiles of the sergeant to the right seemed to rebuke me. Pity! Maybe my
pity was misplaced. At least they were showing their countrymen an example
of patriotism, however mistaken their method of displaying it might be.
They had a story to tell, for they had been in the fight that morning, and
had retired before the Japanese. The Japanese had the better position, and
forty Japanese soldiers had attacked two hundred of them and they had given
way. But they had killed four Japanese, and the Japanese had only killed
two of them and wounded three more. Such was their account.
I did not ask them why, when they had killed twice as many as the enemy,
they had yet retreated. The real story of the fight I could learn later. As
they talked others came to join them--two old men, one fully eighty, an old
tiger-hunter, with bent back, grizzled face, and patriarchal beard. The two
newcomers carried the old Korean sporting rifles. Other soldiers of the
retreating force were outside. There was a growing tumult in the street.
How long would it be before the triumphant Japanese, following up their
victory, attacked the town?
I was not to have much peace that night. In the street outside a hundred
noisy disputes were proceeding between volunteers and the townsfolk. The
soldiers wanted shelter; the people, fearing the Japanese, did not wish to
let them in. A party of them crowded into an empty building adjoining the
house where I was, and they made the place ring with their disputes and
Very soon the officer who had been in charge of the men during the fight
that day called on me. He was a comparatively young man, dressed in the
ordinary long white garments of the better-class Koreans. I asked him what
precautions he had taken against a night attack, for if the Japanese knew
where we were they would certainly come on us. Had he any outposts placed
in positions? Was the river-way guarded? "There is no need for outposts,"
he replied. "Every Korean man around watches for us."
I cross-examined him about the constitution of the rebel army. How were
they organized? From what he told me, it was evident that they had
practically no organization at all. There were a number of separate bands
held together by the loosest ties. A rich man in each place found the
money. This he secretly gave to one or two open rebels, and they gathered
adherents around them.
He admitted that the men were in anything but a good way. "We may have to
die," he said. "Well, so let it be. It is much better to die as a free man
than to live as the slave of Japan."
He had not been gone long before still another called on me, a middle-aged
Korean gentleman, attended by a staff of officials. Here was a man of rank,
and I soon learned that he was the Commander-in-Chief for the entire
district. I was in somewhat of a predicament. I had used up all my food,
and had not so much as a cigar or a glass of whiskey left to offer him. One
or two flickering candles in the covered courtyard of the inn lit up his
care-worn face. I apologized for the rough surroundings in which I received
him, but he immediately brushed my apologies aside. He complained bitterly
of the conduct of his subordinate, who had risked an engagement that
morning when he had orders not to. The commander, it appeared, had been
called back home for a day on some family affairs, and hurried back to the
front as soon as he knew of the trouble. He had come to me for a purpose.
"Our men want weapons," he said. "They are as brave as can be, but you know
what their guns are like, and we have very little ammunition. We cannot
buy, but you can go to and fro freely as you want. Now, you act as our
agent. Buy guns for us and bring them to us. Ask what money you like, it
does not matter. Five thousand dollars, ten thousand dollars, they are
yours if you will have them. Only bring us guns!"
I had, of course, to tell him that I could not do anything of the kind.
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