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THE 



PASSING OF KOREA 



BY 

HOMER B. HULBERT 

A.M., F.R.G.S. 

Author of "The History of Korea," "Comparative Grammar 

OF Korean and Dravidian," "A Search for the 

Siberian Klondike," etc. 



Illustrated from Photographs 




LONDON 

William Heinemann 
1906 






1458^^5 



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/Wrtfi/ m New York, U. S. A. 



TO HIS MAJESTY 

THE EMPEROR OF KOREA 

AS A TOKEN OF HIGH ESTEEM AND A PLEDGE OF 

UNWAVERING ALLEGIANCE, AT A TIME WHEN 

CALUMNY HAS DONE ITS WORST AND 

JUSTICE HAS SUFFERED AN ECLIPSE 

AND 

TO THE KOREAN PEOPLE 

WHO ARE NOW WITNESSING THE PASSING OF OLD KOREA 

TO GIVE PLACE TO A NEW, WHEN THE SPIRIT OF THE 

NATION, QUICKENED BY THE TOUCH OF FIRE, 

SHALL HAVE PROVED THAT THOUGH 

** SLEEP IS THE IMAGE OF DEATH " 

IT IS NOT DEATH ITSELF 



PREFACE 



MANY excellent books have been written about Korea, each 
of them approaching the subject from a slightly different 
angle. In the present volume I have attempted to handle the 
theme from a more intimate standpoint than that of the casual 
tourist. 

Much that is contained in this present volume is matter that has 
come under the writer's personal observation or has been derived 
directly from Koreans or from Korean works. Some of this matter 
has already appeared in The Korea Review and elsewhere. The 
historical survey is a condensation from the writer's " History of 
Korea." 

This book is a labour of love, undertaken in the days of Korea's 
distress, with the purpose of interesting the reading public in a 
country and a people that have been frequently maligned and sel- 
dom appreciated. They are overshadowed by China on the one 
hand in respect of numbers, and by Japan on the other in respect 
of wit. They are neither good merchants like the one nor good 
fighters like the other, and yet they are far more like Anglo-Saxons 
in temperament than either, and they are by far the pleasantest 
people in the Far East to live amongst. Their failings are such as 
follow in the wake of ignorance everywhere, and the bettering of 
their opportunities will bring swift betterment to their condition. 

For aid in the compilation of this book my thanks are mainly 
due to a host of kindly Koreans from every class in society, from 
the silk-clad yangban to the fettered criminal in prison, from the 
men who go up the mountains to monasteries to those who go 
down to the sea in ships. 

H. B. H. 
New York, 1906. 



CONTENTS 

Page 

Introductory. The Proulem 3 

Chaptkr 

I. Where and what Korea is above and below Ground 10 

II. The People 27 

III. Government 45 

IV. Legendary and Ancient History 69 

V. Medieval History 78 

VI. The Golden Age of Korea and the Japanese Invasion 90 

VII. The Manchu Invasion and Early Christianiit . . . 103 

VIII. The Opening of Korea 114 

IX. The Assassination of the Queen 129 

X. The Independence Club 148 

XI. Russian Intrigue 169 

XII. The Japan- Russia War 185 

XIII. The Baitle of Chemulix) 199 

XIV. The Japanese in Korea 208 

XV. Revenue 225 

XVI. The Currency 234 

XVII. Architecture and Building 241 

XVIII. Transportation 252 

XIX. Korean Industries 269 

XX. Domestic and Foreign Trade 281 

XXI. Monuments and Reucs 288 

XXII. Language 300 



X CONTENTS 

Chapter Page 

XXIII. Literature 306 

XXIV. Music and Poetry ........'.... 314 

XXV. Art 330 

XXVI. Education 335 

XXVII. The Emperor of Korea 343 

XXVIII. Woman's PosmoN 349 

XXIX. Folk-lore 372 

XXX. Reugion and Superstition 403 

XXXI. Slavery 432 

XXXII. Funeral Procession — Geomancy 437 

XXXIII. BuRL^L Customs 445 

XXXIV. Modern Improvements 456 * 

XXXV. The Future of Korea 461 ' 

INDEX 467 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Emperor of Korea Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

The Faithful Fuel-Carriers of Korea i8 

Shoeing a Bull 20 

American Bridge across the Han 28 

A DANaxG-GiRL Posturing 40 

OnuM SINE Dignitate 62 

Reucs of Anoent Korea 72 

Three Bridges of Korea 74 

Ruins of "Golden Pagoda," Anqent Silla 82 

Bas-Reuef on Door of Ancient Silla Pagoda 82 

Astronomical Observatory of Ancient Silla 82 

The Marble Pagoda in Seoul 86 

A Buddhist Relic in the Solth 86 

The Late Regent, Prince Tai-Wun 116 

Buddhist Abbot ... 130 

A Picturesque Nook in the Old Palace . 132 

A Palace-Woman in Full Regalia 138 

Two of the Foreign Legations in Korea 150 

The Japanese Legation 190 

The French Legation Building 204 

Martial Law ■ 210 

Views of Picturesque Korea 216 

MiN YoNG Whan, Prince and General 222 

The Korean Farmer 226 

A Corner Grocery 244 

How they Shovel Dirt 246 

Building a Dirt Wall 248 



^^ xii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING PAGE 

Art and Religion 250 

Water-Carriers at a Neighbourhood Well 258 

The Shipyard 260 

Two Industries of Korea 264 

Automatic Water- Mill 266 

Hulling Rice 270 

Poultry Peddler 270 

Boys who Gather Grass for Fuel 272 

Dead Child Tied to Tree 272 

Placer Gold- Mining 274 

An Archery Tournament 278 

An Interesting Chess Problem 282 

Swinging 286 

Stone Dog, Guardl^ of Palace against Fire 290 

A Boundary Stone 294 

Symbols of Korea's Religion 296 

A Member of the Body-Guard of the God of War .... 302 

Village Devil- Posts 302 

Mural Decorations in Old Palace 332 

Woman's Correct Street Costume 354 

The Laundry 356 

Imperial " Funeral Baked Meats " 440 

A Prince's Tomb 448 

The South Gate, Seoul 450 

Stone Image near Tomb 452 

The American Methodist Church, Seoui 454 

Residence of the American Consul-General 458 



THE PASSING OF KOREA 



The Passing of Korea 



INTRODUCTORY 
THE PROBLEM 

THERE is a peculiar pathos in the extinction of a 
nation. Especially is this true when the nation is 
one whose history stretches back into the dim cen- 
turies until it becomes lost in a labyrinth of myth 
and legend ; a nation which has played an important part in the 
moulding of other nations and which is filled with monuments 
of past achievements. Kija, the founder of Korean civilisation, 
flourished before the reign of David in Jerusalem. In the fifth 
century after Christ, Korea enjoyed a high degree of civilisa- 
tion, and was the repository from which the half-savage tribes 
of Japan drew their first impetus toward culture. As time went 
on Japan was so fortunate as to become split up into numerous 
semi-independent baronies, each under the control of a so-called 
Daimyo or feudal baron. This resulted, as feudalism every- 
where has done, in the development of an intense personal 
loyalty to an overlord, which is impossible in a large state. If 
one were to examine the condition of European states to-day, 
he would find that they are enlightened just in proportion as the 
feudal idea was worked out to its ultimate issues, and wherever, 
as in southern Europe, the centrifugal power of feudalism was 
checked by the centripetal power of ecclesiasticism one finds a 
lower grade of enlightenment, education and genuine liberty. 
In other words, the feudal system is a chrysalis state from which 
a people are prepared to leap into the full light of free self- 
government. Neither China nor Korea has enjoyed that state, 
and it is therefore manifestly impbssible for them to effect any 
such startling change as that which transformed Japan in a 



4 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

single decade from a cruel and bigoted exclusiveness to an open 
and enthusiastic world-life. Instead of bursting forth full- 
winged from a cocoon, both China and Korea must be incu- 
bated like an tgg. 

It is worth while asking whether the ultimate results of a 
slow and laborious process like this may not in the end bring 
forth a product superior in essential respects to that which fol- 
lows the almost magical rise of modem Japan; or, to carry- 
out the metaphor, whether the product of an tgg is not likely 
to be of greater value than that of a cocoon. In order to a 
clear understanding of the situation it will be necessary to fol- 
low out this question to a definite answer. The world has been 
held entranced by the splendid military and naval achievements 
of Japan, and it is only natural that her signal capacity in war 
should have argued a like capacity along all lines. This has 
led to various forms of exaggeration, and it becomes the Ameri- 
can citizen to ask the question just what part Japan is likely to 
play in the development of the Far East. One must study the 
factors of the problem in a judicial spirit if he would arrive at 
the correct answer. The bearing which this has upon Korea 
will appear in due course. 

When in 1868 the power of the Mikado or Emperor of 
Japan had been vindicated in a sanguinary war against many 
of the feudal barons, the Shogunate was done away with once 
for all, and the act of centralising the government of Japan 
was complete. But in order to guard against insurrection it 
was deemed wise to compel all the barons to take up their resi- 
dence in Tokyo, where they could be watched. This necessi- 
tated the disbanding of the samurai or retainers of the barons. 
These samurai were at once the soldiers and the scholars of 
Japan. In one hand they held the sword and in the other a 
book; not as in medieval Europe, where the knights could but 
rarely read and write and where literature was almost wholly 
confined to the monasteries. This concentration of physical and 
intellectual power in the single class called samurai gave them 



THE PROBLEM 5 

far greater prestige among the people at large than was ever 
enjoyed by any set of men in any other land, and it conse- 
quently caused a wider gulf between the upper and lower classes # 
than elsewhere, for the samurai shared with no one the fear and 
the admiration of the common people. The lower classes cringed 
before them as they passed, and a samurai could wantonly kill 
a man of low degree almost without fear of consequences. 

When the barons were called up to Tokyo, the samurai were 
disbanded and were forbidden to wear the two swords which 
had always been their badge of office. This brought them face 
to face with the danger of falling to the ranks of the lower 
people, a fate that was all the more terrible because of the absurd 
height to which in their pride they had elevated themselves. 

At this precise juncture they were given a glimpse of the 
West, with its higher civilisation and its more carefully articu- 
lated system of political and social life. With the very genius 
of despair they grasped the fact that if Japan should adopt the 
system of the West all government positions, whether diplo- 
matic, consular, constabulary, financial, educational or judicial, 
whether military or civil, would naturally fall to them, and thus 
they would be saved from falling to the plane of the common 
people. Here, stripped of all its glamour of romance, is the 
vital underlying cause of Japan's wonderful metamorphosis. 
With a very few significant exceptions it was a purely selfish 
movement, conceived in the interests of caste distinction and 
propagated in anything but an altruistic spirit. The central 
government gladly seconded this proposition, for it immediately 
obviated the danger of constant disaffection and rebellion and 
welded the state together as nothing else could have done. The 
personal fealty which the samurai had reposed in his overlord 
was transferred, almost intact, to the central government, and 
to-day constitutes a species of national pride which, in the 
absence of the finer quality, constitutes the Japanese form of 
patriotism. 

From that day to this the wide distinction between the upper 



6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

and lower classes in Japan has been maintained. In spite of 
the fact of so-called popular or representative government, there 
can be no doubt that class distinctions are more vitally active 
in Japan than in China, and there is a wider social gap between 
them than anywhere else in the Far East, with the exception of 
India, where Brahmanism has accentuated caste. The reason 
for this lies deep in the Japanese character. When he adopted 
Western methods, it was in a purely utilitarian spirit. He gave 
no thought to the principles on which our civilisation is based. 
It was the finished product he was after and not the process. 
He judged, and rightly, that energy and determination were 
sufficient to the donning of the habiliments of the West, and he 
paid no attention to the forces by which those habiliments were 
shaped and fitted. The position of woman has experienced no 
change at all commensurate with Japan's material transforma- 
tion. Religion in the broadest sense is less in evidence than 
before the change, for, although the intellectual stimulus of 
the West has freed the upper classes from the inanities of the 
Buddhistic cult, comparatively few of them have consented to 
accept the substitute. Christianity has made smaller advances 
in Japan than in Korea herself, and everything goes to prove 
that Japan, instead of digging until she struck the spring of 
Western culture, merely built a cistern in which she stored up 
some of its more obvious and tangible results. This is shown 
in the impatience with which many of the best Japanese rtgard 
the present failure to amalgamate the borrowed product with 
the real underlying genius of Japanese life. It is one constant 
and growing incongruity. And, indeed, if we look at it ration- 
ally, would it not be a doubtful compliment to Western culture 
if a nation like Japan could absorb its intrinsic worth and enjoy 
its essential quality without passing through the long-centuried 
struggle through which we ourselves have attained to it? No 
more can we enter into the subtleties of an Oriental cult by a 
quick though intense study of its tenets. The self-conscious 
babblings of a Madam Blavatsky can be no less ludicrous to 



THE PROBLEM 7 

an Oriental Pundit than are the eflforts of Japan to vindicate 
her claim to Western culture without passing through the fur- 
nace which made that culture sterling. 

The highest praise must be accorded to the earnestness and 
devotion of Christian missionaries in Japan, but it is a fact deeply 
to be regretted that the results of their work are so closely con- 
fined to the upper classes. This fact throws light upon the state- 
ment that there is a g^eat gap between the upper and lower classes 
there. Even as we are writing, word comes from a keenly observ- 
ant traveller in Japan that everywhere the Buddhist temples 
are undergoing repairs. 

It is difficult to foresee what the resultant civilisation of 
Japan will be. There is nothing final as yet, nor have the con- 
flicting forces indicated along what definite lines the intense 
nationalism of the Japanese will develop. 

But let us look at the other side of the picture. Here is 
China, and with her Korea, for they are essentially one in gen- 
eral temper. They cling with intense loyalty to the past. They 
are thoroughly conservative. Now, how will you explain it? 
Some would say that it is pure obstinacy, a wilful blindness, 
an intellectual coma, a moral obsession. This is the easiest, and 
superficially the most logical, explanation. It saves time and 
trouble; and, after all, what does it matter? It matters much 
every way. It does not become us to push the momentous 
question aside because those people are contemptible. Four 
hundred millions are saved from contempt by their very num- 
bers. There is an explanation, and a rational one. 

One must not forget that these people are possessed of 
a social system that has been worked out through long cen- 
turies, and to such fine issues that every individual has his 
set place and value. The system is comprehensive, consistent 
and homogeneous. It diflfers widely from ours, but has suf- 
ficed to hold those peoples together and give them a national 
life of wonderful tenacity. There must be something in 
the system fundamentally good, or else it would not have held 



8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

together for all these centuries with comparatively so little 
modification. 

We have seen how the Japanese were shaken out of their 
long-centuried sleep by a happy combination of circumstances. 
There are doubtless possible combinations which might similarly 
aflfect China and Korea, but the difference in temperament 
between them and the Japanese renders it highly improbable that 
we shall ever see anything so spectacular as that which occurred 
in Japan. No two cults were ever more dissimilar than Con- 
fucianism and Buddhism; and if we were to condense into a 
single sentence the reason why China and Korea can never follow 
Japan's example it would be this : that the Chinese and Korean 
temperament followed the materialistic bent of Confucianism, 
while the Japanese followed the idealistic bent of Buddhism. 

Now, what if the West, instead of merely lending its super- 
ficial integuments to China and Korea, should leave all the 
harmless and inconsequential customs of those lands intact, and 
should attempt instead to reach down to some underlying moral 
and fundamental principle and begin a transformation from 
within, working outward; if, instead of carrying on campaigns 
against pinched feet and infanticide, we should strike straight 
at the root of the matter, and by giving them the secret of 
Western culture make it possible for them to evolve a new civ- 
ilisation embodying all the culture of the West, but expressed 
in terms of Oriental life and habit? Here would be an achieve- 
ment to be proud of, for it would prove that our culture is 
fundamental, and that it does not depend for its vindication 
upon the mere vestments of Western life. 

And herein lies the pathos of Korea's position; for, lying 
as she does in the grip of Japan, she cannot gain from that 
power more than that power is capable of giving — nothing 
more than the garments of the West. She may learn science 
and industrial arts, but she will use them only as a parrot uses 
human speech. There are American gentlemen in Korea who 
could lead you to country villages in that land where the fetich 



THE PROBLEM 9 

shrines have been swept away, where schools and churches have 
been built, and where the transforming power of Christianity 
has done a fundamental work without touching a single one 
of the time-honoured customs of the land; where hard-handed 
farmers have begun in the only genuine way to develop the 
culture of the West. That culture evinces itself in its ultimate 
forms of honesty, s)rmpathy, unselfishness, and not in the use 
of a swallow-tail coat and a silk hat. Which, think you, is the 
proper way to go about the rehabilitation of the East? The 
only yellow peril possible lies in the arming of the Orient with 
the thunder-bolts of the West, without at the same time giving 
her the moral forces which will restrain her in their use. 

The American public has been persistently told that the 
Korean people are a degenerate and contemptible nation, in- 
capable of better things, intellectually inferior, and better off 
under Japanese rule than independent. The following pages 
may in some measure answer these charges, which have been 
put forth for a specific purpose, — a purpose that came to full 
fruition on the night of November 17, 1905, when, at the point of 
the sword, Korea was forced to acquiesce " voluntarily " in the 
virtual destruction of her independence once for all. The reader 
will here find a narrative of the course of events which led up 
to this crisis, and the part that different powers, including the 
United States, played in the tragedy. 



^^ 



CHAPTER I 

WHERE AND WHAT KOREA IS ABOVE AND 
BELOW GROUND 

NEAR the eastern coast of Asia, at the forty-fourth 
parallel of latitude, we find a whorl of mountains 
culminating in a peak which Koreans call White 
Head Mountain. From this centre mountain ranges 
radiate in three directions, one of them going southward and 
forming the backbone of the Korean peninsula. The water- 
shed is near the eastern coast, and as the range runs southward 
it gradually diminishes in height until at last it is lost in the 
sea, and there, with its base in the water, it lifts its myriad 
heads to the surface, and confers upon the ruler of Korea the 
deserved title of " King of Ten Thousand Islands." A very 
large part of the arable land of Korea lies on its western side; 
all the long and navigable rivers are there or in the south; 
almost all the harbours are on the Yellow Sea. For this reason 
we may say that topographically Korea lies with her face toward 
China and her back toward Japan. This has had much to do 
in determining the history of the country. Through all the 
centuries she has set her face toward the west, and never once, 
though under the lash of foreign invasion and threatened ex- 
tinction, has she ever swerved from her allegiance to her Chinese 
ideal. Lacordaire said of Ireland that she has remained " free 
by the soul." So it may be said of Korea, that, although forced 
into Japan's arms, she has remained " Chinese by the soul." 

The climate of Korea may be briefly described as the same 
as that of the eastern part of the United States between Maine 
and South Carolina, with this one difference, that the prevail- 
ing southeast summer wind in Korea brings the moisture from 



KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND ii 

the warm ocean current that strikes Japan from the south, and 
precipitates it over almost the whole of Korea; so that there is 
a distinct " rainy season " during most of the months of July 
and August. This rainy season also has played an important 
part in determining Korean history. Unfortunately for navi- 
gation, the western side of the peninsula, where most of the 
good harbours are found, is visited by very high tides, and 
the rapid currents which sweep among the islands make this 
the most dangerous portion of the Yellow Sea. On the eastern 
coast a cold current flows down from the north, and makes both 
summer and winter cooler than on the western side. 

Though the surface of Korea is essentially mountainous, it 
resembles Japan very Uttle, for the peninsula lies outside the 
line of volcanoes which are so characteristic of the island empire. 
Many of the Korean mountains are evidently extinct volcanoes, 
especially White Head Mountain, in whose extinct crater now 
lies a lake. Nor 'does Korea suffer at all from earthquakes. 
The only remnants of volcanic action that survive are the occa- 
sional hot springs. The peninsula is built for the most part 
on a granite foundation, and the bare hill-tops, which appear 
everywhere, and are such an unwelcome contrast to the foliage- 
smothered hills of Japan, are due to the disintegration of the 
granite and the erosion of the water during the rainy season. 
But there is much besides granite in Korea. There are large 
sections where slate prevails, and it is in these sections that the 
coal deposits are found, both anthracite and bituminous. It is 
affirmed by the Korean people that gold is found in every one 
of the three hundred and sixty-five prefectures of the country. 
This doubtless is an exaggeration, but it is near enough the 
truth to indicate that Korea is essentially a granite formation, 
for gold is found, of course, only in connection with such for- 
mation. Remarkably beautiful sandstones, marbles and other 
building stones are met with among the mountains; and one 
town in the south is celebrated for its production of rock crystal, 
which is used extensively in making spectacle lenses. 



12 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The scenery of Korea as witnessed from the deck of a 
steamer is very uninviting, and it is this which has sent so 
many travellers home to assert that this country is a barren, 
treeless waste. There is no doubt that the scarcity of timber 
along most of the beaten highways of Korea is a certain 
blemish, though there are trees in moderate number everywhere ; 
but this very absence of extensive forests gives to the scenery 
a grandeur and repose which is not to be found in Japanese 
scenery. The lofty crags that lift their heads three thousand 
feet into the air and almost overhang the city of Seoul are 
alpine in their grandeur. There is always distance, openness, 
sweep to a Korean view which is quite in contrast to the pic- 
turesque coziness of almost all Japanese scenery. This, together 
with the crystal atmosphere, make Korea, even after only a few 
years' residence, a delightful reminiscence. No people surpass 
the Koreans in love for and appreciation of beautiful scenery. 
Their literature is full of it. Their nature poems are gems in 
their way. Volumes have been written describing the beauties 
of special scenes, and Korea possesses a geography, nearly five 
hundred years old, in which the beauties of each separate pre- 
fecture are described in minute detail, so that it constitutes a 
complete historical and scenic guide-book of the entire country. 

The vegetable life of Korea is like that of other parts of 
the temperate zone, but there is a striking preponderance of a 
certain kind of pine, the most graceful of its tribe. It forms 
a conspicuous element in every scene. The founder of the 
dynasty preceding the present one called his capital Song-do, 
or Pine Tree Capital. It is a constant theme in Korean art, 
and plays an important part in legend and folk-lore in general. 
Being an evergreen, it symbolises eternal existence. There are 
ten things which Koreans call the chang sang pul sa, or " long- 
lived and deathless." They are the pine-tree, tortoise, rock, 
stag, cloud, sun, moon, stork, water and a certain moss or 
lichen named " the ageless plant." Pine is practically the only 
wood used in building either houses, boats, bridges or any other 



KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 13 

structure. In poetry and imaginative prose it corresponds to the 
oak of Western literature. Next in importance is the bamboo, 
which, though growing only in the southern provinces, is used 
throughout the land and in almost every conceivable way. The 
domestic life of the Korean would be thrown into dire confu- 
sion were the bamboo to disappear. Hats are commonly made 
of it, and it enters largely, if not exclusively, into the con- 
struction of fans, screens, pens, pipes, tub-hoops, flutes, lanterns, 
kites, bows and a hundred other articles of daily use. Take 
the bamboo out of Korean pictorial art and half the pictures in 
the land would be ruined. From its shape it is the symbol of 
grace, and from its straightness and the regular occurrence of 
its nodes it is the symbol of faithfulness. The willow is one 
of the most conspicuous trees, for it usually grows in the vicinity 
of towns, where it has been planted by the hand of man. Thus 
it becomes the synonym of peace and contentment. The mighty 
row of willows near Pyeng-yang in the north is believed to 
have been planted by the great sage and coloniser Kija in 
1 122 B. c, his purpose being to influence the semi-savage people 
by this object-lesson. From that time to this Pyeng-yang has 
been known in song and story as " The Willow Capital." As 
the pine is the symbol of manly vigour and strength, so the 
willow is the synonym of womanly beauty and grace. Willow 
wood, because of its lightness, is used largely in making the 
clumsy wooden shoes which are worn exclusively in wet weather ; 
and chests are made of it when lightness is desirable. The 
willow sprays are used in making baskets of all kinds, so that 
this tree is, in many ways, quite indispensable. Another useful 
wood is called the paktal. It has been erroneously called the 
sandal-wood, which it resembles in no particular. It is very 
like the iron-wood of America, and is used in making the 
laundering clubs, tool handles, and other utensils which require 
great hardness and durability. It was under a paktal-tree that 
the fabled sage Tangun was found seated some twenty-three 
hundred years before Christ; so it holds a peculiar place in 



14 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Korean esteem. As the pine was the dynastic symbol of Koryu, 
918-1392, so the plum-tree is the symbol of this present dynasty. 
It was chosen because the Chinese character for plum is the 
same as that of the family name of the reigning house. It 
was for this cogent reason that the last king of the Koryu 
dynasty planted plum-trees on the prophetic site of the present 
capital, and then destroyed them all, hoping thereby to blight 
the prospects of the Yi family, who, prophecy declared, would 
become masters of the land. 

There are many hard woods in Korea that are used in the 
arts and industries of the people. Oak, ginko, elm, beech and 
other species are found in considerable numbers, but the best 
cabinet woods are imported from China. An important tree, 
found mostly in the southern provinces, is the paper-mulberry, 
broussonetai papyrifera, the inner bark of which is used exclu- 
sively in making the tough paper used by Koreans in almost 
every branch of life. It is celebrated beyond the borders of the 
peninsula, and for centuries formed an important item in the 
annual tribute to China and in the official exchange of goods 
with Japan. It is intrinsically the same as the superb Japanese 
paper, though of late years the Japanese have far surpassed 
the Koreans in its manufacture. The cedar is not uncommon 
in the country, but its wood is used almost exclusively for 
incense in the Buddhist monasteries. Box-wood is used for 
making seals and in the finer processes of the xylographic art, 
but for this latter purpose pear-wood is most commonly 
substituted. 

Korea is richly endowed with fruits of almost every kind 
common to the temperate zone, with the exception of the apple. 
Persimmons take a leading place, for this is the one fruit that 
grows to greater perfection in this country than in any other 
place. They grow to the size of an ordinary apple, and after 
the frost has touched them they are a delicacy that might be 
sought for in vain on the tables of royalty in the West. The 
apricot, while of good flavour, is smaller than the European 



KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 15 

or American product. The peaches are of a deep red colour 
throughout and are of good size, but are not of superior quality. 
Plums are plentiful and of fair quality. A sort of bush cherry 
is one of the commonest of Korean fruits, but it is not grown 
by grafting and is inferior in every way. Jujubes, pomegran- 
ates, crab-apples, pears and grapes are common, but are gen- 
erally insipid to Western taste. Foreign apples, grapes, pears, 
peaches, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants and 
other garden fruits grow to perfection in this soil. As for 
nuts, the principal kinds are the so-called English walnuts, 
chestnuts and pine nuts. We find also ginko and other nuts, 
but they amount to very little. 

The question of cereals is, of course, of prime importance. 
The Korean people passed immediately from a savage con- 
dition to the status of an agricultural community without the 
intervention of a pastoral age. They have never known any- 
thing about the uses of milk or any of its important products, 
excepting as medicine. Even the primitive legends do not ante- 
date the institution of agriculture in the peninsula. Rice was 
first introduced from China in 11 22 b. c, but millet had already 
been grown here for many centuries. Rice forms the staple 
article of food of the vast majority of the Korean people. In 
the northern and eastern provinces the proportion of other 
grains is more considerable, and in some few places rice is 
hardly eaten at all; but the fact remains that, with the excep- 
tion of certain mountainous districts where the construction of 
paddy-fields is out of the question, rice is the main article of 
food of the whole nation. The history of the introduction 
and popularisation of this cereal and the stories and poems that 
have been written about it would make a respectable volume. 
The Korean language has almost as many synonyms for it as 
the Arabic has for horse. It means more to him than roast 
beef does to an Englishman, macaroni to an Italian, or potatoes 
to an Irishman. There are three kinds of rice in Korea. One 
is grown in the water, another in ordinary fields, and another 



i6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

still on the sides of hills. The last is a smaller and harder 
variety, and is much used in stocking military granaries, for it 
will last eight or ten years without spoiling. The great enemies 
of rice are drought, flood, worms, locusts, blight and wind. 
The extreme difficulty of keeping paddy-fields in order in such 
a hilly country, the absolute necessity of having rains at a par- 
ticular time and of not having it at others, the great labour of 
transplanting and constant cultivation, — all these things con- 
spire to make the production of rice an incubus upon the Korean 
people. Ask a Louisiana rice-planter how he would like to 
cultivate the cereal in West Virginia, and you will discover 
what it means in Korea. But in spite of all the difficulties, 
the Korean clings to his favourite dish, and out of a hundred 
men who have saved up a little money ninety-nine will buy 
rice-fields as being the safest investment. Korean poetry teems 
with allusions to this seemingly prosaic cereal. The following 
is a free translation of a poem referring to the different species 
of rice: 

The earth, the fresh warm earth, by heaven's decree, 

Was measured out, mile beyond mile afar ; 

The smiling face which Chosun first upturned 

Toward the o*er-arching sky is dimpled still 

With that same smile ; and nature's kindly law, 

In its unchangeability, rebukes 

The fickle fashions of the thing called Man. 

The mountain grain retains its ancient shape, 

Lx>ng-waisted, hard and firm ; the rock-ribbed hills. 

On which it grows, both form and fibre yield. 

The lowland grain still sucks the fatness up 

From the rich fen, and delves for gold wherewith 

To deck itself for Autumn's carnival. 

Alas for that rude swain who nothing recks 

Of nature's law, and casts his seedling grain 

Or here or there regardless of its kind. 

For him the teeming furrow gapes in vain 

And dowers his granaries with emptiness. 

To north and south the furrowed mountains stretch, 

A wolf gigantic, crouching to his rest. 

To east and west the streams, like serpents lithe, 

Glide down to seek a home beneath the sea. 



KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 17 

The South — warm mother of the race — pours out 
Her wealth in billowy floods of grain. The North — 
Stem foster-mother — yields her scanty store 
By hard compulsion ; makes her children pay 
For bread by mintage of their brawn and blood. 



Millet is the most ancient form of food known in Korea, 
and it still forms the staple in most places where rice will not 
grow. There are many varieties of millet, all of which flourish 
luxuriantly in every province. It is a supplementary crop, in 
that it takes the place of rice when there is a shortage in that 
cereal owing to drought or other cause. Barley is of great 
importance, because it matures the earliest in the season, and so 
helps the people tide over a period of scarcity. A dozen vari- 
eties of beans are produced, some of which are eaten in con- 
nection with rice, and others are fed to the cattle. Beans form 
one of the most important exports of the country. Wheat is 
produced in considerable quantities in the northern provinces. 
Sesamimi, sorghimi, oats, buckwheat, linseed, com and a few 
other grains are found, but in comparatively small quantities. 

As rice is the national dish, we naturally expect to find 
various condiments to go with it. Red-peppers are grown 
everywhere, and a heavy kind of lettuce is used in making 
the favourite sauerkraut, or kimchi, whose proximity is detected 
without the aid of the eye. Turnips are eaten raw or pickled. 
A kind of water-cress called minari plays a secondary part 
among the side dishes. In the summer the people revel in 
melons and canteloupes, which they eat entire or imperfectly 
peeled, and even the presence of cholera hardly calls a halt to 
this dangerous indulgence. Potatoes have long been known to 
the Koreans, and in a few mountain sections they form the 
staple article of diet. They are of good quality, and are largely 
eaten by foreign residents in the peninsula. Onions and garlic 
abound, and among the well-to-do mushrooms of several vari- 
eties are eaten. Dandelions, spinach and a great variety of 
salads help the rice to " go down." 



i8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Korea is celebrated throughout the East for its medicinal 
plants, among which ginseng, of course, takes the leading place. 
The Chinese consider the Korean ginseng far superior to any- 
other. It is of two kinds, -^ the mountain ginseng, which is so 
rare and precious that the finding of a single root once in 
three seasons suffices the finder for a livelihood; and the ordi- 
nary cultivated variety, which differs little from that found in 
the woods in America. The difference is that in Korea it is 
carefully cultivated for six or seven years, and then after being 
gathered it is put through a steaming process which gives it 
a reddish tinge. This makes it more valuable in Chinese esteem, 
and it sells readily at high prices. It is a government monopoly, 
and nets something like three hundred thousand yen a year. 
Liquorice root, castor beans and scores of other plants that 
figure in the Western pharmacopoeia are produced, together 
with many that the Westerner would eschew. 

The Koreans are great lovers of flowers, though compara- 
tively few have the means to indulge this taste. In the spring 
the hills blush red with rhododendrons and azaleas, and the 
ground in many places is covered with a thick mat of violets. 
The latter are called the " savage flower," for the lobe is sup- 
posed to resemble the Manchu queue, and to the Korean every 
Manchu is a savage. The wayside bushes are festooned with 
clematis and honeysuckle, the alternate white and yellow blossoms 
of the latter giving it the name " gold and silver flower." The 
lily-of-the-valley grows riotously in the mountain dells, and 
daffodils and anemones abound. The commonest garden flower 
is the purple iris, and many official compounds have ponds 
in which the lotus gjows. The people admire branches of 
peach, plum, apricot or crab-apple as yet leafless but cov- 
ered with pink and white flowers. The pomegranate, snow- 
ball, rose, hydrangea, chrysanthemum and many varieties of 
lily figure largely among the favourites. It is pathetic to 
see in the cramped and unutterably filthy quarters of the 
very poor an effort being made to keep at least one plant 




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KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 19 

alive. There is hardly a hut in Seoul where no flower is 
found. 

As for animal life, Korea has a generous share. The mag- 
nificent bullocks which carry the heavy loads, draw the carts and 
pull the ploughs are the most conspicuous. It is singular that 
the Koreans have never used milk or any of its products, though 
the cow has existed in the peninsula for at least thirty-five 
hundred years. This is one of the proofs that the Koreans 
have never been a nomadic people. Without his bullock the 
farmer would be all at sea. No other animal would be able to 
drag a plough through the adhesive mud of a paddy-field. Great 
mortality among cattle, due to pleuro-pneumonia, not infre- 
quently becomes the main cause of a famine. There are no 
oxen in Korea. Most of the work is done with bullocks, which 
are governed by a ring through the nose and are seldom 
obstreperous. Every road in Korea is rendered picturesque by 
long lines of bullocks carrying on their backs huge loads of 
fuel in the shape of grass, fagots of wood or else fat bags 
of rice and barley. As might be expected, cowhides are an 
important article of export. 

The Korean pony is unique, at least in Eastern Asia. It 
is a little larger than the Shetland pony, but is less heavily 
built. Two thousand years ago, it is said, men could ride these 
animals under the branches of the fruit trees without lowering 
the head. They differ widely from the Manchu or Japanese 
horse, and appear to be indigenous — unless we may believe the 
legend that when the three sages arose from a fissure in the 
ground in the island of Quelpart three thousand years ago, 
each of them found a chest floating in from the south and 
containing a colt, a calf, a pig, a dog and a wife. The pony 
is not used in ploughing or drawing a cart, for it is not heavy 
enough for such work, but it is used under the pack and under 
the saddle, frequently under both, for often the traveller packs 
a huge bundle on the pony and then seats himself on top, so 
that the animal forms but a vulgar fraction of the whole 



20 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

ensemble. Foreigners of good stature frequently have to raise 
the feet from the stirrup when riding along stony roads. Yet 
these insignificant beasts are tough and long-suffering, and will 
carry more than half their own weight thirty-five miles a day, 
week in and week out. 

As in all Eastern countries, the pig is a ubiquitous social 
factor. We use the word " social " advisedly, for in country vil- 
lages at least this animal is always visible, and frequently under 
foot. It is a small black breed, and is so poorly fed as to have 
practically no lateral development, but resembles the "razor- 
backs '* of the mountain districts of Tennessee. Its attenuated 
shape is typical of the concentrated character of its porcine 
obstinacy, as evidenced in the fact that the shrewd Korean 
farmer prefers to tie up his pig and carry it to market on 
his own back rather than drive it on foot. 

Korea produces no sheep. The entire absence of this animal, 
except as imported for sacrificial purposes, confirms the suppo- 
sition that the Koreans have never been a pastoral people. 
Foreigners have often wondered why they do not keep sheep 
and let them graze on the uncultivable hillsides which form 
such a large portion of the area of the country. The answer 
is manifold. Tigers, wolves and bears would decimate the 
flocks. All arable land is used for growing grain, and what 
grass is cut is all consumed as fuel. It would therefore be 
impossible to winter the sheep. Furthermore, an expert sheep 
man, after examining the grasses common on the Korean hill- 
sides, told the writer that sheep could not eat them. The turf 
about grave sites and a few other localities would make good 
grazing for sheep, but it would be quite insufficient to feed any 
considerable number even in summer. 

The donkey is a luxury in Korea, being used only by well- 
to-do countrymen in travelling. Its bray is out of all propor- 
tion to its size, and one really wonders how its frame survives 
the wrench of that fearful blast. 

Reputable language is hardly adequate to the description of 




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O 

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KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 21 

the Korean dog. No family would be complete without one ; 
but its bravery varies inversely as the square of its vermin, 
which is calculable in no known terms. This dog is a wolfish 
breed, but thoroughly domesticated. Almost every house has 
a hole in the front door for his accommodation. He will lie 
just inside, with his head protruding from the orifice and his 
eyes rolling from sidQ to side in the most truculent manner. If 
he happens to be outside and you point your finger at him, 
he rushes for this hole, and bolts through it at a pace which 
seems calculated to tear off all the hair from his prominent 
angles. Among certain of the poorer classes the flesh of the 
dog is eaten, and we have in mind a certain shop in Seoul 
where the purveying of this delicacy is a specialty. We once 
shot a dog which entertained peculiar notions about the privacy 
of our back yard. The gateman disposed of the remains in a 
mysterious manner and then retired on the sick-list for a few 
days. When he reappeared at last, with a weak smile on his 
face he placed his hand on his stomach and affirmed with evi- 
dent conviction that some dogs are too old for any use. But, 
on the whole, the Korean dog is cleared of the charge of use- 
lessness by the fact that he acts as scavenger in general, and 
really does much to keep the city from becoming actually 
uninhabitable. 

The cat is almost exclusively of the back-fence variety, and 
is an incorrigible thief. It is the natural prey of the ubiquitous 
dog and the small boy. Our observation leads us to the sad 
but necessary conclusion that old age stands at the very bottom 
of the list of causes of feline mortality. 

So much for domestic animals. Of wild beasts the tiger 
takes the lead. The general notion that this animal is found 
only in tropical or semi-tropical countries is a mistake. The 
colder it is and the deeper the snow, the more he will be in evi- 
dence in Korea. Country villages frequently have a tiger trap 
of logs at each end of the main street, and in the winter time 
these are baited with a live animal, — pig for choice. The tiger 



22 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

attains a gcx)d size, and its hair is thick and long. We have seen 
skins eleven and a half feet long, with hair two inches and more 
in length. This ugly beast will pass through the streets of a 
village at night in the dead of winter, and the people are fortu- 
nate if he does not break in a door and carry away a child. No 
record is kept of the mortality from this cause, but it is probable 
that a score or more of people perish annually in this way. 
Legend and story are full of the ravages of the tiger. He is 
supposed to be able to imitate the human voice, and thus lure 
people out of their houses at night. Koreans account for the 
fierceness of his nature by saying that in the very beginning of 
things the Divine Being offered a bear and a tiger the opportunity 
of becoming men if they would endure certain tests. The bear 
passed the examination with flying colours, but the tiger suc- 
cumbed to the trial of patience, and so went forth the greatest 
enemy of man. 

Deer are common throughout the land, and at the proper 
season they are eagerly sought for because of their soft horns, 
which are considered of great medicinal value. Wealthy Koreans 
who are ailing often go among the mountains with the hope of 
being in at the death of a young buck, and securing a long 
draught of the warm blood, which they look upon as nearly 
equivalent to the fountain of eternal youth. The exercise required 
for this is in itself enough to make an ill man well, so the fiction 
about the blood is not only innocent but valuable. 

The bear is found occasionally, but is of a small breed and 
does comparatively little damage. The wild boar is a formidable 
animal, and is considered fully as dangerous to meet as the tiger, 
because it will charge a supposed enemy at sight. We have seen 
specimens weighing well toward four hundred pounds and with 
formidable tushes. The fox is found in every town and district 
in the country. It is the most detested of all things. It is the 
epitome of treachery, meanness and sin. The land is full of 
stories of evil people who turned out to be foxes in the disguise 
of human form. And of all foxes the white one is the worst, 



KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 23 

but it is doubtful whether such has ever been seen in Korea. Tra- 
dition has no more opprobrious epithet than " fox." Even the 
tiger is less dangerous, because less crafty. The wolf is com- 
paratively little known, but occasionally news comes from some 
distant town that a child has been snatched away by a wolf. 
The leopard is another supposedly tropical animal that flour- 
ishes in this country. Its skin is more largely used than that 
of the tiger, but only officials of high rank are allowed the 
luxury. 

Among lesser animals are found the badger, hedgehog, 
squirrel, wildcat, otter, weasel and sable. The last is highly 
prized for its skin, but it is of poorer quality than that of the 
Siberian sable. At the same time many handsome specimens 
have been picked up here. The Koreans value most highly the 
small spot of yellow or saffron that is found under the throat 
of the sable. We have seen whole garments made of an almost 
countless number of such pieces. Naturally it takes a small for- 
tune to acquire one of them. 

For its bird life, especially game birds, Korea is deservedly 
famous. First cc«nes the huge bustard, which stands about four 
feet high and weighs, when dressed, from twenty to thirty 
pounds. It is much like the wild turkey, but is larger and gamier. 
The beautiful Mongolian pheasant is found everywhere in the 
countr)', and in winter it is so common in the market that it 
brings only half the price of a hen. Within an hour of Seoul 
one can find excellent pheasant shooting at the proper season. 
Ducks of a dozen varieties, geese, swan and other aquatic birds 
abound in such numbers that one feels as if he were taxing the 
credulity of the reader in describing them. In the winter of 1891 
the ducks migrated apparently in one immense flock. Their 
approach sounded like the coming of a cyclone, and as they 
passed, the sky was completely shut out from view. It would 
have been impossible to get a rifle bullet between them. They 
do not often migrate this way, but flocks of them can be seen in 
all directions at almost any time of day during the season. Even 



24 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

as we write, information comes that a party of three men 
returned from two days* shooting with five hundred and sixty 
pounds of birds. Quail, snipe and other small birds are found 
in large quantities, but the hunter scorns them in view of the 
larger game. Various kinds of storks, cranes and herons find 
abundance of food in the flooded paddy-fields, where no one 
thinks of disturbing them. One of the sights of Seoul is its airy 
scavengers, the hawks, who may be seen sometimes by the score 
sailing about over the town. Now and again one of them will 
sweep down and seize a piece of meat from a bowl that a woman 
is carrying home on her head. It is not uncommon to see small 
boys throwing dead mice into the air to see the hawks swoop 
down and seize them before they reach the ground. 

Korea contains plenty of snakes, but none of them are spe- 
cially venomous, although there are some whose bite will cause 
considerable irritation. Many snakes live among the tiles of 
the roofs, where they subsist on the sparrows that make their 
nests under the eaves. These snakes are harmless fellows, and 
when you see one hanging down over your front door in the 
dusk of evening it should cause no alarm. The people say, and 
believe it too, that if a snake lives a thousand years it assumes 
a short and thick shape and acquires wings, with which it flies 
about with inconceivable rapidity, and is deadly not only because 
of its bite, but if a person even feels the wind caused by its light- 
ning flash as it speeds by he will instantly die. Formerly, 
according to Korean tradition, there were no snakes in Korea; 
but when the wicked ruler Prince Yunsan (1495-1506) had 
worn himself out with a life of excesses, he desired to try the 
eflfect of keeping a nest of , snakes under his bed, for he had heard 
that this would restore lost vitality. So he sent a boat to India, 
and secured a cargo of selected ophidians, and had them brought 
to Korea. The cargo was unloaded at Asan; but it appears 
that the stevedores had not been accustomed to handle this kind 
of freight, and so a part of the reptiles made their escape into 
the woods. From that time, so goes the tale, snakes have existed 



KOREA ABOVE AND BELOW GROUND 25 

here as elsewhere. Unfortunately no one has ever made a study 
of serpent worship in Korea, but there appears to be some reason 
to believe that there was once such a cult. The Koreans still 
speak of the op-kuregi, or " Good Fortune Serpent " ; and as 
most of the natives have little other religion than that of praying 
to all kinds of spirits for good luck, it can hardly be doubted that 
the worship of the serpent in some form has existed in Korea. 

Though there are no deadly snakes in the country, there are 
insects that annually cause considerable loss of life. The centi- 
pede attains a growth of six or seven inches, and a bite frc«n one 
of them may prove fatal, if not attended to at once. The Koreans 
cut up centipedes and make a deadly drink, which they use, as 
hemlock was used in Greece, for executing criminals. This has 
now gone out of practice, however, thanks to the enlightening 
contact with Westerners, who simply choke a man to death with 
a rope ! Among the mountains it is said that a poisonous spider 
is found ; but until this is verified we dare not vouch for it. 

The tortoise plays an important part in Korq^n legend and 
story. He represents to the Korean mind the principle of healthy 
conservatism. He is never in a hurry, and perhaps this is why 
the Koreans look upon him with such respect, if not affection. 
All animals in Korea are classed as good or bad. We have 
already said that the fox is the worst. The tiger, boar, frog and 
mouse follow. These are all bad; but the bear, deer, tortoise, 
cOw and rabbit are all gfood animals. 

More important than all these, except cattle, are the fish of 
Korea. The waters about the peninsula swarm with fish of a 
hundred kinds. They are all eaten by the people, even the sharks 
and the octopi. The commonest is the ling, which is caught in 
enormous numbers off the east coast, and sent all over the country 
in the dried form. Various kinds of clams, oysters and shrimps 
are common. Whales are so numerous off the eastern coast that 
a flourishing Japanese ccwnpany has been employed in catching 
them of late years. Pearl oysters are found in large numbers 
along the southern coast, and the pearls would be of considerable 



26 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

value if the Koreans knew how to abstract them from the shells 
in a proper manner. 

But fish and pearls are not the only sea-products that the 
Korean utilises. Enormous quantities of edible seaweed are 
gathered, and the sea-slug, or beche-de-mer, is a particular deli- 
cacy. The Koreans make no use of those bizarre dishes for 
which the Chinese are so noted, such as birds' nests and the like. 
Their only prandial eccentricity is boiled dog, and that is strictly 
confined to the lowest classes. 



CHAPTER II 
THE PEOPLE 

THE study of the origin and the ethnological affinities 
of the Korean people is yet in its infancy. Not until 
a close and exhaustive investigation has been made 
of the monuments, the folk-lore, the language and 
all the other sources of information can anything be said defi- 
nitely upon this question. It will be in place, therefore, to 
give here the tentative results already arrived at, but without 
dogmatising. 

Oppert was the first to note that in Korea there are two types 
of face, — the one distinctly Mongolian, and the other lacking 
many of the Mongolian features and tending rather to the Malay 
type. To the new-comer all Koreans look alike; but long resi- 
dence among them brings out the individual peculiarities, and 
one comes to recognise that there are as many kinds of face here 
as in the West. Dr. Baelz, one of the closest students of Far 
Eastern physiognomy, recognises the dual nature of the Korean 
type, and finds in it a remarkable resemblance to a similar feature 
of the Japanese, among whom we learn that there is a certain 
class, probably descendants of the ancient Yamato race, which 
has preserved to a great extent the same non-Mongolian cast of 
features. This seems to have been overlaid at some later time 
by a Polynesian stock. The ethnological relation between the 
non-Mongolian tjrpe in Korea and the similar type in Japan is 
one of the most interesting racial problems of the Far East. 
I feel sure that it is the infusion of this type into Korea and Japan 
that has differentiated these peoples so thoroughly from the 
Chinese. 

Five centuries before Christ, northern Korea and southern 



28 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Korea were very clearly separated. The Kija dynasty in the 
north had consolidated the people into a more or less homo- 
geneous state, but this kingdom never extended south further 
than the Han River. At this time the southern coast of the 
peninsula was peopled by a race differing in essential particulars 
from those of the north. Their language, social system, govern- 
ment, customs, money, ornaments, traditions and religion were 
all quite distinct from those of the north. Everything points 
to the belief that they were maritime settlers or colonists, and 
that they had come to the shores of Korea from the south. 

The French missionaries in Korea were the first to note a 
curious similarity between the Korean language and the lan- 
guages of the Dravidian peoples of southern India. It is well 
established that India was formerly inhabited by a race closely 
allied to the Turanian peoples, and that when the Aryan con- 
querors swept over India the earlier tribes were either driven in 
flight across into Burmah and the Malay Peninsula, or were 
iforced to find safety among the mountains in the Deccan. From 
the Malay Peninsula we may imagine them spreading in various 
directions. Some went north along the coast, others into the 
Philippine Islands, then to Formosa, where Mr. Davidson, the 
best authority, declares that the Malay type prevails. The power- 
ful " Black Current," the Gulf Stream of the Pacific, naturally 
swept northward those who were shipwrecked. The Liu-Kiu 
Islands were occupied, and the last wave of this great dispersion 
broke on the southern shores of Japan and Korea, leaving there 
the nucleus of those peoples who resemble each other so that if 
dressed alike they cannot be distinguished as Japanese or Korean 
even by an expert. The small amount of work that has been 
so far done indicates a striking resemblance between these south- 
ern Koreans and the natives of Formosa, and the careful com- 
parison of the Korean language with that of the Dravidian 
peoples of southern India reveals such a remarkable similarity, 
phonetic, etymologic, and syntactic, that one is forced to recognise 
in it something more than mere coincidence. The endings of 




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THE PEOPLE 29 

many of the names of the ancient colonies in southern Korea are 
the exact counterpart of Dravidian words meaning " settlement " 
or "town." The endings -caster and -coin in English are no 
more evidently from the Latin than these endings in Korea are 
from the Dravidian. 

The early southern Koreans were wont to tattoo their bodies. 
The custom has died out, since the more rigorous climate of the 
peninsula compels the use of clothing covering the whole body. 
The description of the physiological features of those Dravidian 
tribes which have suffered the least from intermixture with others 
coincides in every particular with the features of the Korean. 
Of course it is impossible to go into the argument in extenso 
here ; but the most reasonable conclusion to be arrived at to-day 
is that the peninsula of Korea is inhabited by two branches 
of the same original family, a part of which came around 
China by way of the north, and the other part by way of the 
south. 

As we see in the historical review given elsewhere in these 
pages, the southern kingdom of Silla was the first to obtain 
control of the entire peninsula and impose her laws and language, 
and it is for this reason that the language to-day reflects much 
more of the southern stock than of the northern.^ 

Characteristics 

In discussing the temperament and the mental characteristics 
of the Korean people, it will be necessary to begin with the trite 
saying that human nature is the same the world over. The new- 
comer to a strange country like this, where he sees so many 
curious and, to him, outlandish things, feels that the people are 
in some way essentially different from himself, that they suffer 
from some radical lack; but if he were to stay long enough to 
learn the language, and get behind the mask which hides the 

^ A full description of the linguistic affinities of Korean to the Dravidian dia- 
lects will be found in the author's Comparative Grammar of Korean and Dravidian. 



30 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

genuine Korean from his mental view, he would find that the 
Korean might say after old Shylock, " I am a Korean. Hath 
not a Korean eyes? Hath not a Korean hands, organs, dimen- 
sions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt 
with the same weapons? subject to the same diseases? healed 
with the same means? warmed and cooled by the same summer 
and winter as the Westerner is ? If you prick us, do we not bleed ? 
If you tickle us, do we not laugh ? If you poison us, do we not 
die? And if you wrong us, shall we not be revenged ? " In other 
words, he will find that the differences between the Oriental and 
the Occidental are wholly superficial, the outcome of training and 
environment, and not of radical dissimilarity of temperament. 
But there is this to be said: it is far easier to get close to a 
Korean and to arrive at his point of view than to get close to 
a Japanese or a Chinese. Somehow or other there seems to be 
a greater temperamental difference between the Japanese or 
Chinese and the Westerner than between the Korean and the 
Westerner. I believe the reason for this lies in the fact of the 
different balance of temperamental qualities in these different 
peoples. The Japanese are a people of sanguine temperament. 
They are quick, versatile, idealistic, and their temperamental 
sprightliness approaches the verge of volatility. This quality 
stood them in good stead when the opportunity came for them 
to make the great volte face in 1868. It was a happy leap in 
the dark. In the very same way the Japanese often embarks upon 
business enterprises, utterly sanguine of success, but without 
forecasting what he will do in case of disaster. The Chinese, 
on the other hand, while very superstitious, is comparatively 
phlegmatic. He sees no rainbows and pursues no ignes fatui. 
He has none of the martial spirit which impels the Japanese to 
deeds of patriotic daring. But he is the best business man in the 
world. He is careful, patient, persevering, and content with 
small but steady gains. No one knows better than he the ultimate 
evil results of breaking a contract. Without laying too much 
emphasis upon these opposite tendencies in the Japanese and 



THE PEOPLE 31 

Chinese, we may say that the former lean toward the idealistic, 
while the latter lean toward the utilitarian. The temperament 
of the Korean lies midway between the two, even as his country 
lies between Japan and China. This combination of qualities 
makes the Korean rationally idealistic. Those who have seen 
the Korean only superficially, and who mark his unthrifty habits, 
his happy-go-lucky methods, his narrowness of mind, will think 
my characterisation of him flattering; but those who have gone 
to the bottom of the Korean character, and are able to distin- 
guish the true Korean from some of the caricatures which have 
been drawn of him, will agree that there is in him a most happy 
combination of rationality and emotionalism. And more than 
this, I would submit that it is the same combination that has 
made the Anglo-Saxon what he is. He is at once cool-headed 
and hot-headed. He can reason calmly and act at white heat. 
It is this welding of two different but not contrary characteris- 
tics that makes the power of the Anglo-Saxon peoples. It will 
be necessary to show, therefore, why it is that Korea has done 
so little to justify the right to claim such exceptional qualities. 
But before doing this, I would adduce a few facts to show on 
what my claim is based. 

In the first place, it is the experience of those who have had 
to do with the various peoples of the Far East that it is easier 
to understand the Korean and get close to him than it is to 
understand either the Japanese or the Chinese. He is much more 
like ourselves. You lose the sense of difference very readily, and 
forget that he is a Korean and not a member of your own race. 
This in itself is a strong argument; for it would not be so if 
there were not some close intellectual, or moral, or tempera- 
mental bond of sympathy. The second argument is a religious 
one. The religions of China were forced upon Korea irrespective 
of her needs or desires. Confucianism, while apparently satis- 
factory to a man utterly devoid of imagination (a necessary 
instrument to be used in the work of unifying great masses of 
population, by anchoring them to the dead bones of their ances- 



32 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

tors), can be nothing less than contemptible to a man possessed 
of actual humour. Two things have preserved the uniform politi- 
cal solidarity of the Chinese Empire for the last three thousand 
years, — the sacred ideograph and the ancestral grave. But 
Confucianism is no religion ; it is simply patriarchal law. That 
law, like all other civil codes, received its birth and nutriment 
from the body politic of China by natural generation. But the 
Korean belongs to a different intellectual and temperamental 
species, and thus the law which was bone of China's bone and 
flesh of her flesh was less than a foster-child to Korea. Its 
entire lack of the mystical element renders it quite incapable of 
satisfying the religious cravings of such a people as the Koreans. 
Buddhism stands at the opposite pole from Confucianism. It is 
the most mystical of all cults outside the religion of the Nazarene. 
This is why it has become so strongly intrenched in Japan. While 
Confucianism leaves nothing to the imagination. Buddhism 
leaves everything. The idealism of the Japanese surrendered to 
it, and we may well believe that when Buddhism is driven to bay 
it will not be at Lhasa, the home of the Lamas, but at Nara or 
at Nikko. Here again that rational side of the Korean tempera- 
ment came in play. While Confucianism contained too little 
mysticism for him, Buddhism contained too much ; and so, while 
nominally accepting both, he made neither of them a part of 
himself. 

It is said that when a company of Tartar horsemen capture 
one of the enemy they bury him to the neck in the earth, pack the 
dirt firmly about him so that he can move neither hand nor foot, 
place a bowl of water and a bowl of food just before his face, 
and leave him to die of hunger, thirst or sunstroke, or to be 
torn by wolves. This is the way, metaphorically, in which Korea 
was treated to religions. Both kinds were placed before her very 
face, but she could partake of neither. The sequel is important. 
The Christian religion was introduced into Korea by the Roman 
Catholics about a century ago, and by Protestants two decades 
ago. The former made considerable advance in spite of terrible 



THE PEOPLE 33 

persecution, but their rate of advance was slow compared with 
what has been done by the Protestant missionaries. I make bold 
to say that the Christian religion, shorn of all trappings and 
embellishments of man's making, appeals perfectly to the ration- 
ally emotional temperament of the Korean. And it is to some 
extent this perfect adaptability which has won for Christianity 
such a speedy and enthusiastic hearing in this country. Chris- 
tianity is at once the most rational and the most mystical of reli- 
gions, and as such is best fitted, humanly speaking, to appeal to 
this people. This, of course, without derogation from its uni- 
versal claims. One has but to consult the records of modem 
missions to see what a wonderful work has been done in this 
land by men who are presumably no more and no less devoted 
than those at work in other fields. 

Being possessed, then, of a temperament closely allied to that 
of the Anglo-Saxon, what has caused the present state of intel- 
lectual and moral stagnation? Why is it that most people look 
upon the Korean as little better than contemptible ? It is because 
in the sixth and seventh centuries, when Korea was in her forma- 
tive stage, when she was just ready to enter upon a career of inde- 
pendent thought and achievement, the ponderous load of Chinese 
civilisation was laid upon her like an incubus. She knew no 
better than to accept these Chinese ideals, deeming in her igno- 
rance that this would be better than to evolve ideals of her own. 
From that time to this she has been the slave of Chinese thought. 
She lost all spontaneity and originality. To imitate became her 
highest ambition, and she lost sight of all beyond this contracted 
horizon. Intrinsically and potentially the Korean is a man of 
high intellectual possibilities, but he is, superficially, what he is 
by virtue of his training and education. Take him out of this 
environment, and give him a chance to develop independently 
and naturally, and you would have as good a brain as the Far 
East has to offer. 

Korea is a good illustration of the great influence which 
environment exerts upon a people's mental and moral character- 



34 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

istics. I am not sure that the conservatism of either the Korean 
or the Chinese is a natural characteristic. The population of 
China is so vast and so crowded, social usages have become so 
stereotyped, the struggle for bare existence is so keen, that the 
slightest disturbance in the running of the social machine is sure 
to plunge thousands into immediate destitution and despair. At 
this point lies the enormous difficulty of reforming that country. 
It is like a huge machine, indescribably complicated, and so deli- 
cately adjusted that the variation of a hair's-breadth in any part 
will bring the whole thing to a standstill. Let me illustrate. 
There are a great many foreigners in China who are trying to 
evolve a phonetic system of writing for that country. It is 
a most laudable undertaking; but the system which has received 
most approbation is one in which our Roman letters are used 
to indicate the various sounds of that language. But these letters 
are made by the use of straight and curved lines, the latter being 
almost exclusively used in ordinary writing. Now we know 
that over two thousand years ago the Chinese discarded a system 
based upon curved lines, because it was found impossible to make 
them readily with the brush pen, universally used throughout 
the Far East. The introduction of a system containing a large 
proportion of curved lines implies, therefore, that the brush pen 
will be laid aside in favour of a hard pen, either in the form of 
our Western pen or in some similar form. Note the result. The 
use of a metal pen and fluid ink will do away with the brush i>en, 
and will aflfect the industry whereby a million people make an 
already precarious living. The manufacture of india ink will 
likewise go to the wall. The paper now used in all forms of 
writing will be useless, and a very few, if any, of the manufac- 
turing plants now in operation can be utilised for the manu- 
facture of the hard, calendered paper which is needed for use 
with the steel pen. Moreover, the ink-stones, water-cups, writing- 
tablets, and all the other paraphernalia in use at the present time 
will have to be thrown away, and all the people engaged in the 
manufacture of these things will be deprived of their means of 



THE PEOPLE 35 

support. All this is likely to happen if the system proposed is 
to become the general rule. Note how far-reaching even such 
a seemingly small change as this will be. It might be possible 
if there were any margin upon which all these people could sub- 
sist during the process of change; but there is none. It is for 
this reason that the present writer has urged that the Chinese 
people be invited to adopt the Korean alphabet, which is as simple 
in structure as any, and capable of the widest phonetic adapta- 
tion. It is a " square " character, and could therefore be written 
with the brush pen, as it is to-day by the Korean. The same 
paper, ink, and other apparatus now in use in China could be 
retained, and the only work to be done in introducing it is to 
overcome the sentimental prejudice of the Chinese in favour of 
the ideograph. It would affect the daily occupation of almost 
no Chinese workmen at all. This illustration has gone too far; 
but it will help to show how firmly these customs have sunk their 
roots in the soil of these nations, and it shows that conservatism 
has become a necessity of life, however much one might wish to 
get rid of it. But let us get back to Korea. 

The Korean is highly conservative. One of his proverbs is 
that "If you try to shorten the road by going across lots, you 
will fall in with highwaymen." This is a strong plea for stay- 
ing in the old ruts. His face is always turned back toward 
the past. He sees no statesmen, warriors, scholars or artists 
to-day that are in any way comparable with those of the olden 
times; nor does he even believe that the present is capable of 
evolving men who are up to the standard of those of former 
times. 
•^ But in spite of all this, he can be moved out of his conservatism 
by an appeal to his self-interest. The introduction of friction 
matches will illustrate this point. The Korean was confined to 
the use of flint and steel until about thirty years ago ; but when 
matches entered the country in the wake of foreign treaties, he 
saw almost at once that they were cheaper and better in every 
way than his old method, and he adopted them without the least 



36 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

remonstrance. There were a few fossils who clung to the flint 
and steel out of pure hatred of the new article, but they were 
laughed at by the overwhelming majority. The same is true of 
the introduction of petroleum, sewing-needles, thread, soap and 
a thousand other articles of daily use. The same is true in 
China. There is no conservatism that will stand out against 
self-interest. 

And here we touch a second characteristic of the Korean. 
It cannot be truthfully said that the Korean is niggardly. It has 
been the opinion of most who have had intimate dealings with 
him that he is comparatively generous. He is generally lavish 
with his money when he has any, and when he has none he is 
quite willing to be lavish with some one else's money. Most 
foreigners have had a wider acquaintance with the latter than 
with the former. He is no miser. He considers that money is 
made to circulate, and he does his best to keep it from stagna- 
tion. He thinks that it is not worth getting unless it can be 
gotten easily. I doubt whether there is any land where the 
average citizen has seen greater ups and downs of pecuniary 
fortune. Having a handsome competence, he invests it all in 
some wild venture at the advice of a friend, and loses it all. He 
gfrumbles a little, but laughs it off, and saunters along the street 
with as much unconcern as before. It went easily — he will get 
some more as easily. And, to tell the truth, he generally does. 
It is simply because there are plenty more as careless as himself. 
He is undeniably improvident; but there is in it all a dash of 
generosity and a certain scorn of money which make us admire 
him for it, after all. I have seen Koreans despoiled of their 
wealth by hideous official indirection which, in the Anglo-Saxon, 
would call for mob law instantly ; but they carried it off with a 
shrug of the shoulders and an insouciance of manner which 
would have done credit to the most hardened denizen of Wall 
Street. I am speaking here of the average Korean, but there are 
wide variations in both directions. There are those who hoard 
and scrimp and whine for more, and there are those who are 



THE PEOPLE fiA 

not only generous but prodigal. Foreigners are unfavourably 
impressed by the willingness with which the Korean when in 
poor circumstances will live on his friends ; but this is to a large 
extent offset by the willingness with which he lets others live 
on him when he is in flourishing circumstances. Bare chance 
plays such a prominent part in the acquisition of a fortune here, 
that the favoured one is quite willing to pay handsomely for his 
good luck. And yet the Korean people are not without thrift. 
If a man has money, he will generally look about for a safe place 
to invest it. It is because the very safest places are still so unsafe 
that fortune has so much to do with the matter. He risks his 
money with his eyes wide open. He stands to win largely or 
lose all. An investment that does not bring in forty per cent a 
year is hardly satisfactory, nor should it be satisfactory, since 
the chances of loss are so great that the average of gain among 
a score of men will probably be no more than in our own lands. 
Why the chances of loss are so great will be discussed in its 
proper place. 

Another striking characteristic of the Korean is his hospi- 
tality. This is a natural sequence of his general open-handedness. 
The guest is treated with cordial courtesy, whatever differences 
of opinion there may be or may have been between them. For 
the time being he is a guest, and nothing more. If he happens 
to be present at the time for the morning or afternoon meal, it is 
de rigeur to ask him to have a table of food ; and many a man 
IS impoverished by the heavy demands which are made upon 
his hospitality. Not that others have knowingly taken undue 
advantage of his good nature, but because his position or his 
business and social connections have made it necessary to keep 
open house, as it were. A Korean gentleman of my acquaint- 
ance, who can live well on twenty dollars a month in the country, 
recently refused a salary of twice that sum in Seoul on the plea 
that he had so many friends that he could not live on that amount. 
Seoul is very ill-supplied with inns ; in fact, it has very little use 
for them. Everyone that comes up from the country has a 



38 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

friend with whom he will lodge. It must be confessed that there 
are a considerable number of young men who come up to Seoul 
and stay a few days with each of their acquaintances in succes- 
sion ; and if they have a long enough calling list, they can man- 
age to stay two or three years in the capital free of board and 
lodgings. Such a man finally becomes a public nuisance, and 
his friends reluctantly snub him. He a lways takes this hint 
and retires to his country home. I say that they reluctantly snub 
him, for the Korean is mortally afraid of being called stingy. 
You may call him a liar or a libertine, and he will laugh it off; 
but call him mean, and you flick him on the raw. Hospitality 
toward relatives is specially obligatory, and the abuse of it forms 
one of the most distressing things about Korea. The moment 
a man obtains distinction and wealth he becomes, as it were, the 
social head of his clan, and his relatives feel at liberty to visit 
him in shoals and stay indefinitely. They form a sort of social 
body-guard, — a background against which his distinction can 
be well displayed. If he walks out, they are at his elbow to 
help him across the ditches; if he has any financial transactions 
to arrange, they take the onerous duty off his hands. Meanwhile 
every hand is in his rice-bag, and every dollar spent pays toll to 
their hungry purses. It amounts to a sort of feudal communism, 
in which every successful man has to divide the profits with his 
relatives. 

Another marked characteristic of the Korean is his pride. 
There are no people who will make more desperate attempts to 
keep up appearances. Take the case of one of our own nouveaux 
riches trying in every way to insinuate himself into good society, 
and you will have a good picture of a countless multitude of 
Koreans. In spite of the lamentable lack of effort to better their 
intellectual status or to broaden their mental horizon, there is 
a passionate desire to ascend a step on the social ladder. Put the 
average Korean in charge of a few dollars, even though they be 
not his own, or give him the supervision of the labour of a few 
men, — anything that will put him over somebody either physi- 



THE PEOPLE 39 

cally or financially, and he will swell almost to bursting. Any 
accession of importance or prestige goes to his head like new 
wine, and is liable to make him very offensive. This unfortunate 
tendency forms one of the greatest dangers that has to be faced 
in using Koreans, whether in business, educational or religious 
lines. There are brilliant exceptions to this rule, and with better 
education and environment there is no reason to suppose that 
even the average Korean would preserve so sedulously this un- 
pleasant quality. It is true of Korea as of most countries, that 
offensive pride shows itself less among those who have cause for 
pride than among those who are trying to establish a claim to it. 
It is the impecunious gentleman — the man of good extraction 
but indifferent fortune — that tries your patience to the point 
of breaking. I was once acquainted with such a person, and he 
applied to me for work on the plea of extreme poverty. He was 
a gentleman, and would do no work of a merely manual nature, 
so I set him to work colouring maps with a brush pen. This is 
work that any gentleman can do without shame. But he would 
come to my house and bury himself in an obscure comer to do 
the work, and would invent all sorts of tricks to prevent his 
acquaintances from discovering that he was working. I paid 
him in advance for his work, but he soon began to shirk it and 
still apply for more money. When I refused to pay more till 
he had earned what he had already received, he left in high 
dudgeon, established himself in a neighbouring house, and sent 
letter after letter, telling me that he was starving. I replied that 
he might starve if he wished ; that there was money for him if 
he would work, and not otherwise. The last note I received 
announced that he was about to die, and that he should use all 
his influence on the other side of the grave to make me regret 
that I had used him so shabbily. I think he did die ; but as that 
was fifteen years ago, and I have not yet begun to regret my 
action, I fear he is as shiftless in the land of shades as he was 
here. This is an extreme but actual case, and could doubtless 
be duplicated by most foreigners living in Korea. 



40 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The other side of the picture is more encouraging. There is 
the best of evidence that a large number of well-bom people die 
annually of starvation because they are too proud to beg or even 
to borrow. This trait is embalmed in almost countless stories 
telling of how poor but worthy people, on the verge of starvation, 
were rescued from that cruel fate by some happy turn of fortune. 
In the city of Seoul there is one whole quarter almost wholly^ 
given up to residences of gentlemen to whom fortune has given 
the cold shoulder. It lies under the slopes of South Mountain, 
and you need only say of a man that he is a " South Ward 
Gentleman " to tell the whole story. Ordinarily the destitute 
gentleman does not hesitate to borrow. The changes of for- 
tune are so sudden and frequent that he always has a plausible 
excuse and can make voluble promises of repayment. To his 
credit be it said that if the happy change should come he would 
be ready to fulfil his obligations. It has to be recorded, how- 
ever, that only a very small proportion of those who borrow from , 
foreigners ever experience that happy change. There are several 
ways to deal with such people: the first is to lend them what . 
they want ; the second is to refuse entirely ; and the third is to 
do as one foreigner did, — when the Korean asked for the loan 
of ten dollars, he took out five and gave them to him, saying, " I 
will give this money to you rather than lend you ten. By so doing 
I have saved five dollars, and you have gotten that much without 
having to burden your memory with the debt." To the ordinary 
Korean borrower this would seem like making him a beggar, and 
he never would apply to the same source for another loan. 

In the matter of truthfulness the Korean measures well up to 
the best standards of the Orient, which at best are none too high. 
The Chinese are good business men, but their honesty is of the 
kind that is based upon policy and not on morals. Among the 
common people of that land truthfulness is at a sad discount. 
It is largely so in all Far Eastern countries, but there are different 
kinds of untruthfulness. Some people lie out of pure malicious- 
ness and for the mere fun of the thing. The Koreans do not 




A DANCING-GIRL POSTURING 



THE PEOPLE 41 

belong to this class ; but if they get into trouble, or are faced by 
some sudden emergency, or if the success of some plan depends 
upon a little twisting of the truth, they do not hesitate to enter 
upon the field of fiction. The difference between the Korean and 
the Westerner is illustrated by the different ways they will act 
if given the direct lie. If you call a Westerner a liar, it is best 
to prepare for emergencies ; but in Korea it is as common to use 
the expression " You are a liar ! " as it is to say " You don't 
say! " " Is it possible! " or " What, really? " in the West. A 
Korean sees about as much moral turpitude in a lie as we see 
in a mixed metaphor or a split infinitive. 

As for morality in its narrower sense, the Koreans allow ^ 
themselves great latitude. There is no word for home in their 
language, and much of the meaning which that word connotes 
is lost to them. So far as I can judge, the condition of Korea 
to-day as regards the relations of the sexes is much like that of 
ancient Greece in the days of Pericles. There is much similarity 
between the kisang (dancing-girl) of Korea and the hetairai of 
Greece. But besides this degraded class, Korea is also afflicted 
with other and, if possible, still lower grades of humanity, from 
which not even the most enlightened countries are free. The 
comparative ease with which a Korean can obtain the necessities 
of life makes him subject to those temptations which follow in 
the steps of leisure and luxury, and the stinging rebuke which a 
Japanese envoy administered at a banquet in Seoul in 1591, when 
the dancing-girls indulged in a disgraceful scramble for some 
oranges that were thrown to them, was not wholly undeserved. 
To-day there is little, if anything, to choose between Korea and 
Japan in this matter of private morals, the geisha of Japan being 
the exact counterpart of the kisang of Korea, while the other 
and still less reputable members of the demi monde are too low 
the world over to require classification. This much must be said 
in favour of the Koreans, that this depraved class is not recog- 
nised by law and advertised by segregation. But on this point, 
of course, publicists differ. 



42 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Every people has its own special way of fighting. The 
English and French are as thoroughly differentiated in this as 
are the Japanese and Koreans. Street quarrels are extremely 
common, but they seldom result in any great damage. Two 
stout coolies, the worse for wine, will begin disputing over some 
trivial matter, and indulge in very loud and very bad langfuage, 
which, in spite of their close proximity to each other, is delivered 
at the very top of their voices and with an energy quite volcanic. 
Our Western oaths, though more heinous on account of the intro- 
duction of the name of the Deity, are in other respects mild 
compared with the flood of filth which pours from the lips of an 
angry Korean. Not only are these epithets entirely tmquotable, 
but even their nature and subject-matter could not be mentioned 
with propriety. The very fact that people are allowed to use 
such language in public without being immediately arrested and 
lodged in jail is a sufficient commentary on the sad lack not 
only of delicacy but of common decency among the lowest classes 
in Korea. 

After the vocabulary of abuse has been exhausted the two 
contestants clinch with each other, each attempting to grasp the 
other by the toj)-knot, which forms a most convenient handle. 
To clench the fist and strike a blow is almost unknown. Each 
man having secured his hold, they begin pulling each other down, 
all the time wasting their breath in mad invective. They kick 
at each other's abdomens with their heavy hobnailed shoes; and 
when one of them goes down, he is likely to be kicked to death 
by the other unless the onlookers intervene, which is usually the 
case. The Koreans are great peacemakers, and it is seldom that 
a quarrel between two individuals results in a free fight. The 
crowd does not take sides readily, but one of the friends of each 
of the fighters comes up behind him and throws his arms about 
him and attempts to drag him away; or the peacemaker will 
get between the two contestants and push with all his might, 
expostulating as hard as he can. It is really amusing to see two 
men roused to a point of absolute frenzy attempting to get at 



THE PEOPLE 43 

each other across the shoulders of two men who are pushing 
them apart as hard as ever they can. The angry man will never 
offer violence to the one who is acting as peacemaker, but he is 
like a bulldog held in leash, while his antagonist is yapping at 
him frantically but futilely from the other side of the ring. 
When genuinely angry, the Korean may be said to be insane. 
He is entirely careless of life, and resembles nothing so much as 
a fanged beast. A fine froth gathers about his mouth and adds 
much to the illusion. It is my impression that there is com- 
paratively little quarrelling unless more or less wine has been 
consumed. In his cups he is more Gaelic than Gallic. Unfor- 
tunately this ecstasy of anger does not fall upon the male sex 
alone, and when it takes possession of a Korean woman she be- 
comes the impersonation of all the Furies rolled into one. She 
will stand and scream so loud that the sound finally refuses to 
come from her throat, and she simply retches. Every time I see 
a woman indulging in this nerve-racking process I marvel that 
she escapes a stroke of apoplexy. It seems that the Korean, 
from his very infancy, makes no attempt to control his temper. 
The children take the habit from their elders, and if things do 
not go as they wish they fly into a terrible passion, which either 
gains its end or gradually wears itself out. 

The callousness which the Koreans exhibit in the presence of 
suffering, especially the suffering of animals, is a trait which 
they share with all Orientals. Most dumb animals have no way 
of showing that they are suffering unless the pain be extreme, 
and the Koreans seem to have argued from this that these ani- 
mals do not suffer; at any rate, they show an utter unconcern 
even when the merest novice could see that the beast was suffer- 
ing horribly. If a sick cat or a lame dog or a wounded bird is 
seen upon the street, the children, young and old, arm themselves 
with sticks and stones and amuse themselves with the thing until 
life is extinct. They take great pleasure in catching insects, pull- 
ing their legs or wings off, and watching their ludicrous motions. 
Dragon-flies and beetles are secured by a string about the body. 



44 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

and allowed to fly or jump as far as the string will permit, after 
which they are dragged back to the hand. Young sparrows that 
have fallen from the nests beneath the eaves are passed from hand 
to hand, their half-grown plumage is coloured with different 
tints, and at last, of course, they die of exhaustion. When an 
unfortunate dog is dragged down the street with a rope around 
its neck to the dog-meat shop, it will be followed by a jubilant 
crowd of children, who enjoy a lively anticipation of seeing the 
poor thing struggle in the mortal throes of strangulation. 

There is one economic fact which goes far to explain the com- 
parative lack of thrift in Korea. The ratio of population to 
arable area is far smaller than in Japan or China, and conse- 
quently, so long as Korea was closed to outsiders, the average 
of common comfort among the people was higher than in either 
of the two contiguous countries. Mendicancy was almost un- 
known; rice was frequently so common that the records say 
people could travel without cost. In other words, it required far 
less work to secure a comfortable living than elsewhere in the 
Orient. The people were not driven to thrift as an inexorable 
necessity. From the purely economic standpoint the Taiwunkun 
was right, and the opening of Korea was the worst thing that 
could happen ; but from the moral and intellectual standpoint the 
change was for the best, for it will in time bring out long dor- 
mant qualities which otherwise would have suffered permanent 
eclipse. 

There are traits of mind and heart in the Korean which the 
Far East can ill afford to spare; and if Japan should allow the 
nation to be overrun by, and crushed beneath, the wheels of a 
selfish policy, she would be guilty of an international mistake of 
the first magnitude. 



CHAPTER III 

GOVERNMENT 

SO far as we can judge from the annals of the land, the 
form of government which prevails to-day has existed 
in all its fundamental particulars from the most ancient 
times. We know very little of how the coimtry was 
governed previous to the time of the great influx of Chinese 
ideas in the seventh and eighth centuries, but of this we may be 
sure, that it was an absolute monarchy. At the first the King was 
called by the title Kosogan, which was changed to Yisagum and 
Maripkan, These titles, one or all, prevailed until the over- 
whelming tide of Chinese influence broke down all indigenous 
laws and the term Wang came to be applied. But even thus the 
common people clung to their native term for king in ordinary 
discourse, and even to this day he calls his sovereign the Ingum. 
This is a shortened form of the ancient Yisagum. 

In one sense the power of the ruler of Korea is absolute ; but 
as power depends entirely upon the two factors, information and 
instrument, it is far from true that he can do as he wishes in all 
thingp. If there is a divinity that hedges kings about, she has 
surely done her work thoroughly in Korea. Though no divine 
honours are done the King (now Emperor) of Korea, yet the sup- 
posed veneration of his person is so great that he must keep him- 
self very closely secluded, the result being that all his commands 
are based upon information provided by his immediate attend- 
ants and officials. Then again, in the carrying out of these 
commands, the very same officials must be used who gave the 
information, and it would be difficult for him to find out whether 
the spirit as well as the letter of the command had been carried 
out. Granted, then, that his information be accurate and his 



46 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

instruments loyal, it may be said that Korea is an absolute mon- 
archy. You will be told that there is a written constitution by 
which the ruler is himself circumscribed, and it is true that some 
such book exists ; but it may be taken for granted that unwritten 
law and precedent have much more to do with curtailing the 
prerogatives of kinghood than any written law. Time out of 
mind the kings of Korea have taken the bit in their teeth and 
gone according to their own inclinations, irrespective of any 
written or unwritten law; and it is beyond question that no 
such tradition or law ever stood in the way if there was any 
strong reason for going counter to it. Of course this could 
not be done except by the acquiescence of the officials immedi- 
ately about the King's person. 

There have been three phases in the history of Korean gov- 
ernment. All through the early years, from the opening of 
our era until the beginning of the present dynasty in 1392, the 
civil and military branches of the government were so evenly 
balanced that there was always a contest between them for the 
favour of the King and the handling of the government. The 
power of sacerdotalism complicated things during the Koryu 
dynasty, and by the time Koryu came to its end the condition of 
things was deplorable. Confucian sympathisers, Buddhist sjmi- 
pathisers, and military leaders had carried on a suicidal war 
with each other, until the people hardly knew who it was that 
they could look to for government. And in fact during those 
last years the country governed itself very largely. There was 
one good result from this, that when Yi T'a-jo took hold of 
things in 1392 he found no one faction powerful enough to 
oppose him in his large scheme for a national reform. From 
that time the civil power came to its rightful place of supremacy 
and the military dropped behind. This was an immense benefit 
to the people, for it meant progress in the arts of peace. The 
first two centuries of the present dynasty afford us the pleasantest 
picture of all the long years of Korea's life. The old evils had 
been done away and the new ones had not been bom. It was the 



GOVERNMENT 47 

Golden Age of Korea. In the middle of the sixteenth century 
arose the various political parties whose continued and san- 
guinary strife has made the subsequent history of Korea such 
unpleasant reading. The Japanese invasion also did great harm, 
for besides depleting the wealth of the country and draining its 
best and worthiest blood, it left a crowd of men who by their 
exertions had gained a special claim upon the government, and 
who pressed their claim to the point of raising up new barriers 
between the upper and lower classes, which had not existed 
before. From that time on the goal of the Korean's ambition 
was to gain a place where, under the protection of the govern- 
ment, he might first get revenge upon his enemies and, secondly, 
seize upon their wealth. The law that was written in the statute 
books, that the King's relatives should not be given important 
positions under the government, came to be disregarded; the 
relatives of queens and even concubines were raised to the highest 
positions in the gift of the King; and as if this were not enough, 
eunuchs aspired to secure the virtual control of the mind of the 
sovereign, and time and again they have dictated important meas- 
ures of government. The common people constantly went down 
in the scale and the so-called yangban went up, until a condition 
of things was reached which formed the limit of the people's 
endurance. They took things into their own hands, and, without 
a national assembly or conference, enacted the law that popular 
riot is the ultimate court of appeal in Korea. Officialdom has 
come to accept and abide by that law, and if a prefect or gov- 
ernor is driven out of his place by a popular uprising the 
government will think twice before attempting to reinstate 
him. 

But we must go on to describe in brief and non-technical 
terms the elements which compose the Korean government. Im- 
mediately beneath the King (or Emperor) is the Prime Minister, 
with the Minister of the Left and Minister of the Right on either 
hand. Tliey form the ultimate tribunal of all affairs which affect 
the realm. But there is a special office, that of Censor, which is 



48 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

quite independent, and which ranks with that of Prime Minister. 
It is his function to scrutinise the acts of the Ministers of State 
and even of the King himself, and point out mistakes and dangers. 
As the Controller of the Currency in America has to examine all 
bills and give his approval before the money is paid, so these 
Censors have to take a final and dispassionate look at the gov- 
ernment measures before they go into operation. Below these, 
again, are the six great offices of state, coresponding to our 
Cabinet. These until recently comprised the ministries of the 
Interior, Law, Ceremonies, Finance, War and Industries. After 
describing their various functions we will explain the changes 
that have been made in recent years. The Prime Minister and 
his two colleagues attended to the private business of the King, 
superintended the appointment of officials, and took the lead in 
times of sudden calamity or trouble. They stood between the 
King and all the other officials of the government, and no meas- 
ures were adopted in any branch which did not come under their 
eye. The Department of the Interior, or Home Department as 
it is usually called, had charge of the whole prefectural system 
throughout the land, and was by far the most important of the 
ministries. It had much to say in the appointment of officials, 
for it had the preparation of the lists of nominees for most of 
the places under the government. It also had charge of the great 
national examinations, from among the successful competitors 
in which very many of the officials were chosen. The Law 
Department attended to the making and the mending of the laws, 
and closely connected with it was the Bureau of Police, which, 
although looking after the peace of the capital, carried out the 
requests of the Law Department in the matter of the detection 
and apprehension of criminals. The Police Department could 
do no more than carry on the preliminary examination of sus- 
pects, but for full trial and conviction it had to turn them over 
to the Law Department. The Ceremonial Department, as its 
name indicates, had charge of all government ceremonies, such 
as royal marriages, funerals and sacrifices. This was by no 



GOVERNMENT 49 

means a sinecure, for the elaborate ceremonies of former times 
taxed the ingenuity and patience of those who had them in charge, 
and mistakes were sure to be detected and punished, since the 
ceremonies were public spectacles. No one who has seen a royal 
procession in Seoul will doubt that the Minister of Ceremonies 
earned his salary. The Department of Finance collected all the 
taxes of the country, took the census and controlled the gran- 
aries in which the revenue was stored. In former times much 
of the revenue was paid in kind, and not only rice but other grain 
and all sorts of products were sent up to Seoul for the use of 
the royal household. All these the Finance Department had 
to receive, examine, approve and store away. The War Depart- 
ment had charge of the army and navy of Korea, superintended 
the great military examinations, controlled the broad lands that 
had been set aside for the use of the army, and collected the 
taxes thereon. The Industrial Department was the least con- 
sidered of all the great departments, but it was perhaps the busiest 
and most useful. It had charge of the preparation of all the 
" stage properties " of the government. It provided all the fur- 
nishings for royal functions, repaired the roads, kept the public 
buildings in order, and did any other odds and ends of work that 
it was called upon for. There was no Educational Department. 
The matter of education was joined with that of religion, and 
both were controlled by the Confucian School. This was directly 
responsible to the supreme head of the government through the 
Prime Minister. The foreign relations of Korea were so few 
and far between that no Foreign Office was established, but a 
little bureau of secondary rank attended to such affairs. The 
sending of the annual embassy to China was in the hands of the 
Ceremonial Department. 

This is the merest skeleton of the governmental body of 
Korea. There are almost countless bureaus and offices whose 
nature and duties form such a complicated mosaic that the expli- 
cation of them would only tire the reader. It should, however, 
be particularly noted that great changes have been introduced 



so THE PASSING OF KOREA 

since the opening of the country to foreign intercourse. In the 
first place, the Foreign Department has taken its place among the 
leading instruments of government ; an Educational Department 
has been established, co-ordinate in grade with the other great 
departments ; the Ceremonial Department has been rel^^ted 
to a secondary place, and the Police Bureau has advanced to a 
position of comparative prominence. 

We have seen that from the middle of the sixteenth century 
the barriers between the upper and lower classes were built 
higher and stronger, and the common people gradually got out 
of touch with the governing body. This was the cause of much 
of the subsequent trouble. Men of common extraction, however 
gifted, could not hope to reach distinction, and blueness of blood 
became the test of eligibility to office rather than genuine merit. 
The factional spirit added to this difficulty by making it certain 
that however good a statesman a man might be the other side 
would try to get his head removed from his shoulders at the 
first opportunity, and the more distinguished he became the 
greater would this desire be. From that time to this, almost 
all the really great men of Korea have met a violent death. 
But as all offices were filled with men who belonged to a sort 
of real nobility, the pride of place and the fear of having their 
honour brought in question did much to save the common people 
from the worst forms of oppression. The officials were arbi- 
trary and often cruel, but their meannesses were of a large 
order, such as yangbans could engage in without derogation 
from their good repute in the eyes of their peers. But this state 
of things began to show signs of disintegration early in the 
nineteenth century. The power of money in politics began to 
make itself felt, and the size of the purse came to figure more 
prominently in the question of eligibility for office; the former 
exclusiveness of the yangban gradually gave way, and the line 
of demarcation between the upper and lower classes was little 
by little obliterated, until at the end of the century there were 
men of low extraction who held important government offices. 



GOVERNMENT 51 

This worked evil every way, for such men knew that it was the 
power of money alone which raised them to eminence, and the 
old-time pride which kept indirection within certain bounds gave 
way to a shameless plundering of the people. Public offices 
were bought and sold like any other goods. There was a regu- 
lar schedule of the price of offices, ranging from fifty thousand 
dollars for a provincial governorship to five hundred dollars for 
a small magistrate's position. The handsome returns which this 
brought in to the veni^al officials at Seoul fed their cupidity, and, 
in order to increase these felonious profits, the tenure of office 
was shortened so as to make the payment of these enormous 
fees more frequent. Of course this was a direct tax upon the 
people, for each governor or prefect was obliged to tax the 
people heavily in order to cover the price of office and to feather 
his own nest during his short tenure of that office. The central 
government will not interfere with the fleecing policy of a pre- 
fect so long as he pays into the treasury the regular amount 
of taxation, together with any other special taxes that the gov- 
ernment may lay upon the people. In return for this non- 
interference in the prefect's little game the government only 
demands that if the prefect goes beyond the limit of the people's 
endurance, and they rise up and kill him or drive him from 
the place, neither he nor his family will trouble the government 
to reinstate him or obtain redress of any kind. It has come 
about, therefore, that the ability of a prefect is measured by 
the skill he shows in gauging the patience of the people and 
keeping the finger on the public pulse, like the inquisitors, in 
order to judge when the torture has reached a point where the 
endurance of the victim is exhausted. Why should the central 
government interfere in the man's behalf? The sooner he is 
driven from his place the sooner someone else will be found to 
pay for the office again. Of course there are many and bril- 
liant exceptions, and not infrequently the people of a district 
will seize the person of their prefect and demand that the gov- 
ernment continue him in his office for another term. They 



52 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

know a good thing when they see it, and they are willing to 
run a little risk of arrest and punishment in order to keep a 
fair-minded prefect. They virtually say, " We want this man 
for prefect, and if you send any other we will drive him out." 
The result is that there will be no one else that will care to pay 
the price of the office, and the government has to obey the 
command of the people, even though it means the loss of the 
fee for that time. In former years the prefect was chosen from 
among the people of the district where he was to govern. He 
belonged to a local family; and it is easy to see how there 
would be every inducement to govern with moderation, for 
indirection would injure not only the prefect's reputation, but 
would endanger the standing of the whole family. This was 
all done away with, however, and now the prefect is chosen 
from among the friends or relatives of some high official in 
Seoul, and is a sort of administrative free-lance bent upon the 
exploiting of his unknown constituency. He cares nothing what 
the people think of him, for as soon as he has squeezed them 
to the limit he will retire from office, and they will know him 
no more. 

If this were all that could be said of the country prefect, 
we should conclude that government is next to impossible in 
Korea, but the fact is that the power of the prefect is curtailed 
and modified in a very effective manner by means of his under 
officials, through whom he has to do his work. These men are 
called ajuns, and they act as the right-hand man and factotum 
of the prefect. Comparatively low though the position of the 
ajun may be, it can truthfully be said that he is the most 
important man in the administration of the Korean govern- 
ment. He deserves special mention. The word ajun has ex- 
isted for many centuries in Korea, and is a word of native 
origin. It originally meant any government officer, and was 
as applicable to the highest ministers of the state as to the 
lowest government employee; but when the administration 
changed to its present form, the selecting of prefects from the 



GOVERNMENT 53 

districts where they lived was given up and the irresponsible 
method of the present time was adopted. The old-time pre- 
fectural families however continued to hold their name of ajun, 
and the term gradually became narrowed to them alone. The 
newly appointed prefects, coming into districts that they knew 
nothing about, had to depend upon local help in order to get 
the reins of government in hand, and what more natural than 
that they should call upon the ajuns to help? So it came about 
that the old ajun class became a sort of hereditary advisorship 
to the local prefects in each district. 

Each prefecture is a miniature of the central government. 
The prefect becomes, as it were, the king of his little state, and 
the ajuns are his ministers. So closely is the resemblance 
carried out that each prefect has his six ministers; namely, of 
Interior, Finance, Ceremonies, War, Law and Industries. It 
is through these men that all the business is performed. The 
emperor can change his cabinet at will, and has thousands from 
whom to choose, but the prefect has no choice. He must pick 
his helpers only from the little band of ajuns in his district, of 
whom there may be anywhere from ten to a hundred. In any 
case his choice is greatly restricted. Now these ajuns are all 
from local families, and have not only their reputations to sup- 
port, but those of their families as well. It is this one thing 
that held the body politic of Korea together for so many cen- 
turies, in spite of the oppression and discouragements under 
which the people live. Foreigners have often wondered how 
the Koreans have been able to endure it, but they judge mostly 
from the gruesome tales told of the officials at the capital or 
of the rapacity of individual prefects. The reason of it all lies 
with the ajuns, who, like anchors, hold the ship of state to her 
moorings in spite of tides which periodically sweep back and 
forth and threaten to carry her upon the rocks. 

The general impression is that the ajuns are a pack of wolves, 
whose business it is to fleece the people, and who lie awake 
nights concocting new plans for their spoliation. This is a sad 



54 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

exaggeration. The Koreans put the matter in a nutshell when 
they say that a " big man '' will escape censure for great faults 
and will be lauded to the skies for small acts of merit, while 
the " little man's " good acts are taken for granted and his 
slightest mistakes are exaggerated. The ajun is the scapegoat 
for everyone's sins, the safety-valve which saves the boiler from 
bursting. It is right to pile metaphors upon him, for everybody 
uses him as a dumping-ground for their abuse. No doubt there 
are many bad ajuns, but if they were half as bad as they are 
painted the people would long ago have exterminated them. 
They are fixtures in their various districts, and if they once 
forfeit the good-will of the people they cannot move away to 
" pastures new," but must suffer the permanent consequences. 
Their families and local interests are their hostages, and their 
normal attitude is not that of an oppressor, but that of a buffer 
between the people and the prefect. They must hold in check 
the rapacity of the prefect with one hand and appease the exas- 
peration of the people with the other. Since it is their business 
to steer between these two, neither of whom can possibly be 
satisfied, uphold their own prestige with the prefect and at the 
same time preserve the good-will of the people, is it any wonder 
that we hear only evil of them? 

The ajun is no simple yamen-runner who works with his 
own hands. He superintends the doing of all official business, but 
is no mere servant. He is necessarily a man of some degree of 
education, for he has to do all the clerical work of the office 
and keep the accounts. Not infrequently the best scholars of 
the district are found among these semi-officials. It is they 
who influence most largely the popular taste and feeling, for 
they come into such close touch with the common people that 
the latter take the cue from them most readily. They hold in 
their hands the greatest possibilities for good or evil. If they 
are good, it will be practically impossible for a bad prefect to 
oppress the people; and if they are bad, it will be equally impos- 
sible for a good prefect to govern well. They can keep the 



GOVERNMENT 55 

prefect well-informed or ill-informed, and thus infltience his 
commands; and even after the commands are issued they can 
frustrate them, for the execution of the orders of their superior 
is entirely in their hands. It is when both ajun and prefect 
are bad together and connive at the spoliation of the people that 
serious trouble arises. This is often enough the case ; but, as we 
have seen, the ajun always has the curb of public opinion upon 
him, and oppression in any extreme sense is the exception rather 
than the rule. 

The temptations of the ajun are very great. The whole 
revenue of the district passes through his hands, and it would 
be surprising if some of it did not stick to them. The prefect 
wants all that he can get, and watches the ajun as closely as 
he can ; and at the same time the latter is trying to get as much 
out of the people as he may, not only for the prefect but for 
himself as well. He is thus between two fires. The people are 
ever trying to evade their taxes and jump their revenue bills. 
It is truly a case of diamond cut diamond. The qualities neces- 
sary to become a successful ajun make a long and formidable 
list. He must be tactful in the management of the prefect, 
exact in his accounts, firm and yet gentle with the people, 
resourceful in emergencies, masterful in crises, quick to turn to 
his advantage every circumstance, and in fact an expert in all 
the tricks of the successful politician. One of his most brilliant 
attainments is the ability to make excuses. If the people charge 
him with extortion, he spreads out expostulatory hands and says 
it is the prefect's order; and if the prefect charges him with 
short accounts, he bows low and swears that the people are 
squeezed dry and can give no more. 

We have already shown that there is a " dead line," beyond 
which the people will not let the prefect go in his exactions. 
For the most part the official is able to gauge the feeling of 
the populace through the ajuns, but now and then he fails to do 
so. The people of the north are much quicker to take offence 
and show their teeth than those in the south. I remember once 



56 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

in 1890 the governor of the city of Pyeng-yang sent some of his 
ajuns down into the town to collect a special and illegal tax 
from the merchants of a certain guild. The demand was pre- 
ferred, and the merchants, without a moment's hesitation, rose 
up en masse, went to the*house of the ajun who brought the 
message, razed it to the ground and scattered the timbers up and 
down the street. This was their answer, and the most amusing 
part of it was that the governor never opened his mouth in 
protest or tried to coerce them. He had his argument ready. 
The ajmis should have kept him informed of the state of public 
opinion; if they failed to do so, and had their houses pulled 
down about their ears, it was no affair of his. It was a good 
lesson to the ajuns merely. In another place the prefect came 
down from Seoul stuffed full of notions about governing with 
perfect justice and showing the people what enlightened gov- 
ernment was like. Not a cent was squeezed for two months, 
and so of course there were no pickings for the ajuns. They 
looked knowingly at each other, but praised the prefect to his 
face. Not long after this they came down upon the people 
with demands that were quite unheard-of, and almost tearfully 
affirmed that they had no option. They knew the poor people 
could not stand it, but they must obey the prefect. That night 
a few hundred of the people armed themselves with clubs and 
came down the street toward the prefect's quarters breathing 
slaughter. The good magistrate was told that the wicked peo- 
ple were up in arms and that flight was his only hope. Well, 
the bewildered man folded his tents like the Arabs and as 
silently stole away, leaving the ajuns to chuckle over their easy 
victory. But it was playing with fire, for in the course of time 
the people learned that they had been cheated out of an honest 
prefect, and they made it particularly warm for those wily 
ajuns. 

After making all allowances for the Oriental point of view, 
it must be confessed that the pursuit of justice is often much like 
a wild-goose chase. The law exists and the machinery of jus- 



GOVERNMENT 57 

tice is in some sort of running order, but the product is very 
meagre. In order to explain this I shall have to suppose a few 
cases. If a man of the upper class has anything against a man 
of the lower class, he simply writes out the accusation on a 
piece of paper and sends it to the Police Bureau. If it is a slight 
offence that has been committed, he may ask the authorities 
simply to keep the man in jail for three or four days, adminis- 
tering a good sound beating once a day. In three cases out of 
four this will be done without further investigation, but if the 
gentleman is at all fair-minded he will appear in the course 
of a day or two and explain how it all came about. The cul- 
prit may be allowed to tell his side of the story or not, accord- 
ing as the police official in charge may think best. If the friends 
of the arrested man have money, they will probably go to the 
gentleman and say that if a small payment will appease him 
and cause him to send and get their friend out of prison they 
will be glad to talk about it. This subject of conversation is 
seldom uncongenial to the gentleman. If the jailer knows that 
the prisoner has money, there will be a substantial transaction 
before he is released. I was once asked to intervene in the case 
of a Christian convert who had been arrested for an unjust 
debt. He was confined at the office of the Supreme Court. I 
found that he had proved his case, and had secured a judgment 
which made him liable to the payment of only five hundred 
dollars instead of three times that amount. He had already 
paid three hundred of it to the court, to be handed to the cred- 
itor, but the court denied that this had been received. It was 
a very transparent trick, and I sat down and expressed a deter- 
mination to stay there till the receipt was forthcoming. They 
protested that it was all right, but promised to look up the 
archives over night, and I retired. The next morning there 
came a nice note saying that they had found the receipt tucked 
away in the darkest comer of the archives. There had been a 
change in the staff, and the retiring incumbent had deposited 
the receipt and had told nothing about it to his successor. Hence 



58 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the mistake! But for the interference this man would have 
been compelled to pay the money twice. Another case that came 
within my own observation was that of a man who bought the 
franchise for cutting firewood in a certain government pre- 
serve. The price was four hundred dollars. This sum was paid 
in at the proper office, and the papers made out and delivered. 
A few days later the man found out that the same franchise 
had been sold to another man for the same price, and when he 
complained at the office he was told that he would have to divide 
the franchise with the other man. This made the transaction 
a losing one, and the original purchaser was ruined by it. There 
was no means of redress short of impeaching one of the strong- 
est officials under the government. There is no such thing as 
a lawyer in the country. All that can be done is to have men 
face each other before the judge and tell their respective stories 
and adduce witnesses in their own defence. Anyone can ask 
questions, and there is little of the order which characterises a 
Western tribunal. The plaintiff and defendant are allowed to 
scream at each other and use vile epithets, each attempting to 
outface the other. It must be confessed that the power of 
money is used very commonly to weigh down the balances of 
justice. No matter how long one lives in this country, he will 
never get to understand how a people can possibly drop to such 
a low estate as to be willing to live without the remotest hope 
of receiving even-handed justice. Not a week passes but you 
come in personal contact with cases of injustice and brutality 
that would mean a riot in any civilised country. You marvel 
how the people endure it. Not to know at what moment you 
may be called upon to answer a trumped-up charge at the hands 
of a man who has the ear of the judge, and who, in spite of 
your protests and evidence that is prima facie, mulcts you of 
half your property, and this without the possibility of appeal or 
redress of any kind, — this, I say, is enough to make life hardly 
worth living. Within a week of the present moment a little 
case has occurred just beside my door. I had a vacant house, 



GOVERNMENT 59 

the better part of which I loaned to a poor gentleman from 
the country and the poorer part to a common labourer. The 
gentleman orders the labourer to act as his servant without 
wages, because he is living in the same compound. The labourer 
refuses to do so. The gentleman writes to the prefect of police 
that he has been insulted, and the police seize the labourer and 
carry him away. I hear about the matter the next day and 
hurry to the police office and secure the man's release, but not 
in time to save him from a beating which cripples him for a 
week and makes it impossible for him to earn his bread. There 
is probably not a foreigner in Korea who has not been repeatedly 
asked to lend his influence in the cause of ordinary and self- 
evident justice. 

Wealth and official position are practically synon3mious in 
a country where it is generally recognised that justice is worth 
its price, and that the verdict will uniformly be given to the 
side which can show either the largest amount of money or 
an array of influence that intimidates the judge. I have not 
space in which to pile up illustrations of the ways by which 
people are manipulated for gain, but one only will give us a 
glimpse into the inner precincts of the system. There is a 
country gentleman living quietly at his home in the provinces. 
His entire patrimony amounts to, say, ten thousand dollars, and 
consists of his home and certain rice-fields surrounding it. He 
is a perfectly law-abiding citizen, and his reputation is without 
c flaw, but he has no strong political backing at Seoul or in 
the prefectural capital. A political trickster, who is on the look- 
out for some means to " raise the wind,'' singles out this gentle- 
man for his victim, after finding all there is to find as to his 
property and connections. In order to carry out his plan he 
goes to Seoul and sees the official who has charge of the grant- 
ing of honorary degrees or offices. He asks how much the title 
of halyim is worth, and finds that it will cost six thousand dol- 
lars. He therefore promises to pay down the sum of six thou- 
sand dollars if the official will make out the papers, inserting 



6o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the name of the country gentleman as the recipient of the high 
honour, and affixing thereto the statement that the fee is ten 
thousand dollars. Some questions are here asked, without doubt, 
as to the connections of the gentleman and his ability to bring 
powerful influence to bear upon the situation; but these being 
satisfactorily answered, the papers are made out, and the pur- 
chaser pays over the promised money, which he has probably 
obtained by pawning his own house at a monthly interest of 
five per cent. Armed with the papers thus obtained, he starts 
for the country and, upon his arrival at the town where the 
gentleman lives, announces that the town has all been honoured 
by having in its midst a man who has obtained the rank of 
halyim. He goes to the gentleman's house and congratulates 
him and turns over the papers. The gentleman looks at them 
aghast and says, " I have never applied for this honour, and I 
have no money to pay for it. You had better take it back and 
tell them that I must decline." This seems to shock the bearer 
of the papers almost beyond the power of speech, but at last 
he manages to say, " What ! Do you mean to say that you 
actually refuse to accept this mark of distinction and favour 
from the government, that you spurn the gracious gift and thus 
indirectly insult his Majesty? I cannot believe it of you." But 
the gentleman insists that it will be impossible to pay the fee, 
and must dismiss the matter from consideration. This causes a 
burst of righteous indignation on the part of the trickster, and 
he leaves the house in a rage, vowing that the prefect will hear 
about the matter. The people, getting wind of how matters 
stand, may rise up and run the rascal out of town, in which case 
justice will secure a left-handed triumph; but the probability is 
the fellow will go to the prefect, show the papers, and offer to 
divide the proceeds of the transaction, at the same time intimat- 
ing in a polite way that in case the prefect does not fall in with 
the plan there will be danger of serious complications in Seoul, 
which will involve him. The prefect gives in and summons the 
gentleman, with the result that his entire property goes to pay 



THE GOVERNMENT 6i 

for the empty honour, which will neither feed his children nor 
shelter them. One is tempted to rail at human nature, and to 
wonder that a man could be found so meek as to put up with 
this sort of treatment and not seek revenge in murder. This 
form of oppression cannot be said to be common, but even such 
extreme cases as this sometimes occur. 

The penal code of Korea makes curious reading. Until 
recent years the method of capital punishment was decapitation. 
It was in this way that the French priests were killed in 1866. 
The victim is taken to the place of execution, outside the city 
walls, in a cart, followed by a jeering, hooting crowd. Placed 
upon his knees, he leans forward while several executioners 
circle aroimd him and hack at his neck with half-sharpened 
swords. The body may then be dismembered and sent about 
the country in six sections, to be viewed by the people as an 
object-lesson. And a very effective one it ought to be. Since 
the Japan-China war this method has been g^ven up, and the 
criminal is strangled to death in the prison or is compelled to 
drink poison. Women who are guilty of capital crimes are 
generally executed by poison. The most terrible kind of poison 
used is made by boiling a centipede. The sufferings which pre- 
cede death in this case are very much greater than those which 
accompany decapitation, but all would prefer to be poisoned, for 
thus the publicity is avoided. Many are the stories of how men 
have bravely met death in the poisoned bowl. One official was 
playing a game of chess with an acquaintance. A very inter- 
esting point had been reached, and a few moves would decide 
the contest. At that moment a messenger came from the King 
with a cup of poison and delivered the gruesome message. The 
official looked at the messenger and the cup, but waved them 
aside, saying, "Just wait a moment. You should not disturb 
a man when he is in the midst of a game of chess. I will drink 
the poison directly." He then turned to his opponent and said, 
" It 's your turn to play." He won the game after half-a-dozen 
moves, and then quietly turned and drank off the poison. Trea- 



62 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

son, murder, grave desecration and highway robbery are the 
most common causes of the execution of the capital sentence; 
but there are others that may be so punished at the will of th^ 
judge, — striking a parent, for instance, or various forms of 
Ihe majeste. Treason always takes the form of an attempt to 
depose the supreme head of the government and substitute 
another in his place. The lamentable strife of parties and the 
consequent bitterness and jealousy are the most to blame for 
such lapses, and they are by no means uncommon, though 
usually unsuccessful. Until recent years it was always cus- 
tomary to follow the execution of a traitor with the razing of 
his house, the confiscation of all his property, the death of all 
his sons and other near male relatives, and the enslavement of 
all the female portion of the family. It has recently been enacted 
that the relatives should be exempt. To us it seems strange that 
the innocent should, for so many centuries, have been punished 
with the guilty, but a very little study of Korean conditions will 
solve the difficulty. There has never existed a police force in 
this country competent to hunt down and apprehend a criminal 
who has had a few hours' start. When a crime is discovered, 
it is possible to watch the city gates and seize the man if he 
attempts to go out without a disguise; but there are fifty wa)rs 
by which he can evade the officers of the law, and it is always 
recognised that, once beyond the wall, there is absolutely no use 
in trying to catch him, unless there is good reason to know that 
he has gone to some specific place. If his guilt is certain, the 
law demands that his family produce him, and it will go very 
hard with them if the fugitive does not come back. But if he 
is only suspected, the way the police attempt to catch him is by 
watching his house in Seoul, feeling sure that at some time or 
other he w^ill come back in secret. From the earliest times it 
was found necessary to put a check upon crime, of such a nature 
that even though the criminal himself could not be caught, he 
would abstain from evil. The only way was to involve his 
family in the trouble. This made the criminal pause before 




h 
S 



z 



D 

H 
O 



THE GOVERNMENT 63 

committing the crime, knowing that his family and relatives 
must suffer with him. It was preventive merely and not retribu- 
tive punishment. 

The commonest method of punishing officials has always been 
banishme nt. No man was ever exiled from the country, for in 
the days before the country was opened to foreign intercourse 
this would have seemed far more cruel than death; but banish- 
ment means the transportation of the offender to some distant 
portion of the country, often some island in the archipelago, and 
keeping him there at government expense and under strict 
espionage. The distance from the capital and the length of time 
of banishment are in accord with the heinousness of the offence. 
At the present time there are some half-dozen men in life banish- 
ment to distant islands, who were once high officials at the court. 
In the very worst cases the banished man is enclosed in a thorn 
hedge, and his food is pushed through a hole to him. It is a 
living death. For light offences an official may be sent for a 
month or two to some outlying village or to his native town. 
If an official has cause to suspect that he is distasteful to the 
King, or if he has been charged with some dereliction of duty 
by some other official, he will go outside the gates of Seoul and 
lodge in the suburbs, sending a message to the King to the effect 
that he is unworthy to stay in the capital. This is a method of 
securing a definite vindication from the King or else a release 
from official duties. It sometimes happens that the King will 
send a man outside the gates in this way pending an investiga- 
tion, or as a slight reprimand for some non-observance of court 
etiquette. In all but the severer cases of banishment the offender 
is allowed to have his family with him in his distant retreat ; but 
this is by no means usual. Each prefecture in the country is 
supposed to have a special building provided for the purpose 
of housing government officials who have been banished, and the 
cost of the keeping of such banished men is a charge on the gov- 
ernment revenues. In the case of political offenders who have 
a strong following in the capital, it has generally been found 



64 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

advisable to banish them first, and then send and have them exe- 
cuted at their place of banishment. It g^ves less occasion for 
trouble at the capital. Every King who has been deposed has 
been so treated. 

The other forms of punishment in vogue are imprisonment, 
beating and impressment into the chain-gang. Men that are 
slightly suspected of seditious ideas are kept under lock and key, 
so that they may not have an opportunity to spread their dan- 
gerous notions. Nothing can be proved agfainst them, and they 
are simply held in detention, awaiting a promised trial which 
in many cases never comes off. One man has lately been released 
from prison who remained a guest of the government in this 
way for six or seven years without trial. He was suspected of 
too liberal ideas. 

The prisc«is, whether of the capital or the provinces, are mere 
shelters with earth floors and without fires. Food is supplied 
by the friends of the victim, or he will probably die of starvation. 
Every time the thermometer goes down below zero in the winter 
we hear of a certain number of cases of death from freezing in 
the prisons. But the sanitary arrangements are such that it 
remains a moot question whether the freezing cold of winter is 
not preferable to the heats of summer. 

The most degrading form of punishment is that of the chain- 
gang ; for here the offender is constantly being driven about the 
streets in a dull blue uniform, chained about the neck to three or 
four other unfortunates, and ever subject to the scorn of the 
public eye. It can be imagined with what feelings a proud man 
who has been accustomed to lord it over his fellows will pass 
through the streets in this guise. These slaves are put to all 
sorts of dirty work, and their emaciated and anaemic counte- 
nances peer out from under their broad straw hats with an inso- 
lence born of complete loss of self-respect. 

The penal code is filled with directions for administering 
beatings. The number of blows is regulated by law, but it hardly 
need be said that the limitation of the punishment to the legal 



THE GOVERNMENT 65 

number is dependent upon several important circumstances. In 
the dim past there was a government gauge or measure which 
determined the size of the sticks used for beating criminals ; but 
this passed away long ago, and now the rods are whatever the 
minions of the law may select. Much of this work is done with 
a huge paddle, which falls with crushing force, frequently break- 
ing the bones of the leg and rendering the victim a cripple 
for life. . If he can afford to pay a handsome sum of money, the 
blows are partially arrested in mid air and fall with a gentle spat, 
or in some cases the ground beside the criminal receives the blows. 
To use the significant abbreviation, " it all depends." Who that 
is conversant with Korean life has not passed the local yamens 
in the country and heard lamentable howls, and upon inquiry 
learned that some poor fellow was being hammered nearly to 
death? Crowding in to get a sight of the victim, you bdiold 
him tied to a bench, and each time the ten-foot oar falls upon 
him you think it will rend his flesh. He shrieks for mercy 
between fainting fits, and is at last carried away, more dead than 
alive, to be thrown into his pen once more, and left without 
other attendance than that of his family, who are entirely igno- 
rant of the means for binding up his horrible wounds. Beating 
seems to be an essential feature in almost all punishment. No 
criminal is executed until after he has been beaten almost to 
death. It is understood that before an execution can take place 
the criminal must confess his crime and acknowledge the justice 
of his sentence. This is not required in Western lands, and a man 
may go to his death protesting his innocence ; but not so in the 
East. He is put on the whipping-bench and beaten until he sub- 
scribes to his own undoing. He may be never so innocent, but 
the torture will soon bring him to his senses; and he will see 
that it is better to be killed by a blow of the axe than to be slowly 
tortured to death. 

This brings us to the question of torture for the purpose of 
obtaining evidence. It is bad enough to be subpoenaed in America 
to attend court and witness in a case, but in Korea this is a still 



66 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

more serious matter. The witnesses have, in many cases, to be 
seized and held as practical prisoners until the trial of the case. 
Especially is this so in a criminal case. The witness is not looked 
upon as actually to blame for the crime, but one would think 
from the treatment that he receives that he was considered at 
least a particeps criminis. The witness-stand is often the torture 
block, and the proceedings begin with a twist of the screw in 
order to make the witness feel that he is " up against the law." 
In a murder case that was tried in the north, in which an attempt 
was made to find the perpetrator of this crime upon the person 
of a British citizen at the gold-mines, one of the witnesses, who 
was suspected of knowing more about the matter than he would 
tell, was placed in a sitting posture on the ground and tied to a 
stout stake. He was bound about the ankles and the knees, 
and then two sticks were crowded down between his two calves 
and pried apart like levers so that the bones of the lower leg 
were slowly bent without breaking. The pain must have been 
horrible, and men who saw it said that the victim fainted several 
times, but continued to assert his ignorance of the whole matter. 
When he was half killed, they gave him up as a bad case and sent 
him away. As he crawled off to his miserable hovel, he must 
have carried with him a vivid appreciation of justice. It turned 
out that he was wholly innocent of any knowledge of the crime, 
but that did not take away the memory of that excruciating pain 
that he had endured. 

We have said that there are no lawyers in Korea. The result 
is that a suspected criminal has no one to conduct his defence, 
and the witnesses have no guarantee that they will be questioned 
in a fair manner. The judge and his underlings, or some one 
at his elbow, ask the questions, and these are coloured by the 
prejudices of the interrogator, so that it is not likely 'that the 
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth will be forth- 
coming. If the witness knows what evidence the judge wishes 
to bring out, and that the lash will be applied until such evidence 
is forthcoming, it is ten to one that he will say what is desired. 



THE GOVERNMENT 67 

irrespective of the facts. Many witnesses have only in mind 
to find out as soon as possible what it is the judge wants them 
to say, and then to say it. Why should they be beaten for 
nothing? Of course it would be rash to say that in many, per- 
haps a majority, of cases some sort of rough justice is not done. 
Society could hardly hold together without some modicum of 
justice, but it will be fairly safe to say that the amount of even- 
handed justice that is dispensed in Korea is not much. more than 
is absolutely necessary to hold the fabric of the commonwealth 
from disintegration. The courts are not the friends of the 
people in any such sense that they offer a reasonable chance 
for the proper adjustment of legal difficulties. And yet the 
commonest thing in Korea is to hear men exclaim " CMpan 
hapsita/* which means " Let us take the thing into court." It 
may be readily conjectured that it is always said in hot blood, 
without thinking of the consequences, for there is not more than 
one chance in ten that the question at issue is worth the trouble, 
and not more than one in two that it would be fairly adjudi- 
cated. One of the commonest methods of extortion is that of 
accusing a man of an offence and demanding pecuniary payment 
or indemnity. By fixing things beforehand the success of such 
a venture can be made practically sure. And this evil leads to 
that of blackmail. The terrible prevalence of this form of indi- 
rection is something of a gauge of Korean morals. It is prac- 
tised in all walks of life, but generally against those of lower 
rank. It is so common that it is frequently anticipated, and 
regular sums are paid over for the privilege of not being lied 
about, just as bands of robbers are subsidised in some countries 
to secure immunity from sudden attack. It is the same in Korea 
as in China; there is a certain point beyond which it does not 
pay to go in oppressing those that are weaker than one's self. 
These people have learned by heart the story of the goose that 
laid the golden egg; and while they hunt the eggs very early 
in the morning and with great thoroughness, they do not actually 
kill the bird. The goose, on the other hand, does all in its power 



68 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

to direct its energies in some other direction than the laying" of 
€ggs, and with some success. This we may call the normal con- 
dition of Korean society, in which the rule is to take as much 
as can be gotten by any safe means, irrespective of the ethics of 
the situation, and to conceal so far as possible the possession of 
anything worth taking. This is the reason why so many people 
wonder how a few Korean gentlemen were able to offer the 
government a loan of four million yen a few months ago in order 
to prevent the Japanese from securing a hold on the customs 
returns. Many, if not most, foreigners suppose that no Korean's 
estate will sum up more than a hundred thousand dollars; but 
the fact is that there are many millionaires among them, and a 
few multi-millionaires. Ostentation is not their cue, for know- 
ledge of their opulence would only stir up envy in the minds 
of the less fortunate, and ways might be found of unburdening 
them of some of their surplus wealth. If there are great for- 
tunes in Korea, it must be confessed that they generally repre- 
sent the profits of many years of official indirection. There is 
no law of primogeniture which would tend to keep an immense 
patrimony in the hands of a single individual. It is sure to be 
divided up among the family or clan in the second generation. 



CHAPTER IV 
LEGENDARY AND ANCIENT HISTORY 

THE beginnings of Korean history are shrouded in 
mystery, in which legend and myth take the place 
of definite recorded fact. These tales go back to no 
mean antiquity, for tradition says the gjeat Tang^n 
appeared over four thousand years ago. His coming was in this 
wise: a bear and a tiger met upon a mountain side and wished 
that they might become human beings. They heard the voice 
of the Creator say, " Eat a bunch of garlic and retire unto this 
cave and fast for twenty-one days and you shall become men." 
They ate and sought the gloom of the cave; but ere the time 
was half up, the tiger, by reason of the fierceness of his nature, 
could no longer endure the restraint and so came forth ; but the 
bear, with greater patience, waited the allotted time, and then 
stepped forth a perfect woman. Whanung, the son of Whanin 
the Creator, asked his father to give him an earthly kingdom. 
The request was granted, and the spirit came on the wings of 
the wind to earth. It found the woman sitting beside a stream. 
It breathed about her, and she brought forth a son, and cradled 
him in moss beside the brook. In after years the wild people 
found him there beneath a paktal-tree, and made him their king. 
He taught them the rite of marriage, the art of building, and 
the way to bind up the hair with a cloth. He is said to have 
ruled from 2257 b. c. to 11 22 b. c, with the town of Pyeng-yang 
as his capital. 

Kija was a refugee from China at the time of the fall of the 
Shang dynasty in 11 22. He was asked to take office under the 
new regime but refused, and secured permission to emigrate to 
Korea with five thousand followers. Whether he came by sea 



70 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

or by land is not known; but upon his arrival he settled at 
Pyeng-yang, the Tangun retiring to Kuwul Mountain, where 
he shortly after resumed his spirit shape and disappeared. Kija, 
if he was really an historical character, was one of the greatest 
and most successful colonisers that the world has ever seen. 
He brought with him artisans of every kind, and all the other 
necessities of a self-supporting colony. Arriving here, he began 
a peaceful reign, making special laws for the civilising of the 

t half-wild people, and adopting the language of the country. The 
stories that are told of his administrative powers would fill a 
volume. He was familiar with every phase of good government. 
His penal code was ideal, his financial system was perfectly 
adapted to the time, his wisdom was never at fault. He was 
the King Arthur of Korea. It is believed that it was by him 

) that the land was first called Chosun, or " Land of Morning 
Freshness." No remnants of literature have come down to us 

, from his time; and while the Koreans passionately resent the 
supposition that he was a merely legendary character, and show 
his tomb and many other relics of his kingdom, it can never be 
definitely said that he was an historical character. Outside the 
new city of Pyeng-yang is shown the site of Kija's capital, the 
ancient well dug by that sage, and a monument inscribed with his 
virtues. 

The Kija dynasty showed its virility by lasting almost a 
thousand years. The names of the forty-two kings of the 
dynasty are given, and some apocryphal events of the dynasty's 
history, but no great confidence can be placed in them. The art 
of writing was in its infancy, and not a single word of recorded 
history has come down to us. 

In 193 B. c. Wiman, a fugitive from Chinese justice, crossed 
the Yalu with a few followers, and found asylum under the 
segis of Kijun, the last King of Old Chosun. This Wiman emu- 
lated the example of the proverbial snake in the bosom, and as 
soon as he had consummated his plans he descended upon the 
unwary Kijun and compelled him to take boat with a few fol- 



LEGENDARY AND ANCIENT HISTORY 71 

lowers and flee southward along the coast. The kingdom of 
Ancient Chosun never extended southward further than the Han 
River, but it had gone far beyond the limits of the Yalu, and at 
one time stretched as far as the present city of Mukden. Man- 
churia is full of Korean graves, and for many centuries the power 
of Chosun was felt in this region. 

Wiman the usurper did not long enjoy his stolen sweets. 
Eighty years after he came, the rule that he set up was crushed 
by the Chinese Emperor Wu-wang, and all northern Korea was 
divided into four provinces, under direct Chinese sway. This 
continued until 36 a. d., when the kingdom of Kog^ryu was 
established. 

But we must follow the fortunes of Kijun, who had fled 
south. He landed on the shore of southern Korea, and there 
found a peculiar race of people, differing in almost every respect 
from those of the north. Their language, customs, institutions 
and manners were so curious that the account of Kijun's aston- 
ishment is preserved in tradition to the present day. There were 
three groups of tribes scattered along the southern coast of the "^ 
peninsula. They were the Mahaj, Pyonhan and Chinhan. Each 
of these was composed oir a large number of independent and 
autonomous tribes. It is very probable that these people were 
settlers from the south. They bear a strong resemblance to 
the Malays, Formosans and other southern peoples. The lan- 
guage, houses, customs, ornaments, traditions and many other 
things point strongly toward such a southern origin. 

Kijun, with the superior civilisation which he brought with 
him, found no difficulty in establishing control over the people 
of Mahan, and for many decades the Kija dynasty continued 
in its second home. But meanwhile important things were hap- 
pening on the eastern coast among the people of Chinhan. At 
,the time of the building of the Great Wall in China, about 
225 B. c, a great number of Chinese had fled across the Yellow 
Sea to Korea, and, after wandering about awhile, had been 
given a place to live by the people of Chinhan. The superior 



y2 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

arts which they brought with them exerted a great influence 
upon their neighbours, and as they gradually became absorbed 
with the population of Chinhan, a new and stronger civilisation 
had its birth there. It was in 57 b. c. that several of the most 
powerful chiefs met and agreed to consolidate their interests and 
establish a kingdom such as that which they had heard about 
from their Chinese guests. This was done, and a kingdom was 
established, with its capital at the present town of Kyongju. It 
was called Suyabul at first, but as it is generally known by the 
name Silla, which it adopted five centuries later, we shall call 
it by that name. A few years later a man named Chumong is 
said to have fled from his home in the far north near the 
Sungari River and to have come across the Yalu into Korea. 
The Chinese rule in those regions had become very weak, and 
Chumong found no difficulty in welding the scattered people 
into a strong kingdom. It was this man who, it is said, crossed 
the river on the fish which came to the surface and laid their 
backs together to make a bridge for him. The kingdom which 
he founded was called Koguryu, and it comprised all the north- 
em portion of the peninsula. Again, in 9 b. c, a fugitive from 
Koguryu came into the northern borders of Mahan, and by 
treachery succeeded in wresting the 'kingdom away from its 
rightful king, on whose fallen throne he erected the new king- 
dom of Pakche. So that with the opening of our era there were 
three powers in Korea, — Silla in the southeast, Pakche in the 
southwest and Koguryu in the north. 

The kingdom of Silla was by far the most highly civilised 
of the three kingdoms. She was an eminently peaceful power, 
and paid more attention to the arts of peace than to those of 
war. Koguryu in the north was just the opposite. She was 
constantly at war either with one of her sister states or with 
China. And she made by no means a mean antagonist. At one 
time her territory stretched far beyond the Yalu, and she was 
able to defy the armies of China. Once an army of over a 
million Chinese came and encamped upon the western bank of 



y 






-^svC* 



-'•sc. 



"^MmrmM^ 



'^%m. 



Ofii f II'', 



RELICS OF ANCIENT KOREA 

The upper picture shows the Ancient Bell of Silla, one of the largest 
in the world, cast about 1400 years ago. The lower illustration pre- 
sents the so-called << White Buddha/* near Seoul. The people say 
that however high the water rises in the stream it flows around the feet 
of the image without touching them 



LEGENDARY AND ANCIENT HISTORY 73 

the Yalu, determined that Koguryu must be destroyed. Three 
hundred thousand of them crossed the river and marched on 
Pyeng-yang, but they were drawn into an ambush and cut 
down by the thousands. The remainder fled, but lost their way 
and were destroyed one by one, so that of those three hundred 
thousand men only seven thousand went back across the Yalu 
alive. 

The kingdom of Pakche was like neither of the other two. 
She attended neither to the arts of peace nor to those of war. 
Her whole history is one of self-gratification and pleasure. We 
learn of no great acts that she performed, nor of any praise- 
worthy achievements. She generally gained by deceit and 
treachery what she wanted, but had not the courage to wage 
a war of conquest with either of her neighbours. There are 
many things which attest the high civilisation which Silla 
attained. To-day there hangs in the town of Kyongju, Silla's 
old capital, a huge bell, the largest in Korea and one of the 
largest in the world. It was cast in the early days of Silla, only 
a few centuries after Christ. This alone would go far to prove 
the point, for the ability to cast a bell of that size argues a 
degree of mechanical and industrial skill of no mean dimensions. 
But besides this, there is still to be seen near that same town 
a stone tower that was used for astronomical purposes. We 
read in the records that Silla kept strict account of the various 
meteorological phenomena, such as eclipses of the sun and of 
meteors. At one place we read that an expected eclipse of the 
sun failed to take place, which indicates that they could calculate 
the date of such events in advance. 

It was about three hundred years after Christ that Buddhism 
found entrance to Korea from China. Envoys from the various 
states in Korea met representatives of this cult at the court of 
China, and, as it was exceedingly popular there, the kings of 
the Korean realms asked that monks be sent to teach the tenets 
of the new religion here. One of the most celebrated of these 
was one Mararanta^ whose name savours more of India than of 



11 



74 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

China. It may be that he was an Indian who had come to 
China to teach Buddhism, but was transferred to Korea. At 
any rate, the Korean people accepted the new cult eagerly, and 
Buddhism flourished. Not, however, without occasional set- 
backs, for there were periodical lapses from it when the monks 
were killed and the monasteries destroyed, The tales which 
have been woven about these events fill the pages of Korean 
folk-lore. 

From very early times there was some sort of communica- 
tion between Silla and Japan, but curiously enough it was with 
Pakche, on the opposite side of the peninsula, that the Japanese 
were most friendly. Japanese tradition says that the Empress 
Jingu came to Korea and conquered the whole peninsula. There 
is absolutely nothing in Korean annals that would attest the 
truth of this statement. Korean history goes back much further 
than the Japanese, and if such an invasion had taken place there 
would have been mention of it in the Korean annals. The whole 
setting of the Japanese legend shows that it is merely a fanciful 
tale, in which gods and goddesses and other extra-human agencies 
are involved. In those days it is more than probable that the 
people of Silla bore the same relation to Japan, as regards civ- 
ilisation, that the Romans did to the tribes of Germany; and 
if Koguryu could beat back an army of a million Chinese, it is 
hardly to be believed that the Empress Jingu conquered the 
whole peninsula. Silla was the centre of a relatively high civili- 
sation, and, while the Korean accounts tell us very little about 
Korean influence upon Japan, the Japanese annals indicate that 
there was a continual stream of advanced ideas and civilising 
influences crossing the straits into those islands. It would be 
interesting if we could believe that Arab traders touched the 
shores of Korea, but, besides being intrinsically improbable, the 
list of things they are said to have taken from the peninsula 
in trade shows conclusively that it is some other place that is 
spoken of. 

As the centuries went by, the animosity that existed between 



LEGENDARY AND ANCIENT HISTORY 75 

the three kingdoms crystallised into a definite determination on 
the part of Koguryu and of Pakche to destroy the other two 
kingdoms and rule supreme in the peninsula. This was possible 
only with the help of China. Silla was disposed to go along 
quietly and let the arts of peace work out their ultimate results, 
and it was the very superiority of Silla in these arts that excited 
the jealousy and hatred of the other powers. Time and again 
Koguryu tried in vain to cement a friendship with one or other 
of the Chinese dynasties, but always in vain, for her own restless 
spirit could not endure the restraint necessary for the continu- 
ance of such a compact. In time China came to realise that 
Koguryu was an utterly unreliable ally. Pakche from time to 
time made flattering appeals to China for aid against Silla and 
Koguryu, but the Chinese were too sensible to fail to recognise 
the more sterling qualities of the peaceful kingdom in the south- 
east, and when it came to the final analysis China sided with 
Silla against the other two, and the allied armies overthrew 
both Pakche and Koguryu. This occurred in the seventh cen- 
tury of our era. At first China did not turn the whole peninsula 
over to Silla; but as time went on Silla worked further and 
further north, until almost the whole of the present territory 
of Korea was in her hands. 

This was an event of great importance. Now for the first 
time in Korean history the whole territory was united imder a 
single sway. It was the language, the laws, the civilisation of 
Silla that welded the Korean people into a homogeneous popu- 
lation and laid the foundations for modern Korea. And at 
about the same time there began that wonderful influx of 
Chinese ideas which have done so much to mould Korea to the 
Chinese type. The introduction and study of the Chinese char- 
acter began about this time, and the teaching of the Confucian 
doctrines. The literary life of Korea was begun on the Chinese 
foundation, and the people were made to believe that there was 
no intellectual life possible for them but such as sprung from 
Chinese ideals. A thousand products of the arts and sciences 



76 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

poured into the peninsula and were eagerly adopted by the 
people, and they caused a very rapid advance in what we call 
enlightenment. There can be no question as to the g^eat debt 
which Korea owes to China, but, cwi the other hand, this was not 
accomplished without causing a certain amount of harm to the 
Korean people. They were still in a formative period. They 
were just beginning to feel their own powers, and at this very 
moment they were flooded with the finished products of an older 
civilisation, which took away all incentive for personal effort. 
The genius of the people was smothered at the start, and never 
have they recovered from the intellectual stagnation which 
resulted from the overloading of their minds with Chinese ideals. 
And this was the more to be regretted, because these Chinese 
ideals were by no means fitted to the Korean temperament. Ever 
since that day the Koreans have been existing in spite of, rather 
than because of, that remarkable invasion of Chinese civilisa- 
tion. Look, for instance, at the language. Korean is utterly 
different from the Chinese. It is a highly articulated language, 
and requires a very nice adjustment of its grammatical machinery 
to work smoothly; but the clumsy Chinese ideograph came in 
and prevented the working out of a phonetic system of writing, 
which would surely have come. The Korean people have made 
three distinct protests against the imposition of the Chinese char- 
acter upon them : once, soon after its introduction, when a great 
scholar, Sulchong, was moved to make a sort of diacritical sys- 
tem, whereby the Chinese text could be rendered intelligible to 
the Korean; again, in the latter days of the Koryu dynasty; 
and again, in the early days of the present dynasty, when the 
native alphabet was evolved. In spite of all that China did for 
Korea by way of introducing the products of civilisation, it 
would have been far better for Korea to have gained these or 
similar things gradually, by working them out in her own way, 
thereby exercising her own mental powers and gaining some- 
thing better even than the material benefits of civilisation. 
But it was not to be. Chinese law, religion, dress, art, litera- 



T • 



•• ••• •••••. • •••• 

• ,^ • . . . • . . ; 



• • ••* •• 



,^^.-^ 



^SiliHf'^mfim^. 




THREE BRIDGES OF KOREA 

(a) Typical foot-bridge 

{b) The " Blood Bridge" at Songdo 

(c) The only stone arch bridge in Seoul, 700 years old 



LEGENDARY AND ANCIENT HISTORY yj 

ture, science and ethics became the fashion, and I am convinced 
that from that day began the deterioration of the Korean people, 
which has cuhninated in her present helpless condition. Let us 
see how it worked from the very start. For upwards of three 
centuries Silla had the management of the whole country, but 
those were cenUp^ies of rapid decline. Luxury sapped the springs 
of her powe^ Her court became contemptible, and at last, 
when the hlfrdy Wang-gon revolted and set up the new king- 
dom of Horyu, he held the power of Silla in such contempt that 
he would not even crush it, but let it linger on until it died a 
natural death. That lamentable deterioration began with the 
introduction of Chinese ideas. The young and virile state was 
not able to withstand the temptations that were put before it. 
It was like piling sweetmeats before a child who has not learned 
to use them in moderation. Silla glutted herself with them, 
and died of surfeit. 



86 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

warned, turned and made their way home. Even then the Em- 
peror would not give up, but set in motion new plans for the 
invasion of Japan. This wish was not to be gratified. A year 
later it became apparent to him that Koryu had been squeezed 
to the very limit, and the terrible privations of his own troops 
led him to change his mind. It must have been a bitter hour 
for him. 

The last century of the Koryu dynasty was one swift fall 
into worse and worse excesses, until the end. One King was so 
unspeakably infamous that the Mongol Emperor sent for him; 
ani when he arrived at the Mongol court the Emperor said, " I 
put you on the throne of Koryu, but you have done nothing but 
tear the skin off your subjects. Though your blood be fed to 
all the dogs of the world, justice would hardly be satisfied." 
The Emperor then placed him on a bier, and in this most dis- 
graceful fashion he was carried away into banishment to western 
China. 

In 1 361 occurred another of those periodical invasions from 
the north. This time it was by the Hong-du, or " Red Heads," 
— a wild robber tribe. They came across the Yalu like locusts, 
and swarmed over the country. The army could do nothing with 
them, and soon they surrounded the capital, from which the 
King had fled. There they turned cannibal and carried on fright- 
ful orgies, while in another part of the country the great Yi 
T'a-jo, who was destined to found a new dynasty, was trying 
to whip into shape the demoralised army of Koryu. This he 
did, and before long they had the " Red Heads " on the run. 
These were also the years when the coast of Korea was con- 
tinually harried by Japanese corsairs. No one knew at what 
point they would appear next, and so no preparation could be 
made to receive them. At first these raids were confined to the 
eastern coast, but gradually they extended around to the western 
side, and came north as far as the present Chemulpo. On one 
occasion they ravaged the island of Kang-wha, and even landed 
in Whang-ha Province, near the capital. So desperate did the 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 87 

situation become at last, that the King was obliged to order that 
all the coast villages be moved inland ten miles, so that the 
marauders should find nothing to loot. This was done, and it is 
said that it is for this reason that the coast of Korea looks so 
barren and uninhabited even to this day. 

Several of the kingfs took Mongol princesses for their wives, 
and these women, imitating the example of Jezebel, made them- 
selves unmitigated nuisances. They knew they had behind them 
the Mongol emperors, and their lawless freaks and escapades 
scandalised the people. The mag^nificent marble pagoda that 
stands in the centre of Seoul to-day was a gift from one of the 
Mongol emperors to his daughter, the Queen of Koryu. The 
intention was to erect it at Songdo, the capital ; but when it came 
from China by boat, it was found too heavy to carry overland 
to that town; so it was brought up the Han River and erected 
in Han-yang, the present Seoul. 

It is a curious fact that the Mongols still held the island of 
Quelpart, and used it as a breeding-place for horses ; and when 
the fall of the Mongol power became imminent, and the last 
Emperor saw that he was to be driven from his capital, he deter- 
mined to make this island his asylum, and sent an enormous 
amount of treasure there for his future use. Such at least is the 
statement found in the Korean annals. When the time came, 
however, he was unable to make good his escape in this direction, 
but had to flee northward. 

As the fourteenth century neared its close, there were two 
men in Korea worthy of note. One was a monk named Sindon, 
who was, so far as we can learn, a Korean counterpart of 
Arbaces in Bulwer Lytton's greatest novel. He had the King 
completely under his thumb, or " in his sleeve," as Koreans would 
say. There was no heir apparent to the throne, and the baseness 
of the King was so abject that this Sindon made him take to wife 
a concubine of his own, who was already pregnant by him, 
hoping thus to see his own son on the throne. The enormities 
of this man exceed belief and cannot be transcribed. He was 



88 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the consummate flower of Buddhism in Korea, and the people 
of this land, at least the intelligent portion of them, have ever 
since pointed to Sindon as being a legitimate product of the cult 
The other person was General Yi, whom we have already men- 
tioned. He was of excellent family, and had risen by his own 
merits to the leading position in the Koryu army. His prowess 
against the Japanese raiders, whom he had severely chastised 
on various occasions, made him the idol of the army; and as 
the baneful influence of Sindon increased at court, the people 
began to look at General Yi as a possible saviour. As for himself, 
he had no thought of usurping the throne. Nor would he have 
done so except for the suicidal action of the King. That semi- 
imbecile took it into his head that it would be a good thing to 
invade China, where the powerful Ming dynasty was already 
starting out on its glorious course. General Yi was ordered to 
lead the little army across the Yalu and attack the Celestial 
Empire. The mouse against the lion! This was too much 
even for General Yi's loyalty, but as yet he meditated nothing 
against the King's person. He knew where the difficulty lay. 
He was given his choice to lead the army against China or be 
executed. He appeared to comply, and led the army as far as 
one of the islands in the Yalu, and there addressing them, he 
asked if they were not of the opinion that it would be better to 
go back to Songdo and clean out the dissolute court than to attack 
their great patron, against whom they had not the semblance of 
a charge. The army applauded the move, and the return march 
commenced. The court was thunder-struck. The capital was 
in confusion. But their eyes were opened too late. The stem 
leader forced the gates and took up the work of reform with 
vigour. Sindon was banished and then killed. Scores of the 
worst officials were sent to their account, and the King was 
deprived of all his flatterers. This helpless individual was not 
actually forced to abdicate, but he saw the logic of the situation 
and gracefully lay down the sceptre. Only one thing had stood 
in the way of this. There was one good man still living in 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 89 

Songdo, a g^eat scholar and a highly respected official. It was 
Chong Mong-ju. He was the only rock that blocked the way, — 
the only excuse for the continued existence of the Koryu dynasty. 
The third son of General Yi was ambitious that his father 
should mount the throne; and seeing how things lay, he deter- 
mined to cut the gordian knot. This famous scholar was invited 
to a dinner, and on his way home at night he was struck down 
and murdered on a stone bridge near the city wall. That bridge 
exists to-day, and on it is a dark red blotch which becomes blood- 
red in the rain. Tradition says it is the blood of Chong Mong-ju, 
which Heaven will never permit to be washed away. The annals 
say that General Yi mourned this crime ; but we may be permitted 
to have our doubts, especially in view of the fact that he took 
advantage of it and allowed himself to be made king. Thus 
fell the kingdom of Koryu after a life of four hundred and 
seventy-five years. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE GOLDEN AGE OF KOREA AND THE 
JAPANESE INVASION 

IT is probable that there was never a peaceful revolution 
that was followed by more radical changes than the one 
whereby the Kingdom of Koryu fell and the present 
dynasty began. In the first place the capital was changed 
from Songdo. This in itself was not remarkable, for the site 
of the capital is always changed with the change of dynasty; 
but when we note that the people and officials of Songdo were 
debarred the privilege of residing at the new seat of govern- 
ment, we see what a sweeping change was contemplated. Han- 
yang had long been looked upon as the probable capital of a 
new dynasty. In fact it had been made the secondary capital 
of Koryu. Prophecy had foretold that it would become the 
capital of a new kingdom, founded by a man named Yi. The 
Chinese character for this word is formed by placing the char- 
acter for child below the character for wood, and the whole 
means " plum-tree." The superstitious King of Koryu had 
thought to injure the prospects of the Yi family, therefore, by 
planting the town of Han-yang with plum-trees, and then root- 
ing them up. The trick did not work, and in the year 1392 the 
new kingdom was inaugurated. It was ordered to build a wall 
about the new capital, and one hundred and ninety thousand 
men worked for two months in the spring and ninety thousand 
more worked for an equal time in the autumn, and completed 
the stupendous work of building a wall twenty feet high and 
nine miles in length, surmounted with a battlement and embra- 
sures, and pierced by eight massive gates. The palace that was 
first built was the Kyong-bok Palace. A celebrated monk named 



THE JAPANESE INVASION 91 

Mu-hak is said to have advised that it be built upon a different 
site from the one determined upon, and declared that if his 
advice was not followed the country would suffer a terrible war 
in just two centuries. His advice was not taken, and the Jap- 
anese invasion was the fulfilment of his prophecy j 

The cardinal principle upon which this radical revolution 
was based was the necessity of freeing the country from the 
baneful influence of Buddhism. Yet the new ruler was wise 
enough to see that even this must be accomplished with modera- 
tion and tact. There was no g^eat persecution in which thou- 
sands of people were massacred. The change of the capital and 
the appointment of an entirely new officiary, in which Buddhist 
ideas were not at all rqjresented, was a long step in the right 
direction. It set the fashion, and the Buddhist element accepted 
the decision as final. We hear of no attempt being made to 
reinstate the Buddhist hierarchy in their former place of power. 
Gradually other laws were passed depriving Buddhist monks of 
various privileges. They were disfranchised and forbidden to 
enter the gates of the capital on pain of death. Immense tracts 
of land that had been absorbed by the powerful monasteries were 
taken from them and given back to the people. But it would 
be a mistake to think that Buddhism lost its influence upon the 
people. Its political power was gone, but by far the greater 
part of the populace still remained Buddhists, and it was only 
during the lapse of centuries that the monasteries fell to the 
decadent state in which we now find them. The very fact that 
Korea is still filled with them, and that funds can be found to 
keep them in any sort of condition, proves that Buddhism is 
not even yet in a moribund condition. The mysticism of the 
cult had taken too deep a hold upon the Korean temperament 
to be thrown off with ease, and it gradually became assimilated 
with the nature worship and fetichism of the country, until 
to-day the whole forms a conglomerate in which the ingredients 
are indistinguishable. No Korean perhaps ever grasped the idea 
of esoteric Buddhism or worked out the philosophy of the thing. 



92 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

It may have been largely because he did not know what it all 
meant that he liked it. 

The Ming Emperor had been led to look with suspicion upon 
Korea, because of the queer antics of the last kings of the Koryu 
dynasty, and when he heard of the startling change he sent ask- 
ing why General Yi had usurped the throne. A celebrated scholar 
was sent to the Chinese court, and when the Emperor learned 
the facts he was well satisfied, and cemented a friendship with 
Korea which lasted without interruption until the Manchu hordes 
struck down the Ming power. 

The first half of the fifteenth century was characterised by 
a series of marvellous advances in every sphere of life in Korea. 
One of the earliest kings determined to secure for the people a 
phonetic alphabet, in order that they might be freed from the 
necessity of learning the Chinese character. A commission was 
appointed which, after long and careful investigation, evolved 
an alphabet which, for simplicity of construction and phonetic 
power, has not its superior in the world. The consonants are all 
simplifications of the Thibetan consonants, which are of course 
Sanscrit in character, and the vowels are all taken from the 
simplest strokes of the ancient " seal character " of China. It 
was a work of genius, and mig^t have been of incalculable bene- 
fit to the people had not the Chinese character been so firmly 
fixed upon them that change was practically impossible. Such 
a change must begin with the educated class, but the very diffi- 
culty of learning the Chinese was a barrier between the upper 
and lower classes, and to have let down this barrier by the 
encouragement of a popular alphabet would have been to forego 
their claims to exclusive consideration. The caste feeling was 
too strong, and the alphabet was relegated to women, as being 
beneath the dignity of a gentleman. A terrible wrong was done 
to the people by this act, and the generous motive of the King 
was frustrated. About the same time the King ordered the cast- 
ing of metal printing-types. These were the first movable metal 
printing-types ever made, and anticipated their manufacture in 



THE JAPANESE INVASION 93 

Europe by fifty years. A few samples of the ancient types still 
survive. 

The dropping of Buddhistic ideals in government was like 
the dropping of sand-bags from a balloon, and the rebound was 
marvellous, proving that there was still a splendid virility in the 
Korean people. Art, literature, science, economics, agriculture 
and every other form of human activity felt the impulse, and 
before long the former degraded condition of the people was 
transformed. The most admirable thing about all this change 
was the moderation which marked it. There was no attempt 
to force changes in advance of public opinion, but the changes 
went hand in hand with education. The whole of the century 
beheld a continued advance. Great literary works were published, 
monasteries were turned into schools, the system of taxation was 
made more uniform, all sorts of mechanical devices were in- 
vented, including a clepsydra. The g^eat bell was cast and hung 
in the centre of Seoul, the land was at peace with all its neigh- 
bours, and friendly envoys came from many contiguous lands. 
The piratical raids of the Japanese stopped, and it is probable 
that, even as early as this time, a trading station of some kind 
existed at Fusan by permission of -the Korean government. 
Curiously enough the century closed in gloom, for a prince of 
most depraved character, the son of a concubine, came to the 
throne, and made it his business to play the fool exceedingly. 
There was no excess of rioting to which he would not go, and 
for a time he inflicted untold miseries upon the people; but he 
was out of tune with the times, and before long he was violently 
deposed and sent into banishment, and the former state of pros- 
perity again prevailed. 

The middle of the sixteenth century witnessed' the rise of 
the so-called political parties of Korea. Before that time there 
had been no extensive political feuds, but now the officials became 
divided into hostile sets which warred against each other to the 
knife. There were no great political opinions or " platforms " 
underlying these parties. It was simply the fight for political 



94 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

preferment, the very sublimation of the " spoils system." This 
marked the beginning of another period of retrogression. 
From that day to this there has been a steady and lamentable 
decline in political morals, and the idea of political position being 
essential to the acquisition of wealth has gained such a hold of 
the Korean mind that reform resembles a surgical operation 
which, in curing the disease, bids fair to kill the patient. This 
war of factions, in which the winner thought nothing of taking 
off the heads of all the leaders of the vanquished party, was 
the first great cause of Korea's inability to make any headway 
against the Japanese invaders. 

As the century wore on, and the g^eat Hideyoshi became 
Shogim in Japan, the ambitious designs of that unscrupulous 
usurper, together with the extreme weakness of Korea, made 
a combination of circumstances which boded no good for the 
peninsular people. A succession of bloody civil wars had put 
in Hideyoshi's hands an immense body of trained veterans, and 
the cessation of war in Japan left this army on his hands with- 
out anything to do. It could not well be disbanded, and it could 
not safely be kept on a war footing with nothing to do. This 
also gave Hideyoshi food for thought, and he came to the con- 
clusion that he could kill several birds with one stone by invad- 
ing Korea. His main intention was the conquest of China. 
Korea was to be but an incident along the way. It was neces- 
sary to make Korea the road by which he should invade China, 
and therefore he sent an envoy suggesting that, as he was about 
to conquer the four comers of the earth, Korea should give 
him free passage through her territory, or, better still, should join 
him in the subjugation of the Flowery Kingdom. To this the 
King replied that, as Korea had always been friendly with China, 
and looked upon her as a child upon a parent or as a younger 
brother upon an elder, she could not think of taking such a 
wicked course. After a considerable interchange of envoys, 
Hideyoshi became convinced that there was nothing to do but 
crush Korea, as a preliminary to the greater work. 



THE JAPANESE INVASION 95 

It was in J592 that Hideyoshi launched his armies at Korea. 
He was unable-to come himself, but he put his forces under the 
command of Hideyi as chief, while the actual leaders were Kato 
and Konishi. The Korean and Japanese accounts ag^ee substan- 
tially in saying that the Japanese army consisted of approxi- 
mately two hundred and fifty thousand men. They had five 
thousand battle-axes, one hundred thousand long swords, one 
hundred thousand spears, one hundred thousand short swords, 
five hundred thousand daggers, three hundred thousand firearms, 
large and small, but no cannon. There were fifty thousand 
horses. Many of the Japanese wore hideous masks with which 
to frighten the enemy, but it was the musketry that did the work. 
The Koreans had no firearms at all, and this enormous discrep- 
ancy is the second of the main causes of Japanese success. The 
Koreans could not be expected to stand against trained men 
armed with muskets. 

Korea had long expected the invasion, and had kept China 
well informed of the plans of Hideyoshi and his demands, but 
when the blow was struck it found Korea unprepared. She had 
enjoyed the blessings of peace so long that her army had 
dwindled to a mere posse of police, and her generals were used 
simply to grace their empty pageants. There may also have 
been the notion that Japan was simply a medley of half-savage 
tribes, whose armies could not be truly formidable. If so, the 
Koreans were greatly mistaken. At the first blow it became 
apparent that Korea could do nothing against the invaders. 
Fusan, Tong-na, Kim-ha, and the other towns along the route 
to Seoul fell in quick succession. It was found that the Japanese 
army was too large to advance by a single route, especially as 
they had to live off the country, in large part. So the army 
divided into three sections: one, led by General Konishi, came 
north by the middle road; another, to the east of this, was 
led by General Kato; and a western one was led by General 
Kuroda. 

It was on the seventeenth of the fourth moon that the ter- 



96 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

rible news of the landing of the Japanese reached Seoul by 
messenger, though the fire signals flashing from mountain top 
to mountain top had already signified that trouble had broken 
out. The King and the court were thrown into a panic, and 
feverish haste was used in calling together the scattered rem- 
nants of the army. The showing was extremely meagre. A 
few thousand men, poorly armed and entirely lacking in drill, 
were found, but their leaders were even worse than the men. 
It was resolved to send this inadequate force to oppose the 
Japanese at the great Cho-ryung, or " Bird Pass," where tens of 
men in defence were worth thousands in attack. The doughty 
general, Sil Yip, led this forlorn hope, but ere the pass was 
reached the gruesome tales of the Japanese prowess reached 
them, and Sil Yip determined to await the coming of the enemy 
on a plain, where he deemed that the battle-flails of the Koreans 
would do better execution than among the moimtains. The 
pass was, therefore, undefended, and the Japanese swarmed over, 
met Sil Yip with his ragged following, swept them from their 
path and hurried on toward Seoul. 

We must pause a moment in order to describe the Japanese 
leaders, Kato and Konishi, who were the animating spirits of 
the invasion. Kato was an old man and a conservative. He 
was withal an ardent Buddhist and a scholar of the old school. 
He was disgusted that such a young man as Konishi was placed 
in joint command with him. This Konishi was a new-school 
man, young and clever. He was a Roman Catholic convert, and 
in every respect the very opposite of Kato, except in bravery and 
self-assertion. They proved to be flint and steel to each other. 
They were now vying with one another which would reach 
Seoul first. Their routes had been decided by lot, and Konishi 
had proved fortunate, but he had more enemies to meet than 
Kato, and so their chances were about even. 

General Yi II was the ranking Korean field officer, and he 
with four thousand men was hurried south to block the path of 
the Japanese wherever he chanced to meet them. He crossed 



THE JAPANESE INVASION 97 

Bird Pass and stationed his force at Sung-ju, in the very track 
of the approaching invaders. But when his scouts told him the 
numbers and the armament of the foe, he turned and fled back 
up the pass. This was bad enough, but his next act was treason, 
for he left the pass where ten men could have held a thousand 
in check, and put a wide stretch of country between himself and 
that terrible foe. He is not much to blame, considering the fol- 
lowing that he had. He never stood up and attempted to fight 
the Japanese, but fell back as fast as they approached. 

Konishi with his forces reached the banks of the Han River 
first, but there were no boats with which to cross, and the 
northern bank was defended by the Koreans, who here had a 
good opportunity to hold the enemy in check. But the sight of 
that vast array was too much for the Korean general in charge, 
and he retreated with his whole force, after destroying all his 
engines of war. 

Meanwhile Seoul was in turmoil indeed. There was no one 
to mqn the walls, the people were in a panic of fear, messengers 
were running wildly here and there. Ever3rthing was in con- 
fusion. Some of the King's advisers urged him to flee to the 
north, others advised to stay and defend the city. He chose 
the former course, and on that summer night, at the beginning 
of the rainy season, he made hasty preparations and fled out 
the west gate along the " Peking Road." Behind him the city 
was in flames. The people were looting the government store- 
houses, and the slaves were destroying the archives in which 
were kept the slave-deeds ; for slaves were deeded property, like 
real estate, in those days. The rain began to fall in torrents, and 
the royal cortege was drenched to the skin. Food had not been 
supplied in sufficient quantities, and the King himself had to go 
hungry for several hours. Seven days later he crossed the 
Tadong River, and was safe for a time in Pyeng-yang. 

Meanwhile the Japanese were revelling in Seoul. Their great 
mistake was this delay. If they had pushed on resolutely and 
without delay, they would have taken China unprepared, but they 



98 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

lingered by the way and g^ve time for the preparation of means 
for the ultimate victory of the Koreans. The country was 
awakening from the first stupor of fear, and loyal men were 
collecting forces here and there and drilling them in hope of 
ultimately being able to give the Japanese a home thrust. Strong 
though the Japanese army was, it laboured under certain diffi- 
culties. It was cut off from its source of supplies, and was 
living on the country. Every man that died by disease or other- 
wise was a dead loss, for his place could not be filled. This 
inability to obtain reinforcements was caused by the loyalty and 
the genius of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, a Korean whose name deserves 
to be placed beside that of any of the world's g^eat heroes. 
Assuming charge of the Korean fleet in the south, he had 
invented a curious iron-clad in the shape of a tortoise. The 
back was covered with iron plates, and was impervious to the 
fire of the enemy. With his boat he met and engaged a Jap- 
anese fleet, bringing sixty thousand reinforcements to Hideyoshi's 
army. With his swift tortoise-boat he rammed the smaller 
Japanese craft right and left, and soon threw the whole fleet 
into confusion. Into the struggling mass he threw fire-arrows, 
and a terrible conflagration broke out, which destroyed almost 
the entire fleet. A few boats escaped and carried the news of 
the disaster back to Japan. 

This may be called the turning-point in the war, for, although 
the Japanese forces went as far as Pyeng-yang, and the King 
had to seek asylum on the northern frontier, yet the spirit of 
the invasion was broken. China, moved at last by Korea's 
appeals, was beginning to wake up to the seriousness of the situa- 
tion, and the Japanese, separated so long from their homes and 
entirely cut off from Japan, were beginning to be anxious. The 
mutual jealousies of the Japanese leaders also had their effect, 
so that when the allied Koreans and Chinese appeared before 
Pyeng-yang and began to storm the place, the Japanese were 
glad enough to steal away by night and hurry southward. They 
were pursued, and it was not till they had gone back as far as 



THE JAPANESE INVASION 99 

the capital that they could rest long enough to take breath. It 
should be noted that China did not come to the aid of Korea 
until the backbone of the invasion was practically broken. It 
was a pity that Korea did not have an opportunity to finish off 
the Japanese single-handed. With no hope of reinforcement, 
the Japanese army would have been glad to make terms and 
retire, but the peculiar actions of the Chinese, which gave rise 
to the suspicion that they had been tampered with by the Jap- 
anese, gave the latter ample time to reach the southern coast 
and fortify themselves there. The very presence of the Chinese 
tended to retard the growth of that national spirit among the 
Koreans which led them to arm in defence of their country. 
It might have been the beginning of a new Korea, even as the 
recent war gives hope of the beginning of a new Russia, by 
awakening her to her own needs. 

Intrenched in powerful forts along the southern coast, the 
Japanese held on for two full years, the Koreans swarming 
about them and doing good service at guerilla warfare. Count- 
less are the stories told of the various bands of patriots that 
arose at this time and made life a torment for the invaders. The 
Japanese at last began to use diplomacy in order to extricate 
themselves from their unpleasant position. Envoys passed back 
and forth between Korea and China continually, and at last, in 
the summer of 1596, the Japanese army was allowed to escape 
to Japan. This was a grievous mistake. Konishi was willing 
to get away to Japan, because the redoubtable Admiral Yi Sun- 
sin was still alive, and so long as he was on the sea the Japanese 
could not hope to bring reinforcements to the peninsula. They 
had lost already one hundred and eighty thousand men at the 
hands of this Korean Nelson, and they were afraid of him. 

We here meet with one of the results of party strife, the 
seeds of which had been sown half a century earlier. When 
the immediate pressure of war was removed, the various success- 
ful generals began vilifying each other and laying the blame for 
the initial disasters upon one another. Not a few of the very 



loo THE PASSING OF KOREA 

best men were either killed or stripped of honours. Some of 
them retired in disgust, and refused to have an)rthing more to 
do with a government that was carried on in such a way. But 
the most glaring instance of all this was that of Admiral Yi 
Sun-sin. When the Japanese went back to their own coimtry, 
they began to plan another invasion, this time for the less 
ambitious purpose of punishing Korea. Only one thing was 
necessary to their success. Admiral Yi must be gotten out 
of the way. Korean accounts say that this was accomplished as 
follows. 

A Korean who had attached himself to the fortunes of the 
Japanese was sent by the latter back to Korea, and he appeared 
before one of the Korean generals and offered to give some 
very important information. It was that a Japanese fleet was 
coming against Korea, and it would be very necessary to send 
Admiral Yi Sun-sin to intercept it at a certain g^oup of islands. 
The King learned of this, and immediately ordered the admiral 
to carry out this work. Admiral Yi replied that the place men- 
tioned was very dangerous for navigation, and that it would be 
far better to await the coming of the Japanese at a point nearer 
the Korean coast. His detractors used this as a handle, and 
charged him with treason in not obeying the word of the King. 
After refusing for a second time to jeopardise his fleet in this 
way, he was shorn of office and degraded to the ranks. He 
obeyed without a murmur. This was precisely what the Jap- 
anese were waiting for. Hearing that the formidable Yi was 
out of the way, they immediately sailed from Japan. The 
Korean fleet had been put under the command of a worthless 
official, who fled from before the enemy, and thus allowed the 
Japanese to land a second time. This was in the first moon of 
1597, and it took a thousand boats to bring the Japanese army. 
When it landed, all was again in turmoil. A hasty appeal was 
made to China for help, and a loud cry was raised for the 
reinstatement of Admiral Yi Sun-sin in his old station. This 
was done, and he soon cut off the new army of invasion from 



THE JAPANESE INVASION loi 

its source of supplies, and had them exactly where they were 
before. But this time the Japanese army did not have its own 
way upon the land as in the former case. The Koreans had been 
trained to war. Firearms had been procured, and their full 
initiation into Japanese methods had prepared them for defence. 
Small bands of Koreans swarmed about the Japanese, cutting 
off a dozen here and a score there, until they were glad to 
get behind the battlements of their forts. A powerful army of 
the Japanese started for Seoul by the western route, but they 
were met in Chiksan by the allied Koreans and Chinese, and so 
severely whipped that they never again attempted to march on 
the capital. For a time the war dragged on, neither side scoring 
any considerable victories, and in truth for part of the time 
there was so little fighting that the Japanese settled down like 
immigrants and tilled the soil, and even took wives from among 
the peasant women. But in 1598 it was decided that a final 
grand effort must be made to rid the country of them. The 
Japanese knew that their cause was hopeless, and they only 
wanted to get away safely. They had some boats, but they 
dared not leave the shelter of the guns of their forts, for fear 
that they would be attacked by Admiral Yi Sun-sin. They tried 
to bribe the Chinese generals, and it is said that in this they had 
some success. But when, relying on this, they boarded their 
vessels and set sail for Japan, they found that the famous admiral 
was not included in the bargain, for he came out at them, and, 
in the greatest naval battle of the war, destroyed almost the 
whole fleet. In the battle he was mortally wounded, but he did 
not regret this, for he saw that his country was freed of invaders, 
and he felt sure that his enemies at court would eventually com- 
pass his death even if he survived the war. 

It was during this second invasion that the Japanese shipped 
back to Japan a large number of pickled ears and noses of 
Koreans, which were buried at Kyoto. The place is shown to- 
day, and stands a mute memorial of as savage and wanton an 
outrage as stains the record of any great people. During the 



I02 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

years of Japanese occupancy they sent back to Japan enormous 
quantities of booty of every kind. The Koreans were skilled in 
making a peculiar kind of glazed pottery, which the Japanese 
admired very much. So they took the whole colony bodily to 
Japan, with all their implements, and set them down in western 
Japan to carry on their industry. This succeeded so well that 
the celebrated Satsuma ware was the result. The remnants of 
the descendants of the Koreans are still found in Japan. 

Only a few years elapsed before the Japanese applied to the 
Korean government to be allowed to establish a trading station 
at Fusan, or rather to re-establish it. Permission was granted, 
and elaborate laws were made limiting the number of boats that 
could come annually, the amount of goods they could bring, 
and the ceremonies that must be gone through. The book in 
which these details are set down is of formidable size. The 
perusal of it shows conclusively that Japan assumed a very 
humble attitude, and that Korea treated her at best no better 
than an equal. This trading station may be called the back 
door of Korea, for her face ever w- as toward China ; and, while 
considerable trade was carried on by means of these annual 
trading expeditions of the Japanese, it was as nothing compared 
with the trade that was carried on with China by junk and 
overland through Manchuria. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE MANCHU INVASION AND EARLY 
CHRISTIANITY 

EARLY in the seventeenth century the Manchu power 
began to loom up on the horizon like a black cloud. 
• China determined to strike a quick blow at it, and 
called upon Korea to aid. It is more than likely that 
the strenuous efforts that China had put forth in helping Korea 
rid herself of the Japanese had drained her resources, and she 
had a good right to call upon Korea to help against the Man- 
chus, but Korea was very reluctant. She dreaded the conse- 
quences to herself if, after all, the Manchus should succeed. 
At last, however, she sent a contingent of troops and joined with 
China in the war. In the very first set battle the Chinese were 
defeated, and the Korean generals hastened to send messages 
to the Manchus, explaining how they had been forced into the 
conflict against their wishes, and suggesting that the Manchus 
and Koreans become friends. We do not know how much faith 
the Manchus put in these protestations, but they had bigger 
work on hand than punishing Korea, so they made friends with 
her for the time being. In about 1620 the Manchu power was 
very busy fighting China, and Korea was left to herself; but she 
was not at peace. One of the few great rebellions of her history 
occurred at this time. Actual civil war has been almost unknown 
in Korea since the sixth century, but Yi Kwal's Rebellion proved 
the exception. He arose in the norUTarid determined to over- 
throw the dynasty. His intrigues and machinations would make 
a long story, but it must suffice to say that he collected a power- 
ful army and marched on Seoul. The King was quite unpre- 
pared to sustain the attack, and so fled to the island of Kang-wha. 



I04 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The rebel army entered the capital, and for a time Yi Kwal 
played at king, though his sway never extended far from the 
walls of Seoul. At last a loyal general managed to bring him 
to a standing fight, and he was chased from the capital and 
finally decapitated. 

The Manchus were not satisfied with the way Korea fulfilled 
her engagements to pay tribute, and was suspicious that she 
favoured the Ming power. This led to recriminations, and at 
last, in 1627, the long-dreaded invasion took place. An army 
of thirty thousand Manchus crossed the Yalu and bore down 
upon Seoul. The King fled again to his island retreat, and from 
that point of vantage made an abject submission to the Manchus, 
and sealed the compact in blood by sacrificing a black bull and 
a white horse, and taking a solemn oath to be true to his new 
Suzerain. The text of the Manchu and Korean oaths respectively 
were as follows: 

" The second King of the Manchus makes a treaty with the 
King of Korea. From this day we have but one mind and one 
thought. If Korea breaks this oath, may Heaven send a curse 
upon her. If the Manchus break it, may they likewise be pun- 
ished. The two kings will have an equal regard for truth, and 
they will govern according to the principles of religion. May 
Heaven help us and give us blessings.'* 

" This day Korea takes oath and forms a treaty with the Kin 
kingdom. We swear by this sacrifice that each shall dwell secure 
in the possession of his own lands. If either hates and injures 
the other, may Heaven send punishment upon the oflFending party. 
These two kings have minds regardful of truth. Each must be 
at peace with the other.*' 

Everyone except the Manchus knew that these were hollow 
protestations on Korea's part, and the Japanese hastened to send 
secret promises of military aid in case Korea wished to make 
war upon the Manchus. The Chinese Emperor also sent encour- 
aging words, which still further unravelled Korea's allegiance to 
the new power across the Yalu. 



THE MANCHU INVASION 105 

It was at this time, 1631, that Korean envoys first fell in 
with Roman Catholic Christians in China, who were adher- 
ents of the celebrated Pere Ricci. These envoys brought back 
some books on science, a pair of pistols, and a telescope, together 
with some other products of the West. 

It soon became plain to the Manchus that Korea was prov- 
ing false. In order to test it they sent and demanded tribute 
to the extent of ten thousand ounces of gold, a like amount of 
silver, and ten million pieces of linen. They evidently wanted 
an excuse to invade Korea again. Korea indignantly repudiated 
the demand, and in 1636 the two famous, or infamous, Manchu 
generals, Yonggolda and Mabuda, led their half-savage hordes 
across the Yalu. 

It was on the twelfth day of the twelfth moon of 1636 that 
the fire mountains flashed the message from the Yalu to Seoul 
that the Manchu invasion had begun. An army of one hundred 
and forty thousand had crossed and were pushing by forced 
marches toward Seoul. Never had an army been known to 
cover the ground with such devouring speed. The King had 
already sent his family to Kang-wha, and was ready to go him- 
self, when suddenly it was announced that Manchu videttes had 
been seen on the bank of the Han below Seoul. The road to 
Kang-wha was blocked. On a bitterly cold night the King, with 
a small retinue, fled out the east gate and made his way to the 
mountain fortress of Namhan, which had but lately been com- 
pleted. This lies twenty miles to the southeast of the capital. 
Here his officials and a few thousand troops rallied about him, 
and it was hoped that the Manchus could be held off until 
loyal troops could come to the rescue. The Manchus entered 
Seoul and committed untold atrocities. The tale is a sickening 
one. They surrounded the wall of Namhan, and tried repeat- 
edly to storm it, but without success. The tale of that siege, 
in which the small Korean garrison held at bay the enormous 
Manchu army for week after week, is a most fascinating one, 
but too long to be told here. When at last the inmates of the 



io6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

fortress were literally starving to death, and every effort on the 
part of the Korean troops outside had proved unavailing, and 
after Kang-wha had been stormed and the entire royal family 
captured, the King surrendered and came out of Namhan. The 
Manchus made him go through a long and humiliating ceremony 
of surrender, erected an imposing monument upon which the dis- 
graceful details were inscribed, and, after seizing hundreds of 
the people to carry away as slaves, they permitted the King to 
return to his capital ; and the Manchu army, glutted with a sur- 
feit of booty, moved northward. This finished the matter, for 
the Manchus had already won their fight with the Ming dynasty 
and were seated on the throne of China. To this day Korea 
has continued to look upon the Manchus as semi-savages, and 
she casts back longing eyes to the days of the Mings. The 
dress of Korea to-day and the coiffure are those of the Ming 
dynasty. The Manchus forced the people of China to change 
these, but the Koreans were allowed to retain them. So that 
the dress of Korea to-day is more Chinese than that of China 
itself. It cannot be doubted that if the Chinese people could 
cast off the Manchu yoke they would gladly return to the cus- 
toms of the Ming dynasty. 

It was about the middle of the seventeenth century that 
the ill-fated sailing-vessel Sparwehr sailed from Holland, with 
Hendrik Hamel as supercargo. There seem to have been 
sixty-four men on board, and when she went to pieces on the 
shore of Quelpart only thirty-six reached land alive. They 
were taken to Seoul by the authorities, and for fourteen years 
they lived either upon the royal bounty or by the work of their 
own hands, being driven, upon occasion, even to beggary. At 
last a remnant of them escaped and made their way to Naga- 
saki. Hamel afterward wrote an account of his experiences in 
Korea. 

The remainder of the century passed without incident of 
special note, excepting the meeting of Koreans with Roman 
Catholic missionaries in Nanking, and the slight beginning of 



THE MANCHU INVASION 107 

Christian teaching. In 1677 a census of the country was taken. 
It was estimated that the population was 4,703,505. This is 
almost as many as the recent census report gives, which is mani- 
festly absurd. Even at that early time the estimate was doubt- 
less far below the truth, and the discrepancy has widened rather 
than narrowed during the interval. Party strife continued, and 
the annals are full of the ups and downs of these selfish and 
suicidal factions. Native records say that it was in 1686 that 
foreigners first entered Korea to preach the doctrines of Chris- 
tianity. We are not told their nationality, but they were prob- 
ably Chinese. Nothing is said of this in Dallet's great work on 
the history of Roman Catholicism in Korea, and it is rather 
difficult to understand. It would hardly be found in the records, 
however, unless there was some slight ground for it. We are 
told that the doctrine made good progress at that time, but that 
some of the highest officials asked the King to send the for- 
eigners out of the country. 

The eighteenth century opened with the strife of parties at 
white heat, but there were bright spots in the picture. The great 
mountain fortress back of Seoul, called Pukhan, was completed 
in 1 71 7, and the same King who put through this stupendous 
piece of work also made himself a wellnigh unique figure in 
history by prohibiting, under the severest penalties, the manu- 
facture or sale of intoxicating beverages of any kind. For 
years the drinking of such liquors was practically unknown. It 
is said that special police were stationed outside the gates, whose 
duty it was to smell the breath of every passer-by. No sinecure 
this! The governor of one of the northern provinces was exe- 
cuted because he failed to observe the letter of this law. 

With the year 1730 there began an era of grand reform in 
Korea. It bade fair to bring the land back to the standard set 
by the first kings of the dynasty. A mere list of the reforms 
instituted at that time will give us a glimpse at the condition of 
the people. The grandsons of all female slaves were declared 
free ; irrigation reservoirs were built ; a new model of the solar 



io8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

system was made, to replace the one destroyed during the Jap- 
anese invasion; the cruel form of torture consisting of bending 
the bones of the lower leg was discontinued; granaries were 
built to store grain for use in times of famine ; torture with red- 
hot irons was done away; a war chariot was invented, having 
swords extending from the hubs of the wheels ; a detective force 
was formed to keep watch of officials; the size of whipping- 
rods was strictly limited; the custom of branding thieves by 
striking the forehead with a bunch of needles and then rubbing 
ink into the wound, was abrogated ; the three-decked war-vessel 
was done away with, and the swifter " Falcon Boat " was sub- 
stituted; the length of the yardstick was carefully regulated 
and equalised throughout the country; the west and northeast 
gates of Seoul were roofed for the first time ; the use of silk was 
discouraged; the corrupt mudang, or sorceress, class was out- 
lawed; the g^eat sewer of the capital was repaired and walled 
up; all the serfs in Korea were emancipated. 

We are told that by this time the secret study of Roman 
Catholicism had resulted in the wide dissemination of that reli- 
gion in Whang-ha and Kang-wun provinces. This caused un- 
easiness at court, and the King gave orders to put down the 
growing church. This was more easily said than done, and, as 
no deaths resulted, it is probable that little more than threats 
were indulged in. 

In 1776 the census of the country showed a population of 
7,006,248, which was an increase of over 2,300,000 in a century. 
This in itself attests the prosperity of the people. This rate of 
advance was probably very exceptional, and was largely due to 
the remarkably long and wise rule of King In-jong, whose 
reforms we have just recorded. 

It was about 1780 that the scholar Kwun Chul-sin gathered 
about him a company of men and went into the mountains to 
study the doctrines of Christianity. They possessed a single 
copy of a Christian work. They one and all determined to 
adopt the Faith. About the same time another young man met 



THE MANCHU INVASION 109 

in Peking the Franciscan, Alexandre de Govea, and was bap- 
tised. He brought back to Korea many books, crosses, images 
and other religious emblems. The town of Yang-geun is called 
the birthplace of Korean Roman Catholicism. In 1785 active 
operations were begun against the new religion, and a memorial 
was sent in to the King about it. The following year the 
embassy to Peking brought back many Catholic books. This 
was reported to the King, and a great stir was made. It was 
decided to cause a strict search to be made in future of all bag- 
gage of embassies returning to Korea. This same year marked 
one of the most disastrous scourges of cholera that ever swept 
the country. It is said that three hundred and seventy thousand 
perished. In Seoul alone there were eight thousand recoveries, 
which would indicate at least sixty thousand deaths, half the 
population of the city at that time. 

It was not until 1791 that the government began to take 
extreme measures against the Catholic converts. It began with 
the execution of two men who had buried their ancestral tablets. 
From this it extended until, in the eleventh moon of the year, 
four high officials, who hjyl embraced the new faith, were seized 
and put to death. In the following year the Pope formally put 
the care of the Korean church into the hands of the Bishop of 
Peking, and this was almost immediately followed by the send- 
ing to Korea of the first regularly ordained priest in the person 
of Pere Tsiou, a Chinese. 

The end of the eighteenth century beheld a marked advance 
in the arts and sciences. Literature also came to the fore, and 
the King ordered the casting of two hundred thousand more 
printing-t3rpes like those that had been cast near the beginning 
of the dynasty. At the same time some two hundred and twenty 
thousand wooden types were also made. With these a large 
number of important works were published, touching upon law, 
religion, military tactics, ethics and the penal code. 

The opening of the nineteenth century saw the government 
thoroughly committed to the policy of extirpating Roman Cathol- 



no THE PASSING OF KOREA 

icism. The reason for this was the fear of foreign influence. 
It was not primarily because the government cared what reli- 
gion the people believed. The Japanese and Manchu invasions, 
which came so close together, made the government feel that 
there was no safety except in keeping as far as possible from 
all outside influences. It is for this reason that the year 1801 
5aw such a sanguinary persecution. About thirty people lost 
their lives, among whom were two princesses and the priest 
Tsiou. 

The two decades beginning with 18 10 were full of disaster 
for Korea. Floods, pestilences and famines followed thick upon 
each other, and to this unhappy epoch is due the comparatively 
poverty-stricken condition of the country to-day. In 1832 an 
English vessel appeared off Hong-ju, and its captain, Basil Hall, 
sent the King a letter saying that he had come to trade. Per- 
mission was refused. As the ship bore the device " Religion of 
Jesus Christ," some of the Catholic natives boarded her; but 
when they found that the people on board were Protestants, they 
beat a hasty retreat. Some boxes of books were sent to the 
King, but he returned them. Two of the people on this ship 
were Lindsay and Gutzlaff, who w^ere attempting to enter the 
country as missionaries, but were unsuccessful. Meanwhile 
M. Bruguiere, who had been made Bishop of Korea by Pope 
Gregory XVI, was trying to get into Korea across the northern 
border. In this he was thwarted by the Chinese priest Yu, who 
had succeeded in getting in, and was anxious to keep Bruguiere 
out, hoping himself to obtain supreme power in the Korean 
church. The bishop died while w^aiting on the border, but Mau- 
bant, who was appointed in his place, succeeded in entering the 
country in 1835. By 1837 two other French priests had entered, 
one of them being Bishop Imbert. At this time there were some 
nine thousand converts, according to their own reckoning. This 
was the signal for the beginning of a most sanguinary persecu- 
tion. A house to house search was made. The three French 
priests were caught, and when they refused to leave the country 



THE MANCHU INVASION in 

they were declared traitors and executed. This was the begin- 
ning, and the worst elements in Korean character were let loose. 
Seventy people were decapitated, and sixty more died of strangu- 
lation or of stripes. This was but a fraction of the whole 
number that perished as a result of the persecution. The next 
ten years were filled with troubles that grew out of this, for the 
government did not lower its hand, but persevered in the attempt 
to thoroughly extirpate the hated religion. Of course this was 
impossible. In 1844 two more French priests entered the coun- 
try by way of Quelpart, after desperate adventures by wind and 
flood. Two years later the French government sent a message 
to Korea complaining of the death of the three Frenchmen and 
threatening punishment, but this only excited the Koreans the 
more, for it proved what they had already suspected, that the 
Roman Catholics had a political power behind them. This 
caused a new outbreak, and the two new missionaries were 
with great difficulty concealed. 

In the summer of 1847 'two French war- vessels, the frigate 
La Gloire and the corvette La Victorieuse, came to the Korean 
coast to learn what bad been the effect of the former letter. 
They both struck upon a mud-bank, and when the tide went 
down they broke in two. The crews escaped to a neighbouring 
island. The Korean government gave them every aid in its 
power, supplied them with food and other necessities, and even 
offered to furnish boats to take the men back to China. An 
English ship happened to pass, and it took the survivors back 
to Shanghai. The following year the Koreans answered the 
letter of the French, saying that the French priests had entered 
the country in disguise and had dressed in Korean clothes and 
consorted with men who were declared traitors. When appre- 
hended, they had not given their French names, but Korean 
names, and when offered the opportunity of leaving the country 
they had stubbornly refused. Under these circumstances, the 
government asked what it could have done other than it did 
do. From the merely political and legal point of view, the 



112 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Korean government had all the facts on its side, but from the 
standpoint of humanity they were wrong. We must admire 
the heroism that made these men stay and suffer with their co- 
religionists, but it would be wrong to say that the government 
was without excuse. They needed rather enlightenment than 
censure. The French were not satisfied with this, but the break- 
ing out of civil war in France in 1848 put an end to all nego- 
tiations for the time being. A new king came to the throne of 
Korea in 1849, ^tnd he was of. such a mild character that nothing 
was done against the Catholics during his entire reign, which 
lasted until 1863. During this time of quiet the numbers of the 
adherents g^ew from eleven thousand to twenty thousand. So 
far as the government was concerned, it was a time of general 
degeneration, — an incapable king being surrounded by incapable 
ministers. Nothing of importance occurred until the news of the 
taking of Tientsin and the march on Peking by the allied French 
and English burst upon the court like a stroke of lightning from 
the clear sky. One can hardly imagine the state of terror into 
which the capital and the court were thrown. A mighty host 
of Western savages had dared to attack the citadel of the glorious 
Celestial Empire. It was indeed time to be up and doing. The 
Emperor might seek asylum in Korea ; so every approach should 
be guarded. The outlaw bands that infested the neutral strip 
between Korea and Manchuria might invade Korea; so the 
border forts should be repaired and manned. Worst of all, the 
foreigners themselves might invade Korea. The cities would be 
burned, the people massacred or debauched, and the depraved 
religion would be established. The army should be reorganised, 
the forts guarding the approaches to Seoul should be repaired, 
forts should be built on Kang-wha, guarding the river approaches 
to the capital, and, last of all, every precaution should be taken 
lest the foreign priests get into communication with their com- 
patriots outside. The work began, but the news of the fall of 
Peking precipitated a panic, in which a large part of the people 
of Seoul fled to the mountains, while many tried to secure from 



THE MANCHU INVASION 113 

the Roman Catholics badges of some kind that would secure 
them protection. But the excitement gradually subsided, and the 
defensive works proceeded with great rapidity. The King died 
in 1863, ^^d ^ "^^ regime was inaugurated, which presented a 
striking contrast to the one just ended. The record of this new 
reign is the story of the Opening of Korea. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE OPENING OF KOREA 

KING CHUL-JONG died without issue, and the Dow- 
ager Queen Cho took violent possession of the seals 
of office, and nominated the present ruler as king. 
He was then twelve years old. The government had 
been for many years in the hands of a faction that looked upon 
the spread of Christianity with unconcern; and it was doubly 
unfortunate that the Queen of the deceased King was compelled 
to hand over the seals, for the power fell into the hands of that 
faction whose main policy was undying hatred of the new reli- 
gion. The father of the new King was Prince Heung-sung, who 
is better known by his later title, Taiwunkun. He was a man of 
strong personality and imperious will, and however the people 
may have come to hate him, they always respected him. He was 
perhaps the last really strong man to appear on the stage of 
Korean politics. His main characteristic was an indomitable will, 
which took the bit in its teeth and swept on to the goal of its 
desire irrespective of every obstacle, whether of morals, eco- 
nomics, politics or consanguinity. But he was unable to read 
the signs of the time. The two great mistakes of his life were 
in supposing that he could eradicate Roman Catholicism by force, 
and in supposing that he could prevent the opening of the country 
to foreign intercourse. 

His first act was to marry his son, the King, to his wife's 
niece, a member of the Min family, hoping thus to insure to 
himself a long lease of power as regent, and later as the practical 
shaper of the country's policy. Time showed how sadly he was 
mistaken. His second act was nearly as bad a blunder, for he 
set about taxing the people to the very quick, in order to rebuild 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 115 

for his son the Kyongbok Palace, which had lain in ashes since 
the days of the Japanese invasion in 1592. This enormous task 
was at last completed, but at terrible cost. It ruined the finances 
of the country, debased the national currency, and set in motion 
a train of economic blunders which had lamentable results. 
Assuredly he was not a great man, however strong he may have 
been. 

In January of 1866 a Russian gimboat dropped anchor in 
the harbour of Wonsan, and a message was sent to court asking 
for freedom of trade with Korea. It is said that the Roman 
Catholics made use of the consequent uneasiness at court to sug- 
gest that the only way to thwart Russia was by making an 
alliance with England and France. The regent is said to have 
given this plan close and favourable attention. In the light of 
subsequent events, it is difficult to determine whether the regent's 

considered, the latter theory is the more probable. The French 
themselves believed that the regent was pushed on to the great 
persecution of 1866 by the violently anti-Christian faction that 
had raised him to power, and that it was simply another case of. 
" If thou do it not, thou art not Caesar's friend." It is said that 
he reminded them of the burning of the summer palace at Peking 
and the occupation of the imperial Chinese capital; but they 
answered that they had killed Frenchmen before, and with 
impunity, and they could do it again. But whatever pressure 
w- as brought to bear upon him, he finally signed the death-warrant 
of the foreign priests, and on February 23 Bishop Bemeux was 
arrested and lodged in prison. Brought up for trial, he said that 
he had come to save the souls of the Koreans, and that he had 
been in the country ten years. He refused to leave the country 
except by force. His death-warrant read as follows : " The 
accused, who gives his name as Chang, refuses to obey the King ; 
he will not apostatise; he will not gpve the information required; 
he refuses to return to his own country. Therefore after the 



interest in this plan was real, or whether it was only a ruse 
whereby to make the final coup alf the more effective. All things Vfi 



ii6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

usual punishments he will be decapitated." With him Breteni- 
eres, Beaulieu and Doric were executed by decapitation. Their 
bodies were buried in a trench together, and later were recov- 
ered by Christians and given decent burial. A few days later 
Petitnicolas, Pourthie, Daveluy, Aumaitre and Huin were put 
to death. Of these Pourthie lost not only his life, but the manu- 
script of his Korean Grammar and his Latin-Korean-Chinese 
Dictionary, on which he had spent ten years of work. Three 
priests remained, — Calais, Feron and Ridel. They remained 
secure in hiding, but the last was chosen to take a message to 
China, giving information of these terrible events. After almost 
incredible labours, he succeeded in taking boat from the shore 
of Korea with eleven native Christians, and making the harbour 
of Chefoo. An expedition would have been despatched against 
Korea at once had it not been* for trouble in Cochin-China which 
y demanded attention. 

In June the American sailing-vessel Surprise was wrecked 
off the coast of Whang-hai Province, and the crew were kindly 
treated by the authorities and taken across the Yalu, and handed 
over to the Chinese for safe conduct to Tientsin. Even in the 
midst of an anti-foreign demonstration of the severest t)rpe, 
these people were humanely treated and sent upon their way. 
', Of another stamp was the General Sherman affair. This vessel 
approached the Korean coast in September, and in spite of warn- 
ings, and threats persisted in sailing up the Tadong River to 
Pyeng-yang. This was possible only because of high spring tides 
in conjunction with a heavy freshet, and it looked to the Koreans 
as if the Americans were burning their ships behind them, for 
by no possibility could the vessel be extricated from her danger- 
ous position. Orders were therefore given for her destruction. 
She was burned with fire-rafts, and her crew were massacred 
as fast as they came ashore. Here again small blame is to be 
attached to the Koreans, considering the provocation. ' 

Meanwhile the persecution of the Christians, which had been 
severe in the spring, had somewhat abated, but now it broke out 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 117 

again with renewed vigour. Admiral Roze, being now ready 
to take up the matter of obtaining redress from Korea for the 
killing of the French priests, sent three boats to the Korean 
coast to make a preliminary survey of the situation. This caused 
a panic in Seoul, and thousands fled to the country. But the 
boats sailed away to China, and reported among other things the 
fate of the General Sherman. The real punitive expedition was 
now ready, and on October 1 1 the blockade of the Han River was 
announced to the Chinese government and the other powers. 
Seven men-of-war sailed for Korea and began their work by 
attacking the island of Kang-wha. The town was soon taken, 
and a large amount of war material was seized ; but the Koreans 
were not disheartened. They sank junks in the river channel to 
block the approach to Seoul, and they sent a force of some five 
thousand men to the island of Kang-wha, consisting for the most 
part of tiger-hunters and other hardy fighters. These took their 
stand in a strongly fortified Buddhist monastery near the south 
side of the island, some twelve miles from where the French 
were stationed. The latter determined to attack this position, 
and a detachment of one hundred and sixty men was sent for this 
purpose. This was a serious blunder, for the whole French force 
would have been unable to dislodge five thousand men from the 
natural stronghold of the Koreans. Arriving before the walled 
fortress that was approachable only up a steep hill in the face 
of a double flanking fire, the French rushed up to the attack; 
but a withering fire of musketry and of rude cannon, made from 
models taken from the French wrecks, put nearly one-half the 
small French force instantly hors de combat In a very few 
minutes the survivors were struggling back toward their main 
position, heavily burdened with their dead and wounded. The 
Koreans gave chase, and the day would have ended with a mas- 
sacre had not the remaining French force come out to the relief 
of their comrades. The French Admiral, for what reason is not 
known, but probably because he recognised that his force was 
utterly unable to cope with the Korean army, fired the town of 



ii8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Kang-wha and sailed away to China. The effect upon the regent 
and the people of Korea was electric. They had vanquished the 
very men who had stormed Peking and humbled the mighty 
Emperor. If the reader will try to view this event from the ill- 
informed standpoint of the Korean court, he will see that their 
exultation was reasonable and natural. The last argument 
against a sweeping persecution was now removed, and the fiat 
went forth that Christianity was to be annihilated. No quarter 
was to be given; neither age nor sex nor condition was to 
weigh in the balance. From that date till 1870 the persecution 
raged with almost unabated fury, and it is probable that it 
involved the lives of nearly twenty thousand Koreans. This 
includes those who fled to the mountains and froze or starved 
to death. 

In 187 1 an American expedition was fitted out to go to Korea 
and attempt to conclude some sort of treaty with Korea relative 
to the treatment of American seamen who were cast upon the 
shores of the peninsula, but also, and mainly, to open up trade 
relations. Admiral Rogers was in charge, and the flotilla con- 
sisted of five vessels, — the Colorado, Alaska, Bernicia, Mono- 
cacy and Palos, Frederick F. Low, the American minister at 
Peking, went with the fleet to carry on the diplomatic part of the 
undertaking. He knew very well, as is seen in the official cor- 
respondence, that it was a hopeless task, but he obeyed orders. 

They reached the western coast of Korea at the end of May, 
and attempts were at once made to communicate with the govern- 
ment, but the regent shrewdly suspected that the expedition had 
to do with the massacre of the crew of the General Sherman, anS 
determined to handle the Americans as he had the French. While 
the flotilla was waiting for an answer from Seoul, two of the 
smaller vessels were sent up the estuary between Kang-wha and 
the mainland to take soundings and make observations. This 
place was considered the very gate to the capital, and the extreme 
unwisdom of the act appeared when a small Korean fort on the 
island opened fire on the boats. The latter returned the fire, but 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 119 

withdrew to report. It was decided that as the flag had been 
fired upon, an immediate attack was necessary in order to uphold 
the honour of the American RepubUc. A considerable force 
was sent against the little fort ; the party landed, made its way 
across some very rough ground and stormed the place at the 
point of the bayonet. The Koreans fought with desperation, and 
every one of them fell at his post. Their ammunition gave out, 
but they caught up gravel in their fists and threw it into the faces 
of the Americans. The fort was taken, and the honour of the 
flag was vindicated with the loss of a single American officer. 
The victorious party then withdrew; and as it was now mani- 
festly impossible to effect a friendly settlement of the matter, 
and the force at his command was utterly inadequate to accom- 
plish anything decisive, the whole fleet sailed away. The regent 
cared little for the loss of a few earthworks on Kang-wha. Even 
if the Americans had overrun the peninsula and yet had not 
unseated the King, their final withdrawal would have left the 
government in the firm belief that the foreigners had been 
whipped. The approach of American gunboats up to the very 
" Gibraltar of Korea " was taken by the regent as a declaration 
of war, and the loss of the little garrison on Kang-wha was but 
a small price to pay for their exultation upon seeing the American 
vessels hull down in the Yellow Sea. The regent immediately 
caused the erection of a monument in the centre of Seoul, on 
which were carved anathemas against anyone who should ever 
propose peace with any Western power. 

But in the interval the great awakening had taken place in 
Japan, and a new force was launched upon the troubled seas of 
Oriental politics. In the first flush of this wonderful dawn of 
modem Japan, the people who had steered the ship of state 
into that desired haven fancied that a similar success might be 
achieved in Korea, and an envoy was sent by way of Fusan, 
where still existed the Japanese trading-station, to see what 
could be done in Seoul. This was Hanabusa, and he succeeded 
in getting into communication with the Queen's party. It must 



120 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

be noted that the time had now come when the regent must hand 
over the reins of power to his son, the King. His complete 
absorption of all the functions of the government had aroused the 
jealousy of the Queen's family, and a determined effort was being 
made to combat the regent's power. This was so successful that 
in 1873 he shook off the dust of Seoul from his shoes, and retired 
to a neighbouring town in disgust. 

A new era was now opened. The friends of the ex-regent 
were many and powerful, and they encompassed the murder of 
the Queen's father, and committed other atrocities; but the Min 
faction was master of the situation, and the policy of seclusion 
gave way to one of genuine advancement. There can be no 
question that at first the Queen's faction stood for what is gen- 
erally called progress. It had no special leaning toward China, 
and having reversed the policy of the regent it stood ready to 
do whatever was necessary to open up the country to foreign 
intercourse. The trouble came later, but of this anon. 

In 1876 the first foreign treaty was signed with Japan. It 
seems that a Japanese war-vessel had approached the coast near 
Chemulpo, and had been fired upon by a Korean fort. A com- 
pany of troops was landed and the fort was taken. The Korean 
government claimed that the commandant of the fort did not 
know that the vessel belonged to Japan ; but however this may 
have been, it ended by Korea assenting to the ratification of a 
treaty of peace and friendship with Japan. By this instrument 
the Japanese recognised the independence of Korea, and treated 
with her as an equal, a policy which she has continued until 
recently. A minister was sent to Seoul in 1879 ^^ ^^^ person 
of Hanabusa, whom we have already mentioned. A Korean 
envoy was also sent to Japan. The government arrested two 
French priests who had just arrived in Seoul, and they were in 
some danger; but while the authorities were considering the 
matter, and hesitating lest this act be inconsistent with the 
changed conditions, the Japanese minister secured their release 
and their transportation to Japan. 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 121 

With the year 1880 began a train of events which caused 
the complete destruction of all the hopes which had been held out 
regarding Korea's genuine progress. It must be remembered 
that the Min family were sponsors for the opening of the country, 
and they took the lead in all innovations. They may not have 
been actuated by the highest motives, and it is more than likely 
that their new power went to their heads ; but at the same time 
the hope of the country lay in them. Korea was not ready to 
inaugurate the sweeping changes which Japan had made. The 
temperament of her people and the nature of her institutions alike 
forbade it. But there arose in Seoul a faction which was deter- 
mined to force the Koreans to an extreme policy of reform. One 
or two of these men had been in Japan and had imbibed the 
spirit of reform ; and in their enthusiasm they thought the con- 
servatism of centuries could be reversed in an hour. Unfortu- 
nately the Japanese thought the same thing, and were in full 
sympathy with these extreme radicals, calling them the liberal 
party, and growing restive under the slower methods of the 
Mins. The latter soon came to see that the Japanese were bent 
upon putting the power into the hands of these radicals, and in 
pure self-defence they turned to the Chinese for help. This was 
the beginning of the end. The inexperience of the Japanese had 
blocked all hope of a peaceful and judicious introduction of 
reforms, and had thrown the ruling faction into the arms of 
China, whose one desire now was to retrieve the mistake she had 
made in declaring that she was in no way responsible for or 
interested in Korea's blunders. We can here put our finger upon 
the very point where the conflict between Japan and China, and 
consequently the conflict between Japan and Russia, had its incep- 
tion. If Japan had handled the situation with tact, allowed 
China to retain her shadowy patronage, and led the Min faction 
along a conservatively liberal path, there might have been a very 
different outcome. Or if Japan had been ready to face China 
and fight it out then and there, Korea's future would have been 
better secured. As it was, the ruling faction came to regard 



122 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Japan not as a friend, but as a decided enemy, and their whole 
power was directed toward preventing the things which Japan 
wished to accomplish. As yet the King himself was not com- 
pletely under the domination of the Min family, and he looked 
with considerable complacency upon the efforts of the radicals 
to introduce reforms independently of the Min faction. He was 
not violently opposed in this, but the meshes of the conservative 
party were being thrown around him, and he was gradually being 
drawn away. And so the two parties were fairly well balanced 
for the time. On the one side was the Min family with a number 
of allied families, and on the other were the comparatively 
isolated members of the radical party, — Kim Hong-jip, Kim 
Ok-kyun, Pak Yong-hyo, Su Kwang-bum, Su Cha-p'il and 
others. We say isolated because they had only personairy 
imbibed the spirit of radical reform, and they had behind them 
no large and deeply rooted family connection that was ready to 
see them through to a successful issue. They put on foot some 
important and salutary reforms, which were watched by the people 
with amused tolerance as the antics of madmen; but they were 
not taken seriously. These men came the nearest to being 
genuine patriots that Korea has ever seen. They were far ahead 
of their times, and what they desired was the very best thing for 
Korea. The fact that Korea did not want it — would have none 
of it — can never detract from the honour due those men. They 
were loyal to their best instincts, but they fell just short of 
greatness because they were unwilling to see their temporary 
ascendency checked in order that they might be of future use. 
They thought that it was a case of " now or never," in which 
opinion they were mistaken. 

The military riot of 1882 was caused by the wretched treat- 
ment of the troops, whose rice w^as mixed with sand in order 
that one of the high officials might line his pockets. When it 
broke out, the Min family w^as the main point of attack. Several 
of them were killed and others fled. The palace was invaded, 
and the Queen was saved only by a trick, for she was carried out 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 123 

on the back of a faithful retainer, who claimed she was his sister, 
and escaped to a country retreat. At the same time, with the 
utmost inconsistency, the Japanese were attacked, and had to 
beat a retreat to Chemulpo and thence to Japan. The legation 
was burned, and several Japanese were killed. The ex-regent 
was called back to power, and some fondly believed that the good 
old days had returned. This did not appear so clear when 
Count Inouye arrived at Chemulpo and began negotiations for 
the settlement of the difficulty. But the regent put him off, and 
practically refused to treat; so the count returned to Japan. 
Hardly had he gone when a Chinese force of three thousand 
men arrived, one of their officers being the well-known Yuan 
Shih-kei, who was to play an important role in Korea. These 
troops had come in the interests of the Min faction. They 
immediately seized the ringleaders of the revolt, and ten of 
them were torn asunder by bullocks. The ex-regent was then 
inveigled on board a boat in the river and spirited away to 
China. The Queen came back from her temporary banishment, 
and all was quiet again. The peace with Japan was patched 
up by the payment of an indemnity, and relations were resumed. 
Tj;ie Chinese now had a firm hand on the government, and held 
it there by virtue of the fact that they had acted as the Queen's 
deliverers. Through their influence P. G. von Mollendorflf was 
asked to come and establish a customs service here, and to act 
as general adviser. Two of the Chinese generals were attached 
to his staff. 

In May of 1883 Commodore Schufeldt at Chemulpo drew 
up a treaty between Korea and the United States, and General 
Foote was sent as first American minister to the Korean court. 
In the following autumn treaties with Germany and Great Britain 
were also signed. Korea was now a recognised member, in good 
and regular standing, of the family of treaty powers. She was 
de jure an independent kingdom, for China had not only put no 
obstacles in the way of the ratification of these treaties, but had 
even facilitated them. Her subsequent claim to suzerainty was 



124 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

comical in its incongruity. It was in this same year that Min 
Yong-ik, the nephew of the Queen and a prominent official, 
headed an embassy to the United States. He was accompanied 
by a number of young Koreans, most of whom were of the 
liberal party. At this time Min Yong-ik was the one important 
member of the Min faction who favoured radical reform, but 
on his return to Korea the clan feeling proved too powerful, and 
he gradually went over to the other side. 

The year 1884 saw the two rival factions draw to the crisis 
which could not be averted. Reform movements were attempted, 
but the radical faction was thwarted at every turn by the con- 
servatives, who had the Chinese behind them, and the ear of the 
King besides. The Chinese had a strong body of troops here 
also, which made the radicals feel that in order to carry out 
their plans it would be necessary to obtain Japanese support of 
a like character. The young Koreans who had been sent to 
Japan to learn military tactics now came home. At their head 
was Su Cha-p'il, better known as Dr. Philip Jaisohn. He was 
an ardent member of the radical faction. The leaders of that 
party communicated with the Japanese, or at least an under- 
standing was arrived at, that Japan should back them in their 
attempt to stem the current of conservatism. As winter came 
on, it became more and more apparent that one or other of the 
two factions must give in, and the conservatives were so thor- 
oughly intrenched that the radicals were very much disheartened. 
There were two possible courses open to them : one was to step 
down and out, and give the conservatives free rein, and the other 
was to take things into their own hands by a coup de main, and 
crush the opposition. While they were discussing this matter, 
and were arranging for a Japanese man-of-war to come to their 
support, the news leaked out that a plan was on foot for the 
violent deposition of the conservative faction. The imminent 
danger in which this placed the radical faction caused them to 
act at once. The new post-office was to be opened with a ban- 
quet on December 4. Min Yong-ik was one of the principal 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 125 

guests, but members of both factions were there, together with 
some of the foreign representatives, the Chinese generals, and 
the foreign adviser Von MoUendorflf. In the midst of the dinner 
Min Yong-ik was called out, and he was attacked by an assassin 
in the court, who wounded him horribly with a sword and made 
his escape. All was instantly in confusion. The Koreans hastily 
dispersed, and. the wounded man was taken to the residence of 
Von MoUendorf, where he was cared for at the skilful hands 
of Dr. H. N. Allen, the newly arrived missionary physician from 
America. It has never been proved that this attack was made 
by the radicals themselves, but at any rate they saw that they 
must act promptly, for whether the crime was theirs or not they 
knew that it would be charged against them. It was now neces- 
sary for them to strike a swift, sharp blow or be destroyed 
seriatim. They chose the former course, and hurried to the 
palace, where they secured possession of the King's person, and 
forced him to send to the various heads of departments, ordering 
them to present themselves before him. These men came one 
by one, and as fast as they came they were cut down in cold 
blood by the company of students, lately from Japan, who had 
come to the palace as body-guard to the radical leaders. In this 
revolting massacre seven men were destroyed, including one of 
the eunuchs who had been influential on the conservative side. 
The King was then made to send to the Japanese minister, asking 
for a guard. This was imniediately sent, and it looked as if the 
coup had been a success. The Chinese, however, looked at it 
differently, and forthwith made a regular military attack upon 
the palace, knowing full well that the situation could not pos- 
sibly be of the King's making. The four hundred Japanese had 
a good deal of ground to cover, for the palace is of great extent, 
and the Chinese force outnumbered them seven to one. This 
action on the part of the Chinese had evidently not been antici- 
pated by the revolutionists, and it soon became clear that the 
situation could not be maintained. The King and the people 
were all against the movement, and the situation could be saved 



126 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

only by throwing Japan and China at each other's throats. The 
play was decided not to be worth the candle, and so the Japanese, 
in company with the radical leaders, forced their way out of the 
city to Chemulpo, and made their way to Japan. 

This was the first great reverse that Japan suffered at the 
hands of the Chinese, and the question was definitely settled as 
to the attitude that Korea should take. She was henceforth 
completely in China's hands, and was destined to remain there 
imtil Japan reversed the verdict in 1894, just ten years later. 

These ten years may be passed over without much comment. 
They witnessed a continual encroachment by China upon Korea's 
independence, and a hopeless acquiescence on the part of the 
latter, which came near to alienating the good-will of her best 
friends. The most important work of this decade was the intro- 
duction of Protestant Christianity in the peninsula. Several 
American societies began work here almost simultaneously, and 
in each case with marked success. The Korean temperament is 
such that it seems specially open to approach by Christianity. 
This peculiar susceptibility lies in the fact that Christianity, the 
most rational and at the same time the most mystical of all 
religions, finds in the Korean a like combination of rationality 
and idealism. Whether this theory be correct or not, the fact 
remains that Christian teaching at the hands of Protestant mis- 
sionaries was readily accepted by the Koreans, and within the 
decade large portions of the country were dotted with Christian 
chapels and schools, the Scriptures were partly printed and dis- 
seminated, a large Christian literature was published, and, in 
every activity of Christian life, whether of an evangelistic or 
philanthropic nature, the foundations were laid for a work that 
should not stop short of the Christianising of the entire nation. 
It had been the fashion in certain circles to speak slightingly of 
Christian missions, but this is done only by those who are either 
unconvinced of the paramount claims of Christianity, or by those 
who, uninformed themselves, are willing to ape opinions that are 
fashionable. The extreme rancour of those who assail an insti- 



THE OPENING OF KOREA 127 

tution of whose workings and results they are almost wholly 
ignorant can be reasonably explained only on the theory that 
they are goaded on to such assault by an uneasy conscience. 
The cause of missions does not need any apology or vindication, 
but we cannot forbear to wish that fewer of those who have 
enjoyed the hospitality of missionaries in foreign lands should 
be guilty of the unspeakable meanness of vilifying them after 
returning to the home lands. 

This decade witnessed the opening of the various treaty ports 
of Chemulpo, Fusan, Wonsan and Seoul, the construction of 
telegraph lines, the opening of a Government Hospital and an 
English Language School, the building of a mint and other 
important government institutions, and the introduction of a 
thousand different products of Western thought. For several 
years Judge O. N. Denny, the foreign adviser, tried to keep 
Korea out of the clutches of China. His arguments were con- 
clusive, but of little avail in the face of Korea's willingness to 
fall back upon the old-time relationship of suzerain and vassal. 
There can be little doubt that if the war had not intervened and 
reasserted Korean independence the foreign powers would have 
felt constrained to remove their legations. 

The whole world knows the story of how the gradual 
encroachments of China led up to the war, and how the predic- 
tions of almost all the experts were falsified by the remarkable 
energy and skill displayed by Japan. That war swept through 
Korea and across the Yalu, leaving the country in the hands of 
Japan. The military prowess of the island empire was proved 
beyond a doubt, but it was yet to be shown that she had the 
peculiar kind of ability which could construct an independent 
power out of such material as she found in Korea. It was at 
this point that her weakness was revealed. The methods she 
adopted showed that she had not rightly gauged the situation, 
and showed her lack of adaptability to the new and strange con- 
ditions with which she was called upon to grapple. The brutal 
murder of the Queen, and the consequent alienation of Korean 



128 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

good-will, the oppressive measures which led the King to throw 
himself into the hands of Russia, all these things demonstrated 
the lack of that constructive ability which was necessary to the 
successful solution of the knotty problem. 

The decade beginning with 1894 saw a continuance of the 
old difficulty under a new guise. It was no longer a struggle 
between Japan and China, but between Japan and Russia. And 
just as Japan failed in the diplomatic duel with China, so she 
failed in the diplomatic duel with Russia. In each case a final 
resort to arms was necessary. 



CHAPTER IX 
THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 

THE year 1895 was big with history. Its events cre- 
ated a strong and lasting impression upon the whole 
Korean people, and it is in the light of these events 
that the whole subsequent history of the country 
must be interpreted. The year opened in apparent prosperity. 
The King had taken oath to govern according to enlightened 
principles, and had exhorted his officials to adhere strictly to the 
reform programme, protesting that if he himself failed to do so 
it would be an offence against Heaven. The Taiwunkun had 
retired from public life, but as his son, the brother of the King, 
was Minister of the Household, and his grandson Yi Chun- 
yong held a position near the King, there can be no doubt that 
in a private way the Taiwunkun exercised fully as much influ- 
ence as he had done while in active office. It is necessary to 
bear in mind that the enmity of the Queen against the ex-regent 
extended to the sons of the latter, and, in spite of the terms of 
the King's oath, constant pressure was brought to bear upon the 
King from that direction. Whatever be the reason, we find that 
in January Yi Chun-yong was sent to Japan as Korean minister, 
an act that was really in favour of the anti-regent faction, since 
it temporarily removed one of the chief actors from the imme- 
diate stage. 

As the King had sworn to pay personal attention to the details 
of government, it was deemed advisable to remove the cabinet 
meeting-place to the palace itself. Whether this was in accord 
with the spirit of the reforms may be doubted, for it worked 
directly for the complete centralisation of power, which later 
caused a reversal of the whole governmental policy. 



I30 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The progress of the so-called reforms went on apace. The 
outside, the integuments, were changed, whatever may or may 
not have happened in the inner mind. The long baggy sleeves 
which had distinguished the true yang-ban were done away, 
and the side-openings of the long coats were sewed up. The 
width of the hat brims was curtailed, and other minor changes 
were effected. A salutary change was made by putting power 
into the hands of the ministers of state to carry out the work of 
their respective offices, according to law, without referring every- 
thing to the central government, excepting in very important 
cases, where it affected other departments. The immemorial 
customs regarding the salutations of inferiors to superiors and 
vice versa were largely done away and more democratic rules 
formulated. The Home Minister undertook to correct many 
abuses in the country, to ferret out cases where cultivated land 
returned no revenue, because of the indirection of the ajuns, and 
by this means the revenue of the government was very largely 
augmented. 

At this time a radical change was made in the manner of pun- 
ishing criminals. The cruel forms of execution and of torture 
which had always prevailed were done away, and more humane 
methods instituted. Decapitation was done away, and strangu- 
lation substituted. This worked no relief for the criminal, but 
the horrible spectacle of public decapitation was relegated to 
the past. 

On the native New Year, which occurred in February, the 
King issued an important edict saying that office should be given 
not only to men of noble blood, but to others of good character 
and attainments, and he ordered that such men be selected and 
sent up from the country as candidates for official position. This 
was very pleasing to the country people, and was hailed as a 
genuine sign of political renovation. At the same time the 
ancient arch outside the West Gate was demolished. This arch 
was the only remaining sign of Chinese suzerainty, and its 
demolition broke the last visible thread which bound Korea to her 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 131 

great patron. We say visible advisedly, for there can be no doubt 
that the intrinsic loyalty of the vast majority of Koreans to China 
was still practically unimpaired. 

On February 13 Yun Chi-ho returned from many years* 
sojourn in America and China, where he had gained a genuine 
insight into truly enlightened government; and his return to 
Korea would have been a most happy augury had there been 
enough enlightened sentiment in the country to form a basis for 
genuine as distinguished from superficial reform. 

Meanwhile the Japanese were carrying everything before 
them in Manchuria, and the end had now come. The Korean 
government therefore sent a special envoy to the Japanese head- 
quarters on the field at Hai-cheng, congratulating them upon 
their brilliant successes. Soon after this the war terminated 
with the treaty of Shimonoseki, by the terms of which China 
ceded to Japan southern Manchuria, and the island of Formosa, 
abjured all interest in Korea, and paid an enormous indemnity. 
The result astonished the Koreans, but so strong was the feeling 
in favour of China that very many still clung to the idea that 
China would pay the money and then go to work preparing for 
a much greater struggle with the victorious Japanese. 

Since the year 1456 Buddhist monks had been forbidden to 
enter Seoul. This was part of the general policy of this dynasty 
to give Buddhism no political foothold. Now the Japanese 
secured from the government a reinstatement of the Buddhists 
in their original position, and for the first time in four centuries 
and a half the mendicant monk with his wooden gong and rosary 
begged on the streets of Seoul. 

In April a great misfortune overtook the house of the ex- 
regent. His grandson, Yi Chun-yong, nephew to the King, was 
arrested and charged with having connived with tonghaks and 
others to depose the King and assume the reins of power. It 
was not shown that Yi Chun-yong had been a main mover in 
the scheme or that he had even favoured the idea ; but the very 
fact that his name had been used in such a connection was 



132 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

enough to send him into banishment on the island of Kyo-dong, 
off Kang-wha. Four other men connected with this affair were 
executed. This was a severe blow to the ex-regent, and did 
much to bring him to the point which made possible the terrible 
events of the following October. 

The 6th of June witnessed a great celebration in Seoul, 
which has gone down in history as Independence Day. A fete 
was held in the " Old Palace " which exceeded in brilliancy any 
similar demonstration since the opening of Korea to foreign 
relations. 

It was inevitable that, from the moment of his arrival in 
Korea, Pak Yong-hyo should be at swords' points with the 
Taiwunkun, for the returned refugee represented the radical 
wing of the reform party, which the ex-regent had always 
bitterly opposed; and, besides, the presence of such a strong 
man would necessarily subtract from the influence of the aged 
but autocratic prince. It is probable that the Japanese brought 
Pak Yong-hyo back to Korea under the impression that he would 
prove a willing instrument in their hands; but they soon dis- 
covered that he had ideas and opinions of his own, and that he 
was working rather for Korea than for Japan. He failed to fall 
in with some of the plans which would help the Japanese, but at 
the expense of Korea, and, in fine, he became something of an 
embarrassment to his former benefactors. Meanwhile the King 
and Queen were both attached to him, and this for several reasons. 
He was a near relative of the King, and would have no cause for 
desiring a change in the status of the reigning house; in the 
second place he was a determined enemy of the Taiwunkun, 
and, in the third place, he was sure to work against a too liberal 
policy toward the Japanese. This attitude of increasing friend- 
liness between him and the royal family was a further cause 
of uneasiness to the Japanese, although Count Inouye himself 
had done much to win the good-will of the Queen. Finally, Pak 
Yong-hyo had won the lasting gratitude of the King and Queen 
by exposing the machinations of Yi Chun-yong. 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 133 

The ex-regent was determined that Pak Yong-hyo should 
be gotten out of the way. To this end he concocted a scheme 
which, with the probable sanction of the Japanese, seemed to 
promise success. He laid before the King certain grave charges 
of treason against Pak, which, though not believed either by the 
King or the Queen, convinced them that it would be impossible 
to shield him from probable destruction; for the people still 
called him a traitor, the ex-regent would spare no pains to see 
him put out of the way, and it was evident that the Japanese 
would not take any strong measures to protect him. The Queen 
called him up and advised him to make good his escape before 
action could be taken on the charge of treason. He complied, 
and forthwith escaped again to Japan. He had not as yet broken 
with the Japanese, and they were doubtless glad to help him 
away. It was early in July that he passed oflF the stage, perhaps 
for ever, and thus there were lost to Korea the services of one of 
the most genuinely patriotic Koreans of modem times. If the 
Japanese could have determinedly put the ex-regent in the back- 
ground, and allowed Pak Yong-hyo to work out his plans on 
terms of amity with the royal family, all the evils which followed 
might easily have been averted. It was this act, as we believe, 
of allowing the ex-regent to carry out his scheme of personal 
revenge that caused the whole trouble, and there never was a 
time, before or since, when brighter hopes for Korea were more 
ruthlessly sacrificed. 

But progressive measures kept on apace, and during July 
the government issued new and important mining, quarantine 
and army regulations, and organised a domestic postal system. 
A valuable mining concession in the district of Un-san in the 
north was granted to an American syndicate, a transaction that 
has proved the most profitable, at least to the foreigner, of any 
attempt to open up the resources of Korea. 

Near the end of the month Korea suffered the misfortune 
of seeing Count Inouye retire from the legation in Seoul and 
return to Japan. Never did the Japanese have such need of a 



134 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

strong and upright man in Seoul, and never had a Japanese min- 
ister in Seoul opportunity for greater distinction. There are 
those who believe that he despaired of accomplishing anything' 
so long as the two opposing factions in Seoul were led by per- 
sonalities so strong and so implacable in their mutual hatred as 
the Queen and the ex-regent. It is not unlikely that he felt that 
until one or other of these should be permanently removed from 
the field of action there could be no real opportunity for the 
renovation of Korea. This by no means implies that he desired 
such removal to be effected by forcible means, but it is not un- 
natural to suppose that he must have given expression to the 
conviction as to the futility of doing anything under existing 
conditions in the peninsula. There have been some whq have 
believed that the Japanese authorities in Tokyo determined upon 
the removal of the obstacle in Seoul by any means in their power. 
Subsequent events gave some colour to this surmise, but we can- 
not and do not believe that the Japanese government was a party 
to the plot which ended in the tragedy of the following October, 
but that a fanatical and injudicious Japanese minister to Korea 
privately gave his sanction to an act which the Japanese govern- 
ment would have sternly forbidden had they been consulted. 

On the first day of September Viscount Miura arrived from 
Japan to assume the duties of minister. Over a month had 
elapsed since the departure of Count Inouye. The viscount was 
an enthusiastic Buddhist, and evidently belonged to the old rather 
than the new Japan. He was, withal, a strenuous man, and is 
said to have considered the settlement of the Korean difficulties 
merely a matter of prompt and vigorous action. At the time of 
his arrival the ex-regent was living at his summer-house near 
the river, and from the very first he was in close relations with 
the new Japanese minister.^ It was quite evident that the latter 
had espoused the cause of the ex-regent as against the Queen, and 
that instead of trying to close the breach which was constantly 
widening between these two powerful personages he was pre- 
paring to make use of this estrangement to further what he sup- 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 135 

posed to be the interests of Japan. Min Yong-whan, the most 
powerful of the Queen's friends, was sent to America as minister ; 
and everything was ready for the coup which had undoubtedly 
been determined upon. From the mass of conflicting evidence, 
charge and counter-charge, it is difficult to escape the following 
conclusion. There were two different policies held by political 
parties in Japan as to the best way to handle the Korean ques- 
tion : one was what we may call the radical policy which advo- 
cated strong measures and the instant and complete overthrow 
of all opposition to the will of Japan in the peninsula ; the other 
or conservative policy looked to the attainment of the same object 
by gradual and pacific means. It seems that the failure of Count 
Inouye to accomplish anything definite in the line of a settlement 
of internal dissensions at Seoul resulted in the appointment of 
Viscount Miura as an exponent of the extreme radical policy. 
He was supposed to do prompt work, but what that work would 
be, perhaps neither he nor his constituency saw clearly before his 
arrival on the scene. It would be going much too far to say that 
the assassination of the Queen was once thought of, and yet it is 
more than likely that those most conversant with conditions in 
Seoul felt that by some means or other her enormous influence 
must be permanently checked, and that affairs must be so man- 
aged that she should have nothing more to do in the handling 
of questions of state. How this was to be accomplished neither 
Miura nor any of his advisers knew until he came and looked 
over the field. 

For this reason it is easy to see how the ex-regent would be 
the first man in Korea with whom the Japanese minister would ^''''^ 
wish to consult, and it is certain that the Taiwunkun would have 
but one word to say as to the solution of the difficulty. His 
experience of twenty years had convinced him that there was 
only one way to accomplish the object which the minister had in 
view ; and while Viscount Miura naturally shrunk from adopting 
that course it would seem he too was at last convinced that it 
was the only feasible plan. That he actually advised it in the 



136 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

first instance, we do not believe ; but that he fell in with the plan 
which others suggested and which they oflFered to carry through 
without his personal intervention there can be no doubt whatever. 
Nor can there be any question as to where the responsibility for 
the tragedy rests; not with the Japanese government, surely, 
except in so far as its appointment of such a man to the difficult 
post of minister to Seoul may reflect upon its wisdom. 

It has sometimes been hinted that Count Inouye upon his 
return to Japan advocated some such policy as that which was 
carried out by Marquis Miura, but there is nothing to indicate 
that this is other than a libel, for the whole career of that able 
statesman gives the lie to such suspicions, and his despatches to 
his government show the very opposite spirit from that intimated 
in these slanderous reports. For instance, we have the extract 
from his reports, read in the Japanese parliament, in which he 
says: 

" On one occasion the Queen observed to me, ' It was a matter 
of extreme regret to me that the overtures made by me toward 
Japan were rejected. The Taiwunkun, on the other hand, who 
showed his unfriendliness toward Japan, was assisted by the 
Japanese minister to rise in power.' In reply to this I gave as 
far as -I could an explanation of these things to the Queen, and 
after allaying her suspicions I further explained that it was the 
true and sincere desire of the Emperor and government of Japan 
to place the independence of Korea on a firm basis, and in the 
meantime to strengthen the royal house of Korea. In the event 
of any member of the royal family, or indeed any Korean, 
attempting treason against the royal house, I gave the assurance 
that the Japanese government would not fail to protect the royal 
house even by force of arms." 

^ This unequivocal promise of protection was made by Count 
Inouye just before his departure for Japan, and we do not and 
cannot believe that he expressed anything but his honest senti- 
ments and those of the government that was back of him. It 
has been urged that the action of the Japanese government in 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 137 

w^ acquitting Viscount Miura in the face of the evidence given 
proves the complicity of that government in the outrage and its 
previous knowledge that it was to be perpetrated, but this does 
not necessarily follow. That government was doubtless unwill- 
ing to stultify itself by acknowledging that its accredited minister 
to Korea was actually guilty of the crime indicated in the charge. 

• This attempt to evade the responsibility was of course futile. 
There was no escape from the dilemma in which that government 
was placed, but the deduction that it was particeps criminis in 
the events of October 8 is unbelievable. It was the work of 
Viscount Miura and of his staff, and of them alone, as is shown 
hv thp Ht^jj^inn qf ^^'^ J^pnnef;e Tf^^ir t of Preliminary Inquiry. 
irhirh rnurt git in Hirm^^'"^^ ^'^ Jiin"''Tj ^^C^ 

That court found, among other things, that Viscount Miura 
upon his arrival in Seoul soon became aware that the Korean 
court, and especially ^^^ Qllt ^^'s faction, was pla cing every 
nhQtarlp \ j\ the wav of reform, a nd felt that an effective remedy 
should be applied. '^■^f TfiiW"^^"" ftsked the Tapa^ps^ for 
assistance in effecting a radical change, and it was decided to i^ 
grant it. But first the ex-regent was asked to sign an agree- 
ment not to interfere unwarrantedly in political matters in the 
future. A plot was then formed to take the palace by force, ^^^ 
murder the Queen, hold the person of the King, and thus control t/^ 
the situation. This plot was definitely sanctioned and urged by 
ViyQ^inf Mniro ^y\\\ hli Ffirritir)- 

At three o'clock on the morning of October 8, a large party 
of Japanese, including a number of soshi, together with several 
Koreans, went to the residence of the Taiwunkun, near the 
river, and in company with him proceeded toward Seoul. When 
they were about to start, their leader exhorted them to deal with 
the " fox " as necessity might dictate, the obvious meaning being 
that the Queen should be killed. About dawn the whole party 
entered the palace by the Kwang-wha gate, and at once proceeded 
to the royal apartments. 

At this point the recital of the facts abruptly stops, and the 



138 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

court goes on to state that, in spite of these proven facts, there 
is not sufficient evidence to prove that any of the Japanese actu- 
l ally committed the crime which had been contemplated, and all 
the accused are discharged. 

It is very much to the credit of the Japanese authorities that 
they frankly published these incriminating facts, and did not 
attempt to suppress them. Their action discharging the accused 
was a candid statement that, in spite of the actual proof which 
they adduced, it would not be possible to punish the perpetrators 
of the outrage, for Miura had been sent as the accredited min- 
ister of Japan, and his acts, though unforeseen by his superiors, 
could not but partake of an official character, and therefore the 
onus of the aflfair must fall on the Japanese government. This 
is the effect that was produced in the public mind, and, while 
the Japanese government as such must be acquitted of any 
intention or desire to secure the assassination of the Queen, yet 
it can scarcely escape the charge of criminal carelessness, in 
according to the Korean court a representative who would so 
far forget the dignity of his position as to plan and encourage 
the perpetration of such a revolting crime. 

The description of the scene, as given by the Hiroshima court, 
stops abruptly with the entrance into the palace before the actual 
business of the day began. It is necessary for us to take up 
the narration from that point. The buildings occupied by the 
King and Queen were near the back of the palace enclosure, 
almost half a mile from the front gate, so that the Japanese and 
Korean force, accompanied by the ex-regent, had to traverse a 
long succession of passageways through a great mass of build- 
ings before reaching the object of their search. Some of the 
palace guard were met on the way and easily pushed aside, some 
of them being killed, among whom was Colonel Hong. When 
the Japanese arrived at the buildings occupied by their majesties, 
a part of them formed about it in military order, guarding all 
the approaches, but they did not enter the building. A crowd 
of Japanese civilians, commonly believed to be soshi, and a 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 139 

considerable niunber of Koreans, all heavily armed, rushed into 
the royal quarters. A part of the crowd went into the presence 
of the King, brandishing their weapons, but without directly 
attacking his person nor that of the Crown Prince, who stood 
beside him. Another part of the crowd ranged through the 
apartments of the Queen, seizing palace women and demanding 
information as to the whereabouts of the Queen. They met 
Yi Kyung-jik, the Minister of the Household, before the Queen's 
apartments and at once cut him down, but he managed to crawl 
into the presence of the King, where he was despatched by the 
Japanese. The Queen was found in one of the rooms which 
constilutfiiljiersuite, and was ruthlessly butche red. It is impos- 
sible to state witS absolute certainty whether the blow was struck 
by a Korean or by a Japanese, but the overwhelming probability 
is that it was done by one of the armed Japanese. 

The body was wrapped in some sort of blanket, saturated 
with petroleum, and burned at the edge of a pine grove imme- 
diately to the east of the pond which lies in front of the royal 
quarters. 

The royal family had been aware for two days of the danger 
which threatened. The guards at the palace had been reduced, 
the arms had been taken away, and the movements of Japanese 
troops were very suspicious. The King advised the Queen to 
go to a place of safety, and she said she would do so if the 
Queen Dowager would also go, but the latter refused. Chong 
Pyung-ha, who had been raised to high office through the 
patronage of the Queen, but who had struck hands with the 
Japanese, urged with great insistence that there was no danger 
to her Majesty's person, and it was the confidence expressed by 
this traitor that did the most to set at rest the apprehension of 
the King and the Queen. 

During all the time leading up to these events* the palace 
guard was in charge of General Dye, but his efforts to carry 
out the wishes of his Majesty were continually thwarted, and 
the guard was merely a nominal one. 



I40 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

At about the time when the Queen was being killed, the 
'^^iwill^" ram^ \x]frk thj^ pTt^r^v^^j tht Kingi rtHfl took thc 
direction of affairs at the court. As might be supposed, both 
the King and the Crown Prince were in anything but an enviable 
frame of mind. They had been pushed about and insulted by 
low Japanese, and felt that their lives were momentarily in 
danger. Colonel Yi Kyung-jik, the Minister of the Housdiold 
Department, had taken his stand at the door of the Queen's 
apartments, and had there been cut down by the Japanese or 
Koreans, but succeeded in making his way, desperately wounded, 
into the presence of the King. He was there stabbed to death 

Ky -irliA Ji^pQ.nonn fcftfr ^r f> jji^ <y^< ^ r.f Viic AyfoJA cfy XhiS did nOt 

tend to reassure the King and the Crown Prince, but the coming 
of the Taiwunkun tended to quiet them somewhat. Of course 
they had no idea as yet that the Queen had been despatched. 

Before dawn began to break the King learned that Japanese 
troops were pouring into the barracks in front of the palace, 
and, as some semblance of order had been restored in the imme- 
diate presence of his Majesty, a note was sent in haste to the 
Japanese minister, asking what all this meant. The messenger 
found Miura and Sugimura already up and dressed, and sedan 
chairs at the door. Miura told the messenger that he had heard 
that troops had been marched to the barracks, but did not know 
why. The minister and his secretary thereupon proceeded rap- 
idly to the palace. Immediately upon their arrival all the dis- 
turbance suddenly quieted down, and the soshi dispersed and 
left the palace grounds. The Japanese minister and secretary 
immediately sought an audience with his Majesty, accompanied 
only by an interpreter and another Japanese who had led the 
soshi. The ex-regent was also present. 

Three documents were prepared by those present and placed 
before his Majesty for signature, one of them guaranteeing that 
the Cabinet s houlH |liprpaftpr ^^n^fre th e affairs of the country, 
the second appointing Yi Cha-myun, the King's brother, as Min- 
ister of the Household in place of Yi Kyun^-iik. who had just 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 141 

been kitfed, and the third appointing a vice-Minister of the 
Household. These documents the King perforce signed. There- 
upon all Japanese troops were removed from the palace, and 
only the Japanese-trained Korean troops were left as a palace- 
guard. Later in the day ministers of war and police were 
appointed in the persons of Cho Heui-yun and Kwun Yung- j in, 
both strong partisans of the Japanese, and doubtless privy to 
the attack upon the palace and the murder of the Queen. In 
other words, the King and court were surrounded by men every 
one of whom were in sympathy with the movement which had 
been planned by Viscount Miura. 

Very early in the morning, while it was still scarcely day- ^ 
light, Mr. Waeber, the Russian Charge d' Affaires, and Dr. Allen, (^ 
the American Charge d* Affaires ad interim, came to the palace 
and sought audience with the King, but were told that the King 
was tmwell and could not see them. They insisted, however, 
and succeeded in seeing his Majesty, who told them that he still 
had hopes that the Queen had escaped, and besought their friendly 
offices to prevent further trouble. Other foreign representatives 
were received later in the day. 

. It soon became evident that the Japanese authorities intended 
to deny any responsibility for the outrages committed. Miura 
stated in his despatches to his government that the origin of 
the emeute was a conflict between the Japanese-drilled Korean 
troops, who desired to lay a complaint before his Majesty, and 
the palace guards, who tried to prevent their entrance into the 
palace. Miura even sought to strengthen his disclaimer by 
obtaining from the newly appointed Minister of War a definite 
official statement that the rumours of his (Miura's) complicity 
in the affair were without foundation. The document that the 
Minister of War sent in reply proved altogether too much and 
defeated its own purpose, for it stated baldly that there was not 
a single Japanese in the palace on the night of the 8th of 
October when the Queen was murdered. As this minister was 
a creature of the Japanese, and as the presence of Japanese in 



142 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the palace was clearly proved subsequently, it is evident that 
Miura, by this sort of trickery, only succeeded in further impli- 
cating himself. 

On the 9th, the day after the enteute, a full Cabinet was 
appointed, composed entirely of Japanese sympathisers, but, with 
one or two exceptions, they were not privy to the assassination 
of the Queen, though they were willing to profit by that crime 
in accepting office at the hands of the perpetrators. 

One would have supposed that the enemies of the Queen 
would have been satisfied by her death, but not so. On the 
nth, three days after her assassination, an edict, purporting 
to have originated with his Majesty and signed by the full 
Cabinet, appeared in the " Court Gazette." In it the Queen is 
charged with having interfered in public matters, disturbed the 
government and put the dynasty in peril. It is stated that she 
has disappeared, and that her guilt is excessive; therefore she 
is deposed from her rank as Queen and reduced to the level of 
the lowest class. 

There can be no doubt that this edict is fraudulent. The 
King never gave his consent to it, and several of the members of 
the Cabinet knew nothing about it, notably Sim Sang-hun, who 
had already thrown up liis position and run away, and Pak 
Chong-yang, who denounced the nefarious business and resigned. 
It was put through by a few of the Cabinet who were thoroughly 
subservient to the Japanese. The Japanese minister, in reply 
to the announcement of the Queen's degradation, affected to 
sympathise with the Korean government, but thought it was 
done for the good of the state. The United States representa- 
tive refused to recognise the decree as coming from his Majesty, 
and in this he was seconded by all the other foreign representa- 
tives except one. 

Meanwhile the Japanese government began to learn some- 
thing of the truth in regard to the Queen's death, and felt called 
upon to defend itself from the charge of complicity in the out- 
rage tlirough its accredited minister. Consequently it recalled 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 143 

Miura and Sugimura, and upon their arrival in Japan they were 
arrested and charged with instigating the outrage. The fact 
of their arrest and trial was a distinct disclaimer on the part 
of the Japanese government that it was accessory to the crime; 
and, in spite of the utter inadequacy of the trial and its almost 
ludicrous termination, we hold to the theory that the Japanese 
government was not a party to the crime, excepting in so far 
as the appointment of such a man as Miura can be called 
complicity. 

But the vigorous action of Japan in arresting Miura and 
putting him on trial had a strong influence upon the course of 
events in Korea. The Korean public and all the foreign repre- 
sentatives were demanding that the occurrences of the 8th of 
October should be investigated, and the responsibility for the 
murder of the Queen placed where it rightly belonged. This 
itself bore strongly upon the Cabinet, but when, in addition to 
this, the Japanese government itself seemed to be weakening, 
and it appeared that Miura's acts would prove to have been 
unauthorised, things began to look rather black for the men 
who were enjoying office solely through Miura's influence, and, 
although the fiction was still maintained that the Queen was not 
dead but in hiding somewhere, the situation became more and 
more strained, until at last it became evident even to the Cabinet 
that something must be done to relieve the situation. Accord- 
ingly, on the 26th of November, the foreign representatives and 
several other foreigners were invited to the palace, and it was 
announced in the presence of his Majesty that Cho Heui-yun, 
the Minister of War, and Kwun Yung- j in, the Chief of Police, 
were dismissed, that the edict degrading the Queen was rescinded, 
and that the facts connected with the attack on the palace would 
be investigated by the Department of Justice and all guilty per- 
sons tried and punished. At the same time the death of her 
Majesty was formally announced. 

The position of his Majesty during the months succeeding 
the attack was anything but comfortable. He had no voice in 



144 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the direction of affairs, and he considered himself practically a 
prisoner in the hands of the Cabinet. He even feared for his life, 
and for weeks ate no food except what was brought to him in 
a locked box from friends outside the palace. He had requested 
that two or three foreigners should come to the palace each nig^t 
and be at hand in case of trouble, feeling that their presence 
would exert a deterrent influence upon any who might plot injury 
to his person. 

The half-way measures adopted on the 26th of November by 
no means satisfied those who wished to see his Majesty freed frcwn 
practical durance at the hands of men thoroughly obnoxious to 
him, and a scheme was evolved by a number of Koreans to effect 
his release by forcible means. The purpose of these men was 
a laudable one, but the execution of it was ill-managed. On the 
night of the 28th, upwards of a thousand Koreans demanded 
entrance into the palace. They had arranged with one of the 
members of the palace guard, inside, to open the gate to them, 
but at the last moment he failed them, and they found themselves 
balked. The palace was in some confusion ; the King had called 
in to his presence the three foreigners who, at his request, were 
on duty that night, but in spite of their assurances that his person 
would be protected it was only natural that excitement should 
run high. The crowd without were shouting wildly and attempt- 
ing to scale the high wall, and the members of the Cabinet, before 
the King, did not know at what moment the guard might betray 
them to the assailants, and they knew that once betrayed they 
would be torn to pieces without mercy. They tried, therefore, 
to induce the King to remove to a distant part of the palace, 
where he could hide for a long time before he could be found, 
even though the crowd should effect an entrance. The night 
was bitterly cold, and the King was but lightly clad ; and as the 
King's person was safe in any event, the foreigners who were 
with him opposed the move strongly, and at last were compelled 
to use physical force to prevent the change, which would certainly 
have endangered the King's life. The purpose of the Cabinet was 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 145 

thus thwarted, but as the hours passed it became evident that 
the men outside would not be able to eflfect an entrance. The 
shouts gradually died away, and at last the crowd dispersed, 
leaving in the hands of the palace guard three or four men 
who had scaled the wall but had not been followed by their 
confreres. 

In view of the attitude of the Tokyo government, the Japanese 
in Seoul were now entirely quiescent, and the government was 
standing on its own base. The Cabinet held its own by virtue 
of the palace guard, which was composed of the soldiers trained 
by the Japanese. This Cabinet and guard held together from 
necessity, for both knew that should their power fail they would 
be denounced as traitors, and under the circumstances could 
expect little help from the Japanese. The Cabinet had to make 
a show of investigating the attack of the 5th of October, and 
someone must be killed for having murdered the Queen. At 
the same time punishment was to be meted out to the principals 
in the attempt on the palace on the 28th of November. 

Three men were arrested and charged with being directly 
implicated in the crime of regicide. Of these one was certainly 
innocent, and while the second was probably privy to the crime, 
being a lieutenant of the Japanese-trained troops, there was no 
evidence adduced to prove his actual participation in the act of 
assassination. As a fact, the court did not know and never dis- 
covered who the actual perpetrators were. The three men were 
executed before the end of the year. 

Though only three men were arrested in connection with the 
assassination of the Queen, thirty-three men were arrested in con- 
nection with the comparatively trivial affair of the ^8th of Novem- 
ber. Their trial proceeded simultaneously with that of the other 
three. Two of them were condemned to death, four to exile for 
life, and four to three years' imprisonment. To show the kind 
of evidence on which these convictions were based, we will cite 
the case of Prince Yi Cha-sun, who was proved to have gotten 
hold of some compromising documents and to have shown them 



146 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

to the King only, instead of to the proper authorities, namely, of 
course, the Cabinet. On these grounds he was sentenced to three 
years' imprisonment. 

December and January saw matters move to an inevitable 
climax. The Cabinet forced upon the people the edict ordering 
the cutting oflf of the top-knot, the distinctive mark of Korean 
citizenship. The whole country was in a ferment, and the people, 
almost to a man, were gnashing their teeth at the Cabinet. The 
finding of the Hiroshima court claimed to have freed Miura and 
his fellows from blame, and it was rumoured that several of them 
were to return to Korea to take office under the government. It 
was perfectly evident, therefore, that the grip of the Japanese 
upon the King through the Gaoler Cabinet was tightening, and 
that there was no escape from it except through heroic measures. 
These measures the King was prepared to adopt rather than 
longer endure the humiliating position to which he seemed 
condemned. 

He determined to find asylum in the Russian legation. 
C. Waeber was the Russian minister, a pronounced friend of 
the dead Queen and a man of great ability. Just how he was 
approached and his consent gained to the King's scheme is not 
generally known; but in view of subsequent events, and the 
part that Russia intended to play in Korea, it is easy to see how 
the Russian representative would welcome an opportunity to do 
the King such a signal service, and one which was of such a 
personal character as to render it certain that it would never be 
forgotten. 

The plan was carried out successfully in every detail. 
Women's chairs were caused to be sent in and out the palace 
gates at frequent intervals by day and night, until the guards had 
become quite accustomed to them. Then on the night of tlie 
nth of February the King and the Crown Prince without 
escort slipped by the guards in common women's chairs, and 
were taken directly to the Russian legation, where they were 
courteously received and given the best portion of the legation 



THE ASSASSINATION OF THE QUEEN 147 

building. This act was, of course, a grievous lapse from the 
dignity that befits a king, but under the circumstances there is 
much to say by way of excuse. On the whole, it must be con- 
sidered a mistake so far as the country at large is concerned, for 
it set in motion a new set of factors which probably did more 
harm than the temporary enforced seclusion of the King could 
have done. It acted as a potent factor in embittering the Jap-) 
anese against Russia, and opened the door for Russian intrigue, 
which finally hastened if it did not actually cause the Russo- 
Japanese war. Had Japan been able to preserve the predomi- 
nance which she held in Korea just after the China-Japan war, 
she might have looked with more or less complacency upon the 
Russian aggression in Manchuria, but when Korea itself became 
disputed ground the war was inevitable. 

At seven o'clock on the morning of the nth of February the) 
King and the Crown Prince entered the Russian legation. Several 
hours elapsed before the Cabinet in the palace became aware of 
the fact. During that interval active operations were going on 
at the Russian legation. The organisation of a new Cabinet was 
hastened by summoning from various parts of the city such 
officials as the King could trust. Pak Chong-yang was made 
prime minister. No time was lost in putting out a royal edict 
deprecating the necessity of taking refuge in a foreign legation, 
promising to punish the real authors of the Queen's assassination, 
rescinding the order for cutting the top-knots. This was posted 
on the gates of the legation and at various points throughout 
the city. 



CHAPTER X 
THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 

WHEN the public awoke to the momentous fact, a 
thrill of excitement and generally of approval went 
through the whole population of Seoul. The city 
hummed with excited humanity. The streets 
swarmed with the crowds bent upon watching the course of 
such stirring events. 

Later in the day the King put forth an edict calling upon 
the soldiers to rally to his support, and urging that the members 
of the Cabinet should be seized and turned over to the proper 
authorities for trial. 

As soon as it became known in the palace that the King had 
fled, the three leading members of the Cabinet saw that their lives 
were forfeited. O Yun-jung managed to escape to the country, 
but was set upon and killed by the people; Cho Heui-yun 
escaped; Yu Kil-jun was spirited away to Japan by the Jap- 
anese; but Kim Hong-jip and Chong Pyung-ha were seized by 
the Korean soldiers, and immediately rushed by the crowd and 
killed. Their bodies were hauled to Chong-no, where they were 
stamped upon, kicked, bitten and stoned by a half-crazed rabble 
for hours. A Japanese who happened to be passing was set 
upon by the crowd and killed, and several foreigners drawn to 
the spot by curiosity were threatened. 

To say that the Japanese were nonplussed by this coup on 
the part of the King would be to put it very mildly. All their 
efforts to consolidate their power in Korea, and to secure there 
some fruit of the victory in the war just finished, had been 
worse than thrown away. The King had cast himself into 
the arms of Russia, and the whole Korean people were worked 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 149 

up to a white heat against Japan, comparable only with the 
feelings elicited by the invasion of 1592. It was a very great 
pity, for Japan was in a position to do for Korea infinitely 
more than Russia would do. The interests of Korea and Japan 
were identical, or at least complementary, and the mistake which 
Japan made in the latter half of 1895 ^^s one whose effects 
will require decades to eflFace. 

But the Japanese authorities, though thrown into conster- 
nation by this radical movement of his Majesty, did not give 
up hope of mending matters. The Japanese minister saw the 
King at the Russian legation, and urged upon him every pos- 
sible argument for returning to the palace. His Majesty, how- 
•ever, being now wholly relieved from anxiety as to his personal 
safety, enjoyed the respite too thoroughly to cut it short, and 
so politely refused to change his place of residence. A large 
number of Japanese in Seoul became convinced that Japan had 
hopelessly compromised herself, and left the country, but the 
Japanese government itself by no act or word granted that her 
paramount influence in the peninsula was impaired, and with 
admirable sang froid took up the new line of work imposed 
upon her by the King's peculiar action, meanwhile putting down 
one more score against Russia, to be reckoned with later. 

Now that it was possible, the King hastened to order a new 
investigation of the circumstances attending the death of the 
Queen. It was feared that this would result in a very sweeping 
arrest of Koreans, and the punishment of many people on mere 
suspicion, but these fears were ill-founded. The trials were 
carried through under the eye of Mr. Greathouse, the adviser 
to the law department and a man of great legal ability. Thir- 
teen men were arrested and tried in open court without torture 
and with every privilege of a fair trial. One man, Yi Whi-wha, 
was condemned to death, four banished for life, and five for 
lesser periods. This dispassionate trial was not the least of the 
signs which pointed toward a new and enlightened era in Korean 
political history. 



ISO THE PASSING OF KOREA 

It will be remembered that ever since the previous year 
Dr. Philip Jaisohn had been acting as Adviser to the Privy Coun- 
cil. This Council enjoyed considerable power at first, but gradu- 
ally fell to a secondary place; but now that new conditions had 
sprung up, the element combating the Russian influence took 
advantage of the presence of Dr. Jaisohn and other Koreans 
who had been educated abroad. The Russians seemed to look 
with complacency upon this movement, and in the spring of this 
year seem to have made no effort to prevent the appointment of 
J. McLeavy Brown, LL.D., as Adviser to the Finance Depart- 
ment, with large powers; which seemed to bear out the belief 
that the Russian minister was sincere in his statement that 
Russia wished the King to be quite untrammelled in the admin- 
istration of his government. It is this generous policy of 
Mr. Waeber that is believed to have caused his transfer later to 
another post, to be replaced by A. de Speyer, who adopted a 
very different policy. However this may have been, things 
began to take on a very hopeful aspect in Seoul. Needed 
reforms were carried through; torture was abolished in the 
Seoul courts; a concession was given to an American company 
to construct a railway between Seoul and Chemulpo ; Min Yong- 
whan was appointed special envoy to the coronation of the Czar; 
work was begun on the American mining concession granted 
the year before, various schools were founded, and the outlook 
on the whole was very bright indeed. It looked as if a solution 
had been found for the difficulties that afflicted the state, and that 
an era of comparatively enlightened government was opening. 

For some time there had existed a more or less secret organi- 
sation among the Koreans, the single article of whose political 
creed was independence both from China and Japan, or, in other 
words, " Korea for Koreans." Now that the King had been 
relieved of Chinese suzerainty by the Japanese and of Japanese 
restraint by himself, this little society, under the leadership of Dr. 
Philip Jaisohn. blossomed out into what was called The Independ- 
ence Club, The name but partially described the society, for. 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 151 

while it advocated the complete independence of Korea, it still 
more insistently advocated a liberal government, in the shape of a 
genuine constitutional monarchy, in which the royal prerogative < 
should be largely curtailed and the element of paternalism elim- 
inated. At first the greater stress was laid upon the general 
principle of Korean independence, and to this the King, in the' 
joy of his newly found freedom, heartily agreed. The royal 
sanction was given to the Independence Club, and it was launched 
upon a voyage which had no haven, but ended in total shipwreck. 
This club society was composed of young men, many of whom 
were doubtless aroused for the time being to something like 
patriotic fervour, but who had had no practical experience of the 
rocky road of Korean politics or of the obstacles which would 
be encountered. The cordiality of the King's recognition blinded 
them to the fact that the real object of their organisation, 
namely, the definition of the royal prerogative, was one that 
must eventually arouse first the suspicion and then the open hos- 
tility of his Majesty, and would become the slogan of all that 
army of self-seekers who saw no chance for self-aggrandisement 
except in the immemorial spoils system. These young men 
were armed with nothing but a laudable enthusiasm. They, 
could command neither the aid of the Korean army nor the ] 
advocacy of the older statesmen, all of whom were either directly 
hostile to the movement or had learned caution through connec- 
tion with previous abortive attempts to stem the tide of official 
corruption. The purpose of this club, so far as it knew its own 
mind, was a laudable one in theory, but the amount of persist- 
ency, courage, tact and self-restraint necessary to carry the plan 
to a successful issue was so immensely greater than they could 
possibly g^ess that, considering the youth and inexperience of 
the personnel of the society, the attempt was doomed to failure. 
They never clearly formulated a constructive plan by which to 
build upon the ruins of that system which they were bent upon 
destroying. 

On the 7th of April the first foreign newspaper was founded 



152 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

by Dr. Philip Jaisohn. It was called " The Independent," and 
was partly in the native character. From the first it exerted a 
powerful influence among the Koreans, and was one of the main 
factors which led to the formation of the Independence Club. 

Both Japan and Russia were desirous of coming to an imder- 
standing as to Korea, and on the 14th of May there was published 
the Waeber-Komura Agreement, which was modified and rati- 
fied later tmder the name of the Lobanoflf- Yamagata Agreement 
According to the terms of this convention, both powers guar- 
anteed to respect the independence of Korea, and not to send 
soldiers into the country except by common consent. 

The summer of 1896 saw great material improvements in 
Seoul. The work of clearing out and widening the streets was 
vigorously pushed, and, although much of the work was done 
superficially, some permanent improvement was effected, and 
the " squatters " along the main streets were cleaned out, it is 
hoped for all time. In July the concession for building a rail- 
way between Seoul and Wiju was given to a French syndicate. 
From subsequent events it appears that there was no fixed deter- 
mination on the part of the French to push this great engineer- 
ing work to a finish, but merely to preempt the ground and 
prevent others from doing it. Russian influence doubtless accom- 
plished this, and from that time there began to spring up the 
idea that Korea would be divided into two spheres of influence, 
the Japanese predominant in the south and the Russians in the 
north. 

In spite of the favourable signs that appeared during the 
early months of 1896, and the hopes which were entertained 
that an era of genuine reform had been entered upon, the com- 
ing of summer began to reveal the hollowness of such hopes. 
The King himself was strongly conservative, and never looked 
with favour upon administrative changes, which tended to weaken 
his personal hold upon the finances of the country, and he chafed 
under the new order of things. In this he was encouraged by 
many of the leading officials, who saw in the establishment of 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 153 

liberal institutions the end of their opportunities for personal 
power and aggrandisement. The old order of things appealed 
to them too strongly, and it became evident that the govern- 
ment was rapidly lapsing into its former condition of arbitrary 
and partisan control. Open and violent opposition to such harm- 
less innovations as the wearing of foreign uniforms by the stu- 
dents of foreign language schools indicated too plainly the 
tendency of the time, and the Russian authorities did nothing 
to influence his Majesty in the right direction. Judging from 
subsequent events, it was not Russia's policy to see an enlight- 
ened administration in Seoul. The political plans of that power 
could be better advanced by a return to the status quo ante. 
The act of the government in substituting an independence arch 
in place of the former gate, outside the west gate, which com- 
memorated Chinese suzerainty, was looked upon, and rightly, 
by the more thoughtful as being merely a superficial demonstra- 
tion which was based upon no deeper desire than that of being 
free from all control or restraint except such as personal incli- 
nation should dictate. The current was setting toward a con- 
centration of power rather than toward a healthful distribution of 
it, and thus those who had hailed the vision of a new and reju- 
venated state were compelled to confess that it was but a mirage. 

Pressure was brought to bear upon the court to remove 
from the Russian legation, and it was high time that such a 
move be made. As a matter of urgent necessity, it was con- 
sidered a not too great sacrifice of dignity to go to the lega- 
tion, but to make it a permanent residence was out of the 
question. The King was determined, however, not to go back 
to the palace from which he had fled. It held too many grue- 
some memories. It was decided to build the Myung-ye Palace 
in the midst of the foreign quarter with legations on three sides 
of it. The present King intended it as a permanent residence, 
and building operations were begun on a large scale, but it was 
not until February of the following year that his Majesty finally 
removed from the Russian legation to his new palace. 



154 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

All during the latter half of 1896 the gulf between the 
independence party and the conservatives kept widening. The 
latter grew more and more confident and the former more and 
more determined. Dr. Jaisohn, in his capacity of Adviser to the 
Council of State, was blunt and outspoken in his advice to his 
Majesty, and it was apparent that the latter listened with grow- 
ing impatience to suggestions which, however excellent in them- 
selves, found no response in his own inclinations. The Minister 
of Education voiced the growing sentiment of the retrogressive 
faction in a book called " The Warp and Woof of Confucian- 
ism," in which such extreme statements were made that several 
of the foreign representatives felt obliged to interfere and call 
him to account. A chief of police was appointed who was vio- 
lently anti-reform. The assassin of Kim Ok-kjrun was given 
an important position under the government. A man who had 
attempted the life of Pak Yong-hyo was made Minister of Law, 
and on all sides were heard contemptuous comments upon the 
" reform nonsense " of the liberal faction. And yet in spite of 
this the momentum of the reform movement, though somewhat 
retarded, had by no means been completely stopped. The sum- 
mer and autumn of this year, 1896, saw the promulgation of a 
large number of edicts of a salutary nature, relating to the more 
systematic collection of the national revenues, the reorganisation 
of gubernatorial and prefectural systems, the definition of the 
powers and privileges of provincial officials, the further regula- 
tion of the postal system, the definition of the powers of the 
superintendents of trade in the open ports, the abolition of illegal 
taxation, and the establishment of courts of law in the various 
provinces and in the open ports. As many of these reforms 
survived the collapse of the liberal party, they must be set down 
as definite results which justify the existence of that party and 
make its overthrow a matter of keen regret to those who have 
at heart the best interests of the country. 

All this time Russian interests had been cared for sedulously. 
The King remained in close touch with the legation, and Colonel 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 155 

Potiata and three other Russian officers were put in charge of 
the palace guard, while Kim Hong-nyuk, the erstwhile water- 
carrier, continued to absorb the good things in the gift of his 
Majesty. And yet the Russians with all their power did not 
attempt to obstruct the plans of the subjects of other powers in 
Korea. Mr. Stripling, a British subject, was made Adviser to 
the Police Department; a mining concession was granted to a 
German syndicate; an American was put in charge of a normal 
school ; Dr. Brown continued to direct the work of the Finance 
Department, and the work on the Seoul Chemulpo Railway was 
pushed vigorously by an American syndicate. The Russians 
held in their hands the power to put a stop to much of this, but 
they appeared to be satisfied ' with holding the power without 
exercising it. 

The first half of 1897 was characterised by three special 
features in Korea. The first was a continuance of so-called 
reforms, all of which were of a utilitarian character. A gold- 
mine concession was given to a German syndicate, a Chinese 
Language School and other schools were founded and the difficult 
work of cleaning out the Peking Pass was completed. It was 
announced that Chinnampo and Mokpo would be opened to trade 
in the autumn. The second feature was the steady growth of 
the conservative element which was eventually to resume com- 
plete control of the government. As early as May of this year 
the editor of the Korean Repository said, with truth : " The 
collapse is as complete as it is pathetic. After the King came to 
the Russian legation the rush of the reform movement could 
not be stayed at once nor even deflected. But soon there came 
the inevitable reaction. Reforms came to be spoken of less and 
less frequently. There was a decided movement backwards 
toward the old, well-beaten paths. But it was impossible to 
re-establish the old order of things entirely. We come then to 
the period of the revision of laws. Shortly after the King 
removed to the new palace an edict was put forth ordering the 
appointment of a Commission for the revision of the laws. This 



156 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

was received with satisfaction by the friends of progress. This 
Commission contained the names of many prominent men, such 
as Kim P)aing-si, Pak Chong-yang and Yi Wan-yong, as well 
as the names of Dr. Brown, General Greathouse, Mr. L^endre 
and Dr. Jaisohn." But by the I2th of April the whole thing 
was dropped, and the strong hopes of the friends of Korea were 
again dashed to the ground. The third feature of this period is 
the growing importance of Russian influence in Seoul. The 
training of the Korean army had already been taken out of 
Japanese hands and given to Russians, and in August thirteen 
more Russian military instructors were imported. It was plain 
that Russia meant to carry out an active policy in Korea. Rus- 
sian admirals, including Admiral Alexeieff, made frequent visits 
to Seoul, and at last Russia made public avowal of her purposes 
when she removed Mr. Waeber, who had served her so long and 
faithfully here, and sent Mr. A. de Speyer to take his place. 
There was an immediate and ominous change in the tone which 
Russia assumed. From the very first, De Speyer showed plainly 
that he was sent here to impart a new vigour to Russo-Korean 
relations; that things had been going too slow. It is probable 
that complaints had been made because in spite of Russia's pre- 
dominating influence at the Korean court concessions were being 
given to Americans, Germans and others outside. De Speyer 
soon showed the colour of his instructions and beg^n a course 
of browbeating, the futility of which must have surprised him. 
It was on the 7th of September that he arrived, and within a month 
he had beg^n operations so actively that he attracted the atten- 
tion of the world. In the first place he demanded a coaling station 
at Fusan on Deer Island, which commands the entrance to the 
harbour. This was a blow aimed directly at Japan and sure to 
be resented. It came to nothing. Then Mr. Kir Alexeieff 
arrived from Russia, an agent of the Finance Department in St. 
Petersburg. In the face of the fact that Dr. Brown was Chief 
Commissioner of Custom and Adviser to the Finance Depart- 
ment, Mr. Alexeieff was appointed by the Foreign Office as 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 157 

Director of the Finance Department. But the policy of bluff 
which De Speyer had inaugurated was not a success ; he carried 
it so far that he aroused the strong opposition of other powers^ 
notably England, and before the end of the year, after only 
three months of incumbency, De Speyer was called away from 
Seoul. As we shall see, the whole of his work was overthrown 
in the following spring. 

But we must retrace our steps a little and record some other 
interesting events that happened during the closing months of 
1897. It was on the 17th of October that the King went to the 
Imperial Altar and there was crowned Emperor of Taihan. This 
had been some time in contemplation, and as Korea was free from 
foreign suzerainty she hastened, while it was time, to declare 
herself an empire. This step was recognised by the treaty 
powers within a short period, and so Korea took her place on 
an equality with China and Japan. 

On the 2 1 St of November the funeral ceremony of the late 
Queen was held. It was a most imposing pageant. The funeral 
procession passed at night out of the city to the tomb, where 
elaborate preparations had been made, and a large number of 
foreigners assembled to witness the obsequies. 

The situation in Korea as the year 1898 opened was some- 
thing as follows. The Conservatives had things well in hand, and 
the Independence Club was passing on to its final effort and its 
final defeat. The work of such men as Dr. Jaisohn was still 
tolerated; but the King and the most influential officials chafed 
imder the wholesome advice that they received, and it was evident 
that the first pretext would be eagerly seized for terminating a 
situation that was getting very awkward for both sides. The 
reaction was illustrated in an attack on the " Independent," by 
which the Korean postal department refused to carry it in the 
mails. The Russians had taken the bull by the horns, and were 
finding that they had undertaken more than they could carry 
through without danger of serious complications. The Russian 
government saw this, and recalled De Speyer in time to preserve 



158 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

much of their influence in Seoul. The Emperor, being now in his 
own palace, but with easy access to the Russian^ legation, seems 
to have lent his voice to the checking of the reform propag^da, 
and in this he was heartily seconded by his leading officials. The 
most promising aspect of the situation was the determined atti- 
tude of the British government relative to the enforced retire- 
ment of Dr. Brown. When it became evident that a scarcely 
concealed plan was on foot to oust British and other foreigners 
in Korea, Great Britain by a single word and by a concentration 
of war-vessels at Chemulpo changed the whole programme of the 
Russians ; but, as it appeared later, the Russian plans were only 
changed, not abandoned. So the year opened with things polit- 
ical in a very unsettled state. Everything was in transition. The 
Independents and the Russians had some idea of what they 
wanted, but seemed to be at sea as to the means for accomplish- 
ing it. The Conservatives alone sat still and held on, sure that in 
the long run they would triumph even if they could not stop the 
march of material progress in the cleaning of the streets and the 
building of railways. 

February of 1898 saw the taking off of the most commanding 
figure in Korean public life during the nineteenth century, in the 
person of Prince Taiwun, the father of the Emperor, formerly 
regent. For almost forty years he had been more or less inti- 
mately connected with the stirring events which have marked 
the present reign. The things which specially marked his career 
are (i) the Roman Catholic persecution of 1866, (2) the deter- 
mined opposition to the opening of the country to foreigfn 
intercourse, (3) the building of the Kyongbok Palace, (4) the 
debasing of Korean currency, (5) the feud with the Queen's 
party, (6) the temporary exile in China, (7) the assassination 
of the Queen. Whatever may be said for or against the prince 
because of his policy, he remains in the minds of the people a 
strong, independent character, and they cannot fail to admire 
the man even though they have to condemn his policy. His 
adherents stood by him with splendid loyalty even in the 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 159 

hours of his disgrace, because he was in some sense really 
great. 

This time was characterised by curious inconsistencies. At 
the same time that an edict was promulgated stating that no 
more concessions would be granted to foreigners, the Seoul Elec- 
tric Company was organised to construct a tramway and a light- 
ing plant in Seoul. Material improvements continued parallel 
with, but in the opposite direction from, the policy of the gov- 
ernment. An agreement was even entered into with an American 
firm for the construction of a system of water-works for Seoul 
at a cost of some seven million yen. 

The failing hopes of the Independence Club drove it to its 
final place, that of protest. Memorials began to pour in, pro- 
testing against this and that. In February it complained of 
foreign control in Korea, directing the attack apparently upon 
the Russian pretensions; but if so, it was unnecessary, for by 
the 1st of March the Russians decided that their position was 
untenable, or that a temporary withdrawal of pressure from 
Seoul would facilitate operations in other directions, and so, 
under cover of a complaint as to the vacillating policy of the 
Korean government, they proposed to remove Mr. Alexeieflf from 
his uncomfortable position vis-a-vis Dr. Brown and also take 
away all the military instructors. Perhaps they were under the 
impression that this startling proposal would frighten the gov- 
ernment into making protestations that would increase Russian 
influence here ; but if so, they were disappointed, for the govern- 
ment promptly accepted their proposition and dispensed with 
the services of these men. No doubt the government had come 
to look with some anxiety upon the growing influence of Russia 
here, and with the same oscillatory motion as of yore made a 
strong move in the opposite direction when the opportunity came. 
The Korean government has been nearly as astute as Turkey in 
playing off her " friends " against each other. 

Just one month later, the 12th of April, N. Matunine relieved 
Mr. de Speyer, the Russo-Korean bank closed its doors, the Rus- 



i6o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

sian military and other officers took their departure, and a very 
strained situation was relieved for the time being. 

The summer of this year furnished Seoul with some excite- 
ment in the shape of a discovered conspiracy to force the King- 
to abdicate, place the Crown Prince on the throne, and institute 
a new era in Korean history. The plot, if such it may be called, 
was badly planned and deservedly fell through. It was one of 
the foolish moves called out by the excitement engendered in 
the Independence movement. An Kyung-su, ex-president of the 
Independence Club, was the party mainly implicated, and he 
saved himself only by promptly decamping and putting himself 
into the hands of the Japanese. 

August saw the fall of Kim Hong-nyuk, the former Russian 
interpreter, who ruffled it so proudly at court on account of his 
connection with the Russian legation. For a year he had a good 
time of it and amassed great wealth; but when the Russians 
withdrew their influence in March of this year, Kim lost all his 
backing, and thenceforward his doom was as sure as fate itself. 
The genuine noblemen whose honours he had filched were on 
his track, and in August he was accused, deposed and banished. 
This did not satisfy his enemies, however ; but an opportunity came 
when, on the loth of September, an effort was made to poison 
the Emperor and the Crown Prince. The attempt came near 
succeeding, and in the investigation which followed one of the 
scullions deposed that he had been instructed by a friend of Kim 
Hong-nyuk to put something into the coffee. How Kim, away 
in banishment, could have had anything to do with it would be 
hard 'to tell. He may have conceived the plan, but the verdict 
of a calm and dispassionate mind must be that he probably knew 
nothing about it at all. However, in such a case someone must 
suffer. The criminal mast be found ; and it is more than prob- 
able that those who hated Kim Hong-nyuk thought he would make 
an excellent scapegoat. He was tried, condemned and executed. 

The month of September witnessed better things than these, 
however. The Japanese obtained their concession for the Seoul- 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB i6i 

Fusan Railway, — an event of great importance every way, and 
one that will mean much to Korea. 

In September the Independence Club determined that it would 
be well to put forward a programme of work in place of the 
merely destructive criticism which had for some time character- 
ised its policy. An appeal was made to the general public to 
assemble, in order to suggest reforms. Whether this was wise 
or not is a question. A popular assembly in Korea is hardly 
capable of coming to wise conclusions or to participate in plans 
for constructive statesmanship. In addition to this an appeal to 
the people was inevitably construed by the Conservatives as a des- 
perate measure which invited revolution. In a sense they were 
justified in so thinking, for the general populace of Korea never 
have risen in protest unless the evils under which they are suffer- 
ing have driven them to the last court of appeal, mob law. The 
move was in the direction of democracy, and no one can judge 
that the people of Korea are ready for any such thing. 

However this may be, a mass meeting was held at Chong-no, 
to which representatives of all classes were called. The following 
articles were formulated and presented to the Cabinet for imperial 
sanction : 

1. Neither officials nor people shall depend upon foreign 
aid, but shall do their best to strengthen and uphold the imperial 
power. 

2. All documents pertaining to foreign loans, the hiring of 
foreign soldiers, the granting of concessions, etc., in fact every 
document drawn up between the Korean government and a 
foreign party or firm, shall be signed and sealed by all the Min- 
isters of State and the President of the Privy Council. 

3. Important offenders shall be punished only after they 
have been given a public trial and ample opportunity to defend 
themselves. 

4. To his Majesty shall belong the power to appoint Min- 
isters, but in case a majority of the Cabinet disapproves of the 
Emperor's nominee he shall not be appointed. 



i62 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

5. All sources of revenue and methods of raising taxes 
shall be placed under the control of the Finance Department, no 
other department, officer or corporation being allowed to inter- 
fere therewith; and the annual estimates and balances shall be 
made public. 

6. The existing laws and regulations shall be enforced with- 
out fear or favour. 

It will be seen that several of these measures strike directly 
at powers which have been held for centuries by the King him- 
self, and it cannot be supposed that his Majesty would listen will- 
ingly to the voice of the common people when they demanded 
such farjreaching innovations. The whole thing was utterly dis- 
tasteful to him, but the united voice of the people is a serious 
matter. These demands were not such as would involve any 
immediate changes ; they all looked to the future. So it was an 
easy matter simply to comply with the demands and wait for th^e 
public feeling to subside. On the last day of September his 
Majesty ordered the carrying out of these six propositions. 

The trouble was that the Conservatives felt that they had not 
sufficient physical power to oppose a popular uprising. The tem- 
porary concession was made with no idea of real compliance, and 
was immediately followed by measures for securing a counter 
demonstration. The instrument selected for this purpose was 
the old-time Peddlers' Guild. This was a defunct institution, 
but the name survived, and the Conservatives used it to bring 
together a large number of men who were ready for any sort of 
work that would mean pay. These were organised into a com- 
pany whose duty it was to run counter to all popular demonstra- 
tions like those which had just been made. No sooner was this 
hireling band organised than his Majesty, in pursuance of the 
hint dropped some months before by the president of the Inde- 
pendence Club, ordered the disbanding of the club. From this 
time on the Independence Club was no longer recognised by the 
government, and was an illegal institution, by the very terms 
of the unfortunate admission of its president that the Emperor 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 163 

could at any time disband it by imperial decree. Mr. Yun Chi-ho 
had by this time come to see that the club was running to dan- 
gerous extremes, and was likely to cause serious harm; and he 
and others worked with all their power to curb the excitement 
and secure rational action on the part of the members of the club. 
But the time when such counsels could prevail had already passed. 
The club knew that the principles it advocated were correct, and 
it was angry at the stubborn opposition that it met. It was ready 
to go to any lengths to secure its ends. Passion took the place 
of judgment, and the overthrow of the opposition loomed larger 
in its view than the accomplishment of its rational ambitions. 

Instead of dispersing in compliance with the imperial order, 
the assembled Independents went in a body to the police head- 
quarters and asked to be arrested. This is a peculiarly Korean 
mode of procedure, the idea being that if put on trial they would 
be able to shame their adversaries; and incidentally it embar- 
rassed the administration, for the prisons would not suffice to 
hold the multitude that clamoured for incarceration. The crowd 
was altogether too large and too determined for the peddlers to 
attack, and another concession had to be made. The Inde- 
pendents, for it can no longer be called the Independent Club, 
offered to disperse on condition that they be guaranteed freedom 
of speech. The demand was immediately complied with; any- 
thing to disperse that angry crowd which under proper leader- 
ship might at any moment do more than make verbal demands. 
So on the next day an. imperial decree granted the right of free 
speech. This concession, likewise, was followed by a hurried 
muster of all the peddlers and their more complete organisation. 
Backed by official aid and imperial sanction, they were prepared 
to come to blows with the people who should assemble for the 
purpose of making further demands upon the Emperor. 

The Conservatives now deemed themselves strong enough to 
try conclusions with the outlawed club, and before daylight of 
the 5th of November seventeen of the leading men of the Inde- 
pendence Club were arrested and lodged in jail. Mr. Yun, the 



i64 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

president, narrowly escaped arrest. It was afterwards ascer- 
tained that the plan of the captors was to kill the president of 
the club before he could receive aid from the enraged people. 

When morning came and the arrest became known, the city 
hummed like a bee-hive. A surging crowd was massed in frcxit 
of the Supreme Court, demanding loudly the release of the 
prisoners who had been accused, so the anonymous placards 
announced, of conspiring to establish a Republic ! Again the pop- 
ular feeling was too strong for the courage of the peddler thugs, 
and they remained in the background. The agitation continued 
all that day and the next and the next, until the authorities were 
either frightened into submission or, deeming that they had 
shown the Independents a glimpse of what they might expect, 
released the arrested men. But the Independents, so far from 
being cowed, hailed this as a vindication of their policy, and 
attempted to follow up the defeat of the Conservatives by demand- 
ing the arrest and punishment of the people who had played the 
trick upon the club. As these men were very prominent officials 
and had the ear of the Emperor, it was not possible to obtain the 
redress demanded. So the month of November wore away in 
a ferment of excitement. Popular meetings were frequent, but 
the crowd had not the determination to come to conclusions with 
the government. The Conservatives saw this, and with utmost 
nicety gauged the resisting power of the malcontents. The 
offensive tactics of the latter were confined merely to free speech, 
and the Conservatives determined to see what they would do when 
on the defensive. Accordingly on the morning of the 21st of 
November a band of ruffians, the so-called peddlers, attacked the 
people who had gathered, as usual, to discuss the stirring ques- 
tions of the times. Weapons were used, and a number of people 
were injured. The Independents had never contemplated the 
use of force, and this brutal assault aroused the ire of the whole 
people, most of whom had not as yet taken sides. Serious hand- 
to-hand fights occurred in various parts of the city, and the 
peddlers, conscious that even their most murderous attacks would 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 165 

be condoned in high places^ attempted to whip the people into 
something like quietude. 

On the 26th of November, in the midst of this chaotic state 
of things, the Emperor granted a great general audience outside 
the great gate of the palace. The Independence Club was there 
in force, and foreign representatives and a large number of other 
foreign residents. It was a little Runnymede, but with a different 
ending. Yun Chi-ho was naturally the spokesman of the Inde- 
pendence party. He made a manly and temperate statement of 
the position of his constituents. He denounced the armed attacks 
of the peddlers upon people who intended no violence but only 
desired the fulfUment of solemnly made pledges. He called to 
account those who imputed to the Independence Club traitorous 
designs. He urged that the legal existence of the club should 
be again established by imperial decree, and that the six measures 
so definitely and distinctly promised by his Majesty should be 
carried out. There was no possible argument to oppose to these 
requests, and the Emperor promised to shape the policy of the 
government in line with these suggestions. Again it was mere 
promise, made to tide over an actual and present difficulty. The 
Independence party should have recognised this. The Emperor 
was surrounded by men inimical to the reform programme ; they 
had the police and the army back of them as well as the peddlers. 
The Independence party had not a single prominent representa- 
tive in any really responsible and influential government office. 
They simply had right and the precarious voice of Korean popu- 
lar feeling behind them. What was necessary was a campaign 
of education. The programme advocated was one that could be 
carried out only under a government whose personnel was at least 
approximately up to the standard of that programme. This could 
be claimed of only two or three members of the Independence 
Club. Having secured this public promise of his Majesty, the 
club should have waited patiently to see what would happen, and 
if the promises were not kept they should have waited and worked 
for a time when public sentiment among the leading men would 



i66 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

compel reform. But as Mr. Yun himself confesses, " The popu- 
lar meetings had gone beyond the control of the Independence 
Club, and in the face of strong advice to the contrary, they were 
resumed on the 6th of December, and their language became care- 
less and impudent. On the i6th of December the Privy Council 
recommended the recall of Pak Yong-hyo from Japan. The 
popular meeting had the imprudence to indorse this action. The 
more conservative portion of the people revolted against the very 
mention of the name. Suspicion was excited that the popular 
agitations had been started in the interests of Pak Yong-hyo, and 
they instantly lost the sympathy of the people." The enemies 
of the liberal party had probably used this argument to its fullest 
extent, and when it was seen that the Independence movement 
had at last been deprived of its strongest support, the popular 
voice, its enemies came down upon it with cruel force. In spite 
of voluble promises to the contrary, large numbers of the reform 
party were arrested and thrown into prison; not, to be sure, 
on the charge of being members of this party, but on trumped-up 
charges of various kinds, especially that of being accessory to 
the plan of bringing back Pak Yong-hyo. And thus came to 
an end a political party whose aims were of the highest character, 
whose methods were entirely peaceable, but whose principles 
were so far in advance of the times that from the very first there 
was no human probability of success. 

The year 1899 opened with political matters in a more quiet 
state than for some years past, owing to the violent repression 
of the Independence Club and the liberal movement. The judg- 
ment of the future will be that at this point Japan made a serious 
mistake of omission. The aims and purposes of the Independence 
party were directly in line with Japanese interests here, and if 
that powerful government had actively interested itself in the 
success of the movement, and had taken it for granted that the 
plan was to be definitely carried out, the succeeding years would 
have made very different history than they did. But during all 
this time Japan seems to have retired into comparative quietude, 



THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB 167 

perhaps because she saw the approach of her inevitable struggle 
with Russia, and was not willing to hasten matters by coming 
into premature conflict with the northern power in Korea, pend- 
ing the completion of her preparations for the supreme struggle. 

Through all this period Russian influence was quietly at 
work securing its hold upon the Korean court and upon such 
members of the government as it could win over. The general 
populace was always suspicious of her, however, and always 
preferred the rougher hand of Japan to the soft but heavy hand 
of Russia. The progress of the Russian plans was illustrated 
when, in January of 1899, a Mission of the Greek Church was 
established in Seoul. 

Before going forward into the new century we should note 
some of the more important material advances that Korea had 
made. Railway concessions for some six hundred miles of track 
had been granted, half to Japanese and half to a French syndi- 
cate ; several new and important ports had been opened, bringing 
the total number up to ten, inclusive of Seoul and Pyeng-yang; 
mining concessions had been given to Americans, English, Ger- 
mans, French and Japanese, two of which had proved at least 
reasonably successful ; timber and whaling concessions had been 
given to Russians on the east side of the peninsula, and impor- 
tant fishing rights had been given to the Japanese; an attempt 
at a general system of education had been made throughout the 
country, and the work of publishing text-books was being pushed ; 
students were sent abroad to acquire a finished education, and 
legations at all the most important political centres were estab- 
lished; an attempt at a better currency had been made, though 
it was vitiated by official corruption and the operations of coun- 
terfeiters; trade had steadily increased, and the imports and 
exports of Korea passed beyond the negligible stage; an excel- 
lent postal system had been inaugurated under foreign super- 
vision, and Korea had entered the Postal Union. 

Thus it will be seen that, in spite of all domestic political 
complications and discouragements, the country was making 



i68 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

definite advance along some lines. The leaven had begun to 
work, and no conservatism on the part of the public leaders 
could stop the ferment. 

The necrology of the closing year of the century contains 
the names of Mr. Legendre and Mr. Greathouse, the latter of 
whom, as Legal Adviser to the government, did excellent work in 
his department, and was recognised by his employers as an able 
and efficient man in his official capacity. 



CHAPTER XI 

RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 

THE return to Seoul of M. Pavlow on the 15th of Jan- 
uary, 1900, marked the definite beginning of that train 
of events which led up to the declaration of war by the 
Japanese in 1904. The Russians had been induced* 
two years previously, to remove the heavy pressure which they 
had brought to bear upon the government, but it was only a 
change of method. They were now to adopt a policy of pure 
intrigue, and, by holding in power Koreans who were hostile 
to the Japanese, to harass and injure Japanese interests in every 
way possible. 

At this same time we see a clear indication of the trend of 
events in the return to Korea of An Kyimg-su and Kwan Yung- 
jin, two of the best men that late years had developed in Korea. 
They had been charged with connection with the plot to compass 
the abdication of his Majesty, and had taken refuge in Japan. 
Now, on the promise of the government that they should have 
a perfectly fair trial, and on the guarantee of protection by the 
Japanese, they returned boldly to Korea and presented them- 
selves for trial. They were strong men and they had to be 
reckoned with. They openly favoured Japanese influence and 
the reforms that that influence was supposed to embody. In fact, 
they were thoroughly in sympathy with the best motives of the 
defunct Independence Club. An Kyung-su returned on the 15th 
of January and was held in detention until the i6th of May, when 
Kwan Yung-jin returned. They were to stand a fair trial, but 
on the night of the 27th of May they were both strangled 
secretly in the prison. No more dastardly crime ever stained 
the annals of this or any other government. Induced to return 



I70 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

on the promise of a fair trial, they were trapped and murdered. 
The reactionists looked upon this as a signal victory, and indeed 
it was such, for it indicated clearly that a man was not safe 
even when he had the guarantee of the Japanese authorities. 
Nor would it be difficult to indicate the source from which the 
government obtained the courage thus to flout the Japanese. 

As the summer came on, all interest in things Korean was 
held in suspension, while the great uprising in China swelled 
to such monstrous proportions, and the investment of Peking 
and the siege of the foreign legations there left the world no 
time to care for or think of other things. There were fears 
that the Boxer movement would be contagious and that it would 
spread to Korea. Indeed it was reported in the middle of July 
that the infection had reached northern Korea; but fortunately 
this proved false. 

In spite of the reactionary policy of the government, progfress 
continued to be made on certain lines, just as the momentum 
of a railway train cannot be checked the moment the brakes 
are applied. A distinguished French legalist was employed as 
Adviser to the Law Department; mining concessions were 
granted to British, French and Japanese syndicates; the Gov- 
ernment Middle School was established; the Seoul-Chemulpo 
Railway was formally opened; a French teacher was engaged 
to open a School of Mines; a representative was sent to the 
great Paris Exposition. 

This year, 1900, was the heydey of another parvenu in the 
person of Kim Yung-jun. He was a man without any backing 
except his own colossal effrontery. He had acquired influence 
by his ability to get together considerable sums of money irre- 
spective of the methods employed. Scores of wealthy men were 
haled to prison on one pretext or another, and were released 
only upon the payment of a heavy sum. He was a man of 
considerable force of character, but, like so many adventurers 
in Korea, was lured by his successes into a false feeling of 
security. He forgot that the history of this country is full 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 171 

of just such cases, and that they inevitably end in violent death. 
Even the fate of Kim Hong-nyuk did not deter him, though his 
case was almost the counterpart of that victim of his own over- 
weening ambitions. Against Kim Yung-jun was ranged the 
whole nobility of the country, who waited with what patience 
they could until his power to extort money began to wane, and 
then fell upon him like wolves upon a belated traveller at night. 
But it was not until the opening of the new year, 1901, that he 
was deposed, tried and killed in a most horrible manner. After 
excruciating tortures, he was at last strangled to death. 

But even as this act was perpetrated, and the fate of all such 
adventurers was again illustrated, another man of the same ilk 
was pressing to the fore. This was Yi Yong-ik, who had once 
been the major domo of one of the high officials, and in that 
capacity had learned how to do all sorts of interesting, if 
unscrupulous, things. He was prominent in a felonious attempt 
to cheat the ginseng farmers of Song-do out of thousands, back 
in the eighties. He was an ignorant boor, and, even when 
rolling in opulence, failed to make himself presentable in dress 
or manner. He was praised by some for his scorn of luxury, 
and because he made no attempt to hoard the money that he 
bled from the veins of the people. The reason he did not hoard 
it was the same that makes the farmer sow his seed, that he 
may reap a hundred-fold. Yi Yong-ik sowed his golden seed 
in fertile soil, and it yielded him a thousand-fold. 

One of his favourite methods of obtaining money for his 
patron was to cause the arrest of shoals of former prefects who, 
for one cause or another, had failed to turn into the public 
treasury the complete amount nominally levied upon their 
respective districts. These arrears went back several years, 
and many of them were for cause. Either famine or flood or 
some other calamity had made it impossible for the people to 
pay the entire amount of their taxes. There were many cases, 
without doubt, in which it was right to demand the money from 
the ex-prefects, for they had "eaten" it themselves; but there 



172 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

were also many cases in which it was a genuine hardship. Lit- 
erally, hundreds of men were haled before a court and made to 
pay over large sums of money, in default of which their prop- 
erty was seized as well as that of their relatives. In exact pro- 
portion as the huge sums thus extorted paved his way to favour 
in high places, in that same proportion it drove the people to 
desperation. The taking oflF of Kim Yung-jun, so far from 
warning this man, only opened a larger door for the exercise 
of his peculiar abilities, and it may be said that the official career 
of Yi Yong-ik began with the opening of 1901. 

In March a Japanese resident of Chemulpo claimed to have 
purchased the whole of Roze Island in the harbour of Chemulpo. 
The matter made a great stir, for it was plain that someone had 
assumed the responsibility of selling the island to the Japanese. 
This was the signal for a sweeping investigation, which was 
so manipulated by powerful parties that the real perpetrators 
of the outrage were dismissed as guiltless, but a side issue which 
arose in regard to certain threatening letters that were sent to 
the foreign legations was made a peg upon which to hang the 
seizure, trial and execution of Kim Yung-jun, as before men- 
tioned. Min Yung-ju was the man who sold the island to the 
Japanese, and he finally had to put down thirty-five thousand 
yen and buy it back. 

Russia made steady advances toward her ultimate goal dur- 
ing the year 1901. In the spring some buildings in connection 
with the palace were to be erected, and the Chief Commissioner 
of Customs, J. McLeavy Brown, C. M. G., was ordered to vacate 
his house on the customs compound at short notice. Soldiers 
even forced their way into his house. This aflfront was a serious 
one, and one that the Koreans would never have dared to give 
had they not felt that they had behind them a power that would 
see them through. The British authorities soon convinced the 
government that such tactics could be easily met, and it had to 
retreat with some loss of dignity. 

Many of the French gentlemen employed by the govern- 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 173 

ment were thoroughly competent and rendered good service, 
but their presence tended to add to the tension between Japan 
and Russia, for it was quite plain that all their influence would 
be thrown in the scale on Russia's side. The attempt to loan 
the Korean government five million yen was pushed with des- 
perate vigour for many months by the French, but divided 
counsels prevented the final consummation of the loan, and the 
French thus failed to secure the strong leverage which a heavy 
loan always gives to the creditor. Yi Yong-ik, who had become 
more or less of a Russian tool, was pointedly accused by the 
Japanese of being in favour of the French loan, but he vigor- 
ously denied it. It is generally admitted that Yi Yong-ik was 
something of a mystery even to his most intimate acquaintances, 
and just how far he really favoured the Russian side will never 
be known, but it is certain that he assumed a more and more 
hostile attitude toward the Japanese as the months went by, — 
an attitude which brought him into violent conflict with them, 
as we shall see. 

Yi Yong-ik posed as a master in finance, whatever else he 
may or may not have been, and in 1901 he began the minting 
of the Korean nickel piece. No greater monetary disaster ever 
overtook this country. Even the desperate measures taken by 
the regent thirty years before had not shaken the monetary 
system as this did. The regent introduced the wretched five* 
cash piece, which did enormous harm, but that five-cash piece 
was of too small face value to be worth counterfeiting. The 
nickel was the ideal coin to tempt the counterfeiter, for its intrin- 
sic value was not so great as to require the employment of a 
large amount of capital, and yet its face value was sufficient to 
pay for the labour and time expended. The effects of this 
departure will be noted in their place. 

In the summer of 1901 Yi Yong-ik performed one act that, 
in the eyes of the people, covered a multitude of other sins. It 
was a year of great scarcity. The Korean farmers raised barely 
enough grain for domestic consumption, and in order to pre- 



174 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

vent this grain from being taken out of the country the govem- 
ment proclaimed an embargo on its export. In spite of the fact 
that Japan was enjoying an unusually good crop and did not 
really need the Korean product, the Japanese authoriti^, in the 
interest of the Japanese exporters in Korea, brought pressure 
to bear upon the Korean government to raise the embargo, 
utterly regardless of the interests of the Korean people. As it 
turned out, however, the enhanced price in Korea, due to the 
famine, and the cutting of a full crop in Japan, prevented the 
export of rice. But Yi Yong-ik saw that there would inevitably 
be a shortage in Seoul, and with much forethought he sent and 
imported a large amount of Annam rice, and put it on the market 
at a price so reasonable that the people were highly g^tified. 
From that time on whenever the mistakes of Yi Yong-ik were 
cited there was always someone to offer the extenuation of that 
Annam rice. It was a most clever and successful appeal to 
popular favour. 

As the year 1901 came to a close, the tension was beginning 
to be felt. People were asking how much longer Japan would 
acquiesce in the insolent encroachments of Russia. But the time 
was not yet. As for material advances, the year had seen not 
a few. Seoul had been supplied with electric light. The Seoul- 
Fusan Railway had been begun. Plans for the Seoul-Wiju Rail- 
way had been drawn up. Mokpo had been supplied with a 
splendid sea-wall. Building had gone on apace in the capital, and 
even a scheme for a system of water-works for the city had been 
worked out and had received the sanction of the government. 
Education had gone from bad to worse, and at one time, when 
retrenchment seemed necessary, it was even suggested to close 
some of the schools, but better counsels prevailed, and this form 
of suicide was rejected. 

With the opening of the year 1902 there were several indi- 
cations that the general morale of the government was deteri- 
orating. The first was a very determined attempt to revive the 
Buddhist cult. The Emperor consented to the establishment of 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 175 

a great central monastery for the whole country in the vicinity 
of Seoul, and in it was installed a Buddhist High Priest in 
Chief, who was to control the whole Buddhist Church in the 
land. It was a ludicrous attempt, for Buddhism in Korea is 
dead so far as any specific influence is concerned. Mixed with 
the native spirit-worship, it has its millions of devotees, but it 
is entirely unlikely that it could ever again become a fashionable 
cult. 

Another evidence was the constant and successful attempt 
to centralise the power of the government in the hands of the 
Emperor. The overthrow of the Independence party, whose 
main tenet was curtailment of the imperial prerogative, gave a 
new impulse to the enlargement of that prerogative, so that in 
the year 1902 we find almost all the government business trans- 
acted in the palace itself. The various ministers of state could 
do nothing on their own initiative. Everything was centred in 
the throne and in two or three favourites who stood near the 
throne. Of these Yi Yong-ik was the most prominent. 

A third evidence of deterioration was the methods adopted 
to fill the coffers of the household treasury. The previous year 
had been a bad one. Out of a possible twelve million dollars 
of revenue only seven million could be collected. There was 
great distress all over the country, and the pinch was felt in 
the palace. Special inspectors and agents were therefore sent 
to the country armed with authority from the Emperor to collect 
money for the household treasury. These men adopted any and 
every means to accomplish their work, and this added very 
materially to the discontent of the people. The prefects were 
very loath to forego a fraction of the taxation, because they 
saw how previous prefects were being mulcted because of failure 
to collect the full amount, and so between the prefect and the 
special agents the people seemed to be promised a rather bad 
time. In fact, it caused such an outcry on every side that the 
government at last reluctantly recalled the special agents. 

Early in the year the fact was made public that Korea had 



176 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

entered into an agreement with Russia whereby it was guaran- 
teed that no land at Masanpo or on the island of K6-je, at its 
entrance, should ever be sold or permanently leased to any 
foreign power. Russia had already secured a coaling station 
there, and it was generally understood, the world over, that 
Russia had special interest in that remarkably fine harbour. 
Avowedly this was merely for pacific purposes, but the pains 
which Russia took to make a secret agreement with Korea, 
debarring other powers from privileges similar to those which 
she had acquired, naturally aroused the suspicions of the Jap- 
anese and of the Koreans themselves, those of them that had 
not been in the secret; and this step, inimical to Japan as it 
undoubtedly was, probably helped to hasten the final catastrophe. 
Meanwhile Russian subjects were taking advantage of the influ- 
ential position of their government in Seoul, and, through min- 
isterial influence, some glass-makers, iron-workers and weavers 
were employed by the government without the smallest prob- 
ability of their ever doing anything in any of these lines. In 
fact, at about this time the government was induced to take on 
quite a large number of Russians and Russian sympathisers, 
who never were able to render any service whatever in lieu of 
their pay. In many cases the most cursory investigation would 
have shown that such would inevitably be the result. It is diffi- 
cult to evade the conclusion that the government was deliberately 
exploited. 

But at this time another and a far greater surprise was in 
store for the world. It was the announcement of a defensive 
alliance between Japan and Great Britain. By the terms of 
this agreement Japan and Great Britain guaranteed to insure 
the independence of Korea and the integrity of the Chinese 
Empire. The tremendous influence of this historic document 
was felt at once in every capital of Europe and in every capital, 
port and village of the Far East. It stung the lethargic to life, 
and it caused the rashly enthusiastic to stop and think. There 
can be no manner of doubt that this alliance was one of the 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 177 

necessary steps in preparing for the war which Japan already 
foresaw on the horizon. It indicated clearly to Russia that her 
continued occupation of Manchuria and her continued encroach- 
ments upon Korea would be called in question at some not dis- 
tant day. But she was blind to the warning. This convention 
bound Great Britain to aid Japan in defensive operations, and 
to work with her to the preservation of Korean independence 
and the integrity of China. It will be seen, therefore, that Japan 
gave up once and for all any thought that she might previously 
have had of impairing the independence of this country, and 
any move in that direction would absolve Great Britain from all 
obligations due to the signing of the agreement. 

The year had but just begun when the operations of counter- 
feiters of nickel coins became so flagrant as to demand the 
attention of all who were interested in trade in the peninsula. 
Japan had most at stake and Russia had least, and this explains 
why the Russian authorities applauded the work of Yi Yong-ik 
and encouraged him to continue and increase the issue of such 
coinage. In March matters had come to such a pass that the 
foreign representatives, irrespective of partisan lines, met and 
discussed ways and means for overcoming the difficulty. After 
careful deliberation they framed a set of recommendations, which 
were sent to the government. These urged the discontinuance 
of this nickel coinage, the withdrawal from circulation of 
spurious coins, and stringent laws against counterfeiting. But 
this was of little or no avail. The government was making a 
five-cent coin at a cost of less than two cents, and consequently 
the counterfeiters, with good tools, could make as good a coin 
as the government, and still realise enormously on the operation. 
It was impossible to detect the counterfeited coins in many 
cases, and so there was no possibility of withdrawing them from 
circulation. The heavy drop in exchange was not due merely 
to the counterfeiting but to the fact that the intrinsic value of 
the coin was nothing like as much as the face value, and by an 
immutable law of finance, as well as of human nature, it fell to 



178 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

a ruinous discount. But even this would not have worked havoc 
with trade if, having fallen, the discredited coinage would stay 
fallen, but it had the curious trick of rising and falling with 
such sudden fluctuations that business became a mere gamble, 
and the heavy interests of Japanese and Chinese merchants were 
nearly at a standstill. 

At this point the First Bank of Japan, called the Dai Ichi 
Ginko, brought up a scheme for putting out an issue of special 
bank notes that would not circulate outside of Korea. Korea 
was importing much more than she exported, and the balance 
of trade being against her it was impossible to keep Japanese 
paper in the country in sufficient quantities to carry on ordinary 
local trade. For this reason the bank received the sanction of 
the Korean government to put out this issue of bank paper, 
which could not be sent abroad, but would be extremely useful 
as a local currency. This was done, and it was found to work 
admirably. The Koreans had confidence in this money, and it 
circulated freely. It had two advantages not enjoyed by any 
form of Korean currency, namely, it was a stable currency and 
suffered no fluctuations, and it was in large enough denomina- 
tions to make it possible to transfer a thousand dollars from one 
man's pocket to that of another without employing a string of 
pack-ponies to carry the stuflf. 

The one important material improvement of the year was 
the adoption of a plan for the building of some thirty light- 
houses on the coast of Korea. Ever since the opening up of 
foreign trade, the lack of proper lights, especially on the western 
coast, had been a matter of growing concern to shipping com- 
panies. This concern was warranted by the dangerous nature 
of the coast, where high tides, a perfect network of islands and 
oft-prevailing fogs made navigation a most difficult and danger- 
ous matter. The fact that lighthouses ought to have been built 
ten years ago does not detract from the merit of those who at 
last took the matter in hand and pushed it to an issue. 

The month of May witnessed a spectacular event in the cere- 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 179 

mony of the formal opening of work on the Seoul-Wiju Rail- 
way. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Neither 
French nor Russian money was forthcoming to push the work, 
and so the Korean government was invited to finance the scheme. 
Yi Yong-ik was made president of the company, and, if there 
had been a few thousand more ex-prefects to mulct, he might 
have raised enough money to carry the road a few miles; but 
it is much to be feared that his financial ability, so tenderly 
touched upon by the Japanese minister in his speech on that 
" auspicious occasion," was scarcely sufficient for the work, and 
the plan was not completed. There is much reason to believe 
that this whole operation was mainly a scheme on the part of 
the Russians to pre-empt the ground in order to keep the Jap- 
anese out. 

As the year wore toward its close, the usurpation of numerous 
offices by Yi Yong-ik, and his assumption of complete control 
in the palace, bore its legitimate fruit in the intense hatred of 
four-fifths of the entire official class. He was looked upon as 
but one more victim destined to the same fate which had over- 
taken Kim Hong-nyuk and Kim Yung-jun. But in his case 
the difficulties were much greater. Yi Yong-ik had put away 
in some safe place an enormous amount of government money, 
and he held it as a hostage for his personal safety. Until that 
money was safely in the imperial treasury even the revenge 
would not be sweet enough to make it worth the loss. Not only 
so, but the whole finances of the household were in his hands, 
and his sudden taking off would leave the accounts in such 
shape that no one could make them out, and enormous sums 
due the department would be lost. Yi Yong-ik had fixed him- 
self so that his life was better worth than his death, however 
much that might be desired. But the officiary at large cared 
little for this. There was no doubt that the one person who 
should accomplish the overthrow of the favourite, and thus 
bring embarrassment to the imperial purse, would suffer for it, 
but Korean intrigue was quite capable of coping with a little 



i8o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

difficulty like this. The result must be brought about by a 
combination so strong and so unanimous that no one would 
ever know who the prime mover was. This at least is a plau- 
sible theory, and the only one that adequately explains how and 
why the scheme miscarried. The whole course of the intrigue 
is so characteristically Korean, and includes so many elements 
of genuine humour, in spite of its object, that we will narrate 
it briefly. It must of course be understood that the officials 
were keenly on the lookout for an opportunity to get the hated 
favourite on the hip, and in such a manner that even his finan- 
cial value to the Emperor would not avail him. 

One day, while in conversation with Lady Om, the Emperor's 
favourite concubine, who has been mistress of the palace since 
the death of the Queen, Yi Yong-ik compared her to Yang 
Kwi-bi, a concubine of the last Emperor of the Tang d)masty in 
China. He intended this as a compliment, but, as his education 
is very limited, he was not aware that he could have said nothing 
more insulting; for Kwi-bi by her meretricious arts is believed 
to have brought about the destruction of the Tang dynasty. In 
some way the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister heard 
a rumour that something insulting had been said. They called 
up the nephew of Lady Om, and from him learned the damning 
facts. They also knew well enough that no insult had been 
intended, but here was a " case " to be worked to its fullest 
capacity. The most sanguine could not hope that the hated 
favourite would give them a better hold upon him than this: 
for the position of Lady Om was a very delicate one, and there 
had been a dispute on for years between the Emperor's coun- 
sellors as to the advisability of raising her to the position of 
Empress. A word against her was a most serious matter. 

Everything was now ready for the grand coup, and on the 
27th of November fourteen of the highest officials memorial- 
ised the throne declaring that Yi Yong-ik was a traitor and 
must be condemned and executed at once. His Majesty sug- 
gested a little delay, but on the evening of that day the same 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE i8i 

men presented a second memorial couched in still stronger 
language, and they followed it up the next morning with a 
third. To their urgent advice was added that of Lady Om 
herself and of many other of the officials. A crowd of officials 
gathered at the palace gate, and on their knees awaited the 
decision of the Emperor. There was not a single soul of all 
that crowd but knew that the charge was a mere excuse, and 
yet it was nominally valid. It was the will of that powerful 
company against the will of the Emperor. The tension was too 
great, and his Majesty at last reluctantly consented, or at least 
expressed consent ; but he first ordered the accused to be stripped 
of all his honours and to render all his accounts. This was 
nominally as reasonable as was the charge against the man. It 
was a case of " diamond cut diamond," in which the astuteness 
of the Emperor won. The accusers could not object to having 
the accused disgorge before being executed, but it was at this 
very point that they were foiled. Yi Yong-ik's accounts were 
purposely in such shape that it would have taken a month to 
examine them, for he alone held the key. Nothing can exceed 
the desperate coolness of the man under the awful ordeal. At 
one point, just after the acquiescence of the Emperor, the written 
sentence of death is said to have gone forth, but was recalled 
just as it was to have gone out of the palace gates, after which 
there would have been no recall. No man ever escaped by a 
narrower margin. When Yi Yong-ik presented his accounts the 
Emperor announced that it would take some days to straighten 
matters out since the accused was the only man to unravel the 
skein. Here was probably the crucial point in the intrigue. 
If the white heat of the day before had been maintained and 
the officials had demanded instant punishment, accounts or no 
accounts, the thing would have been done, but as it happened 
the consciousness of having won relaxed the tension to such a 
degree that the accused gained time. This time was utilised by 
calling in a Russian guard and spiriting the accused away to 
the Russian legation. This accomplished, his Majesty suavely 



i82 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

announced that the case would be considered, but that mean- 
while the officials must disperse. There were further memorials, 
resignations en masse, passionate recriminations, until at last 
two or three officials who had held their peace saw that the 
game was up, and, in order to curry favour themselves, offered 
a counter memorial charging Yi Yong-ik's accusers with indi- 
rection. This was listened to, and the Prime Minister was 
deprived of his official rank. This made possible a compromise 
whereby both Yi Yong-ik and the Prime Minister were restored 
to all their former honours, and all went " merry as a marriage 
bell." But it was thought best to let Yi Yong-ik travel for his 
own and his country's good, so he was made Commissioner to 
buy Annam rice, which was itself a pretty piece of diplomacy, 
since it recalled prominently to the people the one phase of 
the injured man's career which they could unhesitatingly applaud. 
He was taken off in a Russian cruiser to Port Arthur — to buy 
Annam rice! 

When he returned to Seoul a few weeks later, the Japanese 
lodged a strong protest against his return to political power, 
but the Russian authorities made a counter-proposition urging 
that he was the only man capable of handling the finances of 
the country. Under existing circumstances the very protest 
of the Japanese was an argument in his favour, and he came 
back into power on the flood tide, backed, as he had never been 
before, by the full favour of the Russian party. They naturally 
expected substantial payment for having saved him, and so far 
as he was able he liquidated the debt. 

Meanwhile another man, Yi Keun-tak, had risen to power 
through servile adherence to Russian interests. The somewhat 
enigmatical character of Yi Yong-ik made him to a certain 
extent an unknown quantity. Not even the Japanese considered 
him wholly given over to Russia; but this new man was defi- 
nitely committed to Russian interests, and with his rise to impor- 
tant position it became evident for the first time that the Korean 
government had decided to rely upon Russia and to reject the 



RUSSIAN INTRIGUE 183 

aid or the advice of Japan. The end of the year 1902 may be 
said to have been the approximate time when Japan first realised 
that all hope of a peaceful solution of the Korean problem was 
gone. One naturally asks why Korea tock this step, and, while 
we are still too near the event to secure an entirely dispassionate 
estimate or opinion, there seems to be little doubt that it was 
because Russia made no pretensions and expressed no desire 
to reform the administration of the government. She was per- 
fectly content to let things go along in the old way in the 
peninsula, knowing that this would constantly and increasingly 
jeopardise the interests of Japan, while she herself had practi- 
cally no commercial interests to suffer. 

The immemorial policy of Russia in Asia sufficiently accounts 
for her work in Korea. Her policy of gradual absorption of 
native tribes has never held within its purview the civilising or 
the strengthening of those tribes, until they have been gathered 
under her aegis. On the other hand, until that has been accom- 
plished she has either waited patiently for the disintegration of 
the native tribes or has actually aided in such disintegration. 
History shows no case in which Russia has strengthened the 
hands of another people for the sake of profiting by the larger 
market that would be opened up; for until very recently the 
commercial side of the question has scarcely been considered, 
and even now the commercial interests of Russia depend upon 
an exclusive market. So that in any case a dominant political 
influence is the very first step in every move of Russia in the 
East. Why then should Russia have advised administrative or 
monetary or any other reform, since such action would inevi- 
tably form a bar to the success of her own ultimate plans? 

The historian of the future, taking his stand above and out 
of the smoke of battle, will take a dispassionate view of the 
whole situation. He will mark the antecedents of these two 
rival powers; he will compare their domestic and foreign poli- 
cies, he will weigh the motives that impelled them, he will mark 
the instruments wielded by each and the men whom they employed 



i84 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

as their intermediaries and agents. Then, and not till then, will 
it be possible to tell whether the present recorders of events are 
right in asserting that while the policies of both powers- are 
essentially selfish the success of Russia's policy involves the dis- 
integration and national ruin of the peoples she comes in contact 
with, while the success of Japan's policy, if she only could see it, 
demands the rehabilitation of the Far East. 

Much depended upon the attitude which Korea should finally 
assume toward these two mutually antagonistic policies. If she 
had sided with Japan and had shown a fixed determination to 
resist the encroachments of Russia by adopting a policy of 
internal renovation which would enlist the interest and command 
the admiration of the world, the war might have been indefinitely 
postponed. Whether it could have been finally avoided would 
depend largely upon the changes that are taking place in Russia 
herself, where in spite of all repressive agencies education and 
enlightenment are filtering in and causing a gradual change. 
Time alone will tell whether the outcome of the war was a bless- 
ing or not, for it is not yet certain whether Japan is bent upon 
territorial expansion or not. Her action in Korea is far from 
reassuring. 

The year 1903 beheld the rapid culmination of the difficulties 
between Japan and Russia. It had already become almost sure 
that war alone would cut the Gordian knot, and if any more proof 
was necessary this year supplied it. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 

EARLY in the year it transpired that the Russians had 
obtained from the Korean Emperor a concession to cut 
timber along the Yalu River. The thing was done 
secretly and irregularly, and the government never 
received a tithe of the value of the concession. By this act the 
government dispossessed itself of one of its finest sources of 
wealth, and sacrificed future millions for a few paltry thousand 
in hand, and a promise to pay a share of the profits, though no 
provision was made for giving the government an opportunity 
of watching the work in its own interests. Soon after the 
Russians had opened up the concession they began to make ad- 
vances for the obtaining of harbour facilities in connection with 
it. The port of Yongampo was decided upon, and the Korean 
government was asked to allow the Russians the use of it for 
this purpose. This created a very profound impression upon 
Japan and upon the world at large. It was felt that this was 
giving Russia a foothold upon the soil of Korea, and Russia's 
history shows that, once gained, the point would never be g^ven 
up. The activity of Russia in the north gave rise to the notion 
that Japanese influence was predominant in the southern half 
of the peninsula and Russia in the northern half. This gave birth 
to all sorts of rumours among the Korean people, and the ancient 
books were ransacked for prophecies that would fit the situation. 
As a whole, the attitude of the Korean has always been a rational 
and consistent one as between Russia and Japan. He has a 
greater personal antipathy for the latter because they have come 
into closer contact; but there is a mysterious dread in his heart 
which warns him of the Russian. He will never say which he 



i86 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

would rather have in power here, but always says, " I pray to 
be delivered from them both." 

Japan began to urge upon the government the necessity of 
opening Yongampo to foreign trade, but Russia, of course, 
opposed this with all her powers of persuasion. Great Britain 
and the United States joined in urging the opening of the port. 
The United States had already arranged for the opening of the 
port of Antung, just opposite Yongampo, and for the sake of 
trade it was highly desirable that a port on the Korean side of 
the Yalu should be opened. It had no special reference to the 
Russian occupation of the port, but as pressure was being brought 
to bear upon the government to throw open the port, it was con- 
sidered an opportune time to join forces in pushing for this 
desired end. And it was more for the interest of Korea to do 
this than for any of the powers that were urging it. Such an 
act would have been a check to Russian aggression, and would 
have rendered nugatory any ulterior plan she might have as 
regards Korea. But the Russian power in Seoul was too great. 
It had not upheld the cause of Yi Yong-ik in vain, and the gov- 
ernment, while using very specious language, withstood every 
attempt to secure the opening of the port. At last the American 
government modified its request, and asked that Wiju be opened ; 
but to this Russia objected almost as strongly as to the other. 
There can be little doubt that this uncompromising attitude of 
Russia on the Korean border confirmed Japan in the position she 
had already assumed. It was quite evident that the force of 
arms was the only thing that would make Russia retire from 
Korean soil. 

All through the summer complaints came in from the north 
that the Russians were working their own will along the northern 
border, and taking every advantage of the loose language in 
which the agreement had been worded. Again and again infor- 
mation came up to Seoul that the Russian agents were going 
outside the limits specified in the bond, but there was no one to 
check it. It was impossible to police the territory encroached 



THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 187 

upon, and there is reason to believe that the government chafed 
under the imposition. At least the telegraph lines which the 
Russians erected, entirely without warrant, were repeatedly torn 
down by emissaries of the government, and apparently without 
check from the central authorities. 

In the summer, when the text of the proposed agreement 
between Russia and Korea anent Yongampo became public, the 
Japanese government made a strong protest. She probably knew 
that this was a mere form, but she owed it to herself to file a 
protest against such suicidal action on the part of Korea. The 
insolence of the Russians swelled to the point of renaming Yong- 
ampo Port Nicholas. 

In October the Japanese merchants in Seoul and other com- 
mercial centres began calling in all outstanding moneys, with the 
evident expectation of war. All brokers and loan associations 
closed their accounts and refused to make further loans. It is 
more than probable that they had received the hint that it might 
be well to suspend operations for the time being. From this time 
until war was declared, the people of Korea waited in utmost 
suspense. They knew war only as a universal desolation. They 
had no notion of any of the comparative amenities of modem 
warfare or the immunities of non-combatants. War meant to 
them the breaking up of the very foundations of society, and 
many a time the anxious inquiry was put as to whether the war 
would probably be fought on Korean soil or in Manchuria. Once 
more Korea found herself the " shrimp between two whales," 
and doubly afflicted in that whichever one should win she would 
in all probability form part of the booty of the victor. 

The year 1904, which will be recorded in history as one of 
the most momentous in all the annals of the Far East, opened 
upon a very unsatisfactory state of things in Korea. It had 
become as certain as any future event can be that Japan and 
Russia would soon be at swords' points. The negotiations 
between these two powers were being carried on in St. Peters- 
burg, and, as published later, were of the most xmsatisfactory 



i88 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

nature. Japan was completing her arrangements for striking the 
blow which fell on the 9th of February. Of course these plans 
were not made public, but there was conflict in the very air, and 
all men were bracing themselves for the shock that they felt 
must soon come. The action of Japanese money-lenders in sus- 
pending operations was followed in January by the Korean pawn- 
brokers, and at a season when such action inflicted the greatest 
possible harm upon the poor people of the capital, who find it 
impossible to live without temporarily hypothecating a portion 
of their personal effects. This, together with the excessive cold, 
aroused a spirit of unrest which came near assuming dangerous 
proportions. Some of the native papers were so unwise as to 
fan the embers by dilating upon the hard conditions under which 
the Koreans laboured. Their sharpest comments were directed 
at the government, but their tendency was to incite the populace 
against foreigners. 

All through the month the various foreign legations were 
bringing in guards to protect their legations and their respective 
nationals, and this very natural and entirely justifiable action was 
resented by the government. It protested time and again against 
the presence of foreign troops, as if their coming were in some 
way an insult to Korea. The officials in charge thereby showed 
their utter incompetence to diagnose the situation correctly. It 
was well known that the disaffection among the Korean troops 
in Seoul was great, and that the dangerous element known as 
the Peddlers' Guild was capable of any excesses. The unfriendly 
attitude of Yi Yong-ik and Yi Keun-tak towards western for- 
eigners, excepting Russians and French, together with their more 
or less close connection with the Peddlers, was sufficient reason 
for the precautionary measures that were adopted. But the 
native papers made matters worse by ridiculing both the gov- 
ernment and the army. At one time there was considerable 
solicitude on the part of foreigners, not lest the Korean populace 
itself would break into open revolt, but lest some violent faction 
would be encouraged by the authorities to make trouble, so little 



THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 189 

confidence had they in the good sense of the court favourite. It 
was fairly evident that in case of trouble the Japanese would very 
soon hold the capital, and it was feared that the violently pro- 
Russian officials, despairing of protection at the hands of Russia, 
would cause a general insurrection, hoping in the tumult to make 
good their escape. It was felt that great precautions should be 
taken by foreigners not to g^ve any excuse for a popular uprising. 
The electric cars diminished their speed so as to obviate the pos- 
sibility of any accident, for even the smallest casualty might form 
the match which would set the people on fire. ^, 

About the 20th of January the report circulated that Russia ^v^ 
had proposed that northern Korea be made a neutral zone and 
that Japan exercise predominant influence in the south. This was 
only an echo of the negotiations which were nearing the break- 
ing point in St. Petersburg, and it confirmed those who knew 
Japan in their opinion that war alone could settle the matter. On 
the following day the Korean government issued its proclama- 
tion of neutrality as between Russia and Japan. This curious 
action, taken before any declaration of war or any act of hos- 
tility, was a pretty demonstration of Russian tactics. It was 
evident that in case of war Japan would be the first in the field, 
and Korea would naturally be the road by which she would attack 
Russia. Therefore, while the two were technically at* peace with 
each other, Korea was evidently induced by Russia to put forth 
a premature declaration of neutrality in order to anticipate any 
use of Korean territory by Japanese troops. At the time this 
was done the Foreign Office was shorn of all real power, and 
was only the mouthpiece through which these friends of Russia 
spoke in order to make their pronouncements official. It was 
already known that two of the most powerful Koreans at court 
had strongly urged that Russia be asked to send troops to g^ard 
the imperial palace in Seoul, and the Japanese were keenly on 
the lookout for evidences of bad faith in the matter of this 
declared neutrality. When, therefore, they picked up a boat on 
the Yellow Sea a few days later and found on it a Korean bearing 



I90 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

a letter to Port Arthur asking for troops, and that, while unofficial 
in form, it came from the very officials who had promulgated 
the declaration of neutrality, it became abundantly clear that the 
spirit of neutraHty was non-existent. It must be left to the 
future historian to declare whether the Japanese were justified 
in impairing a declared neutrality that existed only in name, and 
under cover of which the Korean officials were proved to be 
acting in a manner distinctly hostile to the interests of Japan. 

All through January the Japanese were busy making military 
stations every fifteen miles between Fusan and Seoul. All along 
the line small buildings were erected, sufficiently large to house 
twenty or thirty men. On the 22nd of January General Ijichi 
arrived in Seoul as Military Attache of the Japanese Legation. 
The appointment of a man of such rank as this was most signifi- 
cant and should have aroused the Russians to a realising sense of 
their danger ; but it did not do so. Four days later this general 
made a final appeal to the Korean government, asking for some 
definite statement as to its attitude toward Russia and Japan. 
The foreign office answered that the government was entirely 
neutral. Two days later the Japanese landed a large amount 
of barley at the port of Kunsan, a few hours' run south of 
Chemulpo, and a light railway of the Decauville type was also 
landed at the same place. On the 29th all Korean students were 
recalled from Japan. 

On the 1st of February the Russians appeared to be the only 
ones who did not realise that trouble was brewing, otherwise 
why should they have stored fifteen hundred tons of coal and 
a quantity of barley in their godowns on Roze Island in Che- 
mulpo harbour on the 2nd of that month? On the 7th the 
government received a despatch from Wiju saying that sev- 
eral thousand Russian troops were approaching the border, and 
that the Japanese merchants and others were preparing to retire 
from that place. The same day the foreign office sent to all the 
open ports ordering that news should be immediately telegraphed 
of any important movements. 



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5? 

O 

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THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 191 

On the 8th of February the Japanese posted notices in Seoul 
and vicinity that what Japan was about to do was dictated by 
motives of right and justice, and that the property and per- 
sonal rights of Koreans would be respected. Koreans were 
urged to report any cases of ill-treatment to the Japanese author- 
ities and immediate justice was promised. From this day the 
port of Chemulpo was practically blockaded by the Japanese, and 
only by their consent could vessels enter or clear. 

Having arrived at the point of actual rupture between Japan 
and Russia, it is necessary, before entering into any details of 
the struggle, to indicate the precise bearing of it upon Korea. 
Japan has always looked upon Korea as a land whose political 
status and affinities are of vital interest to herself, just as England 
once looked upon the Cinque ports, namely, as a possible base 
of hostile action, and therefore to be carefully watched. One 
of two things have therefore been deemed essential, either that 
Korea should be thoroughly independent or that she should be 
under a Japanese protectorate. These two ideas have animated 
different parties in Japan and have led to occasional troubles. 
There is one radical faction which has consistently and persist- 
ently demanded that Japan's suzerainty over Korea should be 
established and maintained, and it was the unwillingness of the 
Japanese authorities to adopt strong measures in the peninsula 
which led to the Satsuma Rebellion. Another large fraction of 
the Japanese, of more moderate and rational view, are committed 
to the policy of simply holding to the independence of Korea, 
arguing very rightly that if such independence is maintained 
and the resources of the country are gradually developed, Japan 
will reap all the material advantages of the situation without 
shouldering the burden of the Korean administration or meeting 
the violent opposition of the Koreans, which seizure would 
inevitably entail. It is this latter policy which has prevailed, and 
according to which Japan has attempted to work during the past 
three decades. It is this which actuated her during the period of 
China's active claim to suzerainty and at last caused the War of 



192 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

1894, which supposedly settled the question of Korea's independ- 
ence. But following upon this came the encroachments of Russia 
in Manchuria and the adc^tion of a vigorous policy in Korea. 
Japan's efforts to preserve the intrinsic autonomy of Korea were 
rendered abortive partly through mistakes which her own repre- 
sentatives and agents made, but still more through the supineness 
and venality of Korean officials. The subjects of the Czar at 
the capital of Korea made use of the most corrupt officials at 
court, and through them opposed Japanese interests at every 
point. Furthermore, they made demands for exclusive rights 
in different Korean ports, and succeeded in encroaching upon 
Korean sovereignty in Yongampo. The evident policy of Russia 
was to supplant Japan in the peninsula, and no reasonable person 
can fail to see that it was their ultimate plan to add Korea to 
the map of Russia. The cause of the war was, therefore, the 
necessity laid upon Japan of safeguarding her vital interests, 
nay, her very existence, by checking the encroachments of Russia 
upon Korean territory. 

But before submitting the matter to the arbitrament of the 
sword, Japan exerted every effort to make Russia define her 
intentions in the Far East. With a patience that elicited the 
admiration of the world she kept plying Russia with pertinent 
questions, until at last it was revealed that Russia intended to 
deal with Manchuria as she wished, and would concede Japanese 
interests in southern Korea only, and not even this unless Japan 
would engage not to act in that sphere as Russia was acting in 
Manchuria. 

All this time the Japanese people were clamouring for war. 
They wanted to get at the throat of their manifest foe ; but their 
government in a masterly way held them in check and kept its 
own secrets so inviolable as to astonish the most astute diploma- 
tists of the day. At last, when the hour struck, Japan declared for 
war without having weakened the enthusiasm of her people, and 
without giving occasion to adverse critics to say that she had 
yielded to popular importunity. When she communicated to 



THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 193 

Russia her irreducible minimum, one would think that even the 
blind could see that war was certain to follow soon. But even 
then, if there is any truth in direct evidence, the great majority 
of the Russians laughed the matter aside as impossible. The 
moderation and self-control of Japan was counted to her for 
hesitation, so that when the moment for action came, and Japan 
sprang upon her like a tigress robbed of her whelps, Russia cried 
aloud that she had been wronged. Already on the morning 
of the 7th Baron Rosen's credentials had been handed back 
to him in Tokyo. The evening before this the Japanese Minister 
had left St. Petersburg. This in itself was a declaration of war, 
but forty hours elapsed before Japan struck the first blow. Dur- 
ing those hours Russia had ample time in which to withdraw her 
boats from Chemulpo, even though the Japanese refused to trans- 
mit telegrams to Seoul. A fast boat from Port Arthur could 
easily have brought the message. 

It was on the 6th and 7th that reports circulated in Seoul 
that the Japanese were landing large bodies of troops at Kunsan 
or Asan or both. These rumours turned out to be false, but 
beneath them was the fact that a fleet was approaching Chemulpo. 
The question has been insistently asked why the Russian Minister 
did not inform the commanders of these Russian vessels, and sec 
to it that they were clear of the harbour before these rumours 
were realised. The answer as given is that the Russian Minister 
had no control over these boats. They had their orders to remain 
in Chemulpo and they must stay. One would think that there 
would be at least enough rapport between the civil and military 
(or naval) authorities to use the one in forwarding the interests 
of the other. 

Even yet the Russians did not appreciate the seriousness of 
the situation; but they decided that it was time to send notice 
to their authorities in Port Arthur of what was rumoured at 
Chemulpo. So the small gunboat Koryetz made ready to move 
out Her captain, Belaieff, proposed to the Russian Consul that 
the Russian steamship Sungari, which was in port, should go 



194 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

with the Koryetz and thus enjoy her protection, but the agent 
of the company which owned the steamship strongly objected 
to her leaving the neutral port at such a time. He evidently 
realised in part the acuteness of the situaticMi. So the Sungari 
remained at her anchorage and the Koryetz steamed out of port 
at two o'clock in the afternoon. Now, the harbour of Chemulpo 
is a somewhat peculiar one, for in one sense it is landlocked and 
in another it is not. It is formed by islands between which there 
are many openings to the open sea, but most of these are so 
shallow that ships of medium draught do not dare attempt them. 
There is but one recognised entrance, and that is from the south- 
west, or between that and the south. This entrance is several 
miles wide, and in the centre of it lies Round Island. When the 
Koryetz arrived at the exit of the harbour, she suddenly found 
herself surrounded by torpedo-boats. The only witnesses of 
what occurred at this point are the Japanese and the Russians, 
and we can only give their accounts. The Russians say that the 
Japanese launched four torpedoes at the Koryetz, and when 
within ten feet of her side they sank. Another statement is that 
a shot was fired on board the Koryetz, but it was a mere acci- 
dent. The Japanese claim that the Koryetz fired first. If we 
try to weigh the probabilities it seems impossible that the tor- 
pedoes of the Japanese should have missed the Koryetz if the 
torpedo-boats were as near as the Russians claim. On the other 
hand, the admission on the part of a single Russian that the first 
gun was fired on the Koryetz, even though by accident, is rather 
damaging, for it is more than singular that an accident should 
have happened at that precise time. It is a tax on the credulity 
of the public to give this lame excuse. 

In any case it makes little difference who began the firing. 
The Japanese had already seized the Russian steamer Mukden 
in the harbour of Fusan, and the war had begun. The Japanese 
doubtless held with Polonius, that if it is necessary to fight, the 
man who strikes first and hardest will have the advantage. The 
Koryetz turned back to her anchorage and the Russians became 



THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 195 

aware of the extreme precariousness of their position. Whatever 
attitude one may take toward the general situation, it is impos- 
sible not to extend a large degree of sympathy to these Russians 
personally. Through no fault of their own they were trapped 
in the harbour, and found too late that they must engage in 
a hopeless fight in order to uphold the honour of the Russian 
flag. But even yet it was not sure that the neutrality of the 
port would be ignored by the Japanese. Lying at anchor among 
neutral vessels in a neutral harbour, there was more or less 
reason to believe that they were safe for the time being. 

About four o'clock in the afternoon of the 8th of February, 
which fell on Monday, three Japanese transports entered Qie- 
mulpo harbour from the south, convoyed by cruisers s^nd torpedo- 
boats. They seemingly took no notice of the two Russian boats 
lying at anchor, and were evidently sure that the Russians would 
not fire upon the transports. It would be interesting to know 
whether the Japanese were relying upon the declared neutrality 
of the port in thus venturing, or whether they felt sure that 
their own superior strength would keep the Russians still, or 
whether, again, they were certain that the Russians had orders 
not to fire the first gim. But it is bootless to ask questions that 
can never be answered. Here is where the assailant has the 
advantage. He can choose the time and method of his attack. 
We may surmise that, had the Russians divined the intentions 
of the Japanese and had foreseen the outcome, they would 
have acted differently, but divination of Japanese intentions does 
not seem to be Russia's strong point. 

As soon as the Japanese came to anchor, preparations were 
made for the immediate landing of the troops, and the cruisers 
and torpedo-boats that had convoyed them in left the port and 
joined the fleet outside. This fleet consisted of six cruisers and 
several torpedo-boats. The Asama and the Chiyoda were the 
most powerful of the cruisers, the former being nearly half as 
large again as the Variak. 

Night came on, and throughout its long hours the Japanese 



196 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

troops, by the light of huge fires burning on the jetty, were 
landed and marched up into the town. When morning came, 
everyone was in a state of expectancy. If there was a Japanese 
fleet outside, they doubtless had other work on hand than simply 
watching two Russian boats. Nor could they leave them behind, 
for one of them was Russia's fastest cruiser, and might steam 
out of the harbour at any time and destroy Japanese transports. 
Knowing, as we do now, that an immediate attack on Port 
Arthur had been decided upon, we see that it was impossible 
to leave these Russian boats in the rear. Japan had never 
recognised the neutrality of Korea, for she knew that the dec- 
laration was merely a Russian move to embarrass her, and 
she never hesitated a moment to break the thin shell of 
pretence. 

About ten o'clock a sealed letter was handed to Captain 
Rudnieff of the Variak. It was from the Japanese Admiral, 
and had been sent through the Russian Consulate. It wa^ 
delivered on board the Variak by the hand of Mr. N. Krell, a 
Russian resident of the port. This letter informed the Russian 
commander that unless both Russian boats should leave the 
anchorage and steam out of the bay before twelve o'clock the 
Japanese would come in at four o'clock and attack them where 
they lay. Captain Rudnieff immediately communicated the 
startling intelligence to Captain Belaieff of the Koryetz and to 
the commanders of the British, American, French and Italian 
war-vessels. We are informed that a conference of the various 
commanders took place, and that the Russians were advised to 
lie where they were. The British commander was deputed to 
confer with the Japanese. This was done by signal, and it is 
said that a protest was made against the proposed violation of 
neutrality of the port and that the neutral boats refused to shift 
their anchorage. But all complications of this nature were 
avoided by the determination of the Russians to accept the 
challenge. This they deemed to be due their flag. It is not 
improbable that they now foresaw that the neutrality of the port 



THE JAPAN-RUSSIA WAR 197 

would not avail them against the enemy. By remaining at 
anchor they could only succeed in involving France, Italy, Great 
Britain and the United States, and there would be sure to be 
those who would charge the Russians with cowardice. If this 
was to begin the war, it must at least prove the dauntless cour- 
age of the servants of the Czar. So the commander of the 
Variak ordered the decks cleared for action. It has been stated 
that he would have preferred to have the Koryetz stay at her 
anchorage, for by a quick dash it was just possible that the 
swift Variak alone might be able to evade the Japanese and 
run the gauntlet successfully. But the commander of the 
Koryetz refused to listen to any such proposition. If the only 
honour to be gotten out of the affair was by a desperate attack, 
he was not going to forego his share of it. He would go out 
and sink with the Variak. So the Koryetz also cleared for 
action. It was done in such haste that all movables that were 
imnecessary were thrown overboard, a topmast that would not 
come down in the usual manner was hewn down with an axe, 
and by half-past eleven the two vessels were ready to go out to 
their doom. It was an almost hopeless task — an entirely hope- 
less one unless the Japanese should change their minds or should 
make some grave mistake, and neither of these things was at 
all probable. The Russians were going to certain destruction. 
Some call it rashness, not bravery, but they say not well. The 
boats were doomed in any case, and it was the duty of their 
officers and crews to go forth and in dying inflict what injury 
they could upon the enemy. To go into battle with chances 
equal is the act of a brave man, but to walk into the jaws of 
death with nothing but defeat in prospect, is the act of a hero, 
and the Japanese would be the last to detract from the noble 
record that the Russians made. Time has not yet lent its 
glamour to this event, we are too near it to see it in proper 
proportions, but if the six hundred heroes of Balaclava, veterans 
of many a fight, gained undying honour for the desperate charge 
they made, how shall not the future crown these men who. 



198 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

having never been in action before, made such a gallant dash 
at the foe? And herein lies the intrinsic damnableness of war, 
that causes which will not stand the test of abstract justice can 
marshal to their support the noblest qualities of which men are 
capable. 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE BATTLE OF CHEMULPO 

IT was a cloudless but hazy day, and from the anchorage 
the Japanese fleet was all but invisible, for it lay at least 
eight miles out in the entrance of the harbour and partly 
concealed by Round Island, which splits the offing into 
two channels. The two boats made straight for the more east- 
erly of the channels, their course being a very little west of 
south. When they had proceeded about half the distance from 
the anchorage to the enemy's fleet, the latter threw a shot across 
the bows of each of the Russian boats, as a command to stop 
and surrender, but the Russians took no notice of it. The only 
chance the Russians had to inflict any damage was to reduce 
the firing range as much as possible, for the Variak's guns were 
only six inches and four-tenths in calibre, and at long range 
they would have been useless. This was at five minutes before 
noon. The Japanese fleet was not deployed in a line facing the 
approaching boats, and it was apparent that they did not intend 
to bring their whole force to bear upon the Russians simul- 
taneously. We are informed that only two of the Japanese 
vessels, the Asama and the Chiyoda, did the work. It was not 
long after the warning shots had been fired that the Japanese 
let loose, and the roar that went up from those terrible machines 
of destruction tore the quiet of the windless bay to tatters and 
made the houses of the town tremble where they stood. As 
the Variak advanced, she swerved to the eastward and gave the 
Japanese her starboard broadside. All about her the sea was 
lashed into foam by striking shot, and almost from the begin- 
ning of the fight her steering-gear was shot away, so that she 
had to depend on her engines alone for steering. It became 



200 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

evident to her commander that the passage was impossible. 
He had pushed eastward until there was imminent danger of 
running aground. So he turned again toward the west, and 
came around in a curve which brought the Variak much nearer 
to the Japanese. It was at this time that the deadly work was 
done upon her. Ten of her twelve gun-captains were shot away. 
A shell struck her fo'castle, passed between the arm and body 
of a gunner who had his hand upon his hip and, bursting, killed 
every other man on the fo'castle. Both bridges were destroyed 
by bursting shells, and the captain was seriously wounded in the 
left arm. The watchers on shore and on the shipping in the 
harbour saw flames bursting out from her quarter-deck, and 
one witness plainly saw shells drop just beside her and burst 
beneath the water-line. It was these shots that did the real 
damage, for when, after three-quarters of an hour of steady 
fighting, she turned her prow back toward the anchorage it was 
seen that she had a heavy list to port, which could have been 
caused only by serious damage below the water-line. As the 
two boats came slowly back to port, the Variak so crippled by 
the destruction of one of her engines that she could make only 
ten knots an hour, the Japanese boats followed, pouring in a 
galling fire, until the Russians had almost reached the anchor- 
age. Then the pursuers drew back and the battle was over. 
The Koryctz was intact. The Japanese had reserved all their 
fire for the larger vessel. The Variak was useless as a fighting 
machine, for her heavy list to port would probably have made 
it impossible to train the guns on the enemy, but all knew that 
the end had not yet come. The Russians had neither sunk nor 
surrendered. The threat of the Japanese to come in at four 
o'clock was still active. As soon as the Variak dropped anchor 
the British sent off four hospital boats to her with a surgeon 
and a nurse. Other vessels also sent offers of aid. But it was 
found that the Russians had decided to lie at anchor and fight 
to the bitter end, and at the last moment blow up their vessels 
with all on board. What else was there for them to do? They 



THE BATTLE OF CHEMULPO 201 

would not surrender, and they could not leave their ships and 
go ashore only to be captured by the enemy. They would play 
out the tragedy to a finish, and go down fighting. Upon learn- 
ing of this determination, the commanders of the various neu- 
tral vessels held another conference, at which it was decided 
that the Russians had done all that was necessary to vindicate 
the honour of their flag, and that, as it was a neutral port, the 
survivors should be invited to seek asylum on the neutral vessels. 
The invitation was accepted, and the sixty-four wounded on 
board the Variak were at once transferred to the British cruiser 
Talbot and the French cruiser Pascal. As the commanders of 
the neutral vessels knew that the Variak and Koryetz were to 
be sunk by the Russians, they paid no particular attention to 
the reiterated statement of the Japanese, that they would enter 
the harbour at four and finish the work already beg^n. The 
passengers, crew and mails on board the steamship Sungari had 
already been transferred to the Pascal, and an attempt had been 
made to scuttle her, but she was filling very slowly indeed. It 
was about half-past three in the afternoon that the officers and 
crew of the Koryetz went over the side and on board the Pascal. 
A train had been laid by which she would be blown up, and 
it is supposed that she was entirely abandoned, but some spec- 
tators assert that they saw several men on the forward deck 
an instant before the explosion took place. 

It was generally known throughout the town that the Koryetz 
would be blown up before four o'clock, and everyone sought 
some point of vantage from which to witness the spectacle. 
Scores of people went out to the little island on which the 
lighthouse stands, for this was nearest to the doomed ship. It 
was thirty-seven minutes past three when the waiting multitude 
saw two blinding flashes of light, one following the other in 
quick succession. A terrific report followed, which dwarfed the 
roar of cannon to a whisper and shook every house in the town 
as if it had been struck by a solid rock. The window-fastenings 
of one house at least were torn off, so great was the concussion. 



202 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

An enormous cloud of smoke and debris shot toward the sky 
and at the same time enveloped the spot where the vessel had 
lain. A moment later there began a veritable shower of splin- 
tered wood, torn and twisted railing, books, clothes, rope, uten- 
sils and a hundred other belongings of the ship. The cloud 
of smoke expanded in the upper air and blotted out the sun 
like an eclipse. The startled gulls flew hither and thither, as 
if dazed by this unheard-of phenomenon, and men instinctively 
raised their hands to protect themselves from the falling debris, 
pieces of which were drifted by the upper currents of air for 
a distance of three miles landward, where they fell by the hun- 
dreds in people's yards. 

When the smoke was dissipated, it was discovered that the 
Koryetz had sunk, only her funnel and some torn rigging 
appearing above the surface, if we except her forward sted 
deck, which the force of the explosion had bent up from the 
prow so that the point of it, like the share of a huge plough, 
stood several feet out of water. The surface of the bay all 
about the spot was covered thickly with smoking debris, and 
several of the ship's boats were floating about intact upon the 
water. 

The Variak was left to sink where she lay. The forty-one 
dead on board were placed together in a cabin and went down 
with her. She burned on till evening and then, inclining more 
and more to port, her funnels finally touched the water, and 
with a surging, choking groan, as of some great animal in pain, 
she sank. As the water reached the fires a cloud of steam went 
up which, illuminated by the last flash of the fire, formed her 
signal of farewell. 

It was arranged that the British and the French boats should 
carry the Russians to a neutral port and guarantee their parole 
until the end of the war. 

This wholly unexpected annihilation of the Russian boats 
naturally caused consternation among the Russians of Chemulpo 
and Seoul. The Russian Consulate was surrounded by the Jap- 



THE BATTLE OF CHEMULPO 203 

anese troops, and the Consul was held practically a prisoner. 
The Japanese Minister in Seoul suggested to the Russian Min- 
ister, through the French Legation, the advisability of his 
removing from Seoul with his nationals, and every facility was 
given him for doing this with expedition and with comfort. A 
few days later all the Russians were taken by special train to 
Chemulpo, and there, being joined by the Russian subjects in 
Chemulpo, they went on board the Pascal. This vessel must 
have been crowded, for it is said that whep she sailed she had 
on board six hundred Russians, both civilians and military 
men. 

Twenty-four of the most desperately wounded men on board 
the neutral ships were sent ashore and placed in the Provisional 
Red Cross Hospital. For this purpose the English Church Mis- 
sion kindly put at the disposal of the Japanese their hospital at 
Chemulpo. Several of these wounded men were suffering from 
gangrene when they came off the Pascal, but with the most 
sedulous care the Japanese physicians and nurses pulled them 
through. 

After this battle at Chemulpo there was no more question 
about landing Korean troops further down the coast; in fact, 
as soon as the ice was out of the Tadong River, Chinnampo 
became the point of disembarkation. But meanwhile the troops 
which had landed at Chemulpo were pushing north by land 
as rapidly as circumstances would permit, and within a few 
weeks of the beginning of the war Pyeng-yang was held by a 
strong force of Japanese. At the same time work was pushed 
rapidly on the Seoul-Fusan Railway and also begun on the 
projected railway line between Seoul and Wiju. 

As for the Russians, they never seriously invaded Korean 
territory. Bands of Cossacks crossed the Yalu and scoured the 
country right and left, but their only serious purpose was to 
keep in touch with the enemy and report as to their movements. 
On the 28th of February a small band of Cossacks approached 
the north gate of Pyeng-yang, and,, after exchanging a few shots 



204 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

with the Japanese guard, withdrew. This was the first point at 
which the two belligerents came in touch with each other. 

It was on the night of the 23rd of February that Korea signed 
with Japan a protocol, by the terms of which Korea practically 
allied herself with Japan and became, as it were, a silent partner 
in the war. Korea granted the Japanese the right to use Korea 
as a road to Manchuria, and engaged to give them every pos- 
sible facility for prosecuting the war. On the other hand, Japan 
guaranteed the independence of Korea and the safety of the 
imperial family. It is needless to discuss the degree of spon- 
taneity with which Korea did this. It was a case of necessity, 
but if rightly used it might have proved of immense benefit to 
Korea, as it surely did to Japan. It formally did away with 
the efnpty husk of neutrality which had been proclaimed, and 
made every seaport of the peninsula belligerent territory, even 
as it did the land itself. 

March saw the end of the Peddlers' Guild. They had beta 
organised in Russian interests, but now they had no longer saj. 
raison d'etre. As a final flurry, one of their number entered'. 
the house of the Foreign Minister with the intent to murder. 
him, but did not find his victim. Other similar attempts were 
made, but did not succeed. 

The Japanese handled the situation in Seoul with great cir- 
cumspection. The notion that they would attack the pro-Russian 
officials proved false. Ever>'thing was kept quiet, and the per- 
turbation into which the court and the government were thrown 
by these startling events was soon soothed. 

Marquis Ito was sent from Japan with a friendly message 
to the Emperor of Korea, and this did much to quiet the un- 
settled state of things in Korea. At about the same time the 
northern ports of Wiju and Yongampo were opened to foreign 
trade. This was a natural result of the withdrawal of Russian 
influence. It was not long before Yi Yong-ik, who had played 
such a leading role in Korea, was invited to go to Japan, and 
thus an element of unrest was removed from the field of action. 



• • • ••• ••, • 




THE FRENCH LEGATION BUILDING 



THE BATTLE OF CHEMULPO 205 

It was believed that the Japanese would immediately introduce 
many needed reforms, but it seemed to be their policy to go 
very slowly, so slowly in fact that the better element among the 
Koreans was disappointed, and got the impression that Japan 
was not particularly interested in the matter of reform. It is 
probable that the energies of the Japanese were too much 
engaged in other directions to divert any to Korea at the time. 
They had been complaining bitterly about the monetary condi- 
tions, but when they suddenly stepped into power in Seoul on the 
9th of February they seemed to forget all about this, for up to 
the end of 1904 they failed to do anything to correct the vagaries 
of Korean finance. But instead of this the Japanese merchants 
in Korea and other Japanese who were here for other reasons 
than their health immediately began to make requests and 
demands for all sorts of privileges. The Board of Trade in 
Fusan asked the Japanese government to secure control of the 
Maritime Customs service, permission for extra-territorial privi- 
leges, the establishment of Japanese agricultural stations and 
other impossible things. 

Meanwhile the Japanese were steadily pushing north. At 
Anju a slight skirmish occurred, but there was nothing that 
could be called a fight until the Japanese reached the town of 
Chong-ju, where a small body of Russians took a stand on a 
hill northwest of the town and held it for three hours, but even 
here the casualties were only about fifteen on either side. The 
Russians evidently had no notion of making a determined stand 
this side the Yalu. Already, a week before, the Russian troops 
had withdrawn from Yongampo and had crossed to Antung. 
This fight at Chong-ju occurred on the 28th of March, and a week 
later practically all the Russian forces had crossed the Yalu, and 
Korea ceased to be belligerent territory. It is not the province 
of this history to follow the Japanese across that historic river 
and relate the events which occurred at the beginning of May 
when the first great land battle of the war was fought. 

The whole north had been thrown into the greatest con- 



5o6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

fusion by the presence of these two belligerents. Cossack bands 
had scurried about the country, making demands for food and 
fodder, a part of which they were willing to pay for with Rus- 
sian currency quite unknown to the Korean. From scores of 
villages and towns the women had fled to the mountain recesses 
at a most inclement season, and untold suffering had been 
entailed. But these are things that always come in the track 
of war, and the Koreans bore them as uncomplainingly as they 
could. Throughout the whole country the absorption of the 
attention of the government in the events of the war was taken 
advantage of by robbers, and their raids were frequent and 
destructive. As soon as the government found that the Jap- 
anese did not intend to rule with a high hand, it sank back into 
the former state of self-complacent lethargy, and things went 
along in the old ruts. It was perfectly plain that Korean official- 
dom had no enthusiasm for the Japanese cause. It is probable 
that a large majority of the people preferred to see Japan win 
rather than the Russians, but it was the fond wish of ninety-nine 
out of every hundred to see Korea rid of them both. Whichever 
one held exclusive power here was certain to become an object 
of hatred to the Korean people. Had the Russians driven out 
the Japanese, the Koreans would have hated them as heartily. 
Whichever horn of the dilemma Korea became impaled upon, 
she was sure to think the other would have been less sharp. 
Few Koreans looked at the matter from any large standpoint or 
tried to get from the situation anything but personal advantage. 
This is doubtless the reason why it was so difficult to gain an 
opinion from Korean officials. They did not want to go on 
record as having any decided sympathies either way. The 
people of no other land were so nearly neutral as were those 
of Korea. 

The temporary effect of the war upon the Korean currency 
was to enhance its value. Imports suddenly came to a stand- 
still because of the lack of steamships and the possible dangers 
of navigation. This stopped the demand for yen. The Japanese 



THE BATTLE OF CHEMULPO 207 

army had to spend large sums in Korea, and this required the 
purchase of Korean money. The result was that the yen, instead 
of holding its ratio of something like one to two and a half 
of the Korean dollar, fell to the ratio of one to only one and 
four-tenths. When, however, the sea was cleared of the Rus- 
sians and import trade was resumed and the bulk of the Jap- 
anese crossed the Yalu, the Korean dollar fell again to a ratio 
of about two to one, which it has preserved up to the present 
time. 

From the time when the Russians retired beyond the Yalu, 
warlike operations between the two belligerents were confined to 
northeast Korea, though even there very little was doing. The 
Vladivostock squadron was still in being, and on the 2Sth of April 
it appeared at the mouth of Wonsan harbour. Only one small 
Japanese boat was at anchor there, the Goyo Mam, and this 
was destroyed by a torpedo-boat which came in for the express 
purpose. Of course this created intense excitement in the town, 
and there was a hurried exodus of women and children, but 
the Russians had no intention of bombarding the place, and 
soon took their departure. Only a few hours before the Kinshiu, 
a Japanese transport with upwards of one hundred and fifty 
troops on board, had sailed for Sung-ju to the north of Won- 
san, but meeting bad weather in the night the torpedo-boats 
that accompanied her were obliged to run for shelter, and the 
Kinshiu turned back for Wonsan. By so doing she soon ran 
into the arms of the Russian fleet, and, refusing to surrender, 
was sunk, but forty-five of the troops on board effected their 
escape to the mainland. 



CHAPTER XIV 
THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 

WE must now go back and inquire into important 
civil matters. We have seen that no strong attempt 
was made by the Japanese to secure reforms in 
the administration of the Korean government, and 
for this reason many of the best Koreans were dissatisfied with 
the way things were going. Therefore it was doubly unfor- 
tunate that on the 17th of June the Japanese authorities should 
make the startling suggestion that all uncultivated land in 
the peninsula, as well as other national resources, should be 
thrown open to the Japanese. This appears to have been a 
scheme evolved by one Nagamori, and broached by him so 
speciously to the powers in Tokyo that they backed him in it; 
but there can be no question that it was a grave mistake. There 
is no other point on which the Korean is so sensitive as upon 
that of his land. He is a son of the soil, and agriculture is the 
basis of all his institutions. The mere proposal raised an instant 
storm of protest from one end of Korea to the other. The 
Koreans saw in this move the entering wedge which would rive 
the country. It was the beginning of the end. This excessive 
show of feeling was not expected by the Japanese, and it is 
probable that their intentions were by no means so black as the 
Koreans pictured them. The very general terms in which the 
proposal was worded, and the almost entire lack of limiting 
particulars, gave occasion for all sorts of wild conjectures and, 
it must be confessed, left the door open to very wide construc- 
tions. The time was unpropitious, the method was unfortunate, 
and the subject-matter of the proposal itself was questionable. 
The all-important matter of water supply and control, the diffi- 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 209 

culties of jurisdiction on account of the extra-territorial rights 
implied in the proposal, and other allied questions immediately 
presented themselves to the minds of Koreans, and they recog- 
nised the fact that the carrying out of this plan would neces- 
sarily result in a Japanese protectorate, if not absolute absorption 
into the Empire of Japan. The Japanese do not seem to have 
followed the logic of the matter to this point, or else had 
not believed the Koreans capable of doing so. But when the 
storm of protest broke it carried everything before it. The 
Japanese were not prepared to carry the thing to extremes, and, 
after repeated attempts at a compromise, the matter was dropped, 
though the Japanese neither withdrew their request nor accepted 
the refusal of the Korean government. It is a matter of great 
regret that the Japanese did not quietly and steadily press the 
question of internal reforms, and by so doing hasten the time 
when the Korean people as a whole would repose such confi- 
dence in the good intentions of the neighbour country that even 
such plans as this of the waste lands could be carried through 
without serious opposition; for it is quite sure that there is a 
large area of fallow land in Korea which might well be put 
under the plough. 

During the weeks when the Japanese were pressing for a 
favourable answer to the waste-land proposition the Koreans 
adopted a characteristic method of opposition. A society calling 
itself the Po-an was formed. The name means " Society for the 
Promotion of Peace and Safety." It had among its member- 
ship some of the leading Korean officials. It held meetings at 
the cotton guild in the centre of Seoul, and a good deal of 
excited discussion took place as to ways and means for defeating 
the purpose of the Japanese. At the same time memorials by 
the same poured in upon the Emperor, beseeching him not to 
give way to the demands. The Japanese determined that these 
forms of opposition must be put down ; so on the i6th of July the 
meeting of the society was broken in upon by the Japanese 
police, and some of the leading members were forcibly carried 



2IO THE PASSING OF KOREA 

away to the Japanese police station. Other raids were made 
upon the society, and more of its members were arrested and its 
papers confiscated. The Japanese warned the government that 
these attempts to stir up a riot must be put down with a stem 
hand, and demanded that those who persisted in sending in me- 
morials against the Japanese be arrested and punished. If the 
Korean government would not do it, the Japanese threatened to 
take the law into their own hands. The Japanese troops in Seoul 
were augmented until the number was fully six thousand. 

The agitation was not confined to Seoul, for leading Koreans 
sent out circular letters to all the country districts urging the 
people to come up to Seoul and make a monster demonstration 
which should convince the Japanese that they were in dead 
earnest. Many of these letters were suppressed by the prefects, 
but in spite of this the news spread far and wide, and the 
society enrolled thousands of members in every province. 

The effect of this was seen when, early in August, the Jap- 
anese military authorities asked for the services of six thousand 
Korean coolies in the north at handsome wages. The number 
was apportioned among different provinces, but the results were 
meagre. Disaffected persons spread the report that these coolies 
would be put on the fighting line, and it was with the greatest 
difficulty that two thousand were secured. There were san- 
guinary fights in many towns where attempts were made to 
force coolies to go against their will. It was perfectly right 
for the Japanese to wish to secure such labour, but the tide of 
public sentiment was flowing strong in the other direction, be- 
cause of the attempt to secure the waste land and because of the 
suspension of the right of free speech. 

The cessation of Japanese efforts to push the waste-land 
measure did not put an end to agitation throughout the country, 
and the Po-an Society continued to carry on its propaganda, until 
on the 22nd of August a new society took the field, named the 
Il-chin Society. This was protected by the Japanese police, who 
allowed only properly accredited members to enter its doors. 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 211 

This looked as if it were intended as a counter-move to the 
Po-an Society, and, as the latter was having very little success,, 
a third society took up the gauntlet under the name of the 
Kuk'tnin, or " National People's " Society. The platforms pro- 
mulgated by all these societies were quite faultless, but the 
institutions had no power whatever to carry out their laudable 
plans, and so received only the smiles of the public. 

During the summer the Japanese suggested that it would 
be well for Korea to recall her foreign representatives. The 
idea was to have Korean diplomatic business abroad transacted 
through Japanese legations. Whether this was a serious attempt 
or only a feeler put out to get the sense of the Korean govern- 
ment we are imable to say, but up to the end of the year the 
matter was not pushed. 

The various societies which had been formed as protests 
against existing conditions stated some things that ought to 
be accomplished, but suggested no means by which they could 
be done. The difficulty which besets the country is the lack of 
general education, and no genuine improvement can be looked 
for until the people are educated up to it. For this reason a 
number of foreigners joined themselves into the Educational 
Association of Korea, their aim being to provide suitable text- 
books for Korean schools and to help in other ways toward 
the solution of the great question. About the same time the 
Minister of Education presented the government with a recom- 
mendation that the graduates of the government schools be 
given the preference in the distribution of public offices. This 
had no apparent effect upon the government at the time, but 
this is what must come before students will flock to the gov- 
ernment schools with any enthusiasm. Later in the year a large 
number of Koreans also founded an educational society. It 
made no pretensions to political significance, but went quietly 
to work, gathering together those who are convinced that the 
education of t!ie masses is the one thing needed to put Korea 
firmly upon her feet. 



212 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

In the middle of October the Japanese military authorities 
sent Marshal Hasegawa to take charge of military affairs in 
Korea. He arrived on the 13th, and shortly after went to 
Wonsan to inspect matters in that vicinity. The news of con- 
siderable Russian activity in northeast Korea seemed to need 
careful watching, and the presence of a general competent to 
do whatever was necessary to keep them in check. 

The laying of the last rail of the Seoul-Fusan Railway was 
an event of great importance to Korea. It adds materially 
to the wealth of the country, both by forming a means of rapid 
communication and by enhancing the value of all the territory 
through which it runs. It also gives Japan such a large vested 
interest here that it becomes, in a sense, her guarantee to pre- 
vent the coimtry from falling into the hands of other powers. 
But, like all good things, it has its dangers as well. 

Mr. Megata, the new Adviser to the Finance Department, 
arrived in the autumn, and began a study of Korean monetary 
and financial conditions. This should have been an augury of 
good, for Korean finance has always been in a more or less 
chaotic condition, but, as we shall see, it spelled worse disaster 
than ever. 

Late in the year Mr. Stevens, the newly appointed Adviser 
of the Foreign Department, took up his duties, which, though 
less important than those of Mr. Megata, nevertheless gave 
promise that the foreign relations of the government would be 
handled exclusively in the interests of Japan. 

The year 1905 gives us a complete picture of Japanese 
methods in handling an alien people. It has been said that 
Japan has much the same work to do in Korea that England 
has in Egypt. Let us see how far the methods of these two 
powerful governments coincide. It has been said, again, that up 
to the present time Japan has not been able to show what she 
can do in this line, because she has been so busy with the war, 
but we would ask the reader to note that an American gentle- 
man who has resided many years in Formosa made the remark 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 213 

publicly that the methods used by Japan in Korea are precisely 
those that have been used in Formosa ever since the China- 
Japan war of 1894. 

The whole Japanese army is made up of men of the upper 
middle class. No man of the lower classes can stand in the 
ranks of that army. It is generally known that the relative 
social grade of the Japanese soldier is ,much higher than in any 
other country. These are men who have imbibed the old Samu- 
rai spirit and who in just that proportion hold themselves above 
the lower classes. It is for this reason that such a remark- 
able change came over the face of affairs in Korea after the 
Japanese armies had passed and the thousands of adventurers 
and self-seekers followed in its train. Unlawful action by a Jap- 
anese soldier was almost unknown, and the Koreans were con- 
strained to lay aside their old-time suspicion and receive them 
as harbingers of a new and better era. When, therefore, the 
heavy influx of low-class Japanese began, and they, on the 
strength of the prowess of Japanese arms, began to treat 
the Koreans as the very scum of the earth and to perpetrate 
all sorts of outrages, it was inevitable that a mighty reaction 
should take place. It has never been explained why the Jap-« 
anese authorities did not hold back this tide of immigration until 
the war was over and proper steps could be taken to establish 
sufficient legal machinery to govern the ruffians properly. 

It will be asked what specific evidence is there that Koreans 
were ill-treated. This question must be met and answered. 
The following are a few of the cases that have come within the 
notice of the writer and of other American residents in Seoul and 
other parts of Korea, and which can be thoroughly attested. 

An American gentleman stood upon a railway station plat- 
form where a score or more of Japanese were waiting for a 
train. An aged Korean, leaning upon a staff, mounted the plat- 
form and looked about him with interest. It is likely that he 
had never before seen a railroad train. A half-naked Japanese 
employee of the road seized the old man by the beard and threw 



214 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

him heavily upon the station platform. The Korean arose with 
difficulty and picked up his cane to go. The Japanese then 
threw him backwards off the platform on to the rails, and then 
stood back and laughed, as did all the other Japanese. Appar- 
ently there was not a single Japanese in all that company who 
saw in this event anything but a good joke. The old Korean 
was too severely hurt to rise, but some of his Korean friends 
came and picked him up and took him away. The reader will 
wonder why the American gentleman did not interfere. Wdl, 
the fact is, he knew he would be uselessly sacrificing his own 
life. If he had raised a finger in the Korean's defence, the 
chances of his getting away without being killed would have 
been less than one in a hundred. At another station there is 
a little side-path where Koreans are forbidden to walk, but 
there is no sign whatever so to indicate. A Korean stepped out 
upon this walk, and was instantly attacked by three or four 
Japanese and pounded into insensibility. It was a day or more 
before he regained consciousness, and he was not able to leave 
his house for weeks. 

The Japanese look upon the Koreans as lawful game, and 
the latter, having no proper tribunals where they can obtain 
redress, do not dare to retaliate. If they complain at Korean 
courts, the magistrate lifts hands of horror and asks how in the 
world he is to get anything out of the Japanese, and if he applies 
to a Japanese court he is usually turned away without a hear- 
ing. This is hard to believe, but the following facts go far to 
prove it. 

A Korean brought in from the country some Korean money 
to exchange for Japanese money. He deposited his cash with 
the leading Japanese broker, taking the latter's note of hand, 
payable at sight to bearer. Two days later he came to have the 
note cashed, and the broker said he had already paid it, but had 
failed in the hurry of the moment to take the note. The Korean 
tried three times to place the matter before the proper Japanese 
authorities, but was thwarted each time, and when at last, by 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 215 

the aid of a foreigner, he got the case taken up, he was roundly 
scolded for obtaining foreign help, — but the money was paid. 
An American gentleman was served the same trick by the same 
broker, and, though the Japanese authorities granted that it was 
a perfectly clear case, he recovered the money only after nine 
months of hard work, and then without interest. A Korean 
bought a valuable business block from a Japanese, but when he 
went to claim it the Japanese tenant who had rented it from the 
former owner refused to leave, on the plea that he had no other 
place to go. Time and again the owner applied to the Japanese 
for redress, and it was only after a foreigner interfered and 
pressed the matter that the Japanese authorities were shamed 
into doing tardy justice. 

The trouble has been that, however good may have been 
the plans of the highest men in Japan, they have not a sufficient 
body of agents who are broad-minded enough to carry out the 
plans in the spirit they are g^ven. To illustrate this: in the 
building and repairing of the railroad it is found cheaper to 
use Koreans than Japanese. The head office orders the work to 
be done and says that Koreans must be treated properly. There 
it ends. The Japanese headmen of the working gangs go into 
the villages all along the way, and at the point of the revolver 
or sword compel Koreans by the hundreds to go and work at 
one-third of a day's wage. They have the option of making a 
money payment in lieu of work, but they have to pay, for each 
day that they get off, twice what they would have received. In 
this way one township handed over some twenty thousand dol- 
lars of blackmail, and for part of it they had to pay twelve per 
cent a month to money-lenders! 

The Koreans have suffered especially in the matter of real 
estate. On the strength of Korea's promise to supply all the 
land necessary for Japanese military operations, the latter have 
gone in and seized the most valuable property in the vicinity 
of the largest towns in Korea. When the people ask for pay- 
ment, they are told to go to their own government for payment. 



2i6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

But the Japanese know that the government has no money and 
that the land is simply confiscated. But not only so ; men claim- 
ing to be connected with the Japanese army go out into the 
country districts and seize any land they like, repeating simply 
the formula ** This is for military purposes." The writer has 
been repeatedly asked to interfere in such cases of fraud. 
Koreans have come hundreds of miles to sell their farms to 
a foreigner for a few cents each, simply that they might be 
under a foreigner's name, and so escape wanton seizure. Dur- 
ing the year 1905 there was no such thing as justice for the 
Korean either from the private Japanese or from the officials. 
The military put their hands upon eight square miles of the 
most valuable land near Seoul simply for the building of bar- 
racks and parade grounds for twelve thousand men, when ex- 
perts affirm that one-sixteenth of that space would have been 
ample. That land could not be bought in open market for six 
million dollars, but the Japanese knew the government could not 
pay a proper price, so they gave two hundred thousand dollars^ 
to cover the cost of removal only. And this is all the Koreans 
could ever hope to get. The most elementary laws of human 
right and justice have been daily and hourly trampled under 
foot. Hardly an effort has been made to carry out any reform 
that would better the condition of the Korean people. 

Mark the action of the man who controlled the finances of 
the country, — a Japanese. The country was flooded with coun- 
terfeit nickels, made largely by Japanese in Osaka, and brought 
over to Korea by the millions. The Korean currency fell to a 
ruinous discount, and Japanese merchants were suffering severely 
because of the rapid fluctuations of exchange. The Adviser 
determined that the Korean government should borrow several 
million yen from Japan, and with it make a new currency to 
substitute for the one in use. When it was learned that Korea 
was to pay six per cent for this money. Korean financiers came 
forward and said that they would lend their government the neces- 
sary money at a far lower rate. They did it to keep Korea out 




VIEWS OF PICTURESQUE KOREA 

(a) Pycng-yang, looking down the Ta-dong River from the wall 

(b) A pleasure-house on the wall of Su-wun 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 217 

of debt to Japan, but the Adviser refused to allow it. The money 
must be borrowed from Japan at the higher rate. A few million 
dollars' worth of nickels were made in Japan, where the Japanese 
enjoyed the profit, which amounted to over fifty per cent, and the 
nickels were sent to Korea. The Adviser announced that on the 
1st of June, or about then, everybody who brought nickels would 
receive the new ones at par with the Japanese money, but would 
receive one new one for two of the old. As the old nickels were 
at a discount of 240, this would mean that anyone with capital 
could buy up old nickels at 240, and exchange them at 200. 
Chinese and Japanese merchants leaped to do so, and the market 
was sucked dry of money. When the day of exchanging came, 
it was found that the supply of new nickels was entirely inade- 
quate. So the exchange was put off for two months ; then for 
two months more. Meanwhile the Korean merchants were 
going to the wall because they could not meet their notes, owing 
to the tightness of the money market. Some of them were try- 
ing to save themselves by borrowing from Japanese usurers 
at six per cent a month. At this most painful juncture the 
Emperor proposed to lend some three himdred thousand dollars 
of his private funds to his suffering merchants; but when he 
sent his cheque to the Japanese bank, where his funds were 
deposited, the Japanese Adviser ordered payment stopped, and 
would not let him draw out his private funds even to help the 
merchants in their desperate straits. There is no language too 
strong in which to denounce this outrage. 

In the northern city of Pyeng-yang the Japanese carried on 
enormous confiscations of land. They even enclosed with their 
stakes property belonging to American citizens, and when the 
owners complained to the Japanese Consul they were told that 
it would be all right, but that they had better not remove the 
stakes at present. Nor did the Americans dare to do so; for 
though they themselves would have been safe, their servants 
would have been seized by Japanese and cruelly beaten. A 
Korean in that town was ordered by a private Japanese to sell 



2i8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

his house for a quarter of its value. He demurred at this, but 
was seized, dragged away to a neighbouring Japanese barracks, 
and given a severe beating. In his shame and anger at this 
disgrace he took morphine and killed himself. Almost before 
his body was cold the Japanese came and demanded that his 
widow sell the house at the price suggested. She replied that 
she would die first. How it ended the writer has never heard. 
A Korean boatman attempted to go under the bridge at Pyeng- 
yang while it was under construction. This was forbidden, but 
there was no proper sign to indicate the fact. The Japanese 
railway coolies threw him out of his boat. He clung to some 
timbers in the water, but the Japanese beat his hands with rail- 
road bolts until his fingers were broken, and he fell oflF and 
drowned. Two days later the murdered man's father, having 
secured the body, brought it to the Japanese Consul and demanded 
justice. He was driven away with the statement that the Consul 
would have nothing to do with the case. The criminals were 
well known and could have been captured with ease. 

In the city of Seoul, almost within a stone's-throw of the 
Japanese Consulate, a Korean widow came to the house of the 
writer and begged him to buy her house for five cents, and put 
his name on the door-post, because she had reason to believe 
that unless she sold the house for half price to a Japanese living 
next door he would undermine the wall of her house and let 
it fall upon her head. The Koreans say deliberately that time 
and again naked Japanese have run into Korean houses and 
shocked the Korean women outrageously, simply in order to 
make the owner willing to sell out at any price. 

An American resident in one of the ports of Korea related 
to the writer the case of a Korean landowner who lost his 
property through the following piece of trickery. A Japanese 
employed a disreputable Korean to make out a false deed of the 
land and, armed with this, went to take possession. The real 
owner exhibited the true and incontestable deeds; but when the 
matter was referred to the Japanese authorities, the false deeds 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 219 

carried the day, and a man who had held the property for years 
was summarily ejected. 

A bishop of the Methodist Church in America was travelling 
with two missionaries through the country near Seoul. They 
had to cross a railroad embankment that was in construction. 
They walked a few rods along the embankment, and because of 
this they were attacked by a gang of Japanese coolies, and the 
two missionaries were severely hurt. It was only by the merest 
good luck that any of them escaped with their lives. No punish- 
ment at all commensurate with the crime was inflicted. A 
Japanese refused to pay his fare on the American electric cars 
and was put oflF. He ran into a near-by Korean rice shop, turned 
the rice out of a bag, placed it on the track and lay down upon 
it. He defied the Korean motormen to ride over him. No one 
dared to touch him, for this would have been the signal for a 
bloody reprisal on the part of the Japanese who lived all about. 
When the Americans complain of such things, they are told by 
the Japanese authorities that they can be easily avoided by 
employing Japanese. 

As the year advanced, the Japanese kept at work gathering 
in the material resources of the country. Fishing rights along 
the whole coast were demanded and given. No one who knows 
what Japanese fishermen are like will doubt for a moment that 
the Koreans will be driven from the fishing grounds. Then 
the coast-trading and riparian rights were seized, looking toward 
a complete absorption of the large coastwise and river traffic. 
Korean methods are slower and more cumbersome, and herein 
lies Japan's excuse for driving Koreans from the business. 

The signing of the Treaty of Peace with Russia at Ports- 
mouth was the signal for a still more active policy in Korea. 
The American people had been brought to believe that the 
Korean people were as imworthy of regard as the Japanese 
were above criticism, and steps were taken to arrange for the 
declaration of a protectorate over the peninsular kingdom. 

It must be remembered that Japan had solemnly promised, 



220 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

at the beginning of the war, to preserve the independence of 
Korea, but it now appeared that that promise was made solely 
as a preparation for the act which was to follow. The seizure 
of Korea and the extinction of her independence has been called 
a logical outcome of events. Russia had agreed to recognise 
Japan's preponderating influence in Korea, but what had that to 
do with Japan's definite and explicit promise to preserve the 
independence of Korea? It was evidently only the removal of 
the last obstacle which stood in the way of the breaking of that 
promise. But Japan saw that it would be necessary to proceed 
with caution. The only way to secure a protectorate without 
a manifest breach of faith was, first, to secure the acquiescence 
of the Korean government. If Korea could be induced to ask 
Japan to assume a protectorate, all would go well. Here was the 
crux of the situation. 

Early in the autumn of 1905 the Emperor was approached 
with this suggestion, but he repudiated it instantly. He recog- 
nised the predominance of Japanese power in Korea and acqui- 
esced in the advisorships in the various departments, but when 
it came to turning over the whole government and nation bodily 
to Japan, without the least hope of a future rehabilitation of the 
national independence, he refused in the plainest terms. He saw 
very well that the Japanese were determined to carry the day, 
but he knew that if he held firm it could not be done without 
arousing the indignation of the world. He determined to lodge 
a protest at Washington, forestalling violent action on the part 
of Japan. The first clause of the treaty of 1883 between Korea 
and the United States says that if either of the contracting 
parties is injured by a third party the other shall interfere with 
her good offices to effect an amicable settlement. 

It was impossible to lodge this protest in Washington 
through the Korean Foreign Office, for that was in control of 
a person thoroughly " in the sleeve " of Japan. The only thing 
to do was to send a personal and private communication to the 
President of the United States, calling attention to Japanese 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 221 

wrongs in Korea, and asking the President to investigate the 
matter and render Korea what help he could. 

That message was despatched from Korea in October at the 
hand of the writer, but the Japanese surmised what was being 
done. A Japanese spy on board the steamer at Yokohama dis- 
covered the exact hour when the message would arrive in 
Washington, and from that very hour events were hurried to 
their culmination in the Korean capital. 

Marquis Ito was sent to Seoul with definite instructions. 
Kore^ was to be induced to sig^ away her national existence 
voluntarily. Many conferences took place between the Japanese 
authorities and the Korean Cabinet, but without result. The 
Koreans stood firm on the treaty of 1904, in which Japan guar- 
anteed the independence of the country, and nothing could make 
them budge. Not one of the Cabinet consented. It was quite 
clear t}iat stronger agencies would have to be used. Finally, 
after a very strenuous conference' at the Japanese legation, the 
whole meeting adjourned to the audience chamber of the Em- 
peror, and the curtain went up on the last scene of the tragedy. 
The Emperor and every one of his ministers stood firm. They 
would die sooner than acquiesce. Repeated exhortations and 
inducements were offered, but the Koreans were immovable. 
When this deadlock occurred, the scenes were shifted a little, 
and Japanese gendarmes and police suddenly appeared and sur- 
rounded the audience chamber and blocked every approach to 
the imperial presence. The Emperor, feeling sure that personal 
injury was determined upon, retired to a little anteroom. No 
sane person can deny that he had sufficient reason to fear. The 
strongest man in the Cabinet was the Prime Minister, Han 
Kyu-sul, and it was evident that only by segregating him and 
handling the Cabinet without him could the desired result be ac- 
complished. When, therefore, the Prime Minister retired to the 
apartment where the Emperor was, supposably with the inten- 
tion of conferring with him, he was followed by Japanese armed 
officials and detained in a side room. The Marquis there plead 



222 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

with him to give in, but he was firm. Leaving him there, prac- 
tically in durance, the Marquis returned to the rest of the Cab- 
inet, who were very naturally alarmed at the non-appearance of 
the Prime Minister. The moment must have been one of great 
suspense. Hedged in by armed Japanese, their official chief 
spirited away and perhaps killed, there is little wonder that 
another turn of the screw resulted in the defection of several 
of the Cabinet, and at last a paper was signed by a majority of 
the ministers present, after a clause had been added to the effect 
that at some future day when Korea is strong enough and 
wealthy enough to resume her independence it will be given 
back to her. The Foreign Minister signed this document, and 
the seal was attached. There is some question as to just how 
this last was done. Some say that the seal was purloined from 
the office by Japanese and the document was stamped by them. 
However this may be, we have here the picture of how the 
agreement was put through, and the reader and the world may 
judge for themselves how far it was voluntary on the part of the 
Korean government. 

When this had been done, the Japanese authorities announced 
in Washington that Korea had voluntarily entered into an agree- 
ment granting Japan a protectorate over the country, and the 
American government, apparently without consulting with Korea 
as to the truth of the statement, recognised the validity of 
Japan's claim, and almost immediately removed the legation 
from Seoul, and at the same time informed the Korean legation 
in Washington that diplomatic business with Korea would there- 
after be carried on through Tokyo. The petition of the Emperor 
arrived in Washington before action had been taken by the gov- 
ernment, but, though its arrival had been announced to the 
President, it was not received until after action had been taken, 
when it was found to be too late. It is not our province to 
discuss here the question whether this action was in accord with 
the friendly relations that existed for so many years between 
Korea and America, but there can be no doubt whatever that 



THE JAPANESE IN KOREA 223 

the Koreans looked upon it as a distinct act of treachery. Even 
while the whole Korean people were convulsed by the high- 
handed act of Japan, and some of the very highest Korean 
officials were seeking oblivion of their country's wrongs in sui- 
cide, the American Minister in Seoul was feasting the Japanese 
who had compassed the destruction of Korean nationality. Can 
it be wondered at that the feeling of confidence which Korea 
reposed in the friendship of America should have experienced a 
sudden and sharp reaction. Americans of every class had been 
telling Korea for a quarter of a century that the American flag 
stood for fairness and honesty, that we had no purely selfish 
interests to subserve, but stood for right, whether that right was 
accompanied by might or not; but when the pinch came we 
were the first to desert her, and that in the most contemptuous 
way, without even saying good-bye. 

The appeal of the Emperor to the President of the United 
States cited the fact that Korea has heretofore received many 
tokens of good-will from the American government and people, 
that the American representatives have been sympathetic and 
helpful, and that American teachers of all kinds have done valu- 
able work. He granted that the government had not been what 
it should have been, and that many mistakes had been com- 
mitted, but he urged that whatever the Korean people might 
think of their government, they were passionately attached to 
the real Korea, to their nationality ; that they had few things to 
be proud of, and that if their nationality and independence, 
which had been guaranteed by Japan, were swept away, there 
would be left no incentive for the people to advance. He ac- 
knowledged the need of Japanese supervision, and declared that 
the advice of Japan had been and would be followed along all 
lines that looked toward the betterment of conditions in the 
peninsula. He intimated that the acts committed by the Japa- 
nese during the past year did not warrant the giving to Japan 
of complete control in Korea, for it would make Japanese resi- 
dents there all the more contemptuous of the private rights of 



224 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Koreans. He urged that Japan would be doing herself an in- 
jury, in breaking her promise to preserve the independence of 
Korea, for it would make other powers rightly suspicious of 
Japan's good faith elsewhere in the Far East. In conclusion, 
he asked the President to bring to bear upon this question the 
same breadth of view and the same sympathy which had charac- 
terised his distinguished career in other fields; and if, after a 
careful investigation, the facts above enumerated and others that 
would come to light should seem to warrant him in so doing, he 
should use his friendly offices to prevent the disaster to Korea 
which seemed imminent. It will be noted that the Emperor 
asked that the President's action be based upon a careful exami- 
nation of all the facts, and not upon mere hearsay. Whether 
Korea's side of the question was ever presented in detail to the 
American Executive may never be known, but the method of 
procedure adopted by the United States government does not 
warrant such a conclusion. 

When future historians, looking back across the years, shall 
view with dispassionate eyes the contemptuous attitude and the 
precipitate action of the American government in this case which 
involves the very life of the Korean nation, they will scarcely 
be able to so word the facts as to bring added glory to the 
annals of the American people. 

Min Yong-whan, the most cultured and public-spirited Ori- 
ental in the range of my acquaintance, after desperate efforts 
to secure a reversal of the forced action depriving Korea of her 
independence, committed suicide. His monument, and that of 
other patriots who followed his example, will ever stand before 
the Korean people as irrefragable proof that, whatever interested 
calumniators may say, it is as true in Korea as elsewhere that 
dulcit pro patria mori. 



CHAPTER XV 
REVENUE 

THE revenue of the Korean government is derived from 
a dozen or more different sources, among the most 
important of which are (i) land tax, (2) house tax, 
(3) salt tax, (4) customs duties, (5) ginseng monop- 
<^ly» (6) gold mines, (7) fish tax, (8) fur tax, (9) tobacco tax, 
(la) gate tax, (11) forests, (12) guilds, (13) licenses, (14) 
minting, (15) poll tax, (16) boat tax, (17) cow-hide tax, (18) 
paper tax, (19) pawn tax. These include forms of taxation 
which are now obsolete as well as those actually in force. 

The prefect of each of the three hundred and forty-one dis- 
tricts in Korea is supposed to have in his office a map and a 
detailed description of every piece of arable land in the district, 
excepting kitchen-gardens. This forms the basis of the land 
tax, which yields two-thirds of the national revenue. Although 
there are no fences, the limits of the fields are clearly marked 
by earthen banks or by the natural conformation of the land, 
and no farmer would dare to throw two fields together or divide 
a field into two without the cognisance and consent of the local 
prefect; and even then the latter would have to obtain per- 
mission from the central government. This arable land is con- 
sidered under two heads, — rice-fields and ordinary fields. The 
owner of each plot of land owns a deed for the same, stamped 
with the magistrate's seal or signed with his name. In many 
instances where property has been in the same family for several 
centuries, these deeds may have been lost or destroyed; but if 
the land is sold, new deeds must be issued. The prefect's records, 
as well as the deed of each field, indicate the relative grade of the 
latter. There are six grades of rice-fields and three of ordinary 



226 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

fields. These grades are determined by several factors, — the 
natural fertility of the soil, the ability to irrigate, the roughness 
or smoothness of the topography, and the lay of the land; for 
if it slopes toward the north it is considered much less valuable 
than if it slopes toward the south. 

New fields are constantly being made, which for a few years 
are not shown on the prefect's records and do not pay taxes tx> 
the g-ovemment. For this reason the authorities periodically 
order a remeasurement of arable land, or rather a readjustment 
of the prefectural records, so as to include the new fields. Th^ibr. 
is no definite interval of time between these read justmentft ^ 
Sometimes half a century passes without one, and then again thqT. 
may follow each other by an interval of only a few yeanu: 
Korean history shows that with the beginning of each new reigii^' 
or the inauguration of a new government policy, or under stress 
of some national calamity which has emptied the treasury, a 
readjustment of land values is likely to be ordered. A royal 
commission goes about and examines the new fields and estimates 
their value, noting carefully all the conditions above enumerated.^ 
They do not actually measure the land, but they find out hem 
long it will take to plough it with a single bullock, and haw 
much seed grain it requires to plant. By these means they esti- 
mate how many kyul there are in the field. Now a kyul is one 
hundred man-loads of unthreshed rice, and each man-load is conii- 
posed of ten sheaves. Ten per cent is the legal rate, and so a 
field of thirty kyul would yield the government three kyul. This 
again must be reduced to threshed rice in the bag, as that is the ■ 
form in which, until very recently, the tax has been paid. It. 
was a very clumsy arrangement. 

The status of a field being once definitely settled, it is put 
down on the books as being liable to a definite amount of taxa- 
tion each year, and this tax is due whether the year is a good or 
a bad one, whether the field is tilled or left fallow. It is only- 
by a special dispensation of the central government that the tax 
on a single field can be remitted, whatever be the disabilities 




THE KOREAN FARMER 
Showing methods of ploughing the soil and threshing of grain 



REVENUE 227 

under which the owner or tenant may be labouring. In other 
words, the government takes no chances. And yet it may be 
that when we take into account the great in frequency of serious 
famines in Korea, this system is the best for the farmer; for 
were the regular tax the only charge on the field there would be 
every incentive to cultivate the soil with care, to fertilise it 
heavily, and to make it produce the very most of which it is 
capable. As a fact, however, the farmer is frequently subjected 
to further imposts which, though illegal, are unavoidable under 
a system which gfives officials no opportunity to gain a compe- 
tence except by indirection. 

Rice being the staple article of food, it naturally forms the 
measure of value. Until very recently the farmer had to pay 
all his taxes in rice, and therefore was obliged to barter his 
barley, millet or beans in order to obtain the wherewithal to settle 
his debts to the government. To-day all taxes are collected in 
money. This simplifies taxation in one sense, but in another 
sense it complicates matters, as we shall see. The tax is ten 
Korean dollars a kyul. 

Such is the law in regard to the land tax, but there are g^eat 
discrepancies in its operation and administration. The prefect 
and all his underlings recfeive a nominal salary, which is annu- 
ally deducted from the tax money or rice which is to be sent 
up to Seoul, but it is notorious that this salary is insufficient 
and that it is supplemented by various means. As these are an 
actual charge upon the productive portion of the population, they 
require mention. The amount of special taxation depends upon 
the persona] character of the prefect and his deputies, the aju%xs, 
and we can indicate only the general lines upon which it is levied. 
We have already seen that the tax is levied on the estimated 
average yield of the land. Now, if this average yield is exceeded 
in a year of plenty or through unusual thrift on the part of the 
farmer, a portion of the overplus or increment is commonly 
appropriated by the ajuns, who share it with their chief; but it 
all depends upon the status of the owner of the field. If he be 



228 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

a country gentleman who has influence at Seoul, the ajuns may 
not dare to take even the legal rate of tax. If he has slightly 
less influence, he may pay the legal tax on good years but less in 
years of scarcity. If he has no influence, he may pay the legal 
tax but nothing extra, in case of overplus. It is the common 
farmer who has practically no rights in the case and must always 
pay in full, and whatever proportion of the overplus the ajuns 
may require ; or if there be no overplus, he may still have to give 
up part of the nine-tenths remaining after his legal tax is paid. 
No fields within the walls of Seoul are subject to taxation. The 
annual amount received from the land tax by the government 
is in the neighbourhood of eight million Korean dollars; but 
exchange varies so much that this may mean anywhere from 
two million to three million in American currency. The lack of 
an adequate currency in the country districts makes it difficult for 
the farmers to pay their taxes in money, and so they often turn 
over their rice to the ajuns, who act as agents for its sale. 
These ajuns are not there for their health merely, and this form 
of trade is one of their handsomest perquisites. 

With the exception of Seoul and its western and southern 
suburbs, every house in Korea is subject to a tax of fifteen htm- 
dred Seoul cash, or sixty cents, irrespective of the size or quality 
of the structure. The annual amount collected from this source 
is about half a million dollars. At sixty cents a house, this would 
mean something less than a million houses; and reckoning five 
people to the house, we should have only five millions as the 
population; Of course this is an absurdly low estimate, and the 
conclusion is inevitable, either that all the houses are not taxed 
or that there is a serious leakage in transit. When a new house 
is built, the magistrate gives a deed for it, and from that time it 
is supposed to be on the tax list. When a house bums or is 
swept away by a flood, the tax is always remitted. 

All salt is made by evaporating sea-water; and the " works '* 
are so easily accessible and salt is such an indispensable com- 
modity that this government, like most oriental ones, finds it 



REVENUE 229 

a reliable and lucrative source of revenue. The tax is levied 
on the actual amount produced, and amounts to about four per 
cent ad valorem. This seems small compared with the ten per 
cent levied on cereals, but it must be remembered that in the case 
of the latter nature does by far the larger part of the work. The 
evaporation of salt is exceedingly laborious. The apparatus is 
costly, considering the annual output, the cost of fuel is heavy, 
and the goods are marketed only in spring and autumn. For 
these reasons a heavier tax than four per cent would kill the 
business. This tax brings about ninety thousand dollars into the 
treasury. 

Ginseng is one of the most distinctive products of Korea. 
The Chinese, who are its principal purchasers, consider the 
Korean red ginseng the best on the market. The culture and 
preparation of this root is a government monopoly, and it is 
carried on in two ways. The government owns certain ginseng 
farms, and carries them on through skilled agents, but more 
often it gives licenses to responsible parties who turn over the 
entire crop to the government. After the latter has marketed the 
goods in China it deducts its own twenty or twenty-five per 
cent and turns the rest over to the tenant of the farm. The 
annual income from this source varies from one hundred and 
fifty thousand to three hundred thousand Korean dollars. 

All minerals are supposed to belong to the government, and 
no man has a right to open a mine even on his own ground 
without special permission from the Department of Agriculture, 
Commerce and Public Works at Seoul. If a man wants to mine 
gold (and by far the greater part is of the placer variety), he 
applies at the bureau at Seoul, and if he has influence enough he 
will succeed in buying a license to open a placer mine in a certain 
specified locality. For this he pays a round sum, though it may 
not come within the purview of the law. After opening the mine 
he will be called upon to pay over to the agents of the govern- 
ment probably sixty per cent of his gross earnings. The rate 
differs with different circumstances, but at the lowest it is enor- 



230 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

mously high. The idea seems to be that as he is working gov- 
ernment property he must divide the proceeds, just as a farmer 
often does when he works another man's land. The annual 
revenue from this source is subject to g^eat fluctuations. Some- 
times it rises to nearly half a million, and then it may drop to 
a hundred thousand. 

Copper mining is a considerable industry in Korea; but as 
the profits are relatively smaller than those of gold mining, the 
government takes only thirty per cent of the proceeds, or, more 
exactly, five ounces out of every sixteen. It is difficult to get at 
the figures to show what revenue is derived from this source. 
There are a number of iron mines, but they are carried on in only 
a small way comparatively. The government receives a tax of 
about nine per cent of the gross output. There are said to be over 
fifty iron mines in the peninsula, mostly in Kang-wun Province, 
east of Seoul. 

Korean fisheries annually render a neat sum to the national 
exchequer. The tax is levied not on the amount of fish caught 
but upon the boats themselves. These are of about ten grades, 
according to the number of the crew and the size of the nets. 
Such is the law, but it must be confessed that when the money is 
actually collected cognisance is taken of the amount of fish 
caught, and the amount of money paid bears no special relation 
to the sum received by the central government. The Korean 
government possesses no navy, but from time immemorial it has 
owned a large number of boats along the coast, which are sup- 
posed to be ready for use in time of war. These are regularly 
let out to fishermen, and the revenue from them is naturally 
much larger than from the native-owned craft. Of late years 
these boats have been sold in considerable numbers to the fisher- 
men, but so far as we can learn the proceeds have not sufficed to 
put the Korean navy on a firm footing ! 

Furs have always been an important product of Korea, and 
have frequently figured in the tribute to China, and in indem- 
nities paid to Chinese, Manchu or Mongol. They have been 



REVENUE 231 

considered as a sort of government monopoly, and gangs of 
trappers have been r^^larly sent out by the authorities, the 
entire catch being taken by the government and paid for. If 
other people take furs, especially sea-otter, sable, tiger or leopard, 
the rule is to carry them to the nearest prefect, who is sure to 
buy them in for the government. Within the last few months 
a Korean in Whang-hai Province got into serious trouble because 
he carried a tiger skin directly to Chemulpo, and sold it to a for- 
eigner rather than offer it first to the prefect. The foreigner 
doubtless paid him six times as much as the prefect would have 
given. The method adopted makes it quite impossible to estimate 
the amount annually received, as it never appears in the columns 
of dollars and cents. 

All merchant craft are subject to a tax which is levied upon 
their carrying capacity. About three cash per bag is collected 
at the port of entry. This is only a small fraction of one per 
cent. Before the days when government taxes were payable in 
money, these boats often paid by bringing government rice up 
to the capital, just as in rural districts in America farmers 
" work out " their taxes on the road. 

The forests of Korea are considered crown lands, and no 
one can cut timber without special permission. The tax is paid 
in kind and amounts to three per cent of the product. Cow- 
hides, in which the trade is considerable, form a special source 
of revenue; the hides are graded into three classes and pay a 
tax of twenty, sixteen and twelve cents apiece, respectively. The 
various guilds of Seoul, of which we shall speak at length in 
another place, pay no regular taxes, but they are frequently called 
upon to help in various forms of government works. Sometimes 
they are required to repair a road over which a royal procession 
is to pass ; and in case of a royal funeral or marriage, each guild 
is supposed to supply a gorgeous banner to be carried in the 
procession, and the members of the guilds are called upon to act 
as bearers of the catafalque of the dead. 

Up to the time of the China-Japan war every man was 



232 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

obliged to carry on his person a small piece of wood on which 
were written his name, the year of his birth and his rank. Any- 
one who failed to carry this tag was ccmsidered an outlaw. It 
was called the " name-tag." Every two or three years, or every 
year in which a great national examination was held, all these 
tags were changed or renewed. Each bore the stamp of the 
mayor of Seoul or of the country prefect, and the application of 
this stamp cost the sum of five country cash. This was a sort 
of poll tax, but was discontinued when the use of the name-tag 
was abolished. 

There never has been a tax upon spirituous liquors, nor any 
license required for their sale. In country districts there is a 
slight tax on the malt used in making beer. This is made of 
barley and comes in the form of round cakes. The tax on each 
cake is one cash. 

Besides these regular taxes, the government sells licenses for 
a large number of industries. These are not all worthy of men- 
tion, but among them we find the pawn-shop license, which 
amounts to two dollars a month in the case of large shops. The 
cutting of firewood in government preserves is carried on under 
license. 

It must not be imagined that these are the only sources of 
income. There is another long list of " donations " to the palace. 
These are not actual taxes, and yet they are so fixed in Korean 
custom that they amount to the same thing, and their discon- 
tinuance would be the signal for an instant and searching investi- 
gation. These donations take the form of fruits and vegetables. 
Certain districts are noted for the production of particular kinds 
and superior qualities of fruits and vegetables. For instance, 
the Pongsan pears, Namyang persimmons, Sunchun walnuts, 
Poeun jujubes, Kwangju tobacco and Kuchang turnips are the 
best in the country. The growers annually send up the best 
selection of their products for use by the imperial household. 
The amount is not regulated by law, but the prefect is sure to see 
to it that the quantity and quality of these gifts do not fall far 



REVENUE 233 

below the limit established by custom. A failure to attend to 
this matter would soon get him into trouble. 

Several kinds of sea products are also sent up, such as edible 
sea-weed, beche*de-mer, dried clams, pearls, cuttle-fish, cod and 
other denizens of the deep ; among industrial products, linen and 
cotton cloth, fans, screens, mats, tables, cabinets, pipes, paper, 
human hair, silk, furs, horses, hats, head-bands, pens, ink, 
candles, grass-cloth, tiger skins, deer horns, mountain ginseng, 
game, honey, ganger, crockery and porcelain, medicines, embroi- 
deries, cranes, musical instruments and coral. These are a few of 
the varieties. 

The most reliable source of income is the Maritime Customs, 
and it forms the only asset that the government can use as col- 
lateral for the purpose of making loans. Up to the early eighties 
there was no such institution, but in 1882 the government 
requested that the Chinese Customs send a man to open up a 
service in Korea. P. G. von Mollendorff, Esq., was sent, and 
with him a considerable staff of foreigners. The service was 
established on lines similar to those in China, but after a few 
years Mr. Von Mollendorff resigned, and the service came more 
directly under the Chinese control. From the very first it was 
a decided success, one of the very few that Korea has achieved 
along financial lines; and under the admirable management of 
J. McLeavy Brown, C. M. G., it has formed an anchor to wind- 
ward that has helped the government ride out many a storm, not 
merely financial but political as well. The subject of imports 
and exports will be mentioned elsewhere, but under the head of 
revenue it will suffice to say that, according to the latest reports, 
the gross value of a year's trade is approximately fifty million 
yen or twenty-five million dollars, on practically all of which a 
small import or export duty is imposed. 



CHAPTER XVI 
THE CURRENCY 

WE may safely say that before the days of Kija, 
1 122 B. c, the Koreans had no money. All trade 
was done by barter. Kija probably brought with 
him from China a quantity of the coins in circu- 
lation there. Just what these were we do not know, but they 
may have been the peculiar " knife coins " that are found to-day 
in every good numismatic collection. There is good evidence 
from Korean literature that Kija put out a form of government 
bank note in the shape of a square piece of linen with his own 
seal upon it. These were nominally redeemable, but practically 
they could not have been so, if they were used to any gjeat ex- 
tent, for Kija could not have brought enough of the coins from 
China to redeem any considerable amount of " paper " money. 

In the days of Silla, 57 b. C.-918 a. d., there was a consid- 
erable mixture of Chinese, the descendants of people who had 
fled from China at the time the Great Wall was built. These 
people doubtless taught the southern Koreans the value of a 
coinage. The earliest Silla coins are said to have been octagonal 
in shape with a hole in the centre. Another was the " Star 
Money/* which bore the impress of two stars on one side and 
the legend " Heaven-sanctioned Eastern Treasure " on the other. 
The " Boy-child '' coin was in the shape of the Siamese twins, 
and it bore the inscription " From Childhood to Manhood," 
referring to the fact that it is necessary at all stages of life. 
There was also the " Dragon Coin/' the " Tortoise Coin " and 
the " Seven Star Money." The latter has a representation of 
the constellation of the Great Bear, and the flattering inscrip- 
tion " As faithful as the Stars." In Koryu days again, 918- 



THE CURRENCY 235 

1392, there was an issue of " linen money," which went under 
the name " Dirty Linen " ; not a nice name for such a nice thing 
as money. It was in the latter days of that dynasty that a 
regular issue of " cash " was made, similar to the cash used 
to-day. A silver coin in the shape of a bottle was also put out, 
but it was soon debased by admixture of copper, zinc and other 
baser metals, and so fell into disrepute. During the long years 
of Mongol supremacy the currency of that empire circulated 
freely in Korea, but all this came to an end about the middle 
of the fourteenth century. 

After the founding of the present dynasty in 1392 the old 
silver, copper and linen money was continued in circulation, but 
after a time the government issued the famous yupjun, or " Leaf 
Money," which has held its own in the country districts until 
the present day with an obstinacy that is worthy of a better 
cause. During the past fifty years all sorts of tricks have been 
played with Korean coinage, and the government has realised 
heavy sums by minting, but of course no government can make 
money by coining it. The intrinsic value and the cost of making 
should equal the face value; but they cared nothing for this, 
and time and again new issues were forced on the people, only 
to fall to twenty per cent of their face value. The provinces 
would have none of this, but it circulated in and near Seoul. 
A rather pretty silver coin was issued in the eighties. It had 
a blue enamel centre. It was all bought up and hoarded within 
two years. The same happened to another silver coinage of a 
later date. At last the government unfortunately took up the 
nickel five-cent piece. The trouble A\ith this coin was that it 
was of low enough denomination to be useful as circulating 
medium, but at the same time of enough value to be worth 
while counterfeiting. The cash had been so infinitesimal in 
value, and the plant necessarily so large for making it, that no 
one could aflford to counterfeit it. But as soon as the nickel 
took the field an army of counterfeiters sprang up. The Jap- 
anese supplied the necessary machinery and smuggled it into 



236 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the country, and at the same time hundreds of thousands of dol- 
lars worth of the stuff was turned out in Japan and brought over 
to Korea. This was a great injury to Koreans and also to 
legitimate Japanese trade, for the nickels fell and fell, until at 
one time they were at a discount of one hundred and fifty per 
cent. Both the Korean and Japanese governments made strenu- 
ous efforts to put a stop to this demoralisation, but so long as 
the Korean government continued to put out coins with a face 
value of five cents, and an intrinsic value of only one and a half 
cents, they found it impossible to compete with the counterfeiters, 
and the two went along side by side until a dozen or so of the 
latter were executed, and then it became too serious a matter, 
and the counterfeiters suspended operations. 

Only the oldest foreign residents of Seoul will remember 
the great mat sheds which were erected from time to time and 
in which the old-time cash was minted. The smelting furnaces 
were mere holes in the ground, and the naked operatives stood 
astride of the glowing orifices and reached down with long 
tongues and seized the edges of the crucibles that held the 
molten metal. At night, when there was no other light but that 
which escaped from the furnace mouths and lit the rough in- 
terior of the shed with a livid, greenish glow, it was a picture 
straight from Dante's Inferno. The metal was poured into 
moulds which contained some fifty impressions of the pattern, 
and when the casting came out it looked like rough lace, the 
coins all being connected by narrow bars of metal. These were 
broken up, and the coins were strung on square metal rods that 
just fitted the hole in the coin. The ends of this rod were then 
put in a rude vice, and men with enormous coarse files ground 
down the edges of a thousand or more of the coins at a time. 
It was exceedingly rough work, and it was done just as cheaply 
as it could be done and still pass the very superficial examina- 
tion that it would be subjected to. After having their edges 
filed, the coins were dumped into a shallow trough set in the 
ground, and sand and water were added. Two men sat down 



THE CURRENCY 237 

on the ground at opposite ends of this trough and pushed the 
coins back and forth with their bare feet. This was the final 
poHsh. The only thing left to do was to string the wretched 
things on rough straw rope or string, making a knot between 
every hundred pieces. When finished, the strings looked not 
unlike festoons of link sausages, though perhaps a trifle less 
digestible. In four-fifths of the country this is still the only 
currency that is accepted. One wonders how any large trans- 
actions can be carried on with such extremely awkward money. 
A horse-load of it would not come to more than fifteen dollars 
in gold. I have estimated roughly that the mere transfer of 
money costs on an average one-tenth of one per cent of every 
monetary transaction. 

There is no such thing as a genuine bank in Korea, and yet 
the people have certain expedients by which they avoid in part 
the transportation of actual cash from one part of the land to 
another. There are certain large firms or guilds in Seoul whose 
notes of hand are accepted quite generally, and a certain crude 
method of exchange has been common. A merchant in the 
country may take the money which the prefect desires to trans- 
mit to the government treasury and buy merchandise with it, 
bring it up to Seoul and out of the proceeds pay over to the 
treasury the amount originally received. At certain seasons of 
the year it is necessary to send large sums of money to the 
country to pay for the barley, rice and a thousand other things 
that are required by the people of the metropolis. The mer- 
chants who have this in hand will therefore pay over to the 
treasury a certain amount of cash and receive an order on some 
country prefect who is waiting for a chance to send up the annual 
taxes to the capital. The order is honoured by him, and so both 
parties gain by the transaction. The taxes that the people have 
paid to their prefect come back to them in large measure by the 
sale of their produce. This custom is of comparatively recent 
origin, for in former times and for centuries the taxes were 
all payable in rice or other grain. 



238 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

From time immemorial barter has been the principal method 
of trade, and to a very large extent the same may be said to-day. 
In many parts of Korea money is a sort of luxury that, while 
pleasant to have, is by no means essential to comfort. In the 
capital, the open ports and some of the more important inland 
towns everything is secured by purchase, but this includes only 
a small fraction of the whole population. In the country dis- 
tricts, for the most part, commodities are secured at periodical 
" markets," called chang by the Koreans. As you travel through 
the country and come to populous villages, you wonder where 
people get their various wares. Do they make them all them- 
selves? There are very few country shops, and even these are 
of the most trivial kind. It is when you happen to strike a 
town on market day that the riddle is solved. For five days 
the place seems almost deserted, but on the sixth it is simply 
swarming with humanity. Every farmer and artisan for miles 
around has foregathered at this point to exchange his wares for 
those of someone else. All day long it is one scramble to see 
who can get his business done first, so that an early start can be 
made for home, or so that there may be leisure to do a little 
gambling or gossiping. The wine shops are running at full 
blast, for almost every important bargain is consummated over 
steaming bowls of rice wine. Every tongue is loosed, and to 
the uninitiated stranger who approaches one of these commer- 
cial orgies for the first time, and when it is at its height, it 
seems sure that a riot is going on or that a free fight is in 
hilarious progress. It is like five hundred exciting auction sales 
going on all at once, or like a busy day on 'change. Of course 
much money changes hands on these occasions, but compara- 
tively little of it leaves the town. Every man has exchanged 
his wares for those of another, and everyone wends his way 
home, happy in the belief that he has made a good bargain. He 
may have cause to change his mind when the good lady of his 
house finds what he has bought. 

Koreans learn but very slowly to change the style of their 



THE CURRENCY 239 

medium of exchange. In the capital anything " goes," but with 
the people at large the utmost conservatism is the rule. Even 
to this day the hundreds of Koreans employed at the American 
gold-mines in Unsan district refuse to touch Japanese paper 
money, and the company is obliged to send to various ports of 
the Far East to secure silver Japanese dollars, which have been 
withdrawn from circulation in Japan itself and are at a con- 
siderable discount everywhere. The Korean likes these because 
the value is intrinsic and does not depend upon any promise, no 
matter how solvent the government may be that backs the bills. 
He has had too much to do with governments to accept any such 
flimsy money as that! An amusing story is told of the unso- 
phisticated Korean of the early eighties. In 1882, when the 
Japanese legation was burned and all its inmates were killed or 
else found safety in Chemulpo, one of the fugitives dropped in 
the street a hand-bag filled with Japanese bills. A Korean 
picked it up and examined the stuff, but could not imagine why 
the Japanese should want to carry away those scraps of tough 
paper. He took them home and papered his wall with them. 
Some time after this a friend, who had had some dealings with 
the Japanese at Fusan and knew what was what, happened to 
call, and he nearly fell in a fit when he saw what was on the 
wall, but he recovered, and managed to hold his tongue until he 
had effected the purchase of that house for three hundred dol- 
lars. He then tore from the walls upwards of six thousand yen. 
An even more amusing case was that of the merchant who was 
on his way up from Fusan with a large amount of paper yen 
sewed into the lining of his coat. Out jumped a highwayman 
on him in a lonely spot and demanded his money. He blandly 
replied that he had none. The robber was disgusted and ex- 
claimed, " Well, then, give me that coat and you take this one." 
The poor fellow could do no less than comply. A little while 
after this the same robber held up a gentleman on the same 
road, and, finding him likewise impecunious, made another 
exchange of coats, as the gentleman was dressed in silk. The 



240 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

latter, on his arrival at home, tore off the coat and ordered the 
women of the house to tear it up for mop-rags, as he would 
never wear a coat that had been on a robber's back. In about 
half an hour, as he was seated with his long pipe in his mouth 
and his favourite book before him on the floor, he heard a most 
unaccountable disturbance in the women's quarters, and in they 
rushed upon him screaming that the coat was bewitched with 
a million imps. The little fat god of wealth that is seated on 
each of the Japanese bank notes had been too much for their 
nerves. Fortunately the gentleman had Seen Japanese money, 
and, as he gently disengaged the crisp notes, he murmured to him- 
self the sanctimonious aphorism, " Virtue is its own reward*" 



CHAPTER XVII 

ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING 

ONE eminent characteristic of the whole of the Far 
, East is the unsubstantial character of their building^. 
Outside of a few pagodas and other monumental 
buildings we find no remains of ancient edifices, such 
as excite the admiration and interest of the traveller in western 
Asia or in Europe. It may be said with reasonable assurance 
that there are practically no buildings in the Far East, intended 
for the occupancy of people, that have existed for three cen- 
turies without undergoing such radical repairs as to constitute 
a virtual rebuilding. This is especially true of Korea. The 
reason is that there is a great disproportion between the weight 
of the roof and the strength of its supports. The principle of 
the arch has been known for many centuries, and it has been 
utilised in the city gates and in a certain number of bridges ; but 
it has not been used in ordinary buildings, however permanent 
may have been their intended use. The weight of the roof is 
invariably supported upon wooden pillars, and this, too, in the 
most primitive manner. Huge beams are laid across from the 
top of one pillar to the top of another, and from the centres of 
these beams the roof-tree is supported. There is an utter lack 
of anything like a strengthening truss to prevent the building 
from getting out of plumb; and as only that portion of the 
ground immediately under each of the pillars is specially pre- 
pared, to prevent sinking, we see that the enormous weight of the 
tiled roof rests upon a ludicrously insufficient foundation. It is 
much like a Chinese lady of, say, one hundred and fifty pounds 
going about on feet two inches long and one inch wide. This 
insecurity is increased by the fact that in sinking these slight 



242 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

foundations the Koreans seldom reach hard-pan, but having gone 
through the soft upper sediment they pound the earth down with 
a heavy stone or iron mallet, and without more ado set the heavy 
foundation stone which is to support the pillar. The impossi- 
bility of securing entire uniformity in the solidity of these sepa- 
rate foundations is revealed in about twenty years, when the 
roof of the building begins to assume a wa\'y appearance, and 
everything loses its horizontal or perpendicular position in favour 
of a certain bibulous obliquity. The first serious repairs, there- 
fore, which a Korean house has to undergo consist in tearing out 
the flimsy material which fills the wall spaces between the pil- 
lars, relieving each pillar in turn of the vertical pressure of the 
roof by means of improvised struts, and then shifting the position 
of the foundation stone so as to allow the pillar to be made 
perpendicular once more. The Orientals seem never to have 
acquired the notion of a tie-beam so arranged as to relieve the 
lateral thrust caused by a roof resting upon rafters. By far 
the greater part of the weight of the roof rests directly upon the 
centre of the tie-beam. The result is that this beam has to be 
of enormous thickness. The only thing that prevents the build- 
ing from leaning is the mortise of the tie-beam into the top of 
the supporting pillar. There- are no trusses to prevent leaning, 
and so it takes but a few years for the building to get out of 
plumb. It is doubtless this which makes Koreans prefer to have 
their houses all together in a bunch. They resemble a company 
of jolly roisterers trying to get home in the " wee sma' hours " 
with arms interlocked for mutual support. If you buy a Korean 
house in a crowded quarter and want to tear it down, you are 
likely to arouse shrill protests from your neighbours on either 
side. You will not go far along any street in Seoul or any other 
Korean town without seeing houses propped up with stout sticks 
for fear they will fall over into the ditch. On the whole, one has 
to conclude that the roof is considered the main thing, and the 
foundation only a side issue. All Korean houses, whether those 
of the common people or the palaces of kings, are built upon 



ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING 243 

one and the same plan. The only difference is in degree. The 
basis of the structure is what is called the kan. This means a 
space about eight feet square. If you wish to buy a house, the 
first question will be as to how many kan you require. The 
price is stated in terms of the kan, and you will buy the building 
just as you would buy silk by the yard or beef by the pound. 
Of course the condition of the building will be taken into con- 
sideration in estimating the value, but the price of tiled house 
or thatched house at any time is readily found in the market 
quotations as so much per kan. Some years ago there was far 
greater uniformity in price than now, for in the eighties Koreans 
did not realise that a house on the main street was of any more 
value than one on a side lane ; nor did the amount of land about 
the house figure at all in the price. I have more than once bought 
a small thatched house in the middle of a large field in Seoul, 
paying only the market price per kan of house. Those days 
have gone now, and the situation and the area of the land are 
carefully taken into account. All Korean houses being built 
on a single pattern, a description of one will suffice for all. After 
the site has been plotted out with cord and the position of each 
post decided upon, holes are dug at each of these points to a 
depth of four or five feet, until something like solid earth has 
been reached. Then a number of workmen stand around one of 
these holes, holding in their hands ropes attached to a large stone 
or, preferably, a heavy lump of iron. As the foreman sings a 
droning labour song, the men pull simultaneously at the ropes, 
and the stone or iron is heaved high in the air and falls into the 
hole, thus tamping down the earth at the point where the foun- 
dation stone is to lie. Crushed stone or broken pieces of tile are 
thrown in and this is all mashed into the earth to make the 
foundation still stronger. Each hole is treated likewise, and then 
the chuchutol, or post stones, are placed in position. They may 
protrude a foot or more from the surface of the ground. Usually 
they are too small to reach the bottom of the hole, and in that 
case loose stones are piled in until the proper level is reached. 



244 THE PASSING OF KOREA 



These post stones are always placed about eight feet apart. The 
posts, eight feet in height, are erected upon the stones, the bottom 
of each being cut with a small adze, so as to fit the irregularities 
of the stone as well as possible. The top of each post has a deep 
mortise or notch into which the heavy cross-beams are fitted and 
driven down with mallets. It is evident that three beams have 
to be fitted to the top of each post excepting in the case of the 
comer posts. This requires the cutting down of the ends of the 
supported beams to such an extent that not more than a quarter 
of their cross section is presented at the point of support. After 
all the posts and cross beams have been put in place, hea\7 
uprights are erected from the centres of these beams, and on these 
rest the roof-tree. The rafters, simply round sticks of varying 
size, are nailed to this roof-tree and extend about two feet 
beyond the wall of the house on either side. They are always 
arranged so that there shall be a slight dip to the roof when it 
is completed. This is the cur\'e characteristic of all roofs^f die 
Far East. After this the whole roof is covered thickly widi 
fagots, laid roughly on and tied down with straw rope, and 
this is covered two or three inches deep with ordinary earth, 
on which the heavy tiles are laid. The latter are set without 
mortar or plaster of any kind, and their weight alone is guar- 
antee of their stability. The broad, slightly curved " female " 
tile are laid first with the concave side upward, and then the inter- 
stitial lines are covered with the narrower and more sharply 
curved " male " tiles with the con\'ex side upward. Each of these 
is set in ordinary mud, but without plaster. It must be confessed 
that it makes a very thorough roof. It is impervious to heat, 
and no ordinary storm will beat through the crevices of it. There 
are two drawbacks. The weight is out of all proportion to the 
rest of the house, and the constant strain is sure to make the 
structure " lie down " sooner or later. Then, again, the mud 
in which the ** male " tiles are set is full of seeds of all kinds, and 
during the rainy season in summer the roof is sure to become 
a veritable garden of weeds. They say that the tiles have to be 




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ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING 245 

reset each year for two or three years before the seeds get killed 
out, but no new mud must be added, or it will all have to be 
done over again. 

Meanwhile the window and door frames have been put up, 
and the mural spaces have been filled in with a strong wattle, 
upon which clay mud is plastered. After this mud has dried 
and is seamed in every direction with cracks, a kind of plaster 
is applied which is made of a mixture of fine loamy earth, sand 
and horse-manure, the last ingredient taking the place of hair. 
The inside and outside are made the same, for the overhanging 
eaves are supposed to keep the weather from the outer walls. 
When this is covered with the strong, fibrous Korean paper, it 
makes a very thorough and durable wall. 

The floor is an important matter, as it is both floor and stove. 
From the level of the ground up to the level of the floor they 
build with mud and stone, making, as it were, three or four 
ditches, which converge into one at each end of the room. The 
whole floor is then covered with large slabs of stone about two 
inches thick. The joints are carefully sealed with cement so 
that no smoke can come through into the room. Over the stones 
a thin layer of cement is spread, and then the whole is covered 
with a heavy oiled paper which under the tread of stockinged 
feet soon wears as smooth as silk. The opening to the fireplace 
is outside the room, and above it is generally set the great kettle 
for boiling the family rice. This is the kitchen, and it is simply 
the dirt floor, with whatever benches, shelves and implements 
are necessary. A room heated this way is called a pang, and it 
differs from the Chinese kang in no essential particular except 
that the latter occupies only part of the room and is raised above 
the floor like a divan, while the Korean forms the whole of the 
floor itself. A small house will contain only one room like this, 
with a kitchen attached and one or two storerooms ; but a large 
gentleman's establishment, while built in the same general way, 
will contain perhaps a dozen or more such rooms and a long row 
of servants' quarters, making in all as many as a hundred and 



246 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

fifty or even two hundred kan. Every dwelling with any pre- 
tension to comfort will have a separate part called the. saramg. 
This is the gentlenian*s reception-room, and is approached frank 
the outside without coming near the women's part of the hcMltei 
This latter is called the '' inner room/' and no one of the male 
sex will enter there without the express invitation of ! and m 
company with the master of the house. 

The Koreans have a passion for cutting up their compounds 
with endless walls, making a veritable labyrinth of the place; 
To our eyes this is a great blemish, for it leaves little opportuoitj 
for a pleasing effect on the eye. The very finest Korean house 
is the most secluded, and you can discover its charms only bjr 
close inspection, and by twisting in and out through numberless 
gates and alleys. You cannot stand off and admire it as you 
can a European building. On the street side it presents nothing* 
to the eye but a plain row of ordinary Korean kan without any- 
thing to show its character whatever. Judging from theff 
houses, the Koreans do not put their best side out. You cxxMS 
the cesspool to get into the gate; you go through the servants' 
quarters and stables to get to the apartments of the master of 
the house. At the very back of all, and most inaccessible, you 
may find a pretty bank with some flowering shrubs, some quaint 
water-worn stones, and perhaps a solemn stork or two. In none 
of the various enclosures will you find a blade of grass growmg. 
Such a thing as a lawn is quite unknown, and if grass tries to 
sprout it will be immediately scraped away with a hoe. In a 
very nice house you may find a few potted plants or shrubs in 
the enclosure before the saraug. 

The ideal house site will face the south and wall have a steep 
bank behind it. The south means warmth, light and life. The 
north means blackness, cold and death. This is an idea that has 
been borrowed from China, and is not indigenous with the 
Koreans. The same is true of every grave site and of every 
prefectural town site as well. Other things being equal, the 
southern exposure will always commend itself to the Korean. 




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ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING 247 

As to the sanitary arrangements of the Korean house, the less 
said the better. These people have not learned the first rudiments 
of hygiene, and so long as there is a ditch that will carry off the 
water that falls from the sky, all requirements seem to be met. 
The scavenger comes around at any time of day to take away 
the night soil, and you are more than likely to pass him and his 
load as you enter the gentleman's compound. To the Westerner 
this insensibility of the Korean, and of all the dwellers of the 
Far East without exception, is entirely unaccountable. You will 
find the most horribly offensive conditions as readily among the 
residences of the wealthy and powerful as among the poor. 
There is this much to be said, however, before leaving this 
rather unpleasant subject: the open sewerage of Korea, while 
offensive to the eye, is far less so to the nose than that of China, 
and even many portions of Japan. There are much fewer epi- 
demics of cholera in Korea than in Japan, while diphtheria, that 
special disease resulting from imperfect sewerage, is far more 
common in Tokyo than in Seoul. What I would maintain is 
that in spite of the offensiveness of the sanitation of Seoul, both 
to the eye and the nose, there is little evidence to prove that the 
actual health conditions among the natives are any worse than 
among the Japanese or Chinese. 

The Koreans seem to have but a vague idea of what a street 
is really for, and of the restrictions which communal ownership 
should place upon its use. It is only since the coming of for- 
eigners that the streets of Seoul have assumed anything like a 
semblance of order. Up to that time even the broad street which 
forms the central artery of the city was so choked up with booths 
and stalls that two carts could hardly pass each other at certain 
points. The Korean shopkeeper thinks nothing of extending 
his establishment out into the street for a distance of two, three 
or even four feet. At first he does it only as a temporary booth 
or screen for his goods, but as soon as the public get used to going 
around the obstruction he will quietly plant permanent posts at 
the limits of his encroachment, and the thing is done. If expos- 



248 THE PASSING OF KOREA 



tulated with, he will put on a look of injured innocence, and assert 
that he has been using the space for many years, in fact, since 
his father's time, and has a right to it. Not once but many times 
have I been obliged to nip this thing in the bud on streets leading 
to my own house. The little awning appears, and you bend aside 
to pass it, but if you are wise you will stop and see that it b 
removed ere it is too late. The street is also the depository of any 
and every kind of filth. Sooner or later it is trampled down by 
the hoofs of passing horses and is lost to sight; but if it were 
not for the great army of scavenger hawks that keep eternal 
watch for tempting morsels, and that other army, of anaemic dogs; 
who live on the border line of famine, I do not know what would 
become of the people of any Korean town. If a Korean wants 
some dirt to make mud with which to plaster a wall or mend a 
smoke-flue, he simply goes out into the middle of the street and 
digs as much as he wants. No care is taken to fill up the hde, 
and time only accomplishes the feat. Scores of times I have 
come upon places where a hole had been dug in the street large 
enough to bury an ox. The people who took the soil away may 
obligingly deposit the sweepings of their yards there as a pre- 
tence to remove the serious obstruction, but it is mere pretence. 
So long as the vandal leaves a narrow path by which people can 
pass, there is likely to be no complaint at all. The principle seems 
to be that what belongs to nobody in particular is lawful loot 
for anybody. 

No Korean house, however humble, is complete imless it is 
surrounded by a wall or a fence of some kind that cannot be 
seen through. The reason is twofold. It is necessary to screen 
the women from observation. This is the prime reason ; and it 
is considered a serious misdemeanour to look over a wall or fence 
into your neighbour's yard. If it is necessary to mount the roof 
of a house for any purpose, it is obligatory upon the occupants 
of the house to give notice to all the neighbours, so that the 
women may get under cover and escape observation. The climb- 
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ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING 249 

going a long way around to enter the gate, even when there is 
a breach in the wall quite sufficient to give easy access. But, 
on the other hand, the Korean has no respect whatever for a 
fence which he can see through. He will climb over or through 
and consider it no trespass at all. Before many weeks have 
passed the pickets will begin to disappear, and someone will be 
the richer by so much firewood. It is only the wall or fence 
that is impervious to sight that impresses the native of this 
country. The ordinary walls are made of dirt packed down 
tightly between parallel boards by a process quite unique, and 
to be described only by an illustration. The wall is about 
eighteen inches thick and is covered with tiles. The sides are 
scraped smooth, and after they have dried they are covered with 
lime plaster. If well made and with sufficient foundation, such 
a wall will last for many years. Where the red disintegrated 
granite is available the wall can be made so solid that even after 
the tiles have been removed it will stand for years. 

The Koreans have no notion of public parks or other places 
of public ornament or recreation, and yet they are passionately 
fond of wandering about the hills finding picturesque nooks and 
enjoying the beauties of nature. In many of these retreats there 
are semi-public houses of diversion, which include a consider- 
able area of land enclosed by a wall. These places belong to the 
government, and can be used only by application to the proper 
office. School picnics or other similar entertainments are held 
in these pretty retreats during the proper season, but it is only 
the upper classes that have access to them at any time. Their 
only attractions are a rocky gorge, a little pond and a summer 
pavilion ten feet square. In country districts the monasteries 
form the public parks. These are always beautifully situated, 
and are surrounded with trees. Here the people will congregate 
and have a grand picnic, generally in connection with some 
national festival. But besides this, there is in almost every 
village some large tree beneath which the people meet to talk 
and gossip. It is the village agora. The old men bring out 



250 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

their chess boards and play, and the leaders of the village talk 
over the communal affairs. If there is any gossip going, you 
will be sure to hear it at this point. Not uncommonly the village 
shrine is the place of general rendezvous. 

Without doubt the city walls are the most imposing strqo- 
tures in Korea. The enormous work represented by the wall 
which surrounds Seoul is at once apparent, and is very i aiprt i h 
sive. As you pass through the country you will frequently see 
the top of some rocky hill crowned with a genuine acrppolnL 
It is a heavy stone wall twelve or fifteen feet high and a tbSkt 
or more around. Within you will find no evidences of Uie^ikSH^: 
of recent occupation. Long centuries ago the usefulness otliiif0T 
places of refuge passed away, and they remain, like the feAd|||^' 
castles of Europe, mere monuments of past events. They ntSMf.' 
were places of permanent residence, but were used, likie ittfc 
block-houses in western America, when there was danger ^d|* 
an Indian raid. 

A word is in place regarding architectural deooratiqaa. 
These do not consist, as in the West, in variations of geneffd 
style. The Koreans adhere strictly to one plan, and their forms 
of ornamentation are wholly superficial. Only govemmjent 
buildings can be painted. A private citizen would be arrested 
and punished severely if he presumed to paint his house. It 
would imply an assumption of royal privilege. The same would 
happen if he should leave the posts of his house round instead 
of squaring them. This also is a royal prerogative. 

It is not easy to describe the paint on a Korean palace. If 
the reader will imagine that a rainbow has been dashed against 
the house and that fragments of it have adhered to every ex- 
posed piece of wood he will gain a faint idea of how it looks. 
The colours are the primitive hues of the rainbow, and they 
are applied in little curved rainbow patterns, so that any painted 
surface looks like a conglomerate of kaleidoscopic fragments. 
It tires the imagination to fancy how the painter could do the 
same thing twice, but we find that he can do nothing else. 




ART AND RELIGION 

{n) Under the eaves of an audience hall 
(t>) A Buddhist Holy of Holies 



ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDING 251 

Everywhere we find the same heterogeneous consistency. On 
the yamen gates we frequently find the great circle made by 
putting together two huge commas. This is called the tdgeuk, 
and is the emblem seen on the Korean flag. It is supposed to 
represent the male and female properties in nature. 

Wood carving plays some part in the ornamentation of pub- 
lic buildings, though here ag^in the private citizen is debarred. 
The latticed windows sometimes consist of an elaborate filigree, 
but, as ordinary pine wood is always used, no very fine effects 
are possible. One of the most characteristic forms of wood 
carving is seen in the multiplicity of horns that protrude from 
the ends of the beams beneath the eaves of audience halls and 
other ceremonial buildings. To save these from the contamina- 
tion of innumerable sparrows, a wire net is commonly drawn 
about the building just beneath the eaves. Not infrequently 
a curious addition is made by hanging from the comers of 
eaves a large number of small pieces of broken window-glass. 
Each piece is suspended from a separate string, and they all 
hang in a bunch so that the least breath of wind makes them 
strike together and produce a soft and pleasant tinkle. Each 
piece of glass is painted in colours. 

Among the most conspicuous objects in Korea are the 
earthenware " monkeys " which stand in rows along the slop- 
ing comers of the city gates and govemment buildings. These 
nondescript figures do not represent monkeys, but they are so 
called by foreigners because they bear some resemblance to that 
animal. Nor are they placed upon the gates by way of oma- 
ment. The vivid imagination of the Korean peoples heaven 
and earth with all sorts of demons, and these " monkeys " are 
placed on the gates in order to frighten away these evil influ- 
ences. This is the most pointed, if not the only, reference which 
the govemment, as such, makes to the native spirit worship. 
In every other respect the Confucian system is adhered to. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
TRANSPORTATION 

THE condition of any people can be fairly estimated 
by the facilities they enjoy for intercommtinication. 
Judged by this standard, the Koreans must be set 
down as among the least favoured of peoples. 
Throughout most of the country the roads are simply bridle- 
paths of the roughest description, over which it would be almost 
impossible for a jinrikisha to pass, to say nothing of a carriage 
or a cart. There are a few localities where carts can be used 
within a limited radius, but these are so few compared with 
the whole extent of the country that they merely form an excep- 
tion to the rule. On the great road between Seoul and the 
Chinese border or between Seoul and a few of the more impor- 
tant provincial centres there may be an occasional and spasmodic 
attempt at repairs, but it is only when the roads become almost 
entirely impassable, and some disgusted official makes a momen- 
tary stir over the matter in Seoul, that a few hundred dollars 
may be given for repairs. Of this sum three-fourths goes into 
someone's pockets and the rest into the repairs. This sort of 
thing is always looked upon as more or less of a joke, and, when 
repairs are in progress, the country people wink at each other 
and ask which official it is now that has been stuck in the mud. 
On ordinary roads there are frequent places where nothing 
wider than a bicycle could pass on wheels, and even this 
ubiquitous vehicle has to be picked up bodily and carried over 
rough places every few miles. Tlie constant shuffling of feet 
along these narrow paths through so many centuries has worn 
the road down below the level of the ground, especially where 
it passes over hills, for here the wind has full play and sweeps 



TRANSPORTATION 253 

away the pulverised earth. In the valleys the roads lie along 
the tops of the banks that separate the rice-fields, and so are 
sure to be kept from being entirely destroyed. Even between 
important towns the path is sometimes just a foot-wide path 
along the top of a rice-field bank, and it taxes the imagination 
to believe that such a wretched thoroughfare is all that connects 
two important centres. I shall never forget the curious sensa- 
tion with which I passed over the road between Chemulpo and 
Seoul for the first time. It made me think of the sheep-paths 
on the old farm up in Vermont, and if it had not been for the 
most positive statements of my guide I should have refused to 
believe that it could lead to the metropolis of a kingdom of 
over ten million people. 

Near the great centres there are a few substantial stone 
bridges, but for the most part the country is without permanent 
bridges. There is a brilliant exception to this in the celebrated 
Mansekyo, or " Ten-thousand Year Bridge," at Hamheung. It 
is almost half a mile long and is built upon natural forked tim- 
bers sunk in the sand. In the crotches of these lie the cross- 
pieces. The floor of the bridge is made pf timbers about the 
size of railroad sleepers, tied together with the tough vine which 
the Koreans call chik. Like the old-time London Bridge, it 
usually has many houses built upon it, but when the rainy season 
comes on these are hastily removed, for more than once a sud- 
den storm among the mountains has swollen the stream so 
rapidly that the bridge has been partially swept away before 
the sleepers were aware of their danger. Almost every year 
sees portions of it swept away, and, as the cost of its repair 
is a charge upon the government, and the contract nets the 
carpenters a round sum, it is looked upon as one of the " good 
things " of the season. It was this bridge that the Russians 
fired in May of 1904. 

The streams are crossed in three ways: by ferry, by ford 
and by little temporary bridges, which are not expected to sur- 
vive the rains of the summer season. All streams whose per- 



254 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

manent depth is greater than a man's height are crossed by 
ferry. These ferries are supposed to be government affairs, 
and are supported out of the finances of the district in which 
they are situated, but the passenger is always supposed to pay 
a small sum as a gratuity. I imagine that the ferryman has 
to depend largely upon this source of income. The ferryboats 
are wide, shallow affairs, and when they are loaded down with 
a miscellaneous crowd of loaded bullocks and pack-ponies, gen- 
tlemen's " chairs," coolies' jiggys and a score or more of men, 
women and children, it generally seems as if it was only by a 
special dispensation of Providence that the opposite bank could 
ever be reached. Indeed, an annual sacrifice is made to the 
spirits of those who have been drowned in this and in other 
ways. 

The little temporary bridges built on small sticks, covered 
with brushwood and earth on top of all, are one of the curiosi- 
ties of Korea. They are barely wide enough for a single animal 
or person to pass, and they usually have one or more holes 
through which the unwary may put his foot. The Korean word 
for bridge is the same as that for leg, and the reason for this 
is plain. The bridge is simply a row of artificial legs let down 
into the sand. Time was when the Koreans were capable of 
better things, for during the Japanese invasion of 1592, when 
the Chinese army came to help the Koreans and arrived at the 
bank of the Imjin River, the Chinese general refused to take 
his men across unless the Koreans would build a substantial 
bridge. The distance was fully one hundred yards, but the 
Koreans, in their thirst for revenge upon the Japanese, were 
equal to any task. On one side was a heavily wooded bluff and 
on the other a sandy shore. On the low bank they sunk great 
posts, and between these and the trees on the opposite side they 
carried eight great hawsers of the tough chik vine, some eight 
inches in diameter. These dragged in the water in mid-stream; 
but, going out in boats, they put stout bars of oak between the 
hawsers and twisted them until they were brought well above 



TRANSPORTATION 255 

the surface. On these hawsers brushwood was piled and on 
the brushwood clay. This was trampled down firmly, and the 
armies crossed upon it in comfort and safety. So far as we 
are aware, this was the first great suspension bridge mentioned 
in history. The frail rope-bridges of the Andes may antedate 
this, but they are of quite a different order of structure. 

Korean tradition tells of one other way by which a river 
has been crossed, but we would hardly classify it among the 
regular methods. The story goes that a certain prince was ban- 
ished to a distant locality and held in durance on an island in 
a river. One of the officials who was loyal to him followed 
him and took up his residence in a neighbouring town. He 
greatly desired to carry some food to the prince, but there was 
no way to cross the stream. He sat down beside it and waited, 
and presently the water divided, like the waters of the Red Sea, 
and he passed across dry-shod to the prince. 

Such being the very backward condition of all roads in 
Korea, we are not surprised to learn that during the heavy rains 
of summer, when the temporary bridges are all down and small 
streams have become roaring torrents, travel and traffic are 
practically suspended, excepting in the case of that which goes 
by way of junk. At this season the Korean moves about but 
little. It is his lazy time, unless he is a farmer and has to look 
after the transplanting of his rice. Ordinarily he will stay at 
home and consume an indefinite number of melons, seeds 
and all. 

With the exception of the railway lines from Seoul to Fusan 
and Chemulpo respectively, and the various Japanese steamship 
companies, the methods of transportation in Korea are still the 
primitive ones, and all but a small fraction of the carrying is 
done as it has been all through the centuries. These methods 
correspond precisely with the character of the roads, which, as 
we have seen, are mere bridle or foot paths. 

First in importance comes the famous Korean bullock. He 
means more to the Korean than the horse does to the Arab or 



2s6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the llama to the Peruvian. Not once but many times a sweeping 
scourge has killed off a large fraction of the cattle in one sec- 
tion or other of Korea, and in each instance it has precipitated 
a famine. The heavy mud of the rice-fields cannot be cultivated 
without this animal, and in case of his death the farmer simply 
lets his field lie fallow. Korea can boast of a sturdy, patient 
and tractable breed of cattle. These bullocks which wind in and 
out among the hills of this country, carrying every sort of 
produce, are not the fierce and rampageous animals that are 
supposed in our own land to accept every challenge of a red 
rag. They are docility itself. This heavy, slow-plodding ani- 
mal, docile, long-suflFering, uncomplaining, would make a fitting 
emblem of the Korean people. How often have we seen a 
brutal, drunken bullock-driver vent his spleen on someone else 
by beating his animal with a club or violently jerk the rope 
tied to the wooden ring that passes through the cartilage of its 
nose. But the patient bullock never remonstrates or attempts 
to defend itself. Just so through the long centuries have the 
Korean people borne the burdens of their rulers and taken their 
blows without complaint, until at last patience has become a 
second nature, and the Western on-looker marvels at the amount 
of oppression that the ordinary Korean will endure without 
revolt. The bullock could turn and rend his master with utmost 
ease, even as the people could relieve themselves of oppression, 
but the patience of the Korean has reached a point where it 
ceases to be a virtue. 

Next in importance comes the Korean pony. Nowhere else 
in Asia is this diminutive creature matched. The only thing 
like him is the Shetland pony, but, while the latter is a stocky 
and shaggy beast, proportioned very diflferently from the ordi- 
nary horse, the Korean animal is simply a miniature of the 
larger breed, and his proportions are often as perfect as are 
found in the best of our own boasted horses. History and tra- 
dition have much to say about this breed of horse. As far back 
as ancient Yemak, which flourished at the beginning of our era. 



TRANSPORTATION 257 

we read that the horses were so small that men could ride under 
the branches of the fruit trees without striking their heads 
against them. From time immemorial the island of Quelpart 
has been the famous breeding-place of the hardy pony, and the 
Mongols established themselves there very strongly in order to 
breed horses for use in their wars. But for all this the Koreans 
seem to have developed no love for the horse such as redeems 
the character of the Bedouin. The Koreans never mutilate their 
animals, and the result is that, though the bulls are almost as 
quiet and docile as the oxen of the West, the little stallions are 
inveterate fighters. Even when tied head to tail in a long line 
they are almost sure to get tangled up in a squealing melee 
unless their drivers are at hand. I shall not soon forget the 
occasion on which the beast I was riding succeeded in getting 
both his forelegs over the neck of my wife's mount and pro- 
ceeded to chew its ears off. It was a novel and exciting 
tete-a-tete. 

But besides the bullock and the horse there is another " beast 
of burden " in Korea that outranks them both, and that is man. 
One could not safely quote figures here, but my impression is 
that more dead weight is carried on men's backs than on those 
of bullocks and horses combined. As a rule, it is only the large 
through traffic that is carried on animals' backs, and even this is 
often seen on men's backs. The dried fish from the northeast 
all come around by boat or across by pack-horse. Brushwood, 
grass and fagots are brought into the large centres on bullocks, 
horses and men's backs. Americans who are expert in throwing 
the " diamond hitch " have confessed that the Koreans can beat 
them at the game. Who can wonder, since the Koreans have 
been learning for the last four thousand years — a pretty thor- 
ough apprenticeship ! Not only are these people experts in adapt- 
ing a load to an animal's back, but they have solved the problem 
of how to distribute the weight of a load on a man's back so that 
he can carry the maximum weight with the minimum of fatigue. 
It is safe to say that the Korean jiggy, or carrying- frame, is almost 



258 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

ideal in its construction. It is so built that the weight^ is nxody 
poised, and is so distributed upon the hips, the hade and the 
shoulders that each part bears its proportionate burden. The. 
result is that a man can carry any load that his l^;s will ^cttdttto'^ 
him to support. This jiggy is a unique national institution; *:^^ 
much so as the samovar is of Russia, or the bullfight is of SpA^ 
Compare it with the methods in vogue in other lands. The Chi- 
nese balance their burden in two baskets attached to a bamboo 
stick. This is carried over the shoulder. The stick has to.be laag 



enough so that the swinging baskets will not strike his legs aS 
he w^alks, and the weight is so applied to his body that only a 
small part of his strength can be brought into play, When his 
burden cannot be divided, he has to carry a counterbalancing 
weight in one basket. He requires almost three times as much 
room in the street as the Korean carrier. The Korean sets his 
jiggy on the ground, and props it up with his forked stick* 
Placing the load on the frame, he ties it there securely with a 
cord that forms an essential part of the apparatus. Kneeling 
down, he inserts his arms into the two padded loops and fits them 
on his shoulders. Then leaning forward, he throws tlie weight 
of the load upon his back, and by the aid of the stick rises to a 
standing posture. He can easily rise with a weight of two hun^' 
dred and fifty pounds, but if it is three hundred pounds or more^: 
he requires the help of another man to rise. I have seen Korean ■ 
coolies carry a weight of four hundred pounds in this way a 
distance of several hundred yards without resting. Of. course 
such a thing would be entirely beyond the power of a Chinese 
coolie with his bamboo stick. Either the stick or his shoulder 
must break. The average load that a Korean will carry at the 
rate of thirty miles a day is about one hundred pounds. The 
pack-ponies carry about twice as much, and the bullocks from 
three to four times as much. 

Besides these, there are several special methods of transporta- 
tion confined to particular kinds of burdens. Heavy stones are 
carried on carts if there is a road, and if it be in a part of the 




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TRANSPORTATION 259 

country where carts are used; but for short distances this is 
usually accomplished by means of a long, heavy pole or beam 
resting on the shoulders of many men. This piece of wood is 
fifteen feet long, six inches in thickness at the middle, and three 
at the ends. The stone is attached to it by heavy ropes, and four, 
six or eight men put their shoulders to the carrying beam at each 
end. They stand so close together that their bodies actually 
touch each other, and it would be impossible to walk if they did 
not keep exact step, like a line of prisoners at Sing-sing. The 
knack of doing this is acquired, and there is a distinct class of 
workmen who receive special wages for it. 

One of the most conspicuous occupations of Korea is that 
of water-carrier. In the rural districts the women of the house 
generally carry the water from the spring or well to the house 
in jars on their heads, but in the large towns this work is done 
by a special class of men. Seoul is supplied with water only by 
the miserable neighbourhood wells, about which the less said the 
better. The people do not hesitate to wash their soiled clothes 
immediately beside the well, where the filth is readily washed 
back into it, and vegetables or other things are generally cleaned 
beside the well-curb. These wells are often very far from 
sanitary, and it is to them that we must trace the terrible 
results of occasional cholera epidemics and other infectious dis- 
eases. To supply a large city with water from this source is 
a work of no small magnitude, and the water-carrier is a recog- 
nised institution, which boasts of a powerful guild. The work 
is genuine and hard, and the pay is correspondingly high. This 
high pay puts a premium upon the work. The applicant for a 
position as a water-carrier in any thickly populated portion of 
Seoul will have to pay from forty to one hundred dollars for the 
position. Each house to which water is carried pays a monthly 
fee for the service. The water is carried in two wooden buckets 
the size and shape of an inverted firkin, suspended from a yoke 
which rests upon the small of the back and is held in place by 
straps over the shoulders. The buckets are fastened to the yoke 



26o THE PASSING OF KOREA 



by bamboo fibres, and the peculiar gait affected by the carrier 
swings the buckets just enough to make the fastenings mb 
together and send forth a strident squeak which, like the horrible 
yell of the axles of Chinese barrows, warns people to make \%ay 
for the water-carrier. 

In carrying ordinary small packages the Koreans do not 
wrap them up in paper and tie them with a string as we da 
Paper is far too valuable and string is too rare to make this pos- 
sible; but the article to be carried is placed on a square cloth, 
and the corners brought up over it and knotted. In going to 
the market in the morning the Korean w^ill take a long, narrow 
cloth bag, open at both ends, and into this he will pour his variotis 
purchases, perhaps making a knot in the bag to keep them sepa* 
rate. Then he ties the two ends of the bag together, and swings 
this completed circle over his shoulder and goes home. His 
method of carrying his long, " bologna-sausage " strings of cash 
is most peculiar. He inserts the end of the long string beneatll 
the cord which forms his waistband, and which precariously 819^ 
ports his nether garments, and, bringing the other end about Iiif 
waist, he twists it again through the waist-cord. One would 
think this a most clumsy and uncomfortable way to carry it, but 
one good object at least is conserved; that is, the money is 
effectually concealed beneath his flowing robes, and its existence 
is unguessed until he chooses to disclose it. To the Westerner 
this precaution may seem unnecessary, but in the Orient, at least 
in Korea, people studiously avoid the display of wealth unless 
they have the influence necessary to protect it from spoliation. 

The subject of transportation would be but half covered if 
we omitted tlie boats of Korea. From the earliest times these 
people have been large users of this method of carrying. The 
mountainous character of the country, the miserable roads and 
the many possibilities of interference on the highway have driven 
them to the water-ways. But the high tides and the consequent 
strong currents on the western coast have also invited them to 
the water-ways. Our notion of the coast is anything but invit- 




o 

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X 

X 



TRANSPORTATION 261 

ing; but when we remember that the fringing islands protect 
the junk routes from high seas, and that the sweeping currents 
carry the boatman in his desired direction at least ten hours out 
of the twenty-four, however the wind may sit, and when we 
further note that the junks are so constructed that they can 
ground without danger, and that to be stuck on a mud-bank only 
means a chance for so many more pipes of tobacco, we can but 
wonder that all the traffic does not go by sea. 

The ordinary junk is inferior in shape and general construc- 
tion to either the Japanese or Chinese craft. The cause of this 
is the fact that the Koreans have never attempted much on the 
open seas, but have confined themselves mostly to coastwise 
traffic; and even this has been for the most part among islands 
where there are harbours of one sort or another within a few 
hours* run of any particular point. In the matter of sailing 
against the wind the Korean craft is superior to either of the 
others, because it does not stand nearly so far out of the water, 
and yet the Koreans cannot be said to know how to tack. In 
fact, the Korean junk is merely a larger edition of the ordi- 
nary river boat. It is flat of bottom, square of end, and the 
bottom curves up at each end so that it looks something like 
a huge punt. It has two masts which stand at different angles, 
and give the boat a general air of having indulged in late hours. 
The sails are of the " square " variety, simple, oblong pieces of 
rough cloth fastened to stout poles or " spars " at each end. 
A rope is knotted around the middle of one of these sticks, and 
the sail is hauled up to the top of the mast. Ropes from the two 
ends of the bottom stick form the " sheet." It is evident that 
such a primitive apparatus would not allow of sailing very close 
to the wind. The best that can be said of it is that it helps to 
counteract the retarding action of the wind when the mariner 
wishes to go with the tide. But even so it has been the universal 
experience of foreigners that the junk-men prefer to anchor 
unless the wind is with them. The junk can make little head- 
way against a four-knot tide. It is the same with their financial 



262 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

transactions as with their boats. They must have both capital 
and " pull " to secure a profitable " rake-off." However much 
capital they may have, if it is necessary to sail against the tide 
of influence, they are almost sure to make shipwreck. 

Innumerable river craft bring the produce of the country 
down to the sea, the junks take it coast-wise to the mouths of 
other rivers, and then river boats carry it inland again to its 
destination. A few of the rivers are deep enough to float junks 
that are safe at sea, and so some of the cargoes do not have to 
be broken out en route. Rice, barley, beans, fish and edible sea- 
weed are the usual cargoes, but all sorts of produce go to make 
up the total. Now that the government has changed its system 
of taxation and takes money instead of rice, and since the open- 
ing up of regular steamship lines and railways, the traffic by junk 
has shrunken to comparatively small dimensions. It is said that 
the river traffic on the Naktong River inland from Fusan has 
been ruined by the Seoul-Fusan Railway, which parallels the 
river. The railway is cheaper, swifter and safer in every way, 
and the temporary dislocation in industrial conditions will finally 
result in much good to the Korean people. 

There are many kinds and names of boats in Korea, but the 
general pattern is the same. On the eastern coast, however, there 
is one style of craft that differs radically from the ordinary. If 
you should take two ordinary " dug-outs," tip them up on edge 
with their prows touching and their stems five feet apart, and 
then nail planks across from the lower inner side of one to the 
corresponding side of the other, and complete it with a stem, 
you would come near this clumsy but withal effective craft. It 
would be dangerous but for a sort of gunwale running around 
the top to keep out the seas. One of the most curious sights in 
Korea is that of a loaded wood-boat on the Tadong River, run- 
ning by Pyeng-yang. In order to save cargo space for the light 
brushwood, which is enormously bulky for its weight, the entire 
boat from stem to stern is piled ten feet high with the fuel, 
excepting a tiny space just at the prow, where two men sit and 



TRANSPORTATION 263 

row. From the very centre of the boat there rises a stout mast 
which protrudes a foot or so above the load, and on a Httle plat- 
form on the tip-top of this mast sits the steersman, holding in 
his hand the end of an enormously long sweep which reaches 
into the water at the stem. The whole thing looks ludicrous 
enough even when the craft is loaded ; but when there is no load, 
the sight of two men rowing in the very prow, while the steers- 
man sits perched upon the very top of the mast like Stylites on 
his pillar, with a twenty-foot tiller in his hand, is extrwnely 
grotesque. 

The Koreans are great travellers within the confines of their 
own little country. I doubt if there are many lands where a 
higher estimate is placed upon the pleasure of travel. The Kore- 
ans do not rush from place to place ferreting out the notable 
objects of interest, but they wander about in a dreamy way, 
enjoying natural scenery in a wholly natural manner. Besides 
this there is the usual amount of travelling on official business 
and for commercial purposes. One wishes to know how the 
people get about in the absence of carriages or other vehicles. 

Officials always travel by " chair." This consists of a little 
four-posted canopy about three feet square by four feet high, 
carried on two poles. The passenger sits on the floor of the 
" chair," and there are curtains to let down on all four sides so 
as to screen him entirely from view. Each of the two carriers 
has a pair of suspenders over his shoulders, and through the 
loops of these on either side of his body the ends of the poles pass. 
It is not an uncomfortable way to travel if one can sit cross- 
legged like a Turk for ten hours a day. There is very little jar- 
ring if the carriers break step as they should. There is no beast 
of burden whose footfall is so soft as that of a man. These 
" chairs " are of all degrees of elegance, just as our own carriages 
are. Those that are used by women are of course always closed, 
unless it chances to be a dancing girl. Women's chairs are dis- 
tinguished by fan-shaped bangles hanging in rows on the sides. 
These chairs are on hire at regular stands throughout all the 



264 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

larger cities, but in the country they are more difficult to obtain. 
Most well-to-do gentlemen keep their own private chairs. In 
travelling long distances you pay each carrier a stated sum for 
each ten li of the road. The four-man chairs are used only by 
the highest officials. No one of lesser degree than a cabinet 
minister is allowed to use them. They are much like the two- 
man chair, but the poles are longer, and the cords that hold Ae 
poles at either end are attached to a short stick that rests upon 
the shoulders of the two bearers. I have never found a method 
of conveyance more smooth or delightful than this four-man 
chair. The coolies do not keep step, and so the motion is per- 
fectly even. The elasticity of the poles add to this effect, and no 
railway car w^as ever built luxuriously enough nor were raib 
ever laid true enough to equal this delightful motion. In no 
department of Korean life is the wonderful endurance of the 
Korean more fully illustrated than in the carrying of these chain. 
If you were in a hurry to go overland from Seoul to Pyeng-yang» 
a distance of about one hundred and sixty miles, you would nat- 
urally suppose that a good horse would take you there in the 
quickest time, but there is probably no horse in Korea that would 
get you to your destination so quickly as the chair coolie. Take 
eight men and pay them well and you will enter Pyeng-yang" about 
noon of the third clay out from Seoul. They will take you four 
miles an hour, sixteen hours a day. Tlie amount of rice they 
will consume en route is enormous, and they will sleep for twenty- 
four hours after reaching the end of the journey. 

Another w\iy of travelling is by horseback or donkey-back. 
Though the Korean horse is very small, no Korean would think 
of riding it and sending his baggage by some other conveyance. 
Two stout baskets or boxes containing the rider's effects are 
sking over the back of the horse and rest against his sides. On 
top of this the traveller's blankets and other bedding are smoothly 
laid. Then a sort of frame, like the back of a chair but only eight 
inches high, is placed on top of all, and there the man sits cross- 
legged or with his feet hanging down. You stand aghast at the 




TWO INDUSTRIES OF KOREA 
(a) A hat-mender (b) Making «* ironing" sticks 



TRANSPORTATION 265 

manifest cruelty of it, and you wish that the Society for the 
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals might take him in hand; but 
if you were to try it yourself, and should find that the hardy little 
pony is ready to carry you thirty miles a day as long as you 
wish to go, and that, too, without any visible evidences of over- 
fatigue, you would change your mind. It is true, however, that 
the Koreans do treat their horses with great cruelty. They 
cherish no sentimental ideas about the animal; and whether he 
be lame or spavined or otherwise incapable, he is given the usual 
load, and driven until there is absolutely no more to be gotten 
out of him. The Korean donkey is a very tiny animal, with a 
hoof that would go into a teacup. The rider's feet almost touch 
the ground. There can be but a very few pounds' difference 
between the weight of the animal and its load. In this case the 
servant usually carries the baggage on his back and trots along 
behind his master. 

But, for all these different aids to travel, it must be said that 
by far the greatest part of it is done on foot. The Korean is a 
magnificent walker. Every foreigner who has visited this coun- 
try has been struck at once by the erect carriage, the springy 
gait and the graceful action of the Korean in walking. In this 
he forms a striking contrast to almost every other denizen of 
the Far East. He can easily cover his thirty miles a day, and 
this is all he could do if he had a mount. He has no expense 
except for his three bowls of rice a day, and an occasional new 
pair of straw shoes. Thirty miles is his regular rate for long 
distances, but if necessary he can, and often does, cover his fifty 
miles a day. Most Koreans who travel for mere pleasure prefer 
to go afoot. Whether they get more pleasure out of it than we 
do out of our bicycles, automobiles and other mile-eaters is, of 
course, a question; but it is a question to which they, at least, 
would reply in the affirmative without hesitation. 

There are so many islands off the coast that the passenger 
traffic by boat is very considerable, but people who live on the 
mainland seldom patronise the junks, for it is generally found 



266 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

that travel by road is quicker and easier. The one recommenda- 
tion for the water route was that fewer robbers would be met 
When the Japanese began to run regular steamers, however, 
the Koreans very soon learned how much quicker, easier and 
cheaper this form of travel is, and at the present time the coast- 
wise steamers carry crowds of natives. Many of these craft 
are small and obsolete. Not a few of them have doubtless been 
condemned in Japan and have been brought over to this country 
where few questions are asked and inspections are compara- 
tively rare. No limit seems to be placed upon the number of 
passengers that will be booked for passage. I have seen little 
steamers whose capacity was forty or fifty people loaded down 
with a hundred or more. The cabin would be so full that there 
was hardly sitting space on the floor, to say nothing of attempt- 
ing to lie down. These wheezy craft occasionally blow up and 
oftener strike an obstruction and founder. There is no old 
resident of Seoul who cannot tell you a long list of gruesome 
yams about the steamers that used to ply between Seoul and 
Chemulpo by the river before the railroad was built. This 
latter is truly an eleemosynary institution, and deserves to make 
handsome profits. 

Seoul boasts of one other vehicle which is fast becoming 
obsolete, but which once formed a picturesque addition to the 
street scenery of the capital. It is a one-wheeled chair. The 
seat is placed on two long poles, which ar^ supported at the 
ends by bearers, but the weight of the rider is supported upon 
a sort of pedestal immediately beneath the seat. This pedestal 
rests upon the axle of a single iron-bound and nail-studded 
wheel about two feet and a half in diameter. The bearers at 
the ends of the poles simply propel the machine and keep it 
from tipping from side to side. It is a reasonable proposition, 
but at first sight it affects the risibilities of the spectator with 
irresistible force. Only certain high grades of officials are 
allowed to make use of this singular vehicle. 

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TRANSPORTATION 267 

have enjoyed postal and telegraph facilities. One of the few 
successful enterprises of the government along foreign lines 
was the running of telegraph wires to some of the important 
centres of the land and to the Yalu River, where the wires were 
connected with the Chinese system, thus completing communi- 
cation with Europe. This was done some twenty years ago, but 
the present postal facilities are of much more recent date. An 
attempt was made to establish a sort of postal system in 1884, 
but the severe disturbances of that year and the return to power 
of the conservative element postponed the final establishment 
of the system until about ten years ago. The question naturally 
arises as to what the Koreans did during all those long cen- 
turies before the introduction of these modem methods. In the 
" good old days " there was no need to hurry, except in case of 
very serious disturbance in the provinces, due to invasion or 
rebellion. If either of these evils threatened the government, 
it had a method of learning about it almost as soon as it could 
have done by the modem telegraph. The whole country is 
dotted with fire-mountains, so situated that the beacon fires 
flashed from peak to peak without interruption from one end 
of the peninsula to the other. Each station was in the care of 
a keeper, whose duty it was to pass the word along each night 
by flare of torch. Every evening the beacon fires flashed across 
the valleys from the four quarters of the land, and focussed 
at the station on Namsan, or South Mountain, within the walls 
of the capital. This station was plainly visible from the gates of 
the palace, and each night an official stood waiting the message. 
When the light flared up, he waited to see whether more than 
one was to be shown. If not, he carried to the King the mes- 
sage that the whole country was at peace. This pleasant sight 
used to be one of the features of life in Seoul in the old days, 
but to-day the small boys festoon with their kites the web of 
telegraph wires that has been woven over the city, and the 
uneasy burr of the telegraph receiver has taken the place of the 
genial flash of the evening beacon. 



268 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The old-time yongma, or horse-relay system, was the pre- 
cursor of the postal system, and it did its work well for over 
fourteen centuries. Grovemment stables were established at fre- 
quent intervals along all the main routes, and official correspond- 
ence went by post-horse. Some of us have seen the messenger 
arrive at one of these stations, dismount from his jaded animal 
and leap into the saddle of another mount, and, with a cut of 
the whip and the clatter of hoofs, disappear down the road, 
bound city-ward or country-ward with some important missive. 
The trouble with this system was that the common people were 
not allowed to use it. The messengers were, of course, often 
bribed to take private letters, but as a rule the people made use 
of casual travellers to deliver messages in distant towns. The 
guild known as the " Peddlers'," a name that has come into 
disrepute during recent times, was much utilised for the delivery 
of letters. The wandering peddlers covered the country as a 
network, and one could very often communicate through them 
with distant friends. It hardly needs to be said that the estab- 
lishment of steamship lines and the building of railroads is 
working wonderful changes in the Korean's ability to communi- 
cate with distant sections of the country. In former times it 
took weeks to get a letter to the northeastern part of the country, 
but now it is a matter of days only. 



CHAPTER XIX 

KOREAN INDUSTRIES 

THE predominant industry of Korea, as of most civ- 
ilised countries, is agriculture. The silent processes 
of nature make less stir in the newspapers, but even 
in such a feverishly industrial country as America 
we find that wheat, com, tobacco and cotton are the dominant 
factors of our wealth. But in Korea agriculture holds a rela- 
tively higher place than in most countries. They realise fully 
that the soil is the source of wealth, and that the safest invest- 
ment is a good paddy-field. It is the farmer who is expected 
to bear the brunt of national taxation, perhaps on the theory 
that nature does more than half the work for him. What would 
life on the farm be in America if almost the total revenue of 
the country was collected from the farmer, while the merchant, 
manufacturer and house-owner went free? This government 
has always, and successfully, reckoned upon the passionate love 
of the Korean for the soil. A gentleman of the purest blood 
can engage in farming without soiling his escutcheon, but to be 
a merchant or manufacturer or broker would be beneath his 
dignity. Agriculture is so dignified an occupation that it stands 
quite alone among Korean industries. 

The implements used are of the crudest. The plough is 
a very primitive affair with a single handle and is drawn by 
a bullock. The ploughshare is of iron, and the work is fairly 
effective, though subsoiling is not possible. For the most part 
human excrement is used as a fertiliser, and, where this is not 
obtainable in sufficient quantities, grass or leaves are substituted, 
After the ploughing all agricultural processes are carried on by 
hand, — cultivating, reaping, threshing and winnowing. A study 



270 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

of their methods shows that the Koreans get the best results 
possible from the amount of labour and capital expended. They 
understand irrigation, drainage and rotation of crops. 

In the manipulation of their produce and in preparing it 
for market they show commendable skill. Their rice is nicely 
hulled, and sometimes dusted with powdered kaolin to make it 
white. They separate the bark of flax and ramie by putting it 
in a pit upon hot stones and then pouring in water. For many 
centuries the tough paper which they make from the bark of 
the paper-mulberry has been -famous throughout the Far East, 
and Mongols and Manchus always demanded large quantities 
of it in the lists of their tribute. 

The Korean ginseng has already been described. Long 
centuries of apprenticeship have made the Korean an adept in 
the cultivation and preparation of this useless but highly prized 
plant. It is a fact with which many Americans may not be 
acquainted, that ginseng is consumed almost solely for its sup- 
posed aphrodisiac qualities, and the huge amounts produced in 
America and exported to China simply add fuel to the basest 
passions of man. It may not be as harmful as opium, but the 
moral principle involved is precisely the same. 

A wild variety of this plant, called " mountain ginseng," 
commands fabulous prices, and a large number of people are 
annually engaged in searching for it. 

The Koreans have developed a keen sense of the value of 
by-products. The straw and bran from their cereals are care- 
fully utilised, and in a general way it may truthfully be said 
that what the Korean throws away is not worth keeping. 

Another great Korean industry is that of fishing. Taken as 
a whole, the Koreans eat very little beef. Only the well-to-do 
can afford it, and as you travel through the country it will be 
only in the larger centres that it will be procurable. This will 
readily appear when we add that, though the average wage of 
the Korean is only about one-sixth as much as that of an 
American, the cost of a cow or bull is almost as much here 



KOREAN INDUSTRIES 271 

as in our own land. The Korean would no sooner think of 
killing a good, strong, healthy bull for beef than the reader 
would think of killing a valuable dog for its pelt. But the con- 
sumption of fish, especially in its dried or salted form, is very 
great throughout the country. Off the northeast coast enormous 
quantities of ling are caught. These are dried and taken into 
every hamlet in the country. Everywhere along the coast, and 
in towns easily accessible therefrom, fresh fish are largely con- 
sumed. Ever)rthing is fish that comes to the Korean's net; 
sharks, cuttle-fish, sea-slugs and all. They have never developed 
the enterprise or the daring to engage in the lucrative whale 
fisheries off the eastern coast, but the Japanese and Russians 
have reaped golden harvests there. The former have secured 
the right, by concession from the Korean government, to fish 
anywhere along the Korean coast, and their brutal methods are 
rapidly driving the Koreans out of the business. 

The work of gathering and transporting fuel engages the 
attention of many thousands of people. The Koreans differ 
from the Japanese in that, while the latter keep themselves 
warm by the use of heavy blankets, and in winter are most fre- 
quently seen crouched about their charcoal braziers, the Korean 
heats his house generously and depends upon his hot stone floor 
for comfort. The effect, while perhaps no better from a hygfi- 
enic standpoint, is decidedly more comfortable. It is also much 
more costly. People have wondered why Korea looks so barren 
compared with Japan. The reason lies right here. Koreans 
keep their wood cut down to the quick, to provide themselves 
with fuel, while the Japanese let the forests grow. The Jap- 
anese are the more picturesque, but the Koreans are more com- 
fortable. Wood forms but a small part of Korean fuel. The 
common people usually bum grass or small fagots. This they 
feed slowly into the fire, utilising every particle of the heat. 
One firing in the morning and one at night suffice to cook the 
food and to keep the stone floor warm. One of the most char- 
acteristic sights about Seoul is the long lines of bullocks and 



272 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

ponies bringing in their bulky loads of grass and fagots. Every. 
morning and evening when the fires are simultaneously lighted 
a thick pall of smoke hangs over the city for two hours or moce. 
On still winter nights it is so dense that one is almost choked 
by it, and there is no doubt that the prevalent bronchial trouUes. 
are aggravated by this means. Everywhere on the hillsides you 
will see boys scraping up the dead grass with their ingenioiis. 
bamboo rakes. In Seoul a man's fuel bill ordinarily amounts 
to about a quarter of his income. In the country it is of course 
much cheaper. 

In a country entirely destitute of salt wells or mines, and 
dependent upon the sea for this great necessity of life, we are 
not surprised to learn that an unusually large number of people 
are engaged in salt-making. This is all the more evident sipce 
the appliances are so poor and human labour has to make v^ 
the deficit. 

On wide, flat plains near the eastern coast oblong fields are 
prepared with ditches between them. Sea-water is pumped or 
ladled into these ditches and then thrown upon a loose brown 
loam, which covers the hard-packed surface of the fields to a 
depth of three or four inches. As the water evaporates, it leaves 
this brown loam saturated with salt. This is then scraped into 
piles and carried to vats where the hea\7 brine is drained off. 
This brine is further evaporated in huge kettles made of lime 
cement. The lime is made by burning clam-shells. As the 
kettles are eight or ten feet wide and very shallow, they are not 
strong enough to support their own weight; so, from rows of 
stout poles above, cords are let down and fastened to hooks 
which pass through the bottom of the kettle. Each kettle has a 
score of these hooks. When the brine is boiled down, the wet 
crystals are scraped off and put in bags for market. This salt 
is exceedingly coarse and dirty, but there is no question of its 
saltiness. Koreans complain that our salt is insipid. Foreigners 
would never use Korean salt if they could once witness its 
manufacture. The bullocks and cows used in the fields are 




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KOREAN INDUSTRIES 273 

continually defiling them, and no effort is made to remove the 
filth. 

On the west coast there are many places where sea-water 
is ladled directly into the kettles and boiled down without any 
intermediate process of evaporation. 

Sericulture is one of the historic industries of Korea, and 
can be carried on by a gentleman without derogation from his 
dignity. The infrequency of thunder-storms favours the in- 
dustry, and the product is considerable, though not sufficient to 
figure in trade reports. 

In textile industries Korea holds no very high place. Rough 
cotton, hemp and grass cloth are woven in clumsy hand-looms, 
and a cheap, plain silk is produced. The dyeing arrangements 
are very crude, and the product cannot in any sense be compared 
with that of China or Japan. Certain portions of the peninsula 
are almost ideal for the production of both cotton and silk, and 
the time will doubtless come when these important staples will 
be much more extensively cultivated. 

History and archaeology show that at one time Korea pro- 
duced good examples of the ceramic art, but to-day only the 
crudest work is done in this line. The same is true of metal 
castings. Not for many centuries has Korea cast a great bell 
like those which hang in various towns and monasteries, as elo- 
quent reminders of past and forgotten skill. 

The goldsmiths and silversmiths turn out some interesting 
and curious pieces, but the monotony of design and carelessness 
of finish detract very greatly from their value, and the apparent 
ignorance of the use of alloys to harden the precious metals 
lessens the usefulness of the product. A kind of bronze work, 
mostly in the form of native dinner services, is turned out in 
considerable quantities, but the old work is so much superior to 
the new that here too we must conclude that the handicraft has 
deteriorated. 

Mining is an industry as old as history. Gold is found all 
over the peninsula, and the Koreans mine it with great enthu- 



274 



THE PASSING OF KOREA 



siasm. It is mostly placer mining, but in the north one fre- 
quently runs across more ambitious attempts in the shape of 
shafts. The Koreans build a fire on the ledge, and when the 
rock is hot they throw on water, which cracks the quartz and 
makes it possible to dig it out with their rude picks. This 
primitive method makes it impossible to proceed in any but a 
vertical direction, and if the vein should happen to run obliquely 
it is soon lost. They crush the ore beneath great round granite 
boulders, which are rocked back and forth over it by the use 
of levers or handles fastened to its sides. Only the free gold 
is obtained, and the waste is very great. 

We have it on the authority of expert foreign miners that 
gold is found very irregularly in the Korean veins. For a dis- 
tance it may be very rich, and then the vein will narrow to 
almost nothing for many feet or yards and then open out again 
freely. There seem to be no great masses of rock in which there 
is a small but even amount of the yellow metal, as is the case 
in the Rand in South Africa. This makes Korean gold-mining 
more of a venture than in some places. 

Absence from home and distance from constabulary control 
breed the same contempt for the amenities of life among miners 
here as elsewhere. 

In spite of the fact that so large a portion of the peninsula 
is of granite, there are extensive portions where coal is found. 
In the vicinity of Pyeng-yang there are rich anthracite veins, 
and on the east coast bituminous coal is found in various places. 
When properly opened up. these valuable resources will be of 
immense importance to the country. 

Iron is not so widely distributed, but in one considerable 
district in Kang-wun Province there are immense beds of iron 
ore. The people scrape it up from the surface of the gfround 
and smelt it in their rude furnaces by the use of charcoal. It 
is used very largely for their great iron rice-kettles and for 
various agricultural implements. For all wrought-iron work it 
has been found cheaper to import foreign rod-iron and sheath- 




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KOREAN INDUSTRIES 275 

ing. Foreigners have looked over this ground with some care, 
and they affirm that there are practically unlimited quantities 
of the finest iron ore, awaiting the hand of modem scientific 
workmanship. 

Copper, silver, lead and nickel are all found in moderate 
quantities in the peninsula, but with the exception of silver they 
are not of enough account to warrant extended description. 

The primitive occupations of hunting and trapping still have 
their followers in Korea. In the north there is a regular guild 
or brotherhood of tiger-hunters, and their bravery and pluck are 
beyond dispute. It was from their ranks that the garrison of 
Kang-wha was chosen, which inflicted such punishment upon the 
French in 1866. The chances which' these hunters take in the 
pursuit of their chosen calling would make your modem Nimrod 
stare with incredulity. They use old match-locks, which are dis- 
charged by letting the smouldering end of a thick cord fall into 
the flash-pan. This cord is wound around the arm, and when 
the moment for action comes, the hunter blows upon the smoul- 
dering end and fastens it in a fork of the hammer, so that when 
the trigger is pulled there is some small chance of the thing 
"going off." One of these hunters well described the differ- 
ence between their antiquated weapons and the modem repeat- 
ing rifle: 

" Korean hunter meet tiger. Bang ! Wreough ! Dead 
hunter! Foreign man meet tiger. Bang — click — bang — 
click — bang ! Dead tiger ! " 

Cobblers, coopers, hatters, farriers, blacksmiths, carpenters, 
masons, joiners, carvers, dyers, tailors, carters, saddlers and all 
the other handicraftsmen who go to make up the industrial 
army of a complicated civilisation are sufficiently described by 
their names. It might be well to add that the tools which these 
men use are of the most primitive kind. Every native nail is 
hammered out by hand. Every yard of twine is twisted by 
hand. This is what insures the growth of foreign commerce, 
for an American firm can place nails on the Korean market 



276 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

at a price which throws the native product completely in the 
shade. 

It is this progressive displacement of native labour which 
stirs up these people and makes them question the value of their 
former conservatism. 

GAMES 

Korea is no exception to the rule that the various nations 
of the world develop peculiar and distinctive forms of amuse- 
ment. There are some forms that all have in common, but 
there are others that have only to be mentioned and the hearer 
places them at once. Of such are cricket, base-ball, curling, 
bull-fighting, skiing and lacrosse. 

Korea also has its own pet diversion — stone-fights. This 
amusement is something of an anomaly, for Koreans are natur- 
ally the mildest and most inoflPensive of people; but one has 
only to spend the first month of the year here to learn that 
the people are as passionately fond of this dangerous sport as 
Americans are of base-ball. 

The fact that these fights occur only in the first month of 
the year illustrates the general fact that in no country is the 
periodicity of sports more marked than here. There is a special 
season for stone-fights, kite-flying, pitch-penny, swinging, top- 
spinning and the like. The reason why the stone-fights ocair 
only in spring is because then only are the fields bare and ample 
space is available for the contest. After the winter has kept the 
Korean imprisoned for three long months in the cramped quar- 
ters of his little thatched hut, the touch of spring means much 
more to him than it does to us, who live in comparatively spa- 
cious houses. His dormant physical energy awakes to new life, 
and he simply must come out and romp over the hills, open 
the safety-valve and give vent to his repressed faculties. The 
stone-fight originated seven hundred years ago, in the days of 
the former dynasty, when it was invented for the delectation 
of an imbecile King. It was at first confined to the palace 



KOREAN INDUSTRIES 277 

grounds, but it soon spread abroad and became the national 
game. 

Different sections of the same town may be pitted against 
each other, but more often contiguous villages defy each other 
and fly the banner of challenge. Out they pour into the empty, 
fenceless fields, some armed with thick clubs and protected by 
heavy padded helmets, while others merely throw stones. The 
champions of either side prance up and down before their 
respective factions, twirling their clubs and breathing out threat- 
enings and slaughter. Stones beg^n to fly, most of them falling 
short of the mark, and the rest being deftly dodged. After the 
two warring factions have reinforced their courage by streams 
of most libellous invective, and have worked themselves up to 
the fighting pitch, they move toward each other warily, the stones 
fly more thickly, the champions prance more vaingloriously. 
Meanwhile the multitudes of white-clothed non-combatants, 
who cover the surrounding hills, shout encouragement to their 
respective favourites. The champions gradually close with each 
other and give and receive sounding thwacks on the head or 
shoulder, while over them the stones fly thick and fast. Sud- 
denly a deafening yell goes up from one side and a wild charge 
is made. The opposite side gives way, and it looks as if the day 
were won, but as soon as the first ardour of the pursuit is over 
the fugitives turn and make a counter-charge. Unludky is the 
wight who is overtaken before he gains the thick of his own 
ranks again. And so it goes on by the hour, rush and counter- 
rush, wild shoutings of delighted spectators, clouds of dust, 
broken pates, profanity unlimited and gruesome gaps where 
erstwhiles were gleaming teeth. The excitement is much the 
same as that of the Spanish bull-fight, and the same fierce, ele- 
mental passions are let loose ih participants and spectators alike. 
Rarely does a season pass but three or four nien are killed in 
these encounters, but if the excitement runs too high the police 
or gendarmes are likely to interfere. In the heat of action 
houses are sometimes razed, but as a usual thing the fight 



278 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

results only in bruised arms, broken heads and unlimited invec- 
tive. The heaviest traffic on the electric tramway is when the 
crowds go out of the city gates to watch these stone-fights. One 
day last year thirty-four thousand people were carried, a num- 
ber twice as large as the average. It would be safe to say that 
in the environs of Seoul twenty-five thousand persons witnessed 
the fights that day. 

Kite-flying is a national institution here as in China and 
Japan. The kites are not so elaborate as in the neighbouring 
countries, but the interest in the sport is fully as great, for there 
are what may be called kite-fights that are very exciting. By 
dextrous manipulation the rival kite-fliers get their strings 
crossed. Then comes the contest of pure skill, to see which 
can saw the string of the other in two first. You see the tiny 
kites high in the air darting this way and that, seemingly with- 
out rhyme or reason, but all the time their owners are manoeu- 
vring for position, just as rival yachtsmen do in our own land. 
When one of them thinks that the right moment has arrived, 
he makes his kite dash across the path of the other and clinch 
in the final struggle. Sooner or later one of the strings is cut, 
and the liberated kite floats away on the breeze, follow^ed by a 
crowd of eager boys. The kites, though scientifically con- 
structed, cost but very little, but the cord must be of the finest, 
and it must be smeared with a kind of paste mixed with pul- 
verised glass. This makes it better able to saw the other cord 
in two. 

The next most popular amusement is pitch-penny, at which 
all the boys play " for keeps.'* A shallow hole is scraped in the 
hard earth beside the road, and the first player stands oflf ten 
feet or more and pitches half a dozen coins at the hole. Any 
that lodge in it are his ; but there is more to do. The other boy 
indicates which of the thrown coins he is to hit with a leaden 
disc, which is used for this purpose. The player throws, and if 
he hits that particular coin, all are his, but if he misses, the other 
boy takes his turn. This too is a spring sport, and at that season 



KOREAN INDUSTRIES 279 

you will frequently see two lines of interested spectators watch- 
ing intently to see some skilful thrower make a good shot down 
the narrow alley between them. 

On the great festival of the fifth day of the fifth moon 
Koreans give themselves up to the delights of swinging. Some- 
times the lofty branch of a pine-tree is used, but more often 
two great poles are erected for the purpose. These are held in 
place by guys, and are variously ornamented. The Koreans 
are adventurous swingers, and accidents are not infrequent. The 
rough straw ropes break sooner or later, and someone gets a 
nasty fall, which terminates the sport for that season. 

Girls take pleasure in a sort of see-saw on the 15th of the 
first month. This is not the same as ours. The board is only 
six or seven feet long and is laid over a fulcrum only five 
inches high. The girls stand on the ends and jump up and 
down, the impact of each throwing the other several feet into 
the air. They would not be able to preserve their equilibrium 
except for a strong cord, like a clothes-line, over their heads, to 
which they cling. On this same festival there are mighty tugs- 
of-war in the country villages. The ropes are huge hawsers, 
eight or ten inches thick, and upwards of a hundred feet long. 
The village turns out en masse, men, women and children, and 
pull until they are exhausted. This always takes place at night 
under the full moon. 

In the autumn and winter the favourite sport of the young 
men is a sort of battledore and shuttlecock. The shuttlecock is 
a cash piece wrapped in paper, the latter being twisted into a 
tail which makes the shuttlecock always fall properly. Strangely 
enough, the Koreans use the side of the foot for a battledore, 
and to unaccustomed eyes it looks ridiculous enough to see two 
men hopping about on one foot, trying to keep the shuttlecock 
in the air. This is a purely Korean development of this game. 

They are very fond of trying feats of strength in what they 
call " arm wrestling." ^ Jhe two contestants sit down at a table 
and place their elbows squarely upon it. Then they grasp each 



28o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

other's thumbs, and each man tries to bend the arm of the other 
over backward until it touches the table. This is a genuine and 
severe test of strength, as anyone will discover by trying it. 

Hide-and-seek and blind-man's-buflf are common, and littie 
girls go about with wooden or rag dolls strapped to their backs 
like true babies. Jack-stones, fox-and-geese, cat's cradle and 
other juvenile games are also played. 

As for sedentary games, the chief places are occupied by 
chess and padok. In a very general way their chess resembles 
ours, but the board is somewhat different, and the rules are 
so changed that knowledge of one method does not help in 
playing the other. The game of padok is far more difficult than 
either Korean or European chess. It consists in enclosing spaces 
on a wide go-bang board with white and black discs. The fore- 
sight and the mathematical ability required to play this game 
successfully are astonishing. It is a Chinese invention, and 
surely does credit to its inventor. Poe says that the g^me of 
draughts requires a higher quality of mind than chess, but 
padok, while requiring the same kind of skill as draughts, is 
probably ten times as difficult. 

For gambling purposes Koreans use dominoes and " cards," 
the latter being made of stiff oiled paper half an inch wide and 
eight inches long. Coolies on the street corners, waiting for a 
job, while away the time playing a game that is a cross between 
backgammon and fox-and-geese, scratching the necessary lines 
on the hard earth in lieu of a " board.'' If you see half a dozen 
heads together, you will know that a game is in progress, and 
that the stakes are high, perhaps even five cents. As each man 
throws the dice, he gives his thigh a resounding slap. This is 
supposed to bring luck, just as we have seen people in more 
enlightened lands murmur fond entreaties into the dice-box 
before throwing. 

These are, of course, not all the games Koreans play, but 
they are the commonest and most distinctive. 



CHAPTER XX 

DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN TRADE 

UNTIL recent years the currency of Korea was only 
the unwieldy cash, and this had much to do in pre- 
serving the immemorial custom of barter. Even 
to-day this form of trade has by no means ceased, 
and many Koreans still look upon rice or cotton or linen as legal 
tender. ) We have already explained that in the country there 
are stated places where periodical markets are held. There are 
but few Koreans who cannot find one of these chang within ten 
miles of their homes. As a rule, these are held once in five days ; 
but there are many special markets for special objects. Almost 
every Korean product has its special season. The agricultural 
products are naturally more in evidence in the summer and 
autumn. Almost all farmers add to their income by some sort 
of handicraft during the winter, and the products of such work 
are on sale during the winter and spring months. 

For long centuries there existed a Peddlers' Guild, composed 
of thousands of men throughout the country who travelled on 
foot with packs on their backs, and peddled their goods from 
house to house. They had regular circuits, and their organi- 
sation was quite complete. In later times this guild fell into 
decay, and was superseded by a gang of evil men who were used 
by corrupt officials to do questionable work. They were not 
peddlers, and the unsavoury reputation of the " Peddlers' Guild " 
should not attach to the genuine peddlers.- 

It was mainly through the markets and the peddlers that 
domestic trade was carried on in the country. In the great 
centres ordinary shops were common, and almost every com- 
modity was handled by a separate guild. The freemasonry of 



282 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

trade reached extensive bounds. Many of these guilds were, and 
arc, incipient or partial insurance companies, and loss by fire 
or death became a matter of mutual aid. These guilds wot 
taxed, not regularly, but as occasion might demand. Whenever 
some sudden pressure was put on the royal household for maatf, 
a draft upon the guilds was always honoured. 

Korean shops are of two kinds, open and closed I The ordi- 
nary shop is hardly more than a stall, open directly upon tlie 
street, where the purchaser can pick up and examine almost aigr 
article in stock. The larger merchants, however, who handle 
silks, cotton, linen, grass-cloth, shoes and certain other goods^ 
have nothing whatever on view. You enter and ask for what 
you want, and it is brought forth from the storeroom or closet 
This seems very strange to foreigners, who always want to com- 
pare and select their goods. Often enough a truculent merdianty 
after showing one shade of silk, will refuse to show more, and 
say that if this is not what you want he has nothing that will 
suit you. You are expected to state exactly what you want, 
and when that is produced and examined, the price alone is 
expected to require consideration. Shopping in Korea is not 
reckoned one of the joys of life, as is so often the case in the 
West. When ladies of the upper class wish to make purchases 
of silk or otlier goods, they send out and have the merchants 
bring the j^^oods to their residences. All foreigners who are 
aware of the peculiarities of the Korean merchants do likewise. 

The great merchant houses in Seoul have no shop-signs 
whatever, but instead of this they have runners or agents on tfic 
street wlio solicit the attention of the passer-by and ask him to 
come in and look at tlie goods. 

The sale and purchase of real estate in large towns is always 
effected through house-brokers, but fields change hands very 
commonly by direct communication between the parties inter* 
estcd. The legal rate of commission to the broker is one per 
cent oi tlie purchase price of the house, and is paid by the seller. 
The purchaser furnishes two pounds of tobacco to be consumed 




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DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN TRADE 283 

during the progress of negotiations. There is a House-brokers' 
Guild, and the name of each member is registered at the mayor's 
office. If a broker falsifies the amount demanded by the seller 
and " eats " the extra money, he is very likely to be found out, 
in which case he will be expelled from the guild and his license 
will be taken away. 

The rate of interest is everywhere proportionate to the safety 
of the investment. For this reason we find that in Korea money 
ordinarily brings from two to five per cent a month. Good 
security is generally forthcoming, and so one may well ask why 
it is so precarious to lend. The answer is not creditable to 
Korean justice. In case a man has to foreclose a mortgage and 
enter upon possession of the property he will need the sanction 
of the authorities, since possession, here as elsewhere, is nine 
points of the law. The trouble is that a large fraction of the 
remaining point is dependent upon the caprice or the venality 
of the official whose duty it is to adjudicate the case. In a land 
where bribery is almost second nature, and where private rights 
are of small account unless backed up by some sort of influence, 
the thwarting of justice is extremely common. And so the best 
apparent security may prove only a broken reed when the creditor 
comes to lean upon it. Let us take a concrete case. A man bor- 
rows a sum of money, giving his house-deed as security. He 
then makes out a false deed or secures a new one from the Mayor 
on the plea that the old one is lost. He then sells the house to 
a third party and leaves for parts unknown. The mortgage 
becomes due and the mortgagee proceeds to foreclose. It is 
now a question of which deeds are the right ones. There should 
be no difficulty in adjudicating the case, but the occupant, having 
purchased in good faith, is naturally loath to move out. He is 
willing to put down a neat sum to secure his possession. It all 
depends upon the character of the official and is no longer a 
matter of mere jurisprudence. Herein lies the uncertainty. 

When money is loaned at the minimum rate of two per cent, 
or in exceptional cases one and a half per cent a month, the 



284 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

borrower, besides giving security, generally gets some well- 
known and reliable merchant to endorse the note. As this mer- 
chant cannot afford to have his credit brought in question, the 
chances of loss are very small. 

Considering the great inequality in commercial ethics here, the 
Koreans trust each other in a really remarkable manner. The 
aggregate of money placed in trust is very large. The average 
Korean would scorn to ask from his friend more than a simple 
receipt for money turned over in trust, and it is my deliberate 
conviction that in all but a small fraction of cases the ordinary 
sense of justice and decency is a far greater deterrent to indi- 
rection than any legal restraints could possibly be. 

Foreign commerce has been carried on for many centuries 
between Korea and the neighbouring countries. It is not true 
that Korea was first opened to import and export trade during 
the present generation. Commerce with China has been almost 
uninterrupted for fifteen hundred years, though it has been 
carried on in such a quiet way as largely to escape observation. 
Ginseng, furs and other special products have been regularly 
marketed in China, and silks, spices and other luxuries have 
been as regularly imported. The annual embassy to Peking 
was allowed to engage in trade. 

On the other side of the peninsula the annual trade with 
Japan through the single station at Fusan was considerable, and 
was almost uninterrupted from about 1406 till 1866, and even 
before the opening of the fifteenth century there must have been 
some interchange of goods between the two countries, although 
the Japanese freebooters of the fourteenth century did much to 
keep the two countries from mutual intercourse. 

It is a fact to which attention should be specially directed, that 
before the coming of Roman Catholic emissaries to Korea, and 
the consequent fear that the foreign religion was a cover for polit- 
ical designs, this was no more a hermit kingdom than was Japan 
or China. The efforts which both these other countries made to 
keep foreigners out were more persistent and more radical than 



DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN TRADE 285 

anything which has occurred in Korea. It is merely the fact that 
Korean exclusiveness was impinged upon somewhat later in the 
day that won for her the term ** hertnit." The difficulties encoun- 
tered in opening up this country to foreign intercourse were 
nothing compared with those required to secure the acquiescence 
of either Japan or China to such action. I am prepared to say 
that the conservatism of the Korean has always been less than 
that of the Chinese. This is simply a sociological manifestation 
of the law of inertia. The late regent never cherished a fonder 
hatred against foreigners than did Prince Tuan, and no Korean 
ruler of the past, if brought to life, would exterminate them with 
greater glee than would the present Empress Dowager of China, 
had she but the ability. 

It was between the years 1876 and 1884 that Korea was fully 
opened to foreign commerce in our western acceptance of the 
term. From the very first the trade, both import and export, has 
shown a steady and healthy growth. The Korean was very 
quick to learn the value of Manchester cottons, American petro- 
leum and Japanese friction matches, and now all these and many 
other products of other countries find their way to the remotest 
parts of the peninsula. 

This import trade owes very much to the excellent way 
in which the Customs has been handled. From the very first 
it has been in English hands. One has only to look at Turkey 
to see how different the status of foreign trade might be in 
Korea had the customs duties been collected by Korean or by 
any other Far Eastern people. It was a sad day for this 
country when the English hand was removed from the helm in 
favour of the Japanese. 

We can here give only the briefest sketch of the export and 
import trade of the country. The minutiae are of interest only 
to the statistician. For the past four years the value of the 
exports has averaged, in round numbers, $4,000,000. This does 
not include gold bullion, which has been about $2,500,000 a year. 

The goods exported are, in order of their value, beans, rice, 



286 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

cowhides, ginseng, raw cotton, fish, whale flesh and blubber, 
paper, sea-weed and barley. Other things which figure promi- 
nently are beche-de-mer, bones, cattle, feathers, mats, medicines, 
millet, oysters, sesamum,"'raw silk, tallow, tobacco, wheat, copper, 
curios and grass-cloth. 

The value of foreign imports in 1901 and 1902 was about the 
same, namely, about $3,750,000; for 1903 it was $5,750,000, and 
for 1904 it was $8,800,000. The great increase in 1904 was due 
to the import of $2,000,000 worth of railway material for use in 
the construction of the new lines. Then, in order of value, come 
English and American gray shirtings, Japanese sheetings, Jap- 
anese miscellaneous cotton goods, Japanese thread and yam, silk 
piece goods, tobacco, English and American sheetings, Amcricao. 
petroleum, English and American white shirtings, rice, dolhln^ 
provisions, timber and sake. After these come figured shirtings, - 
cotton reps, bar and other iron, galvanised iron sheeting", bags 
and ropes, building materials, coal, raw cotton, cotton wadding, j 

dyes, fish, flour, fruit, grain, grass-cloth, wines and spirits, j 

matches, medicines, mining supplies, Russian petroleum, paper, 
porcelain, salt, soy, sugar and telegraph and telephone supplies. 

Up to the present time both the import and export trade have 
suffered for lack of facilities for transportation in the interior; 
but the railroads that are being rapidly constructed will help to 
overcome this difficulty, and foreign commerce ought to receive 
a decided impetus. 

Of late years, Japanese textile fabrics have been competing 
successfully with the English and American, and bid fair in time 
to displace them even as Japanese matches have displaced the 
Austrian product. This readjustment of the sources of Korea's 
foreign supplies is the most prominent feature of the commercial 
situation to-day. There seems to be a natural fitness in the 
mutual interchange of raw material and finished product between 
the two countries, and there is every sign that Japan will foster 
and conserve this growing reciprocity by ever)' means in her 
power. If American cotton goods are to compete with Japanese 




o 
3 



DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN TRADE 287 

here, it must be because better goods are offered at the same price 
or the same goods at a lower price. This supposes other things 
to be equal, but in fact other things are not equal. An army of 
Japanese small retailers covering the country like a network, 
unable to speak or read any language but their own, and con- 
nected intimately with Japanese sources of supply, make it certain 
that Japanese goods will be handled unless some very strong 
consideration intervenes of a distinctly pecuniary nature. There 
is a single American firm in Korea handling general goods, but 
it is particularly interested only in petroleum and rice. In other 
words, America enjoys only the very smallest facilities for com- 
mercial contact with Korea. Our merchants hardly need to be 
told that much more enters into successful trade competition than 
the mere quality and price of goods. They must be properly 
exhibited, advertised and placed before the public. The personal 
equation enters largely into the problem, and under existing con- 
ditions it is only a matter of time when the great staples of 
American commerce will be known here only by name. There 
is to-day a mag^nificent opening for any firm that will import 
Oregon pine into Korea by sailing-vessel or other cheap method 
of transportation. All planing and moulding is here done by 
hand at great expense. Planed and matched flooring would have 
large and lucrative sale. We say this to indicate only one of a 
large number of favourable openings that might be entered by 
enterprising people. The large and steady influx of Japanese 
must continue for years, and building operations which are being 
carried on with feverish energy will call for increasing quan- 
tities of material from abroad, especially timber. If Americans 
want to participate in this trade, they should enter the field and 
secure a footing before the commercial flux has crystallised. 



CHAPTER XXI 

MONUMENTS AND RELICS 

IN a country whose legendary history stretches back four 
thousand years, one would expect to find many monuments 
and relics of the past, and in Korea we are not disappointed. 
None of these take the form of buildings in which men 
lived or worshipped. The style of architecture of the whole Far 
East is of a kind that does not last beyond a few hundred years 
without undergoing such extensive repairs as to constitute a 
virtual rebuilding of the edifice. So, while we will not look for 
any temples like those of ancient Egypt, we will not despair of 
finding other remains of almost equal antiquity. 

The oldest monument in Korea, so far as we can ascertain, 
is the Altar of Tangun, erected on the very summit of the highest 
peak on the island of Kangwha, Mari-san. The Tangun is the 
fabled King who began his rule in Korea over two thousand 
years before Christ. He is supposed to have erected this altar 
whereon to worship his own divine father, Whanin. It is impos- 
sible to guarantee the genuineness of the tradition; but sure it 
is that all down through the recorded history of the country we 
read that at intervals of about a century money has been appro- 
priated for the repair of this most ancient relic. Its immense 
age is beyond question. It consists of a walled enclosure thirty 
feet square, perched upon the sharp point of the bare, rocky 
mountain peak. On one side of the enclosure rises the altar, about 
sixteen feet square and eight feet high, the ascent to the top 
being accomplished by means of a stone stairway. The founda- 
tion stones and the first few courses give evidence of extreme 
age. They are as moss-grown and seamed by time as the native 
rock of the mountain from which they seem to grow. The upper 



MONUMENTS AND RELICS 289 

courses are apparently of more recent structure, and yet old com- 
pared with our most venerable European structures. Only the 
top itself has apparently been restored during the past five cen- 
turies. Standing upon this altar-crowned summit, as the ocean 
wind drives the clouds across the serrated tops of the rugged 
range one tries to imagine himself back in the days of Abraham, 
when Tangun stood by and directed the building of this heaven- 
touching altar, and the flames leaped high about his burning 
hecatombs. The mind faints in the effort to grasp the meaning 
of four thousand years. Not even China herself, that synonym 
of Cyclopean age, can show as ancient and authentic a memento 
of the past. 

Near this altar, but on another spur of the mountain, is the 
walled fortress supposed to have been built by the three sons of 
Tangun. It is occupied to-day by a Buddhist monastery, show- 
ing how the magpie may inherit the eagle's nest. Here it was 
that the Korean tiger-hunters congregated at the time the French 
landed on Korean soil in 1866, and it was from these ancient 
battlements that they drove back what they supposed to be the 
mortal enemies of their fatherland. In the town of Kangdong 
in the north, there is a mound four hundred and ten feet in 
circumference, which is believed to contain all that is mortal of 
that first great ruler, Tangun. In Munwha there is a shrine to 
the Korean trinity, Whanin, Whanung and Tangun, the first 
being the creator, the second his son, and the third his earthly 
incarnation. Our interest in the story is enhanced by the fact 
that he came to earth in the form of a wind, and was incarnated 
through the medium of a virgin. 

Compared with Tangun, Kija seems almost modern, though 
in truth he antedated David of Israel. The site of his ancient 
capital is pointed out beside the modem city of Pyeng-yang, and 
before the Chinese tore it up for breastworks in the war of 1894, 
the situation of the streets of that capital were plainly seen, 
marked out on the plain with almost the regularity of a Western 
American town. In the middle of it is Kija's Well, believed to 



290 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

have been dug at his command. Koreans affirm that a jar of its 
waters weighs a pound more than a similar amount of water 
from any other well in the land. The modem city has no wells 
at all, because the people have the notion that the city is like a 
boat, and that to dig a well would scuttle the craft. The illusion 
is made the more complete by a great stone post set in the bank 
of the Tadong River above the town, for to this post the boat is 
supposed to be moored. Near the city is found the grave of 
Kija wuth its stone images set about like guardian beasts, and 
there is a tablet partly defaced which claims to date from that 
ancient time. 

Coming south to the site of the capital of ancient Silla, the 
modem town of Kyong-ju, we find multiplied relics of the 
remote past, for even Silla began before the coming of Christ 
and reached her prime before the days of Constantine the Great. 
Near this ancient town we find a numerous cluster of huge 
mounds, each the mausoleum of a King of Silla. They will be 
found to be several hundred feet in circumference and about 
seventy-five feet high. If we should dig into one of them, we 
should probably find the ashes of the dead King flanked on 
either side by that of a young maiden, who was compelled to 
drink the bitter cup of death before her time in order to grace 
the obsequies of a monarch. This we know by inference, for 
one of the later Kings gave specific orders that at his death no 
people should be killed. It is recorded tliat when the Japanese 
invaded Korea in 1592 they dug open the grave of one of the 
rulers of Karak, contemporaneous with Silla, and found llie 
bodies of two females lying on either side the King. They 
appeared to have been embalmed, for we are told that when 
they were exposed to air they rapidly disintegrated. A few rods 
outside the modern town is found a pavilion, beneath which 
hangs one of the largest bells in the world. It was cast over 
fourteen hundred years ago, before the pride of Silla began to 
decay. In measurement it equals the great bell in Moscow, but 
is not so heavy. On the other hand, it still hangs from its great 



MONUMENTS AND RELICS 291 

beam and rings out its summons as deep and clear as the day 
on which it was cast. In a sense this is the most interesting 
and remarkable relic in Korea, for it makes us take so many 
other things for granted. The ability to mine the ore, smelt it, 
make the mould, cast the bell without a flaw and hang it in its 
place — this ability, I say, argues a high degree of civilisation. 
I doubt whether such a work could be accomplished by the 
Koreans to-day with success. 

Another relic of that civilisation is an ancient stone tower 
some twenty feet high, shaped like a monster bottle. This was 
the astronomical observatory of ancient Silla, and its shape may 
perhaps be explained on the theory that it was like a well from 
whose depths one could look up and see the stars even during 
the day. Of the great Golden Pagoda, the splendid product of 
Buddhism in its lusty youth, nothing now remains but the two 
lower stories. An examination of this wreck, however, will 
show us many evidences of artistic skill. One of these is seen 
in the battered bas-reliefs which flank the door. One of these 
has a halo like one of the old-time Christian saints. The date 
of this, as of the observatory, must be about 500 a. d. 

On the eastern coast of Korea there is a stone slab inscribed 
with Chinese characters, which was set up by a certain prefect 
in order to prevent the sea from flooding a wide alluvial plain. 
It was supposed to have some influence upon the spirit of the 
sea. A later prefect scoffed at it and threw it down. The very 
next season a disastrous tidal wave swept over the plain, destroy- 
ing many lives and ruining an incalculable amount of property. 
The sacrilegious prefect was driven out, and the stone set up 
again, since which time there has been no more trouble I 

In the far north one can still find remnants of a mighty wall 
that was built clear across the peninsula, from the Yellow Sea 
to the Japan Sea, to keep out the wild barbarians which made 
sudden and sanguinary raids upon the peaceful citizens of 
Koryu. That was seven or eight centuries ago. All through 
the country there are scores of walled enclosures on the tops of 



292 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

rugged mountains near important towns. These are relics of 
the days when the incursions of wild tribes made it necessary 
to have places of refuge at hand, where all the people could 
hasten in times of distress. Some of these are extremely old. 
One near Chemulpo is reputed to date from the beginning of 
our era. 

Just outside the wall of Songdo, the ancient capital of Koryu, 
is shown a small stone bridge on which the loyal Chong- Mong-ju 
was slain. He was faithful to the closing dynasty, and had to 
be put out of the way before the new one could be firmly estab- 
lished. On the central stone of this bridge is seen to-day a great 
brown blotch, which turns to a dull red in the rain, and the 
Koreans affirm that it is the blood of that loyal man. 

Korea is filled with Buddhistic relics. There is hardly a 
district that does not have its monastery tucked away among 
the foot-hills of the mountains, and in some districts there are a 
dozen or more. On Kwanak Mountain alone there are said to 
be fourteen. They are all in more or less of a moribund condi- 
tion, and monasteries that once boasted their hundreds of vota- 
ries now have half a dozen or less. One in the south was so 
large that the Koreans affirm that in order to stir the big kettle 
in which the monks' food was cooked a man had to go out in a 
raft upon it. We must make allowance for a vivid imagination 
here, but there is proof at hand that some of their monastery 
kettles were immense. To-day there lies in the ditch beside the 
road near the town of Kyong-ju a kettle that was once the main 
culinary utensil of a monastery. It measures over thirty feet 
in circumference, a clear ten feet across the mouth. One would 
need long arms to stir this in the middle. As a rule the most 
beautiful views in Korea are in the vicinity of the monasteries, 
for they are always surrounded by fine trees. Not a few of 
tliem are built in the midst of grand forests of deciduous trees, 
wliere the foreigner goes when he wishes to hunt. They are the 
retreat uf deer, wild boar and leopards. The most famous mon- 
asteries in Korea are those in Diamond Mountain, a cluster of 



MONUMENTS AND RELICS 293 

peaks near the central eastern part of the peninsula. They are 
celebrated even in China, and thousands of pilgrims have sought 
for merit by dragging their weary limbs all the way to this holy 
place. Arriving at the foot of the mountains, on the west side 
the traveller has to dispense with his pony and go on foot or 
in a rude chair carried by two men. One foreign traveller 
describes it as a very rough road, over which one has to pass 
by jumping the crevices in the rocks or walking across on a 
single stick of wood for a bridge. He says there were " rocks 
around which one has to wind his way by clinging to their 
irregularities for fear of falling into the stream below, rocks 
over which the water roars and falls in beautiful cataracts; 
rocks covered with the Chinese names of visitors who had passed 
that way, these carved names forming the only foothold on the 
slippery surface; rocks which the monks have rendered passable 
only by drilling holes, driving pegs and laying logs above them ; 
rocks on which are perched little shrines or on which are carved 
huge bas-reliefs of Buddhas ninety feet high and thirty feet 
broad at the base; and above all the towering cliffs and peaks 
of the parent mountain." Several flourishing monasteries are 
passed on the way up the steep valley, for here, if nowhere else, 
Buddhism seems to have some show of vitality left. After a 
long, steep climb the summit of the range is passed, and below 
this the traveller comes to the U-cham Monastery. The writer 
already quoted says, " Passing the cemetery with its oddly shaped 
stones, we were shown the pools said to have been the bathing- 
place of the dragons in olden times. They are nothing but ordi- 
nary pot-holes. ... In the temple itself there are fifty-three 
idols, seated upon what is supposed to represent the upturned 
roots of a tree. Below are three hideous dragons. The story 
goes that when the fifty-three monks from India came to intro- 
duce Buddhism into Korea they came here and sat down beside 
a wall under a nureum tree. As they sat there, behold, three 
dragons came out from the well and attacked them. The ani- 
mals called upon the winds to help them, and a violent gust blew 



294 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

oVfer the tree. The monks, not to be outdone, placed their images 
of Buddha on the roots of the tree, making an altar of what 
was intended for their destruction. The dragons were finally 
\^ \ driven back into the well, upon which the monks piled stones 
and later built the monastery and temple. In proof of the story 
the monks show the place further down the hill where the water 
from the well flows out. These are probably the same dragons 
that bathe in the pools mentioned above. In the morning a 
young monk took me on a tour of inspection, and I had a good 
opportunity to see the occupants of a first-class monastery in 
their private apartments. These consisted of a large living 
room and a number of cells just large enough to lie down in. 
All were very clean. Each cell contained the shrine of its occu- 
pant. They all seemed to be studying industriously, and they 
apparently lived a happy, peaceful life compared with that of 
the ordinary Korean. This is, however, only their place of 
refuge, and each must seek the means of support by pilgrimages 
over rough Korean roads and through dirty Korean towns, 
where he receives * low talk ' from the very slaves, and begs for 
a living. Some probably have rich relatives who help them 
liberally." It is also true that many of these most celebrated 
monasteries have broad rice-lands, which are tilled for them by 
the farmers in the vicinity, the latter receiving part of the crop 
in payment. So far as my observation goes, there are very few 
monasteries that depend entirely upon charity for support. There 
are all sorts of ceremonies which the people are willing to pay 
for, such as prayers for the dead. The common people make 
no special distinction between the Buddhist rites and those of the 
despised mudang and pansu. The social level of the monk is 
little if any higher than that of the pansu, and it depends entirely 
upon the fancy of the petitioner whether he patronises the one 
or tlie other. Of course the temple with its curious carvings, 
its dim corners and its weird paintings adds impressiveness to the 
ceremony, and also adds to the price that must be paid. It is 
the wealthier class that patronise the monastery, not because of 




A BOUNDARY STONE 



The « rubbing** of a tablet which marked 
the north limit of the ancient kingdom of Silla 



MONUMENTS AND RELICS 295 

any difference in religious belief, but because of the added Sclat 
of the ceremony. 

The discussion of Korean relics would be incomplete without 
a reference to the curious structures which are found in various 
parts of the north, and to which we give the name dolmen for 
want of a better. One of these consists of two huge stones set 
on edge to form the opposite sides of an enclosure, and across 
the top is laid another. The upper stone is a veritable monolith, 
being often fifteen feet square and two feet thick. The space 
enclosed is about eight feet long, five feet wide and five feet 
high, and the most natural conclusion is that it must be some 
form of sepulture; but, though the back of the space is some- 
times closed with a stone, the front is always open, nor have any 
bones been found in any of them. There is not a word about 
these curious monuments in Korean history, and the only ex- 
planation that the people give is that they were built long ago 
to keep back the powers of the mountains, who would otherwise 
invade the lowlands. These stones are always partially covered 
with earth, and there is no doubt that originally they were 
entirely covered. They are often found in the midst of wide 
plains, and the imagination is taxed to account for the method 
by which those rude people moved the huge stones from the 
hills to their present places. I incline strongly to the opinion 
that they are very ancient graves, in spite of the fact that no 
bones are found ; for even in the Koryu graves, which are quite 
authentic and from which so much rude pottery is taken, no 
bones are found, not even the skull. This shows that six or 
seven hundred years will suffice to cause a complete disintegra- 
tion of human bones, at least in Korean soil. These dolmens 
are much more ancient than any Koryu grave, and the argument 
is so much the more conclusive. Much still remains to be done 
by way of excavation and examination of these relics, but the* 
Koreans are so superstitious that little can be done at present. 

All about the country there are enormous carved figures, 
which the Koreans call mirydk. Some of them are Buddhas, 



296 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

but not all. It was doubtless in the Koryu dynasty, the palmy 
days of Buddhism, that money was forthcoming to carry out 
these costly works. The great statue in the town of Eunjin 
stands seventy feet high or more, and the great slab of stone on 
its head measures some twelve feet in length. Between Seoul 
and Songdo two great rock figures look down upon the traveller 
from the heights. One is a male figure and the other a female 
and whether they are distinctly Buddhistic or not has never beed 
settled. Korean fancy weaves the most curious stories about 
these images. The ones last referred to are said to have been 
carved by a wealthy gentleman of the neighbourhood who. wa» 
so troubled by beggars, whose solicitations he had not the bort^ 
to repulse, that he begged someone to tell him how he oootd 
secure peace. An aged stranger passing by told him if he would 
carve the two rocks, that stood up like needles near his hoos^ 
into the shape of a man and a woman, he would never be troubled 
by beggars again. He hastened to comply, but before he had 
finished he found that his own wealth was 'exhausted, and he 
discovered too late that this was the reason why b^;gars would 
trouble him no more. A still more romantic tale is told of a 
great miryok in the south. A needy but ambitious gentleman 
was tramping up to Seoul to take the national examination. 
He found this great image in the heart of a forest, and from a 
fissure in its head he perceived a pear-tree to be growing. On 
the tree hung a pear as large as a man's head. If he could 
secure it and take it as a gift to the King, his fortune would be 
made. He climbed up the lofty image by means of the bushes 
and vines that grew about it until he reached the lips, but there 
was no way to get over the huge nose that hung out over him. 
He determined to crawl up one of the nostrils, hoping to find a 
way through to the top; so he wormed his way up with knees 
and elbows till he reached the point where the nostril contracts. 
At this instant he was terrified by a great shaking of the image, 
and an instant later a howling blast came down the passage and 
swept him out, as he confidently expected, to his doom. The 




SYMBOLS OF KOREA'S RELIGION 

The upper picture shows the great stone Buddha at Eunjin. The lower 
picture presents the « Devil Post** on right and pile of stones in centre, 
on which each traveller throws one more ** for luck.** On extreme left 
is a bush to which rags, cash, fish-heads, and other things are tied to 
please the spirits 



MONUMENTS AND RELICS 297 

god had sneezed ! Why had he not thought of this contingency ? 
He fell into the thick bushes and lost consciousness, but recov- 
ered later, only to find, to his joy, that the same cataclysm which 
had hurled him down had also dislodged the pear, which lay at 
his feet. He took it to Seoul, and by its help reached that Mecca 
of all Koreans, official position. 

But besides the genuine relics that may be found in Korea, 
there are a host of others that exist in the imagination of the 
people and exercise a powerful influence upon their thought. 
For instance, there is the jade flute, which is supposed to be 
kept at Kyong-ju in the archives of ancient Silla, and which 
cannot be played upon if it is taken to any other place. So 
firmly do the Koreans believe in this flute that they say the late 
regent had it brought up to Seoul, and that the present Emperor, 
when a boy, accidentally broke it. The regent is said to have 
mended it with a silver band. It is thus that the Koreans weave 
about the most impossible tales a web of circumstance, giving 
them a certain verisimilitude that might easily deceive the unin- 
itiated. There is also the celebrated medicine stone in Pochun, 
which was once polished as smooth as glass, and if anyone looked 
into this as into a mirror he would discover from what disease 
he was suffering. The Koreans firmly believe that somewhere 
in one of the old palaces in Seoul there lie three hundred dried-up 
skins of Japanese unmarried females. These, they say, were ex- 
acted as an indemnity from the Japanese at the end of the great 
invasion of 1592. The story is that the Japanese were compelled 
to agree to send this number every year, but that after the first 
year the Koreans out of pity remitted the tribute. There is 
about as much sense in this statement as there is in the claim 
^put forth by the Japanese that Korea ever paid tribute to that 
kingdom. It looks as if the story of these skins was invented 
as an offset to the fact that the Japanese sent thousands of 
Korean noses and ears to Japan during the days of that inva- 
sion. The falsity of the Korean story does them more credit 
than the truth of the Japanese story does the Japanese. 



298 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The Koreans will tell you that there lies buried in the sands 
on the southern coast the hull of the famous tortoise boat with 
which Admiral Yi Sun-sin won his famous naval battles over 
the Japanese, and Ensign George C. Foulk of the American na\7, 
who was making a trip in southern Korea at the time of the 
emcute of 1884, told the writer that the remains of a boat were 
pointed out to him as being the authentic "tortoise boat." 
This was of course another case of vivid imagination on the 
part of the Koreans. It may be that there is more truth in the 
statement that in the storehouse of the old fortress of Namhan 
there lies the original mortar which the Koreans invented to 
throw bombs into the Japanese forts. The story of the inven- 
tion of this weapon is told in all good faith, and the records say 
that when it was fired the whole thing leaped over the wall and 
fell among the Japanese soldiers; and when they crowded 
around to see what it was, it exploded and destroyed a score of 
men. It seems clear that they had some sort of weapon resem- 
bling the bomb and mortar, and if so they may have been the 
first inventors of it. 

It is said that there is a cave about thirty miles south of 
Seoul called " The Death Cave." In the days of the great 
invasion, three centuries ago, about a thousand Koreans took 
refuge in this place, but the Japanese built a huge fire at its 
mouth and suffocated them all. Since that time no Korean has 
ever ventured into the cave for fear of the spirits of the dead. 

Many questions have been asked about the tombs in whicli 
golden-coffined kings lie, and which the vandal Oppert came to 
rob in 1867. The Koreans say that Oppert and his crew were 
friends of the Roman Catholic priests who had been killed here 
the preceding year, and that Oppert came to rifle the grave of 
the father of the regent in revenge. This was not true. The 
expedition was a purely predatory one, and the object of it was 
to find the gold and treasure that were supposed to lie in the 
tombs on Tabong Mountain. The amusing thing about it is 
that these are not royal graves, but merely the place where, 



MONUMENTS AND RELICS 299 

according to immemorial custom, the placentae of royal births 
have been buried. The writer had a conversation in 1887 with 
an old man in Nagasaki who had formed one of this expedition, 
and he corroborated the statement of the Koreans that a heavy 
and unusual fog hung over the country on that day and pre- 
vented the carrying out of the plan. Such a powerful impres- 
sion did this outrage make upon the Koreans that they composed 
a popular song about it which says: \ 

Yanggukeui chajin angd 
Wheanpong tara deunda. 
The thick fog of the Westerners 
Broods over Whean Peak. 



CHAPTER XXII 
LANGUAGE 

THE Korean language belongs to that widely dissemi- 
nated family to which the term Turanian has been 
applied. This term is sufficiently indefinite to match 
the subject, for scholarship has not determined with 
any degree of exactitude the limits of its dispersion. At its widest 
reach it includes Turkish, Hungarian, Basque, Lappish, Finnish, 
Ouigour, Ostiak, Samoiyed, Mordwin, Manchu, Mongol and the 
other Tartar and Siberian dialects, Japanese, Korean, Tamil, 
Telugu, Canarese, Malayalam and the other Dravidian dialects, 
Malay and a great number of the Polynesian and Australian 
dialects. It reaches northward along the coast of Asia, through 
the Philippine Islands and Formosa, and south and east into 
New Guinea, New Hebrides and Australia. 

The main point which differentiates this whole family of 
languages from the Aryan tongues is the agglutinative principle 
by which declension and conjugation are effected through the 
addition of postpositions and suffixes, and not by modification 
of the stem. In all these different languages the stem of the 
word remains, as a rule, intact through every form of gram- 
matical manipulation. That Korean belongs to this family of 
languages is seen in its strictly agglutinative character. There 
has been no deviation from this principle. There are no excep- 
tions. Any typical Korean verb can be conjugated through its 
thousand different forms without finding the least change in 
the stem of the word. A comparison of Korean with Manchu 
discloses at once a family likeness, and at the same time a com- 
parison of Korean with the Dravidian dialects discloses a still 
closer kinship. It is an interesting fact that none of the Chinese 
dialects possess any of the distinctive features of this Turanian 



LANGUAGE 301 

family. There is more similarity between Chinese and English 
than between Chinese and any of the Turanian languages. In 
other words, China has been even more thoroughly isolated lin- 
guistically than she has socially, and the evidence goes to prove 
that at some period enormously remote, after the original 
Chinese had effected an entrance into the mighty amphitheatre, 
between the central Asian mountains on the one hand and the 
waters of the Pacific on the other, they were surrounded by a sub- 
sequent race who impinged upon them at every point, and con- 
quered them more than once, but who never succeeded in leaving 
a single trace upon their unique and primitive language. This 
surrounding family was the Turanian, and Korean forms one 
link in the chain. 

Korean bears almost precisely the same relation to Chinese 
that English does to Latin. English has retained its own dis- 
tinct grammatical structure while drawing an immense number 
of words from the Romance dialects for purposes of embellish- 
ment and precision. The same holds true of Korean. She has 
never surrendered a single point to Chinese grammar, and yet 
has borrowed largely from the Chinese glossary as convenience 
or necessity has required. Chinese may be called the Latin of 
the Far East. For, just as Rome through her higher civilisation 
lent thousands of words to the semi-savages hovering along her 
borders, so China has furnished all the surrounding peoples with 
their scientific, legal, philosophical and religious terminology. 
The development of Chinese grammar was early checked by the 
influence of the ideograph, and so she never has had an)rthing 
to lend her neighbours in the way of superior grammatical 
inflection. 

The grammars of Korea and Japan are practically identical, 
and yet, strange to say, with the exception of the words they 
have both borrowed from China, their glossaries are remarkably 
dissimilar. This forms one of the most obscure philological 
problems of the Far East. The identity in grammatical struc- 
ture, however, stamps them as sister languages. 



302 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The study of Korean grammar is rendered interesting by the 
fact that in the surrounding of China by Turanian peoples Korea 
forms the place where the two surrounding branches met and 
completed the circuit. Northern Korea was settled from the 
north by Turanian people, and southern Korea was settled from 
the south by Turanian people. It was not until 193 b. c. that 
each became definitely aware of the presence of the other. At 
first they refused to acknowledge the relationship, but the fact 
that, when in 690 a. d. the southern kingdom of Silla assumed 
control of the whole peninsula, there remained no such line of 
social cleavage as that which obtained between the English and 
Normans after 1066, shows that an intrinsic similarity of lan- 
guage and a similar racial aptitude quickly closed the breach and 
made Korea the unit that she is to-day. 

Korean is an agglutinative, polysyllabic language whose 
development is marvellously complete and symmetrical. We find 
no such long lists of exceptions as those which entangle the 
student of the Indo-European languages. In Korean as in most 
of the Turanian languages the idea of gender is very imperfectly 
developed, which argues perhaps a lack of imagination. The 
ideas of person and number are largely left to the context for 
determination, but in the matter of logical sequence the Korean 
verb is carried to the extreme of development. 

The Korean's keen sense of social distinctions has given rise 
to a complete system of honorifics whose proper application is 
essential to a right use of the language. And yet numerous as 
these may be, their use is so regulated by unwritten law, and 
there are so few exceptions that they are far easier to master 
than the personal terminations of Indo-European verbs. The 
grammatical superiority of Korean over many of the Western 
languages is that while, in the latter, differences of gender, 
number and person which would usually be perfectly clear 
from the context are carefully noted, in the Korean these are 
left to the speaker's and the hearer's perspicacity, and atten- 
tion is concentrated upon a terse and luminous collocation of 



LANGUAGE 303 

ideas, which is often secured in the West only by a tedious 
circumlocution. 

The genius of the language has led the Korean to express 
every possible verbal relation by a separate modal form. The 
extent to which this has been carried may be shown only by illus- 
tration. Besides having simple forms to express the different 
tenses and modes, it also has forms to express all those more 
delicate verbal relations which in English require a circumlo- 
cution or the free use of adverbs. For instance, the Korean has 
a special mode to express the idea of necessity, contingency, 
surprise, reproof, antithesis, conjunction, temporal sequence, 
logical sequence, interruption, duration, limit, acquiescence, 
expostulation, interrogation, promise, exhortation, imprecation, 
desire, doubt, hypothesis, satisfaction, propriety, concession, 
intention, decision, probability, possibility, prohibition, simul- 
taneity, continuity, repetition, infrequency, hearsay, agency, con- 
tempt, ability. Each one of these ideas can be expressed in 
connection with any active verb by the simple addition of one or 
more inseparable suffixes. By far the greater number of these 
suffixes are monosyllabic. 

To illustrate the delicate shades of thought that can be 
expressed by the use of a suffix let us take the English expression, 
" I was going along the road, when suddenly — " This, without 
anything more, implies that the act of going was suddenly inter- 
rupted by some unforeseen circumstance. All this would be 
expressed in Korean by the three words naga kile kataga. The 
first means " I," the second means " along the road," and the 
third means " was going, when suddenly — " The stem of 
the verb is ka, and the ending, taga, indicates the interruption of 
the action. And what is more to the point, this ending has abso- 
lutely no other use. It is reserved solely for the expression of 
this shade of thought. Again, on the same stem we have the 
word kalka, in which the ending ka gives all the meaning that we 
connote in the expression, " I wonder whether he will really go 
or not." If, in answer to the question whether you are going 



304 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

or not you say simply kana, it means, " What in the world would 
I be going for ? Absurd ! " 

Another thing which differentiates Korean from the lan- 
guages of the West is the difference between " book language " 
and " spoken language." Many grammatical forms are common 
to both, but there are also many in each that are not found in the 
other. The result is extremely unfortunate, for no conversation 
can be written down verbatim; it must all be changed into book 
language. This fact is probably due to Chinese influence, and it 
is but one of the ways in which that influence acted as a drag 
upon Korean intellectual development. I would not belittle the 
enormous debt that Korea owes to China, but some of her gifts 
had been better ungiven. None of these endings are borrowed 
from the Chinese language, but as Korea had practically no liter- 
ature before Chinese influence led up to it, it was inevitable that 
certain endings should be reserved for the formal language of 
books, while others were considered good enough only to be 
bandied from mouth to mouth. It is of course impossible to say 
what sort of a literature Korea would have evolved had she been 
left to herself, but one thing is sure; it would have been much 
more spontaneous and lifelike than that which now obtains. 

Korean has no dialects. There are different brogues, and a 
Seoul man can generally detect by a man's speech from what 
province he comes; but it would be wide of the truth to assert 
that Koreans from any part of the country could not readily 
understand each other. There are some few words that are 
peculiar to particular provinces, but for the most part these are 
mutually known, just as the four words " guess," " reckon," 
" allow " and " calculate," while peculiar in a certain sense to 
particular sections of America, are universally understood. 

No people have followed more implicitly nature's law in the 
matter of euphony. The remarkable law of the convertibility 
of surds and sonants has been worked out to its ultimate results 
in this language. The nice adjustment of the organs of speech, 
whereby conflicting sounds are so modified as to blend harmoni- 



LANGUAGE 305 

ously, is one of the unconscious Korean arts. The euphonic 
tendency has not broken down the languages, as is sometimes 
the case. Prof. Max Muller speaks of a law of phonetic decay, 
but in Korea it would be better called the law of phonetic adjust- 
ment. Korean is characterised by a large number of mimetic 
words. As their colours are drawn directly from nature, so their 
words are often merely phonetic descriptions. 

The Korean language is eminently adapted for public speak- 
ing. It is a sonorous, vocal language. They have grasped the 
idea that the vowel is the basis of all human speech. The sibi- 
lant element is far less conspicuous than in Japanese, and one 
needs only to hear a public speech in Japanese and one in Korean 
to discover the great advantage which the latter enjoys. The 
lack of all accent in Japanese words is a serious drawback to 
oratory. There is nothing in Korean speech that makes it less 
adapted to oratory than English or any other Western tongue. 
In common with the language of Cicero or Demosthenes, Korean 
is composed of periodic sentences, each one reaching its climax 
in the verb which is usually the final word, and there are no weak- 
ening addenda which so often make the English sentence an anti- 
climax. In this respect the Korean surpasses English as a 
medium of public speaking. 



CHAPTER XXIII 
LITERATURE 

JUST as Korea and China have a very high moral standard 
that they never even pretend to live up to, so each of these 
countries has the utmost regard for literature, while all 
the time the common people are grossly illiterate. Both 
morals and literature have gone to seed, and we much fear the 
seeds are not fertile. The Chinese character possesses a certain 
hypnotic power which it exercises in varying degree upon every- 
one who acquires a smattering of it. It can be proved to a cer- 
tainty that this character is a most cumbersome and unscientific 
affair so far as being a medium for the acquisition of actual 
knowledge is concerned. No one dare deny that it stands like 
a stumbling-block in the path of general education throughout 
the Far East, and yet almost every foreigner who acquires a 
modicum of it becomes so enamoured of it that he is unwilling 
to see it laid aside for some system which will make the vast range 
of human knowledge accessible to the masses of these countries. 
The tens of thousands of characters which form the written lan- 
guage of China are a wonderful mosaic which has been built 
up during thousands of years, so that if anyone once gets the 
key to it the mere etymological study, irrespective of positive and 
useful intellectual results, is almost irresistibly fascinating. While 
the process by which this system has been built up appears to have 
followed certain general laws, yet the divergences and exceptions 
have been so many and so great that in the acquisition of a 
knowledge of them memory alone seems to be required. All 
sorts of methods have been devised whereby foreigners can 
acquire the Chinese character with facility, but it is much to be 
doubted whether they are any better than the method in use in 



LITERATURE 307 

Korea and China for the last two or three thousand years; 
namely, to memorize them one after the other without regard 
to similarity of shape or sound. In the last analysis it comes 
to a matter of pure memory, and the antipodal character of the 
methods which have been devised to make it easy shows that 
such attempts are largely futile. The excessive use of the mem- 
ory in the learning of the mere shapes of the characters has a 
deadening effect upon the purely ratiocinative faculty. This is 
evidenced in the very character of Chinese and Korean literature. 
Historical narrative of the baldest kind, without any attempt to 
generalise, holds a most conspicuous place. In the West the 
historian analyses the material which historical records put in 
his hands; he searches for the causes of things, and frequently 
epitomises the salient features of a whole era in a few sentences. 
Such a thing as this is absolutely unknown in the dusty annals 
of the Far East. The scientific ability to deduce principles 
from mere statements of historical fact seems to have been ut- 
terly adumbrated. In his poetry the Korean is hampered rather 
than helped by the character. A large part of his effort is 
expended in the nice balancing of characters with reference to 
their sound, just as if a Western poet were to consider rhyme, 
assonance and alliteration the main elements of true poetry. And 
yet it must be confessed that the character has had a less dele- 
terious effect upon the poetical faculty than upon the logical. 

It may be said with considerable truth that the whole liter- 
ature of Korea, as of China, is history and belles lettres. The 
practical side of life is hardly touched upon. To be sure, there 
are countless aphorisms, and moral essays of an academic char- 
acter are most common, but these in their practical bearing on 
the Chinese or Korean mind are no more than mere polite litera- 
ture, and are always perused as such. 

As for scientific literature, the government now and again 
publishes a ponderous work in a score of volumes on some subject 
like farming, astronomy, medicine or law. A few wealthy gentle- 
men and officials can afford to secure a copy, but as for practical 



3o8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

use by the people, these works are utterly worthless, and would 
be so even if the contents were unimpeachable, — which is prob- 
ably far from the case. 

To make a very long matter short, the literatures of Korea 
and of China have a backward look. Imitation of past writings 
is the highest excellence to be achieved. Not only is there no 
such thing as originality, but the very word itself is wanting, 
and if the idea were expressed by a circumlocution it would be 
laughed at. To what extent the Chinese character is responsible 
for this state of things is a moot question, but I believe that it 
is one of the main causes of the backward condition of these 
peoples. The art of imitation dominates literature, art, dress, 
morals and everything else. Ask a man thoroughly conversant 
with these countries whether it is not true that when you have 
seen a single Chinese temple you have really seen them all, when 
you have heard one piece of music you have heard them all, 
when you have seen one good sample of cloisonne you have seen 
them all, when you have seen one sample of embroidery you 
have seen them all. In this arraignment Japan must be excepted, 
for she has received a new impetus along artistic lines through 
the demand of foreign trade. But I dare say that the true 
Japanese connoisseur to-day would by far prefer the simple and 
pure forms of earlier Japanese art to the more modern departures. 

Korean literature, the more celebrated portions of which are 
all in the Chinese character, consists of voluminous histories, 
some of them running into several scores of volumes, the Chinese 
classics, founded on the Confucian code, belles lettres proper, 
consisting of what the Koreans vaguely call keul, or " writing," 
the nature of it being supposedly poetic, a few heavy works on 
medicine, geography (native), law and government, and finally, 
a large number of biographies. Each family of note will have 
its history transcribed in volume after volume. Many of these 
are in manuscript, waiting for the time when some member of 
the family shall attain wealth and be able to have the work 
published for circulation throughout the clan. 



LITERATURE 309 

We see, then, that quite a list of Korean books could be 
gotten together, but the trouble is that very few Koreans can 
afford to possess them. The ordinary gentleman may have 
half a dozen works of various kinds, but it is only here and 
there that one of them will have what we could call a library. 
And right here comes in a most marked peculiarity of this 
people. While they are very open-handed with their money, as 
a rule, yet in the matter of books they are the utmost misers. 
I know personally of a number of well-stocked libraries in Seoul, 
but it is absolutely impossible even to get a look at them. Not 
only will the owner not lend a book, but he will not show one 
to a visitor except under the most unusual circumstances. They 
do well not to lend, but it is one of the most difficult traits of 
the Korean to explain, — this extreme unwillingness even to 
show a book at his own house. It is easy to see, therefore, that 
the cause of general reading is badly handicapped. There are 
no public libraries, except those in Seoul, which handle fiction 
in the native character, and many of the really valuable works 
are so voluminous that very few can afford to purchase. Let 
me illustrate. One of the really valuable books is the Mun-hon 
Pi-go, an encyclopaedia in one hundred and twelve volumes. This 
work is nearly as well known by name in Korea as the Britannica 
is in England or America, and yet I have never discovered more 
than three copies of it in the country. I worked for months to 
secure even a look at one, and it was only the sudden collapse 
of a wealthy family which threw a copy on the market and gave 
the opportunity to buy. Even then it was a matter of consider- 
able diplomacy. There are half-a-dozen of the leading Korean 
works that I have never been able to set eyes upon even after 
years of inquiry and search. 

When we come to the matter of fiction, we find that the 
imagination of the Korean was not to be held completely in 
check even by the iron grasp of Chinese ideals. 



310 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

FICTION 

To say that Korea has never produced a great novelist is true, 
if we mean by a novelist a person who makes his life-work the 
writing of fiction and bases his literary reputation thereon. But 
if, on the other hand, a man who in the midst of graver literary 
work turns aside to write a successful novel may be called a 
novelist, then Korea has produced a goodly number of them. If 
the word " novel " is restricted to a work of fiction developed in 
great detail and covering a certain minimum number of pages, 
Korea cannot be said to possess many novels, but if a work of 
fiction covering as much ground as, say, Dickens' " Christmas 
Carol " may be called a novel, Korea has thousands of them. 

The literary history of Korea opened in the seventh century 
of our era. The great scholar Ch'oe Chi-wun was the Korean 
Chaucer, and he was one of the very few Koreans whose writ- 
ings have been widely recognised outside the confines of the 
peninsula. But even at the very dawn of letters we find that 
he wrote and published a complete novel under the name " Ad- 
ventures among the Kuen-lun Mountains." It is a fanciful 
account of a Korean's ramblings among the great mountains in 
southern China. The same writer also produced a volume of 
poems and stories. Many of the latter were of a length to 
merit at least the name of novelette. At about the same time 
another writer, Kim Am, wrote a story of adventure in Japan, 
which was quite long enough to be called a novel. 

Kim Pu-sik, the greatest of the Koryu writers, to whom we 
owe the standard History of the Three Kingdoms, wrote a com- 
plete novel in one volume, called " The Story of the Long North 
Wall." This may be called an historical novel, for Korea once 
boasted a counterpart to the Great Wall of China, extending from 
the Yellow Sea to the Japan Sea across the whole of northern 
Korea. 

About 1440 the celebrated monk Ka-san wrote " The Ad- 
ventures of Hong Kil-dong,'' and another monk. Ha Jong, wrote 



LITERATURE 311 

" The Adventures of Kyong-op." Coming down to more modern 
times, we might mention the novel of Yi Mun-jong, written 
about 1760, and bearing the Aristophanean title of " The Frogs." 
Then there were "The Praise of Virtue and Righteousness," 
" Nine Men's Dreams," " A Dream at Keum-san Monastery," 
" The Adventures of Yi Ha-ryong," " The Golden Jewel," " The 
Story of a Clever Woman;" " The Adventures of Sir Rabbit " 
and many others. 

While many of these novels place the scene of the story in 
Korea, others go far afield, China being a favourite setting for 
many purely Korean stories. In this the Koreans have but fol- 
lowed the example of writers in other lands, as the works of Bul- 
wer Lytton, Kingsley, Scott and a host of others bear witness. 

These that we have mentioned are written in Chinese char- 
acters, but Korea is also filled with fiction written only in the 
native character. Nominally these tales are despised by the lit- 
erary class, which forms a small fraction of the people, but in 
reality there are very few even of this class who are not thor- 
oughly conversant with the contents of these novels. They are 
on sale in every bookstore in the country, and in Seoul alone 
there are several circulating libraries where novels both in Chinese 
and in pure Korean are found by the hundreds. Many, in fact 
most, of these novels are anonymous, their character being such 
that they would hardly reflect credit upon their writers. And 
yet, however discreditable they may be, they are a true mirror 
of the morals of Korea to-day. 

The customs which prevail in Korea, as in every other Ori- 
ental country, make it out of the question for anyone to produce 
a " love story " in our sense of the term ; but as the relations of 
the sexes, here as elsewhere, are of absorbing interest, we find 
some explanation of the salacious character of many Korean 
novels. Just as the names of Aspasia and other hetairai play 
such an important part in a certain class of Greek literature, so 
the kisang, or dancing-girl, trips through the pages of Korean 
fiction. 



312 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

There remains here in full force that ancient custom which 
antedates the printing of books, — of handing down stories by 
word of mouth. If a gentleman of means wants to " read " a 
novel, he does not ordinarily send out to a book-stall and buy 
one, but he sends for a kwang-da, or professional story-teller, 
who comes with his attendant and drum and recites a story, 
often consuming an entire day or even two days in the recital. 
Is there any radical difference between this and the novel? In 
truth, it far excels our novel as an artistic production, for the 
trained accent and intonation of the reciter add an histrionic 
element that is quite lacking when one merely reads a novel 
This form of recital takes the place of the drama in Korea ; for, 
strange as it may seem, while both China and Japan have cul- 
tivated the histrionic art for ages, Koreans have never at- 
tempted it. 

Fiction in Korea has always taken a lower place than other 
literary productions, poetry and history being considered the two 
great branches of literature. This is true of all countries whose 
literatures have been largely influenced by China. The use of 
the Chinese character has always made it impossible to write 
as people speak. The vernacular and the written speech have 
always been widely different, and it has always been impossible 
to write a conversation as it is spoken. This in itself is a serious 
obstacle to the proper development of fiction as an art, for when 
the possibility of accurately transcribing a conversation is taken 
away, the life and vigour of a story are largely lost. Dialect 
stories and character sketches are practically barred. And be- 
sides this, subserviency of Chinese literary ideals to the historical 
and poetical forms has made these people cast their fiction also 
in these forms; and so we often find that a genuine romance is 
hidden under such a title as " The Biography of Cho Sang-geun/' 
or some other equally tame. It is this limitation of the power 
of written language to transcribe accurately human speech that 
has resulted in the survival of the professional story-teller, and 
it is the same thing that has made Korean written fiction inferior 



UTERATURE 313 

and secondary to history and poetry. In this, as in so many 
other things, Korea shows the evil effects of her subserviency 
to Chinese ideals. 

But the question may be asked, To what extent is fiction read 
in Korea as compared with other literary productions? There 
is a certain small number of the people who probably confine 
their reading to history and poetry, but even among the so-called 
educated classes the large majority have such a rudimentary 
knowledge of the Chinese character that they cannot read with 
any degree of fluency. There is no doubt that these confine their 
reading to the mixed script of the daily newspaper or the novels 
written in the native character. It is commonly said that women 
are the greatest readers of these native books. This is because 
the men affect to despise the native alphabet, but the truth is 
that an overwhelming majority, even of the supposedly literate, 
can read nothing else with any degree of fluency, and so they 
and the middle classes are constant readers of the native books. 
As in America, so in Korea the newspapers and novels form the 
greater part of the literary pabulum of the masses. 

It is a hopeful sign that there is nothing about this native 
alphabet or writing that prevents its being used as idiomatically 
and to as good effect as English is used in fiction to-day; and 
it is to be hoped that the time will soon come when someone 
will do for Korea what Defoe and other pioneers did for English 
fiction, namely, write a standard work of fiction in the popular 
tongue. 



CHAPTER XXIV 
MUSIC AND POETRY 

IN spite of the evidence to the contrary borne to our ears 
on every summer breeze, Korean music is not a myth. 
The sounds seem peculiar and far from pleasing, because 
we do not bring to them the Korean temperament and 
training, but the more artificial Western ear. We complain 
because they do not " keep time " ; but why should they ? There 
is no analogy for it in nature. The thrush does not "keep 
time,*' and the skylark, that joy of Korean waste places, knows 
nothing of art. It is a question whether music, as a pure expres- 
sion of feeling, should be hampered by " time " any more than 
poetry should be hampered by rhyme. There are times when 
both rhyme and time are necessary adjuncts, and even Korean 
music frequently shows a rhythmic succession of notes which 
closely approximates to what we call " time." 

Koreans like our music as little as we like theirs, and for 
the same reason. It means nothing to them. Our harmonies 
seem to them like a veritable jargon of sounds, but they take 
genuine pleasure in that indescribable medley of thumps and 
squeaks which emanate from a Korean orchestra. To us it 
seems as if there were no rhyme or reason in it, but in truth 
every note is produced according to a fixed law. There is a 
distinct science of music here that has been in existence for 
upwards of fifteen hundred years. Every note and cadence is 
produced according to a specific law. It only illustrates what is 
true of all art, that we must bring to it a trained sense in order 
to appreciate it. 



MUSIC AND POETRY 315 

Each of the Korean musical instruments has a long history 
back of it. The komungo may be described as a long, narrow 
bass viol without any neck. It lies upon the floor, and the 
player plucks the strings with his right hand while he " fingers " 
them with his left hand near the " bridge." In other words, he 
reverses the method which we adopt and plucks where we would 
finger and fingers where we would bow. The result is not par- 
ticularly edifying, but they have never learned, even during 
nearly seventeen hundred years, that they are playing at the 
wrong end of the instrument. This komungo dates from the 
days of ancient Silla, and history takes particular pains to 
describe its origin. The flute is commonly used in Korea, but 
it differs in shape from ours. If a Western flute were sawed 
in two through the mouth hole, it would approximate to the 
Korean instrtmient. It is held squarely against the mouth, the 
lower lip of the performer closing the open end of the tube while 
he blows down into the semicircular hole. Of all the Korean 
instrtmients this sounds most like our Western ones. The flute 
is also a very ancient instrument, for we read in history of a 
jade flute that formed one of the heirlooms of the Silla dynasty 
nearly two thousand years ago. The curious story is told of it 
that if carried to any other place than the town of Kyong-ju, 
the site of the ancient Silla, it would emit no sound whatever. 
Koreans firmly believe that it is still preserved among the 
archives of that southern town. The hageum, or violin, looks 
like a large croquet mallet with a short handle; moreover, the 
head is hollow. The strings, two in number, are stretched from 
the head to the end of the handle, where they are fastened to a 
spool-like peg. The hair of the bow is interlaced between the 
strings of the violin, and the fingering is done by throwing the 
thumb around the " handle " and then hooking one or other 
of the fingers over the strings. The result is anything but edify- 
ing, and it is safe to say that this instrument must have existed 
many centuries to have taken the hold it has upon the aflfec- 
tions of the Korean people. They have a species of zither. 



3i6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

which has the peculiarity of being triple-strung, like our modem 
pianos. It is struck with a sliver of bamboo. One ancient form 
of instrument consists of a set of metal bangles, which are struck 
as we strike a triangle. This is a very ancient instnunent, but 
there was an interval of several centuries when not a single 
sample of it could be found in the country. Only historical 
notices remained; when fortunately, or otherwise, one of them 
was found at the bottom of a well which was being cleaned. 
This is something of a commentary upon the frequency with 
which the latter operation is performed. The drum has existed 
here from of old. It takes various forms, and is very com- 
monly used instead of a bell. In the town of Taiku a huge 
drum is used for this purpose. It is larger than a full-sized 
hogshead. When used for music, the drum varies in size from 
one foot in diameter to three; but there are various forms, — 
the kettle-drum and the hour-glass variety, the latter being 
struck only with the hand. Strange to say, this hour-glass drum 
is almost the only instrument used as an accompaniment for 
singing. 

Vocal music is divided into two distinct classes, — the sijo, 
or classical style, and the hacWi, or popular style. The former of 
these may be described as extremely andante and tremuloso, 
and it is frequently punctuated by the drum. The progress of 
such a piece is very slow and dignified, and the length of time 
that a single note is sometimes held makes one wonder whether 
the singer will succeed in getting another breath. The Koreans 
say that it requires long and patient practice to render a classical 
production well. We can well believe this, considering the time 
it takes to get used to listening to it. It is sung to perfection 
only by the professional dancing-girls; not because the senti- 
ments are more properly expressed by them than by more 
respectable people, though this is too often the case, but because 
they are the only ones who have the leisure to give to its culti- 
vation. To the Westerner there is nothing pleasing in this 
style of singing. It is one succession of long-drawn-out tremu- 



MUSIC AND POETRY 



317 



lous notes with no appreciable melody. The popular style, how- 
ever, is comparatively like our own singing, and through many 
of the songs there runs a distinct melody which can be reduced 
to the Western musical score. The element of " time " has been 
considerably developed, and one can follow the air with ease. 
The following are samples of a few of the most popular motifs 
in Korean popular songs : 



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3i8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The Koreans are very fond of music, and the children on 
the street are always singing. On a summer evening* they will 
gather in little companies and sing in unison their queer little 
" Mother Goose " melodies. Each one shouts at the top of his 
or her voice, and at a little distance the effect is not disagreeable. 
The commonest of all these songs, and one that is familiar to 
every child in Korea, begins as follows: 

On Saijai's slope, in Mungyung town 
We hew \htpaktal namu down 
To make the smooth and polished clubs 
With which the washerwoman drubs 
Her master's clothes. 

And then follows a chorus which has about as much sense 
as our own classical 

Hei diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle. 

This song has innumerable verses, and can be indefinitely ex- 
tended by clever improvisation. 

In the spring, when the grasses and rushes are beginning to 
grow, almost every child will have his little reed whistle, just 
as American boys have their willow whistles, but the Korean 
instrument is quite diflferent from ours. It is made on the prin- 
ciple of the flageolet. Two of the reeds are usually tied together 
so that a double note is produced. 

One of the most characteristic Korean sounds is that 
of a very shrill, cornet-like instrument, which drones out a 
weird minor strain of a summer evening. No Westerner will 
ever quite understand why the Korean takes such pleasure 
in the monotonous but strident note of this implement of 
torture. 

Music is considered one of the lesser arts, not only in Korea 
but also in China. As a profession, music occupies much the 
same position here that ballet-dancing does in the West. The 
best that can be said of it is that it is not necessarily disrep- 
utable. There are no professional singers in Korea, except the 



MUSIC AND POETRY 319 

dancing-girls, and they cultivate music merely to enhance their 
meretricious charms. These people have never conceived of 
music as a great moral force; it has always been counted as 
merely an instrument of sensual pleasure, and as such has been 
classed with dancing, drinking and debauchery. It is for this 
reason that common music is denominated chap-doen sorai, 
" low down noise," by respectable people, and only one song 
in ten could with decency be published. 

These people have a sort of musical notation which differs 
radically from ours. It has no staff and no notes, but simply 
a string of Chinese characters which indicate in some occult 
manner the various cadences. If we were to attempt a com- 
parison with the Western method, we might say that it is like 
reducing the tune " Yankee Doodle " to the form do do re mi 
do mi re si do do re mi do si sol, etc. 

We must not forget the Korean labour songs, which form, 
to the Western ear, the most charming portion of Korean music. 
The peculiar and elusive rhythm of these songs is quite unique 
in its way. It captures the ear, and you find yourself humming 
it over to yourself ad nauseam. It is a curious psychological 
study. Throughout the East there is a lack of the personal ele- 
ment. Individuality is adumbrated, and men count themselves 
not so much integral factors of society as mere fractions of a 
social whole. The unit of society is not the individual nor even 
the family, but it is the clan, the company, the crowd. Thus 
in their work they band together and accomplish tasks by the 
multiplication of muscle. This necessitates a rhythmic motion, 
in order that force may be applied at the same instant by every 
arm. Each band of ten or twelve workers has its leader, whose 
only duty is to conduct the chorus. He stands at one side and 
chants a strain of four syllables, and immediately the men take 
it up and repeat it after him. No work is done while he is 
singing, but as the men take up the chant they all heave to- 
gether. It seems a great waste of time, but it would be very 
difficult to get Koreans to do certain forms of work in any 



320 



THE PASSING OF KOREA 



other way. The following indicates very imperfectly a Korean 
labour song: 




Leader 



Men 



Leader 



.EADER 






Take 






Men 



a hold there Take a hold there Don't be laz 
Leader Men 



- 7 



^ 



=t 



^ 



Don't be laz - y Whoop her up 
Leader Men Leader 




Whoop her up 
Men 



^ 




Ho, there! Ho, there 1 Knock 'em sil - ly Knock 'em sil • 
Leader Men All Together 



^ 



Now the cho - rus Now the cho • rus Hey 



^ 



^ 



m 



? 



=5? 



=5=15= 



. . ah 



Hey 



ah! 



The leader uses mostly a certain set formula, but now and 
again he will improvise in a most amusing way, to the great 
delight of the men. They all seem to be in good humour, and 
are apparently able to make their work seem like play. 

In connection with music we must take up the subject of 
Korean poetry, since this forms the subject matter of their vocal 
music. 

Dialect stories are interesting because of their raciness, due 
to oddities of idiom and pronunciation ; but these peculiarities 
are not felt, of course, by the people of whom it is the ordinary 
mode of speech. The humour of most dialect stories is of that 
low order which rests simply upon incongruity. So it is that 
we are sometimes deceived when it comes to the poetry of other 
peoples, or even to the life, customs and manners of other 



MUSIC AND POETRY 321 

peoples. When a Korean says to you, " Is not the great man's 
stomach empty ? " it makes you smile, whereas to him it means 
simply, " Are n't you hungry ? " 

This is my reason for rejecting all literal translations of 
Korean poetry. Such translations would not convey to us the 
same sensation that the original does to the Korean ; and, after 
all, that is what we are primarily after. The first difficulty lies 
in the fact that Korean poetry is so condensed. A half-dozen 
Chinese characters, if properly collocated, may convey more 
meaning than a whole paragraph in English. One song, for 
instance, states the matter as baldly as this: 

This month, third month, willow becomes green ; 

Oriole preens herself ; 

Butterfly flutters about. 

Boy, bring zither. Must sing. 

It cannot be said that this means nothing to us, but the bald 
translation conveys nothing of the feeling which the Korean 
experiences when he sees the original. If I have at least par- 
tially caught the inner sense of it, the following would better 
represent what it means to the Korean : 

The willow catkin bears the vernal blush of summer's dawn 

When winter's night is done. 
The oriole that preens herself aloft on swaying bough 

Is summer's harbinger. 
The butterfly, with noiseless //?///Jf/ of her pulsing wing, 

Marks off the summer hour. 
Quick, boy! My zither I Do its strings accord ? 'T is well. Strike up. 

For I must sing. 

Another purely Korean poem that would appear utterly 
insipid to the uninitiated might be rendered freely: 

O mountain blue, 
Be thou my oracle. Thou stumbling-block to clouds, 
Years have not marred thee nor thine eye of memory dimmed. 
Past, present, future seem to find eternal throne 
Upon thy legend-haunted crest. O mountain blue, 

Be thou my oracle. 



322 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

O mountain blue, 
Deliver up thy lore. Tell me, this hour, the name 
Of him, most worthy — be he child, or man, or sage — 
Who 'neath thy summit, hailed to-morrow, wrestled with 
To-day or reached out memory's hands toward yesterday. 

Deliver up thy lore. 

O mountain blue, 
Be thou my cenotaph ; and when, long ages hence. 
Some youth, presumptuous, shall again thy secret guess. 
Thy lips unseal, among the names of them who claim 
The guerdon of thy praise, I pray let mine appear. 

Be thou my cenotaph. 

Here we have a purely Korean picture — a youth on his way 
to attend the national examination, his life before him. He 
has stopped to rest on the slope of one of the grand moun- 
tains of Korea, and he thinks of all that must have trodden that 
same path to honours and success; and as he gazes up at the 
rock-ribbed giant, the spirit of poetry seizes him and he demands 
of the mountain who these successful ones may be. Between 
the second and third verses we imagine him fallen asleep and 
the mountain telling him in his dreams the long story of those 
worthy ones. As the youth awakes and resumes his journey, 
he looks up and asks that his name may be added to that list. 
In what more delicate or subtle way could he ask the genius of 
the mountain to follow him and bring him success? 

There is another song that may be placed in that much 
maligned category of " Spring poems,'* whose deprecation nets 
the comic papers such a handsome sum. 

The Korean is your true lover of springtime. The harsh- 
ness of his winter is mitigated by no glowing hearth or cosey 
chimney-corner. Winter means to him a dungeon, twelve by 
eight, dark, dirty, poisonous. Spring means to, him emancipa- 
tion, breathing space, pure pleasure, — animal pleasure, if you 
will, — but the touch of spring affects him to the finger-tips and 
makes his senses " stir with poetry as leaves with summer wind.'* 
He is simply irrepressible. He must have song. 



MUSIC AND POETRY 323 

One branch of Korean classical music deals with convivial 
songs. This looks somewat paradoxical, but if Hogarth's paint- 
ings are classical, a convivial song may be. 

'Twas years ago that Kim and I 
Struck hands and swore, however dry 
The lip might be, or sad the heart, 
The merry wine should have no part 
In mitigating sorrow*s blow 
Or quenching thirst. 'T was long ago. 

And now I Ve reached the flood-tide mark 

Of life ; the ebb begins, and dark 

The future lowers. The tide of wine 

Will never ebb. 'T will aye be mine 

To mourn the desecrated fane 

Where that lost pledge of youth lies slain. 

Nay, nay, begone ! The jocund bowl 
Again shall bolster up my soul 
Against itself. What, good-man, hold ! 
Canst tell me where red wine is sold ? 
Nay, just beyond yon peach-tree ? There ? 
Good luck be thine ; I 'U thither fare. 

We have here first the memory of the lost possibilities of 
youth; then the realisation of to-day's slavery, and, lastly, the 
mad rush to procure that which alone will bring forgetfulness. 
Not an exclusively Korean picture, surely. 

In central Korea there is a lofty precipice overlooking a 

little lakelet. It is called " The Precipice of the Falling Flowers," 

and I venture to say that, with no other evidence at hand than 

this, the reader would be compelled to grant that Koreans have 

genuine poetic feeling in them, for the story is something as 

follows : 

In Pakche's halls is heard a sound of woe. 

The craven King, with prescience of his fate, 

Has fled, by all his warrior knights encinct. 

Nor wizard's art nor reeking sacrifice 

Nor martial host can stem the tidal wave 

Of Silla's vengeance. Flight, the coward's boon, 

Is his ; but by his flight his Queen is worse 



324 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Than widowed ; left a prey to war's caprice, 

The invader's insult and the conqueror's jest. 

Silent she sits among her trembling maids, 

Whose loud lament and clam'rous grief bespeak 

Their anguish less than hers. But lo! She smiles. 

And, beckoning with her hand, she leads them forth 

Without the wall, as when in days of peace 

They held high holiday in nature's haunts. 

But now behind them sounds the horrid din 

Of ruthless war, and on they speed to where 

A beetling precipice frowns ever at 

Itself within the mirror of a pool 

By spirits haunted. Now the steep is scaled. 

With flashing eye and heaving breast she turns 

And kindles thus heroic flame where erst 

Were ashes of despair. '*Th' insulting foe 

Has boasted loud that he will cull the flowers 

Of Pakche. Let him learn his boast is vain ; 

For never shall they say that Pakche's Queen 

Was less than queenly. Lo ! The spirits wait 

In yon dark pool. Though deep the abyss and harsh 

Death's summons, we shall fall into their arms 

As on a bed of down and pillow there 

Our heads in conscious innocence." This said, 

She leads them to the brink. Hand clasped in hand. 

In sisterhood of woe ; an instant thus — 

Then forth into the void they leap, brave hearts ! 

Like drifting petals of the plum, soft blown 

By April's perfumed breath, so fell the flowers 

Of Pakche; but in falling rose aloft 

To honour's pinnacle. 

The Korean delights in introducing poetical allusions into 
his folk-tales. It is only a line here and there, for his poetry 
is nothing if not spontaneous. He sings like the bird, because 
he cannot help it. One of the best of this style is the story of 
Cho-ung, who, after nailing to the palace gate his defiance of 
the usurper of his master's throne, fled to a distant monaster}^, 
and after mastering the science of war, came forth to destroy 
that usurper. The first day he became possessed in a marvellous 
way of a sword and a steed, and at night, still clad in his monk's 
garments, he enjoyed the hospitality of a country gentleman. 
As he stands at the window of his chamber, looking out upon 



MUSIC AND POETRY 325 

the moonlit scene, he hears the sound of a zither, which must be 
touched by fairy fingers; for though no words are sung, the 
music interprets itself. 

Sad heart, sad heart, thou waitest long, 

For love's deep fountain thirsting. 
Must winter linger in my soul, 

Tho' April's buds are bursting ? 

The forest deep, at love's behest. 

His heart of oak hath riven. 
This lodge to rear, where I might greet 

My hero, fortune-driven. 

But heartless fortune, mocking me, 

My knight far hence hath banished ; 
And sends, instead, this cowl-drawn monk, 

From whom love*s hope hath vanished. 

This throbbing zither I have ta'en 

To speed my heart's fond message ; 
To call from heaven the Wonang bird, 

Love's sign and joy's sure presage. 

But fate, mid-heaven, hath caged the bird 

That, only, love's note utters ; 
And in its stead a magpie foul 

Into my bosom flutters. 

Piqued at this equivocal praise, Cho-ung draws out his flute, 
his constant companion, and answers his unseen critic in notes 
that plainly mean : 

Ten years, among the halls of learning, I have shunned 
The shrine of love, life's synonym ; and dreamt, vain youth. 
That having conquered nature's secrets I could wrest 
From life its crowning jewel, love. 'T was not to be. 
To-night I hear a voice from some far sphere that bids 
The lamp of love to bum, forsooth, but pours no oil 
Into its chalice. Woe is me ; full well I know 
There is no bridge that spans the gulf from earth to heaven. 
E'en though I deem her queen in yon fair moon enthroned. 
The nearest of her kin, can I breathe soft enough 
Into this flute to make earth silence hold that she 
May hear; or shrill so loud to pierce the Armament 
And force the ear of night ? 



326 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

However that may be, he solved the difficulty by leaping over 
the mud wall that separated them and gained her promise to 
become his wife, which promise she fulfilled after he had led an 
army against the usurper and driven him from the throne. 

Korean poetry is all of a lyric nature. There is nothing in 
the nature of an epic. The language does not lend itself to that 
form of expression. It is all nature music, pure and simple. It 
is all passion, sensibility, emotion. It deals with personal, domes- 
tic, even trivial matters oftentimes, and for this reason it may 
be called narrow. But we must remember that their horizon is 
pitifully circumscribed. If they lavish a world of passion on 
a trivial matter, it is because in their small world these things 
are relatively great. The swaying of a willow bough, the erratic 
flight of a butterfly, the falling of a petal, the droning of a pass- 
ing bee, means more to a Korean, perhaps, than to one whose 
life is broader. 

Here we have the fisherman's song as he returns from his 
work at night : 

As darts the sun his setting rays 

Athwart the shimmering mere. 
My fishing-line reluctantly 

I furl and homeward steer. 

Far out along the foam-tipped waves 

The shower-fairies trip, 
Where sea-gulls, folding weary wing, 

Alternate rise and dip. 

A willow withe through silver gills, 

My trophies I display. 
To yonder wine-shop first I '11 hie ; 

Then homeward wend my way. 

In the following we find a familiar strain. It is the Korean 
setting of " O for a lodge in some vast wilderness ! " 

Weary of the ceaseless clamour, 
Of the false smile and the glamour 

Of the place they call the world ; 
Like the sailor home returning, 
For the wave no longer yearning, 

I my sail of life'have furled. 



MUSIC AND POETRY 327 

Deep within this mountain fastness, 
Minified by nature's vastness, 

Hermit-wise a lodge I '11 build. 
Clouds shall lorm the frescoed ceiling, 
Heaven's blue depths but half revealing ; 

Sunbeam raftered, starlight filled. 

In this lakelet deep I *11 fetter 

Yon fair moon. Oh, who could better 

Nature's self incarcerate ? 
Though, for ransom, worlds be o£Eered, 
I will scorn the riches proffered. 

Keep her still and laugh at fate. 

And when Autumn's hand shall scatter 
Leaves upon my floor, what matter, 

Since I have the wind for broom ? 
Cleaning house mere play Til reckon, 
Only to the storm-sprites beckon. 

With their floods they '11 cleanse each room. 

From this it would seem that the Koreans cannot be charged 
with a lack of imagination but rather with an exuberance of it. 
The following few lines to a mountain brook show that in his 
appreciation of nature the Korean is not far behind the more 
polished poet of the West. 

O cloud-bom rivulet, that down this mountain slope 

Dost thread thy devious way, fret not thyself because 

Obstructions bar thy path, nor say " I may not be." 

The rock that buffets thee to-day shall melt away 

Before thy constancy. Thou 'rt mightier than man ; 

For though, by human craft, athwart thy humble course 

Mountains be piled, Time shall be with thee, and ye twain 

Shall overtop them all. Though thou be curbed and bound, 

Divided, used, aye, soiled, a thousand //' shall seem, 

In retrospect, triumphal progress. Dost thou now. 

Like trembling hare, peep forth from out yon covert's shade? 

Fear not, but know that ere days shall give birth to months, 

Thy voice shall mingle with the chorus of the sea. 

I will add but a single illustration of the poetic element in 
Korean folk-lore. It is the legend of the casting of the great 
bell that hangs in the centre of Seoul. 



328 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

The master-founder stands with angry brow 

Before the bell, across whose graven side 

A fissure deep proclaims his labour naught 

For thrice the furnace blast has yielded up 

Its glowing treasure to the mould, and thrice 

The tortured metal, writhing as in pain, 

Has burst the brazen casement of the bell. 

And now like a dumb bullock of the lists. 

That stands at bay while nimble toreadors 

Fling out the crimson challenge in his face, 

And the hot, clamouring crowd with oaths demand 

The fatal stroke ; so hangs the sullen bell 

From his thwart beam, refusing still to lend 

His voice to swell the song hymeneal, 

To toll the requiem of the passing dead, 

Or bid the sun good-night with curfew sad. 

The master-founder speaks : ** If but an ounce 

Of that rare metal, which the spirits hide 

From mortal sight, were mingled with the flux, 

It would a potion prove so powerful 

To ease the throes of birth and in the place 

Of disappointment bring fruition glad.'' 

And lo ! a royal edict, at the hand 

Of couriers swift, speeds o'er the land like flame 

Across the stubble-drift of sun-dried plains. 

** Let prayer be made to spirits of the earth 

That they may render up their treasure, lest 

Our royal city, like a Muslim mute, 

Shall have no tongue to voice her joy or pain." 

The great sun reddened with the altar smoke; 

The very clouds caught up their trailing skirts 

And fled the reek of burning hecatombs; 

But still the nether spirits gave no sign. 

When, look! a mother^ witch comes leading through 

The city gate a dimpled child and cries, 

" If to the molten mass you add this child, 

'Twill make a rare amalgam, aye, so rare 

That he who once has heard the bell's deep tone 

Shall ever after hunger for it more 

Than for the voice of mother, wife or child." 

Again the furnace fires leap aloft; 

Again the broken fragments of the bell 

Cast off their torpor at the touch of flame. 

Unpitying are the hands that cast the child 

Into that seething mass. Fit type of Hell ! 

Nay, type of human shame, that innocence 



MUSIC AND POETRY 329 

Should thus be made to bear the heavy cross 

For empty pageantry. How could it be 

That Justice should permit the flowing years 

To wash away the mem'ry of that shame ? 

Nor did she. Through that seeming metal coursed 

The life-blood of the child. Its fibre clothed 

A human soul. Supernal alchemy ! 

And when the gathered crowd stood motionless 

And mute to hear the birth-note of the bell, 

And the great tongue-beam, hung by linkM chain 

Aloft, smote on his brazen breast, *t was no 

Bell cry that came forth of his cavern throat. 

'T was Emmi^ Emmt, Emmt\ EmmiiU, 

" O Mother, woe is me, O Mother mine ! " * 

^ The Koreans hear in the dull thud of the wooden beam against the bell a far- 
off resemblance to the word em-mi, which means '* mother." Hence the legend. 



CHAPTER XXV 
ART 

THE Korean is highly susceptible to the melodies of 
art; but not to its harmonies. May this not be said 
of Far Eastern art in general? Japan is the home 
of bijouterie, but the higher forms of art which 
require for their production the genius of combination are con- 
spicuous by their absence. The single exception may be found 
in Japanese landscape gardening, but even here their art is 
dwarfed and cramped. Now this ability to combine different 
elements for a general effect is quite lacking in the Korean. If 
you go into a Korean gentleman's gfarden, for instance, you may 
find some beautiful plants, but huddled together in such a way 
that they can give no pleasure. The Korean way is to pick out 
one of these and place it by itself to be admired as an individual 
object. He has no idea of grouping them so that each may 
enhance the beauty of the others. However many works of art 
a Korean may possess, he will not have more than one or two 
of them exposed at a time. After one of them has been standing 
for a week or two in his sarang, or reception room, it will be 
removed and another substituted for it. In this way he enjoys 
a variety and does not soon tire of his collection. It may be 
objected that this is not due to ignorance of the effects of com- 
bination, but because the Korean house is so arranged that it 
does not admit of an effective combination of several works of 
art at one and the same time: We believe, however, that if 
Koreans had any instinct for effective combinations they would 
long since have found a way to make them possible. 

It cannot be said that the Korean is lacking in the aesthetic 
instinct, but its development has been narrow. There has been 



ART 331 

no scientific development in their art, no formulation of aesthetic 
laws, no intermixture of a rational or regulative method. The 
statement that there is a pronounced arithmetical element in 
music, that geometry is essential to successful landscape garden- 
ing or that a knowledge of conic sections is essential to bridge- 
building, would arouse only mirth in the Korean. But it is 
nevertheless true that the lack of the mathematical element has 
deprived all Asia of genuine martial music. 

A Korean house is a good illustration of the statement that 
bijouterie is the prevailing aim of their art. However large the 
house may be or however spacious the site, the place is divided 
by a network of walls into a vast number of alleys and court- 
yards, each very pretty in its way, but destroying all possibility 
of effective combination. The whole space is frittered away in 
a labyrinth of cheerless walls, which to the Westerner are more 
suggestive of a prison than a residence. Now the Korean 
delights in this bee-hive sort of existence. Each suite of rooms 
has its special charm to him. In one of them he keeps, perhaps, 
a beautifully embroidered screen, in another an ancient vase 
which is a family heirloom, and in another a rare potted palm or 
cactus; but he would never think of exhibiting all these things 
in combination. 

One advantage that arises from their one-thing-at-a-time 
form of aesthetic development is that it can be shared more 
equally by high and low alike. If a single flowering plant can 
give as much pleasure as a whole gfardenful, the poor man is 
much nearer his wealthy neighbour in his opportunities for 
aesthetic pleasure than is the case in Western countries. 

This method has its advantages. It tends to a concentration 
of attention and a consequent exactness in detail which are not 
generally found in connection with a broader form of art. His 
embroidered butterfly will be worked out to a painful point of 
exactness, while the perspective of the whole scene may be ludi- 
crously wrong. The Korean almost invariably makes the farther 
edge of the table longer on his canvas than the nearer edge, and 



332 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

I once saw a magnificently embroidered stork standing- on one 
leg, while the other leg, which was held up gracefully, passed 
behind a tree that stood at least ten feet beyond the bird. It 
may be that the Korean has always been so closely shut up by 
walls that he has never so much as imagined such a thing as a 
" vanishing point." 

I am not sure but it is this love of detail that has led to the 
introduction of the grotesque and monstrous into the art of the 
whole East; a sort of protest against their limitations. The 
aesthetic nature having been confined so long in narrow channels 
was forced to find a vent for itself in some way, and did so by a 
violent rupture into the realm of the fantastic. So we find in 
every picture some dwarfed tree or curiously water-worn rock, 
— some malformation that excites the curiosity. No picture of 
an ancient warrior is correct unless he has warts as big as 
walnuts all over his face, and eyebrows that rival his beard in 
length. 

As to colour in art, the Koreans are still as primitive as in 
ancient days. Their red is the red of blood or of the peppers 
that lie ripening on their roofs. Their green is the vivid green 
of the new-sprouting rice or the dark blue-gjeen of the pine- 
tree. Nature's colours are in their art as nature's sounds are 
in their wonderfully mimetic language. 

As to form in art, the Korean is strictly a realist, except in 
so far as he has impinged upon the realm of the fantastic. There 
are no idealised expressions in his art, no winged cherubs, no 
personification of any power of nature, no Cupid with his bow 
and arrows; and it is just because of this lack of imaginative 
power that such a thing as aesthetic combination is unthought 
of. Imagination is the power of arranging and rearranging 
one's mental furniture in such a way as to produce new and 
pleasing, or useful, combinations; and if a man has not this 
power, the arrangement of his house furniture, the colours on 
his canvas, the notes of his music and the flowers of his gfarden 
must all suffer. It is this lack which has made Korean history 



ART 333 

so bare of great men. Had it not been for the dreamers of 
history, we should have had no Columbus, or Newton, or Hide- 
yoshi or Genghis Khan. Imagination is the mother of enter- 
prise and the forerunner of achievement, and the lack of it has 
made Korea the " shrimp between two whales." 

But some may say that the common belief in evil spirits and 
the genii of mountain, tree and stream implies a high degree 
of imaginative power. Not so; this is nothing but instinct, the 
natural working of the law of self-preservation. You might as 
well say that the porcupine has imagination because he rolls up 
into a ball and presents the thorny side of life to the approaching 
enemy. The crudest method of explaining obscure phenomena 
is the attributing of them to the agency of demons, genii and 
spirits. So far from being evidence of an imaginative nature, 
this demon worship argues the very opposite. He fails to see 
things in their proper relations, and he remains oblivious of the 
fact that, running through these phenomena, there is a oneness 
of plan and an adaptation of means to ends which precludes the 
possibility of his horde of spirits. It is moral instinct which has 
led him to reason out some personal agency in the conduct of 
human affairs. In other words, it is conscience, which, from the 
pagan point of view, does " make cowards of us all." The con- 
sciousness of personal demerit makes the Korean picture his 
spirits and goblins as inimical to man, and produces that servility, 
as distinguished from humility, which is indelibly stamped upon 
all pagan worship. 

But we must hasten to enumerate briefly some of the most 
conspicuous forms of Korean art. We have already mentioned 
music. Architecture has never been looked upon here as a fine 
art. It is entirely utilitarian, except in the case of royal palaces 
and temples, and even here art is exhibited almost exclusively 
in the decorations. These and other architectural decorations 
may be passed by with brief mention, for they are anything but 
artistic to the Western eye. In mural decoration they have pro- 
duced some pleasing effects, but they are very crude and will 



334 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

not bear comparison with what goes under that name in our 
own lands. Embroidery upon silk is considered by Koreans to 
be one of their finest achievements in the line of art. Some of 
it is fairly well executed, but the very best will not begin to 
compare with even the medium grades in China or Japan. 
Painting sketches of branches of trees, sprays of flowers, bunches 
of grass, and old stumps and rocks with a brush pen and India 
ink is a favourite form of artistic work, and here we find regu- 
larly formulated laws. Each blade of grass must droop in ac- 
cordance with a fixed law, and each flower must stand at just 
the right angle from the stem. After many years of familiarity 
with these things, even the Westerner finds a certain amount of 
interest in these pictures, and while they would be called the 
veriest daubs by the uninitiated, we must confess that they make 
a certain approximation to what we might call real art. It is 
a question, however, whether it is worth the time it takes to 
learn to appreciate it. 

In the line of ceramics Korea has nothing to show. Long 
centuries ago she may have had some slight claims to considera- 
tion along this line, but there are very few evidences of it 
to-day. It is common for travellers to buy small iron boxes 
ornamented with inlaid silver or nickel. The work is crude, but 
the Greek key pattern which is usually followed redeems them 
from utter contempt. Some of the silver filigree work that is 
done, especially in the far northeast, is worthy of mention, but 
the artisans have only a few set designs, and these they follow 
so slavishly as to suggest the idea that they are heirlooms. In- 
laying mother-o'-pearl in a kind of lacquer upon boxes, chests, 
and cabinets has a pleasing effect, but the inartistic forrhs of 
the objects thus decorated detract much from the general result. 
In this also the key pattern is most prominent. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

EDUCATION 

IT has been only in the capital and in a few of the promi- 
nent provincial centres that there has been any consider- 
able modification of the immemorial methods of education, 
and so we will first explain the old system, which still 
generally prevails, and afterward note the modem innovations. 

Education, in its narrower sense of scholastic training, was 
introduced into Korea from China along with the literature and 
religions of that land. Both the subject matter and the method 
are therefore exotic rather than indigenous. For this reason 
it is easy to explain why Korea has no national literature of a 
distinctive type. Through all the long centuries education has 
meant the study of the Chinese character and the great classics 
which form the recognised curriculum of China. Most educated 
Koreans can tell you much more about the history of China 
than they can about their own national history; just as any 
English or American college boy can tell you more about Latin 
grammar than he can about the grammar of his own tongue. 

With the few exceptions to be noted later, there are no public 
schools in Korea. It is only within the last decade that such a 
thing as an educational bureau has existed in Seoul. Even 
to-day the annual appropriation for this purpose amounts only 
to twenty thousand dollars, a large part of which is used in 
office expenses. 

Generally speaking, education is a private affair and has so 
been considered from the first. Every village has its little room, 
always in a private house, where the boys sit on the floor with 
their large-print books of Chinese characters before them, and, 
as they sway back and forth with half-shut eyes, they drone out 



336 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the sounds of the ideographs, not in unison, but each for him- 
self. There is no such thing as a class, for no two of the boys 
are together, and to the unaccustomed ear the babel that results 
is almost stunning. But the system has its good as well as its 
bad points. 

As the boys are not graded, the bright ones are not held back 
by the dull ones, nor are the dull ones forced ahead superficially 
in order to preserve the semblance of grade. Each one goes 
on his merits, and individuality is developed more than in our 
schools. Then, again, the deafening noise about him compels 
the boy to extreme concentration upon his own work. It is 
difficult for us to fancy that mentality would be possible under 
the circiunstances, but the truth is that no one of those shouting 
boys hears any other than his own voice. The outside confu- 
sion, instead of shattering his mental processes, drives him in 
upon himself and probably enables him to memorise better than 
if he were alone. On the other hand, the Chinese method puts 
a veto upon all esprit de corps, and the boy loses a large part of 
the beneficial influence of comparison and competition. 

The study of the ideograph is a consuming passion with the 
well-born Korean. We talk about burning the midnight oil, 
but the determined Korean student is said to tie a string about 
the beam overhead and attach the end to his top-knot in order 
to keep himself from falling over and going to sleep. 

Pedagogy is neither a finished science nor a fine art in Korea. 
It merely consists in sitting before the boys with a stick and 
seeing that each one continues to shout, but there is plenty of 
evidence that, under cover of the noise, the urchins frequently 
talk with each other, as the choir boys in a Devonshire church 
are said to have done. During an antiphonal chant one boy 
changed the devotional words to : " John, ye owe me fower 
marbles.'* And the reply came back in sacred song: " You 'm 
a liar; 't is but two." 

However high may be the esteem in which letters are held, 
the ordinary teacher is a very humble member of so-called good 



EDUCATION 337 

society. He is treated politely by everyone, but he is looked 
upon very much as a pensioner. He receives no salary, but the 
boys bring him frequent presents, and he ekes out a living in 
some way. But there is a more dignified side to the question. 
Teaching seems to be looked upon as a thing that cannot be 
estimated in money value. You can buy the services of a 
cobbler or a mason, but knowledge is too fine a thing to be 
bartered. The same holds true of medicine. The physician 
takes no regular fee, but is the recipient of a giit proportionate 
to the wealth of the patient and the amount of service rendered. 
Nominally the service is a gift. 

In all Korea there is nothing corresponding to our learned 
professions, where large fees are required and the service ren- 
dered is almost purely an intellectual one. 

Throughout the history of this country the aim of the boy 
has been to master the classics and acquire a literary style which 
will carry him through the national examinations called kwaga. 
These were of various kinds. The novitiates in the country, 
having attended preliminary examinations at the provincial capi- 
tals under the eye of government examiners, those few who 
were successful were sent up to the capital, where several kinds 
of tests still awaited them. Some of these were merely prepara- 
tory or continuative, while others gfave access to the long-desired 
haven of political preferment. 

Three or four times every year the capital would swarm 
with men from the eight provinces who had come to make the 
great attempt. Some of them were old hands who had tried 
time and again without success. Behind the Kyong-bok Palace 
lie the deserted examination grounds, where crowds gathered 
and sat in groups under enormous umbrellas writing furiously 
on their essays. These were upon themes propounded by the 
master of ceremonies or often by the King himself. No care 
seemed to be taken to prevent communication between the dif- 
ferent aspirants, and opportunities to bring in concealed manu- 
scripts were abundant. All sorts of tricks were played, and the 



338 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

final award was only occasionally a just one. The element of 
luck entered very largely into the event, and there is only too 
much evidence that " pull " had still more to do than fortune. 
And yet, in every examination, out of a score of successful candi- 
dates two or three at least were honestly chosen. It was the 
narrow chance of becoming one of this small fraction that 
brought thousands of men up from the country. 

When the paper was finished, the writer inscribed his name 
in the lower corner, and then slit the paper up a little way and 
folded the name in and pasted it. The examiners were not 
supposed to know the name of any writer until after the merits 
of his paper were passed upon. After writing his name, the 
candidate rolled his paper up and threw it like a lance over a 
barrier or fence made of spears stuck in the ground. When 
the names of the successful ones were posted the following 
morning, they were dressed up in gala attire, and paraded about 
the streets of the capital on horseback, and received the con- 
gratulations of their friends. If the fortunate man was a 
countryman, his village went en fete in his honour. This sys- 
tem of examinations was discarded ten years ago. 
' As education had to do so largely with the mastery of the 
Confucian classics, it went hand in hand with religion, and, 
though there was no genuine educational bureau, the Snng-gynn- 
gu'an, or Confucian School, in Seoul might be called the centre 
of education for the country, just as the Royal Academy in 
England is the centre of English art. This Confucian School 
still exists as a sort of honorary institution, to which recog- 
nised scholars are appointed by the Emperor, but without emolu- 
ment and without any duties to perform. It is not a school in 
any real sense, but a sort of scholastic club or college. 

For the past ten years education has occupied a place of 
greater honour, and the Educational Department is coordinate 
with that of War, Finance, Law, Agriculture or Foreign Affairs. 
The small sum appropriated shows, however, its relative status. 
Education receives twenty thousand dollars, while an almost 



EDUCATION 339 

entirely useless army receives one million dollars. In Seoul a 
dozen or more primary schools have been established, with an 
average attendance of about fifty boys. These are of rather 
inferior grade, but they are much better than nothing. Arith- 
metic, geography and history are taught, besides the Chinese 
character and the Japanese vernacular. There is a small normal 
school, but it is in native hands only and its product is of little 
or no account. The so-called Middle School, which is housed 
in a substantial foreign building, can accommodate three hun- 
dred students, but the actual number is only about sixty. Two 
foreigners, American and Japanese, together with six Koreans, 
form the faculty of this school. Besides the higher Korean 
branches, chemistry, physics, botany, physiology, general his- 
tory, geography, arithmetic, algebra and geometry are taught. 
The difficulty in this, as in all the other schools, is that the gov- 
ernment gives no encouragement to the graduates. The student 
expects, and has a right to expect, that after graduating from 
a government school he should have a better chance to receive 
official position than ordinary, uneducated Koreans. But he 
finds that nepotism still holds sway, and that personal and family 
influence is a better door to preferment than education. These 
Korean youth have not yet come to recognise education as its 
own reward, and so the schools are almost empty. 

Many of the Koreans are excellent student3, especially in 
mathematics. They are quick to catch the point, and in every 
respect they compare favourably with boys of the same age in 
Western countries. There is no doubt whatever that they are 
the intellectual equals of the Japanese. They have lacked only 
the opportunity and the incentive. 

There are a number of important foreign language schools 
in Seoul, — English, French, German, Japanese and Chinese. 
These are successfully carried on by gentlemen of these various 
nationalities. The government also employs a German musician, 
to train a native band according to Western methods, and so 
successful has he been that foreigners hardly know which to 



340 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

admire more, — the skill and perseverance of the instructor or 
the natural talent displayed by the pupils. 

In the various provincial capitals the government has estab- 
lished, in a desultory way, a number of schools of intermediate 
grade which are fairly successful, but until the public sentiment 
of the people at large rises to the fact that education is one of 
the main bulwarks of the state, no work of large dimensions can 
be done. The time will come. 

Various missionary societies have established successful 
schools in this country, notably in Seoul and in Pyeng-yang, 
and these institutions rank the highest in the land. Many of 
their graduates hold positions under the government and com- 
mand general respect. 

There have been numerous attempts to estabKsh private 
schools, but the enthusiasm seems to die out after a few years, 
funds run low and the inevitable end comes. Some of these 
have been temporarily successful and have demonstrated some 
slight growth of public sentiment in the right direction. 

One hopeful sign is the recent immense increase in the 
demand for reading matter throughout the land. Those who 
have in hand the sale of books say that the demand has increased 
fourfold during the past year. > 

One of the most powerful educative influences is the native 
press. This agency has been at work here for some ten years, 
and, while there have been many failures, yet it cannot be seri- 
ously questioned that the various daily, weekly and monthly 
papers have done an enormous amount of good. The Korean's 
idea of the daily press is still somewhat crude, and is illustrated 
by the fact that when some statement is denied he is very likely 
to say, " It must be true. The paper says so." It is to be 
hoped that the Korean press will always retain and deserve 
this reputation for veracity, which we fear had been partially 
lost in some lands we wot of. And in truth, so far as our 
observation goes, the native papers make an honest attempt to 
give straightforward and accurate news. 



EDUCATION 341 

The matter of school text-books is still in a chaotic condition. 
Some people think they should all be printed in the pure native 
character, while the more conservative, together with the gov- 
ernment, opine that the mixed Chinese and Korean script should 
be used. In this mixed script the verbs, nouns, adjectives and 
adverbs are expressed by Chinese characters, and all connectives, 
whether grammatical, syntactic or logical, are in pure Korean. 
The result is something like the rebus in which words are inter- 
spersed with pictures. The system is a clumsy one, but it may 
prove a useful stepping-stone from the pure Chinese to the pure 
Korean. Not until the Chinese is entirely discarded will the 
broadest general education be possible. This is as true of Japan 
as it is of Korea. Meanwhile all sorts of text-books are being 
published, without regard to consistency, and simply by private 
and individual initiative. Some of the best w6rk in this line is 
being done by missionaries, who are the pioneers of education 
here as everywhere else. It is a hopeful sign that a number 
of foreigners here, among whom the missionaries largely pre- 
dominate, have formed an Educational Association, and the 
important preliminary work of evolving a uniform system of 
nomenclature for all the sciences has been taken in hand. 
This ife a fundamental necessity, and the results can only be 
good. 

As for industrial and technical schools, nothing has yet been 
done in Korea. There have been sporadic attempts at agri- 
cultural, mining and engineering schools, but they have all 
failed, largely because such education has not been based upon 
a previous mastery of the common elementary branches. Much 
less has anything been attempted in the line of professional 
schools, if we except the theological training classes carried on 
by the various missions. A few Koreans are studying medicine 
under the foreign physicians, and there is a small law school, 
but, with the exception of a single Korean lady physician 
who was educated in America, there are no qualified native 
physicians. 



342 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

A number of Koreans have graduated from American or 
English institutions and have returned to this country. As a 
rule these men have done good work here, and have demon- 
strated that the natural intellectual capacity of this people is 
equal to that of any other. 



CHAPTER XXVII 
THE EMPEROR OF KOREA 

THE personality of any supreme ruler of an empire 
or kingdom is a subject of interested comment. The 
mere power which he holds in his hands compels 
attention to his personal characteristics. Much has 
been written about the Emperor of Korea, mainly by transient 
visitors to Seoul who have picked up such gossip as was current 
at the time they passed through. Some of the most libellous 
of these statements appeared in a recent issue of one of our 
leading American magazines and written by a distinguished 
traveller. That writer spent two or three weeks in Korea, and 
everyone of his statements about the Emperor of Korea is 
such as may be picked up on the streets of any capital and is 
worthy only of the columns of our most sensational newspapers. 
They contain certain half-truths distorted out of all proper pro- 
portion and exaggerated to the point of caricature. The writer 
knew nothing about the Emperor from personal acquaintance. 
Some months ago there appeared in the " Century Magazine " 
an article by a former Secretary of the American Legation in 
Seoul which came far nearer the truth, for that gentleman had 
a personal acquaintance with the Emperor and knew what he 
was talking about. A comparison of those two estimates of ^he 
man will show how wide is the difference between irresponsible 
gossip and sober fact. 

The Emperor of Korea is now fifty-five years old and is a 
gentleman of average natural ability, which has been greatly 
influenced by his' environment, not always happily. At the age 
of twelve years he was nominated to the throne by the Queen 
Dowager, in view of the fact that the former King died without 



344 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

issue. His father became regent until the boy should attain 
his majority. The regent was a fierce and relentless despot, 
who began his career by a sanguinary persecution of Roman 
Catholics. The boy lived in the midst of unspeakable atrocities, 
and was brought up to believe that the knife, the poison and the 
torture are the main implements of government. His father 
married him to a member of the Min family, and when the time 
came for the young King to assume the duties of his office, he 
found himself torn between filial duty toward his imperious 
father and the softer but no less effective pressure brought to 
bear on him by the Queen. She and the regent were deadly 
enemies. Each of them had a will far more unbending than 
that of the King, and from the year 1872 there was war to the 
knife between these two individuals, which ended only with the 
assassination of the Queen in 1895 by the Japanese. 

We must remember that in Korea, as in China, the chief 
ruler is limited in his actual power by the fact that those imme- 
diately about him can command all avenues of information and 
can colour that information to suit their own purposes. The 
war between the Queen and the regent opened when the latter 
sent an infernal machine to the father of the Queen, which 
resulted in the destruction of almost the entire family. If we 
try to imagine the state of mind of a ruler shut off from full 
access to genuine information and surrounded with such instru- 
ments of death, with murder in the hearts of those most inti- 
mately connected with his own life, we shall be able to picture 
to ourselves the disabilities under which the young King grew 
up. In 1882 the regent again tried to take the life of the 
Queen. The soldiers swarmed into the palace, tore in pieces, 
before the eyes of the King, some of the leading members of 
the Queen's faction, and missed killing the Queen herself only 
through a lucky accident. All this time the King himself knew 
not at what instant the knife might be put to his own throat. 
Two years later a band of fanatical men determined to force the 
government to follow the example of Japan. They seized the 



THE EMPEROR OF KOREA 345 

person of the King and before his eyes slaughtered seven mem- 
bers of his Cabinet and one of his most trusted personal ser- 
vants. The Japanese, who backed this desperate and sanguinary 
enterprise, had to retire, and things went on as before; but 
what sort of training was this for a young King just entering 
upon his reign? It is only to be wondered at that his nerves 
survived the strain at all. In 1895 occurred the unspeakable 
monstrosity of the cold-blooded murder of the Queen at the 
instigation of the Japanese minister, when the regent, rioting 
in fierce joy of a borrowed power, saw the fruition of his long 
desire. All during that terrible time the King lived in momen- 
tary dread of assassination. And who can wonder? Did not 
every circumstance in the case warrant his fear of sudden death ? 
He was surrounded by a Cabinet composed of men thoroughly 
in the hands of Japan, and was virtually a prisoner. For weeks 
he refused to eat a mouthful of food except what was sent in 
a locked box from the house of an American missionary, such 
was his fear of poison. Finally the strain became too great. 
He could endure the suspense no longer. After trying in vain 
to secure asylum in the American legation, he threw himself 
into the arms of Russia by a secret flight from the palace. For 
a time he had rest in the Russian legation, where, be it said to 
the lasting credit of Mr. Waeber, no pressure was brought to 
bear upon him to give Russia predominant power in the penin- 
sula. Doubtless this was why Mr. Waeber was removed to 
make room for a more strenuous man. He was too good for 
Russia. This situation could not continue indefinitely, but the 
King would not go back to his old palace which had witnessed 
such a tragedy. He built a smaller one in the vicinity of the 
foreign legation, where he would be near help in case of trouble. 
His nerves had been hopelessly shattered. Originally a man of 
ordinary ability, the scenes through which he had passed had 
stamped their impress upon him, and he had come to believe 
that craft was the only available instrument to use. When 
Mr. Waeber was superseded by a less scrupulous man, the posi- 



346 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

tion of the King was rendered more difficult. It was necessary 
to play off Russian against Japanese in order to steer clear of 
the clutches of both. The Emperor had been brought by hard 
experience to believe that all talk of reform was but an arrow 
aimed at him personally, and he was intensely suspicious of any 
curtailment of his own prerogatives.. He was and is a man of 
kindly nature, and he hates suffering and pain in every form, 
whether for himself or his people. There is no doubt that 
under the selfish advice of interested ministers he has allowed 
the extortion of money from the people, but no one who knows 
him can believe that he has ever wantonly and knowingly in- 
flicted suffering upon his subjects. There have been countless 
cases in which he has proved the contrary. One little incident 
will illustrate. Near the Altar to Heaven, where he went to 
assume the title of Emperor, a foreigner was building a house. 
The rafters had been put on, but the roof was not covered. A 
host of Koreans swarmed into the yard and climbed to the roof 
to look down upon the ceremony in the adjoining compound. 
The American was extremely uneasy, for this was far outside 
the limits of ordinary courtesy, and he hastened to force the 
Koreans down; but the Emperor, noticing the commotion and 
divining the cause, sent a special messenger in haste to say that 
the Koreans need not be disturbed. This is only a trivial case, 
but there are others. Nothing could exceed the solicitude of 
the Emperor when, last year, the ludicrous attempts at monetary 
reform had driven the merchants to desperation. He tried to 
help them by lending several hundred thousand yen to them 
to tide them over the crisis, and the fact that the Japanese would 
not allow him to do it cannot detract from the credit that is 
due him. 

Much has been said of his superstitiousness. This is based 
largely upon the fact that the women of the palace, w^ho share 
with other Korean women the unhappy legacy of illiteracy, 
have often called in various kinds of sorceresses and mounte- 
banks for their own delectation. The King has indulged them 



THE EMPEROR OF KOREA 347 

in this caprice, and it is possible that he may have amused him- 
self now and then in listening to the extravaganzas of these 
spirit mediums, but that he gave any more heed to them than 
any other educated Korean gentleman would is incredible. This 
sort of talk belongs in the category of those racy accounts given 
by tourists, who move heaven and earth to get an audience with 
the Emperor, and then come home to criticise the quality of 
his wines and sneer at his manners. 

The Koreans have been called a people of inferior intelli- 
gence, but the truth is that in pure diplomacy, finesse, they have 
outwitted the Japanese at every point during the past quarter 
of a century. In 1884, in 1894, in 1904 the Koreans out- 
manoeuvred the Japanese in diplomacy, and it was only by com- 
ing in with the sword that the latter carried her point. At the 
beginning of the last war Korea received from Japan a definite 
promise to preserve the independence of the Korean government. 
Japan felt called upon to give this guarantee because she needed 
something in return, namely, the passivity of the Korean people 
and their good will during the war. Korea believed the promise, 
but when the need of keeping her quiet had passed Japan by an 
act of unparalleled treachery proved that her word was not as 
good as Russia's; for while Russia's retention of Manchuria 
was only the postponement of a promised evacuation, the seizure 
of Korea was an absolute and unblushing refusal to pay, for 
favours shown, the price that had been definitely agreed upon. 
There is no sophism that can evade this fact. 

Attention must be called to the way the Emperor of Korea 
has always treated Americans and American interests. Nothing 
has been too good for us. We have had the best gold-mining 
concession, the first railroad concession, the leading place in 
education, the unbounded confidence of both King and people. 
We built the first electric tramway and lighting plant. We 
obtained the important concession for supplying the cit}' of Seoul 
with a modem water system. All these things have been given 
us almost without the asking. Nowhere in the world has there 



348 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

been a more open field for the investment of American capital. 
The Korean Emperor and people have always looked to us 
as the one power that had no political wire to pull, no axe to 
grind, no purely selfish policy to carry out. But in the face of 
all this, we have been the first to push her over the brink, to 
accept the outrage of November 17, 1905, without loud and 
instant protest. Why did the world objurgate the failure of 
Russia to keep her promises in Manchuria and condemn her as 
the international felon and then turn about and allow Japan to 
stultify herself tenfold worse in Korea without protest? 

Those who have been on the spot and watched closely the 
tragic culmination can see something of how the nature of the 
Emperor, warped by terrible vicissitudes and held for months 
at a time in the most heart-breaking suspense, has been dwarfed 
and shrivelled in the furnace. And yet at this very hour he 
stands firm in his loyalty to his people. He denounces the 
so-called treaty of November, 1905, and demands the attention 
of the powers to Japan's treachery. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 
WOMAN'S POSITION 

IT is a trite saying that the civilisation of a people may be 
gauged by the treatment accorded to women. This is 
only partially true, for in the various races of mankind 
special conditions make special rulings necessary. For 
instance, in Thibet, where there seems to be a great preponder- 
ance of males, the practice of polyandry prevails; but however 
disgusting this may appear to the Western taste or the Western 
conscience, it does not place the Thibetan on a lower plane of 
civilisation than the Esquimaux who do not practise polyandry. 
Again, in China, and in all lands that have been permeated by 
Confucian principles, the prime necessity of securing male issue 
has largely influenced the position of woman and made her lot 
more tolerable than in Turkey or Persia ; but we cannot argue 
from this that Chinese civilisation is at all in advance of that 
of Turkey or Persia. We must look to the causes underlying 
the better or worse treatment of women, in order to discover 
whether it is a true index of a people's civilisation. 

When India was opened to the world, the West cried out 
in horror against the brutal custom of the self-immolation of 
widows. But even this was due to natural causes. It was a 
great preventive law which forced all wives, for the sake of 
their own happiness, to guard most sedulously the health of 
their husbands. The common use of poison in the tropics, 
added to the crafty and vindictive nature of the people, made 
this cruel law, if not necessary, at least intelligible. 

In the same way the people of the West are moved with 
righteous indignation because the women of the Far East are 
kept so secluded and are not allowed that free intercourse with 



350 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

their fellow-men that is accorded women in the West. This 
feeling is also in a sense misplaced, for though the condition 
of woman in Asia is deplorable, we should rather criticise the 
moral status of the people at large, which renders the seclusion 
of woman a necessity, than to find fault with the mere fact. 
Such seclusion is a mean between the promiscuity of savage 
tribes and the emancipated condition of women in enlightened 
countries. It is as much better than the former as it is worse 
than the latter. There can be no question that it is Christianity 
which has brought about the desirable conditions that prevail in 
the West, and we need look for no such conditions in the East 
until it is permeated with ideas emanating from Christian stand- 
ards. We affirm, then, that under existing moral conditions the 
seclusion of woman in the Far East is a blessing and not a 
curse, and its immediate abolishment would result in a moral 
chaos rather than, as some suppose, in the elevation of society. 

The discussion of woman's position in Korea falls under 
several general heads, such as seclusion, occupation, education, 
punishments, property rights, testamentary rights, divorce, court- 
ship and marriage, religion, etc. 

The degree of seclusion which a Korean woman enjoys 
depends upon the position she holds in societ)'. Broadly speak- 
ing, there are three classes, which may best be termed the hon- 
ourable, the respectable and the disreputable. As might be 
expected, the seclusion of women here corresponds to what we 
call " exclusiveness " in the West. The higher her position, the 
more complete is her seclusion. And just as women in America 
or Europe pride themselves upon their exclusiveness, so women 
here pride themselves upon the fact that no male person outside 
the immediate household ever sees their faces. 

Up to the age of ten or twelve years, the little girl of good 
family enjoys considerable freedom, and can play in the yard 
and see anyone that comes ; but the time arrives when she must 
never be seen without the changot, or sleeved apron, over her 
head held close about her face. From that time she remains 



WOMAN'S POSITION 351 

mostly indoors, and is familiarly seen only by the members of 
the household and the immediate relatives. This stage of her 
life is short, for she is married young and goes to take her place 
in the family of her husband. After that time she can be seen 
and conversed with, face to face, only by the following male 
members of the family: her husband, father, father-in-law, 
uncle, cousin, second cousin, etc., down to what the Koreans call 
the " eighth joint," which means about fourth cousin with us. 
It will at once appear, therefore, that a Korean woman is not 
entirely cut off from association with gentlemen, for, in a country 
where families are so large as in Korea, the number of men 
within these prescribed degrees may be anywhere from twenty 
to two hundred. But none of these will ever enter the inner 
part of the house except by invitation of the husband and in his 
company. 

After a young bride arrives at the home of her husband, she 
will have free access to the private rooms of her new father 
and mother, even as their own daughters do, but neither her 
father nor any other man except her husband will ever step 
inside her private rooms, except under stress of sickness or other 
imperative cause. If any of her male relatives are to see her, 
it must be in the rooms of her father and mother. This does 
not apply to the young brothers of her husband, who may come 
into her room upon invitation up to the age of thirteen, after 
which they too are excluded. If there are two married brothers 
living at their father's house, neither of them can enter the 
private rooms of the other, though each can meet the wife of 
the other in the rooms of the parents. If, however, a young 
man marries and sets up an establishment of his own, he becomes 
the head of the house, and any of his male relatives, or hers, 
down to the " eighth joint," can enter the inner rooms upon 
invitation of the husband, but they will never do this unless 
there is some special reason for seeing the wife, since the hus- 
band will be sure to have a sarang, or general reception room, 
where he meets all his male friends. 



352 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

As a rule, a lady may go and visit her lady friends with 
considerable freedom, but she must always leave wrord at hcxne 
exactly where she is going. She will go in a closed "chair" 
carried by two men. The chair is brought to her door, the men 
retire till she has entered, and when she arrives at the friend's 
house, the men set down the chair and retire while she is getting 
out. She will invariably be accompanied by a slave girl or other 
female servant who runs along beside the chair. Arrived at the 
friend's house, she enters the inner rooms, and while she is 
there neither the friend's husband nor any other man may enter, 
unless he should chance to be within the prescribed limits of 
consanguinity. A lady of wealth or even of moderate means 
will not walk on the street, although this is permissible provided 
she keeps her face carefully hidden by the changot. 

Women of the middle class are not so secluded as those of 
the upper class, and yet they will never be seen on the street 
without the head covering. At their homes they may be seen by 
any male relative down to the " tenth joint." We see, then, that 
women of the middle class are visible to' relatives two degrees 
further removed than those by whom her higher sister may 
be seen; and besides this, it is far less common for a man of 
the middle class to possess a general reception room, and the 
result is that relatives are much oftener invited into the inner 
rooms. The statement sometimes made, that no respectable 
Korean woman will ever be seen walking on the street, is very 
far from the truth. Hundreds of them may be seen every 
day. 

Women of the lower or so-called disreputable class include 
dancing-girls, slaves, courtesans, sorceresses and Buddhist nuns. 
I am speaking now from the Korean point of view. A slave or 
a nun may be a respectable person, but she is classed with the 
others by Koreans. They are subject to none of the laws of 
seclusion that apply to so-called reputable people. In fact, they 
are not allowed to use the changot to cover the face. A possible 
exception may be found in the courtesan, who may cover the 



WOMAN'S POSITION 353 

head, but is not allowed to use the pad or cushion on top of the 
head by which the changot is supported. 

Besides these women of the lower orders, there are a few 
others that never cover the head and who, although entirely 
respectable, may be seen by men without reproach. These are 
lady physicians, of whom there are many in Korea, and blind 
female exorcists. Women of even the upper class may enter the 
medical profession, and it is said that many of them are very 
expert at acupuncture, which is about all the surgery that the 
Esculapian art can boast here. 

Although women of the upper and middle classes cover the 
face on the street, yet this concealment is by no means so com- 
plete as among the women of Turkey, for the changot is simply 
held together before the face with the hand, and frequently the 
entire face is exposed. Elderly women of entire respectability 
often take little or no pains to observe the rule strictly, but one 
would seldom have an opportunity of catching a glance at more 
than one eye and a small portion of the face of a young woman. 

In an afternoon's walk through the streets of Seoul you will 
see hundreds of women going about without any head covering 
whatever. They are mostly slaves. Now and then a dancing- 
girl will be seen riding on a pony or in an open chair with 
uncovered face, and, if a wedding procession passes, a large 
number of unveiled women with enormous piles of hair on their 
heads will be seen carrying gaily decorated boxes in which are 
kept the " plenishings " of the bride. These all belong to the 
low class. 

It may be said in a general way that the chief occupation 
of the respectable Korean woman, whether of high or low degree, 
is motherhood. Like the ancient Hebrew woman, she says, 
" Give me children or I die." This springs from the instinct 
for self-preservation. The Confucian code renders male off- 
spring a sine qua non of a successful life, and a woman who 
brings her husband no children is doubly discredited. There is 
no more valid cause for divorce in Korea than barrenness. 



354 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

There are no " old maids " here. It becomes a matter of public 
scandal if a girl passes her twentieth year without settling in a 
home. Of course, in the case of cripples or incompetents it is 
a little difficult to arrange, but many a young man takes his bride 
home only to find out that she is a deaf-mute or cross-eyed or 
humpbacked or partially paralysed. This is a triumph for the old 
woman, the professional go-between, whose skill in " working 
off " these unmarketable goods upon unsuspecting swains is pro- 
verbial. But the balance is even as between the brides and 
grooms, for a nice girl as often finds herself married to a drunk- 
ard or a case of non compos mentis. 

The Korean woman's main business then is wifehood and 
motherhood ; but even so, there are many opporttmities for her 
to help along the family finances and supplement the wages of 
a husband who is too often shiftless and dependent or even 
worse. 

First, as to occupations open to women of the upper class. 
Strange as it may seem, the only kind of shop such a woman can 
keep is a wine-shop. Of course she never appears in person, 
but if her house is properly situated she can turn a portion of 
it into a wine-shop, where customers can be served by her slave 
or other servant. No lady would ever think of selling cloth or 
vegetables or fruit or anything except wine. Silk culture is an 
important industry, in which ladies take a prominent part, espe- 
cially in the country. The care of the eggs, the feeding of the 
worms, the manipulation of the cocoons and the spinning of the 
silk aflford means whereby the wife of the gentleman farmer 
passes many pleasant hours and adds materially to the finances 
of the household. 

Sewing and embroidery are usual occupations of ladies, but 
they do very little of it for money. The vendible goods of this 
kind are made by a different class. Many Korean ladies of 
restricted means act as tutors to the daughters of their more 
•fortunate sisters. They teach the Chinese character and litera- 
ture, letter-writing, burial customs, music, housekeeping, hygiene, 



WOMAN'S POSITION 355 

care of infants, obstetrics, religion, fiction, needlework and 
embroidery. Of course the teacher is not seen by the gentle- 
man of the house. 

In the country it is not beneath the dignity of a lady to tend 
bees. She may also help in the care of fruit trees, especially the 
jujube. She may also make straw shoes. It seems singular that 
a lady should be able to make straw shoes when it would be 
entirely beneath her dignity to make the better kind, such, for 
instance, as those her husband wears in town. 

If an inmate of a house is taken ill, someone must run for 
an exorcist to come and drive out the evil spirit which has 
caused the trouble. It is the blind people who do this work. 
It is not confined to men alone, but any blind woman, whatever 
her rank may be, can become an exorcist. Nor do indigent ' 
ladies hesitate to enter the ranks of fortune-tellers. It is an 
easy, lucrative and graceful form of labour, and contains an 
element of adventure that appeals strongly to some people. 

But a higher form of labour to which a lady is eligible is 
that of physician; in fact, no woman can be a physician here 
unless she belongs to the upper class. The science of medicine, 
or I should say a science of medicine, has received much atten- 
tion from Koreans for many centuries. The Korean pharma- 
copoeia is celebrated even in China ; and it cannot be denied that 
it contains many crude drugs that are very effective. Korea 
has many native lady physicians who administer their powdered 
tiger's-claw, tincture of bear's gall or decoction of crow's foot, 
according as the symptoms of the patient may seem to require. 
The lady physician is called in most often for obstetric cases 
where a male physician would not be tolerated for a moment. 
A story is told of a certain queen who was taken ill and no lady 
physician could be found. The royal patient grew rapidly worse. 
Male physicians were at hand, but they could not possibly see 
the patient. Suddenly there appeared an old man at the palace 
gate who said that he could cure the queen. When asked how 
he could diagnose the case without seeing the patient, he said. 



356 THE PASSING OF KOREA 



" Tie a string around her wrist and pass one end throiigfi the 
partition/' It was done, and the old man holding the end of 
the string described her symptoms exactly and wrote out a pre* 
scription which soon effected a cure. Compared with this, the 
recent discoveries of Marconi in wireless telegraphy seem — 
but we must not digress. 

As might be supposed, a descent in the social scale \%ideis 
the field of the Korean woman's work. The middle-class woman 
can engage in all the occupations of her higher sister, exceptii^ 
those of physician and teacher of Chinese literature. She may 
be the proprietress of any kind of shop, though she wil! nnt 
appear in person. She may " take in washing/' which means 
carrying it to the nearest brook or to the neighbourhood wdl* 
curb, where the water she uses speedily finds its way back into 
the well. She may act as cook in some well-to-do family, tend 
the fowls and pigs or do any other form of domestic service. 
Concubines are drawn almost exclusively from this middle class. 
They make combs, head-bands, tobacco-pouches and a thousand 
other little conveniences of the toilet, the wardrobe and the home 
in general. They are allowed certain fishing rights as well, 
though they are restricted to the taking of clams, cuttle-fish and 
beche-de-nier. The women on the island of Quelpart, oflF the 
southern coast, held until lately a peculiar position in this matter 
of fishing. The men stayed at home while the w-omen wad6d 
into the sea or swam out from shore and gathered clams, pead 
oysters and seaweed. As the women were always nude, there 
was a strict law that no man was to go within sight of the 
fishing grounds during the fishing hours. So these modern 
Godivas were the bread-winners, and as such claimed exceptional 
privileges, — so much so that the island bade fair to become a 
sort of gynecocracy. But this was all changed when Japanese 
fishermen ai)peare(l ofT the island. The women were driven out 
of business and the men sadly went to work. This dependence 
upon the women for a living was thoroughly in accord with the 
earliest tradition of the island, which says that three sages came 




ai 
Q 
Z 

< 

X 

H 



WOMAN'S POSITION 357 

up from a hole in the ground and that each of them found a 
chest, floating in from the southeast, containing a colt, a dog, a 
calf, a pig and a woman ! 

Women of the middle class often become wet-nurses or enter 
a Buddhist convent, though by following the latter course they 
drop from the respectable class to the despised one. Others still 
become nain, or palace women. These are in some sort hand- 
maidens of the queen and engage in embroidery and other fancy 
work under the eye of Majesty. Foreigners often make the 
mistake of supposing that this position is a disgraceful one, but 
these palace women are entirely respectable, and any delinquency 
on their part would be severely dealt with. The reluctance with 
which parents consent to their daughters becoming palace women 
is due to the fact that it postpones the date of marriage beyond 
the approved age. Many middle-class women are innkeepers. 
Travel on Korean roads usually averages thirty miles a day, 
and so the inns are numerous. The hostess has little difficulty 
in keeping the accounts. All she has to do is to watch the rice- 
bag and the bean-bag, for food and fodder are the only things 
charged for in a Korean inn. Sleeping and stable room are 
thrown in gratis ; and we may add sotto voce that they are dear 
even at that price, at certain seasons of the year. If the hostess 
had to take charge of the sleeping arrangements, she would be 
unable to preserve the seclusion which is the sole badge of her 
respectability. Of all these occupations of middle-class women, 
there are only two to which low-class women are not eligible, 
those of palace woman and tobacco-pouch maker. 

While middle-class women are thoroughly respectable, at 
least in theory, the women of the low class are entirely outside 
the social pale. They have practically no rights, though they 
manage to hold their own with remarkable pertinacity. 

There are, first, those unfortunates called dancing-girls. The 
northern province of Pyeng-an takes the lead in supplying 
women to fill the ranks of this class. The girls are taken when 
very young and trained in all the meretricious arts of their 



358 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

degraded and degrading occupation. Some of them are secured 
by purchase and many more by chicanery. They are secured at 
too early an age to make it possible for them to give intelligent 
assent to their shameful fate. They are never veiled, and they 
go about as freely as men. In the Korean view they are unsexed 
and are social outcasts, but in reality, like the hetairai of ancient 
Greece, they enjoy far more social life than reputable women. 
The dancing-girl is not necessarily a woman of bad character. 
Many are the stories told of their kindness, charity and patriot- 
ism. And yet, if the estimate of their own countrymen counts 
for anything, such goodness is about as frequent as the Greek 
kalends. In early days there were no"^ dancing-g^rls, but boys 
performed the dances. In course of time, however, a weakening 
of the moral fibre of the nation, due to increase of luxury, let 
in this unspeakable evil. The dancing-girl is a protege of the 
government; in fact, the whole clan is supported out of gov- 
ernment funds, and they are supposed to perform only at govern- 
ment functions. They do not by any means constitute that 
branch of society which in Western countries goes under the 
euphemistic name of demi monde, but they correspond very 
closely to our ballet-dancers. As with the hetairai of Greece, 
so with the Korean dancing-girl, her greater freedom gives 
her opportunity and leisure to acquire a culture that makes her 
intellectually far more companionable than her more secluded 
but more respectable sisters. This is, of course, a great injustice. 
Though there is nominally a wide difference between the dancing- 
girl and the ordinary courtesan, it is generally understood that 
enrolment in the ranks of this profession means a life of shame. 
Such women frequently close their professional careers by be- 
coming the concubines of wealthy gentlemen. 

The female jugglers, acrobats, contortionists and story-tellers 
are sufficiently described by their names. None of them are 
respectable people. The miidang, or sorceress, is much in evi- 
dence in Korea. She is the lowest of the low ; for, in addition 
to an entire lack of morals, she is supposed to have commerce 



WOMAN'S POSITION 359 

with evil spirits. The p'ansu, or blind exorcist, is an enemy of 
the spirits and drives them away by a superior power, but the 
mudang is supposed to secure their departure by friendly inter- 
cession. This, of course, determines her unenviable position, 
and no women in Korea are more depraved than she. 

Female slavery is very common. This will be discussed 
under the head of slavery, but as it is an exclusively female 
institution, it must be enumerated here. She may be a bom 
slave, she may be made one as punishment for a crime, either 
of her own or of a near relative, or she may sell herself into 
lifelong or temporary slavery in order to liquidate a debt or to 
help a relative to do so. Her condition is somewhat better than 
that of many of Korea's poor, for she is sure of food and shelter, 
which is far more than thousands can say. As a rule, she is 
treated well, and her condition does not specially excite our 
pity. She will be seen carrying water home from the well on 
her head, and not only will her face be uncovered, but there will 
be a startling hiatus between her short jacket and her waistband 
which leaves the breasts entirely exposed. One recent writer 
on Korea leaves the impression that this species of indecorum 
is characteristic of all women on the streets of Seoul, but of 
course this is a libel. 

The professional go-between, who acts in the capacity of a 
matrimonial bureau, is one of the peculiar excrescences on the 
body politic of Korea. It is her business to find brides for the 
bachelors and husbands for the maidens. Her services are not 
absolutely necessary, for the parents or other relatives of the 
young man or woman are usually able to arrange an alliance; 
but there are many cases in which her services will be of value. 
If an undesirable young man or woman fears that he or she 
will not draw a prize in the matrimonial lottery, the chungma 
is called in, and it is made worth her while to find an acceptable 
partner. So it comes about that she is well worth watching, 
and her description of the prospective bride or groom should 
be verified, if possible, by ocular evidence. A case has just 



36o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

come under my notice in which a nice young girl was sadly 
cheated. Her relatives went to see the young man that the 
go-between had provided and found him handsomely dressed 
and living, apparently, in a fine house; but when the ceremony 
was over he took her to a wretched hovel, where his father and 
mother and a large family lived huddled together like rabbits 
in a burrow. The deception was a most cruel one, for the girl 
had been reared in comparative luxury. Occasionally the go- 
between is brought to justice for such felonious dealing, but 
usually the girl would rather suffer in silence than have her 
name dragged before the public. 

It is difficult to estimate the wages that female labour receives 
in Korea, because it depends almost entirely upon the skill and 
the rapidity with which the work is done. Doubtless the 
dancing-girl gets the best pay of all, and next to her perhaps 
the lady physician. Then come the acrobats and fortune-tellers. 
The wet-nurse, or " milk-mother," is well paid, but her living is 
precarious. The same is true of the go-between. The teacher 
in a gentleman's family gets no salary at all, only a present now 
and then. The female physician gets her chair-coolie hire and 
about a dollar for each visit. The acrobat may get as low as 
four dollars a month or as high as sixty. The fortune-teller 
gets eight cents for each fortune that she tells. This represents 
two hours* work, for it is no light matter to be turned off by a 
mere glance at the palm. Go-betweens get from four to eight 
dollars for each case. The honest ones are, of course, the surest 
to find steady employment. The woman whose province it is 
to apply cosmetics to the faces of prospective brides receives 
some sixteen dollars for each operation, and anyone who has 
seen a Korean bride in her stucco will say the money is well 
earned. 

A good seamstress or comb-maker or head-band maker will 
earn a dollar a day, while a wet nurse will get forty cents and 
her food, but if a foreigner wants to employ one, he will have 
to pay twenty dollars a month and support her lazy husband into 



WOMAN'S POSITION 361 

the bargain. For sewing, weaving, fishing, doctoring, glazing 
pottery, preparing ginseng, boiling salt/ making shoes, exorcism 
and many other forms of labour, a woman receives as much as 
a man. It may be set down as a general law that if a woman 
can make a thing as quickly and as well as a man she will 
receive the same wages as he. In this respect the Korean 
woman has the advantage of the female artisan in Europe or 
America. 

The relative degree of education enjoyed by Korean women 
as compared with men is not thoroughly understood by for- 
eigners, judging from what we find in print. It is commonly 
believed that education here is almost wholly confined to the 
men, but this estimate must be considerably modified. Among 
Korean gentlemen there are very few indeed who have not 
studied at least a few Chinese characters, but not one in six 
can pick up a book written in pure Chinese and read it with any 
degree of fluency. Most of them have the merest smattering of 
it. Among the women of the upper class, perhaps two in five 
study a little Chinese, but not more than one per cent of these 
ladies ever learn to read it. The so-called mixed script in which 
the daily papers are printed can be read by very many ladies, 
for it requires no knowledge of the Chinese idiom, but only the 
meaning of some eighteen hundred characters. The native 
Korean writing, of which we speak at length elsewhere, is often 
called the " ladies' writing." Gentlemen pretend to despise it, 
but it is well known and extensively used by all Korean ladies. 
If one of them is lacking in this accomplishment, she will be 
looked upon much as a Western lady would be who should refer 
to George Eliot as a gentleman. Among the middle classes 
perhaps half of the women are conversant with this native script. 
Among the low class there is no education at all, except in the 
case of fortune-tellers and dancing-girls, the latter of whom are 
frequently quite well up in letters. 

The one work that Korean women must master is " The 
Three Principles of Conduct." These are (i) the treatment 



362 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

of parents, (2) the rearing of a family, (3) housekeeping; 
and, running the risk of seeming out *of date, we. submit that, 
while these three studies might not constitute a liberal education 
for a woman, no woman's education is complete without them. 
But while we cannot praise the Koreans too highly for insisting 
on these, we do blame them that they often stop here. Many 
women who cannot read learn this book by proxy. It is written 
in Chinese and Korean on alternate pages, so that no one may 
have an excuse for not reading it. 

Next comes " The Five Rules of Conduct," relating to the 
relations between parent and child, king and subject, husband 
and wife, old and young, friend and friend. Then there is a 
book on " Interesting and Proper Things," a mass of anecdotes 
illustrative of the virtues, and the " Female Physician's Remedy 
Book," a sort of domestic medical work, dealing mainly with 
prenatal conditions, parturition and the care of infants. Such 
are the most important books studied by women, and ignorance 
of their contents is looked upon with great contempt among the 
upper classes and to a less extent among the middle classes. 
But besides these, there is an extensive literature in the native 
script alone. It contains historical works on ancient and medie- 
val Korea, poetry, travel, letters, biographies and a wide range 
of fiction, based on fairies, ghosts, love, hate, revenge, avarice, 
ambition, adventure, loyalty and all other passions that are com- 
mon to the race. 

Those books which women regularly study can be obtained 
by purchase, but, as for the light literature, there are a number 
of circulating libraries in Seoul where books are lent for two 
cents apiece, to be returned within five days. It speaks rather 
poorly for the taste and morals of the Koreans that very many 
of these books are highly unfit for anyone to read. 

There are no girls' schools in Korea, outside those that have 
been founded by the foreign missionaries. That Korean girls 
are taught almost exclusively those things that will be of prac- 
tical use to them within the walls of their own homes, is neces- 



WOMAN'S POSITION 363 

sarily narrowing to the intellect, and makes the woman a 
companion to her husband only in a domestic sense. The influ- 
ence that this has upon society is too well known to need 
discussion here; but it is the testimony of foreigners gen- 
erally, who have had to do with Korean girls, that these long 
centuries of repression have not impaired their mental capacity. 
That capacity has simply lain dormant, and when given the 
opportunity it will prove itself easily equivalent to that of the 
men. 

It would be impossible to discuss the property rights of 
women without taking up property rights in general, which we 
will do as briefly as possible. 

Let us take the case of a well-to-do gentleman in his home, 
surrounded by his family, which includes his wife, his two mar- 
ried sons and one unmarried daughter. His other daughter has 
married and gone to the home of her husband. This gentle- 
man's property consists of rice-fields, real estate and ready money. 
All real estate is held by deed from the government, as with us. 
His ready money is not in the bank, for there are practically no 
banks. It is all locked in his strong box, or it is lent out to 
merchants and others at a rate of one and a half or two per cent 
a month. Considering the risks, this is a low rate. So far as 
his own immediate household is concerned, this man has com- 
plete control of all this property, but if he has one or more 
brothers and they happen to be in needy circumstances, he is 
bound to feed them. If he refuses to do so, they can go to the 
local authorities and lay complaint against him; in which case 
they may command him to hand over some of his money or 
other property to the brothers, in order to save them from star- 
vation. If, however, he can prove that the brothers are indolent 
and merely want to live upon him, he will be freed from all 
obligation. The reason for this law will appear shortly. 

If he has sisters, they are of course married and have gone 
to the family of the husband. He is, therefore, free from all 
legal obligation to them. In case they are in severe straits, he 



364 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

will probably help them, but they have no recourse to law. If 
his aged mother is still living, he must support her. If he does 
not treat her well, she has instant recourse to the law and can 
inflict the severest penalties. If he insults her or strikes her or 
if he is a thief or seditious, she might strike him dead and the 
law would uphold her. This is not mere theory, for such things 
have happened not infrequently. So long as he treats her well, 
she has no voice in the management of the money. It is hardly 
necessary to say that the government exercises the right of 
eminent domain, and can " condemn " and take any man's prop- 
erty at a fair valuation. 

We next ask how a Korean can acquire or dispose of prop- 
erty. In the disposition of the estate his brothers may act as a 
check upon him. If he is wantonly squandering the patrimony, 
or even money that he has himself acquired, they can complain 
to the authorities and ask them to refuse new deeds for prop- 
erty that he sells. It must always be remembered that in Korea 
the authorities are seldom approached with empty hands, and 
to go to law does not necessarily mean to obtain justice. 

When a man dies intestate, all his property goes into the 
hands of his eldest son, who is obliged to support all his brothers. 
If he refuses to do so, they appeal to the law and force a divi- 
sion of the property, in which case each receives an equal share. 
If there are unmarried sisters, the elder brother will lay aside 
a sum sufficient for their dowries, himself being the judge as 
to what is necessary. These unmarried sisters have no recourse 
to the law, so long as their brother supports them and gives 
them a home. If he refuses this, the law will handle him. If 
they are already married before the death of the father, the 
brother is not under obligation to give them anything. If they 
are in want, he may help them or not as he pleases. 

A man, seeing his end approach, desires to make his w^ill. 
He calls in a few witnesses, never from his own immediate 
family, and writes his will in their presence. They sign it in 
due form. There is no such thing as prpbate in Korea, and the 



WOMAN'S POSITION 365 

eldest son is always the executor of the will. Ordinarily, the 
father will have no doubt as to his son's good intentions and 
will die intestate. It is when the father fears that the son will 
not treat the rest of the family well that he makes a will. Sup- 
posing that the will specifies that the widow is to receive a 
specified sum, and the other children each a specified sum, every 
person so specified has the right to claim at law the amount 
bequeathed to him or her, and the woman's right is as clear as 
the man's. But should the will include a bequest to anyone not 
a relative, such as a friend, or the poor, or a monk, such person 
cannot recover the money at law. There is no redress. If, how- 
ever, the executor, the eldest son, refuses to carry out the wishes 
of his father in these particulars and shows a too avaricious 
spirit, the people of the place will compel him to sell out and 
move away. They will drive him from the neighbourhood, and 
the authorities will not stir a finger to help him, unless — 
but the less said about that the better. 

Now let us suppose that a man dies leaving only two 
daughters, one married and the other unmarried. In this case 
the great probability is that he will adopt a son before he dies, 
someone among his near relatives. This will be mainly in order 
to have someone to sacrifice to his spirit after his death. The 
adopted son has all the rights and powers of a real son, and will 
control the property. Perhaps once out of ten times the father 
will fail to adopt a son, in which case the daughters take charge 
of the property and administer the estate exactly the same as a 
man would, and with equal power. These daughters are not 
obliged to hand the property over to their husbands unless they 
wish, but the husband may, if evil-minded, seize it, in which case 
the wife will probably have no redress. This, however, would 
very rarely occur, for, if it were known, the man would be sub- 
ject to the most bitter scorn of his acquaintances and would be 
practically ostracised. 

In case a man dies leaving only a widow, she will adopt as 
her son the eldest son of one of her husband's brothers, and he 



366 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

will naturally have charge of the money. This is a hard and 
fast rule that is never brcJcen. If there be no such nephew, she 
may adopt some other boy, if she so desires, or she can hold 
the property in her own name. If her husband has a childless 
brother, she must divide the property with him, but not with 
any more distant relative. 

It is a striking fact that among the common people a wife 
has greater power over her dead husband's property than her 
more aristocratic sister. If she adopts a son, she still may con- 
trol the estate if she desires. The Koreans have a queer say- 
ing to the effect that to live well in this world one should be 
the wife of a middle-class man, and when a woman dies she 
should wish to be reincarnated in the shape of a gentleman or 
high-class man. This is because in the middle class the woman 
is more nearly on a level with her husband, she knows more 
about his business and has more to say in the management of 
the family affairs than the high-class woman; also she has a 
much firmer hold upon her husband's estate in case he dies. 
She is not so strictly bound to adopt a son to whom she will 
have to hand over the property, nor does she have to give so 
much to her deceased husband's brothers. 

As we descend in the social scale, all restrictive laws and 
all inequalities between the sexes are toned down, so that when 
we reach the lowest classes we find that the relations are much 
the same as in our own land. The Koreans say that among the 
very lowest classes are to be found the most unfortunate and 
the most fortunate women ; but this would not be our estimate, 
for the Koreans mean by this that the mudang, or sorceress, and 
the courtesan and the dancing-girl, being unmarried, are the 
most independent women in the land, and are cared for, fed and 
dressed the best of any in Korea. Of course this is a terribly 
false judgment, for it looks merely to material comfort and for- 
gets the awful price at which it is bought. On the other hand, 
the respectable woman of the lowest orders is the most pitiable, 
for she is everybody's drudge. She has no rights that anyone 



WOMAN'S POSITION 367 

is bound to respect, and she lives at the caprice of her husband 
or master. 

The question arises as to whether a married woman has con- 
trol of the wages which she may earn. In this respect the 
middle-class woman has the advantage of her higher sisters, 
for while a gentleman's wife will invariably turn over the pro- 
ceeds of her work to her husband, the middle-class woman may 
or may not do so. Every act of a high-bom woman is subject 
to far closer scrutiny than in the case of the middle-class woman, 
and, as she can never go to a shop to buy anything, she cannot 
well use her money. On the whole, she is a very helpless being. 
It is very common for middle-class women to give up their 
wages to their husbands, and the latter can take money from 
their wives by force without the least fear of molestation from 
the authorities ; but by sufferance these women are given greater 
freedom than others. 

If a widow is possessed of considerable property and sees 
her end approach, and she has neither sons nor near relatives, 
she may give her money to some young man and ask him to 
perform the annual sacrificial rites for her, or she may go to a 
Buddhist monastery and give her money to pay for the perform- 
ance of Buddhist rites. This is a very common occurrence in 
Korea, and forms an important part of the income of the mon- 
asteries. No woman of the upper class ever does this. 

If a man is a traitor or if he desecrates a grave, the common 
custom, until very recently, has been to decapitate him and all 
his male relatives of near degree, and to execute by poison all 
women of his immediate family, namely, mother, wife and 
daughters. In certain cases the women may merely be made 
slaves. If a woman herself meditates treason, she will be poi- 
soned. For murder a man is decapitated and his wife poisoned. 
If a woman is the offender, she will be strangled or poisoned. 
For arson a man suffers strangulation or poisoning, while the 
woman suffers the latter penalty. For theft a man may be either 
decapitated, strangled or banished. His wife will be enslaved 



368 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

and all his property confiscated. Such was the law up to the 
year 1895, but at that time the punishment of wives and daugh- 
ters for the man's fault was done away, and a great forward 
step was thus taken in judicial ethics. Since that time only the 
principal offender himself has suffered punishment. 

In the matter of divorce the great inequality between the 
sexes becomes plainly manifest. On no pretext whatever can 
a woman obtain a legal separation from her husband. The 
only thing she can do is to run away to her father's house or to 
that of some relative. In this case the husband has no redress 
unless he can disprove her charges against him. In such case 
he can demand not her person, but only the cost of the marriage 
ceremony. This proving is not done by legal process, but is a 
matter between the parties concerned and their relatives. The 
law will not force a woman to go back to her husband's home. 
Thus we see that divorce in its main feature, namely, the getting 
rid of a bad husband, is possible to any Korean woman, but 
there is no legal document which dissolves the marriage tie. 

If a man wants to get rid of his wife, the reason will prob- 
ably be either that she is barren, or that she has committed 
adultery, or that she is an inveterate gossip, or that she has 
insulted him, or that she is indolent, or that she does not attend 
properly to the sacrifices or that she is a thief. If the woman 
thus divorced is a lady, she has absolutely no redress, whether 
the accusation is just or not. If she is a common woman, she 
can appeal to the Mayor of Seoul or to her local magistrate and 
can have her husband punished for driving her away without 
sufficient cause if she can prove that such is the case. If a 
woman is divorced, or if she runs away from her husband, all 
the children remain in his care. She cannot take any of them 
with her unless by his permission. If she clandestinely does so, 
he can force her to give the child up. 

Divorce is very uncommon among the upper class. The 
wife and mistress of the house is by no means a mere chattel, 
as in Turkey or Persia. She has certain well-defined rights 



WOMAN'S POSITION 369 

that her husband is bound to respect, and to divorce her requires 
very sound and patent reasons. She has her powerful relatives 
who could make it very uncomfortable for her husband should 
he attempt to discredit their house by wantonly divorcing her. 
It is a terrible disgrace for a gentleman to have his wife run 
away from him, and he will go far to conciliate her and prevent 
such a scandal. Among the common people, however, there is 
far greater license. Divorce is exceedingly easy and common. 
If a man finds that the woman of his choice (or the go-between's 
choice) is not what he anticipated, he will simply send her home 
to her mother. It is very uncommon for a woman to complain 
before the magistrate and have her delinquent husband punished, 
for in any case she cannot go back to him, and so the less said 
about the matter the better. The utmost promiscuity prevails 
among the lower classes. A man may have half a dozen wives a 
year in succession. No ceremony is required, and it is simply a 
mutual agreement of a more or less temporary nature. The 
biblical picture of the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well who 
had had five husbands is descriptive of many thousands among 
the low-class people in Korea. 

The cost of a regular wedding in this country is very great, 
averaging some six months' income. This is one of the mafin 
reasons for irregular connections. 

Concubinage is an institution as old as history. It has ex- 
isted in Korea from time immemorial. There are three main 
causes for it, — if a man has no son by his wife, if the wife is 
an invalid or a cripple or old, if the man is a mere libertine; in 
any of these cases he is likely to take a concubine. The custom 
is prevalent both among the high class and the middle class. The 
woman of the high class never becomes a concubine, but men 
of that class take concubines from the lower strata of society. 
From time to time we hear excuses made for concubinage in 
the case of a man whose wife is barren, but the excuse is not a 
valid one; and for the very good reason that however many 
sons a man may have by a concubine, not one of them can call 



370 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

him father, or become his heir or sacrifice to him after death. 
He may have half a dozen sons by concubines, yet when the 
time comes to die he will adopt a son from some more or less 
distant branch of the family, and it is this adopted son who will 
call him father, worship him after death and inherit all his prop- 
erty. The sons of concubines have no rights whatever, nor 
would any gentleman think of adopting his son by a concubine 
to be his legal heir. Great stress is laid upon purity of blood 
in the upper class. Among the common people, however, where 
the restraints are very much less, the son by a concubine may 
become the heir. In such case the man and his concubine belong 
to the same grade of society. The children always take the 
status of the mother. 

If a man of the upper class has one or more concubines, he 
must keep a separate establishment for each of them. It would 
be unheard of for a gentleman to introduce a concubine into the 
home where his genuine wife lives. Among the common class, 
however, the wife and the concubine may occupy the same house. 
Human nature is the same the world over, and it is needless to 
say that oftentimes the result is most distressing. No other one 
thing is so conducive to domestic discord as this evil custom. 
The Koreans recognise its baneful effects and condemn it, but 
money and leisure offer great temptations in Korea even as 
elsewhere. 

The commonest form of amusement in which women indulge 
is called kugyung. This word cannot be exactly translated, but 
it may mean to " look see " or to " take a walk/' or both of these 
combined. In other words, it means the satisfaction of curiosity 
in any form. When the Korean says kugyung kapsita, he means, 
** Let us take a stroll and look about a bit." Now, this, in the 
uneventful life of a Korean woman, is one of the highest forms 
of pleasure. It makes no difference though she sees nothing 
more exciting than a passing bicycle or electric car. It is amus- 
ing and entertaining. Of course, such pleasures are mostly 
limited to the lower classes, who are less secluded. Ladies amuse 



WOMAN'S POSITION 371 

themselves by playing the komungo, or harp. Its musical capa- 
bilities are not high. They also play other crude instruments. 

Korean girls are very fond of swinging, and on a certain 
day in spring there is a swing festival in which men, women and 
children participate. Huge swings are arranged in public places, 
but these are used only by men and boys. Girls have a peculiar 
kind of see-saw, which consists of a short board laid ecross a 
fulcrum three or four inches high. The girls stand on opposite 
ends of the board and jump up and down. The impact of one 
coming down throws the other up into the air some three or 
four feet. A rope is drawn above their heads like a clothes-line, 
and to this they cling as they go up in the air, in order to insure 
their equilibrium. 

In the country the girls enjoy what is called the chul nori, 
or rope game. A rope is drawn taut between two trees, and 
the girls swing back and forth against it, keeping time to a song. 
The Korean doll is also very common and is called a kaksi. It 
is most often seen tied to the back of the little girl, and she pre- 
tends that she is carrying her baby as her mother does the 
genuine one. Dominoes, go-bang and dice are favourite amuse- 
ments of women, though the last are used almost exclusively 
by ladies of the higher class. 

As for titles, only ladies of the very highest class, wives of 
the leading officials, are given a " handle " to their names. These 
correspond to our terms " countess," " baroness " and others ; but 
these titles are not hereditary in Korea. 



CHAPTER XXIX 
FOLK-LORE 

FOLK-LORE is a very ambiguous term, including at 
one extreme not only the folk-tales of a people, 
but the folk-songs, superstitions, charms, incantations, 
proverbs, conundrums and many other odds and ends 
of domestic tradition which find no classification under other 
headings. Folk-lore is the back attic, to which are relegated all 
those interesting old pieces of ethnological furniture which do 
not bear the hall-mark of history and are withal too ambiguous 
in their origin and too heterogeneous in their character to take 
their place downstairs in the prim order of the modern scien- 
tific drawing-room. But if we wish to feel as well as to know 
what the life of a people has been, we must not sit down in the 
drawing-room under the electric light and read their annals 
simply, but we must mount to the attic and rummage among 
their folk-lore, handle, as it were, the garments of bygone days 
and untie the faded ribbon which confines the love-letters of 
long ago. Written history stalks across the centuries in seven- 
league boots, leaping from one great crisis to another, and giv- 
ing but a bird's-eye view of what lies between: but folk-lore 
takes you by the hand, leads you down into the valley, shows 
you the home, the family, the every-day life, and brings you 
close to the heart of the people. It has been well said that the 
test of a man's knowledge of a foreigpn language is his ability 
to understand the jokes in that language. So I should say that 
to know a people's life we must understand their folk-lore. 

The back attic of Korean folk-lore is filled with a very 
miscellaneous collection, for the same family has occupied the 
house for forty centuries and there never has been an auction. 



FOLK-LORE 373 

Of this mass of material, in the small space here available, we 
can give only the merest outline, a rapid inventory. 

For convenience we may group Korean folk-tales under six 
heads, — Confucian, Buddhistic, shamanistic, legendary, myth- 
ical and general. 

Williams defines Confucianism as ** the political morality 
which was taught by Confucius and his disciples and which 
forms the basis of Chinese jurisprudence. It can hardly be 
called a religion, as it does not inculcate the worship of any god." 
In other words, it stops short at ethical boundaries and does 
not concern itself with spiritual relations. The point at issue be- 
tween Confucianism and Buddhism is that the latter affirms that 
the present life is conditioned by a past one and determines the 
condition in a future one, while Confucianism confines itself 
to the deciding of questions of conduct beginning with birth 
and ending with death. It is to be expected, therefore, that, like 
Judaism in the days of its decadence, every probable phase and 
aspect of human life will be discussed, and a rule of conduct laid 
down. This is done largely by allegory, and we find in Korea, 
as in China, a mass of stories illustrating the line of conduct to 
be followed under a great variety of circumstances. These stories 
omit all mention of the more recondite tenets of Confucianism, 
and deal exclusively with the application of a few self-evident 
ethical principles of conduct. They all cluster about and are 
slavish imitations of a printed volume of stories called the 
O-ryun Hang-sil, or " The Five Principles of Conduct." This 
has been borrowed mainly from China, and the tales it contains 
are as conventional and as insipid as any other form of Chinese 
inspiration. As this is a written volume which has a definite 
place in literature, it may not perhaps be considered strictly as 
folk-lore, but the great number of tales based on it, giving simple 
variations of the same threadbare themes, have become woven 
into the fabric of Korean folk-lore and have produced a dis- 
tinct impression, but rather of an academic than a genuinely 
moral character. Following the lead of this book, Korean folk- 



374 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

lore has piled example upon example showing how a child, a 
youth or an adult should act under certain given circumstances. 
These " Five Principles " may be called the five beatitudes of 
Confucianism, and while their author would probably prefer to 
word them differently, the following is the way they work out 
in actual Korean life: 

( 1 ) Blessed is the child who honours his parents, for he in 
turn shall be honoured by his children. 

(2) Blessed is the man who honours his^ King, for he will 
stand a chance of being a recipient of the King's favour. 

(3) Blessed are the man and wife who treat each other 
properly, for they shall be secure against domestic scandal. 

(4) Blessed is the man who treats his friend well, for that 
is the only way to get treated well himself. 

(5) Blessed is the man who honours his elders, for years arc 
a guarantee of wisdom. 

Then there are minor ones which are in some sense corolla- 
ries of these five, as, for instance : 

Blessed is the very chaste woman, for she shall have a red 
gate built in her front yard, with her virtues described thereon, 
to show that the average of womanhood is a shade less virtuous 
than she. 

Blessed is the country gentleman who persistently declines 
to become prime minister, even though pressed to do so, for he 
shall never be cartooned by the opposition — and incidentally 
shall have no taxes to pay. 

Blessed is the young married woman who suffers patiently 
the infliction of a mother-in-law, for she in turn shall have the 
felicity of pinching her own daughter-in-law black and blue 
without remonstrance. 

Blessed is the man who treats his servant well, for instead 
of being squeezed a hundred cash on a string of eggs he will 
be squeezed only seventy-five. 

Korean lore abounds in stories of good little boys and girls 
who never steal bird's-nests, nor play " for keeps," nor tear 



FOLK-LORE 375 

their clothes, nor strike back, nor tie tin cans to dogs' tails. 
They form what we may call the " Sunday-school literature " 
of the Koreans, and they are treated with the same contempt by 
the healthy Korean boy or girl as goody-goody talk is treated 
by normal children the world over. 

While these stories are many in number, they are built on a 
surprisingly small number of models. After one gets used to 
the formulae, the first few lines of a story reveal to him the 
whole plot, including commencement, complications, climax, 
catastrophe and conclusion. For instance, there is the stock 
story of the boy whose parents treated him in a most brutal 
manner but who never made a word of complaint. Anticipating 
that they will end by throwing him into the well, he goes down 
one dark night by the aid of a rope and digs a side passage in 
the earth just above the surface of the water; and so when he 
is thrown in headlong the following day, he emerges from the 
water and crawls into this retreat unknown to his doting par- 
ents, who fondly imagine they have made all arrangements for 
his future. About the middle of the afternoon he crawls out, and 
faces his astonished parents with a sanctimonious look on his 
face, which, from one point of view, attests his filial piety, but 
from another says, " You dear old humbugs ! You can't get rid 
of me so easily as that." Be it noted, however, that the pathos 
of this story lies in its exaggerated description of how Korean 
children are sometimes treated. 

We also have the case of the beautiful widow, the Korean 
Lucrece, who, when the King importuned her to enter his harem, 
seized a knife and cut oflf her own nose, thus ruining her beauty. 
Who can doubt that she knew that by this bold stroke she could 
retire on a fat pension and become the envy of all future widows ? 

Then there was the boy whose father lay dying of hunger. 
The youth whetted a knife, went in to his father's presence, cut a 
generous piece of flesh from his own thigh and offered it to his 
parent. The story takes no account of the fact that the old 
reprobate actually turned cannibal instead of dying like a decent 



376 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

gentleman. The Koreans seem quite imable to see this moving 
episode in more than one light, and they hold up their hands in 
wondering admiration, while all the time the story is exquisitely 
ironical. 

There are numerous stories of the Lear type, where the 
favourite children desert their parent, while the one who had been 
the drudge turns out pure gold. There is quite a volume of Cin- 
derella stories in which proud daughters come to grief in the 
brambles and have their faces scratched beyond repair, while the 
neglected one is helped by the elves and goblins and in the sequel 
takes her rightful place. But these stories are often marred by 
the careless way in which the successful one looks upon the suf- 
fering and perhaps the death of her humbled rivals. 

Another common theme is that of the girl who refuses to 
marry any other man than the one, perhaps a beggar, whom 
her father had jokingly suggested as a possible husband for her. 
The prevailing idea in this is that the image once formed in a 
maiden's mind of her future husband is, in truth, already her 
husband, and she must be faithful to him. Such stories are a 
gauge of actual domestic life in Korea inversely to the degree of 
their exaggeration. 

A favourite model is that of the boy who spends his whole 
patrimony on his father's funeral and becomes a beggar, but 
after a remarkable series of adventures turns up Prime Minister 
of the land. But in actual Korean life it has never been noted 
that contempt for money is a leading characteristic of officialdom. 
Far from it. There is also the type of the evil-minded woman 
wlio was found weeping upon her husband's grave, but when 
asked why she was inconsolable, she replied that she was moisten- 
ing the grave with her tears so that the grass would grow the 
sooner, for only then could she think of marrying again. 

Korea is rich in tales of how a man's honour or a woman's 
virtue has been called in question, and just as the fatal moment 
came the blow was averted by some miraculous vindication ; as 
when a hairpin tossed into the air fell and pierced the solid 



FOLK-LORE 377 

rock, or an artery was severed and the blood ran white as milk, 
or the cart which was to carry the traduced but innocent official 
to his execution could not be moved an inch, even by seven yoke 
of oxen, until the superscription " traitor " was changed to that 
of " patriot" 

These are but a few of the standard models, and in examining 
them we find that they are all highly exaggerated cases, the in- 
ference apparently being that the greater includes the less, and 
that if boys and girls, youths and maidens, men and women, 
acted with virtue and discretion under these extreme circum- 
stances, how much more should the reader do so under less trying 
conditions. But the result is that, as Confucianism proposes no 
adequate motive for such altruistic conduct and provides no 
adequate punishment for delinquency, the stories are held in a 
sort of contemptuous tolerance without the least attempt to 
profit by .them or to apply them to actual conduct. This tendency 
is well illustrated in another phase of Korean life. When asked 
why his people do not try to emulate the example of the West 
in industrial achievements, the Korean points to the distant past 
and cites the case of Yi Sun-sin, who made the first iron-clad 
war-ship mentioned in history; and he actually believes Korea 
has beaten the world, though Korea to-day does not possess 
even a single fourth-class gunboat. Even so they point to these 
fantastic tales to illustrate the tone of Korean society, when, in 
truth, these principles are as obsolete as the once famous tor- 
toise boat. 

It should be noted that while the models given in the " Five 
Rules of Conduct " are mostly from the Chinese, yet a vast 
number of the tales which are based on these and which pass 
from mouth to mouth, are purely Korean in their setting. The 
Confucian imprint is there, but translated into terms of Korean 
life and feeling. 

I have already hinted that the more recondite and esoteric 
ideas of Confucianism are entirely waved aside and only the 
practical application is brought to the fore. It is to this fact 



378 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

that we must attribute the virility of Confucian ethics as a code, 
even though there be no effort to live up to it. These ideas 
are such as belong to every religion and every civilisation, and 
it is just because they are fundamental principles of all human 
society that they survive, at least, as a recognisec^ standard. 
They are axiomatic, and to deny them would be to disregard 
the plainest dictates of common sense. 

These stories form, as I have said, the " Sunday-school " 
literature of the Koreans, and they are taken, as in the West, 
by a select few on select occasions. Everyone knows about them 
and has a general familiarity with their contents, just as every 
Western child knows about David and Goliath, Jonah and the 
whale, Daniel and the lions; but just as in the Western nursery 
Mother Goose, Cinderella, Jack the Giant-killer, Alice in Won- 
derland and the Brownies are more in evidence than religious 
tales, so in Korea the dragon or fox story, the ipp and elf and 
goblin story, are told far oftener than the tales illustrative of 
Confucian ethics. 

When we come to Buddhistic stories, we find a larger volume 
and a wider range. Being a mystical religion. Buddhism gives 
a much wider play to the imagination ; being a spectacular reli- 
gion, it gives opportunity for greater dramatic effect; carrying 
the soul beyond the grave and postulating a definite system of 
rewards and punishments, it affords a much broader stage for 
its characters to play their parts upon. The Confucian tales are 
short, intended each to point some particular moral, and con- 
ciseness is desirable ; but with the Buddhistic tales it is different. 
The plots are often long and intricate, the interrelation of human 
events is more carefully worked out and the play of human 
passions is given more extended illustration. They approach 
much closer to what we would call genuine fiction than do the 
Confucian tales. The latter are mere anecdotes, and afford no 
such stimulus to the imagination as the Buddhistic stories do. 

Another reason why Buddhist tales are so common is that 
Buddhism was predominant in the peninsula for a period of 



FOLK-LORE 379 

over a thousand years, and antedated the general spread of 
Confucianism by many centuries. Coming in long before lit- 
erature, as such, had made any headway in the peninsula, 
Buddhism took a firm hold upon all ranks of society, deter- 
mined the mould into which the thought of the nation should 
be poured, and gained an ascendency over the Korean imagina- 
tion which has never been successfully disputed. It is probable 
that at the present time three stories hinge upon Buddhism, where 
one draws its motive from Confucian principles. The former 
cult entered Korea about three centuries after Christ, but it was 
not until iioo a. D. that there was any serious rivalry between it 
and Confucianism. By that time Buddhism had moulded Korean 
fancy to its own shape, and had constituted itself some sort of 
substitute for genuine religion; but Confucianism never went 
deeper than the reason, and so the former cult, by the priority of 
its occupancy and by its deeper touch, made an impression that 
the latter code of morals has never been able to efface. 

Another cause of the survival of Buddhistic ideas, especially 
in folk-lore, even after Confucianism became nominally the state 
religion, was that the latter gave such an inferior place to women. 
Buddhism makes no such invidious comparisons. The very 
nature of the cult forbids it, and Korean history is full of inci- 
dents showing that women were equal sharers in what were 
believed to be the benefits of religion. Confucianism, on the other 
hand, gave woman a subordinate place, afforded no outlet to her 
religious aspirations, and made child-bearing her only service. 
It is a literary cult, a scholastic religion, and women are de- 
barred from its most sacred arcana. They retorted by clinging 
the closer to Buddhism, where fhey found food for their devo- 
tional instincts, albeit the superstition was Egyptian in its dark- 
ness. In this they were not opposed. Confucianism, the man's 
religion, seemed to fancy that by letting despised woman grovel 
in the darkness its own prestige would be enhanced. The fact 
remains that one of the most striking peculiarities about Korean 
society to-day is that while the men are all nominal Confucian- 



38o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

ists, the women are nearly all Buddhists, or at least devotees of 
one or other of those forms of superstition into which Buddhism 
has merged itself in the peninsula. What would have become 
of Buddhism and the monasteries if it had not been for the 
queens of the present dynasty ? Even the last twenty years give 
abundant evidence of its potent power in the female breast. It 
is the mothers who mould the children's minds ; and every boy's 
and girl's mind is saturated with Buddhistic or semi-Buddhistic 
ideas long before the Thousand Character Classic is put into his 
hands. The imagination and fancy have become enthralled, and, 
while it is true that in time the boy will be ridiculed into pro- 
fessing contempt for Buddhism, the girl clings to it with a 
tenacity bom of sixteen hundred years of inherited tendency. 
It is, of course, a modified Buddhism. The basic fetichism and 
animism which the Korean inherits from tmtold antiquity has 
become so thoroughly mixed with his Buddhism that we can 
hardly tell where the one leaves oflf and the other begins. We 
are speaking now of the common folk-tales and not the written 
literature of the country. The formal writings of the past five 
centuries are Confucian, and the models have been those of the 
Chinese sage; but they are not for the mass of the people, and 
they mean even less to the common crowd than Shakespeare and 
Milton mean to the average Englishman or American. 

I must mention one more reason for the survival of the Bud- 
dhist element in Korean folk-tales ; that is, its localising tendency. 
The story plays about some special spot; it clings to its own 
hallowed locus, and without this it would lose force, just as the 
story of William Tell or King Arthur or Evangeline would suffer 
if made general as to locality. It is because the Korean can 
lead you to a mountain-side and say, " Here is where Muhak the 
monk stood when he pronounced the fatal words that foretold 
the great invasion," or show you the very tree, now centuries 
old, that Tosan planted — it is because of these definite local 
elements that these tales are anchored so firmly in the Korean 
consciousness. Any Confucian story might have occurred any- 



FOLK-LORE 381 

where at any time. But old Diamond Mountain carries as many 
tales of famous monks as it bears pines, and the shoulders of old 
Halla Moimtain are shrouded in as heavy a cloak of Buddhist 
lore as of the driving mist from oflf the southern seas. 

The style and make-up of the Buddhistic story are almost 
infinite in variety. What we may call the inner circle of Bud- 
dhist philosophy never appears in these tales, but through them 
is constantly heard the cry for the release from the bane of exist- 
ence. The scorn of merely earthly honours is seen on every 
page. Well indeed might the women of Korea be willing, nay, 
long, to sink into some nirvana and forget their sorrows. Bud- 
dhism is consistent at least in this, that it acknowledges the 
futility of mere existence and says to every man, " What are 
you here for?*' 

The plots of Buddhist stories are too long to give in extenso, 
but a few salient points can be indicated. The monastery is the 
retreat to which the baffled hero retires, and in which he receives 
his literary and military education, and from it he sallies forth 
to overthrow the enemies of his country and claim his lawful 
place before the King. Or, again, a monastery may be the scene 
of an awful crime which the hero discloses, and thus vindicates 
the right. There is no witch nor wizard nor fairy godmother 
in Korea. It is the silent monk who appears at the crucial point 
and stays the hand of death with a potent drug, or warns the 
hero of his danger, or tells him how to circumvent his foes. Now 
and again, like Elijah of old, a monk dares to face the King 
and charge him with his faults, or give enigmatical advice which 
delivers the land from some terrible fate. Often a wandering 
monk is shown a kindness by some boy, and in after years by his 
mysterious power raises the lad to affluence and fame. 

In these days one never connects the idea of scholarship with 
a Buddhist monastery, but the folk-lore of Korea abounds in 
stories in which the hero retires to a monastery and learns not 
only letters but astrology and geomancy. Even military science 
seems to have been taught in these retreats. From no other 



382 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

source do we derive so much information about the monasteries 
in the middle ages as we do from these same stories. While in 
Europe the monastery was the repository of learning and culture, 
to which the war-worn veteran retired to do penance for his 
sanguinary career, in Korea it was the school in which the young 
man learned the science of war as well. 

Folk-lore shows the part that Buddhism has played in de- 
termining many other phases of Korean life as seen to-day. 
Take, for instance, the penal code. The punishments until lately 
inflicted upon criminals were evidently copied from the repre- 
sentations of the Buddhistic hell. Of course these originally 
emanated for man's imagination, and one might argue that the 
horrors of the Buddhist hell are borrowed from the system of 
punishments in vogue in Korea, were it not that the system was 
brought complete from India by way of China. The crystal- 
lisation of these inhumanities into religious forms has perpetu- 
ated the ancient and gruesome horrors, and prevented the advent 
of humaner forms of punishment commensurate with the general 
advance in civilisation. 

Buddhistic stories have bred in the Korean a repugnance to 
taking the life of any animal. To make blood flow is beneath 
the dignity of any decent man, and though Buddhism has been 
politically under the ban for five centuries, the butcher has, 
until recently, been counted with the chilban, or " seven kinds/' 
which include mountebanks, harlots, slaves and sorceresses. 
And yet this repugnance to taking life does not prevent the 
most revolting cruelty to animals of all kinds. Many other 
points might be cited to show how Buddhist lore has tended to 
perpetuate ideas that are not only outside the Confucian system 
but directly antagonistic thereto. 

And this brings us to our next point, the antagonism be- 
tween these two religions. During the whole of the Koryu 
dynasty (918-1392) a bitter fight was kept up betw^een the ad- 
herents of these two cults. No one was then both a Buddhist 
and a Confucianist, as is quite common to-day. Sanguinary 



FOLK-LORE 383 

struggles lock place in which Buddhism was uniformly success- 
ful ; but there was always left the nucleus of an opposition, and 
in the end, when Buddhism had dragged the nation in the mire 
and made her contemptible, the Confucian element came to the 
surface again, and by one bold stroke effected, at least on the sur- 
face of things, one of the most sweeping changes that any people 
has ever experienced, comparable to the French Revolution. 
This struggle between the two systems could not but leave an 
indelible mark upon the folk-lore of the country. A volume 
could be filled with stories illustrating in detail the successes now 
of one side and now of the other. Once when the Confucian 
element prevailed and the Buddhist pontifex was condemned to 
death, he foretold that when his head fell his blood would flow 
white like milk to vindicate his cause. It turned out even so, and 
his executioners bowed to the logic of the occasion and rein- 
stated the formerly despised cult. Again a raven was the bearer 
of a missive to the King bidding him to hasten to the Queen's 
quarters and shoot an arrow through the zither-case. He obeyed, 
and found that the arrow had taken effect in the body of the high 
priest, who had taken advantage of the King's absence to attack 
the honour of the Queen. In one instance a test was made to 
see whether Confucian or Buddhistic principles were better able 
to control the passions; A leading representative of each of the 
cults were subjected to the blandishments of a courtesan, with 
the result that Confucianism scored a notable triumph. 

So far as we have found, Korean folk-lore accords the palm 
of victory in a majority of cases to the Buddhist side. This is 
doubtless because Buddhism made far greater use of folk-tales 
to impress itself upon the people than did Confucianism. The 
latter is the more reasonable cult, but Buddhism chose the better, 
or at least the surer, part by capturing the imagination and 
monopolising the mystical element which is so prominent in Ori- 
ental character. After Confucianism had secured a firm hold 
upon the government, it cared little what Buddhism did in the 
moral sphere. All physical contest between them came to an 



384 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

end, and they became blended in the Korean consciousness in 
so far as the antipodes can blend. This also has left its marie 
upon Korean folk-lore. The longest and most thoroughly elabo- 
rated stories show Buddhism and Confucianism hand in hand 
The former supplies the dramatic element, and the latter the 
ethical. The motive is Confucian, the action Buddhistic. 

Under the head of shamanistic stories I include all tales which 
hinge upon shamanism, fetichism, animism and the like. They 
are the stories which appeal to the basic element in the Korean. 
Before he was a Confucianist, before he was a Buddhist, he was 
a nature worshipper. True enough, the monk can scare him with 
his pictures of a physical hell, but it is as nothing to the fear 
he has of the spirit which inhabits yonder tree on the hillside. 
The Confucianist can make the chills rim up and down his back 
by an inventory of the evil passions of the heart ; but it will not 
begin to compare with the horror which seizes him when in the 
middle of the night a weasel overturns a jar in the kitchen, and 
he feels sure that a tokgabi is at work among his lares and 
penates. The merchant will not be moved by a homily on the 
duty of fair dealing with one's fellow-men, but he will spend all 
day spelling out from the calendar a lucky day on which to carry 
out a plan for " doing " an unwary customer. Countless are 
the stories based upon these themes. The spirits of mountain, 
stream, tree, rock or cave play through Korean fiction as the 
fairy, goblin or genius does through the pages of the " Arabian 
Nights." 

This portion of our theme is of greater interest than almost 
any other, for while Buddhism and Confucianism are both impor- 
tations, and bring with them many ideas originally alien to the 
Korean mind, we have here the product of the indigenous and 
basic elements of their character. And yet, even after the lapse 
of so many centuries, it is difficult to segregate the original 
Korean and the imported Chinese ingredients in these tales; but 
we may be sure that here if anywhere we shall come near to 
the genuine Korean. 



FOLK-LORE 385 

First come the stories based upon the belief that animals can 
acquire the power to transform themselves into men. These are 
among the stories that children love best. There was the wild 
boar that drank of the water that had lain for twenty years in 
a human skull, and thus acquired power to assume the human 
shape, but with this fatal limitation, that if a dog looked him in 
the face he would be obliged to resume his natural shape. There 
is the fox which turned into a woman, an Oriental Circe, and 
worked the destruction of an empire. Now and again a centena- 
rian toad assumes human shape, and acts as valet to the tiger, 
who is masquerading as a gentleman. A serpent turns into a 
beautiful maiden and lures a man to the brink of destruction, but, 
being thwarted, changes its tactics and infests his body with 
a myriad of little snakes, from which he is delivered by the 
sparrows, who kindly peck holes in his skin and let the reptiles 
out. There is a clear line of demarcation between the good and 
the bad animals. The fox, tiger, wild boar, serpent and toad 
are always bad, while the rabbit, frog, tortoise and dragon are 
invariably good. As the tiger is the most destructive animal in 
Korea, we are not surprised to find a great number of stories, 
telling how he turned into a girl and came crying to the door 
of a house in order to lure out its inmates. This is the " bug- 
aboo" story with which Korean children are frightened into 
obedience. 

Many are the wonders worked by the tokgabis, the imps that 
delight to make trouble in the household. No Korean will pro- 
fess to have seen one or to have been the victim of his tricks, 
but every Korean knows of someone else who has so suffered. 
They believe that these imps are the spirits of wicked men who 
have been refused entrance into the place of the blessed, and have 
no option but to haunt their former places of abode ; or they may 
be the spirits of good people who have died by violence, or under 
other painful circumstances, and cannot go to paradise because 
of the desire of revenge which bums in them. Sometimes they 
take the shape of a man with the lower half of his body gone. 



386 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

scMnetimes that of a flying man or child. At other times they 
appear in the shape of fire or lightning, or a crash as of 
thunder. 

Many stories are told of how these tormented spirits have 
leagued themselves with men, promising that the unholy com- 
pact will bring riches and power. This corresponds to the witch- 
craft of the West. By the aid of these familiar spirits many a 
deed of darkness is done ; but the promises always fail, and the 
man becomes pinched and pale, and he gradually wastes away. 
It is only by breaking the compact that he can save himself from 
disaster. The things the tokgabi dreads the most are silver, a 
red colour and a tree that has been struck by lightning. Men 
may break the spell by hanging about the house cloths dipped in 
a red dye. This barrier the spirit cannot pass, and after four 
days of waiting he departs never to come again. His dread of 
silver reminds us of the superstition in the West, that in order 
to shoot a ghost one must load the gun with a silver piece as well 
.as the regular charge. If a tokgabi seizes a man, it always lays 
hold of his top-knot ; for this reason it is that so many Koreans 
wear a little silver pin in the end of that ornamental member. 
If a tree is struck by lightning, the boys of the neighbourhood 
will hasten to secure splinters of the wood to carry in their 
pouches as a charm against the fiends. 

This meddlesome sprite is a sort of Korean Puck, and any 
casualty whose cause is not patent is laid at his door. One of 
his favourite pastimes is to bewitch the rice-kettle and make the 
cover fall in. The cover is a trifle larger than the kettle's mouth, 
and the trick would seem to be impossible ; but if the cover were 
cold and the kettle made very hot, the expansion of the metal 
might make even this possible. This may have occurred once or 
twice in all the centuries, and it is still cited as evidence of 
the existence of these imps. The tokgabi seldom plays the lead- 
ing part in a Korean story, but he flits in and out and adds spice 
to the narrative. 

Prominent among the folk-tales are those of the Uncle Remus 



FOLK-LORE 387 

type ; and it is very commonly the rabbit that outwits his stronger 
enemies. A wicked tortoise, in search of a rabbit's liver to use 
as medicine in healing the sea-king's daughter, inveigled a rabbit 
into riding on his back across the water to an island that the 
tortoise said was a rabbit's paradise. When well out from shore, 
the tortoise bade the rabbit prepare to die, for his liver was 
needed down below. After a moment's thought the rabbit 
laughed and said : " You might have had it without all this 
trouble. We are made with removable livers, so that after eating 
too much we can throw our livers out and wash them and keep 
them cool. I had just laid mine out to dry when you came, and 
your story was so fascinating that I forgot the liver entirely. 
You are welcome to it if you will let me show you where it is." 
So the rabbit got safely back to shore and had a good laugh at 
the expense of the tortoise. 

Spirits are everywhere, and they turn up on the most unlikely 
occasion. Even the door-hinges or the chopsticks may be the 
abode of an imp who has the power to change a man's whole 
destiny. As a rule, they seem to be on the watch for someone 
to injure them, for only so can they gain the power they crave. 
These stories deal with the lowly and humble things of life, 
and it is in them that Korean humour shows itself to the best 
advantage. Their influence is very great, and it may be said 
with some degree of confidence that they define the religion of 
far more Koreans than do the more high-sounding names of Bud- 
dhism and Confucianism. If they had been left to themselves 
and had not been made the dumping-ground for other people's 
religions, it is probable that they would have developed some 
such pantheon as that of the Greeks; but even as it is, we find 
them worshipping the spirits of grove and rock and mountain 
with a fervour that neither Buddhism nor Confucianism can 
arouse. 

We will now consider briefly the legends of Korea. Under 
this heading we include all supernatural or extra-natural inci- 
dents, believed by the credulous to form a part of the history 



388 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

of ^ the country. These stories are always short and pithy and 
are truly indigenous. Most of them are of great antiquity and 
antedate any considerable Japanese or Chinese influence. 

Many legends deal with the founding of the various dynas- 
ties and kingdoms that have flourished here from time to time. 
We find upon examination that the egg plays a very important 
part in the origin of ancient heroes. To be sure, the Tangun, the 
most ancient of all, had another and a unique origin. A bear, 
by patient waiting in a cave, at the command of the great spirit 
became a woman. Whan-ung, the son of the Creator, sought 
and found her, and she bore a son who is known as Tangun, 
contemporary with Noah. The founder of the g^eat southern 
kingdom of Silla (57 b. C.-918 a. d.) was brought forth from 
a gigantic egg that was found in a forest. The foimder of 
Koguryu in the north came also from an egg of superhuman 
origin. One of the early heroes of Silla came from an egg that 
floated in from the sea in a chest. The origin of the three 
heroes of Quelpart is different. They arose from a hole in the 
ground. The founder of Koryu had for mother the daughter 
of the sea-king, the Korean Neptune. Another mighty man 
came from beneath a boulder in the shape of a golden toad. 

Closely connected with these are the tales which deal with 
the omens and signs that heralded the coming of momentous 
events. It was always the evil fortune that was thus fore- 
shadowed. Fear is a main element in the religion of all semi- 
civilised people, and this fear has made them quick to detect the 
signs of coming danger. Before the kingdom of Pakche fell, 
imps flew through the palace corridors, screaming, ** Pakche is 
fallen," and then dived into the earth. Digging at the point 
where they disappeared, the King found a tortoise on whose back 
was written, ** Pakche's sun is at the zenith," which meant that 
it was ready to go down. In other cases, tigers have come down 
from the mountains and wandered in the streets of the capital; 
the sea has turned red like blood ; meteors, comets and eclipses 
have appeared; abnormal births, either human or animal, have 



FOLK-LORE 389 

taken place; a white fox has crossed the road in front of the 
King, insects have fallen in showers, thunder has been heard in 
winter, fruit trees have blossomed late in the fall, a white bow 
has pierced the sun, red snow has fallen, wailing sounds have 
proceeded from the royal tombs, a city or temple gate has been 
blown down, clouds or frogs have fought with each other. All 
these and many more are met with in Korean legend, and every 
one of them has meant death or destruction or some other dire 
calamity. It is interesting to note how closely some of these 
correspond to the signs which were dreaded by the ancient 
Romans. Among the signs which predict good fortune, the 
most prominent are the meeting with a white deer, the finding 
of a white pheasant or a white crow, or the discovery of a stem 
of barley with two stalks. But many happy events have been 
foretold by dreams. The founder of the present dynasty is said 
to have dreamed that he saw a sheep running over the hills, and 
as it ran its horns and tail dropped off. This meant that the 
two upper strokes and the- lower stroke of the Chinese character 
for sheep had been taken away, leaving the character for king! 
Yi Sun-sin, who saved Korea in 1592, had a dream in which 
he saw himself defending a tree which vandals were attempting 
to cut down. A maiden dreamed that she saw a dragon enter 
her father's ink-water bottle. When she awoke she took the 
bottle and hid it until in after years her own son was ready to 
go up to Seoul and take the examinations. She gave it to him, 
and promised that the dragon would help him take his degree. 
It did, and he became Prime Minister. 

Prophecy plays an impoptant part in Korean legendary lore. 
Of course, it is almost all ex post facto prophecy, but the 
Koreans still cling to it. Most of the leading events in Korean 
history since the tenth century are said to have been foretold 
at some earlier time. There does not seem to have been any 
prophetic office, but now and again a monk or a scholar has 
been moved to tell his vision of the future. The monk Muhak 
objected to the site upon which it was proposed to build the 



390 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

first palace at Seoul, and affirmed that if it was built there a 
great calamity would overtake the country in just two hundred 
years. His words were unheeded, and just two hundred years 
later the armies of Hideyoshi landed on the coast of southern 
Korea. To prove that these prophecies were not all made after 
the event, the Korean points to those prophecies which have 
existed for centuries and are as yet unfulfilled. The -most strik- 
ing of these is that the present dynasty will be followed by one 
that will have its capital at Kye-ryong Mountain in the south. 
Another affirmed that this dynasty would have great difficulty 
in passing its five-hundredth anniversary. As that year came 
just after the China-Japan war, many Koreans watched with 
the utmost solicitude to see whether the dangerous point would 
be passed in safety. The latest one to come to light is that, 
" When white pines grow in Korea, the northern half of the 
peninsula will go to the Tartar and the southern half to the 
shrimp." The Koreans interpret the " white pines " to be 
the telegraph poles, and Tartar to be Russia, and the shrimp 
to be Japan ; for the islands of Japan are noted as being in the 
shape of a shrimp. 

When the monk Tosan in 918 ascended Songak and chose 
the site for the capital of the Koryu dynasty, he made a mistake, 
for when he went to take another look in the morning he saw 
far away to the south the peaks of Samgak Mountains peeping 
above the nearer range, thus forming the dreaded kyubong, or 
** spying peak '' ; and for this reason he said that within five 
hundred years the dynasty would fall before another whose 
capital should be at the foot of Samgak. Four hundred and 
seventy-six years later his word came true. 

Another style of legend deals with the supernatural aid that 
was given in important crises in history. When Chumong fled 
from home before his brothers and came to an impassable river, 
the fish came to the surface and formed a solid bridge upon 
which he crossed to safety. When the capital of Silla was 
attacked by wild men, strange warriors appeared with ears like 



FOLK-LORE 391 

bamboo leaves and delivered the town. The next day the King 
found his father's grave strewn with the leaves, and he then 
knew that his father's spirit had led forth an army of spirits 
and had delivered him. 

The battlefields of Korea, as of every other land, form the 
background for many a thrilling tale. When the army of 
Kogurjru went forth to conquer Puyu, they heard the sound of 
clashing arms in Yimul forest. The leaders pushed forward 
and found swords and spears clashing against each other in 
mimic battle, but wielded by invisible hands. It was deemed a 
good omen. The weapons were taken, and with them the foe 
was conquered. When rebels besieged Kyong-ju, a star fell in 
the city, a sign of destruction. The rebels rejoiced; but the 
stubborn general within, defying even the fates, sent up a kite 
with a lantern attached, and the rebels, thinking that it was the 
star and that the decree of heaven had been reversed, raised the 
siege and decamped. 

At one time or another almost every foot of Korean soil 
has been the scene of battle, and the tales of wonderful marks- 
manship, heroic daring, gigantic strength, subtle stratagem, in- 
ventive genius, intrepid horsemanship and hairbreadth escape 
by field and flood are among the commonest household words 
in Korea. Who can worthily sing the praises of Yi Yu-song, 
against whose body bullets flattened themselves and fell harmless 
to the ground; or of Kwak-Cha-u, the "General of the Red 
Robe," who to-day would be falling upon the enemy in Chulla 
and to-morrow would take breakfast in Kyong-ju, a thousand 
li away, because he had the power to " wrinkle the ground " ? 
He would make the ground contract before him, and, after he 
had stepped over it, expand it again and find that he had gone 
a hundred li. Many are the dei ex machina like this, whereby 
men have been saved from seemingly desperate situations. 

Women, too, come in for their full share of attention, from 
the time of Yuwha, the mermaid princess mother of Chumong, 
down to the time of Nonga, the dancing-girl patriot, who seized 



392 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the Japanese general, her enforced paramour, and leaped to 
death with him from the wall of Chin-ju, in the days of the 
great invasion. Most notable was the Queen of the last King 
of Pakche, who, upon the approach of the ruthless enemy, led 
her maids to the top of a beetling precipice and threw herself 
into the water below rather than suffer indigfnity at the hands 
of the conquerors. That is the Nakwhaam, or " Precipice of 
the Falling Flowers," a name of most poetic beauty. 

Tongman, the first woman ruler in Silla, divined, from the 
fire in the frogs* eyes, that the enemy had crossed the border of 
her realm. Seo, the faithful wife, followed her husband to 
Japan on the flying boulder and became a queen there. She 
wove the magic silk on which the King of Silla sacrificed, and 
thus brought back the light of heaven to his realm, which, since 
her departure, had been shrouded in Egyptian darkness. There 
was also the Korean Judith, who, during the occupation of 
Pyeng-yang by the Japanese in 1592, brought her brother over 
the wall at night to smite off the head of her captor, who slept 
bolt upright at a table with a sword in each hand and with only 
one eye shut at a time. Even after his head had rolled to the 
floor, he arose in his place and hurled one of his swords with 
such tremendous force that it went clean through a massive 
wooden pillar. 

There are stories of women notorious for their wickedness, 
as, for instance, the Princess of Ang-nang, who married a prince 
of Yemak and one night went and cut open the head of the big 
drum which, without touch of mortal hand, always emitted a 
booming sound when an enemy was approaching. Soon after 
this messengers came hurrying with the news that the Ang-nang 
forces were crossing the border, but the King laughed at it, 
saying that the drum had given no warning. Too late it was 
found that the drum was destroyed. 

A fruitful source of Korean legend is the wisdom shown 
by magistrates and governors in deciding knotty questions of 
law. These bear witness to the rich fund of humour in the 



FOLK-LORE 393 

Korean, which keeps him cheerful and patient through centuries 
of — what shall we say ? — anything but ideal government. 

A boy accidentally shot his parent and came weeping to the 
prefect, who had not the heart to execute the penalty of the 
law on him. But the prefect's son, coming at the moment and 
seeing his father's perplexity, asked the cause, and, being told, 
exclaimed: "The boy must be killed. If his heart had been 
right, he would not have waited for the law to punish him; 
he would have killed himself. It is plain that his tears are only 
to excite pity." So the prefect sent the boy up to Seoul for 
execution. 

A hunter had wounded a fox and was chasing it down when 
a dog ran out of a house and caught the animal. The owner 
of the dog claimed the game. The magistrate decided as fol- 
lows": " It is evident that what the hunter was after was the 
animal's skin, while the dog thought only of its flesh. Let each 
have what he was after." 

Early one morning at a country inn a good horse was stolen 
and a poor spavined brute was left in its place. The prefect 
was appealed to. He ordered that the miserable animal that 
had been left be deprived of water for two days and then set 
free upon the road. jOf course it went straight for its former 
master's house in a distant village, and there the stolen horse 
was found. 

When we speak of myth, we take the word in its strict 
meaning, — some extra-natural origin of a natural phenomenon. 
At the very start we must say that the Korean imagination has 
never been capable of those grand flights of fancy which pro- 
duced the enchanting myths of Greece. Nor has it been virile 
enough or elemental enough to evolve the stem heroes of the 
Norse mythology. The Greek, the Roman, the Scandinavian 
pantheons are filled with figures that loom gigantic and awful, 
while in Korea these agencies all seem, somehow, less than man ; 
sometimes craftier, often stronger, but seldom worthier or better. 
So, instead of giving us a Phoebus Apollo to lead out the chariot 



394 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

of the sun, the Korean gives us the reason why the bedbug is 
so very flat. Instead of fancying that the cirrus clouds are 
flocks of sheep feeding in ethereal pastures, the Korean tells us 
why sparrows hop on both feet while magpies walk by putting 
one foot before the other. The Greek mythology is telescopic, 
the Korean microscopic. If you want to know the origin of 
fire, of the precession of the equinoxes, of echo or of lightning, 
you must go to the Greek; but if you desire to learn why the 
ant has such a small waist, or why the louse has a black spot 
on its breast, or why crabs walk sideways, you must consult 
Korean lore. A single sample will suffice. 

The flies and the sparrows had a quarrel and agreed to 
arbitrate. The governor of Pyeng-an was chosen to settle the 
matter. The flies charged the sparrows with stealing the rice 
from the harvest fields and of building their nests under the 
eaves of the houses and causing all sorts of disturbances. With- 
out waiting to hear the other side of the case, the governor 
ordered the sparrows to be beaten on the legs. As the blows 
began to fall, the sparrows hopped up and down in pain and 
begged that their side of the story be heard. The governor 
complied, and then the advocate of the sparrows charged the 
flies with laying eggs in the standing rice and ruining whole 
crops, with entering houses and defiling the food and waking 
the sleepers in' the early morning. The governor would hear 
no more, but ordered the flies to be beaten unmercifully. It was 
their turn to be humble then. They came before the governor 
and, rubbing their hands together as Koreans always do when 
supplicating, asked that they be let off. After thinking it over, 
the governor pardoned both sides, but, in order that neither the 
sparrows nor the flies should forget the warning, he decreed 
that for all time the sparrows should hop instead of walk, and 
that whenever a fly alighted he should rub his hands together, 
as they had just done before him! 

In like manner Korean lore tells why flounders have both 
eyes on the same side of the head, why shad have so many 



FOLK-LORE 39S 

bones, wny the full moon contains a picture of a tree with a 
rabbit beneath, why sorghum seeds are enveloped in a red case, 
why clams are simply birds that have fallen into the sea, how 
the serpent and the octopus had a fight and as a result the ser- 
pent had to surrender his four feet to the octopus, how the 
earthworm had his feet all taken away and given to the centi- 
pede, — all these and many another quaint and curious freak of 
nature is explained to the satisfaction of the Korean. 

Thus far we have been able to classify roughly the different 
types of Korean folk-tales, but outside these limits there is a 
whole realm of miscellaneous fiction, so varied in its character 
as to defy classification; and we can enumerate only individual 
types. I should include under one head all those tales which 
draw their inspiration from the workings of human passions. 
Of the love-story, as we know it in the West, Korean lore is 
entirely innocent. Social conditions, which prevent personal 
contact between men and women of a marriageable age, suffi- 
ciently account for this; and it is this limitation along the line 
of legitimate affection that is to blame for a wide range of 
popular literature which cannot be discussed with propriety. 
Love between man and woman is a thing never spoken of among 
respectable Koreans. 

Many tales are based upon the passion for revenge. With- 
out doubt the prevalence of this type results from a state of 
society in which even-handed and blindfold justice finds no place; 
where the principle, " to the victor belongs the spoils," applies 
equally in the political, industrial and social life. It is a condi- 
tion in which " pull " in its most sordid sense is the main asset 
of the politician, the merchant and even the coolie. Here the 
passion for revenge has daily and hourly food to feed upon, and 
we see a clear reflection of it in the folk-tales. 

A woman has been robbed of her ancestral burial-place by 
a bad prefect, and she is told by a fortune-teller that she will 
recover the property as soon as she is able to make one egg 
stand upon another without falling off. One night, several 



396 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

years after this, the King of Korea, masquerading like Haroun 
al Raschid of old, peeped through a window and saw an aged 
woman trying to make one Qgg stand upon another, but always 
without success. But even as he looked, behold! the impossible 
was done. He demanded admittance and, after he had heard 
the story, gave the woman ample revenge. 

A young girl whose father and brother have been wrongfully 
done to death by the Prime Minister retires to a mountain retreat, 
and practises the sword dance with the purpose of becoming so 
proficient that she will be called upon to dance before the court 
and thus will secure an opportunity to kill the Prime Minister's 
son. Meanwhile that son has been disowned by the Prime 
Minister and wanders away among the mountains, where he acci- 
dentally meets the girl and persuades her to marry him, prom- 
ising to let her go when her destiny calls. The boy has been told 
by a fortune-teller that he will die on his eighteenth birthday. 
Neither of them tells the other what is in store, and the girl never 
dreams that she has married the man that she must kill if she is 
to keep her oath. It would take too long to imravel the plot, but 
the reader can see that all sorts of complications are possible. 

Korea has also its stories of detectives and their wiles. The 
custom of sending government detectives to the country to spy 
upon governors and prefects and to right the wrongs of the 
people forms an easy hook upon which to hang many an inter- 
esting tale. Tliese are crude compared with the complicated 
plots of the West, and yet now and again situations occur that 
would do credit to Sherlock Holmes himself. In the human 
heart there is a passionate love of justice. In the end the right 
must prevail. Koreans evidently think so, for though there are 
tragedies enough in actual life there are none in Korean fiction. 
Things come out right in the end. The Korean may be much 
of a fatalist, but he is not a pessimist. His fatalism is of that 
cheerful type that leads him to take things as they come. We 
may rightly say that the comic muse fills the whole stage of 
Korean drama. It is the villain only that gets killed off. 



FOLK-LORE 397 

This craving for justice amounts to a passion; perhaps on 
the principle that things that are least accessible are the most, 
desired. This feeling is expressed in a multitude of stories in 
which justice, long delayed, has at last been done. The Korean 
story-teller has the same penchant for getting the hero into hot 
water that the Western novelist has, but the Korean always gets 
his hero out, which is more than can be said for our more real- 
istic style, in which the hero is often left suspended over the 
coals. 

Stories based upon the passion for fame generally take a 
literary turn. They cluster about the g^eat national examina- 
tions. The enormous influence that these examinations have 
exercised on the life of the Korean is shadowed forth in count- 
less stories relating to the open strife of the competitors, their 
attempts to cheat or to bribe the examiners, to substitute spu- 
rious manuscripts, to forge names, if by any means whatever they 
may arrive at the Mecca of official position. And right here 
appears the relative status of literary and military life. The 
literary man is distinctly above the military. No fame is suffi- 
cient that rests merely upon military success. There are a very 
few exceptions. All Korean fiction goes to show that military 
glory is thrust upon a man, while it is only literary fame that he 
eagerly seeks. 

Avarice is also one of the chords that are struck in Korean 
tales, but it is usually only as a secondary theme. Rarely is a 
story devoted exclusively or even mainly to the illustration of 
this passion. The Koreans are too happy-go-lucky, and they 
have too great a contempt for niggardliness to make the sordid 
acquisitive faculty a pleasing theme in fiction. On the other 
hand, the tales of generosity and self-sacrifice, of prodigal and 
even reprehensible bounty, are common enough, for they fit the 
spirit of the people and go hand in hand with their optimism. 

A lad goes forth to seek his fortune. Coming to a village, 
he meets another boy who is grieving because he has no money 
with which to bury a parent. Our hero gives the unknown lad 



398 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

every cent he has, and then fares on, a beggar. Of how he 
, tramps up and down the country, and finally conies to the capital 
and becomes a general, of how the enemy have in their ranks a 
veritable Goliath, of how our hero goes and challenges him only 
to find that it is the very person whom he had befriended, and 
how a happy peace is consummated, — all this forms the kind 
of story that the boys and girls of Korea can listen to by the 
hour and still wish for more. 

The peculiar customs of the country are enshrined in the folk- 
lore. The unique stone-fight; the tug-of-war; the detestable 
widow-stealing and the still more horrible custom called posam, 
which is veritable murder, committed for the purpose of fore- 
stalling the predictions of the fortune-teller that the bride will 
soon become a widow ; the wiles of the ajunSy or hangers-on at 
country prefectures, who are looked upon much as Judean pub- 
licans were, — all these themes and many more, based upon 
national customs and traits, swell the volume of Korean folk-lore. 

It is natural that a land as old as this should be filled with 
relics of other days, and that they should be surrounded with 
a halo of popular veneration. Even though many of these relics 
are now lost, like the Holy Grail, yet the stories remain. There 
was the golden yardstick of Silla, and the pair of jade flutes 
that refused to sound if taken away from the town of Kyong-ju. 
There was the magic stone in which one could look and discover 
the nature of any disease. There was the magic robe which 
would render its wearer invisible, and the King's stone, from 
which the ashes of cremated sovereigns of Silla were cast into 
the Japan Sea. Stories cluster about the dolmens and cromlechs 
that are found all over Korea, but whose origin no one seems to 
know. 

Among the miscellaneous tales are those which tell of the 
introductions of various things into Korea, or their invention. 
St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, but Prince Yunsan 
introduced them into Korea. He wanted a few to keep under his 
bed, but as there were none in Korea he sent to India and secured 



FOLK-LORE 399 

a cargo of them. As they were being unloaded, some escaped 
into woods, and ever since that time Korea has had her ophidians 
like other lands. 

The scientific value of a study of folk-lore is the opportunity 
it affords for comparison. We want to know what are the affin- 
ities of Korean folk-lore in order to establish its ethnological 
relationships. Such comparison seems to be possible when we 
note that in Korea we have stories that are almost the exact 
counterpart of that of Cinderella, The Forty Thieves, Brer 
Rabbit, Haroun al Raschid, Jonah and the Whale, Red Riding 
Hood, Aladdin's Lamp, Sinbad the Sailor and many another 
tjrpe familiar to the scientific folk-lorist of the West. 

PROVERBS 

In spite of the lack of a literature that is largely accessible 
to the common classes, the people have developed a keenness of 
insight and a terseness of expression that is surprising. The 
lack of books has resulted in a refinement of the art of story- 
telling, and this in turn has brought out a large volume of terse 
and witty sayings which correspond to our saws and proverbs. 
The Koreans use these much more frequently than we do, and it 
adds a spice to their talk that is often lacking in ours. 

Where we would use the very humdrum formula " Make 
assurance doubly sure," they would say, " Even though the crab 
is boiled, you must pull its legs off first and eat them." There 
is a whole sermon in the proverb, " A finger prick will demand 
attention, though the worms be eating the heart unknown." The 
value of personal observation is illustrated by the saying, " If 
you want to know how deep the river is, wade in and see." " The 
blind man stole his own hen and ate it " is a finely ironical way 
of saying that the covetous man will overreach himself. Our 
proverb, " Lock the barn-door after the horse has been stolen," 
is expressed equally well in the Korean, " Fill out the prescrip- 
tion after the friends of the sick man have put on mourning." 



400 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

" There cannot be a deep valley without there being a high moun- 
tain " means that you cannot get something for nothing. The 
Koreans better our " Every man's goose is a gander " by saying, 
" Even the hedgehog says her young are smooth." " Making a 
mountain of a mole-hill" means to the Korean, "Killing a bullock 
for a feast when a hen would have sufficed." A frequently 
observed trait in human nature is touched upon in the saying, 
" The man who had his face slapped in Tongjagi waits till he 
gets to Subingo before he makes faces at his insulter " ; in other 
words, he puts some space between before answering. We say 
that a man must lie upon a bed as he makes it, and in the same 
way the Korean says that "The man who eats the salt must 
drink the water." To " build a house beside the main road " is 
a rather subtle way of saying that " too many cooks spoil the 
broth," for it means that everyone who passes along will criticise 
and say, " Why don't you make this part so and that part thus ? " 
and in this way the builder will at last find that he has made a 
botch of the whole job. We have an expressive proverb, " Jump 
from the frying-pan into the fire," but the Korean is abreast of 
us with his " Cut oflf a wart and make a tumor." " What looked 
like blossoms on the dead tree turned out to be only the white 
mould of decay " conveys the same idea as our reference to a 
mirage. " You cannot sit in the valley and see the new moon 
set " means that if we would get the best things we must make 
an efifort. Insincerity is epitomised in the trenchant words, 
" Honey on the lips, but a sword in the heart." It shows a keen 
insight into human nature to evolve the proverb, " Never beg 
from a man who has once been a beggar himself." How often 
do fashion's votaries in every land illustrate the saying, " He 
went and caught the dropsy out of envy for the fat man " ! The 
Koreans have gotten rather the better of our proverb, " The pot 
called the kettle black " by saying, " The aspen blamed the pine 
for rustling so loudly in the wind," when everyone knows that 
the least breath of air will set the aspen leaves to quivering. This 
proverb contains a distinctly poetic touch which is quite lack- 



FOLK-LORE 401 

ing in our culinary metaphor. How true it is the world over 
that " Where there are no tigers, wild-cats will be very self- 
important." This illustrates the man who is clothed with a little 
brief authority, or, in part, the fact that ** When the cat 's away, 
the mice will play." The idea that we try to convey in the classical 
allusion to " the Greek calends " the Korean expresses in the 
more homely way, " Like blood in a bird's foot." The universal 
desire to escape responsibility is shadowed forth in the proverb, 
** The cook blames the table because he cannot pile the food 
high." The skill of a Korean cook is proven by his ability to 
make a pyramid of cakes or sweetmeats two or three times as 
high as the diameter of the plate. If he fails, he will say that 
the plate is crooked. " Even beggars sometimes feast their 
friends " corresponds to our ** Every dog has his day." Exces- 
sive caution is illustrated by the hyperbole, ** He would not walk 
beneath the city wall with a load of rotten eggs." The extremely 
small value of the load and the extremely small liability of the 
wall falling and crushing them show the measure of the man's 
timidity. We sometimes enumerate our barnyard fowl before 
their incubation, and in the same way the Korean says that some 
people " Make the baby-clothes before the wedding." It is a 
profound truth that has many close applications that " The horse 
will be tripped up if you tether it with too long a rope." Many 
a rich man's son has proved this to be true, not in Korea only. 
We say truly that " A scalded cat fears the fire," and the Korean 
is just as near the truth when he affirms that " A man that has 
once been frightened by a tortoise will jump every time he sees 
a kettle cover." One of the most expressive of Korean proverbs 
characterises the fickle man as " The character zmil written on 
chamois skin." Now this character ziml is [3 J but if you write 
it on chamois skin and then stretch the skin vertically, it will 
become □ , which is the character il, an entirely different thing. 
It reminds us of Polonius and the cloud which looked now like 
a camel, now like a weasel and anon like a whale. 

These are only a very few of the commoner proverbs that 



402 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

are used as household words. The following might be added to 
show how the Koreans have picked out for such generalisation 
those qualities of the heart which are the universal property of 
the race. 

" He ate so fast that he choked." 

" The flower that blooms in the morning is withered by 
noon." 

" You can recover an arrow shot, but not a word spoken." 

" It is easy to hurt yourself with a sharp-cornered stone." 

" To make a mountain you must carry every load of earth." 

" If you go across-lots, you will fall in with thieves." 

" If the carpenter stretches his marking-cord tight, he will be 
able to make a straight line." 

" If you use good enough bait, the fish will bite, though it 
kill." 

" It is foolish to mourn over a broken vase." 

" You can mend now with a trowel what it will take a spade 
to mend to-morrow." 

" You cannot expect to lift a heavy stone without getting red 
in the face." 

" He pours instruction into a cow's ear." 

" All roads lead to Seoul." 



CHAPTER XXX 

RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 

BEFORE beginning the discussion of Korea's religions 
we must define the term. This will seem strange to 
I a Western reader, who knows well enough what a 
religion is; but with these Eastern people it is ex- 
tremely difficult to tell where religion leaves off and mere super- 
stition begins. I think it will be better to take the word in its 
broadest sense, and consider religion to include every relation 
which men hold, or fancy that they hold, to superhuman, infra- 
human or, more broadly still, extra-human phenomena. And 
we must even supplement this by saying that in the category of 
extra-human we include the spirits of human beings that have 
died. Thus defined, we shall see that the religions of Korea 
form a very intricate study. In no department of Korean life 
is the antiquity of their civilisation so clearly demonstrated as 
in the mosaic of religious beliefs that are held, not only by dif- 
ferent individuals but by any single individual. We have no 
choice but to deal with these separately, but the reader must 
ever bear in mind that in every Korean mind there is a jumble 
of the whole; that there is no antagonism between the different 
cults, however they may logically refute each other, but that 
they have all been shaken down together through the centuries 
until they form a sort of religious composite, from which each 
man selects his favourite ingredients without ever ignoring the 
rest. Nor need any man hold exclusively to any one phase of 
this composite religion. In one frame of mind he may lean 
toward the Buddhistic element and at another time he may 
revert to his ancestral fetichism. As a general thing, we may 
say that the all-round Korean will be a Confucianist when in 



404 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

society, a Buddhist when he philosophises and a spirit-worshipper 
when he is in trouble. Now, if you want to know what a man's 
religion is, you must watch him when he is in trouble. Then 
his genuine religion will come out, if he has any. It is for this 
reason that I conclude that the underlying religion of the Korean, 
the foundation upon which all else is mere superstructure, is his 
original spirit-worship. In this term are included animism, sha- 
manism, fetichism and nature-worship generally. 

Buddhism was introduced into Korea in the early centuries 
of our era, and Confucianism followed soon after. The former 
was too mystical to appeal to the people in its more philosophic 
aspects, and, as it came in as a fashionable state religion, its 
spectacular character was its chief recommendation. Confu- 
cianism, on the other hand, was too cold and materialistic to 
appeal to the emotional side of his nature, and so became simply 
a political system, the moral elements of which never found any 
considerable following among the masses. But both these sys- 
tems eventually blended with the original spirit-worship in such 
a way as to form a composite religion. Strange to say, the 
purest religious notion which the Korean to-day possesses is the 
belief in Hananim, a being entirely unconnected with either of 
the imported cults and as far removed from the crude nature- 
worship. This word Hananim is compounded of the words 
^* heaven '' (sky) and " master/* and is the pure Korean counter- 
part of the Chinese word " Lord of Heaven.'' The Koreans all 
consider this being to be the Supreme Ruler of the universe. He 
is entirely separated from and outside the circle of the various 
spirits and demons that infest all nature. Considered from this 
standpoint, the Koreans are strictly monotheists, and the attri- 
butes and powers ascribed to this being are in such consonance 
with those of Jehovah that the foreign missionaries (Protestant) 
have almost universally accepted the term for use in teaching 
Christianity. The Roman Catholics have adopted the term 
Chun-ju, a pure Chinese word of the same significance, but 
open to the same objection, namely, that it was used long before 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 405 

Christianity came, and may therefore be called the name of a 
heathen god. But while in China it has been found that idols 
exist bearing the name Chun-ju, the Koreans have never 
attempted to make any physical representation of Hananim. 
He has never been worshipped by the use of any idolatrous rites, 
and the concept of him in the Korean mind is, so far as it goes, 
in no way derogatory to the revealed character of God himself. 
It is a moot point whether the Koreans consider the physical 
heavens to be the person of this god. Some of the more igno- 
rant ones will deny that he is invisible, and point to the heavens 
in proof of their statement ; but they attribute to him a fatherly 
care of mankind in sending sunlight and shower, and a retribu- 
tive power in striking the wicked with lightning or other 
disaster. The Temple of Heaven to which the Emperor repairs 
to pray in times of famine, pestilence or other great calamity 
is a purely Chinese innovation, and can be said to have only 
such connection with the Korean Hananim as grows out of a 
common but independent concept of Divinity in the two coun- 
tries. As a rule, the people do not worship Hananim. He is 
appealed to by the Emperor only, as we have just said, and this 
in itself would seem to indicate that the Koreans received the 
idea of this being from China. One would be rash to dogmatise 
here, but it is our conviction that it w^as indigenous to Korea 
as well as to China. 

The foregoing coincides with the Confucian element in 
Korean religion, so far as Confucianism postulates a personal 
Supreme Being, but on the Buddhist side there are countless 
gods, the one commonest to the Korean being Ok-wang Sang-je, 
or Jade King Supreme Ruler. The various " uses '' of the 
Buddhist deities will appear in connection with our remarks 
on fortune-telling. 

We must turn now to what we may call the practical reli- 
gion of the Koreans, the belief in a countless number of spirits 
which definitely aflfect the every-day life of the individual. The 
higher deities are reserved for special festivals, but these others 



4o6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

are daily in evidence and the ordinary Korean has them ever 
in mind. Here it is easy to exaggerate, for there are thousands 
of Koreans who pay no attention whatever to any kind of a 
deity or power. They are morally averse to any restriction upon 
their own passions, and they are too intelligent to believe that 
their welfare is dependent upon the propitiation of any spirits, 
whether such exist or not. They may acknowledge the fact, but 
will not abide by the logical inference. There are very many 
Koreans, however, who not only believe in the existence of such 
spirits, but are anxious to propitiate them. It is safe to say that 
an overwhelming majority of these are women, whose compara- 
tive lack of education makes them highly susceptible to super- 
stition. There are also many men who in ordinary life would 
laugh the imps to scorn, and yet when laid upon a bed of sick- 
ness or subjected to some other painful casualty are willing 
enough to compound for their previous scepticism by the pay- 
ment of large bribes to these same imps. It comes out, as we 
have said, in times of trouble. Korean folk-tales frequently have 
to deal with a situation where a gentleman is ill, but will have 
nothing to do with the spirits. His wife, however, holds the 
opposite opinion, and, unknown to her lord, smuggles in a mun- 
dang, or pansu, to exorcise the demon of disease. 

We have already pointed out the fact that, as a rule, women 
are the best supporters of Buddhism, owing to the very inferior 
position which Confucianism accords them. The latter cult is 
the avowed enemy of the belief in goblins and imps, but Bud- 
dhism has become so mixed up with them that the Korean 
woman cannot hold to the one without embracing the other. 
]\lost Korean gentlemen will scoff at the idea that the spirits 
have any control over human destiny, but they put nothing in 
the way of their wives' adhesion to the lower cult. 

There are two orders of spirits, — those which have an un- 
known but extra-human origin and those which represent the 
souls of the deceased. The various elves that haunt the spring, 
the rock, the tree, the cave or the river are nature-gods, pure 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 407 

and simple, and have little to do with human destiny, except as 
they are sacrificed to and asked to give good luck. They repre- 
sent the good fairies and are not propitiated, but simply asked 
to give blessing or help. The spirits of disease and disaster are 
commonly considered nature-gods as well, and not of human 
origin. They require to be propitiated or else exorcised, which 
ceremony it is the office of the mudang or pansu to perform. 
These spirits all go under the name kwisin or kweesin. But 
there is another class, called tokgabi, which correspond to the 
malignant imps of our own folk-lore. They are always up to 
pranks, and in mischief they find their greatest delight. They 
fly about the kitchen and knock over the kettles and pans; they 
seize the goodman by the top-knot and cut it off and fly away; 
they make the kettle cover fall into the kettle. All these and a 
long list of other tricks they play about the house. They like 
company, and will not go away and live in a desert place by 
themselves. If a miser has buried some money, they may watch 
the place and haunt it, so that no one else will dare to live there, 
though the imps themselves can get no good from the money. 
But the most malignant spirits of all are the disembodied souls 
of those men who have met a violent death or who have been 
grievously wronged and have died without obtaining revenge. 
Ordinarily these are supposed to have been good people while 
they were living, and their present deplorable state is not a 
punishment for past misdeeds, but they are in somewhat the 
same condition that the ancient Greek thought the soul of the 
unburied was in. There is something that must be done before 
the spirit can get rest ; it must be " laid." The spirit seems to 
think that it must vex and trouble people until they effect this. 
There are thousands of spirits who are just waiting for some- 
one to do them an injury, so that they may have an opportunity 
to play their pranks upon him. The person who succeeds in 
steering clear of all these traps and pitfalls cannot become the 
object of their persecution. 

It is important to note that while these shadowy beings have 



4o8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

some powers that are distinctly superhuman, in other points they 
are less than human. Almost invariably, in the Korean story, 
the fiend is thwarted by the word of a just man. Him they 
not only fear, but must obey. But we must pause and give* a 
few special names and characteristics of the Korean gods, begin- 
ning with those of the highest grade. 

Besides Hananim, who is quite separate and remote from 
all others, even as Allah was distinct from the gnomes and 
naiads of the Arabian Nights, the Koreans believe in the Five 
Point Generals. These are supposed to rule the five divisions 
of the visible firmament, — North, East, South, West and Centre. 
It is to these that the pansus, or blind exorcists, pray and offer 
sacrifice in order to gain the upper hand of evil spirits. Each of 
these five great gods has a host of lieutenants, nearly one hun- 
dred thousand in all, and it is to these that the pansu looks for 
active help. These five generals are frequently taken as village 
gods, and the curiously carved posts which are so often found 
at the entrance of a Korean country town, and which have 
erroneously been called guide-posts, are representations of these 
gods, which stand as guardians against the entrance of wicked 
spirits. 

Then come the earth spirits, the ones which make the Koreans 
so reluctant to dig in the earth for minerals. They think the 
spirits will consider themselves robbed and so exact a penalty. 
It may be that it is for this reason that miners are looked down 
upon as practical outcasts by the people. These spirits must be 
consulted every time a grave is to be dug, for if a mistake should 
be made the dead man's descendants might wake up some morn- 
ing to find that the grave is empty and the body has been spirited 
away, to their everlasting disgrace. Houses must be built only 
on spots where the spirits allow, and more than one house has 
had to be pulled down and erected on some other site because 
of the terrible misfortunes the imps have inflicted and are ready 
to inflict because their toes have been trodden upon. 

Often the traveller will come across a heap of small stones 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 409 

beside the road and a stunted tree on which are hung rags, locks 
of hair, strips of coloured cloth, pieces of money and a great 
variety of useless articles. Such a place may be found in the 
plains, but it is much more likely to be near the top of a pass 
between two valleys. These sacred places are not dedicated to 
any particular spirit, but to any or all the local deities. The 
traveller picks up a stone and throws it on the pile. This is 
his prayer for success in his journey. If he has reason to fear 
that the " good-fortune snake " is not propitious, he will spit on 
the stone pile. A man who is going to the neighbouring market 
with his bundle of wares to sell may stop and tie a one-cash 
piece to the branch of the tree " just for luck." It is an offering 
to the spirit, and is a request for financial success. A woman 
from the village below may come up the hill with a bowl of rice 
and a little honey and set the food down on a stone and shuffle 
her hands together, bending low the while. She is asking that 
her son come home betimes from his fishing trip, or that her 
child may recover speedily from the disease which has seized 
upon it. A bride may cut off a shred of her skirt and tie it to 
the tree to prevent the good spirits of her father's house fol- 
lowing her to her new abode. and deserting the dwelling of her 
parent. 

As the name of these spirits is legion, so the names of the 
different shrines where they are worshipped would make a long 
catalogue. There is the " Boulder Hall," erected to the spirit 
of some particular rock ; the " Buddha's Hall," a sort of cross 
between Buddhism and fetichism ; " Ursa Major Hall," to the 
spirit of that constellation ; the " Kyung Hall," referring to the 
Buddhist sutras ; the " Wall and Moat Hall," a common name 
for the place where there is a pile of stones or a tree to tie 
fetiches to ; the " Old Man Hall," in honour of the Old Man 
Star, which Koreans believe can be seen in the south only by 
the people who live on the island of Quelpart ; the " Grand- 
mother Hall," " Kingdom Teacher Hall," " Dragon Spirit Hall " 
and many others. 



410 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

There are also what the Koreans call the mountain spirits. 
They are most like our angels of any of the Korean supernatural 
beings, but they are almost always represented as venerable men 
with long white beards. They live among the inaccessible peaks 
of the mountains and always in a state of bliss. Happy is the 
man who chances to catch sight of one of them. If a man lives 
an exemplary life, he may become a sin-sun and join this happy 
band among the hills, and many are the tales Koreans tell of 
the wonderful adventures of good boys among the haunts of 
these immortals. One of these is so like the story of Rip Van 
Winkle that we must give it space. 

Paksuni was a wood-gatherer by profession, and his wife 
was a termagant. So long as he earned a day's wages he did 
not worry, but the woman was always scolding because he did 
not earn more, and raising a great disturbance whenever he 
happened to miss a day. One morning he took his jiggy on his 
back and started up the mountain-side to gather fagots as usual. 
It was very warm, and he sat down in the shade of a tree to 
cool oflf. What more natural than that he should doze oflf, and 
presently see through sleepy lids two venerable men approach, 
one carrying a chess-board and the other the bag of chess-pieces ? 
They sat down beneath the shade and began the game, never 
deigning a glance in his direction. He watched the game as it 
proceeded with absorbing interest. It was the very best game 
of chess he had ever seen played. Finally one of the old men 
made a move and exclaimed, ** Chang" (check). It was the 
first word that had been spoken, and it brought him to his feet. 
The old gentlemen disappeared like a flash, and left him looking 
about in vain for his axe and jiggy. The latter was gone, and 
nothing of the former remained but a rusty shred of iron. His 
clothes were in rags, and his beard had grown to his waist. 
He tottered down the mountain-side and entered the village. It 
all seemed changed. The faces looked unfamiliar. He stopped 
a man and asked if he could tell where a fellow named Paksuni 
lived. The man stared and answered that Paksuni had been 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 411 

lost for thirty years. He had wandered among the hills and 
had been eaten up by tigers. Just then an old woman came 
along to get some water from the well and stopped to listen. 
The bewildered fellow announced that he himself was Paksuni ; 
whereupon the old woman dropped her water-jar, seized the 
tattered remnant of humanity by the top-knot and haled him 
down the street, calling upon heaven to witness that the lazy 
rascal had left her for thirty years to shift for herself, and now 
had the face to come back and show himself. This was so 
much like old times that Paksuni was happy, knowing that after 
all he had not gone mad. Those who think that chess is a slow 
game will find confirmation of their opinion in this tale. 

Besides all these there are the village gods, who watch over 
special localities and to whom the people erect shrines and offer 
an annual sacrifice. In this every member of the village is inter- 
ested, and the cost of the ceremony is borne by all. 

One is fairly safe in conjecturing that the worship of the 
dragon is a Chinese innovation. The Koreans are imaginative 
enough to evolve the idea of a long chain of mountains being 
the body of an immense dragon, but this idea existed in China 
long before the Koreans could have evolved it. In fact, among 
these spirit gods there are some that are identical with those 
which the Chinese recognise and there are others which are 
purely native to Korea. There has been such a mixture of all 
sorts and conditions of ideas in the peninsula that one must 
speak with many reservations and without the least dogmatism. 
We know where Confucianism and Buddhism came from, but 
as for the rest the only thing that we know is that it is here. 
This dragon plays an important part in the Korean's life, and his 
influence is always and only good. We could not begin to 
describe the countless points where this fabled beast comes in 
contact with the fortunes of the Korean. 

The question of fetiches is closely connected with the fore- 
going. The belief in these many spirits leads people to attempt 
to localise them by means of some physical emblem. They do 



412 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

not think that the fetich is the spirit itself, but that it fastens 
upon the fetich and can always be found there when necessity 
demands. Dr. George Heber Jones is an authority on Korean 
fetiches, and he has given the following as some of the most im- 
portant. " When a Korean moves, he does not take his * gods ' 
with him, but passes to the dominion of the gods oi the house to 
which he goes." For this reason he is very careful to get an 
exact list of the latter, so that if sickness or misfortune comes 
he may know just whom he must pray to in order to get out 
of trouble. Each house has its Holy Master. " His fetich con- 
sists of blank sheets of paper and a small bag of rice, which are 
hung upon the ridge-beam of the principal room." When a 
new house is erected, an elaborate ceremony often takes place, 
especially if the owner be a little superstitious. A mudang is 
called in, and by her occult arts she invites a Holy Master to 
come and abide under that roof and take charge of the entire 
destiny of the inmates, ward off disease and protect them gener- 
ally. From that time on no one must ever step upon the thresh- 
old of that house, but always over it, for this is the neck of the 
household god, and to step upon it would anger him and make 
him bring misfortune at once. " Ranking next to the Holy 
Master is the Lord of the Site. His fetich consists of a bundle 
of straw set up like a booth, on three sticks." He has control, 
not of the house, but of the site on which it is built, and he must 
be kept in good temper, or trouble will be brewing. 

The Koreans are wonderful people for depending upon luck. 
They have consequently apotheosised the idea, and every house 
must have its fetich to Good Luck, and it must be Avorshipped 
with great punctuality twice a year. Dr. Jones says very ap- 
positely : ** The kindly favour of the Deity, bestowed out of pure 
love and kindness upon his children, is not known in Korea. 
Her religion remains down on the lower level of luck and ill- 
luck. When all things are going well, then the spirits are be- 
stowing luck on the family ; when things go badly, luck has been 
withdrawn." In this connection the Koreans have various sorts 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 413 

of luck-bringers, just as our American negroes carry rabbits' 
feet. In Korea there are the Luck-snake, the Luck-pig, the Luck- 
toad, the Luck-weasel and the Luck-man. There are places in 
the country where people worship the Luck-snake, and the pres- 
ence of a large snake near a house is welcomed as a good sign. 

Each year, about New- Year's time, the Koreans make little 
straw manikins, stuff a few cash into their bodies and then throw 
them into the streets, where small boys seize upon them and 
tear them to pieces for the sake of the money. In this way the 
spirit of ill-luck is supposed to be dismembered and rendered 
innocuous. Some people hang a hat and a coat at the entrance 
of the house as a fetich of the Door-spirit. Others hang up 
old shoes, bunches of grass and fishes' heads as fetiches of their 
various household divinities. 

Among all the spirits of disease, that which represents the 
smallpox is the most dangerous, and elaborate ceremonies are 
gone through to keep him out or, if he has already entered, to 
get him out again. 

Such is a list of some of the many spirits which swarm about 
the Korean, keep him under constant espionage, and are ready 
at any moment to fall upon him in wrath. If he goes among 
the mountains, they are there; if he goes into his inner room, 
they are there ; if he travels to the remotest corner of the earth, 
they will follow him. It remains, therefore, to examine the ways 
in which he can keep on good terms with these figments of his 
imagination, which are still very real to him. 

Korean society is blessed, or cursed, with two handicrafts 
whose aim and end it is to deal with these occult powers with 
which the Oriental imagination peoples all space. The people 
who follow these vocations are called mudang and pansu, the 
nearest approach to which in English is " sorceress " and " exor- 
cist," but they might be broadly termed witches and wizards. 
The word mudang means " deceiving crowd," and pansu means 
" decider of destiny." The former name is specially appro- 
priate. The mudang is always a woman, and is considered at 



414 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the very lowest point in the social system. She is always an 
abandoned character, though generally married. She pretends 
to be a sort of spiritual medium, and by her friendship with the 
spirits to be able to influence them as she may wish. Kija is 
said to have brought with him from China the art of necro- 
mancy. It is sure that a character closely allied to that of the 
vtudang has existed in China for thousands of years, and if Kija 
was an actual character, it is more than likely that he brought 
this form of incantation. We cannot conclude that he brought 
the spirit worship, but only the peculiar method by which the 
spirits might be governed. The ceremony performed by the 
mudang, and without which her services are of no avail, is called 
a kut. There are ten different forms of service that she may 
perform by means of this kut. 

The service most in demand is that of driving out the spirit 
of disease. But why should spirits torment people in this way? 
Well, there are the " hungry " spirits. They come around the 
door when you are eating, and if you do not throw them a morsel 
of food they have a grievance against you, and so have power to 
lay you on a bed of sickness. Of two intimate friends one dies, 
and his spirit tries to keep up the intimacy after death. This 
too will make trouble. If a man has wronged the spirits by deny- 
ing their existence, it is sure to be visited on his head. The spirit 
that haunts rubbish of various kinds that had lain a long time 
in one place will follow and injure the man that disturbs them. 
If you go to the house of a person that has just died, his released 
spirit is very likely to follow you home and make trouble for 
you. Such are only a few of the countless ways in which a man 
may gain the ill-will of the spirits, and from them we can readily 
see that it will be often through no actual fault of the man but 
only by pure chance. 

Let us then suppose that a man by some such mischance has 
contracted a disease. He may not be sure that it is caused by a 
spirit, but if he has reason to suspect that such is the case he will 
send to the home of a mudang, describing his symptoms and 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 415 

asking her what spirit it is that is causing it. She may reply by 
naming some spirit, or she may declare that she must see the 
patient first. After accepting a fee of two or three dollars, she 
will name a fortunate day on which to hold the kut, which will 
be either at her own house or at that of the patient, according 
as he has means to pay. The elaborateness of her preparations 
will also depend upon the fee. If the trouble is caused by the 
spirit of a dead relative, great care must be taken; but if by a 
common spirit, then a little ordinary food thrown into the street 
will generally suffice to cause its departure. The test is by 
throwing a common kitchen knife out into the road after the 
food. If it falls with the blade pointing away from the door the 
spirit has gone; but if the blade points back toward the door, 
then the spirit will require further argument before leaving. 
When the patient is a man of large means the ceremony may be 
performed at some neighbouring shrine. 

Arriving at the patient's house, the mudang takes charge of 
the whole place, arranges the food and stations the friends of the 
sick man at particular points. She is accompanied by an assist- 
ant, and when all is ready the latter sits down and begins scraping 
on a kind of basket. This is supposed to attract the spirit. The 
mudang begins to dance about and to call upon the spirit to come. 
She works herself up to a perfect frenzy, and at this point the 
audience believes the spirit has taken possession of her body. 
Every word now is that of the spirit, not of the woman. She 
screams out the name of the spirit that has come, and tells what 
they must do to cure the patient, which directions generally 
include the payment of an extra sum of money. At last the spirit 
promises to take away the disease, and then the mudang, after 
a few more frantic leaps and screams which betoken the leaving 
of the spirit, suddenly becomes quiet and shows no signs of her 
previous excitement. She does not try to make the deception 
more complete by pretended exhaustion nor by falling down like 
a dead person. The grossness of her employer's superstition ren- 
ders such finesse quite unnecessary. It is perhaps needless to add 



4i6 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

that the food that has been provided for the spirit is eaten with 
great gusto by the mudang and the friends of the sick man. The 
result of all this commotion and fuss upon the patient is seldom 
very edifying. 

A second kind of kut is performed after death. A person's 
spirit will stay about the house for three days after his demise, 
and often much longer than this. If the relatives have reason 
to think that the dead man had something that he wished to com- 
municate but did not have the opportunity, they will call a 
mudang, for only through her can they establish intelligent com- 
munication with the spirit. The mudang comes, arranges the 
food, and becomes possessed by the spirit, but without any danc- 
ing and screaming. She is used by the spirit to make the desired 
communication, after which the friends weep and say good-bye, 
and the spirit leaves. Then they all fall to and clear the 
tables. 

Sometimes another kut is celebrated after the man is buried. 
If the dead man was supposed to have been summoned away from 
life by an angel or messenger sent from one of the great gods, 
the mudang will be called in to raise this spirit messenger and 
ask it to lead the dead man directly to the realm of the blessed 
and not through any purgatorial stage. At this time they have 
the power to call the dead man's spirit back for a positively last 
appearance, and the final adieus are said. 

But even this does not finish the matter. A month after burial 
the friends of the deceased, if they have money, may hold a 
monster kut at some well-known shrine in the vicinity. The 
mudang is dressed in all her finery, and everything is done to 
make the ceremony impressive. The object is to help the dead 
man to secure influence or to get a " pull " with the Judge of 
Hades. The dead man has no money to do it with, so his friends 
do it for him. 

The food is spread, and the mudang, all in white, goes into a 
trance after the usual gyrations, and the spirit of the departed 
takes possession. He is asked whether he has met the grand- 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 417 

parents or other relatives who have been long dead, and all sorts 
of questions are propounded. These the mudang answers glibly, 
fearing no contradiction. Not infrequently the spirit will prom- 
ise to do something that will help those who are still in the land 
of the living, so it appears that the benefits are mutual. This 
spirit is then dismissed, and the Judge of Hades is called up. 
There are ten judges on the bench of this supreme court, but this 
is the Supreme Judge. Food is placed before him, and he is 
implored to make it easy for their friend in the beyond. He 
invariably promises to do so and praises the food. After this 
the mudang calls up the special judge who has charge of their 
friend's case, and he too is properly " fixed." The petitioners 
have no difficulty in securing his promise to make the man's 
post-mortem condition as bearable as possible. Then they call 
up the spirit who guards the household of the man who has died. 
He is easily entreated, and promises to look after the interests 
of the family. He may warn the household of some impending 
trouble, and give them advice as to the best way to avoid it. 
When these special spirits have all been consulted, any relative 
who has helped pay for the ceremony may call up any of his 
friends or relatives and have a chat with them. It is like an 
afternoon tea with the dead, except that it is generally prolonged 
far into the night. 

One of the chief duties of the mudang is to deal with the 
Great Spirit of Smallpox. This is the only disease that enjoys 
the special oversight of a spirit all by itself, and it shows that the 
Koreans put this ailment in the fore-front of the ills that flesh 
is heir to. It is more to be feared even than cholera, for, like 
the poor, it is ever with us. From the fifth day after the appear- 
ance of the disease no member of the household may comb his 
hair, wear new clothes, sweep the house, bring any new goods 
within the doors, cut wood, drive nails, roast beans or allow a 
drain to become blocked up. Any of these things would leave 
the patient blind or severely marked. If anyone does sewing 
in the house, it will cause intolerable itching in the patient. 



4i8 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Neither the ancestors nor the guardian spirit of the house must 
be sacrificed to, for it would displease the smallpox spirit. The 
inmates of the house must eat clear rice without beans in it, for 
this would leave the patient with a black face. No animal must 
be killed, for this would cause the sick man to scratch his face 
and aggravate the disease. No washing nor papering must be 
done, for this would cause the nose of the patient to be perma- 
nently stopped up. 

After the ninth day all these restrictions are removed except- 
ing the driving of nails, papering of walls and killing of animals. 
The thirteenth day is the one on which the spirit is supposed 
to depart. A feast is set for him ; a piece of sari wood is made 
to personate a horse, and a straw bag is put on its back with rice 
and money inside. A red umbrella and a multi-coloured flag 
are attached, and the whole is set on the roof of the house. This 
horse is provided for the departing spirit to ride, and must be 
forthcoming whether the case has ended fatally or not. On that 
day the mudang comes and goes through an elaborate ceremony, 
in which she petitions the spirit to deal kindly with the patient 
and not to leave him pock-marked. 

The " dragon spirit seance '' demands a brief mention. 
Every river or stream, as well as the ocean, is the abode of a 
dragon spirit, and every village on the banks of a stream has 
its periodical sacrifice to this benignant power. Not only so, 
but the freight-boats have their ceremony, and the ferry-boats, 
fishing-boats and war-boats and boats that carried the annual 
envoys to China, — all have their special forms of worship toward 
the great dragon. The great importance of this sacrifice lies in 
the fact that the dragon has control of the rainfall, and he must 
be propitiated in order that agricultural pursuits may not be 
endangered. The ceremony is usually performed by a mudang 
in a boat, accompanied by as many of the leading people of the 
village as can crowd in. Her fee is about forty dollars. The 
most interesting part of the ceremony is the mudang's dance, 
which is performed on the edge of a knife blade laid across the 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 419 

mouth of a jar that is filled to the brim with water. We cannot 
affirm anything as to the sharpness of the knife, but we presume 
that the fee is well earned even if the dragon part of it is purely 
imaginary. 

In the case of coastwise vessels, the mtidang calls up the 
dragon spirit and the spirits of the men who have drowned, and 
implores them to make the sea calm and the voyage successful. 
For fishing craft a single ceremony suffices for the whole fleet. 
The mudang confesses to the dragon that it is rank trespass for 
men to go and catch his subjects to eat, but men must live; she 
begs him to overlook the wrong and give the fishermen a good 
catch. The ferry is an important institution in Korea, owing 
to the lack of bridges. The boats are often so crowded that they 
sink, and the annual loss of life from this cause is considerable. 
At important ferries the ceremony is a very animated one. A 
boat is dressed in gala attire, with a spar like a roof-tree extend- 
ing its whole length. The mudang and her accompanying crowd 
enter and push off from the shore. Food is thrown into the water 
for the spirit, and as the mudang begins to grow excited and 
" possessed " she imitates the motions of a person dying by 
drowning. She then leaps to the roof-tree and dances thereon, 
screaming at the top of her lungs. After an hour of such antics 
they come ashore, and the mudang runs to a willow tree and 
climbs to its very top, wailing and " taking on " shockingly. She 
says she is a spirit imprisoned in the dark water, and she must 
have one chance to take a good look around. From the top of 
the tree she has a " look see " and then comes down. All the 
time she has been gnashing her teeth, and howling as loudly as 
her lungs will permit. 

Until the year 1894 the government sent an annual embassy 
to Peking, and before it started the attendants and underlings 
held a great kut. It would have been beneath the dignity of the 
envoy to have anything to do with such a superstition, but there 
is every reason to believe that a good part of the cost was 
defrayed by him. Four or five mudangs were employed, and they 



420 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

besought the dragon spirit to treat the company well and bring 
them back in safety. The ceremony was in the shape of a panto- 
mime, in which one of the mudangs personated the envoy and 
another the Minister of State. 

Such are only a few of the occasions upon which a mudang's 
services are required. Korean folk-lore teems with stories in 
which the mudang plays a leading part. We have space for only 
one. A mudang dreamed that the Great Spirit of Smallpox 
appeared to her and said that he was about to enter a certain 
house in the neighbourhood, and that he had selected a certain 
closet in the house as his favourite place. When the woman 
awoke, she hastened to the house indicated, and found that it was 
true. The young son was stricken with the disease, and con- 
tinually asked to be placed in that closet. By this the mudang 
knew that her dream was a true one. As the disease developed, 
the child kept scratching his neck, which caused a dangerous 
swelling. The mudang said, " Someone in this house has wit- 
nessed the killing of a hen." Upon inquiry this was found to 
be true. Still the father refused to allow the mudang to hold a 
kut over the child. At last the boy began to turn a livid green 
in the face, the sure sign of approaching death. The mudang 
said, " Search and you will find that someone has brought a 
piece of green cloth into the house." This too was found to be 
true. The father could no longer refuse to let the mudang try 
her hand, and in the story of course the child recovered. 

It is said that not until some time after the beginning of the 
present dynasty was the horrible custom of throwing a young 
virgin into the sea at Po-ryung discontinued. At that place the 
mudang held an annual seance in order to propitiate the sea 
dragon and secure plenteous rains for the rice-crop and successful 
voyages for the mariners. A new prefect was appointed to that 
district, and as he had no faith in mudangs he determined to go 
and witness the ceremony and put a stop to the custom, if pos- 
sible. Three mudangs were on hand and had secured the maiden 
for sacrifice. As they led her down to the water's edge to cast 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 421 

her in, she wept and screamed and struggled. The prefect 
stopped them. 

" Is it necessary for you to sacrifice a human being? " 

" Yes, it will please the dragon and he will give good crops." 

" How do you know ? " 

" Oh, we are great friends with him and know his mind." 

" Then I think it would please him much more if one of you 
were sacrificed " ; and with that he signalled to one of his attend- 
ants, and had one of the mudangs bound and thrown into the 
water. The dragon showed no signs of revealing himself, so the 
second mudang followed the first. Still the spirit gave no sign, 
and the third mudang went to prove the theory. That was the 
end of the matter. The prefect memorialised the throne against 
the whole tribe of mudangs, and from that time to this they 
have been considered the lowest of the low. 

The mudangs are not the only people who have influence with 
the spirits. The pansu is even more conversant with their tricks 
and better able to overcome their evil propensities. We have 
noted that the mudang is a sort of medium, and moves the spirits 
through her friendship with them, but the pansu is an exorcist 
rather than a medium. He is the enemy of the spirits, and is 
able to drive them rather than coax them. The profession of 
the mudang is much older than that of pansu, the latter being the 
product of the past few centuries, while the former have existed 
from the remotest antiquity. 

As we have said, the word pansu means " decider of destiny," 
and we judge truly from this name that the chief office of this 
blind fakir is to tell fortunes. He is frequently called upon, how- 
ever, to exorcise evil spirits. He is looked upon as little superior 
to the mudang, though his sex protects him from many aspersions 
that are cast upon the character of the mudang. There are a 
few female pansus, but they have nothing to do with the spirits, 
and they are as low in the scale as the mudang. The office of 
pansu in Korea, like that of masseur in Japan, is confined to the 
ranks of the blind, and the prevalence of scrofulous diseases 



422 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

insures a plentiful source from which to recruit the ranks of the 
profession. 

Koreans use the services of a pansu to find out whether a man 
will escape the punishment of a crime; whether he will receive 
a reward for good conduct ; whether a certain piece of work will 
be successful ; what will happen during the day ; what will happen 
during the month ; what will happen during the year ; what will 
happen up to the point of death; what was the condition in a 
former state of existence ; whether he carries in his body the seeds 
of a great misfortune; how to find a lost article or person; 
whether a journey will be prosperous ; what is the condition of a 
distant friend or relative; what will be the day of his death; 
whether he will become wealthy; what is the cause of sickness; 
in what direction he should move when he changes his residence; 
whether he can repair his house without suffering calamity; 
whether he will draw a prize in a lottery ; whether he had better 
purchase a certain slave ; when a son will be bom ; when he will 
obtain official position ; when he will get out of jail ; whether a 
son or daughter will have a happy life; how a spirit may be 
propitiated ; when one must marry in order to be happy ; where 
to find a good husband for one's daughter ; whether a dream is 
good or bad ; whether it will be safe to cut down a certain tree ; 
whether he may move a grave with safety; whether it will be 
well for a woman to be delivered of a child at her own house 
or whether she had better go to some other. 

Divination is accomplished in any one of three ways, — with 
dice-boxes, pieces of money or Chinese characters. The first of 
these is the lowest, the second is a little more respectable, and the 
third, being performed with Chinese characters, may be adopted 
by a gentleman without incurring criticism. Many gentlemen 
learn to do their own divining in a crude sort of way. 

The dice-box divination consists in shaking and throwing out 
from a dice-box eight little metal rods about the size of friction 
matches. Each rod has a different number of notches cut in 
it, and as each rod is put back after the throw, it will be seen that 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 423 

in three throws, which forms a trial, there are many possible 
combinations. The pansu has learned a set formula for each 
combination, and so it is apparent that this formula must be in the 
form of an enigma, for it must answer any question that the 
client may ask. Let us suppose that the man has asked when 
his friend will get out of jail, and the answer comes : " If the net 
is old, the carp will break through." This he will forthwith 
explain to mean that as carp are always caught in winter the 
friend will languish in durance vile till winter comes. The skill 
of the pansu is exhibited in fitting the formula to the question in 
hand. They are a little more accommodating than the priests of 
the Delphic Oracle in Greece, where the client had to do the 
guessing himself. 

The second form, called " money divination," is accomplished 
by the use of four, six or eight ancient Korean coins. Those with 
the seal character on them are the best, but any will do, provided 
they are old. The diviner shakes the coins in his hand and lets 
a certain number of them drop. The combination which appears 
tells him what formula to apply. There are hundreds of ways 
to manipulate the coins, and each pansu has his own favourite 
way, just as different cooks have their favourite recipes for pre- 
paring food. 

The method of practising " book divination " is to ask the 
questioner in what year, what month, what day and what hour 
he was bom. These four dates, taken two and two, in every 
combination give four characters, and from these the diviner 
makes up a verse of poetry. Then he determines which character 
best fits the case of his client. Using this as an index, he looks 
up the corresponding passage in his diviner's book, which he 
carries as faithfully as the surveyor does his table of logarithms, 
and the passage which he finds will be the enigma from which 
his client must extract an answer to his question. 

Another form of book divination is carried on by the use of 
the volume called " Record of Previous Existence." This is 
based upon the fact that many Koreans believe the ills of the 



424 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

present life are the punishments of sins committed in a previous 
life, and that present happiness is a reward for past goodness. 
Only when in trouble will one consult this kind of oracle. If a 
woman is cursed with a drunken husband and is driven to des- 
peration, she consults the pansu, and he, after looking up the 
formula, tells her that in a previous existence she was a bullock- 
driver and her husband was the bullock, that she beat and abused 
him so cruelly that she was now doomed to be ill-treated by him in 
turn. But he tells her that if she will take a bundle of flax-stalks 
and tie them at seven places, as a corpse is tied for burial, and 
place it in the room and hide, her husband, coming home drunk, 
will mistake the bundle for his wife and beat it to pieces. This 
will take away his propensity to maltreating his wife. Another 
woman, who asked what she should |io to insure the continued 
loyalty of her son to herself, was told that in a past life she had 
been very kind to a starving dog, and that providence had decreed 
that she should come into the world again and that the dog should 
become her son. If she continued to treat him well, she would 
have no trouble. A man's bullock was struck by lightning, and 
he consulted a pansu to find why this calamity overtook him. 
The seer told him to go back home and look carefully at the 
hide of the animal and he would find what an evil past it had had. 
The mystified farmer went and looked, and on one of the horns 
was written in fine Chinese characters the legend " In the days 
of the Tang Dynasty lived a Prime Minister, Yi Rim-po. After 
his death he was transformed nine times into a dancing-girl and 
three times into a bullock, but even so he could not expiate the 
crimes that he had committed ; so at last Heaven smote him with 
a thunderbolt and thus cancelled the debt of vengeance/' It is 
only necessary to add that this Yi Rim-po was one of the most 
corrupt officials China ever saw, which is saying a good deal. 

Still another form of divination depends upon the ** Thoughts 
on the Works of the Jade Emperor of Heaven.'-' If a demon 
of disease is so malignant that nothing but the direct command 
of the deity can exorcise it, recourse will be had to this book. 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 425 

Insanity is considered the worst of diseases and is caused by a 
most ** poisonous " imp. The pansu comes to the house, invites 
all the household gods to a feast and asks them to secure the 
presence of the evil spirit. This accomplished, he feeds the ugly 
fellow and tells him to depart for ever. If this does not prove 
successful, he reads a mag^c formula from the book, which gives 
him power over the imp. The latter is seized and corked up in 
a bottle and is whipped. He may escape, and if so, he must be 
feasted again; but this time a peachwood cork is used and the 
beating is done with peach sticks, which reduces the spirit to help- 
lessness. The bottle is then given to a mudang to go and bury, 
the direction in which she is to go being minutely specified. The 
cure is now complete. 

" Spirit sending divination " is used to cure men at a long 
distance. " Ten-thousand spirit divination " is a sort of congress 
of all the spirits, at which the pansu presides. The " spirit im- 
prisoning divination " gives a man a sort of amulet that will 
protect him from evil. " Spirit liberating divination '' is used 
in case one of the spirits is in prison and the rest want to get 
him out. One of them goes to earth and afflicts a man with 
disease. The pansu intervenes, and the spirit tells him that he 
will leave if the pansu will secure the release of the imprisoned 
one, and he promises to go security for the spirit's future good 
behaviour. 

In every Korean book-stall will be found a little volume called 
" The Six Marks of Divination," or sometimes " The Five Rules 
for Obtaining the Ten-thousand Blessings." It represents some 
of the grossest superstitions of the Korean people. It is the com- 
mon people who make great use of this book, but the woman of 
the upper class is almost sure to have a volume hidden about the 
house, from which to cast the horoscope of her infant sons and 
daughters. It is a curious mixture of Buddhism, spiritism and 
fetichism. One can see at a glance how Buddhism has joined 
forces with the original elements in Korean religion to form a 
conglomerate that will suit all tastes. 



426 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

We find, first, the " procession of the years." It tells what 
star rules each year of a person's life from the tenth to the sixty- 
fourth. It tells what he must do to insure comfort and success, 
and it tells, by means of an obscure simile, what the condition 
of the body will be. It begins at the tenth year, because before 
that time no one marries, nor does a boy shave his head and 
become a monk. In order to show the way it is done, we will 
quote two or three of the formulae. For the eleventh year, for 
instance, we find that a boy will be under the influence of the 
"earth star'* (Saturn), that his patron will be Yuraposal (a 
Buddhist saint), that he must pay particular attention to his 
body, which will resemble a hawk in the ashes. A girl in her 
eleventh year will be under the influence of the "man image 
star," her patron will be Kwaneumposal and it is her duty to 
show deference to the spirits. She is like a deer in a deep gorge. 

And so it goes through the whole sixty-four years. The 
different stars are the Metal Star (Venus), Water Star (Mer- 
cury), Star Sun (Sun), Fire Star (Mars) and so on through 
the list. The patrons are a long list of Buddhist worthies. The 
duties are nominal, and the things that the body are like to are 
as follows: pig in hot water, deer in a blossom, hawk in the 
mountain, rat in the garden, wolf in the bag, pheasant in the 
ashes and lion in the river. In all there are eight animals, and 
the situations they find themselves in are twelve in number; 
river, garden, ravine, bag, field, ashes, grass, mountain, hot 
water, blossom, mill and hill. Among the animals there is no 
distinction between the good and the bad, but it is the combina- 
tion that is unpropitious. The hawk in the ashes or the rat 
in the river, the pig in a bag and a hawk in a mill (rice-grinding 
mill) are evidently bad predicaments, while deer in the moun- 
tain, wolf in the field, rat in the garden and pig in the ashes 
are presumably happy combinations. ' 

Then come the different star influences and their power over 
the destiny of a man or woman. For instance, in the Sun Star 
year, one will have many blessings, a good salary, a chance to 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 427 

travel and good words from everybody, but in the first, fifth 
and ninth moons he will be censured or will lose money. In 
order to ward off these evils, one must cut out a disc of red paper 
on the fifteenth of the first moon, fasten it to a piece of wild 
cherry wood, stick it up on the roof and bow to the four points 
of the compass. This will save him from all anxiety. On the 
contrary, in the Fire Star year all will go wrong. One will be 
ill or will be censured. The house may burn down. In the 
third and ninth moons one is almost sure to be ill. In the fifth 
and tenth moons one of his sons or grandsons will lose money 
and must be on the lookout for robbers. He must not travel 
far nor must he engage a new servant. And yet there is safety 
for him if on the fifteenth of the first moon he will tear off the 
collar of his coat and bum it toward the south. 

Another division of the book deals with the five elements, 
metal, wood, water, fire and earth. This form of divination is 
practised on the fifteenth of the first moon in order to find out 
whether luck will be good or bad during the year. The man 
takes in his hand five little discs of wood, each bearing one of 
the names of the elements on one side but blank on the other. 
Shaking them in his hand, he says : " Beneath the bright heavens 
I stand and pray, I who live in Whang-ha Province, town of 
Ha-ju, ward of Pu-yong, by name Kim Mun-suk. To the 
bright heavens I pray that I may truly be shown what will be- 
fall the present year, or good or ill." He then throws the discs 
upon the ground. The different combinations that result indicate, 
by reference to the book, what the fortune will be. If they are 
all blank but one, the fortune will be medium, unless that one 
be " water," in which case it means good luck. If all the char- 
acters turn up, it is an excellent omen. Water and wood make 
a good combination, because water floats wood. Fire and water 
are, rather unexpectedly, good, for they are so different that 
they do not interfere with each other. Metal and wood make 
a bad combination, because metal cuts wood. So on through- 
out the list, each combination telling the thrower what he may 



428 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

expect of good and what he must avoid or put up with of 
evil. 

Still another way to tell the fortune is to throw four little 
pieces of wood like half an inch of lead-pencil split in two. 
The combinations, that are made in three throws, of the flat or 
rounded sides that turn up, will tell what is to happen. Some of 
the formulae are as follows: The man will be like a rat in a 
granary (lean in spring and summer and fat in autumn and 
winter), like a candle at night, like flowers meeting the spring- 
time, like a king without a realm, like a moth about a candle, 
like a stork that has lost his home, like a tortoise in a box, like 
a dragon in the sea, like a dead man come to life. Each of these 
tells its own story and needs no comment. A Buddhistic element 
is seen in the simile, like a monk who has returned to the world. 

It will be seen that this book which we are describing is like 
a domestic medicine book in our own land. Those that cannot 
afford to hire a mudang to cure them will have recourse to its 
pages, and this accounts for the enormous sale which the volume 
enjoys. It affirms that the human body is subject to two kinds 
of diseases, — those which can be cured by medicine and those 
that require exorcism. Some people have foolishly tried to cure 
both kinds by drugs. The hermit Chang laid down the rules for 
exorcising the demons of disease, and he wisely said that if in 
any case exorcism does not succeed, it is certain that the disease 
is one that must be cured with medicine. Note the implication 
that exorcism should be tried first, which is a pretty piece of 
special pleading in behalf of the profession. The book tells on 
what days of the month special diseases are likely to break out, 
and the name of the spirit that causes them. Whichever one it is, 
the work must be begun by writing the name of the imp on a 
piece of white or yellow paper (according to the day on which 
it is done) together with the name of the point of the compass 
from which the spirit comes, wrap a five-cash piece in this paper 
and throw it out of the door at the imp. These imps are sup- 
posed to be the spirits of people that have died, and they are 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 429 

specified as spirits of men who have died by accident away from 
home, aged female relatives, yellow-headed men, perjurers, men 
who have died by drowning and so on to the end of the list. 
In each case the exorcist is told to go a certain number of paces 
in some particular direction and throw the cash. The her- 
mit wisely confined himself to diseases that will pass away in a 
few days by themselves, but it is a pity he did not exorcise the 
whole troop of devils with a good dose of castor oil. 

The book gives a description of various sorts of calamities 
and indicates the way to avoid them. One can tell from the 
" Cycle of Years " when a misfortune is due to arrive, and in 
order to avoid it he must, upon the morning of .his birthday, 
spread a mat on the ground, place three bowls of white rice on 
a table on the mat, also three plates of gluten-rice bread and 
three cups of wine. He must then bow nine times, spread three 
sheets of white paper over another table, wrap in each sheet a 
measure of white rice and hang them up over the door. Three 
years later it must be taken down, cooked and thrown to the 
spirit. Also during the first moon of the year in which the calam- 
ity is scheduled to arrive he must draw the picture of three hawks 
upon paper and paste them up in his room with the bills of the 
birds all pointing toward the door. 

The medical portion of the book deals almost exclusively 
with female and children's diseases, showing that it is the women 
who use the work and not the men. It will be impossible to do 
more than indicate a few of the remedies that are used. The 
most common are poultice of cow's dung ; twenty-one ginko nuts ; 
the split kernel of an apricot seed with the word " sun " written 
on one side and " moon " on the other and then stuck together with 
honey ; water in which the wooden pin of a nether millstone has 
been boiled ; three live frogs ; four boiled dog's feet ; water in 
which burned hair has been boiled; the yellow clay in which 
a frog has been wrapped and burned to death; the saliva of a 
black cow ; a boiled hen whose abdominal cavity has been filled 
with angle-worms. Such are a few of the remedies. In no case 



430 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

is the patient urged to call in a physician. The writer evidently 
knew that the reader would probably not be able to afford the 
care of a physician. 

Only once, far back in the eighties, was it my privil^e to 
witness the curious ceremony of frightening away the " Heavenly 
Dog " that was going to swallow the moon. From the earliest 
antiquity eclipses have been looked upon with fear by the Koreans, 
and even though they have known for many centuries the cause 
of the phenomenon and were formerly able to predict an eclipse, 
yet the still more ancient custom of frightening away the animal 
persists. 

A brisk walk of ten minutes brought us to the limits of the 
suburbs, and there we found a company of a thousand Koreans 
or more gathered on a circular piece of ground, which was sur- 
rounded by an amphitheatre of hills. They were grouped in silent 
companies on the sloping hillsides, and in their white garments 
looked like a congregation of very orderly ghosts. The central 
plot was covered with mats to form a dancing floor, and on 
either side was a huge bonfire. Around the edge of the circle 
sat the Korean orchestra, whose strains alone ought to have 
sufficed to scare the Heavenly Dog. At ten o'clock the shadow 
of the earth began to pass across the face of the moon. A 
sudden darkness fell upon the scene, and the two fires, no longer 
suff^ering competition, gleamed with a new intensity upon the 
still faces which pressed eagerly forward to catch the subtle 
meaning of the weird notes that the musicians produced. Only 
one who is " to the manner born,*' and who has in his blood the 
dash of mysticism born of the East, can get from that weird 
music all that the Korean can. All the time the moon is adum- 
brated the crowd stands silent, awed, intent. They know that 
it is all a mere play, but the dramatic element in their nature 
carries them back to those far days when their savage forbears 
stood transfixed with genuine fear lest the light of the moon 
be for ever darkened. 

The moment the limb of the moon appears beyond the 



RELIGION AND SUPERSTITION 431 

shadow, and it becomes apparent that the Heavenly Dog has 
** bitten off more than he can chew," there is a sudden change 
in the music, a stir in the crowd. They press forward eagerly, 
and at that instant a man leaps into the centre of the ring, wear- 
ing a hideous mask and blood-red sleeves that hang down to 
the ground. The dance is not to be described in words. The 
impression that remains, after the years have mellowed the 
memory of the spectacle, is that there were two kinds of motion, 
one of the feet and one of the hands. Imagine a half-intoxicated 
man standing on one foot and trying to put a sock on the other. 
This was the principal figure that the feet cut. With both the 
long sleeves the man tries to defend himself against the attack 
of a very determined swarm of bees. This is the whole com- 
bination, first on one foot and then on the other, while the 
bees continue to get in their work. Before long other actors 
join the rout, and the performance becomes a mere exhibition 
of buffoonery, which soon becomes tiresome. But the white- 
coated crowd, the wild whirl of the dance, the weird snarl of 
the pipes and over all the fitful gleam of the great fires, — it all 
makes a picture not soon to be forgotten. 



CHAPTER XXXI 

SLAVERY 

WE must briefly review the history of slavery in 
Korea before describing its present status. At the 
time of Kija, who came to Korea in 1122 B.C., 
slavery did not exist in China; but when that 
great coloniser took in hand the half-savage denizens of the 
peninsula, he found it necessary to enact stringent laws. Among 
the different forms of punishment decreed by him, we find that 
slavery was one. We cannot but admire the line of reason- 
ing upon which he based what we believe to be a social evil. 
He said in effect : " God decrees that man shall live by his 
own exertions, each one earning a living by his own hands and 
obtaining both the necessities and luxuries of existence by his 
own personal effort. If, therefore, a man takes by wile or by 
force the fruits of another man's industry, he becomes joined to 
that man by a logical and moral bond. If he eats the other man's 
food, he belongs to the other man." Theft was therefore pun- 
ished by slavery, the thief becoming the property of the man 
from whom he stole. It was possible for him to redeem himself 
by the payment of a large sum of money, but even after that he 
must remain a discredited member of society, an outcast. Adul- 
tery was likewise punished by slavery, but the male offender 
could not, for obvious reasons, become a slave in the house of 
the man he had wronged. He became a slave of the govern- 
ment, and the King gave him to one or other of the high 
officials. 

This continued till the year 193 b. c, w^hen Kijun, the last 
of the ancient line, was driven out by Wiman and fled to the 
southern part of the peninsula. The upheaval of the north dis- 
organised society, and slavery disappeared under Wiman's short 



SLAVERY 433 

rule. But Kijun carried the institution south with him and 
introduced it into his new kingdom of Mahan. It existed in the 
mild form in the early days of Silla (57 b. C.-918 a. d.), but 
could not have been very common, for only murderers were 
condemned to slavery. Meanwhile the Kingdom of Koguryu 
arose in the north (36 b. c). Slavery did not exist there until 
the armies began the conquest of the wild Hyungno tribe. These 
people were taken and made slaves. Thus we find that when 
Buddhism began to gain a foothold on Korean soil in the fourth 
century, slavery existed in a mild form throughout the peninsula. 

One curious effect of Buddhism was to do away with the 
institution of slavery. The exaggerated notion of the value of 
human and animal life entertained by that cult, together with 
the doctrine of the transmigration of souls, aroused a decided 
sentiment against human slavery, and so the institution fell into 
desuetude throughout the peninsula in proportion as Buddhism 
made conquest of the country. 

But after the entire peninsula was united by the first king of 
Koryu in 918 a. d. and Buddhism became rampant, the cult 
underwent a rapid deterioration. Its spirit dropped away, leav- 
ing nothing but the form. Luxury began to sap the life of the 
people, and slavery again lifted its head. In fact, the number 
of slaves increased to an enormous total, and exciting stories are 
told of how they revolted from time to time and fought bloody 
battles with their masters, only to be put down. On one occasion 
three hundred slaves had stones tied about their necks and were 
cast into a river. 

When the Koryu dynasty was overthrown and the present 
one took its place, in 1392, there occurred a period of social 
house-cleaning in the peninsula; but general slavery continued 
up to the time of the great invasiorl by the Japanese Hideyoshi, 
1592. This war killed off so many of the male population of 
Korea that when peace reigned once more, a law was promul- 
gated forbidding the slavery of males and confining it to the 
gentler sex. This has continued till the present time, and the 



434 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

great outstanding fact in regard to the slavery of Korea to-day 
is that there is not a single male slave in the domains of the 
Emperor of Korea. 

In discussing the status of slavery, therefore, we have to do 
only with female slaves, and the first question that arises in the 
inquiring mind is as to the methods by which a woman can 
become a slave. There are four ways. 

Let us suppose that a woman of the middle or lower class 
finds that she has lost all visible means of support, and must 
either become a beggar or a slave or else starve ; or if perchance 
she is in great need of ready money to bury a parent or to sup- 
port aged parents, she will go to an acquaintance and ask him to 
recommend her to one of his friends as a slave. This is done, 
and she is introduced into the house of her prospective purchaser. 
He looks her over, sets her to work, and satisfies himself that she 
is competent. He then pays her forty thousand, fifty thousand 
or as high as a hundred thousand cash for herself, and she gives 
a deed of her own person, made out in legal form. In place of 
a seal, she places her hand upon the paper and marks its out- 
line with a brush pen, and by this she can easily be identified. 
She is now a slave. The transaction does not come under the 
cognisance of the government, but is a private contract. For- 
merly only men of the higher class were allowed to hold slaves, 
and it is only during the last fifty years that Koreans of the middle 
class have been allowed to hold them. This is one of the marked 
features of the rapid demolition of social barriers that has been 
taking place during the past half-century. A woman of the 
upper class can sell herself into slavery only by disguising her 
high birth and so deceiving her purchaser, for no gentleman 
would knowingly buy a lady's person, not only because of the 
innate impropriety of the transaction, but because he would sub- 
ject himself to the most caustic criticism of his peers. 

The second way in which a woman could become a slave was 
as follows. If a gentleman was convicted of treason (or, for- 
merly, of counterfeiting as well), he was either executed or 



SLAVERY 435 

banished, and all the female inmates of his house became slaves. 
They were given by the government to high officials, but as a 
rule it was not long before such women were liberated. They 
were never sold from one house to another. 

If a woman slave dies, her daughter takes her place and enters 
the ranks of slaves. She is called a " seed slave," as she fol- 
lows the mother in the ordinary line of descent. Under every 
circumstance a slave dying, still unredeemed, has to give her 
daughter to be a slave in her place. It is very probable that when 
a slave dies leaving a young daughter, this young girl will go 
with the master's daughter as part of her wedding dowry. 

There is a fourth way in which a woman may become a 
slave. She is poor, and finds it impossible to live. She wants 
a home of some kind, and so voluntarily offers herself as a slave 
without any compensation, except the food, clothes and shelter 
that will be given her. One would suppose that such a slave 
would be of a higher grade than the one that has sold herself, 
but the opposite is the case. The sold slave can redeem herself 
at any time by paying back the exact amount that she received, 
but a woman who becomes a voluntary slave cannot be liberated 
by any means. 

As all slaves are women, it will be necessary to inquire how 
their marriages are arranged and what is the status of the hus- 
band. It is manifestly to the interest of the owner to have his 
slave marry, for if she dies without issue there wall be no one to 
take her place. A bought slave is allowed to select her partner 
about as she pleases. She will probably marry some day-labourer 
or coolie in the vicinity. She has her little room on her master's 
compound, usually near the gate quarters; and her husband is 
allowed to occupy it with her free of rent. He owes nothing to 
the master of the house, and does no work for him excepting of 
his own accord. In the case of a slave who is not bought, the 
master may let her marry or not, as he wishes; but ordinarily 
he will consent. After she has worked several years her master 
not infrequently lets her go, and even sets her up in some little 



436 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

business or other. The husband of a slave has no right to eat 
the rice that she receives from her master. He must bring in 
his own provender, and the two will " pool " their interests and 
get along very snugly. Of course she will try to get enough out 
of her master to feed them both, but in any case the children 
eat of the master's rice till they are old enough to work for 
themselves. 

We have seen that if a slave dies her daughter takes her 
place. If there are several daughters the eldest takes the mother's 
place, and the rest go free. If the eldest daughter dies before 
her mother, then the master selects one of the younger ones to 
take the mother's place. If a slave dies and the eldest daughter 
takes up her work, but dies immediately, none of the other 
daughters can be compelled to step into the vacant place. All 
male children are naturally free and cannot be enslaved. They 
owe nothing to their mother's master, and as soon as they can 
go alone they no longer feed out of his bag. 

The slave does all the rough work about the house. She 
does the washing, brings the water from the neighbourhood well, 
goes to market, helps with the cooking, walks as a mourner in 
her master's funeral procession, runs errands and makes herself 
generally useful. In the country she will work as an ordinary 
field hand. She is not the familiar servant of the lady of the 
house, and she seldom acts as lady's-maid, nor is she ever called 
to do any of the sewing or nursing. Her place is in her master's 
kitchen or jrard, and not in the chamber of her mistress. 

Korean folk-lore is full of stories of faithful and unfaithful 
slaves. 



CHAPTER XXXII 
FUNERAL PROCESSION — GEOMANCY 

jA ROYAL death demands universal lament. The entire 

/^L nation must assume a mourning garb, the colour of 
/ ^ which is not black, as with us, but the natural colour 
of sack-cloth, — a dirty yellow. The chief mourners 
must be particular as to the colour, but the populace as a whole 
adopts white. As this is the ordinary colour for Korean cloth- 
ing, it becomes necessary only to doff their black hats and put 
on white ones. Those who are very poor can compound with 
the law by pasting white paper over their black hats. No bright 
colours must appear on any portion of the body. 

The body of the dead is partially embalmed, and laid in an 
artificially cooled room, where it remains five months, the legal 
interval within which the royal dead cannot be interred. A few 
days after the announcement of the death all the high officials 
meet before the great gate of the palace, and, seated on their 
mats, lament the departure of the illustrious deceased. Then the 
preparations begin. Money pours in from the provinces, the 
guilds are informed what services will be required of them, 
the geomancers are sent out to find a propitious site for the tomb, 
and thousands of men are set to work making the various para- 
phernalia that will be needed to bring the occasion off with suffi- 
cient eclat. 

As the day for the grand procession draws near, people begin 
to flock in from the country to see the sight, and every inn is 
full to overflowing. All the government departments are intent 
upon nothing else, and ordinary business is at a standstill. Sev- 
eral days before the great event, there are trial processions in 
which the participants are trained for the performance of their 



438 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

various functions. In order to witness the pageant to best advan- 
tage, one must secure in advance the upper story of one of the 
very few two-story buildings on the Great Bell Street, which 
runs through the centre of the town. 

At midnight a small company of foreigners sallied out and 
made their way down through the crowded streets to the building 
that they had preempted. A perfect sea of lanterns showed the 
innumerable throng hurrying to their places of observation. Soon 
after we had secured our places a sudden hush in the surging, 
screaming crowd told us that the vanguard of the procession was 
at hand. The people pressed to the sides of the street and stood 
perfectly quiet. This great thoroughfare is about one hundred 
feet wide, and gives ample opportunity for the full display of such 
a pageant. Looking far up the street to the left, we could see the 
advance runners of the funeral cortege moving slowly down 
between two solid walls of hushed humanity. First came a num- 
ber of torch-bearers, whose duty it was to light the great baish 
torches that are planted at intervals all down the avenue. These 
torches are as thick as a man's body and ten feet high ; and as 
they flickered, crackled and then sent up a spire of lurid, smoky 
flame, they seemed to turn everything blood-red, and made the 
advancing ranks of the procession look more like a company of 
fiends than of human beings. 

The main body of the procession was flanked on either side 
by a line of soldiers who carried in lieu of muskets silk flags 
embroidered with Chinese characters. Some of them bore long 
paddles, with which they were supposed to keep the crowd back 
if it pressed too close. The first division of the procession itself 
was composed of thirteen large sedan chairs draped in red, blue 
and green brocaded silks, and borne on the shoulders of a dozen 
carriers whose liveries were pink and white. These chairs are 
supposed to carry the thirteen historians whose duty it is to write 
the achievements of the deceased. The absolute silence with 
which these figures glide by adds much to the weirdness and 
solemnity of the occasion. The road is not paved, and their 



FUNERAL PROCESSIOxN — GEOMANCY 439 

shoes are soft, sandal-like arrangements that make no noise. 
Next come a number of banners of Oriental richness, borne aloft 
on bamboo poles, each surmounted by a handsome bunch of pea- 
cock feathers. From the cross-bar hangs the banner itself, ten 
feet long by four feet wide. The central panel is of white bro- 
caded silk, on which are sewed Chinese characters in black and 
red. The border is of another colour of silk, and is deeply ser- 
rated at the edge. From the ends of the cross-bars hang lanterns 
and bells. The pole is covered with red felt, on which are gilt 
figures of men, birds and dragons. Each of the great guilds of 
Seoul is required to furnish one of these costly trinkets. They 
represent an expenditure of about one hundred and fifty dollars 
each. Next come a crowd of gaudily dressed bearers, carrying 
aloft on poles long scrolls of white paper on which are written 
eulogies of the dead by the most famous scholars of the land. 
They are substitutes for an obituary address. Behind these comes 
the chair of state which the deceased was wont to ride, a sump- 
tuous affair borne high above the heads of a score of sturdy 
fellows. It is draped and canopied with costliest silks, and is 
bedizened on every side with bangles, knots and tassels. Before 
it is borne the royal red umbrella, and behind it, festooned upon 
a hundred poles or more, is carried the blue cloth fence within 
which the palace women ride on ponies to the place of burial. It 
is to protect them from the curious eyes of the crowd. It is not 
unlikely that this is a remnant of the ancient custom of burying 
several girls alive in the tomb of a dead king. History records 
one significant instance in which a king of Silla gave orders 
that in his case this barbaric custom must be omitted. 

The next feature is a pack of hobgoblins or imps with enor- 
mous masks over their faces. These masks are three feet broad, 
and have two pairs of staring eyes and hideous grinning mouths. 
These are supposed to frighten away all evil spirits and make the 
obsequies propitious. Behind these, after an interval, comes the 
master of ceremonies, mounted upon a splendid white horse, and 
surrounded by liveried attendants and armed troops. The trap- 



440 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

pings of the horse reach almost to the ground, and the robet of 
the rider are of the most gorgeous description. He is a gieDeral 
of the highest rank. He bears in his hand the wand of autfaority, 
and for the time being holds the power of life and death. Tbere 
are two catafalques exactly alike, and no one is supposed to know 
in which one the body lies. A description of one will suflice for 
both. It rests upon a heavy framework that is carried oa tiief 
shoulders of one hundred and eight bearers. Thick transvoie 
poles have heavy padded ropes run fore and aft between thcqii 
so that the shoulders of the bearers may not be galled. Ob Ihe 
high framework is a structure like a little house, ten feet long, 
six feet high and five feet broad. The roof and sides of thi9 
pavilion are painted and draped with the gaudiest colours. ■ AD 
the tints of the rainbow and several others compete for die 
supremacy. One man stands on the framework immediatdy in 
front of the pavilion, and another stands behind it, facing bade 
The one in front holds a bell in his hand, and he keeps time so 
that the men may step together. Ropes a hundred feet toqg 
extend forward from the catafalque and also back, and -a long 
line of men hold these, and are supposed to pull forward or back, 
as it may be necessary to ease the unwieldy thing down a hill or 
draw it up one. 

By far tlie most interesting and novel feature of the whole 
procession follows this catafalque. It is six enormous paper 
horses made of paper stuck over a framework of wood. They 
are about ten feet high, and are mounted upon great carts so 
that they l(jK)ni full fourteen feet from the ground. The anat- 
omy of these monsters is wonderful and fearful, and their size 
makes one think of his boyhood days when he read of the siege 
(jf ancient Troy. These are to be burned at the tomb, and will 
furnish a means of locomotion for the deceased in the world 
beyond. It is very plain that Confucianism is not the only reli- 
gion of these people, nor Buddhism either, for the most dis- 
tinctive thin,^-s about this great ceremony are neither the one nor 
tlie other, but relics of the aboriginal nature worship of the 




Q 

M 

z 

D 






a. 



FUNERAL PROCESSION — GEOMANCY 441 

people.. In the rear of all come a company of foreign-drilled 
troops who present a striking contrast to the medieval pageant 
that has gone before. 

The cost of such a funeral varies with circumstances. If it 
is a king that is being buried, it may cost half a million dollars, 
but in case it be a prince or princess it may come within a hundred 
thousand. In any case it is a severe drain upon the finances of 
the country, not merely because of the monetary outlay, but 
because it disorganises everything for the time being, and through 
adventitious causes brings great loss to the people. 

GEOMANCY 

It will be a sad day when Nature loses all her mystery and 
when we can project the cathode ray of science into every crack 
and cranny of this over-classified world, — when we shall put, 
as it were, a revolver to the head of the Sibyl and compel her 
to rearrange the scattered leaves, when we shall reduce to gram- 
mar the leaf language of the Dordonian oak. No one seems 
satisfied to-day unless he has his eye at a microscope or a tele- 
scope. Wordsworth had the present age in mind when he spoke 
of the man who would " peep and botanise upon his mother's 
grave." The very children know there is no pot of gold beneath 
the end of the rainbow and that Santa Claus is a myth. But the 
Korean is as yet untouched by this passion for classification. 
He is as full of myth and legend, of fairy lore and goblin fancy, 
as any minstrel of the middle ages. Nature is full of the mys- 
terious, and for that reason speaks to him in some sort with 
greater authority than she does to us. 

Korean geomancy might be a page torn from some old 
wizard's book or copied from a Druid's scroll. It forms a dis- 
tinct profession here, though no guild of geomancers exists. 
By some unwritten law the ranks of the profession are recruited 
only from the country, as no Seoul man is eligible. This is 
because the geomancer is occupied almost exclusively in finding 



442 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

propitious grave sites, and so the dwellers in the country are 
much better qualified than the denizens of the metropolis. It 
is ordinarily the Rip Van Winkle style of man, who prefers 
walking over the hills with his dog and pipe rather than doing 
an honest day's work, that evolves into a geomancer. 

The first step in his novitiate is the mastery of the book called 
" The Great, Important, Celestial Instrument." Having learned 
the theoretical side, he then begins to take practical lessons 
under a competent teacher. They wander over the hills together, 
discussing the merits of the different burial sites and determin- 
ing their relative values. A man's prospects in life may be 
blighted by burying his father's body in an unpropitious spot. 
More agues, sprains, murrains and blights are caused by this 
than by any or all other causes. When the candidate has been 
all over his allotted district, and has studied all the available 
places and has made out a mental list of charges, ranging from 
several hundred dollars for a first-class site down to a few cents 
for an indifferent one, he graduates, buys him a yundo, " wheel 
picture," — in other words, a compass, — and is ready to " hang 
out his shingle." He has now taken the degree of " Earth Spe- 
cialist," or, as we might say, the degree of B.E., Bachelor of 
Earth. 

We must imagine him, then, in his office waiting for trade. 
A young man comes in and states that his father is dead and a 
suitable burial site must be found at once. The geomancer 
accompanies the young man to his home, where a substantial 
meal is set forth, to be washed down with plenty of wine. This 
forms the retaining fee. He then puts out feelers in all direc- 
tions to learn about how much the young man is able to pay, 
and, having made up his mind on this cardinal point, he leads 
the youth over the hills and discourses on the various sites. 

The first question to be asked about any site is whether it 
has a good " advancing dragon." This is the line or range of 
hills leading down to the site. The declivity where a long un- 
broken line of hills drops to the level of the valley is usually a 



FUNERAL PROCESSION — GEOMANCY 443 

good site. But if the line of hills is short, or if the continuity 
of the range is broken at any point by a deep intersecting valley, 
if the range is mostly shorn of timber, or if it is rugged and 
abounding in precipices, the site will be of comparatively little 
value. The perfect site is rare and hard to find. It is called 
a " mountain line that curves around and sees its great- 
grandfather." Each of the points that form the chain is looked 
upon as the parent of the next lower one, and so, when the line 
curves so that from the lowest eminence the highest one is 
visible, it means that the latest descendant can always look upon 
his ancestor. 

Next in importance is " the prospect." To be perfect it 
must be toward the south,, though the east or west are not 
bad. It must never be toward the north, for it looks away from 
the sun and its colour is black. The blue dragon and white 
tiger must also be attended to. These represent the east and 
west sides of the grave, where the flanking hills must be of 
equal length or their influence will be evil. The most dangerous 
thing is a kyubong, or " spying peak.'' If from the grave site 
there can be seen the top of a hill peeping over the top of a 
nearer one, it means that the descendants of the man buried 
there are fated to become robbers. A genius, or spirit of evil, 
crouches behind the nearer hill and keeps its baleful eye upon 
the last resting-place of the dead. 

If everything is right and the pay is guaranteed, the geo- 
mancer gets out his " wheel picture," lays it on the ground and 
determines the exact direction in which the grave must face. 
If there are other graves in sight, it must not point toward any 
of them. The remoteness or proximity of other graves exer- 
cises an important influence. The operator next lays the " golden 
well." This is a frame composed of two transverse and two 
lateral rods in the shape of the Chinese character for well. A 
mark . is made all around inside this parallelogram, and the 
ground is broken for the grave. The depth to which it must 
be dug, and the position that the chief mourner must occupy at 



444 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the burial ceremony, must be carefully determined or there will 
be literally "the devil to pay." 

The geomancer's part in the interment may now be said 
to end, — that is, after he has pocketed his fee. But the chances 
are that he or some other geomancer will be called in at some 
future time to examine the grave and see that everything is 
right. Although every precaution has been taken, it frequently 
happens that the dead man's relatives get into trouble. If so, 
and if there be no other visible cause for the trouble, it is set 
down to the fact that something is the matter with the ancestor's 
grave. The geomancer is called in and, if there is plenty of 
money in sight, he may decide that something serious is the 
matter with the grave, or that it requires only slight alterations. 
There are special formulae for discovering the mysterious cause 
of the trouble. These are all given in the book which has been 
mentioned. At the very worst the geomancer may discover 
that the body has run away ! Koreans solemnly aver that such 
graves have been opened and that invariably the corpse is absent. 
If so, it must be hunted up instanter; and it may be remarked 
that this chasing of a long-buried corpse about the country is 
not the least gruesome part of the geomancer's business, and 
might well deter nervous or excitable people from entering the 
profession; but fortunately Koreans have no nerves. It is 
claimed that a successful geomancer will run his game to earth 
within twenty-four hours, and when the afflicted relative digs 
at the indicated spot, he always discovers the object of his search. 
This search is carried out according to what is called " The Old 
Grave Magic Rite." 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

BURIAL CUSTOMS 

BURIAL customs are not uniform throughout Korea, 
for the poor and the low-class people omit many of 
I the finer points which are never forgotten in the case 
of a gentleman of means. If, then, we describe the 
treatment of the dead among the wealthy people of the upper 
class, it will be simply a task of elimination to describe that 
of any class in Korean society. For this purpose, let us take 
a Korean gentleman of means, the head of a household, and 
inquire how he is treated from the time he is known to be dying 
until his funeral obsequies are completed. 

When he is found to be desperately ill, he is taken from his 
own chamber and removed to some other apartment. The 
Koreans have the notion that the change may possibly check 
the course of the disease. This is not akin to putting the dying 
man outside the house on a mat. This is done only by the 
lower and more superstitious classes, who believe that the death 
will pollute the house and make it unlucky. 

When the patient is evidently in articulo mortis, he is taken 
back to his own chamber, and all his immediate family come in 
and sit in perfect silence about the room. A light piece of 
cotton batting is put to the dying man's mouth that the exact 
moment of death may be recorded. When the breath ceases to 
stir the cotton, death is supposed to have occurred, though in 
many cases, of course, life is not yet extinct; 

When the man is pronounced dead, a blanket is thrown over 
the body, but no one begins to wail yet, for it might disturb the 
disembodied spirit which may still be hovering near. An hour 
passes, and then the family assembles again and the wailing 



446 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

commences. During this process, which is audible at some dis- 
tance, the sentiments given expression to are almost all in com- 
miseration of the dead. He is pitied for having died. His 
virtues are not commonly recited on such occasions, nor is refer- 
ence made to his survivors, though there is no rule that would 
forbid this. In the wailing no subjective element appears. The 
wailers do not complain that they are bereft, nor wonder how 
they are to get along without the departed father or husband. 
After an hour of wailing some near relative, not a member of 
the household, or an intimate friend of the family remains to 
watch the body, and all others leave the room. 

One of the trusted servants of the house, or some friendly 
neighbour, not of the upper class, takes in his hands an inner 
coat of the dead man, mounts to the roof of the house and 
takes his stand directly over where the body lies. This coat 
is of native cotton, never of silk or any imported goods, and 
has probably been kept in the family wardrobe for years for 
this special purpose. Standing thus, the man grasps the collar 
of the coat with his left hand and the hem at the bottom with 
his right and waves it three times toward the north. At the 
first shake he cries aloud the full name of the deceased, at the 
second shake the name of the highest rank that he ever attained^ 
and at the third he announces that the man is dead. The reason 
for shaking the garment is that, being something intimately 
associated with the person of the man, it forms the credentials 
of the one who is announcing the demise, as much as to say, 
" Here, behold the inner coat of such and such a man of such 
and such a rank; him I announce to be dead." The reason 
for shaking it tpward the north is because shadows fall to the 
north. It is the direction of the shades, its colour being black. 
This is done not only to announce the death to other living 
people, but also that the spirit of the dead man may hear, and 
so be sure that the momentous event has been properly pub- 
lished. The reason for shaking the garment three times is 
because of the dead man's in, cut, and ye, which may be trans- 



BURIAL CUSTOMS 447 

lated respectively his " original nature/' " righteousness *' and 
" etiquette." This important ceremony completed, the man 
brings down the coat and spreads it over the body of its owner. 

The family now assemble again and wail for fifteen minutes 
by the clock, after which the body is lifted from the floor and 
placed upon a plank, which is supported by two boxes made 
specially for the purpose. The head must be toward the south 
and raised a little higher than the feet. A screen is drawn 
around the body. 

The next thing in order is to make the hon-pak-kwe, or 
" spirit ghost box.'' This is of wood, about eighteen inches 
long and twelve inches wide and deep. It is supposed to hold 
in some occult way the spirit of the dead. The box is neatly 
papered, and inside is placed a paper case in the shape of a box, 
and inside this is a piece of paper on which is written the name 
of the dead. Sometimes only blank paper is put in, and rarely 
both name and title are written. This spirit ghost box is first 
laid at the head of the dead man. 

After these preliminaries have been arranged, a man is 
chosen from among the near relatives of the deceased to have 
charge of the funeral ceremonies, and one of the trusted servants 
is chosen to handle all the funeral expenses. 

All the mourners, by which we mean the immediate family, 
look upon themselves as in some sense criminals upon whom 
rests the responsibility of the man's death. They put aside all 
coloured clothing and all silk, and dress in plain linen and cotton. 
All jewelry is put away; the hair is taken down. No boiled 
rice is eaten, but a kind of rice gruel takes its place. The 
mourners now go to the apartment of the dead. It has been 
divided down the middle by a curtain, and the men take their 
places on one side and the women on the other. Meanwhile 
the master of ceremonies has sent out written notices to the 
particular friends of the family, and they come, both men and 
women, and offer their condolences. The number of notices 
sent out varies from fifty to five hundred. If the recipient lives 



448 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

within reasonable distance, it is de rigueur for him to go and 
offer his condolences. It is customary to take along a little 
present of money, rice, linen, paper, candles or tobacco. 

The one who is watching beside the body now takes warm 
water and washes it, using not a cloth but a piece of clean 
paper, while the family sit in the adjoining room or busy them- 
selves in giving away to needy neighbours the old clothes of the 
deceased. In preparing the body for burial, the hair is tied up 
loosely, not in a regular top-knot, and all the combings, which 
have been sedulously preserved for years, are worked into the 
hair. All the teeth which have been extracted from the mouth 
of the dead man since his youth and all the finger-nail and toe- 
nail parings are put together in his pouch and laid beside him. 

Meanwhile others have been busy making the new garments 
in which the body is to be dressed. Every part of the garments 
and the fittings of the casket must be new, — the mattress, blanket, 
pillow, overcoat, coat, waistcoat, trousers, socks, wristlets, leg- 
gings, head-band and all. The body is now removed to a table 
specially prepared for the purpose, and a full dinner is placed 
before it. The relatives have by this time gathered from far 
and near, and they all assemble in the room adjoining and kneel, 
the men toward the east and the women toward the west. The 
relatives to the sixth remove are represented, and they all wail 
in concert. A pillow is brought, and each mourner comes for- 
ward in his turn and, placing his forehead on the pillow, per- 
forms a special ceremony. 

The " spirit ghost box '' is now brought and placed again at 
the head, with some of the man's clothes beneath it. His mouth 
is opened, and in it is placed some flour made of gluten rice. 
This is for the purpose of holding in place a certain " jewel '* 
that is put between the lips. This precious object is called the 
mu-gong-jn, or ** pearl without a hole." It is not a real pearl, 
but a hard substance taken from the shell of a certain kind of 
huge clam that is found only near the mouth of the Xak-tong 
River. It is a rough substance and has no lustre, and it is 



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BURIAL CUSTOMS 449 

extremely rare. The clams are taken only by the net, and only 
one in about ten thousand is said to yield a mu-gong-ju. These 
are not sold, but are handed down from father to son as pre- 
cious heirlooms. The Koreans believe that they have the power 
of self -propagation by a process of division, like certain polyps. 

The body is now dressed in the new clothes and placed on 
a table specially made for the purpose. A screen is drawn around 
it, and over the screen is hung a banner on which is written 
the man's name and honours, and on a little table are placed 
some of his effects, such as pen, ink-stone, spectacles and seals. 
This completes the first day's work. 

On the morning of the second day the professional under- 
taker comes and arranges the clothes of the deceased with great 
care, and proceeds to tie the body up with cords made of twisted 
paper. In tying the waist-cord he arranges the knot so as to 
resemble the Chinese character sim, for it is believed that all 
the canonised spirits arrange theirs so. 

On the morning of the third day the undertaker brings the 
casket, which is not nailed, but is carefully dovetailed and fas- 
tened with wooden pegs. The bottom of it is covered an inch 
deep with gluten rice flour. This is to form a sort of cushion 
into which the body will sink a little, and so be prevented from 
moving from side to side as it is being carried to the grave. 
When everything is ready for placing the body in the casket, 
the sons of the dead man wash their hands, or perhaps take a 
full bath, and then go in and place the body carefully in its 
final receptacle. The face is covered with a very thin film of 
cotton batting, and beside the body are placed the finger-nail 
and toe-nail parings and the teeth which have been already 
referred to. The remaining space in the cofiin is tightly packed 
with old clothes of the deceased, so as to prevent any movement 
of the body, and the cover is fastened on with wooden pegs. 
The coffin is invariably made of pine. The reason is fourfold. 
The pine, being an evergreen, is, in Korean eyes, the symbol of 
manhood, for it never withers or casts its leaves until it dies. 



450 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

In the second place, serpents and other reptiles will never go 
near it. In the third place, the pine never rots at the core, 
leaving the trunk a mere shell. In the fourth place, pine wood, 
when placed in the ground, decays rapidly and evenly, which, 
singularly enough, is a prime qualification with the Korean. 
Anything that tends to retard the process of dissolution is con- 
sidered very unpropitious. This is in striking contrast to the 
belief of the ancient Egyptians and of most ignorant and super- 
stitious peoples. 

The fourth day after the death of a Korean gentleman is 
called the day for putting on mourning. The only ones who 
wear full mourning are the wife, the sons, the daughters and the 
daughters-in-law of the deceased. For the sons this consists of 
a wide mourner's hat made of bamboo, a head-band of coarse 
linen, a coat of the same material, a waist-cord of hemp, leg- 
gings of coarse linen, straw shoes and a posun, or face screen, 
of linen attached to two sticks which are held in the hands. 
For women, mourning consists in wooden hairpins, clothes of 
coarse linen and straw shoes. 

After mourning has been assumed, all the mourners assemble 
in the room adjoning that in which the body lies, and wail, the 
men facing the east and the women the west. Only those who 
are very old may sit. No conversation is allowed. From this 
day all the mourners may return to their usual diet. 

The undertaker places the head-bands, combs and other toilet 
articles of the dead beside the casket, as if he would soon wake 
up and use them. Fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and wine are 
offered, and then the mourners come in and bow and wail again. 
If the burial should be delayed for three months, as is often the 
case, the family must come in and bow before the body on the 
first and fifteenth of each month. Whenever fresh fruit comes 
into the market, some of it must be offered the dead before the 
family can taste of it. 

The interment usually takes place on the fifth, seventh, or 
ninth day after death, but in the case of high officials or very 



BURIAL CUSTOMS 451 

wealthy people it is usually delayed three months. This gives 
opportunity to make more elaborate preparations. 

A burial site will long ago have been selected through the 
services of a chigwan, or geomancer. This is a science in itself, 
and has been described in a separate chapter. The day before 
the burial the geomancer and the chief mourner go to the grave 
site and superintend the marking out of the grave, being careful 
to drive stakes at the four comers, at the head, at the foot and 
in the middle of the grave plot. Later in the day the mourners 
bring food and sacrifice to the spirit of the mountain, calling 
aloud the name of the dead and announcing that he is to be 
buried at that spot. The chief mourner returns home and an- 
nounces to the dead that a burial place has been prepared. Those 
that have remained at the burial site dig the grave, making the 
measurements very exact, so that the casket will fit. At the 
bottom they put sand mixed with lime, and pound it down hard, 
so as to form a solid bed for the casket to rest upon. 

Two memorial stones have already been prepared. They are 
exact counterparts of each other. One of them is to be set up 
and the other to be buried in the ground at the foot of the grave. 
If the one that is set up is injured or destroyed, this buried one 
can be dug up and erected in its place. These stones are called 
the chisuk, or " stone descriptive of the character of the dead." 

The next work is the preparation of the sangyu, or " death 
carriage," by which is meant the bier or catafalque. In ordi- 
nary cases this is rented for the occasion, but in extraordinary 
cases a special one is made. It is supposed to resemble in shape 
the ordinary covered two-man sedan chair, or litter, in which 
people are carried about in lieu of wheeled vehicles; but it is 
made longer to accommodate the recumbent posture of the dead. 
It is covered with a rigid canopy, or roof, and the sides are en- 
closed. The whole is painted in the most gaudy and fantastic 
colours, a mixture of the Korean cardinal colours, — red, blue, 
yellow, white and black, — and is supported on men's shoulders 
by a network of poles and ropes. The number of carriers is 



452 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

determined by the size of the bier and the splendour of the occa- 
sion. Anywhere from eight to forty men may be employed to 
carry the " death carriage." They are all dressed in coarse linen, 
with tall linen caps. 

One of the most important points about a funeral is the 
making of the sinju, or "spirit master." It might be better 
described as the " spirit tablet," for it consists of a plain piece 
of chestnut wood ten inches long, two inches wide and three- 
quarters of an inch thick. It is left unpainted, and nothing 
whatever is written on it, but with it is placed a sheet of paper 
on which are written the name and office of the deceased. Tbh 
piece of wood is placed, together with the paper, in a small box 
made specially for it and painted black. This sinju, or' " ngknt 
tablet," is made of chestnut wood, because the Koreans fadiefe 
that when a chestnut sprouts and the meat of the nut is used in 
feeding the growing sprout, the shell of the nut does not dficajr* 
but remains attached to the root of the tree tmtil the latter ■£«» 
Thus they believe the seed is preserved, and this typifies tfae'Ioqg 
life of the family. This tablet is kept in the house for thne 
years, until the period of mourning is passed, and then it is 
placed in the sadang, or " soul house," preferably described as 
the ancestral tablet house. One of these tablet houses is found 
connected with the residence of every well-to-do gentleman. The 
use of a separate tablet house has of late fallen somewhat into 
disuse because of the danger of having the tablet stolen and held 
to ransom. To lose the sinjii is an unspeakable calamity. Be- 
fore burial, it was formerly the custom to carry the body of the 
dead to the tablet house, to let him take a look at it, but of late 
years it has been considered sufficient to carry the " spirit box " 
to the tablet house instead : but at the same time the casket must 
be moved a little, as if it were to be taken also. 

All is now ready for the burial procession, which is a grand 
spectacular display. On it the heir sometimes squanders half 
of his patrimony. Korean folk-lore is full of stories of how the 
son, out of filial piety, spent the whole of his patrimony on his 



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STONE IMAGE NEAR TOMB 



BURIAL CUSTOMS 453 

father's funeral. Nowadays such devotion is found only in books 
and traditions. The funeral procession forms in the late after- 
noon, and a start is made just at twilight. The reason for this 
is that at this hour the streets are less likely to be crowded; it 
is the quiet time of the day, and the spirit of the dead is less 
liable to be disturbed by the street cries and by the shouts of 
hucksters. It seems from this as if the Koreans believe that the 
spirit of the dead still accompanies the dead body. 

First in the procession come two men abreast, dragging after 
them torches made of brushwood. The lighted ends trail on the 
ground, leaving a wake of sparks. Now and again they will 
raise the torches and whirl them about their heads until they 
break into flame again. Behind these comes the procession be- 
tween two lines of lantern-bearers, each lantern being made of 
an iron frame, over which is draped red and blue gauze silk. 
This silk prevents the candles being blown out by the wind, but 
it is quite diaphanous. 

First in the procession proper comes the master of cere- 
monies mounted on a horse, and behind him marches a man 
bearing aloft the mynngjung, or banner, inscribed with the name 
and honours of the deceased. Then comes a line of lanterns across 
the street, connecting the lines of lanterns on the sides. Then 
comes a sort of cabinet or shrine, containing the spirit box and 
the spirit master or tablet. On either side of it march the female 
slaves of the deceased, with enormous piles of hair on their heads. 
They may number from two to half a dozen. Then, after an- 
other line of lanterns, comes the catafalque, which surges along 
slowly upon a mass of writhing shoulders, the bearers chanting 
a weird song, which enables them to keep in step. They have 
been given copious draughts of wine, and it is only their num- 
bers that keep them on their feet. If the deceased is of high 
rank, a man will be standing on the bier on the front of the 
casket, and ringing a bell and marking time for the bearers, 
and another stands at the back for the same purpose. 

Along either side of the catafalque walk a number of banner 



454 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

carriers, each banner recording the merits of the deceased. These 
are often sent by the friends of the dead, and correspond to the 
flowers that are sent as tokens of love in the West. Immedi- 
ately behind the catafalque comes the chief mourner, the eldest 
son of the deceased, in a " chair '* covered with coarse linen, and 
on either side walk the husbands of his slaves. The other mem- 
bers of the bereaved family follow in single file, their chairs 
being flanked by the husbands of the slaves of the dead man's 
relatives. Then come the distant relatives and the friends of 
the deceased, and the whole company is completed by a howling 
crowd of street boys, who add noise if .not dignity to the 
obsequies. 

It is forbidden to bury a body inside the walls of Seoul, nor 
can the dead be carried out of any of the gates at will ; but two 
of the gates are reserved for this purpose, the so-called " Water- 
mouth Gate " and the " Little West Gate." In times of pesti- 
lence, when a thousand people are dying a day in Seoul, as 
happened in the summer of 1886, it is easy to imagine that these 
gates are thronged with one stream of funeral processions. 
Especially was this so at that time, for the gates were closed and 
locked between nine o'clock at night and four o'clock the next 
morning. 

Arriving at the burial site, the catafalque is placed under a 
temporary awning, and the whole party spend the night in a 
neighbouring village or in extemporised booths. Early in the 
morning the banner inscribed with the name of the dead is spread 
over the coffin and a little food is offered. After all have bowed 
and wept, the casket is placed on two transverse poles and car- 
ried to the grave. A compass is used to make sure that the 
casket lies in precisely the proper direction. A piece of black 
silk is placed over it, and upon this a thin board is laid. Lime 
is packed in on the sides and over the top to a depth of two 
inches, and then the grave is filled in with earth and lime mixed. 

It is a question whether the shape and appointments of a 
Korean grave are not the most beautiful in the world. The 




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BURIAL CUSTOMS 455 

gentle southern slope of a hill is dug into so as to form a wide 
flat space; the earth thus excavated is formed into a crescent- 
like bank all around the north, east and west sides of the plot. 
In the centre, between the arms of this crescent, the grave is 
dug, and when the earth is piled up on it, the shape is that of 
an exact hemisphere. In front the ground is terraced down to 
the original slope of the hill. Back of the grave and on the two 
sides a thick grove of pine-trees is planted. Nicely turfed and 
well taken care of, this grave is simply exquisite in its simplicity 
and neatness. These little groves of pines about the graves form 
bright spots in an otherwise rather forbidding landscape. It 
must not be supposed that all graves are arranged as elaborately 
as this. The common people bury anywhere and everywhere, 
and so carelessly oftentimes that dogs and foxes dig into the 
graves and expose the bones of the dead. 

In the case of very wealthy men or of princes, the grave site 
will be ornamented with stone figures of men and animals, ar- 
ranged on either side and facing each other. Before the mound 
itself there will be a smooth polished stone, which is used as a 
table on which to place the sacrificial food each year. 

The desecration of a grave is one of the most serious crimes 
in the Korean penal code. It is, of course, a capital offence. 
In our own land children are sometimes kidnapped and held to 
ransom, but in Korea it is the dead that are kidnapped, and a 
Korean will always give more for the return of his father's corpse 
than he would for his living son. Not infrequently a man finds 
a placard set up beside his ancestral grave stating that the head 
of the corpse has been taken away, but will be returned if a cer- 
tain amount of money, always an enormous sum, is delivered at 
a certain specified place and time. A self-respecting Korean will 
put in pawn his whole estate to get back the body of his parent, 
or any missing part of it. 



CHAPTER XXXIV 
MODERN IMPROVEMENTS 

IF a traveller who visited Korea twenty years ago should 
come back here in this year of grace 1906, he would be 
startled at the material changes that have been effected 
because of the opening of the country to foreign inter- 
course. But if he should make excursions from the open ports 
and the main centres of commerce, he would soon discover that, 
with the exception of the six hundred miles of railroad and of 
the telegraph lines, these evidences of material advancement are 
almost wholly confined to those centres. 

Japanese energy and capital have transformed Fusan from 
an insignificant fishing village into a thriving city with water 
w^orks, electric lights, commodious hotels, banks, museums and 
imposing municipal structures. The same may be said in lesser 
degree of Wonsan, Mokpo and Kunsan. Chemulpo is the most 
important port of entry as yet. Her proximity to the capital 
has won her this distinction, but tlie trunk railway terminus at 
Fusan must eventually push her ahead, especially when she 
becomes a port of call for the great trans- Pacific steamship lines. 
Chemulpo is, however, still a distinctly live place. Real estate 
in the foreign or Japanese quarters brings from twenty to thirty 
yen per square metre, which gives us a glimpse of the genuine 
life of the place. Not only has the Japanese population passed 
the ten thousand line, but the Koreans have flocked in until they 
aggregate some thirty thousand. The foreign tow^n is fairly 
well built, though as yet there are few public buildings of note. 
The splendid sea-view from the steep side-hill on which most of 
the foreigners' houses are built makes it a very attractive place 
to live. A mile-long bund affords facilities for handling the 



MODERN IMPROVEMENTS 457 

commerce of the place, but as yet large quantities of freight 
have to lie out on the bund exposed to the weather, except so 
far as it can be protected by tarpaulins. There is no better 
indication of the life of this port than the fact that trade is 
always in advance of the facilities for handling and stor- 
ing it. 

As for Seoul, the changes have been equally great, though 
its superior size makes it more diflScult for us to get a bird's- 
eye view of them, as we can do at Chemulpo or Fusan. The 
first important innovation was the abrogation of the rule that 
the gates of the city should be locked every night before nine 
o'clock and not opened without special orders from the King 
until morning. The city wall, especially on the south side, has 
become a nuisance, since it blocks traffic; and it is only a 
matter of time when the picturesque old battlements, which look 
down from their half-millennial height upon the impertinence 
of galvanised iron roofs, will be levelled. Already it has be- 
come necessary to plan for the enlargement of the South Gate, 
which is only eighteen feet wide, and through which flows a 
very large fraction of the entire trade of the capital. Here, too, 
the price of real estate has increased tenfold during the past ten 
years and has doubled during the past year. 

In spite of all that has been said about the filth of Seoul, 
it is a fairly clean place as Far Eastern cities go. Those who 
come direct from Peking or other inland cities of China exclaim 
in admiration over the broad, level and comparatively clean 
streets of the Korean capital. Seoul has not made notable 
advance in the line of public buildings. The beautiful and 
classic, though severe, lines of the Roman Catholic cathedral 
dominate the town from the architectural standpoint. The 
French, English and Russian legation buildings are imposing 
enough, but they are not conspicuous. Almost all the Korean 
government buildings are still in the pure Korean style. Some 
little use has been made of brick and corrugated iron, but the 
effect is not pleasing. The two styles do not harmonise. The 



458 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

crude, cheap foreign buildings of the Chinese merchants are 
incongruous with the general tone of Korean buildings, above 
which they tower in all the blankness of brick and mortar. The 
Japanese have everywhere preserved the tinder-box character of 
their architecture. Some of them are beginning to use brick 
and stone, and the general tendency seems to be in the direction 
of more solid and enduring forms of architecture. 

Foreign residence is gravitating toward the hills between the 
city wall and the river, three miles away. The time is approach- 
ing when we shall have here a quarter corresponding to the 
'* Bluff " in Yokohama or the " Hill " in Kobe. These hills 
form an ideal place for foreign residence. They are high, well 
wooded and conveniently situated, and soon a second line of 
electric tramway between Seoul and the river will make these 
suburban places easily accessible at all times. 

The problems of proper water-supply and sewerage are still 
to be solved. An American syndicate are arranging to put in 
a good system of water-works, and until that is done little can 
be accomplished in the way of sewerage. 

As for passenger transportation, Seoul has made more 
advance than the average port in the Far East. The American- 
Korean Electric Company operates about nine miles of surface 
road on the trolley system. It is a distinct success. The Koreans 
are good patrons of the road, and the numbers carried have 
increased steadily from the very start. The employees are largely 
Koreans, both in the power house and on the line everywhere. 
It is the unanimous opinion of the Americans who operate the 
road, that the Koreans make competent hands in every depart- 
ment of the work. They have almost displaced Japanese both as 
mechanicians and overseers. This is a striking testimonial, and 
one that should have weight in settling the question whether, 
as so many foreigners seem to think, the Korean is incapable 
of attaining proficiency in the field of applied science. 

The same company supplies electric light to all and sundry, 
but as yet there are very few municipal lights in the streets. 




< 

2 

O 



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O 

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H 

u* 
O 

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a 
33 

M 



MODERN IMPROVEMENTS 459 

Each Korean is supposed to hang out a lamp at night. These 
serve at least to make the darkness visible. 

Korean high officials still cling to their four-man chairs, but 
the middle-class officials have taken kindly to the jinrikisha, a 
vehicle which has come into use only during the last five or six 
years. 

I have mentioned the railroads as being the greatest material 
improvement yet instituted in Korea, opening, as they do, great 
tracts of farming land which were formerly almost closed to the 
world, because of the difficulties of transportation; but another 
important step has been taken in the erection of a large number 
of lighthouses along the dangerous coast of the peninsula. This 
has been undertaken by the Imperial Customs, and is being 
pushed vigorously. Its importance can hardly be overestimated. 
The dangerous nature of the coast is well shown by the fact 
that it has been deemed necessary to build over thirty light- 
houses. Many more than half of these are on the shorter western 
coast. 

Late years have developed a fairly efficient postal system, and 
Korea is a member of the International Postal Union. The 
system has proved an unmixed blessing to the Koreans, although 
it has always shown a large deficit at the end of the year. The 
Japanese have now taken over all postal and telegraph offices, 
and it may be that their efficiency will be largely increased. 

One encouraging feature of all these changes is that the 
Koreans accept them gladly and make free use of them. They 
are quick to see the advantage of quick communication. 

But with all the beginnings that have already been made 
toward a higher economic life, it must be confessed that as yet 
they are only beginnings. The commercial centres are as yet 
objects of wonder to the countryman, and the new life has hardly 
taken hold of the masses. Nor will it do so until education has 
laid its beneficent hand upon them and the standard of civic 
morals has been greatly elevated. These things are of greater 
immediate importance than economic progress, for upon them 



46o THE PASSING OF KOREA 

depend the ultimate benefits of such progress. Until justice is 
again blindfolded, and a man can secure redress for wrongs 
and be secure in the enjoyment of the results of his own labour, 
railroads, telegraphs and postal facilities can be only added in- 
struments of oppression. 

Special emphasis should be laid upon the forward movement 
of missions along eleemosynary lines. The well-equipped Sever- 
ance Memorial Hospital has been lately completed and is doing a 
work of untold value. The munificence of friends in America 
has also resulted in the erection and equipment of excellent 
foreign hospitals in Fusan and Pyeng-Yang. The Young 
Men's Christian Association is erecting, by the munificence of 
Mr. John Wanamaker, a handsome and commodious building 
in Seoul, where the association has made surprising advances 
and bids fair to prove an elevating instrument of enormous 
potency. Rapid advancement is being made along the line of 
publication, and the present plan of cooperation between the 
different Protestant missions promises large returns in every 
field of moral, intellectual and social activity. 



CHAPTER XXXV 



THE FUTURE OF KOREA 



IT will be seen from the foregoing chapters, especially those 
in which the actions of Japan have been traced, why I name 
this book " The Passing of Korea." Japan by a series of 
successful wars has secured a position from which she can 
dictate to Korea. That this is satisfactory to any of the other 
treaty powers can hardly be believed. They acquiesce in it for 
personal convenience. There are very cogent reasons why the 
arrangement should be distasteful to British, Grerman and Ameri- 
can merchants. This point is worth careful study. The forced 
agreement of last November included a clause in which Japan 
promised to carry out the terms of the treaties between Korea and 
the other powers. Now these treaties guarantee to the subjects 
of the different governments extraterritorial rights in Korea. 
They are under the legal jurisdiction of their own consular author- 
ities. These treaties also fix, in a general way, the amount of 
customs duties to be levied on foreign imports. It is clear that 
these two things are of great importance to American and other 
foreign trade in the peninsula; but since the conclusion of the 
so-called " agreement " of November some of the leading Japa- 
nese papers have strongly advocated the setting aside of the extra- 
territorial rights of foreigners in Korea, on the ground that this 
will facilitate the establishment of uniform courts of justice. 
These papers must think that the powers interested are so 
impressed by Japanese military successes that any proposals she 
may broach will be acceded to without opposition, — an opinion 
in which the attitude of the American government certainly tends 
to confirm them. How otherwise would semi-official organs of 



462 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

the Japanese government venture the wild proposal to break 
another of Japan's recent promises? 

Japan began and carried through this whole matter by the 
clever use of misinformation and broken promises, which suc- 
cessfully hoodwinked the American public. For this reason I 
urge with all the power at my command that the course of events 
should be carefully watched by those who are interested in the 
preservation of the principle of an open door in the Orient, and 
the preservation of rights which, though only partially utilised 
as yet, are full of potentialities for the future; and I urge that 
immediate steps be taken to forestall the concession to Japan, by 
the executive department of our government, of the right to 
dominate the persons and the interests of American citizens in 
Korea. 

My belief that vigilance is necessary is based upon the follow- 
ing consideration. The treaty-making power is vested in Con- 
gress and not in the executive. The latter cannot add a single 
word to a treaty between the United States and a foreign power. 
It follows that the executive cannot abrogate, or drop a single 
word from, an existing treaty. Is it not pertinent, then, to ask 
by what jtuthority our treaty obligations to Korea were so sum- 
marily impaired? If the clause by which we guarantee to use our 
good offices to help Korea in case she is oppressed can be ignored 
by our executive officials, why should they not be able to turn 
over our nationals to Japanese jurisdiction or consent to a change 
in Korean customs tariffs which would kill our promising trade? 
This would be only a natural outcome of the manifest tendency 
of our executive to assume legislative functions. The trouble is 
that Americans do not realise that the tender feeling of Japan 
toward us politically is based upon the fact that we are giving 
her every opportunity to kill us commercially in the Far East. 

But even the establishment of a protectorate by Japan would 
not necessarily mean the certain destruction of Korean nationality 
if it were carried out along internationally legal lines. Japanese 
statesmen who are supposed to represent the real feelings of the 



THE FUTURE OF KOREA 463 

Japan government announce that Korea has not been annexed 
but is still a separate state. There is one fact which belies this 
statement, and shows conclusively that Korea can never become 
an autonomous power except through some great international 
cataclysm which is not at present contemplated. This fact is that 
Japan manifestly intends to allow Korea to be filled with Japanese 
subjects, and so rapidly, that within a decade they shall form a 
body strong enough to hold Korea in the event of an armed pro- 
test on the part of the Korean people. This enormous inrush of 
Japanese is not the result of a glut of labour or a lack of oppor- 
tunity in Japan, for, as has been recently shown in a most illu- 
minating book,^ the arable land in Japan is but half utilised. The 
present deplorable famine in that country, which has called forth 
the laudable sympathy of Americans, was doubtless greatly ag- 
gravated, if it was not actually caused, by the rush of able-bodied 
workmen to Korea, where, partially freed from the restraints of 
their strict police surveillance, they could reap golden harvests 
by taking advantage of the helplessness of the Koreans. This 
is the darkest cloud which overhangs Korea, and it is one that 
has no silver lining. Thus it is that Korea is taking her place 
in line with Poland, Armenia and the Congo " Free " State. 

The question arises, what should Korea do under these cir- 
cumstances? What can she reasonably do to preserve from ex- 
tinction the people who form the nation? There is only one 
answer. She must bend herself to the task of educating the 
people up to a point where they can prove themselves the equals 
of their conquerors and, by the very force of genuine manhood, 
exert an influence which shall counteract the contempt which the 
Japanese feel. This may not avail, for the Japanese are slow 
to show respect to any form of ability which cannot be measured 
in terms of military or brute force. To-day, in spite of America's 
intellectual achievements, the Japanese are laughing in their 
sleeves at us, because they think we are afraid of them; what, 
then, must they think of the Korean? 

1 TJu New Far East, by Thomas F. Millard. 



464 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

Baron Kaneko, in his campaign of education in America, told 
us that Japan intended to colonise largely in Korea, but that she 
would discourage intimate relations between the two peoples, — 
that she would consider the Koreans a " lower race." Signifi- 
cant words these, which should be put alongside the specious 
protestations of Japanese statesmen that Koreans are to be 
humanely treated. 

Every day brings news of the existence of a surprising and 
hitherto unguessed-at warmth of feeling for their country on the 
part of Koreans. This has given the lie to those special pleaders 
for Japan who have denied the existence of patriotism in Korea, 
and gives promise of a determination to do whatever may be done 
to weld the Korean people into a peaceful but intelligent and 
prosperous body which even the Japanese will be slow to stig- 
matise as contemptible. 

As to the agencies at hand for the carrying on of this 
important work, a few words here will not be out of place. 
Without doubt the most powerful agency will be the American 
missionaries now resident in Korea. Not even the Japanese can 
openly object to any efforts that are put forth for the elevation 
of the intellectual and moral condition of that people, and there 
are special reasons for believing that only those who can speak 
the language, and thus can get near to the Korean heart, will be 
able to carry out a thorough consistent and continuous plan for 
the vindication of Korea's claim to intellectual capacity. The 
missionaries are set apart from all political complications, and 
their efforts for Korea can affect political affairs only as a stiffen- 
ing of Korea's moral fibre and a thorough awakening of her 
dormant intellectual life shall make inevitable her reinstatement 
in the regard of the Japanese themselves. 

In this great work the American people ought to be deeply 
interested, and with it they should be more closely identified than 
by an occasional word of sympathy. If there is any nation on 
earth that deserves the active and substantial aid of the American 
people that nation is Korea. We were the first Western power 



THE FUTURE OF KOREA 465 

to conclude a treaty with her, and in making that treaty we 
guaranteed to keep a watchful eye upon her safety and in- 
terests. For twenty-five years American representatives and 
other residents in Korea reiterated the statement that w^e stood 
for the " square deal," for the ascendency of right as against 
mere brute force, and Korea had a right to regard our govern- 
ment as the one above all others which would demur at any 
encroachment upon her independence. But when the time of 
difficulty approached and America's disinterested friendship was 
to be called upon to prove the genuineness of its oft-repeated 
protestations, we deserted her w-ith such celerity, such cold- 
heartedness and such a refinement of contempt that the blood 
of every decent American citizen in Korea boiled with indigna- 
tion. While the most loyal, cultured and patriotic Koreans were 
committing suicide one after the other because they would not 
survive the death of their country, the American Minister was 
toasting the perpetrators of the outrage in bumpers of champag^ne ; 
utterly callous to the death throes of an empire which had treated 
American citizens with a courtesy and consideration they had 
enjoyed in no other Oriental country. 

How can we, the American people, prove to the Koreans that 
we were not accessory to this act which was so contrary to the 
principles we have professed to hold ? There is only one way, — 
by helping them to the one thing that will enable them to hold 
together as a nation, and give them time and opportunity to 
prove the falsity of the libellous statements that have been so 
freely circulated, and which have temporarily alienated the good- 
will of so many of our people. That one thing is education. 
The Koreans have awakened to the fact that this, which should 
have been their first consideration many years ago, is now their 
last resort, and they are clamouring for education. I believe 
there are thousands of Koreans who will open their purses and 
subscribe generously to the funds required for this great work. 
Much is already being done by the various missions, but it is 
necessarily circumscribed and cramped by the lack of funds. 



466 THE PASSING OF KOREA 

What is needed is a wide-spread and thorough cantass of the 
entire empire for the purpose of getting the subject rightly be- 
fore the Korean people. There would be nothing in this sujg^es- 
tive of opposition to Japan. On the contrary, every effort ^ould 
be expended with q[)ecial reference to cooperation with whatever 
plans the dominant power may have formed for common school 
education. Korea can gain nothing by holding bade and offering 
to the plans of Japan a sulky resistance. They are face to foce 
with a definite condition, and theories as to the morality of the 
forces whidi brought about the condition are wholly academic 
My discussion of these forces in the for^[oing pages is partly by 
way of record and partly to awaken the American people to the 
duty which lies upon them. The Koreans need help in establish- 
ing such a system as I have hinted at above. They will do all 
they can, but the question arises whether generous-minded people 
in America will come to the aid of the Koreans and give their 
personal services or financial support to such a movement Is 
there any man or body of men in this country who will seize the 
opportunity to found in the city of Seoul an institution of learn- 
ing which shall be the nucleus, the rallying-ground, of a great 
national movement? It is the opinion of those most conversant 
with the feeling of the Korean people that there is no other place 
in the world where money invested in education will bring larger, 
surer or more beneficent results. 



Index 



Abuses by Japanese, 213-220. 

Admiral Yi Sun-sin, 98. 

Adoption of child, 365. 

Agglutinative language, 300. 

Agricultural implements, 269. 

Agriculture, 269. 

Ajuns, 52. 

Alexaieff, Kir, 156, 159. 

Allen, Dr. H. N., 125, 141. 

Alliance, Anglo-Japanese, 176. 

Alphabet, Attempt at, 76. 

Alphabet, The present, 92. 

American expedition, 118. 

American imports, 286. 

American interests, 462. 

American- Korean Electric Company 
458. 

American legation withdrawn, 222. 

America's duty, 465. 

Anglo-Japanese alliance, 176. 

Animal stories, 385. 

Animals, 19. 

Annam rice, 174. 

Architecture, 241, 333. 

Art, 330. 
Architectural, 333; bijouterie in, 331 ; 
ceramics, 334; colour in, 332; dec- 
orations, 333 ; embroidery, 334 ; 
form, 332; grotesque, 333; inlaid 
work, 334; mural decoration, 333; 
painting, 334; perspective in, 331. 

Assassination of Queen, 137. 

Astronomical observatory, 291. 

Banishment, 63. 

Banks, 237. 

Barter, 238. 

Battle of Chemulpo, 199. 

Battlefields, 391. 

Bears, 22. 

Beating as punishment, 64. 

Bell of Seoul, 93. 

Bell of Silla, 73, 290. 

Bell, Legend of, 328. 

B^lUs Uttres, 307. 

Biography, 308 

Birds, 23. 

Blackmail, 67. 

Blood-bridge, 292. 



Boat, The tortoise, 298. 

Boats, 260. 

Bomb and mortar, 298. 

Bridges, 253. 

Bridges, Suspension, 254. 

Brokers, House, 282. 

Brown, J. McLeavy (C. M. G.), 150, 

156, 158, 159, 171, 233. 
Brufi^ui^re, Bishop, no. 
Buddhas, 295. 
Buddhism, 404. 
Buddhism introduced, 73. 
Buddhism outlawed, 91. 
Buddhism revived, 174. 
Buddhism supreme, 78. 
Buddhist excesses, 82. 
Buddhist relics, 292. 
Buddhist stories, 378. 
Building, 241. 
Bullocks, Pack, 255. 
Burial, 295. 
Burial customs, 445. 
By-products, 270. 

Capital, Seoul becomes, 90. 
Capital punishment, 61. 
Carts, 252. 
Cash, 234. 
Caste, 50. 
Cattle, 19. 
Cave, Death, 298. 
Census of 1677, 107. 
Census of 1776, 108. 
Ceramic art, 102, 273. 
Ceramics, 334. 
Cereals, 15. 
Chain-gane, The, 64. 
Chair, Sedan, 263. 
Change in government, 49. 
Characteristics, 29. 
Chemulpo, 456. 
Chess, 280. 

Chinese conservatism, 7. 
Chinese ideograph, 76. 
Chinese innovations, 75. 
Chinese predominant, 126. 
Chinhan, 71. 
Ch'oe Chi-wun, 310. 
Chong Mong-ju, 89. 



468 



INDEX 



Christian missions, 126^ 464. 
Christianity and temperament, 33. 
Chumong, 72. 
Circulating library, 311. 
Climate, 10. 
Coal-mines, 274. 
Coinage, 234. 
Commerce, 281. 
Commercial morality, 284. 
Concubinage, 356, 3^ 
Confucian school, 338. 
Confucian stories, 373. 
Confucianism, 405. 
Consanguineous marriage, 81. 
Conservatism, 7, 34. 
Coolies demanded, 210. 
Corruption, Official, 50. 
Counterfeiting, 177. 
Couriers, 268. 
Cromlechs, 294. 
Crudty, 43. 
Currency, 178, 234. 
Customs of people^ 398. 
Customs, Maritime, 233, 285. 

Dai Ichi Ginko, 178. 
Dancing Giris, 318, 3^7. 
Decapitation, 6t. 
Decorations, 333. 
Decorations, House, 250. 
Deer, 22. 

Deer blood as medicine, 22. 
Denny, Judge O. N., 127. 
Detectives, 396. 
Dialects, 304. 
Diamond Mountain, 292. 
Dismemberment, 61. 
Divination, 422, 425. 
Divorce, 368. 
Doctors, Female, 353. 
Dogs, 21. 
Does as food, 21. 
Dolmens, 294. 
Dominoes, 280. 
Donkeys, 264 
Dravidian dialects, 300. 
Drums, 316. 
Dye, Gen. William, 139. 

Ear and nose mound, loi. 
Eclipse, Averting an, 430. 
Education, 335, 337, 338, 465. 
Electric company, 1 59. 
Electric light, 458. 
Electrical works, 458. 
Embroidery, 334. 
EmeuUoi 1882, 122. 



£m€uU of 1884, 125. 

Emperor, The, 343. 
Accession, i I4f 344 ; at Rusdan Le- 
gation, 345; and Americans, 347; 
difficulties, 344; finnness, 348; kind-, 
ness, 346: superstition, 346. 

Emperor's protest. The, 220, 223. 

Empire declared, 157. 

Eunjin image, 296. 

Euphony, 304. 

Examination, National, 79, 337. 

Exorcism, 359, 407. 

Exorcists, 413, 427.* 

Exports, 28;. 

Extortion, 67. 

Factions, 50. 

Fall of Koguryu, 75. 

Fall of Koryu, 89. 

Fall of Pakche, 75. 

Fall of SiUa, 77. 

Fauna, 19. 

Ferry, 253. 

Fetiches, 41 1. 

Feudalism, Japanese. 3. 

Feudalism lacking, 80. 

Fiction, 31a 

Fire mountains, 267. 

Firearms, Japanese, 95. 

Fish, 25, 271. 

Floors, 245. 

Flora, 12. 

Flowers, 18. 

Flute, The Jade, 297. 

Flutes, 315. 

Folk-lore, 273. 

Fords, 253. 

Foreign trade, 284. 

Fortune-telling, 422. 

Foulk, George C, 298. 

Foundations of house, 243. 

Foxes, 22. 

Freebooters, 86. 

French expedition, 117. 

French priests executed, 1 1 5. 

French vessels wrecked, iii. 

Fruits, 14. 

Fuel, 271. 

Funeral of Queen, 157. 

Funeral procession, 437, 453. 

Funeral ntes, 445. 

Fusan, 456. 

Fusan trading station, 93, 102. 

Future of Korea, 461. 

Gambling, 280. 
Game birds, 23. 



INDEX 



469 



Games, 276. 

Gates with monkeys, 251. 
General Sherman^ The, 1 16. 
Generosity, 36. 
Geomancy, 437, 441 • 
Ginseng, 18, 270. 
Go-between, Professional, 359. 
Gold mining, 274. 
Gold-mining license, 229. 
Golden age, 90. 
Golden pagoda, 291. 
Goldsmiths, 273. 
Government, 295. 
Goyo Maru, The, 257. 
(Grammar, 301. 
Grave desecration, 455. 
Grave sites, 443. 
Greathouse, Clarence, 168. 
Greek Church Mission, 167. 
Guilds, 281. 

Hall, Capt. Basil, no. 

Hamil. Hendrik, 106. 

Han Kyu-sul, 221. 

Hanabusa, 119. 

Hasegawa, Marshal, 212. 

Heating houses, 245. 

Hideyoshi, 94. 

Historical works, 83, 307. 

Hong-du invasion, 86. 

Honorifics, 302. 

Horse relay, 268. 

Horses, 19. 

Hospital, Severance Memorial, 460. 

Hospital at Fusan, 460. 

Hospital at Pyeng-yang, 460. 

Hospitality, 37. 

House brokers, 282. 

House decoration, 250. 

House site, 246. 

House tax, 228. 

Houses, 241. 

Hunting, 275. 

I jiCHi,. General, 190. 

Il-chin society, 210. 

Images, 295, 296. 

Imagination, 327. 

Imbert, Bishop, no. 

Imitation, 308. 

Imports, 285. 

Imprisonment, 64. 

Improvements, Modem, 256. 

Independence Club, 148, 150, 159, 161, 

165, 166. 
Independence guaranteed, 204. 
Industries, 269. 



Inlaid work, 334. 

Inouye, Count, 132, 133. 136. 

Instrumental music, 314. 

Insurance, 281. 

Interest on money, 283. 

Intrigue, 180. 

Intrigue, Russian, 102. 

Invasion by Hong-du, B6. 

Invasion, Japanese, 94, 95- 

Invasion, Japanese second, 100. 

Invasion by Kitan, 82. 

Invasion, Manchu, 103, 104. 

Invasion, Mongol, 83. 

Iron, 274. 

Ironclad, 298. 

I to, Marquis, 204, 221. 

Jade flute, 297. 

Jaisohn, Dr. Philip, 124, 150, 152, 154, 

157. 
Japan, causes of transformation, 5. 
Japan, Earlv relations with, 74. 
Japan invacfed by Mongols, 84. 
Japan-Russia War, 185. 
Japanese abuses, 213-220. 
Japanese army of invasion, 95. 
Japanese civilisation, 6. 
Japanese corsairs, 86. 
Japanese feudalism, 3. 
Japanese invasion, 94. 
Japanese protectorate, 221. 
Japanese second invasion, 100. 
Japanese suzerainty, 102. 
J'g^y^ The, 257. 
Jingu, Empress, 74. 
Junks, 261. 
Justice, 56^ 59, 67. -r 

Kato, 95, 96. 

Kija, 69. 

Kija's money, 234. 

Kija's well, 289. 

Kijun, 71. 

Kim Pu-sik, 83, 310. 

Kim Yung-jun, 170. 

Kinshiu maru, 207. 

Kitan invasion, 82. 

Kites, 278. 

Koguryu, Fall of, 75. 

Kogur}U, origin, 72. 

Komun^o^ The, 315. 

Konishi, 95, 96. 

Koryetz, The, 193, 200. 
i Koryu, Fall of, 89. 
j Koryu, origin, 78. 
I Kuk-min society, 211. 
I Kwaga, The, 337. 



470 



INDEX 



Labour songs, 319. 

Land tax, 225. ' 

Lsu^guage, 28, 300. 

Language schools, 339. 

Lawyers unknown, 66w 

Legation guards, 188. 

Legation withdrawn, 222. 

Legend of Bell, 328. 

L^nds, 6a 387. 

Legendre, Mr., 168. 

Libraries, 309,311. 

Lighthouses, 459. 

Literature, Chinese, 79i 306. 

Lobanoff-Yamagata Agreementy 152. 

Love stories, 311. 

Low, Hon. Frederick, 118. 

Lucky Worship of, 412. 

Mahan, 71. 

Manchu invasion, 103. 

Manchu monument, 106. 

Mararanta, 73. 

Markets. 239. 

Marriage, Consanguineous, 81 • 

Masanpo, 176. 

Mathematics, 339. 

Medicine, 18. 

Medium, Spiritual, 414. 

M^ta, Mr., 212. 

MiliUry rank, 80. 

Min Yong-ik, 124. 

Minerals, ii. 

Mining, 273. 

Mining, American, 15a 

Mirror, Magic, 297. 

Miryoks, 295. 

Missionaries, 464. 

Missions, Protestant, 126. 

Miura, Viscount, 134. 

Miura's trial, 143. 

Mob law, 51. 

Modern improvements, 456. 

Mollendorf, P. G. von, 123, 233. 

Monasteries, 80, 293. 

Monetary troubles, 177. 

Money, 234. 

Money, Paper, 239. 

Mongol excesses, 84. 

Mongol invasion, 83. 

Mongol invasion of Japan, 84. 

Mongol Queen, 87. 

.Monkeys on gates, 251. 

Monument of Manchus, 106. 

Monuments, 288. 

Morality, 41. 

Mortgages, 283. 

Motherhood, 353. 



Mudang, The, 358, 4i3i 414- 
Muhak. 91. 

Mural decofatlon, 333. 
Murder of Queen, 137. 
Music, 314. 

Instruments, 315; notation, 319; 

score, 3171 time, 314; irocal, 314. 
Myths, 393. 

Nagamori scheme, 208. 
Namhan, King at, 105. 
Neutral zone, 189. 
Neutrality declared, 189. 
Newspapers, 151, 340. 
Nidcel coinage, 173, i77» 236. 
Novels, 310. 

Observatory, Astronomical, 291. 

Obstetrics, 355. 

Om, Lady, 180. 

Omens, 388. 

Official indirection, 57* 

Opening of Korea, 114. 

Oppert, 27, 298, 

Oratory, 305. 

Orchestra, 314. 

Origin of Kpguryu, 72. 

Origin of Korea, 69. 

Origin of Koryu, 78. 

Or^n of Pakche, 73. 

Origin of people, 27. 

Origin of Silla, 72. 

Padok, 280. 

Pa^^oda in Seoul, 87. 

Paint, 250. 

Painting, 334. 

Pakche, Fall, 75. 

Pakche, origin, 72. 

Pak Yong-hyo, 132. 

Pansu, The, 359, 413, 421. 

Paper, 14. 

Paper money, 239. 

Parks, 249. 

Parties, Political, 93. 

Passions, Stories of, 395. 

Patriotism, 80. 

Pavlow, Mr. A., 169. 

Pearls, 25. 

Pedagogy, 336. 

Peddlers guild, 162, 204, 281. 

Penal Code, 61. 

Persecution of Roman Catholics, 109, 

no, 114, 118. 
Philology, 300. 
Physicians, Female, 353. 
Physiognomy, 27. 



INDEX 



471 



Pigs, 20. 

Pitch-penny, 278. 

Play-grounds, 249. 

Plot against Queen, 135. 

Po-an Society, 209. 

Poems, 321. 

Poetry, 314. 

Poisoning, 61. 

Police, 62. 

Policy, Japanese, 191. 

Political parties, 93. 

Pony, Pack, 256. 

Popular feeling, 51. 

Population, 107, 108. 

Position, Geographical, 10. 

Post-office, 459. 

Postal Union, 167. 

Precipice of flowers, 323. 

Prefectural governments, 53. 

Press, Public, 340. 

Pride, 38. 

Priestcraft, 78. 

Primogeniture, 68, 363. 

Prisons, 64. 

Proclamation, Japanese, 191. 

Progressives organize, 120. 

Property rights, 363. 

Prophecy, 90, 389. 

Protectorate, Japanese, 221. 

Protest of Emperor, 220. 

Protestant missions, 126. 

Protocol of Feb. 23, 1904, 204. 

Proverbs, 30^. 

Public speaking, 305. 

Publication, 340. 

Pukhan built, 108. 

Punishments, 62, 130, 367. 

Pyeng-yang, 69. 

Pyonhan, 71. 

Quarrels, 42. 
Quelpart Island, 87. 
Queen degraded, 142. 
Queen's assassination, 137. 
Queen's funeral. 157. 
Queen's party dominant, 120. 

Railway concession, 167. 
Railway, Seoul-Chemulpo, 150. 
Railway, Seoul-Fusan, 160. 
Railway, Seoul-wiju, 179. 
Railways, 262. 
Rainy season, 11. 
Rebellion of Yi Kwal, 103. 
Reforms, 130, 152, 154. 
Reforms of 1730, 107. 
Reforms, Russia against, 183. 



Reforms of Yi T'a-jo, 90, 93. 

Relics, 288. 

Relics of Kija, 70. 

Relics of Koryu, 81. 

Relics of Silla, 73. 

Religion, 31, 403. 

Religious ceremony, 294. 

Revenue, 175, 225. 

Rice, 15. 

Roads, 252. 

Roofs, 244. 

Rogers, Rear- Admiral, 118. 

Roze, Admiral, expedition, 117. 

Roman Catholic persecution, 109, 1 10, 

114, 118. 
Roman Catholicism, 106, 107, 108, 109, 

112. 
Roosevelt appealed to, 220, 223. 
Russia and Masanpo, 176. 
Russian intrieue, 192. 
Russian legation. King's asylum, 146. 
Russian policy, 183. 
Russian timber concession, 185. 

Sables, 22. 
Sale of office 51. 
Salt-making, 272. 
Salt tax, 228. 
Sanitation, 241. 
Satsuma ware, 102. 
Sewage, 247. 
Scenery, 12. 
Schools, 335. 

Private, 335, 340; grading, 336; 

pedagogy, 336 ; Confucian, 338 ; 

middle, 339; language, 339 ; mission, 

340 ; books, 341 ; industrial, 341 ; 

technical, 341. 
Schufeldt, Commodore, and United 

States treaty, 123. 
Scientific booKS, 307. 
Sea traffic, 262. 
Seclusion of women, 349. 
Seoul, 457. 

Seoul becomes capital, 90. 
Seoul taken by Japanese, 97. 
Sepulture, 295. 
Sericulture, 273. 
Serpent worship, 409. 
Severance Memorial Hospital, 460. 
Shamanistic tales, 384. 
Sheep, 20. 
Shop runners, 282. 
Shops, 282. 

Siege of Namhan, 105. 
Signal fires, 267. 
Silk, 273. 



472 



INDEX 



Silla, Fall of, 77. 

SiUa, origin, 72. 

Silla consolidates Korea, 75. 

Silla kinds' tombs, 290. 

Silversmiths, 273. 

Simony, 51. 

Sindon, 87. 

Singing, 316. 

Site, house, 246. 

Slavery as punishment, 432. 

Slavery, Female, 433. 

Slavery in Koryu, 81. 

Snake worship, 25. 

Snakes, 24. 

Songs, 316. 
Labour, 319; convivial, 323; fishing, 
326. 

Sorceresses, 358. 

Speyer, A. de, 156, 157. 

Spirit of smallpox, 417. 

Spirit stories, 385. 

Spirits, 406. 

Spiritual medium, 414. 

Sports, 276. 

Stevens, Mr., 212. 

Stone images, 296. 

Stone fights, 276. 

Stories, 
Animal, 385; battlefield, 391; Bud- 
dhist, 378; Confucian, 373 ; customs, 
398; detective, 396; legends, 387; 
myths, 393; omens, 388; passion. 
395; prophecy, 389; Shaman, 383; 
spirit, 385; Uncle Remus, 386; 
wisdom, 392; women, 391. 

Story-tellers, Professional, 312. 

Streets, 247. 

Sungan^ The, 193. 

Superstition, 403. 

Surprise wrecked. The, 1 16. 

Swinging, 279, 371. 

Taiwunkun, regent, 114. 

Dies, 158; resumes control, 140; re- 
tires, 120. 

Tangun, 69. 

Tangun altar, 288. 

Taxes, 225. 

Boat, 231; furs, 230; ginseng, 739; 
house, 228 ; land, 225 ; minerals, 
229; poll, 232; salt, 228; special, 
232; timber, 231. 

Telegraphs, 267. 

Temperament, 29. 

Testamentary rights, 363. 

Text-books, '341. 

Textile fabrics, 273. 



Tides, II. 

Tigers, 21. 

Tile, 244. 

Timber concession, Russian, 185. 

Tombs, 298. 

Tombs of Silla kings, 290. 

Topography, 11. 

Tortoise boat, 98, 298. 

Torture, 65. 

Total abstinence, 108. 

Trade, 281. 

Trade, Foreign, 284 

Trading station, Fusan, 93, 102. 

Tradition, 312. 

Transformation of Japan, Cause of, 5. 

Translation of poems, 321. 

Transportation, 252. 

Travelling, 263. 

Trapping, 275. 

Treason, 62. 

Treaty with America, 123. 

Treaty with Japan, 120. 

Trees, 12. 

Trial at law, 58. 

Trial in Court, 66. 

Trial of Miura, 143. 

Triangles, 316. 

Truthfulness, 40. 

Turanian languages, 300. 

Turf, 246. 

Type-printing, 92. 

Uncle Remus* Stories, 386. 

Variak, The, 196, 200. 
Vegetables, 17. 
Violins, 315. 
Vocal music, 316. 

Waeber, C, 141, 146, 150, 156. 
Waeber-Komura ajjreement, 152. 
Wall across Korea, 291. 
Wall of Seoul, 90. 
Walls, 

City, 250 ; house, 246 ; yard, 248. 
War, Japan-China, 127. 
Waste land scheme, 208. 
Water carriers, 259. 
Wealth, 68. 
Weapons, 95. 
Wiju, opening, 186. 
Wills, 363. 
Wiman, 70. 
Wisdom, stories, 392. 
Woman, 349. 

Amusements, 370; concubines, 356; 



INDEX 



473 



dancers, 357; divorce, 368; edu- 
cation, 360; grades, 350; low, 352; 
motherhood, 353; occupations, 353, 
354; palace, 357; physician, 353; 
property rights. 360; punishments, 
35 1 ; religious, 406 ; seclusion, 349 : 
slavery, 359, 433 *» stories of, 391 ; 
titles, 371; wages, 360; work, 360; 
\'isiting, 352. 
Worship, 
Dragon, 411; fetich, 411; luck, 
412; serpent, 409; spirits, 406. 



Yalu, timber concession, 185. 

Yi Keun-tak, 182. 

Yi Kwal's Rebellion, 103. 

Yi Sun-sin, Admiral, 98. 

Yi T'a.jo, 88. 

Yi Yong-ik, 171, 173. '79. "8o. 

Yongampo, Russians in, 185. 

Young Men's Christian Association, 

460. 
Yun Chi-ho, 136, 163, 165. 

Zithers, 315. 



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