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The Position of Russia in Manchuria—Comparative Estimate of Naval and Military Resources of Russia, Japan, and Korea Pp. xvii-xlii
Off the coast—Lack of survey intelligence—Island flora—Forgotten voyagers—Superstitions and beliefs—Outline of history Pp. 1-12
Physical peculiarities—Direction of advancement—Indications of reform and prosperity—Chemulpo—Population—Settlement—Trade Pp. 13-23
Move to the capital—A city of peace—Results of foreign influence—In the beginning—Education—Shops—Costume—Origin—Posts and telegraphs—Methods of cleanliness Pp. 24-42
The heart of the capital—Domestic economy—Female slavery—Standards of morality—A dress rehearsal Pp. 43-58
The Court of Korea—The Emperor and his Chancellor—The Empress and some Palace factions Pp. 59-69[x]
The passing of the Emperor—An Imperial pageant Pp. 70-80
Sketch of Mr. McLeavy Brown—The Question of the Customs—The suggested Loan Pp. 81-93
Foreign action in Korea—Exhausted Exchequer—Taxes—Budgets—Debased currency—The Dai Ichi Ginko—Dishonest officials Pp. 94-107
Education—Arts and graces—Penal code—Marriage and divorce—The rights of concubines—Position of children—Government Pp. 108-116
Farmers—Farming and farm animals—Domestic industries—Products—Quality and character of food-stuffs Pp. 117-127
Japan in Korea—Historical associations—In Old Fusan—Political and economic interests—Abuse of paramountcy Pp. 128-137
The commercial prospects of Korea—Openings to trade—Requirements of markets—Lack of British enterprise Pp. 138-147
British, American, Japanese, French, German, and Belgian interests—Railways and mining fictions—Tabled counterfeited Imports Pp. 148-169
Some account of the treaty ports; Won-san, Fusan, Mok-po—Character of export and import trade—Local industries Pp. 170-181
Treaty ports (continued)—Wi-ju—Syön-chyön-po—Chin-am-po—Pyöng-yang—Kun-san—Syöng-chin Pp. 182-191[xi]
Russian interests—Russia and Japan—Ma-san-po—Ching-kai-wan—Yong-an-po Pp. 192-206
By the wayside—A journey inland to Tong-ko-kai—Inland beauties Pp. 207-215
The German mines—Mineralogy and methods of mining—A bear hunt—With gun and rifle Pp. 216-225
The monks and monasteries of the Diamond Mountains—The Temple of Eternal Rest—The Temple of the Tree of Buddha—Buddhism Pp. 226-240
The abomination of desolation—Across Korea—The east coast—Fishing and filth Pp. 241-252
Drought—Starvation—Inland disturbances—Rainfall and disease Pp. 253-260
The missionary question—Ethics of Christianity—Cant and commerce—The necessity for restraint Pp. 261-269
Inland journeying—Ponies, servants, interpreters, food and accommodation—What to take and how to take it—Up the Han River, frolic and leisure Pp. 270-283
Kang-wha, brief history of the island—A monastic retreat, an ideal rest—Nocturnal visitors—Midnight masses—Return to the capital—Preparations for a great journey—Riots and confusion Pp. 284-300[xii]
Schedule of train service P. 301
Return of all shipping entered at the open ports of Korea during the year 1902 Pp. 302-304
Return of principal articles of export to foreign countries from the open ports of Korea during the years 1901-1902 P. 305
Return of principal articles of imports to foreign countries during the years 1901-1902 P. 306
Coast trade between treaty-ports in native produce (net) P. 307
Customs revenue P. 307
Gold export to foreign countries P. 308
Table of minerals P. 309



Ceiling, Imperial Palace, Seoul Cover
Tablet in Seoul Frontispiece
Devil Post outside Seoul 1
Guardian of a grave 9
Independence Arch 11
Pagoda at Seoul 12
A moment of leisure 13
At the Wells 17
Chemulpo 21
Pavilion on the wall of the Capital 23
Hen-seller 24
Not one whit Europeanised 33
A side alley 35
Native dress 37
They wear the Chang-ot 38
A study in hats 39
Means of locomotion 42
A Sang-no 43
White-coated, white-socked population 45
She may visit her friends 47
A middle-class family 49
In winter costume 51
A palace concubine 53
Dancing women of the Court 55[xiv]
Boys 58
His Imperial Highness, Prince Yi-Cha-Sum 59
His Imperial Majesty the Emperor 60
The Hall of Audience, Seoul 64
Their Imperial Highnesses the Crown Prince and Princess 67
A minor Royalty 69
Within the Palace grounds, Seoul 72
Imperial Throne, Seoul 74
Imperial Tablet-House, Seoul 77
An Imperial pavilion, Seoul 79
Mr. J. McLeavy Brown, C.M.G., LL.D. 82
British Legation, Seoul 88
The Imperial Library, Seoul 94
A Seoul gate 107
Justice is not tempered with mercy 113
Children of the lower class 115
The Korean and his bull 119
A spade furnished with ropes 121
Pounding grain 122
Carrying produce to market 123
Japanese Cavalry 128
The Guard of the Japanese Legation, Seoul 131
H.M.S. Astrea 137
Brick laying extraordinary 145
The Consulting-room of Miss Cooke 155
A railway siding 169
In New Fusan 177
Palace Gateway 180
Chemulpo 185
On the Yalu River 197
Chinese Encampment 203
Beyond the Capital 208
Woodland Glades 209
Country Carts 213
A pitched battle 215
A summer pleasaunce 224[xv]
The Abbot of Chang An Sa 227
The Abbot of Yu Chom Sa 233
Yu Chom Sa 237
An Altar-piece 239
Shin Ki Sa 243
The Abbot and Monks of Chang An Sa 245
A Fair Magician 251
Without the walls of Seoul 253
The Temple of Heaven, Seoul 255
An Imperial summer house, erected to mark the spot where the corpse of the late Queen was burned by the Japanese 260
A bridge scene in Seoul 261
The streets are magnificent 268
Beyond the Amur 281
On the Han River 282
Washing clothes in a drain 284
A day of festival 291
Russian post on the Korean Frontier 297




Nothing is more natural than the circumstance that war should be the outcome of the existing crisis; yet, equally, nothing is less certain. If the area of hostilities were not confined to the Far East, and the Power confronting Japan were any other than Russia, the outbreak of war might be predicted positively. But with Russia, consideration of the strategic qualities of her position in Manchuria must exercise a paramount influence upon her movements. To those who are not close students of military history, as well as to those who do not possess an extensive knowledge of the situation, the position in which Russia is placed equally affords the keenest interest. Certainly in the annals of military history, excluding the march of Napoleon upon Moscow, there is no war which may be said to have developed a parallel to the task which besets Russia in Manchuria and Korea. Her position at sea, moreover, is no better than that which she holds on land. Upon land, a single line of railway traversing the heart of an enemy’s country terminates at Port Arthur. At sea, Vladivostock is cut off by reason of its position, while it is inaccessible on account of its climate. These points, Port Arthur and Vladivostock, define the extremities of the strategic position which Russia holds in Manchuria. Excluding Vladivostock[xviii] at this moment from any especial consideration, Port Arthur is left for the opening moves of this campaign. Therefore, Port Arthur, with a single line of communications in its rear, becomes the pivot of the operations.

The aspect of Port Arthur from the sea is uninviting. Rugged hills, offshoots from the range of mountains which divides the Liao-tung peninsula, cluster round the bay, and encroaching upon the foreshore and bearing neither trees nor vegetation, impart to the surroundings a desolate and even wild appearance. Within the headlands of the harbour, conforming with the indentations of the coast, there are several bays shallow and unprofitable, but which in time may become an important adjunct to the small area of deep water which the harbour now possesses. Dredging operations have been undertaken, but there is so much to be done that many years must pass before Port Arthur receives any material addition to its very restricted accommodation. The mud, brought down by the streams which empty into the harbour, has already affected the deep-water area, and since the harbour was constructed these deposits have encroached very considerably upon the depth off shore. At low water steamers, which lie up within sixty feet of the wharf, rest upon mud in little more than a fathom of water, and at the same time the space is so small that it is impossible for a dozen vessels to anchor in the harbour with any comfort. Steamers, if any larger in size than the small coasting-boats which call at Port Arthur from China and Japan must anchor off the entrance, unloading and re-charging from junks or tenders. In relation to the requirements of the squadron Port Arthur is not nearly large enough. When cruisers are taking in stores battleships remain outside, an arrangement which is manifestly inconvenient in a period[xix] of emergency. It was for this reason that the authorities constructed at Dalny—a few miles from the fortress and within Pa-tien-wan Bay—a new town, together with commercial docks and wharves, in order that Port Arthur might be devoted more particularly to the needs of the navy.

Port Arthur is happy in the possession of all those objects which, to a naval base, are component parts of its success. The dry dock, somewhat weak and unsubstantial, is 385 feet in length, 34 feet in depth, and 80 feet broad, while the naval basin is equal in surface space to the total available steamer anchorage in the harbour proper. When the dredging works in the harbour bays have been completed it is hoped that a mean depth of four fathoms will have been obtained. This systematic deepening of the harbour will give to the fleet a surface anchorage considerably in excess of one square mile, but until the work has been executed the value of Port Arthur as a satisfactory naval base is infinitely less than the prestige which it enjoys as an impregnable position.

Port Arthur possesses a small parade-ground, rifle-range, and artillery practice-ground, torpedo-station and training reservation, which will be enlarged when the bays are opened out. There is a flash-light station and various schools of instruction—torpedo, gunnery, telegraphy—while the arsenals and workshops which are built around the naval basin and within the navy yards are very thoroughly equipped. These effects, however, were mainly taken over by Russia when she seized Port Arthur; their existence at the present moment tends to show how impossible it is to under-estimate the advantages which Russia derives from the possession of this port, and how far-reaching[xx] are the consequences of the monstrous blunder which Lord Salisbury committed when he acquiesced in its usurpation.

Apart from the defences Russia, hitherto, has not added much to Port Arthur; for the main part the troops have been quartered in the old Chinese houses or in the former barracks of the Chinese troops, affairs having been somewhat neglected in view of the prior claim which the defences held. Now, however, fine barracks are in course of construction, and, if there is no war, it is anticipated that ample accommodation will be ready soon upon the shores of some of the bays and on the hills. The defences are indeed magnificent. Very few of the forts, which were in existence during the time of the Chinese, remain. Since the Russian Government entered upon possession the work of extending the perimeter of the defences, as well as strengthening the fortifications, has been a continuous labour. It is quite clear that the authorities are determined upon no half-measures. They have gained Port Arthur, and they propose to keep it. Upon the cliffs, rising immediately from the right of the harbour entrance, there is a most powerful position, formed, I believe, of a battery of six 21-inch Krupp guns, which was further supported by a fort placed a few feet above the harbour, and sweeping its immediate front, containing eight 10-inch Krupps. At the corresponding elevations upon the opposite headland there were two similar forts with identical batteries, while the mine fields within the harbour are controlled from these two lower positions. Following the hills to the south and north there are other forts; one in particular, of great size, is placed upon the extreme crest of the range, and, towering above all else,[xxi] sweeps the sea and approaches to the harbour for great distances. It is impossible to detect the character of these guns, but from their position, and the extent of the fort and the nature of the part which they are intended to fill, it is improbable that they can be less than 27-ton guns, discharging shells of about 500 lb. The interior line of forts is no less formidable, and it must seem that Port Arthur can never be reduced by bombardment alone, while any force attacking by land would be severely handled by the positions from which the Russians propose to defend their flanks and the neck. At the present, however, there is a paucity of field-guns among the troops in garrison, in addition to which many of the more recently constructed forts lack artillery; while the opinion may be hazarded that the entire position has been so over-fortified as to become a source of eventual weakness in the ultimate disposition of the Russian force.

Of course a fight for the command of the sea must precede any land operations. Japan is within fifteen hours steam of Fusan, already a Japanese garrison-town, and of Ma-san-po, the port to which Russia and Japan make equal claim. The strait separating Japan from Korea is 200 miles broad, while Russia’s nearest base at Port Arthur is 900 miles away on one hand and Vladivostock is 1200 miles away on the other. It follows therefore, that in Korea, and not in Manchuria, the troops of the Japanese army would be landed. Once established in Korea, Japan would be able to dispute the supremacy of the sea on equal terms. In this respect the possession by the Japanese of numerous torpedo craft confers a distinct advantage upon them, since it will be within their power to utilise their services if the Russian fleet were to attempt to check the movement. The absence[xxii] of any facilities for repairing damages makes it certain that so far as possible the Russian fleet will evade any serious engagement. It would be difficult to improve upon the position of Japan in this respect. At Yokosuka, from which place a large number of cruisers have been launched, there is a very extensive building-yard, and Japan also possesses suitable docks for large ships at Kure and Nagasaki. In all she has at her immediate disposal some half a dozen docks, 400 ft. in length or more, and a very skilful army of working mechanics and workmen in general. Port Arthur must be regarded for practical purposes the naval base of Russia in the Far East in the event of a cold-weather campaign.

Vladivostock is too far removed from the range of probable utility. At this port, however, Russia has constructed one large dry dock, one floating dock 301 ft. long, and a second dry dock has been laid down. Against these two solitary and isolated centres, Japan possesses naval bases, arsenals and docks at the following points on her coast.

Yokosuka Arsenal, slip and dry dock.
Kure Arsenal, slip, dry dock, armour-plate works.
Sassebo Arsenal.
Maitsura New dockyard.
Nagasaki Three docks.
Takeshiki Coaling-station, naval base.
Ominato Base for small craft.
Kobe Torpedo repairing yard.
Matsmai Refitting station.

The squadrons which Japan and Russia will be able to employ in this war are very formidable, and during the past few months each Power has made strenuous efforts to increase the strength of its fleet.


In January 1903 the aggregate tonnage of the Russian Pacific Squadron stood at some 87,000 tons, the fleet including the battleships Peresviet, Petropavlovsk, Poltava, Sevastopol, and the cruisers Rossia, Gromoboi, and Rurik, with other smaller vessels.

In March the tonnage went up to 93,000 tons, thanks to the arrival of the cruiser Askold from the Baltic.

In May the cruisers Diana, Pallada, Novik, and the battleship Retvizan joined.

In June the cruisers Bogatyr and Boyarin reached the scene.

In July the battleship Probleda arrived.

In November the battleship Tzarevitch and the cruiser Bayan further added to Russia’s strength.

In December the battleship Oslyabya, the armoured cruiser Dimitri Donskoi, the protected cruisers Aurora and Almaz, and eleven torpedo-boat destroyers.

In January 1904 the battleship Imperator Alexander III. leaves the Baltic for the Far East.

Russia has laboured under great disadvantages to secure her position in this region. In consequence of restricted shipbuilding resources and owing to an unfortunate geographical position, Russia has not enjoyed those opportunities of adding to her Pacific fleet which have presented themselves to Japan. In effect, if not in fact, Russia is compelled to maintain four navies. Unhappily, each is isolated from the other, many hundreds of miles separating them. Naval squadrons are concentrated in the Baltic, in the Black Sea, in the Caspian Sea and in the Pacific. The Pacific squadron is of recent establishment and of most modern construction. It dates back to 1898, from which time her policy of naval expansion began. Orders were placed with France,[xxiv] Germany and America for cruisers and battleships, coal was bought at Cardiff, and in a short space the nucleus of a powerful fleet had sprung into existence. At the present time these new ships are deficient in the various ratings, and hundreds of mechanics, gunners and engineers have been withdrawn from the Black Sea Squadron to do service with the Pacific Fleet, moving to the Pacific Ocean from the Black Sea by means of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Just now, and until the acute phase of the crisis has disappeared or war has been declared, the disposition of the Russian Pacific Squadron is as follows.

At Port Arthur, the battleships Petropavlovsk, Poltava, Sevastopol, Peresviet, Retvizan, Probleda, and Tzarevitch; the first-class cruisers Bayan, Askold, Pallada, Diana, and Varyag; the gunboats Bobr, Gremyashtchi, and Koreetz; the transports Amur, Yenissei, and Angara; the torpedo-cruisers Vsadnik, and Gaidamak; and the destroyers Bezshumni, Bezposhadni, Bditelni, Bezstrashni, Boevoi, Vnimatelni, Vnushitelni, Viposlivi, Vlastni, Burni, and Boiki.

At Vladivostock, the first-class cruisers Rossia, Gromoboi, Rurik, and Bogatyr, the gunboat Mandchur, and the transport Lena.

At Chemulpo, the second-class cruiser Boyarin, and the destroyer Grossovoi.

At Ma-san-po, the second-class cruiser Rasboinik.

In Nimrod Bay, the second-class cruiser Djijdjit.

At Newchwang, the gunboats Otvazhni and Sivutch.

At Nagasaki, the gunboat Gilvak.

It will be seen from this list that Russia practically has the whole of her Pacific Squadron in and about the Yellow Sea. In addition to this force there is the squadron now en suite for the Far East, which lately passed through[xxv] Bizerta. This comprises the battleship Oslyabya, two second-class cruisers, Aurora and Dimitri Donskoi, and eleven torpedo-boat destroyers. The added strength which Russia will receive when these reinforcements, under Admiral Virenius, reach her will give her a numerical superiority over Japan. The greater efficiency, and that higher degree of skill, which is so noticeable aboard the Japanese fleet, reduces this preponderance to a mean level. However, Russia is by no means to be caught napping, as the formation in Port Arthur of a reserve naval brigade tends to show. Meanwhile, however, the subjoined detailed list presents the principal vessels in the Russian Pacific Squadron. The officers commanding are:


Built Tonnage Speed,
Tzarevitch (flagship) 1901 13,000 18 4 12 in.
12 6 in.
Probleda 1900 12,000 19 4 10 in.
11 6 in.
Poltava 1894 11,000 17 4 12 in.
12 6 in.
Sevastopol 1895 11,000 17 4 12 in.
12 6 in.
Petropavlovsk 1894 11,000 17 4 12 in.
12 6 in.
Peresviet 1898 12,000 19 4 10 in.
10 6 in.
Retvizan 1900 12,700 18 4 12 in.
12 6 in.


Reinforcements to join: Oslyabya, 12,000 tons, 4 10-in. guns, 10 6-in. guns; Navarin, 9,000 tons, 4 12-in. guns, 8 6-in. guns; Imperator Alexander III.


Built Tonnage Speed,
Askold 1900 7,000 23 12 6 in.
Bayan 1900 8,000 21 2 8 in.
8 6 in.
Gromoboi 1899 12,000 20   4 8 in.
16 6 in.
Rossia 1896 12,000 20   4 8 in.
16 6 in.
Rurik 1892 11,000 18 4 8 in.
16 6 in.
Bogatyr 1901 6,000 23 12 6 in.
Varyag 1899 6,000 23 12 6 in.
Diana 1899 7,000 20 8 6 in.
Pallada 1899 7,000 20 8 6 in.
Boyarin 1900 3,000 22 6 4.7 in.
Novik 1900 3,000 25 6 4.7 in.
Zabiuca 1878 1,300 14 Field guns
Djijdjit 1878 1,300 13 3 6 in.
Rasboinik 1879 1,300 13 3 6 in.

Reinforcements to join: Gremyashtchi, Admiral Nakhimoff; Aurora, Admiral Korniloff; Otrajny, Dmitri Donskoi; Almaz.

The gunboats on this station number nine, the destroyers eighteen, and the transports six. Thirteen destroyers are to join.

This fleet, with reinforcements, compares numerically with the eventual strength of Japan as follows:

Battleships Cruisers
Russia 10 21
Japan 7 26

A proportion of Japanese cruisers would be needed for coast defence, so that Russia is becoming numerically the stronger for sea work. In addition, Russia also has a powerful auxiliary fleet, consisting of ten steamers of the Black[xxvii] Sea Steam Navigation Company, most of which were built on the Tyne, and average fourteen knots. The Russian Volunteer Fleet Association numbers twelve Tyne and Clyde built ships. They are also at the disposal of the authorities.

Against this fighting array the Japanese are able to place vessels of equal size and displacement; in the actual weight of metal the Japanese are at a disadvantage, but in the thickness of the armoured protection there is little to choose. Against this comparative equality of the opposing fleets there must be borne in mind the great advantage which Japan derives from her ability to use her own fortified ports as naval bases. Indeed, this is of such importance that the knowledge of this fact might induce her to risk her whole strength in a single engagement. Again, in the mercantile marine, which has increased enormously of recent years, Japan will find all she may require for the purposes of transport and auxiliaries to the war fleet. The principal vessels in the Japanese navy are here indicated:


Name Displacement I.H.P. Nominal
Weight of
Broadside Fire
Tons Knots In. Lbs.
Hatsuse 15,000 15,000 18.0 14.6 4240
Mikasa 15,200 16,000 18.0 14.6 4225
Yashima 12,300 13,000 18.0 14.6 4000



Name Displacement I.H.P. Nominal
Weight of
Broadside Fire
Tons Knots In. Lbs.
Tokiwa 9750 18,000 21.5 6.6 3568
Yaqumo 9850 16,000 20.0 6.6 3368
Azuma 9436 17,000 21.0 6.6 3368
Idzuma 9800 15,000 24.7 6.6 3568

In addition to these, early in January 1904 the two cruisers purchased in Italy from the Argentine Government will be ready for sea.


Name Displacement I.H.P. Nominal
Weight of
Broadside Fire
Tons Knots In. Lbs.
Takasago 4300 15,500 24.0 4½.2 800
Kasagi 4784 15,500 22.5 4½.0 800
Itsukushima 4277 5400 16.7 11.4 1260
Yoshino 4180 15,750 23.0 780
Naniwa 3727 7120 17.8 1196
Akitsushima 3150 8400 19.0 780
Nitaka 3420 9500 20.0 920
Suma 2700 8500 20.0 335

In connection with the First Division of the Japanese Fleet an interesting fact has transpired which, from reason of its association with this country, will prove of more than ordinary interest. In case of war it appears that with one[xxix] exception the ships comprising this division are all British built. Designs, armour-plating and armament follow the type and standard of our own Navy, and it is therefore obvious that we cannot fail to be stirred deeply by the results of any collision which may occur. Each nation possesses in Far Eastern waters ships supplied with the latest appliances which science and ingenuity have devised. To the people of this Empire, whose security rests primarily upon the Fleet, our interest in the engagements is naturally the higher, by reason of the similarity between the ships which will be engaged upon one side and those of our own Navy. These vessels, all of which have received their war-paint, and whose place of concentration is Nagasaki, some 585 nautical miles from Port Arthur, are as follows:

Name Where built Tonnage Chief
Hatsuse (B) Elswick 15,000 4 12 in.
14 6 in.
Shikishima (B) Thames 15,000 4 12 in.
14 6 in.
Asahi (B) Clyde 15,000 4 12 in.
14 6 in.
Fuji (B) Blackwall 12,500 4 12 in.
10 6 in.
Yashima (B) Elswick 12,500 4 12 in.
10 6 in.
Iwate (C) Elswick 10,000 4 8 in.
10 6 in.
Asama (C) Elswick 10,000 4 8 in.
10 6 in.
Idzuma (C) Elswick 10,000 4 8 in.
14 6 in.
Tokiwa (C) Elswick 10,000 4 8 in.
10 6 in.
Takasago (C) Elswick 4,300 2 8 in.
10 4.7 in.
Kasagi (C) Cramp (Philadelphia) 5,000 2 8 in.
10 4.7 in.

(B) battleship; (C) cruiser.


A torpedo flotilla, numbering thirty-five vessels, forms part of this division. The other divisions of the fleet for war comprise the following:

Battleships 2
Cruisers 10 8
Small craft 30 80

In addition to these the auxiliary fleet numbers some forty steamers, for the most part vessels belonging to the Nippon Yusen Kaisha.

The present constitution of the Japanese Army dates from 1873, and the Military Forces consist of—(1) the permanent or Regular Army, with its Reserves and Recruiting Reserves; (2) the Territorial Army; (3) the National Militia; and (4) the Militia of the various island centres off the coast, &c. Military service is obligatory in the case of every able-bodied male from the age of seventeen to forty years of age. Of this period, three years are passed in the permanent or Regular Army, four years and four months in the Regular Reserves, five years in the Territorial Army, and the remaining liability in the National Militia. The permanent Army, with its Reserves, conducts operations abroad, and the Territorial Army and the Militia are for home defence. These latter are equipped with Peabody and Remington single-loading rifles. The up-to-date strength of the permanent Army, on a war footing, which does not include the Reserves, is as follows:


Officers Rank and File Horses
Infantry, 52 regiments of 3 battalions, 156 battalions = 4,160 143,000 52
Cavalry, 17 regiments of 3 squadrons, 51 squadrons = 400 9,300 9,000
Field and Mountain Artillery, 19 regiments of 6 batteries, total 114 batteries of 6 guns = 684 guns = 800 12,500 8,800
Fortress Artillery, 20 battalions = 530 10,300 70
Engineers 13 Sapper battalions = 270 7,000 215
1 Railway battalion = 20 550 15
Transport, 13 battalions = 220 7,740 40,000

Total = 684 guns, 6400 officers, 190,390 rank and file, 58,152 horses.

The Reserves comprise 52 battalions of Infantry, 17 squadrons, 26 Engineer and Transport companies, and 19 batteries with 114 guns, yielding a total of 1000 officers, 34,600 rank and file, and 9000 horses. Therefore, on mobilisation, the grand effective strength of the Army available for service beyond the seas would amount to 7400 officers, 224,990 rank and file, 798 guns, and 67,152 horses. Behind this, there is the Territorial Army, comprising 386 Infantry battalions, 99 squadrons, 26 Engineer and Transport companies, and about 70 batteries, or 11,735 officers, 348,100 men, 1116 guns, and 86,460 horses.

The Infantry and Engineers of the Regular Army have been recently re-armed with the Meidji magazine rifle. The following particulars show that the Japanese small arm is a superior weapon to the Russian, which dates from 1891:


Japanese “Meidji,” model 1897.
Calibre. Muzzle
up to
No. of
in Mag.
.255 in. 2315 700 9 lb. 2 oz. 5
Russian “Three-Line,” model 1891.
.299 in. 1900 2500 9 lb. 12 oz. 5

The Regular Cavalry have the Meidji carbine. The Reserves are armed with the Murata magazine rifle, model 1894, calibre .312 in., muzzle velocity 2000 feet-seconds, sighted up to 2187 yds., and weight with bayonet, 9 lb. 1 oz. The equipment carried by the Infantry soldier in the field weighs 43½ lbs.

The Regular Field and Mountain Artillery is armed with 2.95 in. quick-firing equipment, with hydraulic compressor, throwing a 10 lb. projectile. This is known as the Arisaka equipment. The Fortress and Siege Artillery have the latest models of Krupp and Schneider-Canet in siege guns, guns of position, and mortars. The Reserve Field Artillery are armed with a 2.95 rifled cannon of bronze on the old Italian model. The Japanese have no Horse Artillery, and the only difference between the field and mountain equipments is that the latter is the shorter and lighter gun, and has not as long a range. The Cavalry is the least efficient army of the service. It carries sword and carbine, but no lance. The horses are badly trained; the men are very indifferent riders.

The strength of the Russian forces in Manchuria embraces 88 battalions, 60 squadrons and 50 batteries, which, together with the garrison forces and fortress armament, numbers 200,000 men and 300 guns. These troops in Manchuria are formed into two army corps[xxxiii] of the first line and two of the second. Two new Rifle Brigades have just been added to the existing strength. They are composed as follows:

7th Brigade
Port Arthur
General Kondratenko
8th Brigade
General Artamanoff
25th Regiment 29th Regiment
26th 30th
27th } (new) 31st } (new)
28th } 32nd }

The Russian is a phenomenal marcher; the actual weight of his equipment is 58 lbs. 2 oz. One tent is carried in section between six men. Each soldier carries in his haversack two and a half days’ biscuits. The ration in daily use for war consists of

Biscuit 1 lb. 13 oz.
Meat 7¼ oz.
Groats 4⅘ oz.
Salt ⅘ oz.
Tea ⁹⁄₄₀ oz.
Sugar ⁸⁄₂₀ oz.
Spirits ¹⁄₂₇ of a pint

In the exigencies of active service it happens that the Russian soldier must forage for himself. Under any circumstances, however, he sustains himself on very little nourishment, and relies in a great measure upon what he can find. The Russian cavalry is armed with sword, rifle and bayonet. The latter is invariably carried “fixed,” even when the weapon itself is slung. A few regiments only carry the lance. The field guns are steel breech-loaders manufactured at the Obukhov works. They are akin to the Krupp pattern; many, however, have the interrupted screw breech piece and the de Bange obturation. At present there are many varieties of artillery with the Russian troops,[xxxiv] particularly in their fortified positions, to which places the Russian transported the seizures which they made from the Chinese during the Boxer crisis. These embraced French, German and British examples of artillery.

On land, the immense superiority of the reserve numbers of the Russians reduces the advantages which would accrue to the Japanese if the fighting were confined to the sea. At the same time, however, it should be remembered that the Russian troops are slow movers, and although they may exhibit magnificent endurance, and although they may be relied upon to fight well, the lack of individual initiative upon the part of the Russian officers robs the operations of that dash and address which is embodied in the spirit of the Japanese army. Curiously enough, each side favours the Continental school of infantry and cavalry tactics, the underlying principles in the training of the Japanese revealing a close adherence to Teutonic methods. Neither side will profit, therefore, by any degree of indivisibility to which they may have attained. The winter great-coat of either army is very nearly identical in colour, and for warm weather Japanese and Russians alike favour a white blouse. There has been talk of the Japanese adopting a khaki tint; upon the other hand, the blouse of the Russian soldier is by courtesy equally white or khaki. In the more important direction of land transport, it might appear that the Manchurian railway would be a crowning triumph for the Russian authorities. Unfortunately, this immense length of rail, badly laid and indifferently equipped, will impose a perpetual strain upon the military resources. If the country population could be relied upon to maintain a benevolent neutrality towards telegraph poles and lines, railway sleepers and rails, the stone pillar[xxxv] and balks of the bridges, the possibility of any serious interruption of traffic would be materially lessened. Unhappily for the Russians, the attitude and acts of the native population, who, in a general way, will lose no opportunity to harass their enemy, must impede the effective co-operation of the Russian forces.

Against this instinctive feeling of animosity there may be set the racial sympathy with the Japanese which governs every Chinaman. In Manchuria particularly, the Japanese enjoy a high reputation in the minds of the populace, while there is remembered, above aught else, that prompt redemption of all obligations during the Chino-Japanese War which distinguished the policy of the invaders towards local interests. This policy of benevolence was exhibited for the second time during the Boxer crisis, and, of course, the striking example offered by the Japanese, in comparison with the Russians, was not lost upon the Chinese. These things are recalled to-day in Manchuria, and they may be calculated to offset any reactionary sentiment which may take place in Korea. Between the hospital arrangements of each belligerent there is little to choose. The more efficient system of the Japanese service is equalised by the greater facilities which the possession of railway communication by the Russians will present to the transportation of the wounded. It should be pointed out, however, that the principal medical service—the Russian Red Cross Society—is wholly patriotic, and that it is not, in any degree, a military organisation. It is liable to be withdrawn from the field at any moment after the conclusion of the major operations.

Beyond these few observations it is difficult—if not impossible—to trespass with any certainty, although, as a[xxxvi] closing remark, it may perhaps be added that, provided the investment of Port Arthur be satisfactorily accomplished by sea and that Vladivostock were enclosed by ice, the estuaries of the Yalu and Lico Rivers enables an admirable position to be taken up, from which the Russian position throughout Manchuria may be very readily threatened. Speculations as to the development of the campaign upon land are, however, quite absurd until something is known of the results of the naval engagements with which the war must open. Meanwhile the painful familiarity with the costs of war which distinguishes the British taxpayer has directed no little attention to the financial position of either country. An eminent German financier, interested in the public debt of Russia, lately explained to me that a very large proportion of the moneys, which have been raised for the construction of the Russian inter-railway communications in addition to the Trans-Siberian and Manchurian Railways, has been set aside from time to time to supplement her war chest. These sums, added to those collected by Count Mouravieff with the assent of M. de Witte, and including the large balances which have accrued to the State by departmental economies during the past year, represent approximately a capital of one hundred millions sterling. Against this accumulation it is said that the financial position of Japan is most favourable. There is, I believe, a specie reserve in the Central Bank which amounts to 113,000,000 yen, plus some 40,000,000 yen in London. Moreover, the bank’s note-issuing margin is 35,000,000 yen, which will be larger after the New Year. The Treasury has three capital funds, amounting together to 50,000,000 yen, besides some millions in London remaining from the bond sale of 1902. Finally,[xxxvii] there are large sums lying idle in all the banks throughout the country, while an Ordinance has been issued which provides the Government with unlimited credit.

The more recent action of the Russians in Manchuria tends, of course, to support the view that war may be imminent. Nevertheless, bluff is a component part of Russian diplomacy, and there is ground for believing that the intentions of Russia in the Far East are by no means so warlike as the preparations now proceeding and the acts of the Russian administrative officials in Manchuria itself would imply. Russian diplomacy always covers the development of its plans by preparing to demonstrate in a contrary direction; and at the present time her occupation of Korean territory is little else than the screen, behind which she proposes to secure her hold upon Manchuria. Nothing short of war will cause her to retire from her position in Manchuria; but while Korean territory is of little value to the Russian protectorate, whatever the compromise which may be effected between Japan and Russia, she may be expected to make a determined effort to dominate the lower waters of the Yalu River. In fact, curious as it may seem, the estuary of the Yalu River is the very locale of the dispute between the two Powers, since, if Russia were ever permitted to dominate the Yalu River, she would gain at once that special position upon the frontiers of Korea which it is the desire of Japan to frustrate. In this Japan can rely only upon the shortshifts of diplomacy; and although the Russian occupation of Yong-an-po may be circumvented, the development of An-tung upon the opposite shore of the river cannot be prevented. It seems, therefore, as inevitable that some commanding position upon the Yalu River must ultimately fall to her lot. An-tung lies within Manchurian[xxxviii] territory; the Yalu River is the border stream between Manchuria and Korea, and at Yong-an-po the nucleus of an important Russian settlement has been established. The future contains no promise of the immediate settlement of the present difficulty. At best the outlook is confused; while at the same time there is presented in a manner singularly clear and comprehensible the fact that Russia neither will evacuate New-chang, be driven out of Manchuria, nor abandon her position on the Yalu River. The position of Russia at New-chang has been indicated by past events, her occupation of Manchuria is an old story, and she is now engaged in the rapid development of her interests at An-tung. The position of this port endows it with unusual advantages, and the commercial potentialities of the place are very great. It lies about fifteen miles above Yong-an-po, on the opposite bank. At present the export trade is confined to millet and silk cocoons, the over-production of the latter commodity requiring close technical supervision. Eight miles below An-tung, situated on the right bank of the river, is the likin station San-tao-lan-tao, where junks and rafts must report and pay the stipulated excise before they proceed onward. The river then bears away to the north-east, and after another stretch of seven miles there comes An-tung, upon the same bank, at a point where the stream divides, the eastern branch being the Yalu River. An-tung is of quite recent construction, and a few years ago millet fields occupied its site. Under the care of native merchants large, solid-looking houses have been built, broad streets have been opened out, and an air of unusual prosperity distinguishes the place. The anchorage is thronged with junks, while timber is stacked in vast quantities below the limits of the town. Sea-going steamers[xxxix] of the coaster type can here discharge and load their cargoes, thus obviating transhipment at Ta-tung-kao.

Trade between Ta-tung-kao, which is situated at the mouth of the Yalu, and Chi-fu, is at present carried on by small steamers of the Mosquito flotilla and one British ship, the Hwang-ho, of the China Navigation Company (Messrs. Butterfield and Swire), while the vast volume of the exports and imports finds its way hither and thither in Chinese junks. The run from Chi-fu port is one of a hundred and eighty-five miles, and the time usually occupied in the trip north-eastward is twenty-two hours, the steamers anchoring in the fairway channel at a distance of four miles from Ta-tung-kao. Ta-tung-kao is a busy town, inasmuch as it is the place of transhipment for imports and exports, most of which go to or come from An-tung. The fact of steamers being unable to approach Ta-tung-kao makes An-tung the real business centre of the Yalu River. In respect of An-tung, two hundred Russian cavalry have been stationed there for over two and a half years. The cantonment is situated on a small hill, marking the northern limit of the town, which has no wall. As usual, through the Yalu Valley these soldiers bear an evil reputation among the natives, from whom they commandeer at pleasure. Striking away from An-tung is the Pekin “Great Road,” which runs to Liao-yang. Above An-tung the river divides and shoals exist, the water being so shallow that none but native craft can ply. Wi-ju is situated about ten miles to the eastward, and at a point west of Mao-kewi-shan, four miles below An-tung, there is the terminus of the branch of the Manchurian railway, which is to strike the river. The construction of this work will begin in the spring of 1904. The first eighty miles offer little obstruction, and it[xl] is intended that the work shall be pushed forward until its junction with the main line of the system is accomplished. Russia, therefore, cannot well afford to ignore the consequences of her policy in the Far East, nor, at the same time, can she be expected to sacrifice, at the request of Japan, those great interests which she has been at such pains to foster. The position is, indeed, a striking example of the manner in which an imperious policy will create the taste, if not the necessity, for Imperialism.

The position of Korea in regard to the disputed questions is a hopeless one. Unfortunately, the government of Korea is powerless to prevent either the advance of Russia or the steady spread of Japanese influence. She possesses neither army nor navy which can be put to any practical use, and she is in that position in which a country is placed when unable to raise its voice upon its own behalf. The army numbers a few thousand men, who, in the last few years, have been trained to the use of European weapons. They are armed with the Gras, (obsolete pattern) Murata, Martini, and a variety of muzzle-loading smooth-bore rifles. Their shooting powers are most indifferent, and they lack besides the qualities of courage and discipline. There is no artillery, and the cavalry arm is confined to a few hundred men with no knowledge of horse-mastership, and with no idea of their weapons or their duties. At a moment of emergency the entire force of mounted and dismounted men would become utterly demoralised. There are numerous general officers, while, I believe, the navy is composed of twenty-three admirals and one iron-built coal lighter, until quite lately the property of a Japanese steamship company. Korea is the helpless, hapless sport of Japanese caprice or Russian lust; and it has been my aim to present an[xli] impartial study of the condition of the country in the pages of this volume. Since so many and so much abler pens have dealt with the position of Manchuria elsewhere, I have confined myself solely to a review of Korea. For this I trust that I may not be taken to task, while in order to satisfy those who think that some reference to the questions of Manchuria should have been incorporated in my book I have ventured to impart to my preface the appearance of a chapter which deals solely with this problem. And now, at the end of my work, a last, but none the less pleasant, duty awaits me. In addition to my own notes upon Korea I have gathered information from many people—writers, travellers, and students—all interested in the contemporary history of the Hermit Kingdom. These I now hasten to thank, and by naming them I would mark my grateful appreciation of the kindness which they have extended to me. To Mr. McLeavy Brown, of the Korean Maritime Customs; Mr. Gubbins, formerly of the British Legation, Seoul; to my distinguished and learned friend, Professor Homer B. Hulbert, whose published notes upon Korea have been of exceptional value, I make hearty acknowledgments; to Mrs. Bishop, Colonel Younghusband, the Rev. Mr. Griffis, Major Gould-Adams, authors of interesting and important contributions to any study of Korea, I express the sense of my obligation; to the Rev. C. Collyer, who was good enough to make my spelling of Korean names identical with the standard of Dr. Gale; to Mr. Bolton, of Messrs. Stanford, the map makers, of Long Acre, who laboured so patiently with the many shortcomings of my geographical data, I am, indeed, indebted. To Sir Douglas Straight, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, whose paper it was my delight to represent throughout my long residence in the Far East; to Mr.[xlii] Nicol Dunn, editor of the Morning Post; to Mr. S. J. Pryor, of the Daily Express, I have to record my acknowledgment of the courteous permission of these distinguished people to reproduce such portions of my work as have appeared in the columns of their respective organs from time to time. And last of all to my readers I offer this book in the hope that an immediate apology for its production may be permitted to atone for its numerous shortcomings.

December 25, 1903.



Off the coast—Lack of survey intelligence—Island flora—Forgotten voyagers—Superstitions and beliefs—Outline of history


Despite the survey work which has been accomplished in the past by the Japanese upon the coasts of Korea, little knowledge of the numerous islands and archipelagoes, shoals and reefs which make its shores the terror of all mariners, exists at present. Until the voyage of the Alceste and Lyra in 1816, the locality of these detached groups of rocky islets was not marked on any of the Japanese or Chinese maps of the period. In the map of the Empire prepared by the Jesuits at Pekin in the seventeenth century, the space now occupied by the Korean Archipelago was covered with the drawing of an elephant—the conventional sign of ignorance with the cartographers of that time. In the older native maps, the mainland embraced groups of islands, the most imperfect[2] knowledge of the physical configuration of their own shores prevailing among the Koreans. In quite recent days, however, the Korean Government has recognised this fact, and in the early months of 1903 the Japanese Government was requested to draw up a complete survey of the Hermit Kingdom. This work is now in process of execution, the plan of the coastline already having been completed.

The coast of Korea is remarkable for the number of spacious harbours which distinguish it. Upon the West and South, indications of the volcanic period, through which the country has in part passed, are shown by the frequency with which these island groups occur. From a single peak upon one of the small islands off the south-west coast, as many as one hundred and thirty-five islets may be counted, stretching to the North and to the South, the resort of the sea-fowl; desolate and almost uninhabited. Many of the more important islands have been cultivated, and give refuge and a lonely home to small communities of fishing-folk.

Navigation is peculiarly dangerous in these waters. Many of the islands are submerged by the spring-tides, and the direction of the channels, scoured by the rush of the tide, becomes quite indefinite. In the absence of charts and maps, these island-fringed shores have been the scene of many shipwrecks; Dutch, American, French, and British shipping meeting in one grim and silent procession a common end: captivity on shore or death in the sea. Some of these unfortunate mariners survived their experiences, leaving, after the fashion of Hendrik Hamel, the supercargo of the Dutch frigate Sparwehr, which went ashore off Quelpart in 1653, records and histories of their adventures to an incredulous posterity. Most of the islands[3] lying off the coast are well wooded. As they are very beautiful to look upon and very dangerous to approach, they are regarded with mingled sentiments of reverence and superstition, differing little, in their expression, from the fear in which the ancients held the terrors of Scylla and Charybdis. Their isolated position, moreover, makes them the centre of much contraband trade between the Chinese and Koreans; their defenceless state renders them an easy prey to any pirates who care to ravage them.

The islands off the south-west coast are the sanctuaries of many animals. Seals sport and play unharmed among the rocks; the woody peaks are rich in game: teal, crane, curlew, quail, and innumerable small birds make them their breeding-grounds. The shores are happy hunting-grounds for naturalists, and a variety of marine food is found throughout the archipelago. A number of well-marked species of sponge may be gathered, and the coral beds display many violent tints and delicate shades, forming in their beautiful colourings a sea garden of matchless splendour. The flora of these islands is a no less brilliant feature of the summer landscape. Tiger-lilies, showy and gigantic, daisies, asters, many varieties of cactus, grow side by side with curious ferns, palms and creepers, almost tropical in their character and profusion, yet surviving the cooler temperature of autumn and winter, to greet each coming spring with freshened beauty. The air vibrates with the singing and buzzing of insects, the limpid day is bright with gaudy butterflies. Snow-white herons stand in the shallows. Cormorants, diving birds and ducks throng the reefs to rise in clouds with many angry splutterings when their haunts are invaded. In the deeper waters, there are myriads of fish; in passing from group to group along the coast[4] shoals of whales are to be seen, blowing columns of spray aloft, of sleeping idly upon the surface.

The coast of Korea is well sprinkled with the names of foreign navigators, who, in previous centuries, essayed to visit the Land of the Morning Radiance. With rare exceptions, these visitors were turned back. Some were captured and tortured; many were ordered off at once, few were ever entertained. None were invited to make any stay in the new land, or permitted to inspect its wonders and curiosities. Beyond the Japanese, those who succeeded in sapping the wall of isolation which was so carefully built around the country and so rigorously maintained, were generally escorted inland as prisoners, the unconscious victims of some successful stratagem. In a manner, the fashion of their treatment is revealed in the curious names with which these pioneers of navigation have labelled the capes and promontories, the islands and shoals, which they were lucky enough to locate and whose dangers they were fortunate enough to avoid. Many of these names have ceased to be recognised. The lapse of time has caused them to be obliterated by European hydrographers from the maps and charts of the country and seas, in which their originators had risked so much. In many parts of the coast, however, particularly upon the west, along the shores of the Chyung-chyöng Province, these original names have been preserved. They form, to-day, a tribute to the earnestness and intrepidity of these early explorers. This mead of recognition is only just, and is not to be denied to their undoubted gallantry and enterprise.

It is not impossible to believe that an unusually fickle fate followed in their footsteps, prompting them to leave thus for the guidance of future generations, some hint of[5] their own miscalculations. If one may judge, from the brief narratives which these discoverers have left behind them, the result of their work upon these inhospitable shores surpassed anything that they had foreseen. The visit of these hardy spirits aroused the curiosity of the Koreans, giving to them their first knowledge of that outer world which they had spurned for centuries. Despite the golden opportunities now presented to them, however, they continued to neglect it. The memory of the black ships and the red beards (Dutchmen)—as they dubbed the strange craft and stranger devils, that had to appear only off their shores to be shipwrecked—dwelt long in their minds. Although they treated these strangers with comparative generosity, they were careful to preserve inviolate the secrets and sanctity of their land. They rejected with contumacy the friendly overtures of strangers who came in monster ships, and who, forsooth, left behind nothing but a name. It is scarcely astonishing, therefore, that there are many points upon the coast of Korea which bear somewhat uncomplimentary names. Deception Bay, Insult Island, and False River savour of certain physical discomforts, which, too great to be borne in silence, left an indelible impression upon the associations of the spot.

If the Dutch sailors of 1627 were among the earliest to reach the forbidding shores of this kingdom, the activities of British voyagers were most prominent in the succeeding century. The work of Captain W. R. Broughton, of the British sloop-o’-war, of sixteen guns, Providence, is described to this day by the bays and harbours into which he penetrated, and the capes and straits which this gallant man christened, to the credit of the distant island kingdom from which he hailed. Broughton in 1797, Maxwell of the[6] Alceste, with Basil Hall, commander of the British sloop-o’-war, the Lyra, in 1816, deserve the passing fame which is secured to them by the waters and capes which have been named after them. Their names figure as landmarks upon the west, the east, and the south coasts. While Maxwell and Hall preferred to devote their attention to the discovery and examination of the Korean Archipelago—of which, although Broughton does not mention it, it seems impossible that the discoverer of Broughton Strait can have been ignorant—Broughton roughly charted and surveyed the west coasts, coming to a temporary halt in Broughton Bay, some six hundred miles to the north. Hall left his name in Basil’s Bay, where Gutzlaff landed in 1832 to plant potatoes and to leave seeds and books. A generation later, in 1866, the archipelago to the north-west was named after the Prince Imperial, who was to meet his death in Zululand in 1878. In 1867, Prince Jerome’s Gulf, an inlet upon the mainland of the Chyung-chyöng Province, was to be the scene of Oppert’s famous attempt to remove large deposits of buried treasure and venerated relics from an Imperial tomb. These names upon the east and west coasts suggest nothing of the romance which actually surrounds them. At most they conjure up the shadowy silhouettes of the redoubtable personages, to whom they once belonged, and with whose memory many journeys of discovery in these seas are inseparably linked.

Englishmen were not the sole navigators who were attracted by the unknown character of the land, and the surpassing dangers of the waters, around the Island of Quelpart, where the Sea of Japan mingles in tempestuous chaos with the Yellow Sea. Russian and French navigators also worked their way through the dangerous shoals and quicksands,[7] along the tortuous and muddy rivers, into the harbours and through the narrow straits which hold back these islands from the mainland. The shores teem with the distinguished names of men of science and sons of the high seas. Following the curl and twist of its configuration a host of buried names are revealed, the last evidence of men who are dead and forgotten. It is infinitely pathetic that even this one last resting-place should be denied to their reputations. Lazareli, who shares Broughton’s Bay; Unkoffsky, who foundered in the waters of the bay which is described by his name; the ill-fated La Pérouse, who, in June 1787, discovered in the Sea of Japan an island which now bears the name of the astronomer—Dagelet. Durock, Pellisier, Schwartz, and the rest—what echo do we find of them, their fates, and subsequent careers? Should not their names at least bear witness to their pains and labours, to the difficulties which they faced, to the small joy of something attempted, something done, which was their sole consolation for many hours of cheerless and empty vigil?

Korea is a land of exceptional beauty. The customs, the literature, and the geographical nomenclature of the kingdom prove that the superb and inspiring scenery of the peninsula is quite appreciated by the people. In the same manner that the coast-line of Korea bears evidence of the adventurous spirit of many western mariners, the names given to the mountains and rivers of the country by the inhabitants themselves reflect the simplicity, the crudity, and the superstition of their ideas and beliefs. All mountains are personified in Korea. In the popular belief, they are usually associated with dragons. Every village offers sacrifices to the mountain-spirits. Shrines are erected by the wayside and in the mountain passes that travellers may tender their offerings[8] to the spirits and secure their goodwill. The Koreans believe that the mountains in some way exert a benign and protecting influence. The capital of Korea possesses its guardian-mountain. Every town relies upon some preserving power to maintain its existence. Graves, too, must have their custodian peaks, or the family will not prosper, and the impression prevails that people are born in accordance with the conformation of the hills upon which the tombs of their ancestors are situated. Rough and rugged contours make for warriors and militant males. Smooth surfaces and gentle descents beget scholars; peaks of singular charm and position are associated with beautiful women. Like the mountain-ranges, lakes and pools, rivers and streams exercise geomantic powers, and they are the abodes of presiding shades, benevolent or pernicious. In lakes, there are dragons and lesser monsters. In mountain pools, however, no wraith exists unless some one is drowned in the waters of the pool. When this fatality occurs, the figure of the dead haunts the pool until released by the ghost of the next person who meets with this misfortune. The serpent is almost synonymous with the dragon. Certain fish become in time fish-dragons; snakes become elevated to the dignity and imbued with the ferocity of dragons when they have spent one thousand years in the captivity of the mountains, and one thousand years in the water. All these apparitions may be propitiated with sacrifices and prayers.


In the province of Kang-won, through which the ranges of the Diamond Mountains pass, there are several peaks symbolical of this belief in the existence of supernatural monsters. One dizzy height is named the Yellow Dragon, a second the Flying Phœnix, and a third, the Hidden Dragon, has reference to a demon who has not yet risen[9] from the earth upon his ascent to the clouds. The names which the Koreans give to their rivers, lakes and villages, as also to their mountains, bear out their wish to see the natural beauties of their land associated with its more distinctive features. This idiosyncrasy, however, would seem to be exceptionally pronounced in the case of mountains. The Mountain fronting the Moon, the Mountain facing the Sun, the Tranquil Sea, the Valley of Cool Shade, and the Hill of White Clouds emphasise this desire. Again, in Ham-kyöng, the most northern province in the Empire, the more conspicuous peaks receive such designations as the Peak of Continuous Virtue, the Peak of the Thousand Buddhas, the Lasting Peace, the Sword Mountain, Heaven Reaching Peak, the Cloud Toucher. It is evident, therefore, that appreciation of nature, no less than reverence for the supernatural, underlies the system by which they evolve[10] names for the landmarks of their country. The peculiarities of their land afford great scope for such a practice, and it is to be admitted that they give ample vent to this peculiar trait in their imagination.

Korea is now an independent Empire. From very early times until 1895 the King of Korea was a vassal of China, but the complete renunciation of the authority of the Emperor of China was proclaimed in January 1895, by an Imperial decree. This was the fruit of the Chino-Japanese war, and it was ratified by China under the seal of the treaty of peace signed at Shimonosaki in May of the same year. The monarchy is hereditary, and the present dynasty has occupied the throne of Korea in continuous entail since 1392. Inhabited by a people whose traditions and history extend over a period of five thousand years, and subjected to kaleidoscopic changes whereby smaller tribes were absorbed by larger, and weaker governments overthrown by stronger, Korea has gradually evolved one kingdom, which, embracing all units under her own protection, has presented to the world through centuries a more or less composite and stable authority. There can be no doubt that the whilom vassal of China, in respect of which China and Japan made war, has taken much greater strides upon the path of progress than her ancient neighbour and liege lord. There is no question of the superiority of the conditions under which the Koreans in Seoul live and those prevailing in Pekin, when each city is regarded as the capital of its country—the representative centre in which all that is best and brightest congregates.


It was in 1876 that Korea made her first modern treaty. It was not until three years later that any exchange of envoys took place between the contracting party and[11] herself. Despite the treaty, Korea showed no disposition to profit by the existence of her new relations, until the opening of Chemulpo to trade in the latter part of 1883 revealed to her the commercial advantages which she was now in a position to enjoy. All this time China had been in intercourse with foreigners. Legations had been established in her capital; consuls were in charge of the open ports; commercial treaties had been arranged. She was already old and uncanny in the wisdom which came to her by this dealing with the people of Western nations. But, in a spirit of perversity without parallel in constitutional history, China retired within herself to such a degree that Japan, within one generation, has advanced to the position of a Great Power, and even Korea has become, within twenty years, the superior of her former liege. In less[12] than a decade Korea has promoted works of an industrial or humanitarian character which China, at the present time, is bitterly and fatally opposing. It is true that the liberal tendencies of Korea have been stimulated by association with the Japanese. Without the guiding hand of that energetic country the position which she would enjoy to-day is infinitely problematical. The contact has been wholly beneficial. Its continuation forms the strongest guarantee of the eventual development of the resources of the kingdom.




Physical peculiarities—Direction of advancement—Indications of reform and prosperity—Chemulpo—Population—Settlement—Trade


Korea is an extremely mountainous country. Islands, harbours, and mountains are its most pronounced natural features, and nearly the whole of the coast consists of the slopes of the various mountain ranges which come down to the sea. There are many patches upon the west, where the approaches are less precipitous and rugged than upon the east. The coast seems to follow the contour of the mountains. It presents, particularly from the east, that lofty and inaccessible barrier of forest-clad country, which has won the admiration of all navigators and struck terror into the hearts of those who have met with disaster upon its barren and rocky shores. From Paik-tu-san to Wi-ju there is one mighty and natural panorama of mountains with snow-clad, cloud-wrapped summits, and beautiful valleys with rich crops and quaintly[14] placed, low-thatched hovels, through which rivers course like angry silver. Everywhere in the north the mountains predominate; monstrous in shape and size. They are rich in minerals; they have become sepulchres for the dead and mines for the living—for in their keeping lies the wealth of the ages, coal and iron and gold; upon their summits, resting beneath the sky or within some nook hewn from their rugged slopes, are the graves of the dead. Mining and agriculture are almost the sole natural resources of the kingdom. There are great possibilities, however, in the awakening energies and instincts of the people, which may lead them to create markets of their own by growing more than suffices for their immediate requirements. As yet, notwithstanding the improvements which have been inaugurated, and the industrial schemes, which the government has introduced, the reform movement lacks cohesion. Indeed the nation is without ambition. But the prospect is hopeful. Already something has been accomplished in the right direction.

At present, however, Korea is in a state of transition. Everything is undefined and indetermined; the past is in ruins, the present and the future are in the rough. Reforms are scarce a decade old, and, while many abuses have been redressed, the reform movement suffers for lack of support, comprehension, and toleration. The aspirations of the few are extending but slowly to the nation. Progress is gradual and the interval is tedious. The commercial phase of the movement is full of vitality, and the factories which have been established show the evolution of enterprise from aspiration. Foreigners are introducing education, while the present commercial activities are attributable to their suggestion and assistance. The small response, which these[15] efforts elicit, make the labour of keeping the nation in the right direction very difficult. The people can scarcely relapse into the conservatism of ancient days, but they may collapse altogether, owing to the unfortunate circumstances which are now making Korea an object of ironical and interested observation among the Western Powers. She may be absorbed, annexed, or divided; in endeavouring to remain independent, she may wreck herself in the general anarchy that may overtake her. She has given much promise. She has constituted a Customs service, joined in the Postal Union and opened her ports. She has admitted railways and telegraphs, and shown kindness, consideration and hospitality to every condition of foreigner within her gates. Her confidence has been that of a child and her faults are those of the nursery. She is so old and yet so infinitely young; and, by a curious fatality, she is now face to face with a situation which again and again has occurred in her past history.

The introduction of Western inventions to Korea has gradually eliminated from contemporary Korean life many customs which, associated with the people and their traditions from time immemorial, imparted much of the repose and picturesqueness which have so far distinguished the little kingdom. Korea, in the twentieth century, bears ample evidence of the forward movement which is stimulating its people. Once the least progressive of the countries of the Far East, she now affords an exception almost as noticeable as that shown by the prompt assimilation of Western ideas and methods by Japan. Chemulpo, however, the centre in which an important foreign settlement and open port have sprung up, does not suggest in itself the completeness of the transformation which in a few years has[16] taken place in the capital. It is twenty years since Chemulpo was opened to foreign trade, and to-day it boasts a magnificent bund, wide streets, imposing shops, and a train service which connects it with the capital. Its sky is threaded with a maze of telephone and telegraph wire, there are several hotels conducted upon Western principles, and there is, also, an international club.

At the threshold of the new century, the port presents an interesting study. With the adjoining Ha-do, a hamlet of military pretensions, it has grown in the twenty years of its existence from a cluster of fishermen’s huts behind a hill along the river at Man-sak-dong into a prosperous cosmopolitan centre of twenty thousand people. Its growth, since the first treaty was negotiated with the West upon May 22, 1882, by the American Admiral Shufeldt, has been extraordinary. Its earlier years gave no promise of its rapid and significant advance. Trade has flourished, and a boom in the trade of the port has sent up the value of local properties. There is now danger of a decline in this state of affluence which may, in view of the chaos and uncertainty of the future of the kingdom, retard the settlement and disastrously affect its present prosperity. From small and uncertain beginnings four well-built, well-lighted settlements have sprung up, expanding into a general foreign, a Japanese, a Chinese, and a Korean quarter. The Japanese section is the best located and the most promising. The interests of this particular nation are also the most prominent in the export and import trade of the port, a position which is emphasised still further by the important nature of its vested interests, among which the railroad between Seoul, the capital, and Chemulpo, with the trunk extension to Fusan, is paramount. The Japanese population increased by nearly five hundred [17]during 1901. It then numbered some four thousand six hundred, of whom a few hundred were soldiers constituting a temporary garrison for the settlement. However, since the modification by the Japanese Government of the emigration laws with reference to China and Korea, under which, in the first weeks of 1902, the necessity for travelling passports was abolished in the case of these two countries, there has been a great increase in the number of Japanese residents at the treaty ports. The settlement at Chemulpo now embraces one thousand two hundred and eighty-two houses, and possesses a population of five thousand nine hundred and seventy-three adults. The census of the Chinese settlement fluctuates with the season; considerable numbers of farmers cross from Shan-tung to Korea during the summer, returning to their native land in winter. In the period of exodus from China, the Chinese population exceeds twelve hundred. The complete strength of the general foreign settlement is eighty-six, of which some twenty-nine are British. The one British firm in Korea is established in Chemulpo.



There are many nationalities in Chemulpo, and the small community, excluding the Japanese and Chinese, is made up as follows: British, twenty-nine and one firm, the remaining twenty-eight being attached to the Vice-Consulate, the Customs, and a missionary society; American, eight and two firms; French, six and one firm; German, sixteen and one firm; Italian, seven and one firm; Russian, four and two firms; Greek, two and one firm; Portuguese seven, Hungarian five, and Dutch two, the last three possessing no firms in the port.

If British interests are not materially represented in Chemulpo, other nationalities are less backward. By means[19] of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the journey from London to Chemulpo can now be accomplished within twenty-one days. When the Seoul-Fusan Railway is finished, communication between the East and the West will be still further facilitated. It is intended that less than two days shall suffice for the connection between Chemulpo and Tokio. Meanwhile the service of the Chinese Eastern Railway Company’s steamers between Port Arthur, Dalny and Chemulpo has been accelerated. In addition, also, imposing new offices have been erected at the port. It is much to be regretted that there is no regular service of British steamers to the ports of Korea. In singular contrast to the apathy of British steamship companies is the action of the Hamburg-America Company, which has now arranged for the periodic visits of its steamers to Chemulpo. From a commercial standpoint the port has become an important distributing centre. Foreign trade with the capital and its environs passes through it, and the administrative officers of the more important gold-mining concessions, of which there are now four, American, Japanese, French, and British, have settled there. A cigarette factory, supported by the Government, is now in operation in the port. During 1901 ninety-three men-of-war entered Chemulpo, of which thirty-five were Japanese, twenty-one English, fifteen Russian, eleven French, five Austrian, four German, one Italian, and one American. Of steamers and sailing-vessels there were 1036, of which 567 were Japanese with 304 steamers, 369 Korean junks and steamers, twenty-one Russian steamers, eight American sailing-ships and one American steamer, four English steamers, three German steamers, sixty-two Chinese junks, and one Norwegian steamer—forty-seven more men-of-war and seventy more merchant vessels than in 1900.[20] The shipping which entered and cleared at the port during 1900 was 370,416 tons, realising a small increase upon previous years; of these, 500 steamers with 287,082 tonnage were Japanese, 261 steamers with 45,516 tons were Korean, forty-one steamers of 27,999 tons Russian, two steamers of 4416 tons British, four steamers of 2918 tons German. The complete return of all shipping entered at the open ports of Korea during the year 1902—the latest under review—is added as a separate table at the end of this book.

In Chemulpo, as in all the ports of the kingdom which are open to foreign trade, there is a branch of the Imperial Korean Maritime Customs, an offshoot of the excellent service which exists in China under the administration of Sir Robert Hart. The working of the Korean Customs, for which Mr. McLeavy Brown is primarily responsible, is singularly successful, and redounds greatly to the credit of the comptrolling power. In an epoch characterised by the extraordinary ineptitude, indifference, and weakness of our public men, it is much to be deplored that the services of this distinguished Englishman are not more directly dedicated to the needs of his country. The careers of these two admirable officials fill me with mingled regret for the remoteness of their sphere of action, and high appreciation of their unremitting zeal—feelings few public servants may more fitly inspire than these two isolated, hardworking chiefs of a sister service, whose work, carried on in an atmosphere of treachery and deceit, too often meets with the blackest ingratitude.

The advance which the trade of Korea has made is proof sufficient of its innate possibilities under honest administration. If the revenues of the Customs are not diverted in the meantime to less important objects, there is every hope[21] to believe that facilities will be given to its development. The Emperor has lately sanctioned the grant of one million yen from the Customs revenue for the provision of aids to navigation. Thirty-one lighthouses are to be built; the two earliest being placed upon Roze and Round Islands off the entrance to the Han river, upon which Chemulpo lies. When this work is accomplished, the increase of shipping in the harbour is sure to create some sympathetic development in the resources of the country.


The net value for 1901 of the combined export and import direct foreign trade throughout the kingdom, exclusive of gold export, was more than twenty-three million (23,158,419) yen, the value of the gold export being a little in excess of four million (4,993,351) yen. The exchange rate of the Japanese yen is roughly two shillings and a half-penny, which gives the combined values of the total foreign trade as 2,873,827 pounds sterling. The trade of Chemulpo during this time was 11,131,060 yen,[22] being an increase of nearly one million yen upon the trade returns of the last three years. The exports were gold, rice, beans, timber and hides; the imports comprised American and Japanese goods for the most part, and a small and decreasing trade with England. The total foreign imports reached a value of 5,573,398 yen, and the total exports were 4,311,401 yen. The returns for the year following, 1902, were, in brief: exports, £269,747; imports, £814,470. Foreign interests in the total trade passing through Chemulpo, in comparison with those since 1891, show a great and steady advance. The total revenue for 1891 was a little less than 300,000 yen, and in the year 1900 this sum had advanced to more than 550,000 yen, the increase in the general prosperity during these years correspondingly affecting the total revenue of the kingdom.

Compared with 1901 there was a falling-off in the total trade of the country for the year 1902. In 1902 the entire foreign trade amounted to £2,745,346 sterling, which was composed as follows:

Imports. Exports. Exports
of Gold.
£ £ £
1,382,351 846,034 516,961

The balance of trade was against Korea, therefore, to the extent of only £16,356 sterling, whereas the average excess of imports over exports for the past five years was £107,309. Only in 1900 were the exports greater than the imports. The average of trade for the past five years was £2,370,075 sterling, a return which in reality credits the year 1902 with £378,271 more than the average. As a matter of fact, the month of December 1902 showed a larger volume of trade and more duty collected at Chemulpo than ever before. Specifically, in comparison with the previous[23] year, the imports of 1902 were less in the amount of £117,914, while exports had declined £7567. Large stocks were carried over from 1901, hence some depreciation in the volume of the trade was inevitable. However, for the better comprehension of the economic relations of Korea with the trade of foreign countries, I have collected the returns of the years, with which I have dealt here, in one simple table, to which is added a quinquennial average, covering a period which begins with the year 1898.




Move to the capital—A city of peace—Results of foreign influence—In the beginning—Education—Shops—Costume—Origin—Posts and telegraphs—Methods of cleanliness


The situation in which Seoul lies is enchanting. High hills and mountains rise close to the city, their sides rough, rugged and bleak, save where black patches of bushes and trees struggle for existence. The hollows within this rampart of hills and beyond the walls, are fresh and verdant. Small rice-fields, with clusters of thatched hovels in their midst, stretch between the capital and the port at Chemulpo. The atmosphere is clear; the air is sweet; the city is neat and orderly. It is possible, moreover, to live with great comfort in the three-storied brick structure, which, from a pretty collection of Korean buildings, nestling beneath the city wall, has been converted into the Station Hotel.

There is but one wall round Seoul. It is neither so high nor so massive as the wall of Pekin; yet the situation of[25] the city gains so much in beauty from the enclosing mountains, that it seems to be much the more picturesque. If the capital of Korea is more charmingly situated than the capital of China, the wall of Seoul is reminiscent of the walls of the Nankow Pass in the superb disdain with which it clings to the edges of the mountains, climbing the most outlandish places in the course of its almost purposeless meanderings. It extends beyond the lofty crests of Peuk-an and across the splendid and isolated peak of Nam-san, enclosing a forest in one direction, a vacant and soulless plain in another, dropping here into a ravine, to emerge again a few hundred feet higher on the mountain slopes. The wall is in good preservation. In places it is a rampart of mud faced with masonry; more generally it is a solid structure of stone, fourteen miles in circumference, twenty-rive to forty feet in height, battlemented along its entire length and pierced by eight arches of stone. The arches serve as gateways; they are crowned with high tiled towers, the gables of which curve in the fashion of China.

Within the radius of these stone walls, the city spreads itself across a plain, or high on the mountain side, within the snug shelter of some hollow, enjoys a pleasant, cool and comfortable seclusion. Within its metropolitan area there are changes of scenery which would delight the most weary sightseer. Beyond these limits, the appearance and character of the country is refreshing, and is without that monotonous dead-level stretch of plain, which, reaching to the walls of Pekin, detracts so greatly from the position of that capital. Within this broader vista there are hills and wooded valleys. Villages rest beneath the grey, cool shadows of the bush. Upon the hills lie many stately tombs, fringes of trees shielding them from the rush of the winds. There[26] are pretty walks or rides in every quarter, and there is no fear of molestation. Everywhere it is peaceful; foreigners pass unnoticed by the peasants, who, lazily scratching the surface of their fields, or ploughing in the water of their rice plots with stately bulls, occupy their time with gentle industry. It is more by reason of a bountiful nature that has endowed their land with fertility, than by careful management or expenditure of energy that it serves their purpose.

A few years ago it was thought that the glory of the ancient city had departed. Indeed, the extreme state of neglect into which the capital had fallen gave some justification for this opinion. Now, however, the prospect is suggestive of prosperity. The old order is giving way to the new. So quickly has the population learned to appreciate the results of foreign intercourse that, in a few more years, it will be difficult to find in Seoul any remaining link with the capital of yore. The changes have been somewhat radical. The introduction of telegraphy has made it unnecessary to signal nightly the safety of the kingdom by beacons from the crests of the mountains. The gates are no longer closed at night; no more does the evening bell clang sonorously throughout the city at sunset, and the runners before the chairs of the officials have for some time ceased to announce in strident voices the passing of their masters. Improvements, which have been wrought also in the conditions of the city—in its streets and houses, in its sanitary measures and in its methods of communication—have replaced these ancient customs. An excellent and rapid train runs from Chemulpo; electric trams afford quick transit within and beyond the capital; even electric lights illuminate by night some parts of the chief city of the Hermit Kingdom. Moreover, an[27] aqueduct is mentioned; the police force has been reorganised; drains have come and evil odours have fled. The population of the capital for the year 1903 was 194,000 adults. This is a decrease of 2546 upon the year 1902.

The period which has passed since the country was opened to foreign trade has given the inhabitants time to become accustomed to the peculiar differences which distinguish foreigners. It has afforded Koreans countless opportunities to select for themselves such institutions as may be calculated to promote their own welfare, and to provide at the same time compensating advantages for their departure from tradition. Not only by the construction of an electric tramway, the provision of long-distance telephones and telegraphs, the installation of electric light, a general renovation of its thoroughfares and its buildings, and the improvement of its system of drainage, does the capital of Korea give tokens of the spirit which is at work amongst its inhabitants. Reforms in education have also taken place; schools and hospitals have been opened; banks, foreign shops and agencies have sprung up; a factory for the manufacture of porcelain ware is in operation; and the number and variety of the religions with which foreign missionaries are wooing the people are as amazing and complex as in China. There will be no absence in the future of those soothing conjectures from which the consolations of religion may be derived. The conduct of educational affairs is arranged upon a basis which now gives every facility for the study of foreign subjects. Special schools for foreign languages, conducted by the Government under the supervision of foreign teachers, have been instituted. Indeed, most striking changes have been made in the curriculum of the common schools of the city. Mathematics, geography, history,[28] besides foreign languages, are all subjects in the courses of these establishments, and, only lately, a special School of Survey, under foreign direction, has been opened. The enlightenment, which is thus spreading throughout the lower classes, cannot fail to secure some eventual modification of the views and sentiments by which the upper classes regard the progress of the country. As a sign of the times, it is worthy to note that several native newspapers have been started; while the increase of business has created the necessity for improved facilities in financial transactions, a development which has appealed not only to the Dai Ichi Ginko. The Russo-Chinese Bank is proposing to contend with this Japanese financial house. The establishment at Chemulpo of a branch of the Russian Bank is contemplated, from whence will come an issue of rouble notes to compete with the various denominations of the Japanese Bank. Moreover, the Government is preparing to erect a large building in foreign style in the centre of the city, to be used as the premises of the Central Bank of Korea. It will be a three-storied building, and it is intended to establish branches in all the thirteen provinces of the Empire. Its chief aim is to facilitate the transfer of Government moneys, the transport of which has always been a severe tax upon the Government. It will, however, engage in general banking business, and for this purpose Yi Yong-ik, the President of the Central Bank, is preparing at the Government mint one, five, ten and one hundred dollar bills for issue by it.

Along with these objects, the postal and telegraph service has received no little attention. Up to the year 1883 Korea was without telegraphic communication. At that time the Japanese laid a submarine cable from Nagasaki to the Korean port of Fusan with an intermediate station[29] upon the island of Tsu-shima. A little later, in 1885, China, taking advantage of her suzerain rights, deputed Mr. J. H. Muhlensteth, a telegraph engineer who had been in her service many years and who formerly had been an employé of the Danish Telegraph System, to construct a land telegraph line from Chemulpo by way of Seoul and Pyöng-yang to Wi-ju on the Yalu River opposite the Chinese frontier post of An-tung, which had connection with the general system of Chinese telegraphs. This line toward the north-west was for many years the only means of telegraphic communication between the capital of Korea and the outside world. It was worked at the expense and under the control of the Chinese Government, and it was not until the time of the Chino-Japanese war, in the course of which the line was almost entirely destroyed, that it was reconstructed by the Korean Government.

In 1889 the Korean Government built a line from Seoul to Fusan. After the Chino-Japanese war, telegraphic communication was extended from Seoul to Won-san and Mok-po. During recent years continuous progress has been made until the total development in the interior has now reached 3500 kilometres, divided into twenty-seven bureaux and employing 113 men as directors, engineers, secretaries, and operators, with 303 as students. The Morse system is in use. The electricity is generated by the use of the Leclanché batteries. Telegrams may be sent either in the native Korean script, in Chinese, or in the code used by the Chinese administration, and in the different foreign languages authorised by the International Telegraph Agreement. Horse relays are kept at the different telegraph centres in the interior to facilitate communication with points far distant.


The subjoined table reveals by comparison the development in the Korean system of telegraphs which has taken place during recent years:

1899. 1900. 1901. 1902.
Telegrams 112,450 125,410 152,485 209,418
Revenue $50,686.89 $72,443.26 $86,830.86 $112,337.18
Length of lines in li 5000 5090 6510 7060
Offices 19 22 27 27

The establishment of the Imperial Postal System in Korea is comparatively recent. For many years, in fact for many centuries, Korea has possessed no postal service as we conceive of it. An official courier service was maintained by the King in order to carry on correspondence with the different provincial governors. These messengers travelled by horse relays, which were maintained at various points in the country. Private correspondence was carried on through the medium of travellers or pedlars, the sender having to arrange privately with the carrier in each instance. In 1877, Japan, who had entered the Postal Union and had concluded a treaty with Korea, established postal bureaux at Fusan, Won-san and Chemulpo for the needs of her nationals, who were already quite numerous in Korea. In 1882 the Customs Administration also established a sort of postal system between the different open ports and between Korea and China. But these organisations were limited to correspondence between open ports, and whoever wished to send a letter into the interior had to make private arrangements. In 1884 the Government of Korea made a first attempt to establish an official postal system which would be accessible to all.

It was not until 1895, however, after the close of the[31] Chino-Japanese war, that the Korean Postal Service was at last established under the direction of a Japanese. For several years this service was confined to Korea herself, and did not undertake any foreign business. In 1897 the Korean Government determined to join the Postal Union, and to this end two representatives were sent to the Universal Postal Congress, held at Washington in May and June of that year. They signed the international agreement. Finally, in 1898, the Government secured the services of M. E. Clemencet, a member of the Postal and Telegraph Bureau of France, as adviser and instructor to the Postal Bureau, and on January 1, 1900, Korea entered the Postal Union.

The Service comprises, in addition to the central bureau at Seoul, thirty-seven postal stations, in full operation, and 326 sub-stations open to the exchange of ordinary or registered correspondence, whether domestic or foreign. Seven hundred and forty-seven letter boxes have been distributed throughout postal circuits in charge of these stations. Only the stations in full operation are carried on by agents or sub-agents under the control of the Director-General of Communications to the number of 756, of which 114 are agents and secretaries, and 642 are couriers, watchmen, &c. The management of secondary offices is in the hands of local country magistrates under the control of the Ministry of the Interior, and has no connection with the Department of Communications except in so far as the control and management of the postal system is directly affected. A network of land postal routes, starting out from Seoul along the seven main highways, is run daily in both directions by postal couriers. Each of the large country offices controls a courier service, which, in turn, connects with the smaller country offices. These secondary[32] offices are served three times a week by unmounted postal couriers, who number in all 472 men. Each man carries on his back a maximum load of twenty kilogrammes. When the mail matter exceeds this limit extra men or pack horses are employed. The courier has to cover daily a minimum distance of forty kilometres. In central Korea and in the south and the north-west each route is covered, back and forth, in five days. In the north and north-east eight days are required for each round trip.

Besides these land courier services the Postal administration has employed, since Korea joined the Postal Union, various maritime services for forwarding mail matter to the different Korean ports and for the despatch of foreign mail. The different steamship companies which carry Korean mail are: The Nippon Yusen Kaisha, whose boats touch at Kobe, Nagasaki, Fusan, Mok-po (occasionally), Chemulpo, Chi-fu, Taku, Won-san and Vladivostock. The Osaka Chosen Kaisha boats, which touch at Fusan, Ma-san-po, Mok-po, Kun-san, Chemulpo and Chin-am-po. The last port is closed by ice from December to March. The Chinese Eastern Railway Company, whose boats ply between Vladivostock and Shanghai by way of Nagasaki, Chemulpo, Port Arthur, and Chi-fu, are also utilised.




The man, who did so much to make a success of the Korean Customs has also effected the wonderful repairs of the capital. The new Seoul is scarcely seven years old, but Mr. McLeavy Brown and the Civil Governor, an energetic Korean official, since transferred, began, and concluded within four weeks, the labour of cleansing and reconstructing the slimy and narrow quarters in which so many people lived. To those, who knew the former state of the city, the task must have appeared Gargantuan. Nevertheless, an extraordinary metamorphosis was achieved. Old Seoul, with its festering alleys, its winter accumulations of every species of filth, its plastering mud and penetrating foulness, has almost totally vanished from within the walls of the capital. The streets are magnificent, spacious, clean, admirably made and well drained. The narrow, dirty lanes have been widened; gutters have been covered, and roadways broadened; until, with its trains, its cars, and its lights, its miles of telegraph lines, its Railway Station Hotel, brick houses and glass windows, Seoul is within measurable distance of becoming the highest, most interesting, and cleanest city in the East. It is still not one whit Europeanised, for the picturesqueness of the purely Korean principles and standards of architecture has been religiously maintained, and is to be observed in all future improvements.

The shops still cling to the sides of the drains; the jewellers’ shops hang above one of the main sewers of the city; the cabinet and table-makers occupy both sides of an important thoroughfare, their precious furniture half in and half out of filthy gutters. A Korean cabinet is a thing of great beauty. It is embossed with brass plates and studded with brass nails, very massive, well dovetailed, altogether superior in design and finish. The work of the jewellers is crude and unattractive, although individual pieces may reveal some artistic conception. In the main the ornaments include silver bangles, hairpins and earrings, with a variety of objects suitable for the decoration of the hair. The grain merchants and the vegetable dealers conduct their business in the road. The native merchant loves to encroach upon the public thoroughfares whenever possible. Once off the main streets of the city, the side alleys are completely blocked to traffic because of the predilection of the shopkeepers[35] upon either side of the little passages to push their wares prominently into the roadway. The business of butchering is in Korea the most degraded of all trades. It is beyond even the acceptance and recognition of the most humble orders of the community. The meat shops are unpleasantly near the main drains.


There are innumerable palaces in the capital, but as His Majesty very frequently enlarges his properties, there is the prospect of other buildings being adapted to his Imperial use. The precincts of the Palace always afford opportunities for foreigners to become familiar with the features of the many Ministers of State. In their anxiety to advise their sovereign, they wrangle among themselves, or plot and counterplot, and fight for the cards in their own hands, irrespective of the fate which their jealousies may bring down upon their country. At all hours processions[36] of chairs are seen making for the palace, where, having deposited their masters, the retinue of retainers and followers lounge about until the audience is over. Then, with the same silent dignity, the Ministers are hurried away through the crowds of curiously hatted and clothed people who scarcely deign to notice the passing of the august personages.

The officials are elegantly superior in their manner and appearance. The distinction in the costumes of the different classes is evinced perhaps by the difference in their prices. The dress of a noble costs several hundred dollars. It is made from the finest silk lawn which can be woven upon the native looms. It is exceedingly costly, of a very delicate texture, and cream colour. It is ample in its dimensions and sufficiently enveloping to suggest a bath gown. It is held in place by two large amber buttons placed well over upon the right breast. A silken girdle of mauve cord encircles the body below the arm-pits. The costume of any one individual may comprise a succession of these silken coats of cream silk lawn, or white silk lawn, in spotless condition, with an outer garment of blue silk lawn. The movement of a number of these people dressed in similar style is like the rustle of a breeze in a forest of leaves. The dress of the less exalted is no less striking in its unblemished purity. It costs but a few dollars. It is made from grass lawn of varying degrees of texture or of plain stout calico. It is first washed, then pounded with heavy sticks upon stones, and, after being dried, beaten again upon a stock until it has taken a brilliant polish. This is the sole occupation of the women of the lower classes, and through many hours of the day and night the regular and rhythmic beating of these laundry sticks may be heard.




The costume of the women is in some respects peculiar to the capital. The upper garment consists of an apology for a zouave jacket in white or cream material, which may be of silk lawn, lawn, or calico. A few inches below this begins a white petticoat, baggy as a sail, touching the ground upon all sides, and attached to a broad band. Between the two there is nothing except the bare skin, the breasts being fully exposed. It is not an agreeable spectacle, as the women seen abroad are usually aged or infirm. At all times, as if to emphasise their fading charms, they wear the chang-ot, a thin, green, silk cloak, almost peculiar to the capital and used by the women to veil their faces in passing through the public streets. Upon the sight of man, they clutch it beneath the eyes. The neck of the garment is pulled over the head of the wearer, and the long, wide sleeves fall from her ears. The effect of the contrast between the hidden face and the naked breast is exceptionally ludicrous. When employed correctly only one eye, a suggestion of the cheek and a glimpse of the temple and forehead are revealed. It is, however, almost unnecessary, since in the case of the great majority of the women, their sole charm is the possible beauty that the chang-ot may conceal. They wear no other head-covering. For ordinary occasions they dress their hair quite simply at the nape of the neck, in a fashion not unlike that which Mrs. Langtry introduced.


The head-dress of the men shows great variety, much as their costume possesses a distinctive character. When they are in mourning, the first stage demands a hat as large as a diminutive open clothes-basket. It is four feet in circumference and completely conceals the face, which is hidden further by a piece of coarse lawn stretched upon two sticks, and held just below the eyes. In this stage nothing whatever of the face may be seen. The second stage is denoted by the removal of the screen. The third period is manifested through the replacement of the inverted basket by the customary head-gear, made in straw colour. The ordinary head-covering takes the shape of the high-crowned hat worn by Welsh women, with a broad brim, made in black gauze upon a bamboo frame. It is held in place by a chain beneath the chin or a string of pieces of bamboo, between each of which small amber beads are inserted. There are a variety of indoor and ceremonial caps and bandeaux which are worn by the upper and middle classes.




The hair is dressed differently by single and married men. If unmarried, they adopt the queue; when married, they put up their hair and twist it into a conical mass upon their heads, keeping it in place by a woven horsehair band, which completely encircles the forehead and base of the skull. A few, influenced by Western manners, have cropped their hair. This is specially noticeable among the soldiers on duty in the city, while, in compliance with the orders of the Emperor, all military and civil officials in the capital have adopted the foreign style. Boys and girls, the queerest and most dirty little brats, are permitted up to a certain age to roam about the streets, to play in the gutters, and about the sewage pits in a state of complete nudity—a form of economy which is common throughout the Far East. The boys quickly drift into clothes and occupations of a kind. The girls of the poorer orders are sold as domestic slaves and[41] become attached to the households of the upper classes. From their subsequent appearance in the street, when they run beside the chairs of their mistresses, it is quite evident that they are taught to be clean and even dainty in their appearance. At this youthful age they are quaint and healthy looking children. The conditions under which they live, however, soon produce premature exhaustion.

Despite the introduction of certain reforms, there is still much of the old world about Seoul, many relics of the Hermit Kingdom. Women are still most carefully secluded. The custom, which allows those of the upper classes to take outdoor exercise only at night, is observed. Men are, however, no longer excluded from the streets at such hours. The spectacle of these white spectres of the night, flitting from point to point, their footsteps lighted by the rays of the lantern which their girl-slaves carry before them, is as remarkable as the appearance of Seoul by daylight, with its moving masses all garmented in white. A street full of Koreans aptly suggests, as Mr. Henry Norman, M.P., once wrote, the orthodox notion of the Resurrection. It cannot be denied that the appearance of both men and women makes the capital peculiarly attractive. The men are fine, well-built and peaceful fellows, dignified in their bearing, polite and even considerate towards one another. The type shows unmistakable evidences of descent from the half savage and nomadic tribes of Mongolia and Northern Asia and the Caucasian peoples from Western Asia.

These two races, coming from the North in the one case and drifting up from the South in the other, at the time of the Ayraan invasion of India, peopled the north and south of Korea. Finally merging among themselves, they gave to[42] the world a composite nation, distinct in types, habits, and speech, and amalgamated only by a rare train of circumstances over which they could have had no control. It is by the facial resemblances that the origin of the Koreans may be traced to a Caucasian race. The speech of the country, while closely akin to Chinese, reproduces sounds and many verbal denominations which are found in the languages of India. Korea has submitted to the influence of Chinese arts and literature for centuries, but there is little actual agreement between the legends of the two countries. The folk-lore of China is in radical disagreement with the vague and shadowy traditions of the people of Korea. There is a vast blank in the early history of Korea, at a period when China is represented by many unimpaired records. Research can make no advance in face of it; surmise and logical reflections from extraneous comparisons alone can supply the requisite data. Posterity is thus presented with an unrecorded chapter of the world’s history, which at the best can be only faintly sketched.




The heart of the capital—Domestic Economy—Female slavery—Standards of morality—A dress rehearsal


The inhabitants of the Hermit Kingdom are peculiarly proficient in the art of doing nothing gracefully. There is, therefore, infinite charm and variety in the daily life of Korea. The natives take their pleasures passively, and their constitutional incapacity makes it appear as if there were little to do but to indulge in a gentle stroll in the brilliant sunshine, or to sit cross-legged within the shade of their houses. Inaction becomes them; nothing could be more unsuited to the character of their peculiar costume than vigorous movement. The stolid dignity of their appearance and their stately demeanour adds vastly to the picturesqueness of the street scenes. The white-coated, white-trousered, white-socked, slowly striding population is irresistibly fascinating to the eye. The women are no less interesting than the men. The unique fashion of[44] their dress, and its general dissimilarity to any other form of feminine garb the world has ever known, renders it sufficiently characteristic of the vagaries of the feminine mind to be attractive.

Women do not appear very much in the streets during daylight. The degree of their seclusion depends upon the position which they fill in society. In a general way the social barriers which divide everywhere the three classes are well defined here. The yang-ban or noble is, of course, the ruling class. The upper-class woman lives rather like a woman in a zenana; from the age of twelve she is visible only to the people of her household and to her immediate relatives. She is married young, and thenceforth her acquaintances among men are restricted solely to within the fifth degree of cousinship. She may visit her friends, being usually carried by four bearers in a screened chair. She seldom walks, but should she do so her face is invariably veiled in the folds of a chang-ot. Few restrictions are imposed upon the women of the middle class as to their appearance in the streets, nor are they so closely secluded in the house as their aristocratic sisters; their faces are, however, veiled. The chang-ot is by no means so complete a medium of concealment as the veil of Turkey. Moreover, it is often cast aside in old age. The dancing-girls, slaves, nuns, and prostitutes, all included in the lowest class, are forbidden to wear the chang-ot. Women doctors, too, dispense with it, though only women of the highest birth are allowed to practise medicine.




In a general way, the chief occupation of the Korean woman is motherhood. Much scandal arises if a girl attains her twentieth year without having married, while no better excuse exists for divorce than sterility. In respect of marriage, however, the wife is expected to supplement the fortune of her husband and to contribute to the finances of the household. When women of the upper classes wish to embark in business, certain careers, other than that of medicine, are open to them. They may cultivate the silkworm, start an apiary, weave straw shoes, conduct a wine-shop, or assume the position of a teacher. They may undertake neither the manufacture of lace and cloth, nor the sale of fruit and vegetables. A descent in the social scale increases the number and variety of the callings which are open to women. Those of the middle class may engage in all the occupations of the upper classes, with the exception of medicine and teaching. They may become concubines, act as cooks, go out as wet nurses, or fill posts in the palace. They may keep any description of shop, tavern, or hotel; they possess certain fishing privileges, which allow them to take clams, cuttle-fish, and bêches de mer. They may make every kind of boot and shoe. They may knit fishing-nets, and fashion tobacco-pouches.

If some little respect be accorded to women of the middle classes, those of a lower status are held in contempt. Of the occupations open to women of the middle classes, there are two in which women of humble origin cannot engage. They are ineligible for any position in the palace: they may not manufacture tobacco-pouches. They may become sorceresses, jugglers, tumblers, contortionists, dancing-girls and courtesans. There is this wide distinction between the members of the two oldest professions which the world has ever known: the dancing-girl usually closes her career by becoming the concubine of some wealthy noble; the courtesan does not close her career at all.




It is impossible not to admire the activity and energy of the Korean woman. Despite the contempt with which she is treated, she is the great economic factor in the household and in the life of the nation. Force of circumstance has made her the beast of burden. She works that her superior lord and master may dwell in idleness, comparative luxury, and peace. In spite of the depressing and baneful effects of this absurd dogma of inferiority, and in contradiction of centuries of theory and philosophy, her diligent integrity is more evident in the national life than her husband’s industry. She is exceptionally active, vigorous in character, resourceful in emergency, superstitious, persevering, indomitable, courageous, and devoted. Among the middle and lower classes she is the tailor and the laundress of the nation. She does the work of a man in the household and of a beast in the fields; she cooks and sews; she washes and irons; she organises and carries on a business, or tills and cultivates a farm. In the face of every adversity, and in those times of trial and distress, in which her liege and lazy lord utterly and hopelessly collapses, it is she who holds the wretched, ramshackle home together. Under the previous dynasty, the sphere of the women of Korea was less restricted. There was no law of seclusion; the sex enjoyed greater public freedom. In its closing decades, however, the tone of society lowered, and women became the special objects of violence. Buddhist priests were guilty of widespread debauchery; conjugal infidelity was a pastime; rape became the fashion. The present dynasty endeavoured to check these evils by ordaining and promoting the isolation and greater subjection of the sex. Vice and immorality had been so long and so promiscuously practised, however, that already men had begun to keep their women in seclusion of their own accord.[49] If they respected them to some extent, they were wholly doubtful of one another. Distrust and suspicion were thus the pre-eminent causes of this immuring of the women, the system developing of itself, as the male Koreans learnt to dread the evil propensities of their own sex. It is possible that the women find, in that protection which is now accorded them, some little compensation for the drudgery and interminable hard work that is their portion.


The system of slavery among the Koreans is confined, at present, to the possession of female slaves. Up to the time of the great invasion of Korea by the Japanese armies under Hideyoshi, in 1592, both male and female slaves were permitted. The loss of men in that war was so great that, upon its conclusion, a law was promulgated which forbade the bondage of males. There is, however, the sang-no (slave boy), who renders certain services only, and receives his[50] food and clothes in compensation. The position of the sang-no is more humble than that filled by the paid servant and superior to that of the slave proper. He is bound by no agreement and is free to leave.

The duties of a slave comprise the rough work of the house. She attends to the washing—an exacting and continuous labour in a Korean household; carries water from the well, assists with the cooking, undertakes the marketing and runs errands. She is not allowed to participate in any duties of a superior character; her place is in the kitchen or in the yard, and she cannot become either a lady’s maid or a favoured servant of any degree. In the fulness of time she may figure in the funeral procession of her master.

There are four ways by which the Korean woman may become a slave. She may give herself into slavery, voluntarily, in exchange for food, clothes and shelter through her abject poverty. The woman who becomes a slave in this way cannot buy back her freedom. She has fewer rights than the slave who is bought or who sells herself. The daughter of any slave who dies in service continues in slavery. In the event of the marriage of her mistress such a slave ranks as a part of the matrimonial dot. A woman may be reduced to slavery by the treasonable misdemeanours of a relative. The family of a man convicted of treason becomes the property of the Government, the women being allotted to high officials. They are usually liberated. Again, a woman may submit herself to the approval of a prospective employer. If she is found satisfactory and is well recommended, her services may realise between forty, fifty, or one hundred thousand cash. When payment has been made, she gives a deed of her own person to her purchaser, imprinting the outline of her hand upon the document, in place of a seal, and for the purpose of supplying easy means of identification. Although this transaction does not receive the cognisance of the Government, the contract is binding.




As the law provides that the daughter of a slave must take the place of her parent, should she die, it is plainly in the interests of the owner to promote the marriage of his slaves. Slaves who receive compensation for their services are entitled to marry whom they please; quarters are provided for the couple. The master of the house, however, has no claim upon the services of the husband. The slave who voluntarily assigns herself to slavery and receives no price for her services may not marry without consent. In these cases it is not an unusual custom for her master, in the course of a few years, to restore her liberty.

Hitherto, the position of the Korean woman has been so humble that her education has been unnecessary. Save among those who belong to the less reputable classes, the literary and artistic faculties are left uncultivated. Among the courtesans, however, the mental abilities are trained and developed with a view to making them brilliant and entertaining companions. The one sign of their profession is the culture, the charm, and the scope of their attainments. These “leaves of sunlight,” a feature of public life in Korea, stand apart in a class of their own. They are called gisaing, and correspond to the geisha of Japan; the duties, environment, and mode of existence of the two are almost identical. Officially, they are attached to a department of Government, and are controlled by a bureau of their own, in common with the Court musicians. They are supported from the national treasury, and they are in evidence at official dinners and all palace entertainments. They read and recite; they[53] dance and sing; they become accomplished artists and musicians. They dress with exceptional taste; they move with exceeding grace; they are delicate in appearance, very frail and very human, very tender, sympathetic, and imaginative. By their artistic and intellectual endowment, the dancing girls, ironically enough, are debarred from the positions for which their talents so peculiarly fit them. They may move through, and as a fact do live in, the highest society. They are met at the houses of the most distinguished; they may be selected as the concubines of the Emperor, become the femmes d’amour of a prince, the puppets of the noble. A man of breeding may not marry them, however, although they typify everything that is brightest, liveliest, and most beautiful. Amongst their own sex, their reputation is in accordance with their standard of morality, a distinction being made between those whose careers are embellished with the quasi chastity of a concubine, and those who are identified with the more pretentious display of the mere prostitute.


In the hope that their children may achieve that success which will ensure their support in their old age, parents,[54] when stricken with poverty, dedicate their daughters to the career of a gisaing, much as they apprentice their sons to that of a eunuch. The girls are chosen for the perfect regularity of their features. Their freedom from blemish, when first selected, is essential. They are usually pretty, elegant, and dainty. It is almost certain that they are the prettiest women in Korea, and, although the order is extensive and the class is gathered from all over the kingdom, the most beautiful and accomplished gisaing come from Pyöng-an. The arts and graces in which they are so carefully educated, procure their elevation to positions in the households of their protectors, superior to that which is held by the legal wife. As a consequence, Korean folk-lore abounds with stories of the strife and wifely lamentation arising from the ardent and prolonged devotion of husbands to girls, whom fate prevents their taking to a closer union. The women are slight of stature, with diminutive, pretty feet, and graceful, shapely hands. They are quiet and unassuming in their manner. Their smile is bright; their deportment modest, their appearance winsome. They wear upon state occasions voluminous, silk-gauze skirts of variegated hues; a diaphanous silken jacket, with long loose sleeves, extending beyond the hands, protects the shoulders; jewelled girdles, pressing their naked breasts, sustain their draperies. An elaborate, heavy and artificial head-dress of black hair, twisted in plaits and decorated with many silver ornaments, is worn. The music of the dance is plaintive and the song of the dancer somewhat melancholy. Many movements are executed in stockinged feet; the dances are quite free from indelicacy and suggestiveness. Indeed, several are curiously pleasing.




Upon one occasion, Yi-cha-sun, the brother of the Emperor, invited me to watch the dress rehearsal of an approaching Palace festival. Although this exceptional consideration was shown me unsolicited, I found it quite impossible to secure permission to photograph the gliding, graceful figures of the dancers. When my chair deposited me at the yamen the dance was already in progress. The chairs of the officials and chattering groups of the servants of the dancers filled the compound; soldiers of the Imperial Guard kept watch before the gates. The air was filled with the tremulous notes of the pipes and viols, whose plaintive screaming was punctuated with the booming of drums. Within a building, the walls of which were open to the air, the rows of dancers were visible as they swayed slowly and almost imperceptibly with the music.

From the dais where my host was sitting the dance was radiant with colour. There were eighteen performers, grouped in three equal divisions, and, as the streaming sunshine played upon the shimmering surface of their dresses, the lithe and graceful figures of the dancers floated in the brilliant reflection of a sea of sparkling light. The dance was almost without motion, so slowly were its fantastic figures developed. Never once were their arms dropped from their horizontal position, nor did the size and weight of their head-dresses appear to fatigue the little women. Very slowly, the seated band gave forth the air. Very slowly, the dancers moved in the open space before us, their arms upraised, their gauze and silken draperies clustering round them, their hair piled high, and held in its curious shape by many jewelled and enamelled pins, which sparkled in the sunshine. The air was solemn; and, as if the movement were ceremonial, their voices rose and fell in a lingering harmony of passionate expression. At times, the three sets[57] came together, the hues of the silken skirts blending in one vivid blaze of barbaric splendour. Then, as another movement succeeded, the eighteen figures broke apart and, poised upon their toes, in stately and measured unison circled round the floor, their arms rising and falling, their bodies bending and swaying, in dreamy undulation.

The dance epitomised the poetry and grace of human motion. The dainty attitudes of the performers had a gentle delicacy which was delightful. The long silken robes revealed a singular grace of deportment, and one looked upon dancers who were clothed from head to foot, not naked, brazen and unashamed, like those of our own burlesque, with infinite relief and infinite satisfaction. There was power and purpose in their movements; artistic subtlety in their poses. Their flowing robes emphasised the simplicity of their gestures; the pallor of their faces was unconcealed; their glances were timid; their manner modest. The strange eerie notes of the curious instruments, the fluctuating cadence of the song, the gliding motion of the dancers, the dazzling sheen of the silks, the vivid colours of the skirts, the flush of flesh beneath the silken shoulder-coats, appealed to one silently and signally, stirring the emotions with an enthusiasm which was irrepressible.

The fascinating figures approached softly, smoothly sliding; and, as they glided slowly forward, the song of the music welled into passionate lamentation. The character of the dance changed. No longer advancing, the dancers moved in time to the beating of the drums; rotating circles of colour, their arms swaying, their bodies swinging backwards and forwards, as their retreating footsteps took them from us. The little figures seemed unconscious of their art; the musicians ignorant of the qualities of their wailing.[58] Nevertheless, the masterly restraint of the band, the conception, skill and execution of the dancers, made up a triumph of technique.

As the dance swept to its climax, nothing so accentuated the admiration of the audience as their perfect stillness. From the outer courts came for a brief instant the clatter of servants and the screams of angry stallions. Threatening glances quickly hushed the slaves, nothing breaking the magnetism of the dance for long. The dance ended, it became the turn of others to rehearse their individual contributions, while those who were now free sat chatting with my host, eating sweets, smoking cigarettes, cigars, or affecting the long native pipe. Many, discarding their head-dresses, lay upon their sitting mats, their eyes closed in momentary rest as their servants fanned them. His Highness apparently appreciated the familiarity with which they treated him. In the enjoyment and encouragement of their little jokes he squeezed their cheeks and pinched their arms, as he sat among them.




The Court of Korea—The Emperor and his Chancellor—The Empress and some Palace factions


A study of the morals and personalities of the Court of Korea throws no little light upon the interesting phases of its contemporary condition, even affording some explanation of the political differences and difficulties which, if now in the past, may be expected none the less to crop up again. Since the dastardly murder by the Japanese of the Queen, who held the reins of Government with strong hands, the power of the Emperor has been controlled by one or other of the Palace factions. His Majesty is now almost a cypher in the management of his Empire. Nominally, the Emperor of Korea enjoys the prerogative and independence of an autocrat; in reality he is in the hands of that party whose intrigues for the time being may have given them the upper hand. He[60] is the slave of the superb immoralities of his women. When he breaks away from their gentle thraldom, in the endeavour to free himself from their political associations, his exceedingly able and unscrupulous Minister, Yi Yong-ik, the chief of the Household Bureau, rules him with a rod of iron. It matters not in what direction the will of his Majesty should lie, it is certain to be thwarted with the connivance of Palace concubines or by the direct bribery of Ministers. If the King dared, Yi Yong-ik would be degraded at once. No previous Minister has proved so successful, however, in supplying the Court with money; and, as the Emperor dreads an empty treasury, he maintains him in his confidence.


In the position of Minister of Finance and Treasurer of the Imperial Palace, which he once filled, Yi Yong-ik opposed foreign supervision of the revenues of the Maritime Customs. Acting in concert with the Russian and French Ministers, he was primarily responsible for the most recent crisis in the affairs of Mr. McLeavy Brown, the Chief Comptroller and Executive Administrator of the Korean Maritime Customs. At a time when the Imperial household[61] was in need of money, Yi Yong-ik created the desire for a loan by withholding the revenue of the Privy Purse from his master. It was explained to his Majesty that his financial embarrassments were due to the action of his Chief Commissioner of Customs in locking up the proceeds of the Customs. Supported by the influence of the Russian and French Ministers, Yi Yong-ik suggested that the Customs revenue should become the security for the loan which was being pressed upon him by a French syndicate. When Mr. McLeavy Brown heard of the transaction between the agent of the syndicate and the Minister of Finance, he at once repudiated any hypothecation of the revenues of the Customs for such a purpose. In co-operation with the French and Russian Ministers, Yi Yong-ik, upon a variety of pretexts, attempted to bring about the peremptory dismissal of the Chief Commissioner of the Customs. He was foiled in this by the unexpected demonstration of a British Squadron in Chemulpo Harbour, and the attendant preparation and embarkation of a field force at Wei-hai-wei. Upon the withdrawal of the guarantee of the Customs revenue the Franco-Russian scheme collapsed, the agent of the interested syndicate returning to Europe to complain of the action of the British Minister and the Chief Commissioner of Customs.

Yi Yong-ik is an instance, together with that afforded by Lady Om, of a Korean of most humble birth rising to a position of great importance in the administration of the country. A man of low parentage, he attached himself to the fortunes of Min Yeung-ik, gradually forcing himself upon the notice of his patron, as also of his sovereign. The services which Yi Yong-ik rendered to the throne during the émeute of 1884, when he was a chair coolie in the service of[62] the late Queen, found responsive echo in the memories of their Majesties, who procured his preferment. He was advanced to a position in which his admitted sagacity, strength of mind, and shrewdness were of material assistance, continuing to rise until he became Minister of Finance. He has thus made his own position from very insignificant beginnings, and, in justice to him, it may be said that he serves the interests of his Majesty to the best of his ability. Nevertheless he is in turn feared and detested. Numerous attempts have been made against him, while, within the last few months, failing to take his life by poisoned food, some unknown enemies discharged an infernal machine in the room at the Seoul Hospital where he was confined during an attack of sickness. Alternately upon the crest of the wave or in the backwash of the tide, Yi Yong-ik remains the most enduring personality in the Court. The Russian influence is behind him, while the Emperor also is secretly upon the side of his energetic Minister. At a moment, recently, when the opposition against him became too strong, Yi Yong-ik took refuge upon a Russian warship, which at once carried him to Port Arthur. From this retreat he negotiated for a safe return with his Majesty, who at once granted him a strong escort. Yi Yong-ik then returned and, proceeding at once to the Palace, quickly reinstated himself in the good graces of his master, thus again thwarting the plans and secret machinations of his opponents.

His Majesty the Emperor of Korea was fifty years old in September 1900, being called to the throne in 1864, when he was thirteen. He was married at the age of fifteen to the Princess Min, a lady of birth, of the same age as her husband. It was she who was wantonly assassinated by the Japanese[63] in 1895. The son of this union is the Crown Prince. His Majesty is somewhat short of stature, as compared with the average height of the Korean. He is only five feet four inches. His face is pleasant; impassive in repose, brightening with an engaging smile when in conversation. His voice is soft and pleasing to the ear; he talks with easy assurance, some vivacity and nervous energy.

During an audience with a foreigner, the manner of the Emperor has an air of frankness and singular bonhomie. He talks with every one, pointing his remarks with graceful gestures, and interrupting his sentences with melodious and infectious laughter. The mark of the Emperor’s favour is the receipt of a fan. When a foreigner is presented to him, it is customary to find upon the conclusion of the audience a small parcel awaiting his acceptance, containing a few paper fans and sometimes a roll of silk. The Emperor rarely exceeds this limit to his Imperial patronage, for, like the rest of his people, he cannot afford to be unduly generous.

The dress of his Majesty upon these occasions is remarkable for its impressive and Imperial grandeur. A long golden silk robe of state, embroidered with gold braid, with a girdle of golden cord, edged with a heavy gold fringe, covers him. While the magnificence of this attire excites envy in the heart of any one who sees it, the ease and dignity of his carriage suggest his complete unconsciousness of the impression which he is creating in the minds of his guests.

The Emperor is ignorant of Western languages, but he is an earnest student of those educational works which have been translated for the purposes of the schools he has established in his capital. In this way he has become singularly well informed upon many subjects. He speaks and writes[64] Chinese with fluency, and he is a most profound student of the history of his own people. The method and system of his rule is based on the thesis of his own personal supervision of all public business. If there be some little difference between the Utopia of his intentions and the actual achievement of his government, it is impossible to deny his assiduity and perseverance. He is a kind, amiable, and merciful potentate, desirous of the advancement of his country. He works at night, continuing the sessions and conferences with his Ministers until after dawn. He has faults, many, according to the Western standards by which I have no intention of judging him. He has also many virtues; and, he receives, and deserves, the sympathy of all foreigners in the vast works of reform which he has encouraged in his dominions.



His Majesty is progressive. In view of the number and magnitude of the developments which have taken place under his rule, it is impossible to credit him with any of those prejudices against Western innovations which have distinguished the East from time immemorial. There are special schools in Seoul for teaching English, French, German, Russian, Chinese and Japanese; there is a School of Law, a School of Engineering and Science, a School of Medicine, and a Military Academy. These are but a few minor indications of the freedom of his rule, the sure sign of a later prosperity. He is tolerant of missionaries, and he is said to favour their activities. It is certain that his rule permits great liberty of action, while it is distinguished by extraordinary immunity from persecution. His reign is in happy contrast with the inter-regnum of the Regent, Tai Won Kun, who regarded priests and converts as a pest, and who eradicated them to the best of his ability.

As the autocratic monarch of a country, whose oldest associations are opposed to all external interference, the attitude of his Majesty has been instinct with the most humane principles, with great integrity of purpose and much enlightenment. It cannot be said that his reign has been a failure, or that it has not tended to the benefit of his people and his realms. Certain evil practices still exist, but his faults as an Emperor are, to a great extent, due to the worthlessness of his officials. Indeed, he frequently receives the condemnation which should be passed upon the minds and morals of his Ministers.

Saving Yi Yong-ik, the most important figure in the Court is the mature and elderly Lady Om, the wife of his Majesty. In a Court which is abandoned to every phase of Eastern immorality, it is a little disappointing to find that[66] the first lady in the land no longer possesses those charms of face and figure, which should explain her position. There is no doubt that the Lady Om is a clever woman. She is most remarkably astute in her management of the Emperor, whose profound attachment to her is a curious paradox. Lady Om is mature, fat, and feebly, if freely, frolicsome. Her face is pitted with small-pox; her teeth are uneven; her skin is of a saffron tint. There is some suggestion of a squint in her dark eyes, a possible reminder of the pest which afflicts all Koreans. She paints very little and she eschews garlic. Her domination of the Emperor is wonderful. Except at rare intervals, and then only when the assent of Lady Om to the visit of a new beauty has been given, he has no eye for any other woman. Nevertheless, the Lady Om has not always been a Palace beauty; she was not always the shining light of the Imperial harem. Her amours have made Korean history; only two of her five children belong to the Emperor; yet one of these may become the future occupant of his father’s throne.


In her maiden days, she became the mistress of a Chinaman; tiring of him she passed into the grace and favour of a Cabinet Minister. He introduced her to the service of the late Queen, whose acquaintance she made at the house of her father, a Palace attendant of low degree, with quarters within the walls. By the time that she became a woman in the service of her Majesty, the Lady Om had presented a child to each of her respective partners. As the virtue of the women in attendance upon the Queen had of necessity to be assured, her previous admirers kept their counsel for the safety of their own heads. The Lady Om boasted abilities which distinguished her among the other maids in attendance. She sang to perfection, danced with consummate[67] grace; painted with no little delicacy and originality, and could read, write, and speak Chinese and Korean with agreeable fluency. The Queen took a fancy to her apparently innocent, guileless, and very lovable attendant. Imitating the excellent example of his illustrious spouse, his Majesty sealed the rape of virtue with a kingly smile. The Queen grew restless. Suspicion, confirmed by appearances, developed into certainty, and the Lady Om fled from the Palace to escape the anger and jealousy of her late mistress. The third child, of whom Lady Om became the mother, was born beyond the capital, in the place of refuge where the errant Griselle had taken up her abode. Meanwhile, Lady Om avoided the parental establishment within the purlieus of the Palace. Upon the death of her third child she sought the protection of another high official. With him she dwelt in safety, peace, and happiness, becoming, through her strange faculty of presenting each[68] admirer with evidences of her innocence, the subject of some ribald songs. Since her return to Imperial favour, these verses have been suppressed, and may not be uttered upon pain of emasculation.

It now seemed as if the Lady Om had settled down, but the events of 1895, culminating in the foul murder of the late Queen, prompted her to renew her acquaintance with the unhappy Emperor. She became a Palace attendant again, and at once cleverly succeeded in bringing herself before the Imperial notice. She was sweetly sympathetic towards his Majesty; her commiseration, her tenderness, her suppliant air of injured innocence, almost immediately captivated him. She was raised to the rank of an Imperial concubine; money was showered upon her, and she proceeded immediately to exercise an influence over the Emperor which has never relaxed. She became a power at Court and once again a mother. Her influence is now directed towards the definite maintenance of her own interests. She wishes her son to be the future Emperor; she is now living in a palace, and, since she is the apple of his Majesty’s eye, she permits nothing to endanger the stakes for which she is playing. Recently Kim Yueng-chun, an official of importance but of precarious position, wishing to secure himself in the consideration of his sovereign, introduced a new beauty, whose purity and loveliness were unquestioned. Lady Om heard of Lady Kang and said nothing. Within two weeks, however, the Minister was removed upon some small pretext, and subsequently tortured, mutilated, and strangled. The Lady Kang found that if the mills of Lady Om grind slowly, they grind exceedingly small.

Lady Om is a lover of ancient customs; by ancient[69] customs she made her way; by ancient customs she proposes to keep it. Her power increases daily, and a stately edifice has been erected in the centre of the capital to commemorate her virtues. A few months before her marriage to the Emperor, when there was ample indication of the trend of events, the Emperor published a decree which declared that Lady Om had become an Imperial concubine of the First Class. This did not give her Imperial status; but it conferred upon her son Imperial rank. By reason of this decree, however, he will, at some future date, ascend the throne, while it opened a way for Lady Om to secure recognition in Korea as the lawful spouse of her royal admirer.




The passing of the Emperor—An Imperial pageant

The Emperor passed one morning in procession from the Imperial Palace, which adjoins the British Legation upon its south wall, to the newly erected Temple of Ancestors, the eastern wall of which marks the limits of the Legation grounds. The festival was in no way public; yet, such was the splendour of the pageant, that this progress of eight hundred yards, leaving the Palace by its south gate and entering again by the eastern gate, cost over two thousand pounds. No warning of the Imperial plans was given to his Majesty’s subjects. Just before the hour of his departure, however, the Emperor expressed the hope that the British Minister and myself would be interested in the procession, inviting us to watch the spectacle from the Legation domain. Information of the movements of the Court was, of course, bruited abroad. Large crowds gathered around the precincts of the Palace and the Temple, attracted by the efforts which the soldiers were making to form a cordon round the scene. Hundreds of soldiers were told off to guard the approaches to the Temple. One battalion of infantry was installed in the grounds of the Imperial Korean Customs, another occupied the gates and garden of the British Legation.


Despite the fact that the route of the procession lay between the high walls of a private passage, some twenty-five feet wide, leading from the offices of the Customs to the grounds of the Legation, into which a postern gate gives access from the Palace, and through which no Korean is ever permitted to pass, soldiers, one pace apart, faced one another upon opposite sides of the road. The public, seeing nothing of the ceremony, gathered such consolation as was possible from the spectacle of the masses of infantry occupying the Palace Square. Occasional glimpses of Palace officials were also secured, and the blatant discord of triumphant song, with which the private musicians of the Emperor greeted his arrival and the passing of the Court, fell faintly upon expectant ears. It is, however, the proud privilege of the Koreans to pay for these promenades of the Court. If they did not see the august countenance of his Majesty upon this occasion, it is to be hoped that they derived some consolation for the heavy taxation, with which they are burdened, from the brave show made by the brand new uniforms of the troops. The plumes, gold lace and swords of the officers, and the rifles and bayonets of the men would have fascinated any crowd. Until the moment of departure, the army lay around upon the road, sleeping in the dust, or squatted in the shade upon the steps of buildings, partaking of breakfast—a decomposed mass of sun-dried, raw fish and rice which stunk horribly, but which they devoured greedily, tearing it into shreds with their fingers. Occasionally a loyal citizen brought them water or passed round a pipe, taking the opportunity to run his finger along the edge of a bayonet, or over the surface of a coat.

The Emperor was passing in this festive state to pay homage to the tablets of his ancestors upon their transference[72] to a fresh abode. The gorgeousness of the pageant burst upon the colourless monotony of the capital with all the violent splendour and vivid beauty of an Arabian sunset. It was right and proper that the magnificence of the celebration should be unrestricted. The importance of the occasion was without parallel in the festivals of the year. The momentary brilliancy of the picture, which centres round the usually secluded sovereign at such a moment, implied the glorification of a dynasty, which has already occupied the throne of Korea for more than five centuries. Quaint and stately as the pageant was, the splendour of a barbaric mediævalism is best seen in processions of a more public character.


The procession started from the Palace about 10 A.M. It presented elements strangely suggestive of burlesque, romance, and the humours of a pantomime. Korean[73] infantry, in blue uniforms, headed the order of the advance from the Palace, their modern dress and smart accoutrements forming the one link between the middle ages and the twentieth century, to which the function could lay claim. After them, running, stumbling, and chattering noisily, passed a mob of Palace attendants in fantastic hats and costumes of various degrees of brilliancy, long silken robes of blue, green, yellow, red and orange, carrying staves bound with embroidered streamers of coloured ribbons. A line of bannermen followed, bearing red silken flags with blue characters, also hurrying and stumbling forward; then passed a file of pipes and drums, the men in yellow robes with the shimmer of gold about them, streamers fluttering from the pipes, ribbons decking the drums. Men bearing arrows in leather frames and flags of green, red and yellow, were next. Soldiers in ancient costume, wonderful to behold, men with bells and jingling cymbals, pipes and fans, Palace eunuchs in Court dress, detachments of dismounted cavalry, their horses not appearing, but their riders garbed in voluminous shirts, their hats covered with feathers and wearing high boots, swept along, amiable and foolish of aspect.


The procession, which preceded the passing of the Emperor, seemed almost unending. At every moment the sea of colour broke into waves of every imaginable hue, as one motley crowd of retainers, servants, musicians and officials gave place to another. Important and imposing officials in high-crowned hats, adorned with crimson tassels festooned with bunches of feathers and fastened by a string of amber beads round the throat, were pushed along, silent and helpless. Their dresses were glaring combinations of red and blue and orange; they were supported by men[74] in green gauze coats and followed by other signal marks of Korean grandeur, more banners and bannermen, flags decorated with feathers, servants carrying boxes of refreshments, small tables, pipes and fire. These were succeeded by others just as imposing, helpless and beautiful to behold; the breasts and backs of their superb robes were decorated with satin squares, embroidered, after the style of China, with the symbols of their offices—birds for civilians, tigers for those of military rank. Statesmen in their official robes gave place to others in winged hats or lofty mitres, gleaming[75] with tinsel. The Commander-in-Chief, with Japanese, Chinese, and Korean decorations flashing in the sunshine from the breast of his modern uniform, followed by his staff in red coats heavily braided with gold lace, and with white aigrettes waving in their hats, passed, marching proudly at the head of the Imperial body-guard. The final stream of colour showed nobles in blue and green silk gauze; Imperial servants with robes of yellow silk, their hats decorated with rosettes; more mediæval costumes, of original colour and quaint conception; a greater multitude of waving flags; a group of silken-clad standard-bearers bearing the Imperial yellow silk flag, the Imperial umbrella, and other insignia. Then a final frantic beating of drums, a horrid jangling of bells, a fearful screaming of pipes, a riot of imperious discord mingled with the voices of the officials shouting orders and the curses of the eunuchs, and finally the van of the Imperial cortège appeared, in a blaze of streaming yellow light, amid a sudden silence in which one could hear the heart-beats of one’s neighbour. The voices died away; the scraping of hurried footsteps alone was audible as the Imperial chair of state, canopied with yellow silk richly tasselled, screened with delicate silken panels of the same colour and bearing wings to keep off the sun, was rushed swiftly and smoothly forward. Thirty-two Imperial runners, clad in yellow, with double mitres upon their heads, bore aloft upon their shoulders the sacred and august person of his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor, to his place of sacrifice and worship in his Temple of Ancestors.

The business of the day had now arrived. Presently the Emperor’s bearers stopped, and he alighted at the entrance of a tent of yellow silk, which had been erected at[76] the angle of the Palace and Legation walls, within the shade of trees in the Legation garden. It was in this spot that his Majesty had given us permission to watch the passing of his Court. It was here, within a moment of his arrival, that the retinue of the Crown Prince, his chair of red silk borne upon the shoulders of sixteen bearers, stopped to set down its princely burden. The Emperor and the Crown Prince passed within the tent, changing the Imperial yellow and crimson robes of state in which they had first appeared for the sacrificial yellow silk, and emerging a little later to make obeisance before the passing of the tablets of their ancestors. The character of the procession was now modified. Soldiers and courtiers, nobles and dignitaries of the Court, gave place to priests clothed in the yellow robes of sacrifice, and chanting in solemn tones the words of benediction. The screaming of pipes took on fresh vigour, rising and falling in shrill cadence, until the air vibrated with conflicting discords. Men, solemn of visage, their yellow skirts swaying with the frenzy of their movements, swept past the throne, a surge of song rising to their lips expressive of the passionate despair and lamentation which (should have) filled their souls. They disappeared, a mocking echo haunting their retreating footsteps. Again the music of the priests broke forth in noisy triumph, heralding the presence of the twelve ancestral tablets, each carried by eight men in chairs of sacrificial yellow, which demanded the homage of the expectant pair. One came, moving slowly in a burst of solemn song. The Emperor, his son the Crown Prince, and the baby Prince, the offspring of Lady Om, dropped to the earth. For a moment they rested upon their bended knees, with crossed hands, in a reverent attitude, as their own proud heads sank to the dust before the gilded burdens in the sacred chairs. Twelve times they passed before the Imperial group; twelve times each Prince humbled himself, the circle of supporting nobles and attendant eunuchs assisting them.




It was the first appearance of the baby Prince. Scarcely old enough to toddle, he was of necessity aided in his devotions by the chief eunuch, who pressed him to his knees, placing a restraining hand upon his head, a guiding hand upon his shoulder. The babe followed everything with wide-open, innocent eyes, becoming tired and fidgety before the ceremony had concluded. The demeanour of the Imperial pair showed every sign of reverence and devotion. The absolute sincerity of their humiliation impressed those who watched the scene with feelings of astonishment. The emotion of the Emperor was plainly manifest; he had paled visibly, his whole being centred upon the objects of his veneration. When the ceremony had ended the twelve chairs turned towards the Ancestral Temple, and, as the Emperor ensconced himself in his yellow chair of state, and the Crown Prince, following the example of his father, mounted to his seat of crimson silk, the babe rode upon the back of the chief eunuch, crowing with boyish and infantile delight. Once again the flourish of the musicians, the rattle of the drums, the screaming of the fifes and pipes broke forth. The procession was moving, priests and nobles, courtiers and Palace servants following in the train of the Emperor.

The procession of the Emperor pressed forward to the temple, the tablets halting before the Temple of Ancestors, while the Emperor and the two Princes proceeded to the Hall of Sacrifice, where offerings of live sheep were burnt, and baskets of fruit and flowers presented before the altars.[79] The spirits of the illustrious dead thus propitiated, the Emperor returned to the sacred chairs, once again paying his devotion to the tablets. One by one each was borne from its chair to the receptacle prepared for its future keeping. Panels of yellow silk screened them; no eye was permitted to gaze upon them, nor any hand to touch them, as each, wrapped in its inviolate sanctity of yellow silk, passed from its chair of state to its holy place. Priests attended them; the throne followed in their wake, the entire Court, the highest nobles and statesmen in the land, bowed down to them. An atmosphere at once devotional and filial prevailed, for the cult of Ancestor Worship epitomises the loftiest aspirations of the Korean. It governs the actions of a parent towards his child; controls the conduct of a child towards its parent.


The ceremony over, the scene within the Temple became[80] more brilliant. Ladies from the Palace appeared. Cakes and wine were produced, and the Emperor and Crown Prince resumed their robes of state, discarding the sacrificial garments. The Lady Om came to congratulate the Emperor, attended by a retinue of gaily-dressed Palace women and slaves, their hair piled high, their shimmering silken skirts trailing in graceful folds about them. The Court musicians played; the Court singers sang, and the prettiest women swayed in a joyous dance. Within the private apartments of the sovereign there was feasting and merriment. His Majesty was himself again. The world, which he had shown us, and in which we had been so interested, changed quickly. Looking at the disorderly scramble of the return, the scene that had passed before us seemed like a dream. Yet, for a few hours, we had been living in the shadow of the middle ages.



Sketch of Mr. McLeavy Brown—The Question of the Customs—The suggested Loan

It is perhaps curious that the man who has held the Korean State together, during the past few years, should be British—one of those sons of the Empire, upon whose work the present generation looks with satisfaction. It is nearly thirty years ago since Mr. McLeavy Brown made his appearance in China. To-day, among Englishmen whose reputations are associated with the problems and politics of the Far East, his name stands out almost as prominently as that of his colleague, Sir Robert Hart, the Inspector-General of the Imperial Maritime Customs of China. Seconded from the Chinese Customs for special duty, Mr. McLeavy Brown has devoted many years of his life to the financial difficulties which beset Korea, holding at first the dual position of Treasurer-General and Chief Commissioner of Customs. Within the last few years, Mr. McLeavy Brown’s activity has been confined to the administration of the Customs Service, where, though deprived of the unique and influential position filled by him as financial adviser to the Emperor, he has succeeded in accomplishing invaluable work for the country.

A man may be judged by the character of those who[82] gather round him, and when, weary of the carping and pettiness that prevail in Seoul, one turns to the service which Mr. McLeavy Brown represents, it is to find his colleagues animated by a quiet enthusiasm, and a spirit of generous devotion, and loyalty to his principles and policy. Unfortunately, his supporters are not in the capital, and he can derive no encouragement from their sympathy. Their sphere of work lies in the treaty ports, but he is content to remain in Seoul always fighting, in grim and stoical silence, against the absurd extravagances of the Court, and the infamous corruption of the officials. So long as he perseveres in this duty, just so long will he be hampered and thwarted in all quarters. The very opposition which he encounters, however, is no unemphatic testimony to the exceeding and exceptional value of the work which he has already achieved, in the face of every obstacle to systematic progress and reform, that the craft and cunning of officialdom can devise.

Mr. J. McLeavy Brown, C.M.G., LL. D.

The animus which prevails against Mr. McLeavy Brown occasions, to those who are new to Seoul, sentiments of profound astonishment and dismay, but after the first feeling[83] of strangeness has worn off, and it becomes possible to grasp the peculiar and complex variety of people who have gathered in the capital of the Hermit Kingdom, the causes responsible for the existence of such an opinion are very plainly revealed. Apart from the Legations, there are few foreigners, not even excepting the representatives of the very miscellaneous collection of American missionaries, who have not come to Seoul from motives of self-interest, which bring them into collision, directly or indirectly, with the Chief Commissioner of the Customs in his official capacity. If no longer the financial adviser of the Government, his counsel is sought as occasion arises; although his advice is not necessarily followed, it frequently happens that the influence of the Chief Commissioner of the Customs becomes the controlling factor in the negotiations between a bewildered and impecunious Court and an importunate concession-hunter. Moreover, cases may occur when an upright regard for the interests of the kingdom makes it incumbent upon Mr. McLeavy Brown to urge the rejection of proposals, which have not come through the channels of his own office. Such a variation of the orthodox method of application may happen any day in Seoul. While this attempted exercise of a power of veto does not endear him to the seeker after Ministerial “considerations,” the impersonal spirit, in which he discharges the functions of his office, atones for any exceptional interference he may deem necessary. Much of the feeling which actuates foreigners and officials against Mr. McLeavy Brown, therefore, is based upon a thoughtless disregard for the elementary facts in his very delicate position. There is, of course, no suggestion against his honour. In a community, accustomed to the financial backsliding which appears to be an inevitable preliminary to any concession,[84] the exponent of a policy of economy and straight dealing always provokes the strongest animosity in those about him.

A more emotional man than the Chief Commissioner would have tired of the thankless part which he is compelled to play. Years of laborious work, and the habit, which he has acquired in the isolated state in which he lives, of concentrating his energies upon the subject before him, enable him to school himself against the trials of his situation. He treats every one with unfailing frankness and directness, but the kindly instincts which illuminate his private life are submerged in the cares and worry of his official position. During business hours he becomes the cold, irresponsive machine of State; his whole imagination and ingenuity focused upon the necessity of checking those who would incite their Sovereign to acts subversive of the principles of financial rectitude, which Mr. McLeavy Brown would fain see encouraged.

Only those who have had experience of Korea can thoroughly appreciate the fertility of the Korean official in inventing new schemes by which public money may be appropriated to his private uses. If the condition of the finances had not already made the practice of economy imperative, this tendency would justify the determination to deny the means of peculation to officials. Mr. McLeavy Brown has therefore brought into accord the necessity of economy, which underlies the existence of the Customs, with the principles of the system upon which he administers the service. It is, in the matter of the foreign staff of the Korean Customs, impossible for Korean officials to take exception to the standard of payment by which the services of these foreigners are compensated. If this all-pervading[85] retrenchment makes employment in the Korean Customs exceptionally unsatisfactory to its minor foreign officials, a very clear reason for the low payment is nevertheless found in the narrow margin which divides the total revenue from the total expenditure. Moreover, the Chief Commissioner is himself the chief sufferer.

Mr. McLeavy Brown has long been an enigma in Seoul. Although the variety of his gifts and the hospitable quality of his nature make him an important element in the life of the capital, there are few who care to study the man and his movements intelligently. Mr. McLeavy Brown possesses many moods; and the isolation in which he is placed, by the absence of any sympathy between himself and the people among whom he lives, renders the circumstances of his position almost pathetic. When, in 1896, he refused to accept any salary for the hopeless and onerous post of Financial Comptroller of the Imperial Treasury, the foreign community of Seoul were astounded. This refusal to burden still further the resources of an exhausted country is, however, an index to the guiding principles of his life. There is no dissembling in his transactions. Although he may temper an ill wind with promises, the continuity of his decision is maintained, and he attempts to carry out independently and honestly anything to which he may have pledged himself. He is indefatigable in his work; indomitable in his perseverance, cool and determined. A barrister by profession, he devotes himself to the minutiæ of his service with an attention which discloses his legal training. In his estimate of a person, no less than a situation, he seldom errs.

In his official life he represents a type of Englishman that is rapidly disappearing from our public services. His[86] private life reflects the culture and the grace of an attractive personality. They say, in Seoul, that Mr. McLeavy Brown is more skilful as a diplomatist than as an administrator; and his brilliant conversational powers give some colour to the assertion. Upon arrival in Seoul, newcomers are apt to hear that “Brown is a walking encyclopædia.” He speaks, reads and writes with equal facility French, German, Italian and Chinese. It will be remembered that he is in the service of the Korean Government, a sphere of utility and activity which demands fluency in yet another language. His library attests the breadth of his culture; it numbers some 7000 volumes, and fills the walls of the rooms and corridors of his house at Seoul from floor to ceiling. Boxes of new books arrive by every mail. When he reads them it is difficult to conjecture. At night, as one strolls from the British Legation to the Station Hotel, the lights in his study window may be seen burning brightly. He is believed to sit up with his books very often until dawn. It would be typical of this silent self-contained man if he found in the pleasures of his library the antidote to much which takes place in Seoul.

When his Imperial Majesty was pleased to demand the private residence and official premises of his Chief Commissioner of Customs, there was much perturbation in Seoul about the disturbances, which were expected to take place upon the expiration of the Emperor’s ultimatum. Preparations were made for such a contingency, and four British men-of-war under Admiral Bruce appeared at Chemulpo. The eventful day passed quietly, however, and excitement gave place to no small amount of disappointment among the European community. Mr. McLeavy Brown remained in possession of his usual quarters, the[87] whole question of a change in the location of the Customs having been reserved by the officials of the Court. Unfortunately, the demands of the Court could only be contested in so far as they continued to be peremptory in their nature. When, later, due warning was given to the Chief Commissioner and a fresh domicile appointed, as a servant of the Crown Mr. McLeavy Brown was unable to ignore the mandate. Prior to this notice, the Emperor had insisted, very foolishly, upon the immediate evacuation of the Customs buildings, a demand compliance with which was impossible, and in resistance to which Mr. McLeavy Brown was very properly supported by Mr. J. G. Gubbins, C.M.G., then acting Consul-General to Korea.


After the murder of the Queen in 1895, the Korean Court fled from the old Palace, in the least healthy part of the city, to the vicinity of the British and American Legations, and built there a new Palace in a safer and more pleasant locality. But the new Palace is overlooked by the British Legation and by the residence of Mr. McLeavy Brown. The Emperor, spurred on by his eunuchs, had cast envious glances on the dwellings of these foreigners, and not unnaturally decided that these properties would make a very pleasing addition to the Palace which he is now constructing. Unhappily, there was reason to suspect that, in turning the Chief Commissioner out of his house, the Emperor, or rather Lady Om, who desired the house, and Yi Yong-ik, who coveted the Customs, hoped at the same time to expel him from the country. That the attempt to oust Mr. McLeavy Brown from his home really aimed at removing him from office can hardly be doubted. When the house question rose, Mr. McLeavy Brown was given exactly two days notice—from the 19th to the 21st March—to[88] move out. When he refused to accept such an intimation, force was threatened, but averted by the intervention of the British chargé d’affaires. In the end, Mr. McLeavy Brown’s compound was entered by a few hangers-on of the palace, who were easily ejected by the orders of the Chief Commissioner of the Customs. These creatures then tore their clothes and ran crying to the Palace that they had been beaten and otherwise shamefully ill-used. As a result, the dismissal of the Chief Commissioner was demanded. Mr. Gubbins took the matter up with great promptness, and agreed that, upon certain conditions, which included a proper notice to quit and the choice of new sites, the Emperor might acquire both the British Legation and the Customs buildings, which were apparently necessary to the completion of the new Palace. As it happens, the British Legation, which directly overlooks the half-finished Palace, is far more necessary to the Emperor’s peace of mind than the Customs buildings, which are upon a lower level. It is[89] obvious, therefore, that the attack was directed more against Mr. McLeavy Brown, by a posse of Court officials, than against his house. Nevertheless, it has always been apparent, since the Emperor came over to the shelter of the Legations, that there could be no sufficient accommodation for him in the Foreign quarter without encroaching on the grounds of the Legations. The Legations have a delightful situation on the only real eminence in the central part of Seoul, and the Emperor, now that he has come, must either be content with a malarial situation, at the feet, as it were, of the foreigners, or absorb the Legation grounds and send their tenants elsewhere. Already he has displaced the German Minister. Sooner or later the British, and perhaps the American, will go too; and the Palace will then cover the whole hill, save the site of the Russian Legation, whose flag will still wave a little above the Imperial standard of Korea.

No sooner had a settlement been attained upon the question at issue between the Court and the Chief Commissioner of the Customs, than there came the announcement that a loan of five million yen had been arranged between the Government and the Yunnan Syndicate, upon the security of the revenue of the Customs. This at once compromised the authority of the Chief Commissioner, who, by virtue of his office, exercises absolute control over the revenues. It should be understood that the loan had nothing whatever to do with the question of Mr. McLeavy Brown’s house. The original proposals were first mooted a year before the more recent trouble. The Yunnan Syndicate, a French company registered in London, is supported almost wholly by French capital. It is generally understood that the main object of the loan was to obtain a[90] weapon by which unlimited concessions might be extorted. The manœuvre was not altogether successful. The Yunnan Syndicate, by the terms of the agreement, bound itself to lend the Korean Government five million yen in gold and silver bullion at 5½ per cent., the loan to be subject to a charge of 10 per cent. for commission, and to be repaid in instalments stretching over twenty-five years. In case the Korean Government were unable to repay the money out of the ordinary sources of revenue, the Customs revenue had been pledged as security. The agreement was signed by Pak, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Yi Yong-ik, the Minister of Finance, on the one hand, and by M. Cazalis, agent of the company, and M. Colin de Plancy, French Minister at Seoul, on the other. The document left many points open. It was particularly vague in that no date was fixed for the delivery of the gold and silver bullion at Chemulpo. It was therefore argued, with obvious reason, that the Syndicate might turn this oversight to account by simply refusing to deliver the money until certain concessions had been granted.

M. Cazalis, the agent of the Yunnan Syndicate, Limited, was indignant that he should find himself opposed both by Mr. Gubbins and Mr. McLeavy Brown, who, according to his view, followed the Japanese lead in suspecting Russian intrigue. There is no reason, however, to believe that the British chargé d’affaires based his objections upon any such grounds. The scheme of the Yunnan Syndicate was quite iniquitous enough to meet with opposition for primâ facie reasons. Here are the facts of the case as stated by the representative of the company. The Yunnan Syndicate, without consulting the Chief Commissioner of the Customs, the Japanese Minister, or the British Minister, secretly persuaded[91] the Korean Government to borrow five million yen in gold and silver bullion at 5½ per cent., giving the Customs revenue as security. M. Cazalis argued that it was necessary to carry the matter through with secresy, because it would have been impossible to procure any signatures to the document, if the affair had been conducted publicly, with the full knowledge of the Chief Commissioner of the Customs. In other words, he admitted that the scheme was such as would never have commended itself to Mr. McLeavy Brown, who was absolutely impartial and without interest in the matter.

In the meantime, it is as well to note that the loan aimed at creating a position for French interests in Korea. In view of the attempt of Russia to acquire an open and ice-free port for her own purposes, and the distinct understanding existing between the French and Russian Governments with regard to Russia’s Asiatic policy, Great Britain could not disregard any possible development. At that moment French activity in Korea may not have involved any direct menace to our own interests. Nevertheless, any combination of circumstances which gave to French and Russian influence a predominance in the administration of the country, could scarcely fail to develop incidents, against which it is our manifest duty to guard. And it is perhaps curious, moreover, that the man who was the prime mover in the intrigue to dispossess Mr. McLeavy Brown of his house should have been the very one to arrange the loan from the Yunnan Syndicate with M. Cazalis.

If the wisdom and necessity of a loan of five millions had been assured, there are many directions in Korea in which such a sum could be most profitably spent. With the revenue of the Customs as the guarantee, there would[92] have been no difficulty in securing more advantageous conditions than those of the contract. The terms were preposterous. Subsidiary proposals, as to which no conclusion was then reached, further demanded the lease of the Pyöng-yang coal-mines, the control of forty-four additional mines, the purchase of French mining plant, the engagement of French mining experts, and involved minor stipulations, which were in themselves objectionable to the Court, while giving to French interests in Korea an unwarranted and undesirable preponderance. The uses to which it was alleged that the loan would be put were precisely those which are actually most necessary. Unanimous support for the loan would have been won if there had been the slightest reason to hope for the faithful observance by the Court of its pledges. Unhappily, there is no prospect that any very appreciable proportion of the loan will be expended upon the objects on which such stress was laid, objects which are potent and vital factors in the economic development of the kingdom. The loan was handed over in bullion; in the ratio of one-third silver and two-thirds gold, ostensibly that a National bank may be inaugurated and the present nickel coinage replaced by gold and silver tokens. This is eminently laudable. If the small dimensions of the loan rendered such a thing feasible, the conversion of the national money would be of incalculable benefit to the financial credit of the Government and the country in general. But it must be remembered that one of the reasons for contracting the last Japanese loan was to provide a nickel coinage exchangeable at par with the Japanese and Mexican silver tokens. Unhappily, this same coinage is now at a discount of 120 per cent. for one hundred Japanese cents gold. Examination has proved[93] that the intrinsic value of one dollar nickel of Korean five cent pieces—at that time the only unit struck—is only one-eighteenth of its face value as against the Japanese gold standards of currency. The balance was “squeezed.” It is likewise impossible to make provision for the legitimate and honourable expenditure of this new loan. Quite recently there has been a large issue of one-cent copper pieces. These coins sustain a better ratio to the yen than the nickel currency; as a matter of fact the intrinsic value of the copper coinage is so much greater than the nickel money that there is a standard of exchange between them. At present the nickel, compared with the copper, token is quoted at 12 per cent. discount.




Foreign action in Korea—Exhausted Exchequer—Taxes—Budgets—Debased currency—The Dai Ichi ginko—Dishonest officials

The events, which have led up to the present complex condition of Korean politics, originated in the attempt of the Russians to secure control of the Customs and Finance of the Empire in the autumn of 1897. As the effort of the Russian Minister of that time, M. de Speyer, was only in part successful, his immediate successor, M. Matunine, the present representative, M. Pavloff, and his confrère of the French Legation, M. Colin de Plancy, have in the interval consistently directed their diplomacy to the completion of the task. Their inability to force compliance with their demands upon the Korean Government has embittered their action[95] towards the British Minister and the Chief Commissioner of the Customs. In the prosecution of a work, at once discreditable and inspired by very petty prejudices, no single diplomatic device, which could serve their purpose, has been omitted from their policy. The check, which the plans of the Franco-Russian-Korean party received in consequence of British action has only retarded their development for the moment. It does not perceptibly relieve the situation, nor make the office of the Chief Commissioner more comfortable or the path of the British Minister more easy to follow. Indeed, it is quite certain that the opposition of the Russian and French Ministers to British activity will become more vigorous in the future.

The assistance accorded by the British Government to Mr. Gubbins during the recent crisis, has done much to dispel from the minds of the Koreans those illusions which our past indifference had created. It is improbable that quite identical methods will be employed in any future attempt of the Court to oust Mr. McLeavy Brown from his position. If the Court gave way in the face of the British demonstration, the tact and consideration for the interests of both parties, which Mr. Gubbins subsequently displayed, materially contributed to the restoration of the status quo. Upon the other hand, the apathy of the British Government in failing to protect Mr. McLeavy Brown when he was deprived of the Comptrollership of the Finances at the instigation of the Russian Minister, in 1897, was of course conducive to the late disturbances. The two offices are so closely related, and the masterful and aggressive spirit of the Franco-Russian policy is such, that the accession of a Russian or French nominee to the Chief Commissionership of the Customs would[96] imply their subsequent fusion to the complete obliteration of British influence. This, of course, should be impossible; and it would be, if the British Government would awaken to the importance of maintaining unimpaired its prestige in Korea. We have little material interest in Korea, but it must not be forgotten that our position in the kingdom should be superior to that of France, and equal to that of Russia. If it were not that France is the partisan and ally of Russia in Korea, as well as elsewhere, there would be no occasion to do aught but support benevolently the policy of Japan, without unnecessarily endorsing the aggressiveness which distinguishes the attitude of the Island Empire to its neighbour. But if we wish to preserve our position we must put a little more vigour into our policy, and, while maintaining our working agreement with Japan, proceed to guarantee the integrity of our own interests. These would be best served by insisting upon the retention of a British nominee in the supervision of the Korean Maritime Customs. Our action in this respect would meet with the unqualified approval of Japan and the United States of America, whose trading interests, equally with our own, justify predominance in this control.

The financial embarrassment of the Korean Government, at the present time, is the outcome of the abnormal extravagance of the Court. Anything which would tend to increase the load of debt with which the Emperor encumbers the dwindling resources of the national wealth, is neither politic nor desirable. The sources of the Imperial revenue resemble in lesser degree those which prevail in China. There are the Land Tax, paid no longer in grain, which returned four and a half of the seven million yen odd, composing the total domestic revenue in 1901; a House Tax, assessed capriciously[97] and evaded by the practice of a little discreet bribery; the net Customs revenue, which was returned for 1901 at more than one million and a quarter yen (1,325,414 yen; £135,303 sterling at exchange of 2s.d.), and the proceeds of the various concessions, monopolies, mines, and mint, and the sums derived from such miscellaneous and irregular taxation as may suggest itself to that keen-witted Minister Yi Yong-ik.

Taxation is heavy and relentless. The list of the more important objects, upon which an impost is levied, includes, in addition to the land, customs and house taxes, salt, tobacco, fish, fur, lumber lands, minerals, ginseng, minting, cargo-boats, guilds, licences, paper, cowhides, pawnbroking, &c. In more recent times certain taxes have become obsolete. But this list, however, does not by any means exhaust the means by which the Emperor contrives to make his subjects “pay the piper.” Quite subsidiary to the regular cases, but of great value in themselves, are the donations which are sent up from various parts of the country for the gratification of the Throne. These gifts are very comprehensive, and embrace the fruits of the land as well as the products of the sea. Little escapes the schedule of donations, and no intervention can bring about the discontinuation of the custom, while a failure on the part of a prefect to attend to this matter would result speedily enough in the loss of his office.

The Budget for the year 1901 was assessed at nine million yen odd, of which one million yen odd was dedicated to Imperial expenditure, and a trifle more than this sum paid to the Imperial Privy Purse. The estimated difference between the revenue and the expenditure of the same year was the small sum of 775 dollars.[98] The Budget for 1902 provided for seven and a half million yen; the estimated revenue was placed approximately at the same figures, the balance between expenditure and revenue being 653 yen. It will be seen, therefore, that there is little reason for the financial difficulties in which the Throne is placed. If it were not that his Majesty frittered away his income upon the purchase of land, the adornment of his Palaces and his person, his relatives, his women, and the perpetual entertainment of his Court, this chronic impoverishment of his exchequer would not exist. Moreover, at least one quarter of his revenue is appropriated by the native officials through whose hands it passes. Under these circumstances he has never been averse from accepting the assistance of interested parties; but this ill-omened relief does not free the country from its burden of mortgage and taxation.

The disbursements upon the different departments engage the revenue to a degree which is out of all relation to the precise utility or importance of any of these fantastic bureaux. The War Office claimed in 1901, in round figures, more than three and one half million yen, and the Foreign Office a quarter of a million yen, the Finance Department three-quarters of a million yen, the Palace a little more than one million yen, and the Home Department a little less than that amount. One million yen is roughly £100,000. The amount paid to the War Office for 1902 was, in round figures, very nearly three million yen; to the Foreign Office, something in excess of a quarter of a million yen; to the Finance Department, rather more than half a million yen. The Departments of Law, Agriculture, Police, Education, and Communications in this highly expensive and totally inefficient administration, all make good their claims[99] upon the Budget, until there is nothing left and very little to show for this lavish distribution of the public moneys.

The Budget for 1903 I give in detail:—

The total revenue is estimated at $10,766,115. The total expenditure is estimated at $10,765,491. This leaves a balance of $624.

Land Tax $7,603,020
House Tax 460,295
Miscellaneous 210,000
Balance from 1902 (including surplus from loan) 1,142,800
Customs Duties 850,000
Various Imposts 150,000
Mint 350,000
The Emperor’s private purse $817,361
Sacrifices 186,639
The Imperial Household
Railway Bureau $21,980
Palace Police 118,645
Police in Open Ports 69,917
North-west Railway 22,882
Ceremonial Bureau 17,608
Mining Bureau 10,000
The Old Man Bureau 24,026
Bureau of Generals 65,853
The Cabinet 38,730
The Home Department
Office 34,624
Mayor’s Office 6,144
Provincial Governments 91,862
Prefectural Governments, 2nd class 52,674
Quelpart 4,222
Prefectures 778,325
Imperial Hospital 7,632
Vaccination Bureau 3,354
Travelling Expenses 730
Prefectural Sacrifices 866
The Foreign Department
Office 26,024
Superintendents of Trade 51,154
Foreign Representatives 201,020
The Finance Department
Office 53,910
Tax Collectors 141,600
Mint 280,000
Payment on Debt 989,250
Pensions 1,956
Transportation 200,000
War Department
Office 50,651
Soldiers 4,072,931
Law Department
Office 31,603
Supreme Court 15,686
Mayoralty Court 8,162
Prefectural Courts 1,251
Police Bureau
Office 252,857
Seoul Prison 32,650
Policemen 51,462
Border Police, &c. 23,762
Travelling Expense, &c. 600
Educational Department
Office 24,822
Calendar 6,022
Schools in Seoul 89,969
Schools in Country 22,580
Subsidies for Private Schools 5,430
Students Abroad 15,920
Agricultural Department
Office 38,060
General Expense 8,240
Office 18,580
Imperial Body-Guard
Office 58,099
Bureau of Decorations
Office 20,993
Telegraph and Post
Office 23,640
General Expense 438,295
Bureau of Surveys
Office 21,018
Surveys 50,000
Road and other Repairs 35,000
Repairs in Country 10,000
Arrest of Robbers 500
Relief Work 5,000
Burial of Destitute 300
Miscellaneous 480
Police at Mines, &c. 1,840
Shrinkage 3,120
Emergency Fund 1,015,000

Steps have been taken from time to time by the Foreign Representatives to improve the finances of the country. Upon one occasion seven reforms were recommended, and the report subsequently presented to his Majesty. In the course of an inquiry it transpired that, in addition to nickels which were minted by the Government, there were more than twenty-five separate and distinct brands of nickels then circulating in Korea. Until recent years the counterfeiting of Korean currency has not been remunerative. The old time cash was of such small value, and the combined cost of the metal and work together so nearly equalled the face value of the true token, that the risk was not commensurate with the profit. A single nickel of the present currency, however, is equivalent to twenty-five of the old coinage, and as the net cost of their manufacture is less than a cent and a half a-piece, it will be seen that there is some incentive to the production of false money. The number of counterfeit nickels is rapidly increasing, and permits to coin were at one time freely issued by the Government to private individuals. Nickel is openly imported through the Customs; spurious coins in large quantities are brought by almost every steamer from Japan and smuggled into the country. The Government care only for the profit which they derive from their illegitimate transaction, and, ignoring the permanent injury which they[102] are doing to the solvency of the country, adopt every means to circulate these depreciated coins. Until quite lately the circulation of nickel pieces was confined to the capital and the vicinity of two or three Treaty ports, the old copper cash being current elsewhere. With a view to extending their use, however, the magistrates throughout the Empire were ordered to accept redemption of taxes only in this currency. But as wages are generally paid in the nickel currency, and as the purchasing power of the nickel Korean dollar is less than half it was with copper cash, while the standard of payment remains the same, the bulk of the nation is paid no better than formerly, while the purchasing power of their earnings is infinitely less. There appears no prospect of any immediate improvement, since the Government contracted for the issue of a further forty million nickels. With this accomplished, the face value of the coinage in circulation, as against the Japanese gold yen, will be fourteen million yen, or nearly one million and a half pounds sterling. There is, of course, no gold or silver reserve with which to redeem this gigantic sum.

To such a pitch has this condition of affairs attained that in Chemulpo quotations are current for:—

There is little wonder, therefore, that the currency question is engaging the earnest attention of the foreign representatives. Awakening at last to some sense of its responsibilities in this matter, the Japanese Government issued, on November 7th, 1902, an Imperial ordinance, which came[103] into force on the 15th, with a view to deterring Japanese from making spurious coins or despatching such nickels of Japanese manufacture to Korea. The punishment to which offenders against the ordinance are liable is imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year or a fine of not more than 200 yen (£20 8s. 4d.). This enactment gave the Japanese customs officers power to prevent the counterfeit coins from being shipped abroad, and enabled the Korean customs authorities to institute proceedings against Japanese found guilty of importing nickels of this description. From January 22nd, 1902, when the first seizure of the year took place, until the close of December, 3,573,138 pieces (coins and blanks), the total face value being £18,191, were confiscated by the Chemulpo customs officers. The largest quantity taken at one time was 739,000 pieces, face value £3772, detected on August 19th aboard a Korean junk, the second largest haul was made on September 8th in a cargo-boat, and consisted of 530,090 pieces, with a face value of £2512.

With a view to provide a remedy against the deplorable condition of the Korean currency, a Japanese Bank, Dai Ichi Ginko (No. I. Bank), which is under direction of Baron Shibusawa, decided, with the support of the Japanese Government, to undertake the issue of notes by which a promise was made to pay the bearer on demand in Japanese currency at any of its branches in Korea. The Dai Ichi Ginko possesses branches at all the larger Treaty ports, as well as in Seoul, and is, perhaps, the most important commercial agent in the country. The Japanese Consular officers are authorised to supervise the issue and to receive statements of the circulation and reserves twice a month. They are also entrusted with certain discretionary powers[104] as to limiting the number of notes in use. The denomination of the notes are 1 yen (2s.d.), 5 yen (10s.d.), 10 yen (£1 0s. 5d.), and on May 10th, 1902, there appeared the first issue of notes of 1 yen value. Those of 5 yen were put in circulation on September 20th following. The 10 yen notes were not issued until a later time.

On February 28th, 1903, the circulation of Dai Ichi Ginko notes and the reserves held for their redemption stood as follows:

Branch. In circulation. Reserves.
Chemulpo 18,927 18,927
Fusan 24,568 19,701
Seoul 1,894 1,894
Mok-po 14,406 12,250
Total 59,795 52,772

This action upon the part of the Dai Ichi Ginko gave rise to vehement opposition from the Korean Government. Although the issue of the notes was duly authorised by the Emperor, the Minister of Foreign Affairs persistently obstructed the circulation of the notes. Upon September 11th, 1902, an order was issued from the Foreign Office, upon the authority of the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, prohibiting the use of the notes by Koreans upon grounds which impugned the credit of the entire proceeding. This order was inspired, of course, by Yi Yong-ik, and when a few months later, on January 8th, 1903, Cho Pyöng-sik—then Foreign Minister—removed the prohibition, Yi Yong-ik at once contrived the dismissal of his too complaisant colleague. The Foreign Office was now without its Chancellor, and Yi Yong-ik immediately set himself to revoke the charter of the bank. After declaring that the Japanese[105] paper-money would be the ruin of the country and alleging that the compensation claims against the Seoul-Fusan Railway Company were purposely paid in those notes with a view to an ultimate declaration of bankruptcy upon behalf of the bank, Yi Yong-ik summoned on January 24th a meeting of the Pedlar’s Guild, at which he forbade their acceptance of this paper-money. A few days later, February 1st, the Mayor of Seoul posted an edict throughout the city giving effect to this prohibition and, at the same time, threatening with most severe penalties any one who used the notes or in any way assisted to circulate them. The Finance Department then circulated the edict throughout the provinces, whereupon an immediate run upon the bank ensued. Three days later, upon February 4th, the Acting Japanese Minister threatened the Government with the demand of an indemnity and a number of mining and railway concessions in compensation for the injury occasioned the bank, unless the obnoxious measure was withdrawn. After considerable discussion and various meetings, the Korean authorities agreed to withdraw all obstruction and to publish throughout the Empire their recognition of the existence of the bank. From that day the validity of the position of the Dai Ichi Ginko has been unquestioned.

The exactions and dishonesty of the officials impose a perpetual drain upon the national exchequer. In the removal of this one great evil, another serious obstacle to a more flourishing financial condition would be surmounted. Unfortunately, the drought and famine of 1901, added to the decrease in the revenues of 1902, created a discrepancy of five million yen. If this deficit may be considered extraordinary, no extenuating circumstances can excuse the supplementary losses of revenue attributable to the personal[106] peculations of the officials. The stringency of the financial situation created by the famine drew attention to the very large deficits, with which many of the more important metropolitan and chief provincial officials were debited. The inability of any of these gentry to disgorge their ill-gotten gains resulted in their immediate prosecution at the instigation of the Finance Minister, Yi Yong-ik. Ministers of State, governors of provinces, prefects and inspectors were brought sharply to account by the execution, banishment, or imprisonment of many offenders.

In such a moment the peculiar astuteness of Yi Yong-ik becomes conspicuous. While he visited any official who was compromised with the full penalties of the law, he himself executed, in his capacity of Minister of Finance, a bluff by which he netted almost half a million yen for the Imperial Treasury at one stroke. Yi Yong-ik arranged to buy the ginseng crop from the ginseng farmers. This is a Government monopoly, and the price was arranged at eight dollars a pound for sixty-three thousand pounds’ weight, dried and undried. When the time came to pay, and he had secured possession of the ginseng, Yi Yong-ik refused to give more than one dollar a pound, alleging that the ginseng growers had misrepresented the condition and weight of the consignment. In the meantime the ginseng was sold; the money was appropriated, and the balance in the Treasury correspondingly increased.

Upon another occasion, at a time when the discount of nickel against yen gold was very low, Yi Yong-ik was instrumental in promoting the presentation of a gift of two million dollars Korean to the Emperor. By careful adjustment the value of the exchange, nickel currency as against yen[107] gold, hardened twenty points the day after the presentation. It is, perhaps, unnecessary to point out that Yi Yong-ik occupied the interval in disposing of the difference to the advantage of his master.




Education—Arts and graces—Penal code—Marriage and divorce—The rights of concubines—Position of children—Government

Until the introduction of foreign methods of education, and the establishment of schools upon modern lines, no very promising manifestation of intellect distinguished the Koreans. Even now, a vague knowledge of the Chinese classics, which, in rare instances only can be considered a familiar acquaintanceship, sums up the acquirements of the cultured classes. The upper classes of both sexes make some pretence of understanding the literature and language of China; but it is very seldom that the middle classes are able to read more than the mixed Chinese-Korean script of the native Press—in which the grammatical construction is purely Korean.

Despite the prevailing ignorance of Chinese, the Mandarin dialect of China is considered the language of polite society. It is the medium of official communication at the Court: the majority of the foreigners in the service of the Government have also mastered its intricacies. It has been estimated by Professor Homer B. Hulbert, whose elaborate researches in Korean and Chinese philology make him a distinguished authority, that only one per cent. of the women of the upper[109] class, who study Chinese, have any practical knowledge of it. Women of the middle and lower classes are ignorant of Chinese. Again, the proportion of upper class women who can read the Chinese classics is very small. It is probable that, out of an unselected assembly of Koreans, not more than five per cent. would be found who could take up a Chinese work and read it as glibly as a similar gathering of English might be expected to read ordinary Latin prose.

In relation to the ön-mun, the common script of Korea, there is, however, no such ignorance; the upper and middle classes study their native writing with much intelligence. The language of Korea is altogether different from that of China and Japan; it possesses an alphabet of its own, which at present consists of some twenty-five letters. It has been ascribed by certain Korean annals to the fifteenth century, A.D. 1447, when the King of Korea, resolving to assert his independence by abandoning the use of Chinese writing as the official medium of correspondence, invented an alphabet to suit the special requirements of the vernacular. Conservatism proved too strong, however, and the new script was gradually relegated to the use of the lower classes, and of women and children. There is an extensive literature in the vernacular. It includes translations from the Chinese and Japanese classics; historical works on modern and mediæval Korea, books of travel and hunting, of poetry and correspondence, and a range of fiction, dealing with those phases of human nature that are common to mankind.

Many of these books are regularly studied by Korean women, ignorance of their contents being regarded with disdain by the women of the upper classes, and, in a less pronounced degree, by those of the middle classes. The[110] female attendants in the Palace are the readiest students and scholars of the vernacular, their positions at Court requiring them to prepare ön-mun copies of Government orders, current news, and general gossip, for Imperial use. Books in native script are readily purchased by all conditions of Koreans, and taken out from circulating libraries. Many of the works are written in Chinese and in Korean upon alternate pages for those who can read only one or the other; those who are quite illiterate learning the more important chapters by ear. A work, with which every woman is supposed to be intimate, is entitled The Three Principles of Conduct, the great divisions being (1) The Treatment of Parents; (2) The Rearing of a Family; (3) Housekeeping. Companion books with this volume, and of equal importance to Korean women, are the Five Rules of Conduct and the Five Volumes of Primary Literature, which, in spirit and contents, are almost identical. They deal with the relations between (1) Parent and Child; (2) King and Subject; (3) Husband and Wife; (4) Old and Young; (5) Friend and Friend. They contain also exhortations to virtue and learning.

Apart from the direction and scope of female education in Korea, which I have now suggested, the theoretical study of the domestic arts is an invariable accompaniment of the more intricate studies. It is supplemented with much actual experiment. As a consequence, while the education of men of certain rank is confined to the books to which they are but indifferently attentive, a wide range of study exists for women apart from the writings and teachings of the accepted professors and classical authorities. Ornamental elegances, the tricks and traits of our drawing-room minxes, are ignored by the gentler classes, vocal music and dancing[111] being the accomplishments of dancing-girls and demi-mondaines. The arts of embroidery, dressmaking, sewing, and weaving absorb their attention until they have gone through the gamut of domestic economy. Occasionally women of the upper class learn to play the kumungo, an instrument some five feet long and one foot wide, bearing a faint resemblance to a zither and emitting a melancholy and discordant wail. There is one other stringed weapon, the nageum, but the awful screech of this unhappy viol overwhelms me, even in recollection. The usual and most simple amusement for the middle classes is the gentle, aimless stroll, for the purpose of “look see.” Swinging, rope-games, dice, dominoes, and dolls find some favour as distractions.

If some little improvement has become noticeable in educational matters under the enlightening influence of the missionaries, great fault must be found with the condition of the law. It is, of course, not always possible to graft upon the legal procedure of one country a system of administration which works well in another. Specific outbursts of violence, arising from identical causes, assume different complexions when considered from the point of view of those who are proceeding to institute reforms. It may be submitted, further, that a certain element of barbarism in punishment is rendered necessary by the conditions of some countries, imposing a restraint upon a population which would scoff at punishment of a more civilised description. If exception may be taken to the penal code of Korea, it must be remembered that in the Far East the quality of justice is not tempered with mercy. Many punishments are still openly and frankly barbarous, while others are distinguished by their exceptional[112] severity. Death by decapitation, mutilation, strangulation, or poison is now less frequent than formerly.

Until within quite recent years it was the custom of Korean law to make the family of the arch-criminal suffer all his penalties with him. They are now exempted, and with the reforms introduced during the movement in 1895, some attempt was made to abolish practices opposed to the spirit of progress. The table, which I append, shows the punishments dispensed for certain crimes.

Treason, Man Decapitated, together with male relatives to the fifth degree. Mother, wife, and daughter poisoned or reduced to slavery.
Treason, Woman Poisoned.
Murder, Man Decapitated. Wife poisoned.
Murder, Woman Strangled or poisoned.
Arson, Man Strangled or poisoned. Wife poisoned.
Arson, Woman Poisoned.
Theft, Man Strangled, decapitated, or banished. Wife reduced to slavery, confiscation of all property.
Desecration of graves Decapitated, together with male relatives to the fifth degree. Mother, wife, and daughter poisoned.
Counterfeiting Strangulation or decapitation. Wife poisoned.

Under the Korean law, no wife can obtain a legal dissolution of her marriage. The privilege of divorce rests with the man; among the upper classes it is uncommon. The wife, however, may leave her husband and accept the protection of some relative, when, unless the husband can disprove her charges, he has no redress. Should the wife fail to establish her case against her husband, the cost of the marriage ceremony, a large sum usually, is refunded by her relatives. The law does not force a wife to cohabit with her husband; nor, so far as it affects the woman, does it take any cognisance of the matter. A man may divorce his wife,[113] retaining the custody of the children in every case, upon statutory grounds, and upon the following additional counts: indolence, neglect of the prescribed sacrifices, theft, and shrewishness. There is no appeal against the charges of the husband for women of the upper classes, domestic disturbances being considered entirely reprehensible. Much greater latitude prevails among the lower orders, irregular unions of a most benign elasticity being preferred. Concubinage is a recognised institution, and one in which the lower, as well as the higher, classes indulge.


The rights of the children of concubines vary according to the moral laxity of the class in which they are born. Among the upper classes they possess no claim against the estate of their progenitors; entail ignores them, and they may not observe the family sacrifices. In the absence of legitimate issue, a son must be adopted for the purpose of[114] inheriting the properties of the family and of attending to the ancestral and funeral rites. Great stress is laid by the upper classes upon purity of descent; among the middle and lower orders there is more indulgence. Save in the lowest classes, it is usual to maintain a separate establishment for each concubine. The fact that among the lower classes concubine and wife share the same house is responsible for much of the unhappiness of Korean family life. In every case the position of the children of concubines corresponds with the status of the mother.

Within recent years, considerable changes have taken place in the Government and in the administration of the law. Under the old system the despotic thesis of divine right was associated with many abuses. Justice was not tempered by mercy, and, in the suppression of crime, it was not always the guilty who suffered. The old system of government was modelled upon the principles of the Ming rule in China. The power of the sovereign was absolute in theory and in practice. He was assisted by the three principal officers of State and six administrative boards, to whom, so soon as the country was brought into contact with foreign nations, additional bureaux were added. Modifications in the spirit, or in the letter of the law have taken place from time to time at the instance of reformers. Before the ascendency of the Japanese came about, the principles and character of Korean law presented no very marked deviation from that which had been upheld in China through so many centuries. For a long time the intense conservatism of China reigned in Korea. The authority of the sovereign is more restricted to-day; but in the hands of a less enlightened monarch it would be just as effective as ever against the interests of the country. Happily, however,[115] the era of progressive reform, which illustrated the inauguration of the Empire, continues.


The Government is now vested in a Council of State, composed of a Chancellor, six Ministers, five Councillors, and a Chief Secretary. The will of the sovereign is, however, supreme. The Departments of State are conducted by nine ministers, chief of whom is the Prime Minister, assisted in his Cabinet by the President of the Privy Council, the Ministers of the Household, of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Finance, War, Law, Education, and Agriculture. With improved internal administration many of the abuses which existed under the old system have disappeared. There are still many grievances, and the working of the new machine of State cannot be said to give unalloyed satisfaction. Justice is still hedged about with bribery; official corruptness admits of the venal purchase of office. Much outcry accompanies the sweeping of the Augean stables; and, at present, the advantages of the improvements hardly justify the ecstatic jubilation by which their introduction[116] was greeted. It is early yet to prophesy; but, if the honourable administration of the public departments can be obtained, there is no reason why success should not attend the innovation. The responsibility for the working of the administrative machine, however, rests, in the interval, entirely upon the shoulders of the foreign advisers. It remains to be seen, therefore, if the united services of these distinguished people can prolong in any degree the era of honest government in Korea.



Farmers—Farming and farm animals—Domestic industries—Products—Quality and character of food-stuffs

The Koreans are an agricultural people, and most of the national industries are connected with agriculture. More than seventy per cent. of the population are farmers; the carpenter, the blacksmith, and the stonemason spring directly from this class, combining a knowledge of the forge or workshop with a life-long experience of husbandry. The schoolmaster is usually the son of a yeoman-farmer; the fisherman owns a small holding which his wife tills while he is fishing. The farming classes participate in certain industries of the country; the wives of the farmers raise the cotton, silk, linen, and grass-cloth of the nation, and they also convert the raw material into the finished fabrics. The sandals, mats, osier and wooden wares which figure so prominently in Korean households, are the work of the farming classes in their leisure moments. The officials, the yamen runners, the merchants, inn-keepers, miners, and junk-men are not of this order, but they are often closely connected with it. The Government exists on the revenue raised from agriculture; the people live upon the fruits of the soil; Korean officials govern whole communities given over to agricultural labour. The internal economy of the country[118] has been affiliated for centuries to the pursuits and problems of agriculture. Koreans are thus instinctively and intuitively agriculturists, and it is necessarily along these lines that the development of the country should in part progress.

It is impossible not to be impressed by a force which works so laboriously, while it takes no rest save that variety which comes with the change of season. The peaceable, plodding farmer of Korea has his counterpart in his bull. The Korean peasant and his weary bull are made for one another. Without his ruminating partner, the work would be impracticable. It drags the heavy plough through the deep mud of the rice-fields, and over the rough surface of the grain lands; it carries loads of brick and wood to the market, and hauls the unwieldy market cart along the country roads. The two make a magnificent pair; each is a beast of burden. The brutishness, lack of intelligence, and boorishness of the agricultural labourer in England is not quite reproduced in the Korean. The Korean farmer has of necessity to force himself to be patient. He is content to regard his sphere of utility in this world as one in which man must labour after the fashion of his animals, with no appreciable satisfaction to himself.

Originally, if history speaks truly, the farmers of Korea were inclined to be masterful and independent. Indications of this earlier spirit are found nowadays in periodical protests against the extortionate demands of local officials. These disturbances are isolated and infrequent, for, when once their spirits were crushed, the farmers developed into the present mild and inoffensive type. They submit to oppression and to the cruelty of the Yamen; they endure every form of illegal taxation, and they ruin themselves to pay “squeezes,” which exist only through their own humility.[119] They dread the assumption of rank and the semblance of authority. Their fear of a disturbance is so great that, although they may murmur against the impositions of the magistrate, they continue to meet his demands.


At the present day the farmer of Korea is the ideal child of nature; superstitious, simple, patient and ignorant. He is the slave of his work, and he moves no further from his village than the nearest market. He has a terrified belief in the existence of demons, spirits and dragons, whose dirty and grotesque counterfeits adorn his thatched hut. There are other characteristic traits in this great section of the national life. Their capacity for work is unlimited; they are seldom idle, and, unlike the mass of their countrymen, they have no sense of repose. As farmers, they have by instinct and tradition certain ideas and principles which are excellent in themselves. To the wayfarer[120] and stranger the individual farmer is supremely and surprisingly hospitable. A foreigner discussing the peculiarities of their scenery, their lands, and the general details of their life with them, is struck by their profound reverence for everything beyond their own understanding, and their amazing sense of the beautiful in nature. The simplicity of their appreciation is delightful. It is easy to believe that they are more susceptible to the charms of flowers and scenery than to that of woman.

At rare intervals the farmer indulges in a diversion. Succumbing to the seductions of market day, after the fashion of every other farmer the world has ever known, he returns to the homestead a physical and moral wreck, the drunk and disorderly residuum of many months of dreary abstinence and respectability. At these times he develops a phase of unexpected assertiveness, and forcibly abducts some neighbouring beauty, or beats in the head of a friend by way of enforcing his argument. From every possible point of view he reveals qualities which proclaim him the simple, if not ideal, child of nature.

During the many months of my stay in Korea I spent some days at a wayside farmhouse, the sole accommodation which could be obtained in a mountain village. The slight insight into the mode of life of the farming peasant which was thus gained was replete with interest, charm and novelty. Knowing something of the vicissitudes of farm life, I found the daily work of this small community supremely instructive. Upon many occasions I watched the farmer’s family and his neighbours at their work. The implements of these people are rude and few, consisting of a plough, with a movable iron shoe which turns the sods in the reverse direction to our own; a spade, furnished with[121] ropes and dragged by several men; bamboo flails and rakes, and a small hoe, sharp and heavy, used as occasion may require for reaping, chopping and hoeing, for the rough work of the farm, or the lighter service of the house.


During the harvest all available hands muster in the fields. The women cut the crop, the men fasten the sheaves, which the children load into rope panniers, suspended upon wooden frames from the backs of bulls. The harvest is threshed without delay, the men emptying the laden baskets upon the open road, and setting to with solemn and uninterrupted vigour. While the men threshed with their flails, and the wind winnowed the grain, six, and sometimes eight, women worked, with their feet, a massive beam, from which an iron or granite pestle hung over a deep granite mortar. This rough and ready contrivance[122] pulverises the grain sufficiently for the coarse cakes which serve in lieu of bread.

Beyond the bull and the pig, there are few farm animals in the inland districts. The pony and the donkey are not employed in agricultural work to the same extent as the bull. This latter animal is cared for more humanely than the unfortunate pony, whose good nature is ruined by the execrable harshness with which he is treated. The gross cruelty of the Korean to his pony is the most loathsome feature of the national life.


Irrigation is necessary only for the rice, which yields fairly abundant crops throughout Central and Southern Korea. To the north, rice makes way for millet, the great supplementary food of Korea. Elsewhere paddy-fields abound, and the people have become adepts in the principles of irrigation and the art of conserving water. Rice is sown in May, transplanted from the nurseries to the paddy-fields in June, and gathered in October. In times of drought, when it is necessary to tide over the period of distress, the fields are used for barley, oats and rye which, ripening in May and cut in June, allows a supplementary crop to be taken from the fields. The fields are then prepared for the rice. The land is inundated;[123] the peasant and his bull, knee-deep in water, plough the patches. Beans, peas, and potatoes are planted between the furrows of the cornfields, the land being made to produce to its full capacity. The crops are usually excellent.

The fields differ from the farms in China, where the farmers, preferring short furrows, grow their crops in small sections. The long furrows of the Korean fields recall Western methods, but here the analogy ends. The spectacle of these well-ordered acres is a revelation of the earnest way in which these down-trodden people combat adversity. In many ways, however, they need assistance and advice. If it were prudent to accomplish it, I would convert the mission centres of the inland districts into experimental farm-stations, and attach a competent demonstrator to each establishment.


The Koreans hold rice, their chief cereal, in peculiar honour. They state that it originated in Ha-ram, in China, at a period now involved in much fable and mystery—2838 B.C. to 2698 B.C. The name, Syang-nong-si, itself means Marvellous Agriculture. The name was doubtless given at a later time. The first rice was brought to Korea by Ki-ja in 1122 B.C. together with barley and other cereals. Before that time the only grain raised in Korea was millet.[124] There are three kinds of rice in Korea, with a variety of sub-species. First, that which is grown in the ordinary paddy-fields. This is called specifically tap-kok, or paddy-field rice. It is used almost exclusively to make pap, the ordinary boiled rice. Then we have chun-kok or field-rice. This is so-called upland rice. It is drier than the paddy-field rice, and is used largely in making rice flour and in brewing beer. The third kind is grown exclusively on the slopes of mountains, and is a wild rice. It is smaller and harder than the other kinds; for this reason it is used to provision garrisons. It will withstand the weather. Under favourable circumstances, lowland rice will keep five years, but the mountain rice will remain perfectly sound for quite ten years.

Next in importance to rice come the different kinds of pulse, under which heading is included all the leguminous plants, the bean and the pea family. That Korea is well provided with this valuable and nutritious form of food will be seen from the fact that there are thirteen species of round beans, two kinds of long bean, and five varieties of mixed bean. Of all these numerous assortments, the “horse-bean” is by far the most common. It is the bean which forms such a large part of the exports of Korea. It is supposed by Koreans to have originated in North-Western China, and derives its name from the fact that it is used very largely for fodder. One variety only may be regarded as indigenous—the black-bean—and it is found nowhere else in Eastern Asia. Of the rest, the origin is doubtful. The horse-bean grows in greatest abundance in Kyöng-syang Province and on the island of Quelpart, though of course it is common all over the country. The black-bean flourishes best in Chyöl-la Province. The green-bean, oil-bean, and white-cap bean[125] flourish in Kyöng-keui Province. The yellow bean is found in Hwang-hai Province; the South River bean appears in Chyung-chyöng Province; the grandfather-bean (so called because of its wrinkles) grows anywhere, but not in large quantities. The brown-bean and chestnut-bean come from Kang-won Province.

It would be difficult to over-estimate the importance of these different species of pulse to the Korean. They furnish the oily and nitrogenous elements which are lacking in rice. As a diet they are strengthening, the nutritious properties of the soil imparting a tone to the system. Preparations of beans are as numerous as the dishes made from flour; it is impossible to enumerate them. Upon an average, the Koreans eat about one-sixth as much pulse as rice. The price of beans is one-half that of rice; the price of either article is liable to variations. There are varieties which cost nearly as much as rice.

The common name for barley is po-ri; in poetical parlance the Koreans call barley The Fifth Moon of Autumn, because it is then that it is harvested. The value of barley to the Korean arises from the fact that it is the first grain to germinate in the spring. It carries the people on until the millet and rice crops are ready. Barley and wheat are extensively raised throughout Korea for the purpose of making wine and beer. In other ways, however, they may be considered almost as important as the different kinds of pulse. The uses of barley are very numerous. Besides being used directly as farinaceous food it becomes malt, medicine, candy, syrup, and furnishes a number of side-dishes. Wheat comes mostly from Pyöng-an Province, only small crops of it appearing in the other Provinces. Barley yields spring and autumn crops, but wheat yields[126] only the winter crop. The poor accept wheat as a substitute for rice, and brew a gruel from it. It is used as a paste; it figures in the native pharmacopœia, and in the sacrifices with which the summer solstice is celebrated.

Oats, millet, and sorghum are other important cereals in Korea. There are six varieties of millet; the price of the finer qualities is the same as that obtained for rice. One only of these six varieties was found originally in the country. Sorghum is grown principally in Kyöng-syang Province. It grows freely, however, in the south; but is less used than wheat, millet, or oats in Korea. A curious distinction exists between the sorghum imported from China and the native grain. In China, sorghum is used in making sugar; when this sugar-producing grain arrives in Korea it is found impossible to extract the sugar. Two of the three kinds of sorghum in Korea are native, the third coming from Central China. Oats become a staple food in the more mountainous regions, where rice is never seen; it is dressed like rice. From the stalk the Koreans make a famous paper, which is used in the Palaces of the Emperor. It is cultivated in Kang-won, Ham-kyöng, and Pyöng-an Provinces.

The Korean is omnivorous. Birds of the air, beasts of the field, and fish from the sea, nothing comes amiss to his palate. Dog-meat is in great request at certain seasons; pork and beef with the blood undrained from the carcase; fowls and game—birds cooked with the lights, giblets, head and claws intact, fish, sun-dried and highly malodorous, all are acceptable to him. Cooking is not always necessary; a species of small fish is preferred raw, dipped into some piquant sauce. Other dainties are dried sea-weed, shrimps, vermicelli, made by the women from buckwheat flour and[127] white of egg, pine seeds, lily bulbs, honey-water, wheat, barley, millet, rice, maize, wild potatoes, and all vegetables of Western and Eastern gardens; even now the list is by no means exhausted.

Their excesses make them martyrs to indigestion.



Japan in Korea—Historical associations—In Old Fusan—Political and economic interests—Abuse of paramountcy


Southern Korea bears many evidences of the warlike activities and commercial enterprise of the past generations of Japanese, who, abandoning their own island home, sought domicile upon the shores of the neighbouring peninsula. The precarious existence of these waifs and strays from an alien state, in the midst of a people whose whole attitude was anti-foreign, did not deter others from coming to her ports.[129] This gradual migration from Japan to the Hermit Kingdom continued during many centuries, promoting an intercourse between two races which the Government was powerless to frustrate. Japanese historians argue from this settlement in Korea that the State was a vassal of Japan from the second century by right of conquest and appropriation. The idea, which prevailed through seventeen centuries, was not finally rejected until the Ambassador of the Mikado signed a treaty at Seoul on February 7th, 1897, which recognised Korea as an independent nation. From about the beginning of the Christian era until the fifteenth century, the relations between Japan and Korea were very close. From this period onward Korea, although maintaining her attitude of complacent indifference to events outside her own Empire, betrayed signs of weakness in her policy of isolation when menaced with the importunate demands of her rival neighbours, China and Japan.

At the two points in her Empire adjacent to the dominions of China and Japan, war and peace alternately prevailed. If, upon occasion, the Koreans went out unsupported to fight their invaders, the leaders more usually united with one of the two rivals against the other. Thus, there was always turmoil throughout the kingdom. In the south, as in the north, the tide of war rolled backwards and forwards, with varying success. From the west, the armies of China appeared and vanished, skirting the Liao-tung Gulf, to plunder and to devastate the peninsula. Fleets from Shantung, crossing the Yellow Sea, dropped their anchors in the rivers of the land. The west was threatened by the hordes of China, and the south was harried by ships and men from the east, who pounced upon Fusan and seized the cities of the south. The aggressions of the Japanese[130] extinguished any hope the Koreans might still have cherished of preserving the southern frontier of their kingdom intact. Although cordons of armed sentinels and palisades, barriers of mountains and miles of ruined and deserted wastes protected the northern borders against the incursions of the Chinese soldiers to some extent, the south was vulnerable.

Fusan was the floodgate through which poured the hostile masses of Japan, an unbroken stream of men, to deluge the land. They invaded Korea as enemies, levying tribute; they came as allies against China; they appeared as the embassies of a friendly State and returned enriched to the Court of their Sovereign. Actuated by feelings of mercy, they sent grain-ships to Fusan when famine overtook their neighbours. Between Japan and Fusan there was the continuous passing of ships. Around this outlet, the one gate to the southern half of the kingdom, the spasmodic beginnings of the present important commerce between the two countries grew out of a fretful exchange of commodities.

In the years that followed the earlier visitations, Japan became so embarrassed by her own internal troubles, that the Kingdom of Korea was left in that peace and seclusion which, always preferring, it had found so much difficulty in securing. This happy state of things prevailed for two centuries. At the end of this interval, the annual embassy to Japan from the Court of Korea had ceased. The kingdom in general, lulled by visions of perpetual peace, no longer maintained defences. Military preparations were neglected; the army was disorganised; the old fighting spirit of the people died down, and martial exercises disappeared from the training of the militia. Dissipation and profligacy were rife. In the meantime, order having been restored in Japan,[131] the thoughts of her soldiers again turned towards fields of conquest and deeds of daring. The vassalship of Korea was recalled; the King was summoned to renew his allegiance. The answer proving unsatisfactory, preparations for an invasion were at once begun. The fleet assembled and the ships set sail. The mobility which was to distinguish the Japanese in after years characterised their movements in this campaign. Within eighteen days after their landing at Fusan, the capture of the capital was accomplished and a blow was struck, which enabled the Koreans at last to understand the gravity of their plight.


The part, which Fusan played in this war, materially assisted the invading hosts of Japan. A settlement at Fusan, which had been founded long since by the retainers of the Daimio of the island of Tsu-shima, assisted by itinerant traders and deserters from the numerous expeditions which[132] visited its shores, had grown to such dimensions that when the force was descried off the harbour upon the morning of May 25th, 1592, Fusan was already in their possession. This circumstance gave the troops immediate facilities for disembarkation, and, in the subsequent vicissitudes of the next six years’ campaign, expedited the progress of the war. The position of Fusan speedily made the place a base of supplies to the army of operation and a repairing yard for the Japanese fleet after their disastrous engagement with the Korean ships, in an attempt to co-operate with the victorious forces, which Konishi and Kuroda had assembled before Pyöng-yang. After the conclusion of the first invasion and the Japanese retreat from the north, before the combined strength of the Chinese and Koreans on May 22nd, 1593, Fusan became one of the fortified camps upon the coast, where the Japanese armies passed the winter in sight of the shores of their own land. The negotiations, which were opened in the following year, and shifted alternately between the camp of the Commander-in-Chief at Fusan and the Courts in China and Japan, failed.

Even at this date Japan was anxious to establish her power in Korea by obtaining possession of the southern provinces. Foiled in this attempt, she renewed her attack. Fusan again became the seat of the councils of war, and the base for the second invasion. The operations began with the siege of the Castle of Nan-on, in Chyöl-la province, upon the morning of September 21st, 1597. Twelve months later, the Japanese were withdrawn from Korea, and the war came to its close. Two hundred years passed before Korea recovered from the desolation of this conflict, which was one in which the loss of three hundred thousand men[133] was recorded. Moreover, the Japanese retained Fusan, a perpetual evidence of their victory.

This early claim to the southern provinces put forward by the Japanese plainly reveals how long standing is their wish to annex the southern half of Korea. Even in modern times, they have embarked upon one campaign in the interests of Korea, while they are now ready to go to war with Russia on behalf of the same nation that they themselves consistently bully. Their plea of Korea for the Koreans, however, is in curious contrast to their own lawless domination of the coveted territory. Indeed, the interests which the Japanese have developed for themselves throughout these regions do not disclose much consideration for the rights of the natives. The treaty of 1876, which opened Fusan to Japanese settlers, removed the nominal obstacles to that over-sea immigration which had been progressing steadily during several centuries. A wave of Japanese colonisation at once lapped the eastern, western, and southern shores of the Hermit Kingdom.

Indications of previous incursions were given by the affinity which existed between the language, manners, and local customs of these newcomers and the indigenous race. The existence of this affinity became a powerful, if impersonal, instrument in abating the opposition of the population to the settlement. Unable to obtain the secession of the territory which they so much desired, communities of Japanese fringed its borders. They planted themselves wherever there were prospects of trade, until the resources of the land were tapped in all directions, and the control of its commerce was virtually in their hands. As other ports were opened at the persistent instigation of these persevering traders, however, the settlement of the south[134] proceeded less rapidly. In view of the changing relations between Korea and the Powers, therefore, the Japanese passed further afield, developing some little industry to their own advantage wherever they went. Trade followed their flag, whether they were within the radius of the treaty ports, or engaged in forcing the hand of the local officials by settling beyond the limitations of their Conventions. The success of these efforts was soon assured. Despite the stipulations of the treaties, and in face of the objections of their own, as well as the Korean, Government, the irrepressible activity of these pioneers of a past generation unconsciously contributed to that supremacy which the trade of Japan has since achieved in the land of her former enemy.

The expansion of Japanese interests in Korea has not been without political design. The integrity of her neighbour is bound up with her own existence. The security of Korea emphasises the safety of her own borders; and, as her own Empire has developed into a first-class Power, this desire to see the kingdom respected has become more and more the spirit of the policy upon which she has concentrated her individual action. She has fostered the trade with Korea because it drew together the ties which connected the two countries. She has urged the concession of ports, and still more ports, to foreign commerce, because the preponderance of her trade in these open marts substantiates her claim to be the lawful champion of the race. The progress of Korea, since the country came under her supervision, has been more evident than any of the difficulties which have originated out of the disposition of the Japanese to bully and coerce the Koreans. If, upon occasion, the results have suggested that the blind cannot[135] lead the blind without disaster, the rarity of mistakes reflects credit upon the judgment which has been displayed. This combination is, of course, directed against foreigners. Just as Japan is discarding those Western teachers, whose genius and administrative abilities protected her in her days of ignorance, so does she hanker after the time when she alone may guard the interests of Korea, and supply the demands of her markets. At present, however, it is open to question whether the Koreans will have overcome their feelings of irritation against the Japanese by the time that these have become thoroughly progressive in their treatment of the Koreans. The Japanese are more repressive in their methods than they need be.

The extraneous evidence of the power of the Japanese irritates the Koreans, increasing the unconquerable aversion which has inspired them against the Japanese through centuries, until, of the various races of foreigners in Korea at the present, none are so deservedly detested as those hailing from the Island Empire of the Mikado. Nor is this prejudice remarkable, when it is considered that it is the scum of the Japanese nation that has settled down upon Korea. It is, perhaps, surprising that the animus of the Koreans against the Japanese has not died out with time; but the fault lies entirely with the Japanese themselves. Within recent years so much has occurred to alter the position of Japan and to flatter the vanity of these island people that they have lost their sense of perspective. Puffed up with conceit, they now permit themselves to commit social and administrative excesses of the most detestable character. Their extravagant arrogance blinds them to the absurdities and follies of their actions, making manifest the fact that their gloss of civilisation is the merest veneer. Their conduct[136] in Korea shows them to be destitute of moral and intellectual fibre. They are debauched in business, and the prevalence of dishonourable practices in public life makes them indifferent to private virtue. Their interpretation of the laws of their settlements, as of their own country, is corrupt. Might is right; the sense of power is tempered neither by reason, justice nor generosity. Their existence from day to day, their habits and their manners, their commercial and social degradation, complete an abominable travesty of the civilisation which they profess to have studied. It is intolerable that a Government aspiring to the dignity of a first-class Power should allow its settlements in a friendly and foreign country to be a blot upon its own prestige, and a disgrace to the land that harbours them.

There are some twenty-five thousand Japanese in Korea, and the Japanese settlement is the curse of every treaty port in Korea. It is at once the centre of business, and the scene of uproar, riot, and confusion. In the comparative nakedness of the women, in the noise and violence of the shopkeepers, in the litter of the streets, there is nothing to suggest the delicate culture of Japan. The modesty, cleanliness, and politeness, so characteristic of the Japanese, are conspicuously absent in their settlements in this country. Transformation has taken place with transmigration. The merchant has become a rowdy; the coolie is impudent, violent, and, in general, an outcast more prone to steal than to work. Master and man alike terrorise the Koreans, who go in fear of their lives whenever they have transactions with the Japanese. Before the Chino-Japanese war this spirit had not displayed itself to any great extent in the capital of the Hermit Kingdom. With the successful conclusion of that campaign, however,[137] the Japanese became so aggressive in their treatment of the people that, had the choice of two evils been possible in view of these events, the Koreans would have preferred the Chinese and a state of dependence to the conditions which were then introduced. The universal admiration aroused by the conduct of the Japanese troops in the North-China campaign of 1900-1901 has added sensibly to the vanity and egoism of these Korean-Japanese. Convinced of their innate superiority, their violence towards the Koreans goes on unchecked. It threatens now to assume unparalleled dimensions. If the relations between the Powers are to continue upon a satisfactory footing in Korea, it will be necessary for the Japanese Government to redress those abuses which foreigners, Japanese, and Koreans alike have combined to denounce.




The commercial prospects of Korea—Openings to trade—Requirements of markets—Lack of British enterprise

The trade returns for 1900 exceeded every previous year. During the period covered by the Boxer disturbances, however, the Korean exports to China decreased, and the importation of foreign goods likewise fell off. The stimulus given to the cereal trade, by the interruption of the Manchurian export bean trade from Newchang, and by the demand for food-supplies for the troops in China, more than counterbalanced this temporary decline in direct native exports and direct foreign imports. Cotton goods, however, show an increase of £14,297 over the figures of previous years; but there is a specific falling off in imports of British manufacture and origin, and a specific advance in the more important lines of Japanese goods. I append a small table revealing the comparative prosperity of British and Japanese trade at this date:

English, decrease in: Japanese, increase in:
Shirtings £59,069 Shirtings £1,731
Indian Yarn £3,056 Yarn £11,329
and other pieces
Sheetings £40,422
Other piece goods £25,676

In time, the markets of Japan will produce everything[139] which at present comes from America in the shape of canned goods, and from Europe, in the form of textiles or food-stuffs. Japanese woven fabrics, and canned foods of inferior quality are driving the wholesale manufacturing houses of England and America from the markets. At present, therefore, the trade of Korea is limited as much by the capacity of the Japanese markets as by the wants of the Korean. In face of the opposition of the Japanese, their determination to retain the Korean markets for themselves, and the absence of effective attempts by Western houses to beat up such trade as may exist, it is difficult to believe that the future will show any material expansion in the capacity of the foreign trade.

Nevertheless, Korea provides a fair field for capital. It would be quite possible to improve the condition of foreign trade, if merchants could arrange to protect their interests by establishing their own agencies in the country, under competent and energetic European management. When British merchants depart from their apathetic indifference and organise an exhaustive expert inquiry into the capabilities of the Korean trade, their trouble will be quickly rewarded. New markets require new commodities, the demand for which any technical inspection of the requirements of the people will disclose. Until this examination takes place, however, the stagnation in British trade must continue. Korea offers to British interests an interesting field in which the development of new industries must be conducted upon practical lines. Briefly, the imports in demand are those which are necessary to meet the requirements of an agricultural country whose mining resources are in process of development and whose railway system is as yet in its early stages. The increase in the importation[140] of mining supplies supports this contention. Bags and ropes for packing, machinery for agricultural and mining purposes, and sewing machines are in greater demand. Railway material is, of course, wanted. The new industries may not be upon a large scale. Primitive methods doubtless will continue for the most part to govern native manufactures such as grass cloth, straw mats, ropes, &c. Excellent paper has been made since the replacement of the use of native lye by caustic soda and soda-ash, while the innovation is one to which the people have taken kindly enough. Again, while the paper industry is capable of expansion, a brisk business in leather could be built up in the country. Hides, which are exported to Japan in their raw state, are abundant, and might be converted into leather so easily on the spot. The straw braid industry contains great possibilities, while the climate of Korea is naturally suited to the growth and treatment of silk.

Many things would be necessary to the success of such enterprises. The work must be based upon a knowledge of the country and its language. The manufacturer or the merchant must take the pains to accommodate a direct import trade to the exigencies of the local market. As an example, smaller bales and shorter lengths are requisite in the piece goods. The establishment of sample warehouses at the treaty ports, and in the more important trade-centres of the interior, where bales of shirting, cotton and woollen goods, cases of farming implements, &c., could be opened and sold for cash, would appeal to the natives. This departure would avoid the increase in the prime cost of the articles necessitated by the existing system of transhipment. At present, goods come from Shanghai to Chi-fu and[141] thence to Chemulpo. They pass then from the importer to the Chinese merchants, and from them to the Korean wholesale buyers; these resell them in greatly diminished quantities to the pedlars and agents, who retail the goods. It would also be advisable to create consular agencies in Fusan and Won-san. Official representation at present is confined to an underpaid and understaffed Legation in Seoul, and a vice-consulate in Chemulpo. Additional employés should be interchangeable, undertaking either the vice-consular duties of the ports or the secretarial services of the Legation.

The bulk of the imports and exports, which pass through the Customs, comes from China and Japan. The means of transport are controlled by Japanese; the export trade of the country is entirely in their hands. This fact alone should appeal to British shipping interests and to ship-owners. Unfortunately, many years of prosperity have brought about great changes in the spirit of our nation, and we no longer show the enterprise and initiative which formerly distinguished us. This depreciation in the forces of the nation has promoted a corresponding depression in our trade. We are no longer the pioneers of commerce; nor have we the capacity and courage of our forefathers who fostered those interests of which we are now so neglectful in every quarter of the globe. At the dawn of the twentieth century, it is amazing to find a country, with a total foreign import and export trade exceeding two millions and a half sterling for the year 1901 and two millions and three quarters sterling for the year 1902, whose shores were visited by over ten thousand steam and sailing trading-vessels in the same period, registering an aggregate tonnage of more than two million tons, almost untouched by British merchantmen.[142] Deplorable as this may be, statistics which Mr. McLeavy Brown has drawn up show that one steamship, chartered by Chinese and floating the British flag, entered Korean waters in 1900; that four steamers came in each of the years 1901-2, a return which reveals a steady decline upon the previous years. Since Korea was opened to trade in 1880, British shipping has visited the country in the proportion of 1377 tons to every two years. Despite appeals from our Consuls in Korea to British steamship companies improvement has been impossible; since no response was evoked by their efforts, and no service has been established. The consequence of this is that a valuable opportunity has been allowed to escape, the Japanese profiting by our indifference.

The trade of Korea is increasing gradually. A steamer, which could make periodical calls between Shanghai and Won-san, Yokohama and Vladivostock, taking cargo and passengers to the open ports of Korea, and touching at Japan upon the journey back, would return good money upon the venture. British and Chinese merchants would prefer to ship in a British vessel. The old-fashioned traditions of the British mercantile service, as to punctuality and despatch, are not carried out by the steamers of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha and the Osaka Shosen Kaisha, which call at the ports in Korea. It is almost impossible to know when the steamers of these companies will arrive or when they will leave. Little attempt is made to observe their schedule. The condition of the vessels of the latter company accredited to the Korean run is filthy. Moreover, this company is careless of cargo, and quite indifferent to the comforts of its passengers. The Nippon Yusen Kaisha certainly supplies meals in foreign style, but the Osaka Shosen Kaisha provides[143] nothing. Plying between Japan, China and Korea, this company declines to make any arrangements for foreigners in the matter of food or accommodation. One experience is enough. Unfortunately, foreigners are compelled to travel in them, as the steamers of one or other of the two companies are usually the sole means of communication between those countries and Korea. There is cargo and passenger traffic for any company that will organise a regular steam-service. The profits might be small at first, since the Japanese prefer to endure their own steamers and to ship under their own flag; but there are signs that the flourishing condition of the trade of the country would bring ultimate success.

The establishment of a steamer-service, if only of one or two steamers, is not the sole hazard by which Japanese competition might be faced. The climate of Korea is peculiarly suited to fruit-culture. If this work were taken in hand, the fruit might be tinned or exported fresh to China, where it would find a ready sale. The fertility of the soil near Won-san and the abundance of fish in the sea off that part of the coast, would make that port a suitable export centre for the creation of a fish and fruit-canning industry under foreign management. Fish and fruit industries of this description in Japan are profitable and very bad. Nevertheless, their output is widely distributed over the Far East. The initiation of these industrial ventures would require some time, for many difficulties oppress foreigners, who are anxious to put capital into Korea. In the end, a modest venture would reap sufficient success to justify the speculation, while the returns would probably permit an immediate expansion of the enterprise. There is no doubt about the fish; there is no doubt about the fruit; but whatever investment of an industrial character is made[144] in Korea, close and high-class technical supervision is the necessary accompaniment.

The British merchant in the Far East is the first to condemn his own Minister and to abuse his own Consul, and he is the very last to help himself. It may be, however, that the follies of the Imperial Government, the unreasoning prejudices and foolish blundering of the Foreign Office, have created this apathy. The drifting and vacuous policy of Lord Salisbury made it impossible to avert the decay of our prestige and trade which has set in throughout the Far East. Official returns establish only too completely the unhappy predicament in which trade and merchants alike are placed. There is a general decrease in the volume of the one, and there has been no sympathetic activity among those engaged in commercial interests elsewhere to set against it. The deficiency is almost without solution, so long as bounty-fed manufactures, carried in subsidised bottoms, are set against the products of an unassisted trade. Competition is increasing, and foreign manufacturers are themselves now meeting the requirements of the markets of China. There is little prospect in the future of the restoration of our former commercial superiority. Much might be attempted, although it seems almost as if the British merchant were so bent upon his own damnation, that little could be done.

The decline of British trade cannot be attributed in any way to the late disturbances in North China, to the decline in the purchasing power of the dollar, or to the temporary rise in the market prices. Japan has become our most formidable competitor. The decrease in our trade is due entirely to the commercial development and rise of Japan, who, together with America, has successfully taken from us markets in which, prior to their appearance, British[145] goods were supreme. The gravity of the situation in which British trade is placed cannot be lightly regarded. We still lay claim to the carrying trade of the Far East; but the figures, which support our pre-eminence in this direction are totally unreliable. If the true conditions were made manifest, it would be seen that so far from leading the shipping of the world in the Far East, Great Britain could claim but a small proportion of the freights carried. Although we may own the ships, neither our markets nor our manufactures are associated with their cargoes. It would be well if the public could grasp this feature of the China trade. Members of Parliament, ignorant of the deductions which are necessary before claiming the carrying trade of the Far East—much less of the Yang-tse and of the China coast—as an asset in our commercial prosperity, and a sign of vigour of the first magnitude, do not recognise how unsubstantial is the travesty of affluence which they so constantly applaud.



During 1901, owing to the Boxer disturbance, large numbers of ships owned by natives were transferred to the British flag. The ostensible decrease in the tonnage of British vessels, which entered and cleared affected ports, was therefore less than that of other nationalities. Similarly, there was a small increase in the duties paid under the British flag during the same period, owing to the valuable character of these cargoes. Under ordinary circumstances, the comparatively small decrease in the British tonnage and the increase of more than fifty thousand taels in the payments made to the Imperial Customs at such a moment of unrest, would suggest the stability of our trading interest, and afford no mean standard by which to judge the capacity of the markets. Unfortunately, the two most important counts in the returns, tonnage and duties, are no criterion. It is necessary to inspect closely the individual values of the different articles comprising the total trade. In this way the general depreciation of our manufactures is at once apparent.

A comparison of the American, Japanese, and German returns shows which are the commercial activities that are threatening our existence as a factor in the markets of the Far East. If, in the returns, we were shown the relations between the duties paid under each flag, and the tonnage of any particular country, besides the source and destination of its cargo, the true condition of British trade would be revealed at a glance. As it is, until a table is added to the Maritime Report, which will supply this valuable and interesting demonstration, the system of a separate examination is alone to be relied upon. By this method we find that between the years 1891 and 1901 there was a consistent falling-off in British exports to the Far East in almost[147] every commodity in which the competition of America, Japan, and Germany was possible. Since 1895, when Japan began to assert herself in the markets of China, those articles which, pre-eminently among the commercial Powers, she can herself supply, have carried everything before them. Ten years ago the British trade in cloths, drills, shirtings, cottons, yarns, and matches had attained magnificent dimensions. In certain particulars, only, our trade was rivalled by the United States of America, whose propinquity gave to them some little advantage in the markets of the Far East. Now, however, the trade has passed altogether into the hands of the Japanese, or is so equally divided between Japan and America, Japan and Germany, that our pristine supremacy has disappeared.



British, American, Japanese, French, German, and Belgian interests—Railways and mining fictions—Tabled counterfeited Imports

With the exception of Great Britain, the example of the Japanese in Korea has stirred the Western Powers to corresponding activity. Every strange face in Seoul creates a crop of rumours. Until the new-comer proves himself nothing more dangerous than a correspondent, there is quite a flutter in the Ministerial dove-cots. Speculation is rife as to his chance of securing the particular concession after which, of course, it is well known he has come from Europe, Asia, Africa, or America. The first place among the holders of concessions is very evenly divided between Japan and America. If the interests of Japan be placed apart, those of America are certainly the most prominent. Germany and Russia are busily creating opportunities for the development of their relations with the industries of the country; Italy and Belgium have secured a footing; Great Britain is alone in the indifference with which she regards the markets of Korea.

In this chapter I propose to state briefly the exact position occupied in Korea by the manufacturing and industrial interests of foreign countries; adding a specific[149] table, which, I hope, may attract the attention of British manufacturers to the means by which the Japanese houses contrive to meet the demands of the Korean market. The competition of the Japanese has an advantage in the propinquity of their own manufacturing centres; a co-operative movement throughout the Japanese settlements against foreign goods is another factor in their supremacy.

It may, perhaps, afford British manufacturers some small consolation to know that there are still many articles which defy the imitative faculties of the Japanese. These are, mainly, the products of the Manchester market, which have proved themselves superior to anything which can be placed in competition against them. It has been found, for instance, impossible to imitate Manchester dyed goods, nor can Japanese competition affect the popularity of this particular line. Chinese grass-cloths have, however, cut out Victoria lawns fairly on their merits. The Chinese manufacturer, unhampered by any rise in the cost of production and transportation, produces a superior fabric, of more enduring quality, at a lower price. Moreover, in spite of the assumed superiority of American over English locomotives, on the Japanese railways in Korea the rolling stock produced by British manufacturers has maintained its position. It is pleasing to learn that some proportion of the equipment of the old line from Chemulpo to Seoul, and of the new extension to Fusan, have been procured from England. Mr. Bennett, the manager of Messrs. Holme Ringer and Company, the one British house in Korea, with whom the order from the Japanese company was placed, informed me that the steel rails and fish-plates imported would be from Cammel and Company, the wheels and axles from Vickers, and that orders for a[150] number of corrugated iron goods sheds had been placed in Wolverhampton. The locomotives were coming from Sheffield. The Japanese company expressly stipulated that the materials should be of British make; it was only through the extreme dilatoriness of certain British firms in forwarding catalogues and estimates, that an order, covering a large consignment of iron wire, nails, and galvanised steel telegraph wire, was placed in America. This dilatoriness operates with the most fatal effect upon the success of British industries. The Emperor of Korea instructed Mr. Bennett to order forty complete telephones, switch-boards, key-boards, and instruments, all intact. Ericson’s, of Stockholm, despatched triplicate cable quotations, forwarding by express shipment triplicate catalogues and photographs, as well as cases containing models of their different styles, with samples of wet and dry cables. One of the two British firms, to whom the order had been submitted, made no reply. The other, after an interval of two months, dictated a letter of inquiry as to the chemical qualities of the soil, and the character of the climatic influences to which the wires, switch-boards, and instruments would be subjected!

A few years ago a demand arose for cheap needles and fish-hooks. The attention of British manufacturers was drawn to the necessity of supplying a needle which could be bent to the shape of a fish-hook. A German manufacturer got wind of the confidential circular which Mr. Bennett had prepared, and forwarded a large assortment of needles and fish-hooks, the needles meeting the specified requirements. The result of this enterprise was that the German firm skimmed the cream of the market. The English needles were so stiff that they snapped at once; and it is perhaps unnecessary to add that, beyond the few packets opened for[151] the preliminary examination, not one single order for these needles has been taken.

The position which Great Britain fills in Korea is destitute of any great commercial or political significance. Unintelligible inaction characterises British policy there—as elsewhere. Our sole concession is one of very doubtful value, relating to a gold mine at Eun-san. In the latter part of 1900 a company was formed in London, under the style of the British and Korean Corporation, to acquire the Pritchard Morgan Mining Concession from the original syndicate. In the spring of 1901 Mr. E. T. McCarthy took possession of the property on behalf of the new owners. Mr. McCarthy had had considerable experience as a mine manager. The most careful management was necessary to the success of this concern. The expenses of working were extraordinarily heavy, as, owing to the absence of fuel, coal had to be imported from Japan. A coal seam had been located upon the concession, but nothing was then known as to its suitability for steam purposes. It is impossible to consider the undertaking very seriously. All surface work was stopped during my residence in Korea, the operations for the past few months having been confined to underground development and prospecting. There was talk of the instalment of a mill. A vein of pyrrhotine, carrying copper for a width of 13 ft., was regarded with some interest, but in the absence of machinery nothing of much consequence could be done.

Another concern, Anglo-Chinese in its formation, is the Oriental Cigarette and Tobacco Company, Limited. The capital of this venture is registered from Hong-Kong. Since May 1902, the company has been engaged at Chemulpo in the manufacture, from Richmond and Korean[152] tobacco, of cigarettes of three kinds. At the present time it possesses machinery capable of a daily output of one million cigarettes. In the days of its infancy, the company was reduced to a somewhat precarious existence—the early weeks of its career producing no returns whatsoever. Now, however, a brighter period has dawned, and an ultimate prosperity is not uncertain. Cash transactions, in the sales of the cigarettes manufactured by the company, began in July 1902, realising by the end of February 1903, £1515 sterling; to this must be added credit sales of £896 sterling—making a grand total for the first few months of its existence of £2411 sterling. A large staff of native workers is permanently employed.

Aside from this company and the mining corporation, British industrial activity is confined almost exclusively to the agency which Mr. Bennett so ably controls in Chemulpo, of which a branch is now established in the capital, and the Station Hotel which Mr. Emberley conducts at Seoul. Mr. Jordan, the British Minister in Korea, did request in June 1903, a concession for a gold mine five miles square in Hwang-hai Province. Apart from this, the apathy of the British merchant cannot be regarded as singular when business houses in London direct catalogues, intended for delivery at Chemulpo, to the British Vice-Consul, Korea, Africa. Nor, by the way, is Korea a part of China. Mr. Emberley has established a comfortable and very prosperous hotel in the capital, while at Chemulpo Mr. Bennett has opened out whatever British trade exists in Korea. British interests are safe enough in his hands, and if merchants will act in co-operation with him, it might still be possible to create good business, in spite of the competition and imitation of the Japanese. In this respect[153] British traders are not unreasonably expected to observe the custom, prevailing among all Chinese merchants, of giving Korean firms an extended credit. Foreign banks in the Far East charge seven or eight per cent., per annum, and the native banks ten to fourteen per cent., which represents a very considerable advance upon home rates. In the opinion of Mr. Bennett, who is, without doubt, one of the most astute business men in the Far East, no little improvement would be shown in the Customs return of British imports, if the manufacturers at home would ship goods to Korea on consignment to firms, whose standing and bank guarantees were above suspicion, charging thereon only home rates of interest. An American company, engaged extensively in business with Korea, never draws against shipments, by that means deriving considerable advantage over its competitors. I commend this suggestion to the attention of the British shipper, particularly as trade in Korea is largely dependent upon the rice crop. In the train of a bad harvest comes a reduction of prices. Importers, then, who have ordered stocks beforehand, find themselves placed in a quandary. Their stocks are left upon their hands—it may be for a year, or even longer—and they are confronted with the necessity of meeting the excessive rates of interest current in the Far East. If the manufacturer could meet the merchant by allowing a rate of interest, similar to that prevailing at home, to be charged, the importer of British goods would be less disinclined to indent ahead. Under existing circumstances the merchant must take the risk of ordering in the spring for autumn delivery, and vice-versâ; on the other hand, China and Japan, being within a few days’ distance of Korea, the importer prefers to await the fulfilment of the rice crop, when, as occasion[154] requires, he can cable to Shanghai, Osaka, or elsewhere for whatever may be desired.

Attached to the English Colony in Korea, which numbers one hundred and forty-one, there is the usual complement of clergy and nursing sisters, under the supervision of Bishop Corfe, the chief of the English Mission in Seoul. Miss Cooke, a distinguished lady doctor and a kind friend to the British Colony, is settled in Seoul. A number of Englishmen are employed in the Korean Customs; their services contributing so much to the splendid institution which Mr. McLeavy Brown has created, that one and all are above criticism. Mr. McLeavy Brown would be the first to acknowledge how much the willing assistance of his staff has contributed to his success.

The importance of the American trade in Korea is undeniable. It is composite in its character, carefully considered, protected by the influence of the Minister, supported by the energies of the American missionaries, and controlled by two firms, whose knowledge of the wants of Korea is just forty-eight hours ahead of the realisation of that want by the Korean. This is, I take it, just as things should be. The signs of American activity, in the capital alone, are evident upon every side. The Seoul Electric Car Company, the Seoul Electric Light Company, and the Seoul (Fresh Spring) Water Company have been created by American enterprise, backed up by the “liveness” and ’cuteness of the two concessionaires, whom I have just mentioned, and pushed along by little diplomatic attentions upon the part of the American Minister. The Seoul-Chemulpo Railway Concession was also secured by an American, Mr. Morse, the agent of the American Trading Company, and subsequently sold to the Japanese company in whom the rights[155] of the concession are now vested. The charter of the National Bank of Korea has also been awarded to these Americans, and it is now in process of creation. The only mine in Korea which pays is owned by an American syndicate; and, by the way, Dr. Allen, the American Minister, possesses an intelligible comprehension of the Korean tongue.


There is a large American colony in Korea, totalling in all two hundred and forty. One hundred live in Seoul; sixty-live are employed upon the American Mine at Un-san; thirty-four live at Pyöng-yang. Five are in the service of the Korean Government; ten are associated with the railway; the famous two are engaged in business and the remainder comprise the staffs of the Legation and Consulate, and a medley of missionaries. American trade with Korea embraces kerosene, flour, mining machinery, railway and[156] mining supplies, household goods and agricultural implements, clothing and provisions, drills, sheetings, cotton goods, and cotton yarn. The American mine at Un-san employs seventeen Japanese and one hundred and thirty-three Chinese, one hundred Europeans, of whom thirty-five are American, and four thousand natives, whose wages range from 8d. to 1s. 2d. daily. The private company that has acquired this concession works five separate mines with enormous success; four mills, two of forty stamps and two of twenty stamps, are of long standing. An additional mill of eighty stamps is of more recent construction. During 1901 gold to the amount of £150,000 was exported by the company, while in the year following this sum was very vastly exceeded. The area of the concession is eight hundred square miles.

The future alone can disclose whether Korea is to be absorbed by the Japanese. At present, the Japanese population in Korea exceeds twenty thousand, the actual estimate falling short of twenty-five thousand. The Japanese control the railway between Chemulpo and Seoul, as well as the important trunk line to Fusan, an undertaking now in course of construction and under the immediate supervision of the Japanese Government. The new company has since absorbed the parent line from Seoul to Chemulpo. The capital of this company is twenty-five million yen, £2,500,000, which is to be raised in annual instalments of five million yen, counting from the time when one-tenth of the first instalment of five million yen was found. As a matter of fact, the preliminary turning of the first sods took place at Fusan on September 21st, and at Yong-tong-po on August 20th, in the summer of 1901. From that moment, the Japanese Government made itself[157] responsible for the payment of the debenture bonds, and guaranteed six per cent. upon the company’s subscribed capital for a period of fifteen years.[1] Each share is of the value of £5, the money to be called up as required, each call being at the rate of ten shillings per share. The whole of the 400,000 shares, which was the original allotment, was at once taken up, Japanese and Koreans alone being eligible as shareholders. The estimated cost of the line is £9000 per mile. Work has been completed as far as Syu-won, a distance of twenty-six miles, over which section trains are already running. Construction is, of course, being rapidly pushed forward, and working parties are engaged at a number of places along the line of route.

The length of the Seoul-Fusan Railway will be 287 miles. It is confidently expected that the undertaking will be completed within six years. There will be some forty stations, including the terminal depôts, and it is, perhaps optimistically, estimated that the scheduled time for the journey from Fusan to Seoul will be twelve hours, which is an average of twenty-four miles an hour, including stops, the actual rate of speed being approximately some thirty miles an hour. The present working speed of the Seoul-Chemulpo railway requires a little less than two hours to make the journey between Seoul and Chemulpo, a distance of twenty-five miles, from which it will be seen that considerable improvement must take place if the distance between Seoul and Fusan is to be accomplished within twelve hours.


In the first few miles of the journey, the trunk line to Fusan will run over the metals of the Seoul-Chemulpo railway. The start will be from the station outside the south gate of the capital; the second stop will be Yong-san, and the third No-dol. At the next station, Yong-tong-po, the railway leaves the line of the Seoul-Chemulpo branch to run due south to Si-heung, where it bears slightly eastward until reaching An-yang and Syu-won, some twenty-six miles distant from Seoul. At this point the railway resumes its southerly direction and passes through Tai-hoang-kyo, O-san-tong, and Chin-eui, where it crosses the border of the Kyöng-keui Province into Chyung-chyöng Province, and reaches the town of Pyöng-tak. The line then runs near the coast, proceeding due south to Tun-po, where it will touch tide water, and, bearing due south, reaches On-yang, sixty-nine miles from Seoul. It then proceeds in a south-easterly direction to Chyön-eui, and once again turning directly south crosses the famous Keum River and enters the important town of Kong-chyu. From Kong-chyu, which is ninety-six miles from Seoul, and by its fortunate possession of facilities for water transit, is destined to become an important distributing centre, the line follows its southward course towards Sin-gyo, where an important branch line will be constructed towards the south-west to connect Kang-kyöng, the chief commercial centre of the province, with the main system. It is also probable that a further extension of the line from Sin-gyo towards the south-west will be projected, in order to make communication with Mokpo, the coast port through which passes the grain trade of Chyöl-la and Kyöng-syang Provinces.

The town of Sin-gyo marks one hundred and twenty-five miles from Seoul; beyond Sin-gyo, the south-westerly direction, which the line is now following, changes by an[159] abrupt sweep to the east, where, after passing through Ryön-san, a western spur of the great mountain chain of the peninsula is crossed, and the town of Chin-san entered. Still running east to Keum-san, the valley of the southern branch of the Yang River is traversed in its upper waters, until, after following the river in a north-easterly direction for some little distance, the road takes advantage of a gap in the mountains, through which the Yang River breaks, to cross the stream and turn due east to touch Yang-san, coming to a pause one hundred and forty-one miles from Seoul in Yöng-dong. From Yöng-dong the railway moves forward north-east to Whan-gan, one hundred and fifty-three miles from Seoul, the place lying close within the mountain range but a few miles distant from the Chyu-pung Pass—to cross which will call for more than ordinary engineering skill. Leaving the pass and running slightly south of east, the railway proceeds towards the Nak-tong River, through Keum-san, crossing the stream at Wai-koan, a few miles north-east of Tai-ku, a town of historical importance some two hundred miles from Seoul. The railway then follows the valley of the Nak-tong, and passes to the east of the river, through Hyön-pung, Chyang-pyöng, Ryöng-san, Syök-kyo-chyön, Ryang-san, Mun-chyön, Tong-lai, where the Nak-tong River is again met. The direction from Tai-ku is south-east all the way to Fusan, whence the line runs beside the river. At Kwi-po it strikes across to the native town of Old Fusan, thence running round the Bay to its terminus in the port.

This railway, which provides for extensive reclamation works in the harbour of Fusan, has become already an economic factor of very great importance. More particularly is this manifest when it is remembered that the[160] country through which the line passes is known as the granary of Korea. Developments of a substantial character must follow the completion of this undertaking, the position of Japan in Korea receiving more emphatic confirmation from this work than from anything by which her previous domination of the country has been demonstrated. It will promote the speedy development of the rich agricultural and mining resources of Southern Korea, and as these new areas become accessible by means of the railway, it is difficult to see how the influx of Japanese immigrants and settlers to the southern half of the kingdom can be avoided. Indeed, a very serious situation for the Korean Government has already arisen, since by far the greatest number of the men, engaged upon the construction of the Seoul-Fusan Railway, have signified their intention of becoming permanent settlers in the country. In the case of these new settlers, the company has granted from the land, which it controls on either side of the line, a small plot to each family for the purposes of settlement. While the man works upon the line, his family erect a house and open up the ground. Whether or no the action of the company can be justified to the extent which has already taken place, the policy has resulted in the establishment of a continuous series of Japanese settlements extending through the heart of Southern Korea from Seoul to Fusan.

From time to time the Japanese Government itself has attempted to stem the torrent of Japanese migration to Korea. But the success of the colonies already settled there has made it a delicate and a difficult task—one which, in the future, the Japanese Government may be expected to leave alone. The railway once open, the still greater stimulus which will be imparted to agriculture in the southern half of[161] the kingdom, will appeal to many thousands of other would-be settlers. Whatever objection the Korean Government may offer to this invasion, it is quite certain that with the very heart of the agricultural districts laid bare, Korea must be prepared to see a rapid increase in her already large Japanese population. In a great part the increase is already an accomplished fact. The influence of Japan is already supreme in Korea. It is paramount in the Palace; and it is upheld by settlements in every part of the country. In the capital itself there is a flourishing colony of four thousand adults. She has established her own police force; created her own post-office, telephone, cable and wireless telegraph system. She has opened mines—her principal mine is at Chik-san—and has introduced many social and political reforms, besides being the greatest economic factor in the trade of the kingdom.

Little development has distinguished the concessions secured by the French in Korea. A railway concession was abandoned a few years ago; and an existing charter, covering certain mining rights, has almost expired. M. Colin de Plancy, the amiable and energetic French Minister in Korea, has, however, succeeded in re-arranging the terms of the abandoned concession. In addition to this, in June 1903, he applied for a new gold-mining concession in Chyung-chyöng Province. The concession, which has been revived, was granted so far back as 1896; but it was forfeited long since, and only recently revoked. By the old agreement a French syndicate, La Compagnie de Fines-Lille, received a charter to construct a line of railway between Seoul and Wi-ju, the important frontier port at the mouth of the Yalu. The construction of this line, which will form, together with the Seoul-Fusan railway, the[162] main trunk line of the kingdom, will no longer be the private speculation of a French syndicate, the Imperial Government itself having undertaken to make the road. Two years ago the French Minister succeeded in reviving the interest of the Korean Government in the scheme, and secured an undertaking that the services of French engineers only should be employed, and that the materials for the new work should be supplied by French houses. In continuation of this most excellent piece of diplomacy, M. Colin de Plancy was instrumental, at a little later date, in bringing about the creation of the North-Western Railway Bureau, of which the First Secretary of the French Legation, M. G. Lefevre, was made managing director, with Yi Yong-ik as its President. M. de Lapeyriere became the chief consulting engineer to the railway; M. Bourdaret, and a small army of French engineers, master mechanics, overseers, and skilled workmen were placed upon the pay-sheets of the company.

The Korean Government made itself responsible for the annual disbursement of one hundred thousand yen (£10,000) on this railway, and construction began in the spring of 1902. Operations were suspended, however, owing to the prevalence of the rainy season. Work was resumed again in the autumn and, again, after a short spell of activity, stopped. Lack of the necessary funds is doubtless the reason; yet, nevertheless, the Korean Government refused an offer for the right to construct the line from a Russian financier. This preliminary stage of the line traverses districts famous for their mineral and agricultural resources, and connects the present capital, Seoul, with two former seats of Central Government, Song-do and Pyöng-yang, even now rich and populous towns. It is intended to complete the[163] line to Song-do at once, pushing forward towards Wi-ju, in the hope of connecting with the Trans-Siberian system, when the Government is able to find the funds. The distance between Seoul and Song-do by the line of railway is eighty kilometres. In round figures the cost of construction is placed at about £260,000; the traffic receipts are valued at £12,000, £10,000 of which will be contributed by passenger traffic. The annual working expenses are placed at £8000; and it is “hoped” that the Seoul-Song-do line will be opened to general traffic within two years. The figures are altogether French and airy.

A survey of the line between Seoul and Song-do shows to some extent the nature of the work which awaits the French engineers. Gradients will be about 21 feet to the mile; embankment-building and excavation give 13,000 cubic metres to the kilometre; twenty-six per cent. of the line will be curved, the radius of the most acute bend being some 200 metres; twenty-five moderately large bridges, one hundred and fifty small bridges and culverts will figure in construction. The Im-chin River will be crossed, at first, by ferry; in the end, however, a bridge, five hundred feet in length, will span this break in the line. The gauge of the road would be 1.43 m.; the ties will be 2.50 m. long, 30 m. in width, 1.25 m. thick. There will be 1.70 kilometres for the purpose of side-tracking, and an off-line, 1.30 kilometres long, will branch to Han-chu, on the Han River. Between Seoul and Song-do there will be six stations and four signal points; the rolling stock will consist of five locomotives of the Mallet type, five combined first and second class and eight third class coaches, five luggage cars, and twenty-five freight cars. This comprises the general requirements of the proposed[164] line, evolved out of an abandoned concession by the astuteness and activity of the French Minister.

The line will proceed from outside the West Gate of Seoul, where the terminus will be 48.50 m. above the sea level, towards Yang-wha-chin, crossing the A-o-ya Pass at 59.50 m. Descending to the valley of the Han River, and 17 m. above tide-water, the line traverses the district of Han-ju, and the western county of Ko-yang, leaving the Han valley 31 kilometres from Seoul. The line then crosses the Kyo-wha valley, at an elevation of 15 m., and at 42 kilometres from Seoul crosses a tributary of the Im-chin River at Mun-san-po. Fifty-one kilometres from Seoul the railway will meet the Im-chin River ferry, where passengers and freight, under the existing provisional arrangements, will be transferred to a second train upon the remote side of the river. The line then crosses the Chang-dan district, and moving up the Valley of Song-do enters the Song-do terminus at an elevation of 40 m. The distance by rail is somewhat shorter than by road, and unexpectedly few obstacles have been met with in the course of construction. A rough survey has been made north from Song-do, from which point the railway will run due west to Hai-chu, then due north to Pyöng-yang through Sin-chyön and An-ak. Beyond this point to Wi-ju no survey has been attempted.

It is questionable, however, if the French line promises such satisfactory returns as those which may be expected from the southern railway. When the two lines have been completed and Fusan is in direct communication with the Siberian Railway, some definite expansion in the northern areas of the kingdom may be anticipated, and the railway will be in a position to compete with the junks of the Yalu. But, apart from the border trade, there is little settled[165] industry which may be relied on to contribute traffic to the carrying capacity of this line; nor is it likely that the mines, whose concessions may be said to border the line of railway, will accept it as a medium of transportation so long as they are able to make use of the existing facilities for water transit, with which the American and English mines are served. Of course, it cannot be predicted what mining and agricultural developments may take place in the northern regions of Korea. Gold and coal, copper and iron are known to exist. The development of this mineral wealth may open up the country, and the presence of the mines will create a demand for the local production of certain varieties of food-stuffs. These channels of revenue to the railway are highly problematical. In the absence of any specific value, which may be attached to the prospects of the French line, a comparison between the relative importance of the two undertakings confirms the superiority of the Japanese concession upon every count. The strategic, as well as the commercial, significance of the southern trunk line must impress the Koreans with its very positive qualities.

There are some eighty French subjects in Korea, of whom forty are French priests and one a bishop. Three are associated with the North-Western Railway Bureau; two are in the Korean Customs; two have been given employment in the Imperial Mines, and one has become legal adviser to the Imperial Government. One is attached to the French School; one manages, most admirably and successfully, the Imperial Korean Post Office. Two are working in the Korean Arsenal, and three assist in the management of the Hôtel du Palais. The members of the French colony have been lately increased by the addition of a number of French engineers, who have fallen upon the[166] Korean Government in the hope of finding employment with the Railway Bureau. These transitory visitors are not included in my figures.

The German colony is small and insignificant. German interests, however, have been given the concession of a railway line from Seoul to Won-san. A mine, controlled by a German syndicate, and located at Tong-ko-kai, has been abandoned with the loss of the many thousand pounds which had been laid out upon machinery and mining material in general. Germans possess no other concessions. There is an important firm in Chemulpo, and this house has established a branch in Seoul. A distinguishing feature of the business is that there are Germans in both the Seoul and Chemulpo offices who are thoroughly familiar with the Korean language. This, as the country develops, will not be without effect; and the fact seems to illustrate very admirably the methodical system upon which German commerce in the Far East is built up. The Court band has been entrusted to the training of a German professor. The effect is very solemn, and perhaps discloses the necessity for the introduction of a German physician to the Imperial Household. This counterblast to the position, which a singular power of sympathy and great professional ability has won for Miss Cooke, is of recent accomplishment. This English lady doctor has been for many years physician-in-ordinary to the Imperial Household, and enjoys the complete confidence of the Court. Miss Cooke is the only foreigner who has succeeded in overcoming native prejudice and suspicion entirely.

The battle of concessions is as keen in Korea as in China. The latest Power to interest itself in the exploitation of the mineral deposits of Korea is Belgium, hitherto without[167] special concern in the development of the mining interests of the kingdom. Now, however, Belgium has come forward, and it is understood that a concession, nine hundred square li[2] in extent, has been granted to its nationals. The Belgians have undertaken to lend the Korean Government 4,000,000 yen, receiving in exchange the lease of the mines for twenty-five years. The concession is situated at Ta-bäk Mountain, at the point where the Chyung-chyöng, Kyöng-syang and Kang-won Provinces meet. At this moment it is impossible to state the value of this new concession; but the Belgians are shrewd, close-fisted people. It is doubtful, therefore, if their venture will be as unfortunate as our own, or the German, has been.

Adverting to the foreign trade of Korea again, foreign merchants possess a very definite grievance against the Japanese manufacturing houses who cater for the Korean markets. After the closest investigation, I venture to assert there are but few of the so-called foreign-made articles, exposed to sale in the shops of the Japanese settlements in any of the open ports in Korea, that are not most shameless imitations. For the most part they are concocted in Japan, and embellished with the necessary designs and trade marks, with some imperceptible modification. The illegality of this practice is incontrovertible. In the absence of any supervision upon the part of the Korean Customs, or by representatives of merchants affected by these tricks, it is difficult to see how they may be avoided. I add a table, showing the various articles counterfeited by Japanese manufacturers with which I am personally familiar, and which are on sale under false descriptions. In each instance the imitation comes from Japan.



Great Britain:









Japanese kerosene oil comes over in cans which exactly reproduce the pattern of the Standard Oil Company.

John Orr-Ewing and Company’s Turkey reds, in breadths of 27 in. and 40 yds. long, and colour fast, become 27 in. in breadth, 37½ yds. in length, the colour is not fast, the material shrinks and the weight is 5 lbs. deficient.

The trade mark of the firm, “Parrot Brand,” with a picture of the bird, is the most perfect imitation imaginable.

Imitations of Nestlé’s milk, Bryant and May’s matches, Boehringer’s quinine, and many other articles have been repeatedly denounced by the firms.




Some account of the treaty ports; Won-san, Fusan, Mok-po—Character of export and import trade—Local industries

The oldest of the settlements in Korea is the port of Won-san, situated upon the eastern shores of the kingdom, half-way between Fusan and Vladivostock.

The picturesqueness of its setting makes the spacious harbour of this bustling treaty port a graceful conclusion to any tour which has had for its object the inspection of the scenic loveliness of the Diamond Mountains. There is little indeed to disturb the placid enjoyment of life amid the pine-clad bluffs and frowning headlands which surround the broad waters of the bay. The fact of passing from the seclusion of wild valleys and rugged heights, sheltering only the monasteries of Buddha, into the lively atmosphere of a treaty port does not destroy the illusions which any stay in the lofty regions of these Twelve Thousand Peaks necessarily fosters.

Within wooded cliffs, which hang above a fringe of silver sand, looking out over a harbour forty square miles in extent, where mountains encompass every quarter of the horizon, and rocky islets, verdant with vegetation, stud a sapphire sea, there lies a spot where the fleets of the world might swing at anchor with perfect safety, in perfect isolation.[171] It is certainly a wonderful harbour; and worthy of the commotion caused at intervals by the desire of Russia to secure possession of the prize. The superb advantages with which it is endowed make it an object of solicitude to the Powers. If possession of this harbour were coupled with the occupation of Vladivostock and Port Arthur, the control of those northern seas would rest with the Russian fleet. Otherwise, it is a peaceful place to be the centre of so much political turmoil.

Won-san, the treaty port, is situated in the south-west corner of the harbour. The northern arm of the harbour is known as Port Lazareff; the south-eastern portion is Broughton Bay, the name which is usually given to the entire harbour. Captain W. R. Broughton, the English navigator, first entered it on October 4, 1797, in his sloop-of-war of 16 guns, Providence. Port Lazareff is about sixteen miles from Won-san, in a westerly direction across the bay, at the mouth of the Dun river. It is the point which Russia was credited with the intention of securing for the terminus of her Trans-Siberian Railway. There are two entrances into Broughton Bay, one giving direct admission into Port Lazareff. Russian men-of-war make the most of this advantage in visiting the harbour, for it enables them to enter without revealing their presence to the authorities upon shore. Upon one occasion, when I was visiting the neighbourhood, I surprised parties from two Russian men-of-war engaged in surveying the hills and taking soundings of the anchorages; their presence was quite unsuspected by the Japanese Consul or by the Commissioner of Customs.

The bay is well protected by chains of mountains, its physical perfections in this respect rendering it of peculiar[172] value as a naval base. The channel into the harbour is broad, deep, and free from all encumbrances. Numerous islands are so situated about the mouth that every approach could be strongly protected. Besides being easy of access, there is an average depth of about nine fathoms upon a firm bottom. The water is free from ice in winter, notwithstanding the severity of the cold in this region. Inexhaustible supplies of spring water can be obtained; and, in the proper season, the shooting and fishing afford very varied sport. These are, however, but the accessories to a harbour, which, if it were fortified and converted into a first-class naval station, would be the equal of Vladivostock and superior to every other station in the Far East. It is far in advance of anything which the Powers have seized in China.

Between Hong Kong and Dalny, the commercial harbour of Port Arthur, which Russia has endeavoured to improve since it belonged to China, there is no anchorage which could be so readily and inexpensively adapted to the requirements of a first-class naval station of a first-class naval Power. At present, Won-san harbour is visited only by the squadrons which Russia and Japan maintain in this water. Although there is a flourishing Japanese settlement upon shore, no Japanese gun-boat is detached as yet for guardship duties. At Fusan and Chemulpo, however, the practice of detailing ships for port duties is carefully observed, Japan losing few opportunities to impress upon her neighbour in particular, and the world in general, the significance of her interests in Korea.

Won-san was opened to Japanese trade in 1880, becoming a general foreign settlement on November 3rd, three years later. Although its subsequent development is due entirely[173] to the industry of the Japanese, and their undoubted commercial sagacity, its imports of foreign trade in recent years have contributed to the position which it now takes in the commercial progress of the country. The economic expansion of the port, however, has been promoted by the business resulting from the immigration of Japanese settlers and the doubling of the native population. Materials for clothing, cotton goods, grass-cloth, and silk are pre-eminent in the local requirements. A comparison of the annual returns discloses a steady advance in its prosperity, the paramount influence, which the Japanese exercise over its welfare, restricting foreign trade to those articles which cannot be imported from Japan. Business has just doubled in six years; but the increase in the import trade is not in favour of British goods. The imposition of the tariff, which prevails in European Russia, at Vladivostock, accounted for the general advance in foreign imports at Won-san during 1901. In the following year, 1902, the imports were again heavier than the exports, the figures being: Imports, £191,535, and exports, £102,205. The local government of the port is conducted upon Japanese lines. The streets are broad, well gravelled, and fringed with an irregular border of trees. After the foul and narrow lanes of the Korean town, through which it is necessary to pick one’s way before entering the settlement, their appearance is cheerful and attractive.

Won-san, the native town which has given its name to the port, is two miles from the heart of the settlement, and comprises a quaint medley of thatched and tiled houses, crowded together in narrow and noisome alleys. The main road from Seoul to the frontier, one of the six great roads of the country, lies through the centre of the town. The[174] clusters of hovels, upon both sides of this excellent highway, suggest that the eligible sites are only those which abut upon this spacious thoroughfare. Glimpses of the bay are visible through gaps in the houses. The smell of the sea is lost in the fumes of drying fish and decaying garbage, which hang heavily in the atmosphere, impregnating everything and penetrating everywhere, save to the wind-swept heights which encircle the bay. A population of 15,000 huddles in these groups of thatched shops and tumble-down houses.

The native town ceases abruptly about a mile from the settlement. Fields of vegetables border the road. The strip of beach upon which the town is placed, is black with patches of fish spread to the sun, littered with fishing nets, and encumbered with crazy fishing-boats and junks. After a little it disappears around cliffs, whose crests are fragrant with pine and fir trees. Tortuous valleys, giving glimpses of prosperous villages set in their midst against a background of majestic peaks and ridges of hills, well-timbered headlands and promontories upon which are set the houses of the missionaries, combine, with the broad waters of the bay and the vista of the open sea beyond, to form a series of picturesque and supremely attractive views. There are nearly three thousand Japanese in residence at Won-san, a few Chinese merchants, and a small foreign community, including the Commissioner of Customs and Mrs. Wakefield, and the Customs staff. The rest are evangelists of no great importance.

The climate of Won-san is dry and healthy. The heat is tempered by sea breezes and the nights are cool. The mean temperature for the summer is seventy-three degrees, and for the winter twenty-nine degrees; the rainfall is forty-four[175] inches, a little greater than that upon the west coast. Snow falls to a depth of four feet, covering the mountains from October until May. The port is, however, rather cooler than Chemulpo in summer and a little warmer in winter, the dryness of the atmosphere considerably modifying the cold. The splendour of an autumn sky continues throughout the winter, when the principal shooting is to be obtained.

Much historical interest attaches to many of the more beautiful spots in the vicinity. From this neighbourhood sprang the kings of Ancient Ko-ryö; and again, it gave birth to the reigning house of Cho-syön, for, in the monastery of Sok-wan, twenty-two miles distant, A Tai-cho, the first king of the present dynasty, was educated and lived. The monastery itself, with its temples, was erected by the King to mark the spot where, 509 years ago, he received that supernatural summons to rule, in virtue of which his descendants now occupy the throne. In the seclusion of this beautiful spot, the early years of A Tai-cho were passed in meditation, study, and preparation for his future kingship. Many of the magnificent trees, which embower the temples and rise in stately dignity from the grand mountain clefts, in which the monastery is situated, are reputed to have been planted by his hands. In a building apart, into which no one is allowed to enter, save the monk in whose keeping the relics are placed, his regalia and robes of State are preserved to this day.

Won-san is situated in the southern corner of the province of Ham-kyöng. A considerable portion of its trade is carried on with the closely adjoining divisions of Pyöng-an and Kang-won, the three provinces forming the northern half of the kingdom; their population is variously estimated[176] at between three and five millions. Mountains predominate in these districts. A bewildering tangle of wooded hills and bleak peaks meets the eye, jumbling and jostling one another in every direction until nothing is seen but broken mountains and ridges cleft into a thousand little valleys. More especially is this the case in Ham-kyöng and Kang-won; in Pyöng-an the valleys broaden out and the hills become lower and less frequent, giving place to the Ta-dong River, and many wide spaces for agricultural purposes. Among these broken ranges in the neighbourhood of Won-san, and towards the interior, there is much sport. Sable, ermine, and otter are trapped in Northern Ham-kyöng; tigers, leopards, bears, wolves and foxes are rare in fact, plentiful in fiction. Wild boar, deer and hares are not uncommon; pheasants are less numerous than formerly. Snipe appear in August, duck in September, geese and wild fowl in the winter on the marshes and lagoons. There is much game upon the land, and there is much sport in the sea. Whales, shark, seal, salmon, and innumerable small species wait to be caught, the products of sea and land combining to make the place a sportsman’s paradise.


The approach to the treaty port of Fusan is through a bay strewn with green islands and encompassed by high cliffs. A narrow path, skirting the shore and running over the cliffs, leads presently to Old Fusan, a walled city of great antiquity, situated at the end of a stretch of ten miles of sea, which forms one of the arms of the bay. New Fusan is like every other Korean treaty port. The smells of the Japanese settlement were worse, however, very much worse, as I well remember, than any which rose from the sewers and slimy alleys of the old town. Old Fusan stands alone, at the head of the bay, looking down from its ruined and crumbling[177] walls across the waste of water, musing in decrepit isolation upon departed glories. New Fusan, the foreign quarter, is very noisy, very dirty, and uncomfortable. The Japanese shopkeepers make little attempt to provide for other aliens; the wretched hotel demurs at receiving them. The place is thoroughly Japanese, prosperous, active, and enduring. It is the focus of the tumble-down steamers which run between the ports of Korea and Japan, venturing even to Taku, Port Arthur and Vladivostock. Upon all sides there is the appearance of industry and trade, inseparable from any Japanese community. In conjunction with the Seoul-Fusan Railway a vast scheme of harbour reclamation is in progress. This will provide suitable sites for godowns, in which the port is sadly deficient. The making of roads, the installation of electric light, and the construction of large waterworks are the objects which have already received the attention of the[178] Japanese authorities. There is a Japanese Consul-General in Fusan, who administers Japanese law to some fourteen thousand of his fellow countrymen. Half of this number is comprised in the floating population, whose sole business is fishing. The valuable fisheries lying off the coast and in the adjacent archipelago return an annual yield of ten million herring and half a million cod. Altogether, the bustle and confusion of the place supports its claim to be the most important of the treaty ports of Korea, in spite of the neglect with which British merchants treat it. The actual Japanese population of the Fusan settlement in 1901 was seven thousand and fourteen, an increase of more than one thousand upon the returns of the previous year—six thousand and four. Since then there has been a further increase, and the population at the present time falls little short of nine thousand.

The activity of the Japanese in the open ports of Korea does not correspond in any way to the size of the port. Whatever may be the local conditions, there is no falling-off in their untiring enterprise. If the port has been established ten or twenty years, or only one, their commercial vigour is the same. After the settlements of Won-san, Fusan, and Chemulpo, a visit to the port of Mok-po, declared open in the autumn of 1897, fails to elicit much which is new or important. Mok-po is very small. To those who are interested in the subject, it gives an excellent example of the cool, resolute manner in which the Japanese build up a very flourishing settlement upon the foundations of an unprepossessing native village. The pioneers of the ports in Korea, it is natural that they should select the best available sites for their own quarter. At Mok-po, repeating a system which was adopted in the case of Fusan, Won-san, and[179] Chemulpo, the Japanese settlement commands the one situation which is adaptable for commercial purposes. The approaches to Mok-po lie through a network of island and rock-strewn channels, the largest of which is some six hundred yards wide. The harbour is the embouchure of the River Ru-yong-san, the main water-way of the province, some ninety miles long. It can accommodate forty vessels of large tonnage. The best passage is through Lyne Sound, but easy access is given, from the south, by Washington Gulf. The width of the harbour is a little less than two miles, with a depth at low water of eleven fathoms, rising to nineteen on a full tide. At ebb tide the current averages five knots an hour; during the spring tides this velocity increases, adding to the disadvantages offered by an indifferent holding-ground.

Mok-po is situated in the south-western corner of the Province of Chyöl-la, sometimes called the granary of Korea. The port takes its name from a large island, which faces it on the north, and forms the entrance to the river. It is picturesque and stands sufficiently high to break the monotony of the surrounding country. Rough and barren to look upon, it possesses the nucleus of what will become an important settlement as trade increases. The buildings of the Japanese Consulate and the Customs House are the most imposing structures at present in the place. The British Consulate, a mass of rock, unadorned, bluff, bare and bleak, is the most desolate and depressing. A vista of mud flats does not add to the beauty of this spot. A well-built sea-wall, behind which some acres of marshy shore have been reclaimed, indicates the spirit in which the Japanese set to work to improve their concessions.

A composite trade centres at Mok-po, exceeding one[180] hundred thousand pounds in value. Foreign imports stand for quite eighty thousand of this total. It is, perhaps, needless to add that no British shipping has entered the harbour within the six years of its existence. German and American steamers have nevertheless brought cargoes to Mok-po; Japanese steamers touch regularly. The trade is that of a native market, whose demands can be furnished from Japan; it is, of course, beneath the notice of the British exporter. Piece goods, Japanese and American cigarettes, matches, yarn, articles which the humbler classes now use and for which, owing to the rapidly increasing native population of this south-western Province, there will be greater demand in the future, make up the trade.


It may be that this port, despised by the British merchant, as are all the ports of Korea, will some day head the centres of commerce of the kingdom. Even now it attracts foreign goods from Japan, America, and Germany. There are many channels through which British wares, cheap, enduring, practical and suitable to prevailing conditions could filter to the advantage of the British merchant. Cereals are raised in large quantities, straw-matting, grass-cloth, paper and fans are the other native manufactures. A vein of bituminous coal has been struck within a short distance[181] of the port. In two industries—the making of paper and the weaving of grass-cloth—there are opportunities for expansion, which any enterprising and intelligent agent could promote by introducing cheap chemicals and inexpensive mechanical appliances. In the paper-making trade alone there is a rich harvest to be garnered by the firm who will choose to devote time, energy and patience to the creation of a business in alkalies. Already the basis of a remunerative connection exists among the villages devoted to this labour.



Treaty Ports (continued)—Wi-ju—Syön-chyön-po—Chin-am-po—Pyöng-yang—Kun-san—Syöng-chin

The ports which remain to be mentioned, have not yet attained a commercial importance entitling them to any great consideration. They afford, however, a signal illustration of the enterprising spirit in which the Koreans have met the demands made upon them, and, as the interests of the country increase, the natural expansion of the inland trade will enhance their value.

Hitherto, Southern Korea has been better served in the matter of open ports than the northern half of the kingdom. With the addition to the list of treaty ports of Syöng-chin, upon the north-eastern coast, and Chin-am-po (with Pyöng-yang, an old-time capital of Korea, and ranking to-day as the third city of the Empire, in close proximity), upon the western coast, greater facilities have been accorded to the commercial development of the almost unknown markets of Northern Korea. In view, however, of the trade in the southern provinces of the kingdom, the port of Kun-san was created on the west coast simultaneously with the opening of Syöng-chin in 1899 upon the north-east shore. This port lies between Chemulpo and Mok-po, at the mouth of the Keum River, the natural boundary between the two provinces, Chyöl-la and Chyung-chyöng.


It is, nevertheless, to the north and north-east regions that foreign commerce must look for that impetus to industrial activity, which comes from the opening of new markets. A most important trade-centre already exists in Wi-ju, at the mouth of the Yalu river. This town requires to be opened; in the meantime, its position upon the border of Manchuria attracts a varied and valuable direct trade. Moreover, if Wi-ju were brought under the administration and control of the Maritime Customs of Korea, and included among those ports which have already been declared, a greater restraint could be put upon the smugglers, who have made it a centre of communication in their illicit trade. At this moment it is difficult to say whether Wi-ju may be quite properly included among the treaty ports. If official assurances can be safely accepted, the Government of Korea decided on August 22nd, 1903, to declare Wi-ju an open port, at the same time placing a Customs house at Yong-an-po. The difference between the two is hardly greater than that separating Pyöng-yang from Chin-am-po. Unfortunately, this decision is by no means definite, although a few days later, on September 4th, an announcement to the same effect was made by the Foreign Office at Seoul to the foreign representatives. This official ratification of its previous decision would carry conviction if the policy of the Korean Cabinet were less vacillating, and the opposition of the Russian Minister less strenuous. The Russian Minister objects in an equal degree to the opening of Yong-an-po, and, since M. Colin de Plancy, the French Minister, is supporting his Russian colleague, M. Pavloff, in opposition to the opening of Wi-ju, future developments may prove M. Pavloff to have withdrawn his objections against Wi-ju in order that he can[184] concentrate them upon Yong-an-po. Unfortunately for Russian interests, British policy in Korea favours the opening of both ports, an action in which Mr. Jordan, the British Minister in Seoul, is cordially supported by many of his colleagues.

The action of the British Government in respect of these ports on the Yalu is quite encouraging, and it is equally satisfactory to see that Mr. Jordan has maintained his attitude with admirable consistency. The demand of the British Government was presented to his Majesty at a special audience on July 14th, 1903. It evoked at once the opposition of the Russians, whose objections were communicated officially to the Korean Government when, a few days later, the British Minister sent a despatch to the Foreign Office to inquire upon what date Wi-ju would become an open port. Meanwhile, the Japanese Minister reiterated the request of the British Government, which, at the same time, was supported by an identical demand from the Chinese Foreign Office, through the Korean Minister in Pekin. For a few days matters remained stationary, the situation becoming a little involved by the resignation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Yi To-chai, upon the plea of ill-health. The Emperor refused the resignation, and on August 9th the British Minister sent an urgent despatch, which demanded the opening of Wi-ju within seven days. A few days later a decision, favourable to the request of the British Minister, was delivered, and it remains to be seen whether permanent effect will be given to it. Meanwhile, as the readiest means of giving effect to the new dignity of the port, a small posse of Japanese police has been sent to Wi-ju to protect the settlement.

Syön-chyön-po, the youngest of the open ports, is in its[185] very early days. It is situated about forty miles to the south of Wi-ju. Its future prosperity is uncertain, but from its position, midway between Chin-am-po and Wi-ju, it should become an important port of call for native shipping. At present Syön-chyön-po is administered from Chin-am-po, but the lines of its future settlement have been planned, and it will doubtless develop into a thriving Japanese colony. For the moment there is little trade.


The Ta-dong River, at the estuary of which Chin-am-po lies, is one of the most important and picturesque streams in the country. It drains the southern and south-eastern divisions of Pyöng-an Province; upon its banks, sixty-seven miles from the sea, is Pyöng-yang, the early capital and oldest city of the Empire. Around Pyöng-yang still lingers a host of romantic associations, historical and legendary. Towns and villages are found upon the banks of the Ta-dong; there is much rugged beauty in the scenery, and the water-shed has landmarks of great physical and historical importance. The velocity of the[186] river current during the spring tides averages three and a quarter knots. During the ebb, over against the Chin-am-po bank, there is an increase of two knots caused by a projecting point upon the opposite shore of the river. The formation of the Ta-dong inlet is irregular; many indentations, which mark the outline of the anchorage, become mud flats at low water. Prior to the selection of Chin-am-po as a treaty port, the native village consisted of a few straggling huts and a population of less than one thousand. Now, however, the old order has given way to the new. The mud flats have been reclaimed and so many improvements have taken place in the general conditions of the port that a bright future may be confidently predicted for it.

Chin-am-po, the settlement, is situated upon the northern shore of the Ta-dong inlet, about fifteen miles from its entrance in the extreme south-west of Pyöng-an Province. The port was opened to foreign trade in October 1897. During the few years of its existence as an open port, Chin-am-po has made no little progress. At the present time it gives promise of becoming an exceedingly important commercial centre. The increase of the foreign trade and the flourishing condition of the native market have attracted the attention of the Japanese, who have already made a considerable settlement in the port. Estimates of the native population vary from fifteen to forty thousand, the smaller figure being nearer the mark. The trade compares favourably, in point of value and bulk, with that of ports of equal capacity, similarly situated. Its development is somewhat restricted, the two great forces contributing to its material economy being the impetus which has been given to local agricultural resources, and the mining industry. When the[187] concessions of the American and British Mining Companies at Un-san and Eun-san were granted, Chin-am-po became the port of shipment for much of their traffic.

The commercial possibilities of the region, which lies between the Ta-dong River and the water-shed of the Yalu, are in the earliest stages of development. Much might be predicted of the returns which these new fields would yield to intelligent exploitation. Cut off from the eastern division of the kingdom by ranges of mountains, and extending from Po-reup-san, near Chin-am-po, in the south, to the mountain fastnesses of the northern frontiers of the Empire, is a stretch of country in part uninhabited. It is frequented by bands of Korean robbers and Chinese bandits; the centre of much native mining and the scene of perpetual border warfare. The haunt of the wild beast, barren and almost impenetrable, it is practically untouched by Western civilisation. Its groves of pines and firs, and acres of woods, recall the time when Northern Korea was one vast forest. Until quite lately there were but two open ports for the service of this region, Chin-am-po and Pyöng-yang. The third, Syön-chyön-po, in its northern extremity, is still closed to Europeans. Gold and coal, iron and copper, are among its natural resources. The soil is productive; and the moment is ripe for the initiation of industrial enterprises. Moreover, commercial prosperity would introduce a more pacific note into the condition of these lone lands.

Pyöng-yang lies upon the borders of an extensive anthracite and bituminous coal district. The outcroppings are plainly traceable, although at present not indicative of any very serviceable quality of fuel. Coal, however, is not the least of the minerals, nor are the resources of the soil confined to the production of beans. Stone quarrying and the[188] timber industry flourish in the province. The authentic records of Pyöng-yang go back some three thousand years, the creation of the city coinciding with that of the Kingdom of Israel. Saul, David, and Solomon were the contemporaries of Ki-ja and his successors. In more modern times the most stirring events recorded are the massacre of the crew of the “General Sherman,” in 1866, and the long chapter of vicissitudes which befell the city during the Chino-Japanese campaign. The ravages of war and the devastation of pestilence in 1895 left a deserted and ruined city. Nevertheless, as if to remind the inhabitants of the former dignity of their town, the tide of its fortunes turned, and some measure of prosperity returned. In the interval, trade revived; a small foreign community now lives within the walls, and it is hoped that the days of evil omen are as distant as are the times when this old-world capital first enclosed herself within protecting walls. Commercially and industrially it has advanced enormously; and, as a sign of the times, may be mentioned the fact that the native community has founded a private English Language school. Pyöng-yang is associated so intimately with Chin-am-po that the two are inseparably united in any survey of the fortunes of either. Nevertheless, the continuation of Pyöng-yang as an open port is uncertain, the Korean Government having expressed the intention of closing the port if they are compelled to throw open Wi-ju. The British, American and Japanese representatives have resolutely opposed this suggestion.

The port of Kun-san, which was thrown open in May 1899, to foreign settlement and general trade, taps channels in the main identical with those which supply Mok-po. Depending to a great extent upon the agricultural resources[189] of the provinces of Chyöl-la and Chyung-chyöng, its trade is confined to the exportation of cereals, such as rice, wheat, and beans; of grass-cloth, paper, and bamboo articles; and of varieties of fish and seaweed. When the railway between Seoul and Fusan is completed, the development of the agricultural resources of these areas will re-act upon the fortunes of this port. It is, however, quietly thriving in the interval, content to play a prominent rôle in the coast trade rather than to figure as a port of call, in any exchange of commodities with China and Japan. In early days, the port itself was well known as the export station for revenue rice, when the Government revenues were paid in grain. The practice has not been maintained in more recent years. In Kun-san there is an increasing colony of Japanese, a large native population, and a small Chinese community. The import trade, however, is confined to Japanese manufactures, including, broadly, those counterfeits of foreign goods—Manchester shirtings, Chinese lawns, Indian yarns, American kerosene and English and Swedish matches—in the production of which our lively imitators have attained an unusual standard of perfection.

The most isolated of all the open ports is Syöng-chin, upon the north-eastern coast, in the province of Ham-kyöng, about one hundred and twenty miles from Won-san. It was opened in May 1899; the trade, principally with Won-san, and carried on by Japanese, is unimportant. There is a field for expansion, as gold, copper, and coal exist within a short distance of the town. There are also white granite quarries in the neighbourhood. The off-shore sea-fishing supports a colony of Japanese; large numbers of cattle are raised for the market in the province, and the country around is under cultivation for beans. The[190] export trade is in beans, hides, and fish; the imports include kerosene, matches, and cotton goods. There is no direct native trade with Japan. The present condition of Syöng-chin suggests that it was once a fortified town of importance. There are the ruins of a high protecting wall, surmounted with watch-towers and battlements. Time, poverty and neglect are responsible for its present impoverished condition. There is a small native population. The anchorage is little more than an open roadstead. It is easy of access, deep, and has an excellent holding. Vessels drawing ten feet can lie within a short distance of the shore. Fogs and high winds prevail in spring, but, upon the whole, the climate is more temperate at all seasons than Won-san.

The port lies near the 41st parallel, facing nearly north-east, midway between Won-san and Vladivostock. The prevailing wind, winter and summer, blows from the south-west. It is only in times of atmospheric disturbance, an infrequent condition in these latitudes, that a north-east blow renders the anchorage unsafe, and compels vessels to shift their moorings to the north-east end of the bay, where the Sarako headland gives them shelter. Water to the depth of five fathoms obtains within 200 yards of the shore. The rise and fall of spring tides is about two feet. No obstacles present themselves to the building of a landing-stage and boat harbour. When the port was opened, a few huts represented the native town. Since then about 250 houses have been erected, and more are being built. At no distant date it is probable that Syöng-chin will displace the neighbouring Im-myöng as the market place. The foreign community is represented by a Japanese Consul and staff, Japanese police force and postal staff,[191] schoolmaster, shipping agent and workmen. A British doctor and his family, belonging to the Canadian Mission, reside there. The only foreign house erected within the settlement limits is that occupied by the Japanese Consul.



Russian interests—Russia and Japan—Ma-san-po—Ching-kai-wan—Yong-an-po

Russian industrial activity in Korea may be regarded as a cloak for political schemes. Since the time that the Emperor became the protected guest of the Russian Legation, the influence of Russia in Korea has been more definite in quality. Assisted by French capital, a Russian company has started recently a cattle ranch and sheep-run at A-ya-chin, on the coast of Kang-won Province, with a view to the establishment of a canning factory, which is now in process of construction. In addition to this, she has set up a glass factory at Seoul, a proceeding which throws no light upon her motives. She has promoted the Pacific Whale Fishing Company, which, plying its trade off the coast of Korea, collects very valuable information of unsurveyed bays and unsounded anchorages, water-holes, coal-deposits, and currents—and occasionally catches a whale. It possesses twelve vessels. Russia controls no railway line in Korea, although she is interested in the line which the French are building; no gold mine, but a geographical exploration party of naval officers has been topographically examining the region of the Yalu River for some years. She has been accorded certain rights in Ma-san-po; she is endeavouring[193] to secure the concession of a site suitable for a naval station, and through virtue of a lumber felling concession on the Yalu, she has located herself at Yong-an-po. In May 1903, too, a commercial commission travelled from Seoul to Wi-ju, overland.

As rapidly as circumstances permit, Russia is connecting her Manchurian telegraphic system with the trunk lines of Korea, and telegraphic communication is in course of construction between Mukden and Wi-ju, Vladivostock and Won-san. The action of Russia in this respect has encountered very great opposition from Korea. When the Korean Cabinet declined to grant permission for the erection of the poles, for which the Russian engineers had not waited, M. Pavloff, the Russian Minister, delicately hinted that the removal of the poles would be regarded as an unfriendly act, and one liable to create unpleasantness between the two Governments. The Korean Government, however, were not frightened into drawing back, and for some months past the local officials have been occupied in cutting down whatever poles the Russians might erect. Russia, also, proposes to rebuild the telegraph line from Pekin to Seoul viâ Wi-ju, while further, it is her avowed intention to construct from Mukden a branch of her railway to An-tung on the Yalu River.

Russia has been associated, also, with the Korean army, the Russian military authorities having lent a number of drill-instructors to the Korean service. They have now been withdrawn. The management of the residence, in which apartments are found for the guests of the Imperial Court, has been entrusted to a Russian lady. There are very few Russian residents in Seoul. Those who live there comprise the immediate personnel of the Legation, the[194] Legation guards, priests of the Greek Church, and some sprinkling of the shop-keeping element. The colony is small, but contrives, with the aid of a port guardship at Chemulpo and constant visits from the Pacific Squadron, when performances are given by the band from the guard-ship for the delectation of the Imperial Court, to support the majesty and dignity of the Russian Government with much impressive display. Proposals have been recently made to establish consulates in the open ports of the Empire—the Consulate from the capital is now established at Chemulpo; to increase the services of the steamers of the Manchurian Railway between the open ports of Korea and Manchuria, and to found a branch of the Russo-Chinese Bank at Chemulpo. It is intended, too, that the Russian Pacific Squadron shall use the Korean harbours more frequently as ports of call.

For some years Russia has been gradually feeling her way in Korea. Prior to 1885 there were over twenty thousand Koreans settled in her Far Eastern possessions, while in 1888 Russia concluded a Commercial Convention with Korea, which opened the Korean land frontier to Russian traders. In 1893 telegraphic communication between Russia and Korea was arranged, when, just as the Russian policy towards Korea perhaps was beginning to shape itself, war between China and Japan was declared. Whatever conclusions may have been anticipated as the results of such a war, there can be no doubt that its effect upon the actual destinies of Russia and Japan in the Far East was far-reaching. The policy of Russia towards China underwent a change, while the ultimate possession of Korea became equally the objective of Japan as of the greater Power. Russia, however, could not afford to profit at the moment by the downfall of China, and[195] Japan was not strong enough to hold the Liao-tung Peninsula nor bold enough to seize Korea. Nevertheless, driven out of the Liao-tung by the action of Russia, France and Germany, Japan might still have secured for herself complete material and political ascendency over Korea. In time, if such had been her policy, she could have made manifest, too, her occupation of the kingdom and equipped herself with an argument, the parallel of that possessed by Great Britain in Egypt, and by Russia in Manchuria. Unhappily, while Russia with masterly deliberation was moving steadily forward in her subjugation of Manchuria, Japan, whole-hearted but ignorant of the pitfalls of colonial expansion, was creating endless difficulties for herself in Korea, besides serious complications with the Powers outside the scenes of her activities. Before she had realised the potentialities of her position, she had committed herself to a design by which she hoped to secure the King and Queen and to direct herself the reins of government. But her coup d’état was to recoil disastrously, and at once, upon her own head. The Queen fell a victim to the plot, and although the King was imprisoned, he, together with the Crown Prince, contrived in a little time to find refuge in the Russian Legation. The escape of the King only emphasised the failure of Japan, and despite her subsequent treaties with Russia, in respect of Korea, the balance of power in the Far East as between Russia and Japan has never quite recovered from the blow which Japan administered herself to her own prestige upon this occasion.

Japan still wields material influence of a high order in Korea. But, within the paramount position which she fills, there is the rift caused by the spread of the antagonistic and insidious influence of her great opponent. Curiously[196] enough, the position which Russia holds to-day is not nearly as assertive as that which she occupied in 1896, yet there is little doubt that her influence is more commanding, if less conspicuously aggressive. Japan has turned aside upon occasion from the political issues to develop her commercial interests. Russia, again, has pursued unswerving the policy which revealed with the fall of China the fact that Manchuria was within her grasp and that Korea was its entail.



The action of Russia upon the Yalu River at the present time, her action in respect of Won-san in the past, are each animated by this motiv. Russia regards Korea as the completion of her dominions in the Far East, while Japan looks upon the little kingdom as the corollary to that expansion which is essential to the existence of the Island Empire. Russia in Manchuria and Korea, with her shadow projected over China, would mean a sentence of perpetual restriction and shrinkage for Japan. But, similarly, Russia from her position at Vladivostock and Port Arthur must regard the occupation of Korea by Japan as a wedge with its point projected towards the centre of her Manchurian communications. Just as, therefore, the fear of a Russian descent upon Korea has excited Japan, the necessity for such action has brought the crisis in the relations between Japan and Russia so perceptibly nearer. Private agreements and secret overtures have paved the way for the denouement which long since was disclosed. When Russia endeavoured to requisition the harbour of Ma-san-po for the requirements of her Pacific Squadron, an indication was afforded that Russian activity in Korea would be concealed no longer. Ma-san-po has since become an open port, the Government of Japan at once formulating ingenious objections to the[198] Russian scheme at the same time that they threatened the Government of Korea with threats of immediate reprisals. But prior to the conditions laid down by Russia in the Ma-san-po Convention of 1900 with the Korean Government, this magnificent harbour had already attracted the attention of the Japanese and Chinese settlers. By force of circumstances, therefore, the place became an open port, the local authorities being powerless to check the influx of foreigners and the creation of a foreign zone around the harbour. That M. Pavloff, the clever Russian diplomatic representative in Seoul, succeeded in bringing about any agreement at all is remarkable, taking into account the panic-stricken state to which the Imperial Government was reduced by Japanese intimidation. The secret convention between the Russian and Korean Governments, entered into during 1900, preserved the independence of the harbour, and, failing to confirm Russia in the definite occupation of Ma-san-po, provided that none of the land about Ma-san-po harbour or its approaches should be permanently ceded or sold to any foreign Power. The same conditions applied to the island of Keu-chai, situated in the mouth of the harbour. This curtailment of the ambitions of Russian policy, in this particular direction, due, of course, to the energetic action of Japan, did not make the position of Russia in Ma-san-po in any sense secure. Japan, even then upon the eve of her declaration, would have gone to war with Russia, if that Power had attempted to maintain an isolated and complete domination of this harbour and its approaches against her wishes.

There is nothing in the present condition of Ma-san-po which suggests that it may become a centre of Russian influence in Southern Korea. The Japanese demanded, even before the incident had quite blown over, a large tract[199] of land at Ma-san-po for the purposes of making a settlement there. In addition to this, the quarter, marked off for foreign settlements, has been almost wholly appropriated by the Japanese, who have erected shops and houses of some importance to the extent of several hundred, upon the more suitable sites. Japanese postal and telegraphic offices have been opened in Ma-san-po, and an uncomfortable hostelry disturbs the rest of the weary. A large permanent staff of Japanese police has been detached for duty in Ma-san-po, and the next feature in the development of affairs will be the detailing of a port guardship and the usual infantry garrison to protect the Japanese settlement. These acts imply a permanent lease and constitute the methods by which the Japanese propose to invalidate the Russo-Korean Convention. The aim of Japanese policy in Ma-san-po is to discount as far as possible the rights of the Russians, and to deprive their existence in the harbour of any special significance. The Russians accept the position with extreme philosophy and indifference. If they wished to do so, they might raise protest after protest against the intrusive character of Japanese action in the areas affected by the clauses of the Agreement of 1900.

Twelve months ago the foreign population of Ma-san-po consisted of two hundred and thirty Japanese, forty-one Chinese, eighteen Russians, and two Germans. These figures include male and female heads of population, but no children. The actual strength of the Russian colony in this harbour was eight men, ten women, three children; of the Japanese only seventy-eight were females. There is little import and export traffic. The nearness of Fusan, which is only six hours distant, makes it unnecessary to trade direct with the settlement. Japanese steamers from[200] Fusan call daily, local produce being brought round by native junks. There is a large fishing industry off the harbour; it is, however, quite controlled by Japanese fishermen from Fusan. The principal industry on shore is the construction of the settlement, some little agriculture, and no little gossip.

Since the failure of her efforts to secure Ma-san-po, Russia has endeavoured to obtain the lease of Ching-kai-wan, sometimes called Chin-hai or Shin-hai, a bay situated in the extreme south of the Korean peninsula, as a naval station. The position of this harbour is exactly midway between Vladivostock and Port Arthur. Owing to its geographical situation, the presence of Russia in sole possession of Ching-kai-wan would be certain to give rise to even greater demonstrations of hostility from the people and Government of Japan than did the Ma-san-po incident. Nam-pu, which it was then Russia’s object to secure, is about twenty miles outside the limits of the treaty port of Ma-san-po. While the Japanese Government could not prevent Russia from obtaining a coaling-station for the Russian Steamship Company within the boundaries of the foreign settlement of Ma-san-po, she most strenuously protested against a grant of land for Russian naval purposes twenty miles away. Japan likewise resists the establishment of a Russian naval depôt at Ching-kai-wan, where there is no treaty port, and to which, were the “lease” confirmed, only Russia would have a right of access.

Ching-kai-wan is within a few hours’ steam of that Port Hamilton which Great Britain was induced to relinquish, upon the understanding between Russia and China that Russia would not seek to acquire territory in Korea. The excuse, since put forward by Russia for the flagrant violation[201] of this compact, is that it was a bargain made with China, and not with us. There is another, and still more extraordinary feature in connection with this affair, which Li Hung Chang confided to a diplomatic representative of a foreign Power, at Pekin, some years ago. The Chinese statesman admitted that the contract between China and Russia contained a private stipulation that it should be good for ten years only. In other words, Great Britain was led to withdraw from Port Hamilton on the pretence that Russia would never trespass on Korean soil, although there was a secret understanding between China and Russia at the time, that this arrangement should only be in force for one decade.

Although the position of affairs in regard to the action of Russia at Yong-an-po is of recent prominence, the question goes back in reality to the autumn of 1896, when a Russian merchant in Vladivostock, M. Brünner by name, obtained from the Korean Government the right of felling lumber and planting trees on the banks of the Yalu and Tumen Rivers, as well as on the island of Ul-lyang, for twenty years. The concession was to be forfeited unless work was begun in five years. As the close of the period drew near, the Russian agent in Seoul applied for an extension of three years. At the moment it was reported in Seoul that this request of M. Pavloff had been refused, but it transpired subsequently that an agreement had been drawn up to the following effect between the superintendent, appointed by the Korean Government to oversee the matters, and the inspector in charge of the interests of the company in Yong-an-po:

1. The said district in Yong-an-po shall be rented to the Russian company.


2. The boundaries of the said district shall be defined by the Russian Minister and the Minister in charge of the Foreign Office of the Korean Government.

3. The Russian company shall pay a land-tax to the Korean Government.

4. If the owners of tombs within this district wish to remove them, the expense of removal shall be borne by the Russian company.

5. If the company wish to utilise wood which Koreans have cut and are bringing down the river, it must reimburse the owners with a fair and proper price.

6. The Russian company shall not raise any stock within this district except what is to be used therein.

7. Korean offenders within this district shall be dealt with by the Korean courts. Russian offenders shall be dealt with by Russian civil officers.

These contracts were signed on July 20th, 1903, by the Korean official Cho Sung-hyup and the Russian Inspector Bojisco.




Meanwhile, however, in May 1903, prior to the decision of the Korean Government in the matter, the prefect of Wi-ju reported the concentration of Russian troops at An-tung for the purpose of crossing the Yalu. A few days later, a detached party of forty of these men crossed the stream, halting on a small island in mid-river to discard their uniforms, so that they might enter Yong-an-po in private clothes. From Yong-an-po they moved to Yong-chyön, near Wi-ju, where, accompanied by one hundred Chinese and eighty Koreans, they founded a lumber settlement, buying seventeen houses, with twelve acres of land attached, in the name of two of their Korean employés. The presence of the colony was at once objected to by the Korean Government, who threatened M. Pavloff with the rupture of relations if the settlement were not at once withdrawn. M. Pavloff, however, defended the existence of the lumber camp under powers obtained from the Forest Concession of 1896, which, in actuality, had not been re-affirmed at the moment. Early in the next month, June, the magistrate at Yong-chyön reported that another party of Russians had arrived at Yong-an-po, including in all three Russian women, thirty-six men, two hundred Chinese, and many horses. These were reinforced in July by three women and sixty men, for the most part carrying rifles and swords, and who, also, at once bought houses and land.

The action of these people has assumed a specific direction. A few, as though anxious to give colour to their existence as a lumber settlement and in defiance of orders from the Korean local officials, while quite exceeding the clauses of the concession proper, persisted in felling trees on the areas of a prohibited reserve. Meantime the remainder of the party, by no means idle, began the construction of a bund on the Yalu extending over a distance of twenty-one miles, a light railway being laid down for the purpose. In addition to this work developments of a more permanent character were taken in hand; stone buildings appeared, a factory was constructed, and extensive defensive measures adopted. To confirm these indications of Russian occupation of the Yalu reaches, a body of seventy soldiers crossed the river at Cho-san, a second party of eighty men coming over at Pyök-tong. The Russians then proceeded to bring these various scattered “lumber” settlements, into communication, for this purpose erecting a telegraph line between Wi-ju and Yong-an-po. This line, however, the Koreans at once cut down, whereupon the Russians began to lay a submarine cable from Yong-an-po round the coast[205] and up the Yalu River to An-tung in place of the line across country from Yong-an-po to Manchuria. Since the cable projects were important and, together with the settlement at Yong-an-po, much in need of protection, Russia proposed to draft a force of three hundred soldiers into the place. At this date, towards the end of August, the settlement at Yong-an-po had grown into sixty houses with a civil Russian population of seventy citizens. By this time, however, the Japanese Minister at Seoul, Mr. Hayashi, had received the text of the proposed contract between the Korean Government and the Russian Lumber Company. Thereupon, on August 25th, he delivered an ultimatum to the Korean Government. On the same day the Russian Minister went to the Foreign Office and urged that the lease of Yong-an-po be granted. In spite of his urgent appeal, the Minister declared it to be impossible. On the 27th the Russian Minister went again to the Foreign Office at noon, and remained till seven in the evening, but the Minister was ill and did not put in an appearance. The Russian Minister then stated that he would have nothing more to do with the Foreign Minister, but would appeal directly to the Emperor. In his despatch Mr. Hayashi wrote that if the Korean Government were to sign such a lease with the Russian Government, Japan would consider such an act as a direct violation of the treaty between herself and Korea. In this event Japan would consider that diplomatic relations between the two countries were suspended, and she would regard herself free to act for herself in her own interests on the assumption that the whole of the Korean territories had been opened to the world.

The spirited action of the Japanese Minister was not lost upon the Korean Government, who at once issued orders to the prefect of Yong-an-po to restrain the Russians from[206] further encroachment. The efforts of the local officials were, however, of little avail, and by the middle of September, in addition to the colony at Yong-an-po, the settlement at Yong-chyön had increased to one hundred and twenty-eight Chinese huts, with thirteen hundred Chinese, seventy Russians, and twenty tents. Complaints of the high-handed action of the Russians in appropriating the property of the Koreans to their own needs began to arrive in Seoul, and on September 13th came the information that a telegraph line had again been laid between Yong-an-po and the lumber concession on the Yalu. Coupled with the intelligence of this renewed activity was additional, and much more disquieting, information. The Russians had constructed on the elevated ground about the Tu-ryu Harbour a high watch-tower, and were preparing emplacements for three batteries of field artillery. Meanwhile, however, as a counter demonstration to the movement of a company of five hundred Russians under two officers, on October 23rd, who had crossed the Tumen River into Korean territory by night, a Japanese warship dropped anchor in the estuary of the Yalu, in close proximity to Yong-an-po.

I make no apology to my readers for giving in this detailed fashion the history of this little Russian concession. As a chapter of contemporary history I cannot think that my words are of any value, but there are doubtless many who, like myself, prefer to begin in the beginning, and so slowly trace through the developments of any question. In respect of Russian action on the Yalu, therefore, I have endeavoured to do this.

Note.—An-tung is known also as Sha-ho; the Yalu River is known also as the Am-nok River.



By the wayside—A journey inland to Tong-ko-kai—Inland beauties

The world of politics in Seoul had become of a sudden so profoundly dull, that, ignoring the advice of the weather-wise inhabitants of the capital, I packed my kit, and hiring ponies, interpreters and servants, moved from the chief walled city of the Empire into the wild regions of the interior. My journey lay towards Tong-ko-kai, the German mines, several days’ journey from Seoul. Life, in the capital, is not destitute of that monotony which characterises the Land of the Morning Radiance. But beyond the precincts of the Imperial Palaces, out of sight and hearing of the countless little coteries of Europeans, the contrast between the moving, soft-robed, gentle masses of people who congregate within her gates, and the mountain reaches and valleys of the open country is refreshing. For the moment the pleasure of such an experience ranks high among the joys which life holds.


Save in the first few li from the capital, we abandoned the beaten tracks, travelling along quiet byways and mountain paths, turning aside at fancy to climb a peak or to take a swim in the cool, deep waters of some secluded pool at night, and morning, and at our noonday halt. In the pleasant[208] shades of these cool mountains and sunlit valleys the people live in unrebuked simplicity. They offered the loan of charcoal stoves or retailed eggs, chickens and rice to my servants. At the moment of my bath, youths and youngsters gambolled with me in the stream. It is said that the Koreans are far from clean, a statement they belied upon many occasions by the freedom and enjoyment with which they indulged in these dips. Foreigners had not penetrated along the route which my friend and I were following to the German mines, and even the ubiquitous evangelist had not penetrated to these peasant homes. The mountains and rivers had no names; the settlements were small; inns did not exist. Everywhere was contentment, peace, and infinite repose. Nature stood revealed to us in primæval grandeur, and it was impossible not to enjoy the calm of the valleys, the rugged beauty of the mountain crests, the picturesque wildness of the scenery.




As the days passed the general character of the country remained unaltered. The manifold and complex tints in the bush, the differing aspects of each succeeding height, the alternating complexion of the valleys, dissipated the monotony, engendered by the never changing features of the picture—the trees and mountains, hillside hamlets and mountain torrents, precipitous passes and windy plateaux. Moving thus slowly through the mountain passes, a wonderful panorama silently disclosed itself. Hills were piled one upon another, gradually merging into chains of mountains, the crests of which, two and three thousand feet in height, stood out clearly defined against an azure sky, their rock-bound faces covered with birch, beech, oak and pine. The valleys below these mountain chains were long and narrow, cool and cultivated. A hillside torrent dashed through them, tumbling noisily over massive boulders, gradually fretting a new course for itself in the lava strata. Countless insects buzzed in the still air; frogs croaked in the marsh meadows; the impudent magpie and the plebeian crow choked and chattered indignantly among the branches of the trees. Cock-pheasants started from the thick cover of the low-lying hills, the dogs pointed the nests of the sitting hens, and does called to their calves among the young bushes. A calm and happy nature revealed itself spontaneously in these fragrant places, undisturbed, luxurious, and unrestrained. The road was rough. Here and there, in keeping with the wild and rugged beauty of the scene, it became the narrow track of the Australasian “backs,” congested with bushes, broken by holes and stones, almost impassable until the coolies made a way.

Across the clattering crystal of the gushing torrent a rustic bridge was flung, the merest makeshift, three feet in[211] width, with a flooring of earth and bush, which bent and swayed upon slender poles, beneath the slightest burden. Some streams were unbridged, and the diminutive ponies splashed through them, gladly cooling their sweating flanks as their drivers waded or carried one another to the distant bank. Wild ferns, butterflies, and flowers revelled in these unkempt gardens. The red dog-lily and purple iris glowed against the foliage of the shrubs and bushes. Gigantic butterflies eclipsed the glories of the rainbow; their gorgeous tints blending into harmony with the more subdued plumage of the cranes and storks that floated lazily across the inundated spaces of the paddy-fields. Other birds, with dove-grey, pink, or yellow breasts and black pinions, fished in the streams with raucous cries. The most amazing tints, recalling some of Turner’s later pictures, gladdened the eye in these delightful valleys. In the depths of the valleys the mountain torrents flowed more idly, and the stream meandered in a thousand directions. Upon either bank, its volume was diverted to the needs of some adjacent rice-field. In these paddy-patches green and tender shoots were just sprouting above a few inches of clear water. Here and there, fields of wheat bordered these water-soaked stretches; oats, corn, barley, tobacco, cotton, beans and millet were scattered about the sides and plains of the mountain valleys in a fashion which proclaimed the fertility of the soil.

Everything throve, however, and the industry of the workers in the fields was manifested at every turn of the road. Their ingenuity in making the most of available land recalled the valleys which run down to the fiords of Norway, where, as in Korea, patches of cultivated ground are visible at the snow level. Here, in these beautiful valleys, perhaps[212] a thousand or fifteen hundred feet up the mountain side, acres of golden crops will be growing in the warm and happy seclusion of some sheltered hollow.

At the turn of the winding track, bordered by the paddy-fields or acres of golden barley, oats and tobacco, lies a village. It is but a cluster of some dozen straw-thatched hovels, dirty and unprepossessing, but infinitely quaint and picturesque. The walls of the houses are crumbling and stayed up with beams and massive timbers; the latticed windows are papered, the doorways low. A hole in the wall serves the purposes of a chimney; a dog is sleeping in the porch; a pig squeaks, secured with a cord through the ears to a peg in the wall. Cocks and hens are anywhere and everywhere, the family latrine—an open trough, foul and nauseous, used without disgust by all members of the family save the older women-folk, stands upon the verandah. Somewhere, near the outer limits of the small settlement, an erection of poles and straw matting distinguishes the village cesspool, the contents of which are spread over the fields in the proper season.

A glimpse into a house, as one rides through the village shows a man combing his long hair, a woman beating her husband’s clothes or ironing with a bowl heated with charcoal; many naked children, the progeny of child-wives, scarce out of their teens. For the moment the village seems devoid of life. As the clatter of the cavalcade resounds, a child, feeding itself from a basin of rice, emerges from a window; a man tumbles to his feet yawning noisily. Women, with infants hanging at their breasts or bearing children strapped to their backs in dirty clothes, the usual naked band of well-developed breast and unwashed back showing, crowd into the streets. All eye the newcomers[213] with indifferent curiosity, until we wish them a plenteous rain—“May the rain come soon, good people.” Then they bend their heads respectfully at the salutation, and instantly become bright and smiling. Winsome kiddies, muddy and naked, offer us flowers, and bowls of water from the streams upon which their elders have settled.


As the road threaded through the mountains, long valleys, widely and richly cultivated, the yellow lustre of the golden crops blazing in the sunlight, lay below. Granite peaks towered upwards, their rugged faces scored by time and tempest, their ragged outlines screened with firs and birch. The still air was laden with the aromatic scent of the pine-woods; the sky was clear and blue. In the distance, snow-white clouds hung in diaphanous festoons about a curve in the mountains. The rough contour broke[214] where the heights were bleakest and most barren. A twist in the broad valley which our road traversed limited the prospect, but the direction lay beneath the shadows of those distant peaks, and the perspective already compensated for the precipitous climb.

Indeed, from a few li beyond Chyök-syöng, a magistracy of the fourth class, where the houses are roofed with thick slabs of slate supported by heavy beams, where the streets are clean, and where road and river alike make a détour, the views by the wayside became increasingly impressive. For mile upon mile we saw no wayfarers. The villages were widely distant; fertile valleys gave place to green-black gorges, without cultivation, peaceful, grandly beautiful, and uninhabitable. The perfect stillness and the wonderful magnificence of the panorama held one spell-bound. There was no change in the character of the scenery until, riding slowly forward, the road dropped from the comfortable shade of a mountain temple into the blazing sunshine of the plain. Pushing forward, the rice and cornfields receded, giving place to the ranges, whose lofty peaks, dressed with their mantling clouds, had been already dimly discerned. Throughout the journey of the next two days the road rose and fell, winding in a steady gradient across the mountain sides.

The march to Tong-ko-kai was laborious, and one day, when within easy distance of the concession in a tiny hamlet, the colour of the slate and granite boulders, nestling among waving bushes, almost unconscious of the outer world and hardly alive to its own existence, an ideal spot in which to pitch the evening camp was found. It was early in the afternoon, but the road ahead looked rough and stony. Our horses were fatigued, the ford had been troublesome and we were wet, cold and hungry. Within the bush[215] the shadows were deepening. No one knew the site of the next village nor the precise direction in which we were moving, so we halted. That night we snuggled down with our faces to the cliffs. Our horses were tethered in a patch of corn, and the kit, the servants, interpreters and grooms lay in one confused and hungry tangle round us. Within sound of the deep roar of the river we slept peacefully. Indeed, I am not certain that this one hour when, invigorated by a swim in some mountain pool, refreshed by a slight repast, we rocked in our camp beds, smoking and chatting, looking into the cool black depths of the canopy above us, was not the best that the day held. There was something intensely restful in those long, silent watches. The mighty stillness of the surrounding heights of itself gave a repose, to which the night winds, the murmurs of the running water and our own physical fatigue, insensibly added. It was pleasant to hear the ponies eating; to watch the stars come out, the moon rise; to listen to the bull-frog in the water weeds and the echoes of the song of a peasant, rising and falling among the peaks of the high mountains, until, at length, all sounds had passed away and the great world around us, above us, and below, lay at peace.




The German mines—Mineralogy and methods of mining—A bear hunt—With gun and rifle

Nature has been active in these regions. There is much limestone and slate formation, some basaltic upheavals, lava boulders, and chain upon chain of granite peaks. To the west of Tong-ko-kai there is the crater of an extinct volcano, but the lava strata in the vicinity of the concession are almost completely eroded. The basin of the concession is well watered, cultivated, and populous in places. It is surrounded by ranges three, four and five thousand feet in height. Korea is very mountainous in the north and hilly in the south. The watershed between the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea extends north and south, nearly parallel to the east coast. In a sense this line of mountain ranges is the backbone of the peninsula; the eastern side of the main watershed is narrow and abrupt, while the western is more extended and contains low plains, favourable to agriculture. The general altitude of the peaks varies between five and six thousand feet. A few isolated points in the extreme north are believed to be higher.

The principal mining districts are situated along the courses of the main and the minor watersheds. The famous mining districts of Kang-kyöi, Kap-san, and Teh-chang-chin, at[217] present in the occupation of native workmen, occur upon the plateau formed by the junction of the range, which constitutes the northern frontier of the province of Pyöng-an, with the main watershed of the country. The British mines at Eun-san are situated in country pierced by the north-western antilles of the main watershed. The position of the German mines bears a similar relation to the great natural division of the country, upon its eastern side. Many useful minerals are distributed over Korea—gold, silver, lead, copper, iron, coal—but that which yields the richest harvest is gold. The value of the gold exported from Korea during 1901 increased from £363,305 in 1900 to £509,738. A further increase marks 1902, the value of the gold exported being £516,961. These figures give only the value declared at the Customs. Large amounts are annually smuggled out of the country.

The presence of gold has been known from the earliest times. Knochenhauer, a German geologist, has declared it to exist in every river in the kingdom. Hitherto, alluvial gold has been the principal yield to native workers. The miners followed the object of their search up the mountain side until they struck veins and lodes, whence much of the alluvial gold was derived. The chief auriferous districts are in the northern half of the country; in which sphere lie the American mine at Un-san, the British mine at Eun-san, and the German mine at Tong-ko-kai.

The original source of Korean gold may be found in the quartz veins, which, in the case of the American mines, is alleged to give exceptionally rich returns. The alluvial deposits, brought down from the veins in the mountain-ridges, have been freely worked by Koreans; and when more scientifically treated the yield is satisfactory. The[218] schotter sediments, in the case of the Tong-ko-kai mines, attained a maximum of seventy-five feet in depth, a thickness of sedimentary matter some fifty feet in excess of the usual formation. The concession was granted in 1898. Under it powers were given to a German company to select a place twenty miles long and thirteen miles wide, within two years from the date of signing the contract, for the purpose of working all minerals during a space of twenty-five years, with an annual payment to the Korean Government of twenty-five per cent. on the net profits. The revenues received from these contracts belong to the Imperial Household, passing directly into the private purse of the Sovereign. In the case of the English syndicate, the percentage was compounded for a sum of £20,000 and an annual payment of a further £2000.

The site, which the Germans selected for their concession, was, at the moment when they assumed control over the areas, the centre of extensive alluvial workings. The native miners strongly objected to the innovation, and prepared to resist the rights of the German company by force. In the end, however, their hostility was overcome by granting them twelve months’ additional occupation of their works, and, when Herr Bauer assumed charge as administrative engineer, opposition was already at an end. The district is covered with the remains of old workings in the schotter of the river-bed; they are also to be found in a few places in the quartz upon the mountain side. In the absence of the requisite machinery, work upon the concession was necessarily disorganised. Eventually the concession was abandoned, close investigation failing to disclose its possession of any very remunerative qualities. At the time of its[219] withdrawal, the company employed nine Europeans, thirteen Japanese and Chinese, and some three hundred Koreans.

Korean mining is very elementary. The usual methods are “placer” and “crushing” and a process of treatment by fire. A vertical shaft is sunk, with narrow steps cut into its sides, to the level of the reef; the bottom of the shaft is then packed with wood, which is ignited and kept burning for several days. The heated rock becomes very friable and yields readily to the crude implements of the miners. There is great competition to secure the bottom pitch in these shafts; the more intrepid rarely delay their descent until the working has cooled. The quartz is sometimes rubbed to powder and the gold washed out, or it is crushed between huge boulders, washed, re-crushed and panned again. The gold is then picked out. Until lately there were no places where the gold was tested by other than the most antiquated methods.

Such sanguine hopes have been raised as to the results of the mining in Korea, that it would be as well if the public accepted all statements in regard to these investments with great caution. The results of the development of the various mining concessions, now in progress, will be awaited with much interest, and will, it is to be hoped, form a reliable test of the mining possibilities of the country. The returns from the American mines encourage the belief that these possibilities have not been over-estimated; but it has yet to be proved that mining operations can be profitably carried on with Western methods and appliances. The deposits in which gold is found in Korea are irregular, and by no means continuous. To a Korean miner this is of small importance. His outfit costs at the most a few shillings, and his belongings are easily transported to any[220] distance as circumstances demand. A different order of things is essential to a successful installation of Western machinery, and the public require some proof that there is, within workable distance, a sufficient quantity of ore to yield a fair profit on their investments. This has yet to be proved in the case of the British mine; in respect of the German concession, the business resulted in a fiasco. That these mining enterprises should be successful is desirable in the interests of both natives and foreigners. They afford steady employment at a fair wage to thousands of Koreans, at least, part of whose earnings is expended in the purchase of foreign goods. It is perhaps, however, not altogether unfortunate that the Korean Government is averse, at present, to grant further concessions.

During our halt at Tong-ko-kai, one day was spent in climbing the mighty peaks to lofty spots where, at a height of some thousands of feet, native prospectors were driving into the granite facing of the mountain in an effort to strike the main reef. Another day was passed in a hunt across the crests of the ranges after bear and deer. At daybreak, a little after 4 A.M. upon the morning of this excursion, Herr Bauer escorted us to a prospector’s hut in the damp recesses of a distant valley, where our beaters, gun-carriers, and hunter-guides had been ordered to rendezvous for a bear hunt. Alas! the Korean cannot bestir himself! His late rising on this occasion delayed our departure from the hut two hours. The sun had risen when the expedition moved off, a motley retinue of professional hunters and beaters accompanying us to the gorge, wherein lay the bear. Hunters and beaters attached themselves to each of us, and we proceeded across the mountain, pursuing a narrow and broken rack, which cleft the bare summit of the highest ridges.[221] We climbed and scrambled up and down and in and out of many sheltered and well-timbered gorges, until the hunters warned us that we were approaching our stations.

The beaters disappeared, making a détour of some li, to beat up the many crooked twists and turns which the drive took. Hours passed while we, hot, hungry, and athirst, lay hidden in the rank bush awaiting a sight of the quarry. For the first hour no sound broke the serenity of the valley; presently, however, the cries of the beaters came to us, wafted from below or floating lazily from the surrounding heights. At first only a distant moaning, like the sobbing of a storm among the trees of a forest, broke upon our ears. The strange sounds created much restlessness among the wild wood-pigeons, the cooing doves, and the cheery, chattering magpies. Red-breasted storks rose with disdainful elegance from the shallows of the trickling stream and soared towards other pools. The mists of night rolled away from the valley; the dew disappeared from the matted undergrowth; the sun mounted; the day grew warmer. The blood coursed through our veins as we peered hither and thither, scanning the opposite face of the valley with the keenest vigilance. The beaters were ascending. The harsh cries of their raucous voices broke upon the air. The air vibrated with eerie noises; a spasmodic howling arose from the depths of the valley, where an isolated beater lashed himself into a fever of vociferous discord. Hoarse shouts boomed above us, and echoed against the crags of the gorge. On either side of us, the valley resounded to the labours of the beaters, who, gaining the extreme crests, had now descended, driving everything before them. They approached rapidly, joined by the native hunters, who had now taken up positions upon the[222] rocks which overlooked the place where we were hiding. Our own moment had arrived. Each man fingered his rifle, peering forward as the concluding effort of the beaters burst forth in a hurricane of clamour. We looked and waited, until the conclusion was forced upon us that the bear had already long since broken through the lines of his pursuers.

Hunting in general is considered a servile occupation by the Koreans, and the pursuit of the deer, the bear, and the tiger is not a favourite sport among the young bloods of the kingdom. Nobles, except those who belong to a few impoverished families in the extreme northern provinces, and who are reduced to the pastime to supplement their resources, never indulge in it. It is, nevertheless, free to all. There are no game laws, no proscription of arms, and few preserves. There is no interdicted season in any part of the country. The one creature which it is forbidden to destroy is the falcon, whose life is protected by most stringent enactments. The hunting-grounds are almost solely confined to the mountainous districts, and the hunters are a class apart throughout the country. They shift their grounds rapidly and constantly in search of game, living at the expense of any village where they may temporarily lodge in return for the protection from wild animals which their prowess assures to the local population. Their chief weapon is the flint-lock, imported from Japan. The barrel is inlaid with silver, and bound with thin silver bands or strips of tin. This weapon is loaded with iron bullets, similar in size to those contained in a seven-pound shrapnel shell. The charge is ignited from a coil of plaited straw-cord, which is kept alight during the progress of the hunt. The stock is short and light. When the gun is fired, the[223] butt of this curious and antique weapon rests against the cheek-bone. The faces of many of the hunters, who accompanied us, were scarred below the right eye.

Their dress is characteristic, and they are further distinguished by their boldness, fearlessness, and independent bearing. They adopt, as a uniform, a blue canvas shirt, to which is added a blue or green cotton turban, which is coiled twice through the hair, the torn, frayed end hanging over the forehead. Coloured beads are entwined in this head-dress, and a necklace of similar beads encircles the throat. Chains of seed-beans hang across the breast, to which are fastened the many ingenious contrivances of their calling. The hunters imitate the sounds of various birds and animals very cleverly, particularly those of a pheasant calling to his hen and a doe crying to her calves. The pheasant-call is made from a disc of iron about the size of a sixpenny piece. It resembles the stone of an apricot and is pierced. The decoy used for deer is made from a split bamboo stalk.

Bird-hunters never shoot their quarry upon the wing. They disguise themselves in skins or feathers, bringing down their game from some well-concealed coign of vantage. Deer are hunted during June and July. The hunters form into small parties, and beat up the mountains for several days until their prey is within gunshot. The horns are sold to the native physicians, or exported to China and Japan. When in pursuit of the bear, hunters are more than usually careful to delay firing until the effect of their shot is certain. Good prices are fetched by the various parts of a bear. In addition to the proceeds from the pelt, the flesh, fat, sinews and gall of a bear, supposed to possess certain medicinal properties, sell for their weight[224] in silver. The one royal quadruped associated with Korea, as the white elephant is with Siam, the dromedary with Egypt, the bison with the United States, is the tiger. Unlike the Indian species, that delights in the tropical jungles, this animal is found in Korea in the snow and forests of the north, and as far as the fiftieth parallel. In the mind of the Korean, the tiger is the symbol of fierceness, an emblem of martial pomp and glory. The tiger hunters affect to despise their noble game, and upon occasions they even attack them single-handed with a lance or short sword, assisted by trained dogs. Tigers are sometimes caught in pits, covered with earth and bushes, and filled with stakes. In this condition it is easy to kill them. The hunters eat the meat, selling the skin and bones.


Tiger hunters are exceptionally courageous. Their services are requisitioned by their Government upon[225] occasion in the defence of the Empire. Armed with matchlock, spear and sword, they defeated the French, under Admiral Roze, in 1866, and heroically resisted the advance of the Americans in 1871. In 1901 they were assembled to protect the northern frontier from the incursions of Manchurian bandits.



The monks and monasteries of the Diamond Mountains—The Temple of Eternal Rest—The Temple of the Tree of Buddha—Buddhism

Game abounds in the region between the German mines and the Diamond Mountains, and as we moved slowly forward to the famous Monastery of Chang-an, many short halts were made in search of birds and deer. Unfortunately, the deer evaded us and it became impossible to put up the pheasants out of the dense growth in the bushes in which they found cover. We had, however, some sport among the wood-pigeon. Korean hunters accompanied us some little distance upon our journey, leaving our caravan when our ways diverged. Beyond the Hai-yong River their track lay to the west into the heart of the mountains; our own continued north-east.

The hardships, experienced in travelling through Korea, were exemplified by the difficulties of our progress. They were intensified, however, by our ignorance of the precise trail, which it was necessary to follow across the heights from Tong-ko-kai to the mountain retreat of the pious monks. The inhabitants of the village of To-chi-dol warned our grooms of the difficulty of taking horses across the Tan-bal-yang Pass, the one barrier, which remained unsurmounted,[227] between the outside world and the quiet repose of the first monastery in the Keum-kang-san. Until we enforced our orders with sticks the mampus were inclined to give up the enterprise. Their opposition was momentary; the transition from a somewhat angry mood into their usual condition of unruffled composure and high spirits was instantaneous. With untiring energy and patience they encouraged their diminutive ponies to climb the boulders; to twist and wriggle between the clumps of tangled bushes and masses of rock which beset the path, and to scramble across the steeps. We followed a dried-up water-course at the level of the valley, making the ascent gradually. The climb was severe, and became so steep that the pack-saddles slipped off the backs of the ponies. It occupied our eight animals some four hours, testing the endurance of pony and groom, alike the product of the hills, stout of limb and strong of wind.


The descent from the spirit shrine, in a gap on the crest of the range, was less toilsome. The grooms plaited ropes of green creepers, plucked from the bush, and strung them[228] round the packs. Walking behind the ponies, they held to these cords, thus supporting the animals and preventing the loads and clumsy saddles from reversing the process of the previous scramble. Nevertheless, our path was littered with fragments of our baggage. The contrivance was successful, however, and in the main the little steeds picked their way with an easy accuracy through the cool green woods. The mountain side was fragrant with innumerable plants, the bush a tangle of magnificent ferns, trees, and shrubs. Oaks, hawthorn, chestnut, birch and pines grew in crowded splendour; the wild rose, the freckled lily, and a purple orchid embroidered the moss. Beyond the hollows of the hilly woodlands, the crumpled backs of the jagged mountains reared themselves skyward, their proud crests lost in the clouds, soaring silently to a height of five thousand feet. Below in the valley, a wall of granite mountains set up an impenetrable barrier before a noisy river, which until the advent of the rainy season becomes the merest trickle of silver in a lone expanse of river-bed.

Our way lay across the river-bed and thence into the centre of the mountains, a journey of one more day, to The Temple of Eternal Rest. After crossing the Tan-bal-yang Pass we delayed, resting at Kal-kan-i. Starting at daybreak, upon the next morning we moved through the Kak-pi Pass as the sun touched the tops of the mountains, which shut in the narrow valley, across which lay the last stage of the journey. We were nearing the last home of many distressed pilgrims. In a cleft among the mountains the deep curved roofs of many temples might be seen. The air was tremulous with the pleasant jangling of bells, and from a wayside shrine the sweet fumes of incense mingled with the scent of the pines. The calm and seclusion of this[229] spiritual retreat was in itself soothing; as one passed beneath the red gate, that indicates royal patronage, the placid gentleness of the scene was an allurement to the consolation and protection offered by this Buddhistic asylum.

There are thirty-four monasteries, and monastic shrines in the Keum-kang-san, and they are tended by three hundred monks and sixty nuns. Chang-an is the oldest, and has been in existence for some generations. In 515 A.D., during the reign of Po-pheung, a king of Silla, it was restored by two monks, Yul-sa and Chin-kyo. Other monasteries, akin to this in their romantic setting and picturesque seclusion, are Pyo-un, which, together with Chang-an is situated upon the western slopes, Yu-chom and Sin-ga upon the eastern slopes. These, with thirty others of less importance, excite the most profound interest and enthusiasm among the Koreans, many of whom repeatedly brave the difficulties and fatigues of travel in the Diamond Mountains to visit them.

The four chief monasteries are served by one hundred and seventy monks and thirty nuns. The main temple of Chang-an is a large building, forty-eight feet in height, of the type to which travellers in the East soon become accustomed. The wooden structure is rectangular with two roofs, deep, curved and richly carved eaves, the heavy tiled roofs being supported upon teak pillars three feet in circumference. The diamond-cut panels of the doors, which serve as windows, are ornamented with gold, and the lofty ceiling is carved and wrought in rich designs, lavishly gilded and highly coloured in blue, red, green and gold. Granite steps give access to the temples; the main beams and supports of the whole edifice resting upon huge circular slabs of this stone.

On the inner walls of this building there are scenes[230] from the life of Gautama, the apostle of the Buddhistic creed. A gilded image figures as the centre of a golden group of seven past and future godheads, incarnations of the One and sublime Sakya-muni, whose future reappearance is anticipated by the faithful. Brass incense-burners, candlesticks, and a manuscript book of masses in Chinese and Korean characters, resting upon a faded cover of soiled and dusty brocade, furnish the front of the altar. Before this high altar, wonderfully impressive and inspiring in the dim religious light of the vast interior, a priest spends certain hours of the day and night in profound obeisance, intoning, chanting and gabbling monotonously and with constant genuflections, the words Na-mu Ami Tabul. This expression is a phonetic rendering of certain Thibetan words, the meaning of which the Abbot himself was unable to explain; when transcribed in Chinese characters it appears equally unintelligible.

Other temples in this particular monastery are dedicated to The Abode of Virtue, The Four Sages, and The Ten Judges. Within these edifices Sakya-muni and his disciples sit in different attitudes of ineffable abstraction, contemplating gruesome pictures of demons, animals, and the torments awarded in after-life to the wicked. Many of the buildings of Chang-an have been restored within recent years. The work has been completed long since, and the spacious courtyards are now well kept. The temples are clean and spotless, the whole monastery bearing witness to the care with which it is maintained.

Besides the more important temples, there are many smaller shrines, set within some forest nook; a stage for the more important religious observances, bell and tablet houses, stables for the ponies of the numerous visitors, a[231] nunnery and a refectory for the Abbot and monks. There are, in addition, cells for the priests and quarters for the servants. Accommodation is found for the widows, orphans, and the destitute; for the lame, the halt, and the blind; for the aged and forlorn, to whom the monks grant shelter and protection. Besides the Abbot, there were in the monastery some twenty other men, monks, priests and neophytes, and ten nuns of various ages, ranging from girlhood to wrinkled wisdom.

The establishment derives its revenues from the rent and proceeds of the Church lands, donations from pilgrims and guests, occasional benefactions from the wealthy, and the collections made by the mendicant monks. These latter chant the litanies of Buddha from house to house, and travel throughout the Empire, finding food and lodging by the wayside, to collect the scanty contributions which their solicitations evoke. The four great monasteries are presided over by a member of the community, who is elected annually to the office. Unless his conduct gives rise to dissatisfaction, he is maintained in authority, usually until his death, or transference to some other centre of Buddhistic activity. The practices and observances, in these monasteries of the Diamond Mountains, conform to the principles of the religion of Buddha, as nearly as do the customs and manners of our own Church to the varied tenets of Christianity throughout the world.

I confess myself sorely puzzled to discover any substratum of truth in the charges of gross profligacy and irreverence which the agent of an American Missionary Society brings against the monasteries of the Keum-kang-san. Personally, after spending many weeks in the calm seclusion of this monastic region, I prefer to recall the[232] kindliness of the monks—their real Christian charity—to the poor and afflicted, to the hungry and sore distressed, as to all who come to them in times of misery and evil. If many of them learn the litanies of their liturgy by heart, if they lack scholarship, if they do not know the meaning of much upon which they spend so many weary hours of their lives, are not these slight things when weighed against their profound humanity, their gentleness to everything which breathes, their benevolence to the old and destitute, their exceeding humility, their wonderful toleration, the quietness and extreme simplicity of their lives, and the humanitarian nature of their interests?

The Monastery of Yu-chom is all peace and quietude. It lies, shut off from all contact with the outer world, within a deep, tree-clad valley of the eastern ranges. It is self-contained, and its whole existence is wrapped up in the mysteries of that faith to whose services it is dedicated. There is no booming torrent, such as that which vibrates and thunders through the Chang-an-sa gorge; a subdued babble alone rises from the water, which wells from some rocks deep in the recesses of the prevailing bush. Its appearance is strangely solemn, and it exerts over the daily lives of the coterie of monks, assembled within its walls, an influence that conduces to their extreme asceticism. The atmosphere of repose and seclusion, in which a soul distressed finds so much comfort, broods over the whole community.



The most imposing of the thirty-four Buddhist retreats within the Diamond Mountains is Yu-chom-sa. It may be approached from the western side of the Keum-kang-san by climbing the rocky path of the Chang-an-sa gorge, and crossing the watershed through the An-man-chai Pass, 4215 feet in height. The descent is made by a rough and picturesque track through deep woods to the cluster of temples upon the eastern face of the range. Another way, which, after a short détour from Chang-an-sa, is an easier route, lies over the Pu-ti-chong[234] Pass, 3700 feet in height; after winding through some miles of forest, it drops directly upon a track, which leads to the gates of the monastery. Each road starts from Chang-an-sa, and the crossing of the mountains must be undertaken by all who wish to visit the monasteries upon the eastern slopes. The journey in either direction can be accomplished within eight hours; the difficulties of the bed of the Chang-an-sa torrent render this route impassable to horses, &c. Lightly-loaded ponies can be taken across the Pu-ti-chong. The hire of coolies is recommended and one Korean dollar for each man is the tariff.

The temples of Yu-chom-sa are very similar to those at Chang-an-sa. They are, however, more numerous and more richly endowed. Before the steps of the main temple there is a small granite pagoda, whose graceful proportions give an element of dignity to the spacious courtyard upon which the principal temples of the monastery abut. The altar of this temple is adorned by a singular piece of wood-carving. Upon the roots of an upturned tree sit or stand fifty-three diminutive figures of Buddha. The monks tell an old-world legend of this strange structure. Many centuries ago, fifty-three priests, who had journeyed from India to Korea to introduce the precepts of Buddha into this ancient land, sat down by a well beneath a spreading tree. Three dragons presently emerged from the depths of the well and attacked the fifty-three, calling to their aid the wind-dragon, who thereupon uprooted the tree. As the fight proceeded, the priests managed to place an image of Buddha upon each root of the tree, converting the whole into an altar, under whose influence the dragons were forced back into their cavernous depths, when huge rocks were piled into the well to shut them up. The monks then[235] founded the monastery, building the main temple above the remains of the vanquished dragons. Upon each side of the fantastic altar-piece there is a carved design of lotus leaves several feet in width and height; at the feet of an immense image of the divine Buddha, golden and bejewelled, which graces the centre of the shrine, are several magnificent bronze bowls of vast size, weight, and antiquity. Blue and red silk-gauze draperies, serving the purpose of a screen, hang from the massive beams in the roof.

The figures seen in Korean temples are reproduced in Buddhist temples throughout Asia, the supreme and central form being that of Sakya-muni or Buddha. In the sculpture and artistic development of this, the central figure of their pantheon, there is little, if any, deviation from the conventional traditions of India, Siam, Thibet, and Mongolia. The sage is crouching on his knees with the souls of his feet turned upward to the face; the palms and fingers of his hands pressed together; the eyes are slightly oblique, and the lobes of the ears somewhat bulbous. The throne consists of the open calyx of a lotus flower, the symbol of eternity. The splendour of the figures in the Temple of the Tree of Buddha is noticeable; and the lustre of the heavy gilding gleams from about the altar into the dimness and uncertain light of the vast chamber like the rays of some spiritual fire. Devotional exercises never cease in this House of the Ever-Supreme Lord, the services and constant offering of prayer being taken in turn by the officiating priests. At these moments, when the lonely figure of the priest is seen pleading with the Ever-Supreme Lord, in his most sacred Temple and before his most sacred shrine, for the grace of forgiveness, the scene is one of the most extraordinary solemnity. As the chant rises and falls in[236] the great spaces of the hall and the swaying figure rocks in the despair of his passionate self-abandonment the sympathies and emotions are strangely stirred. The stages of the services are marked by blows upon a bell which the priest holds before him, the while he casts himself upon his face and kneels before the resplendent Buddha.

The chief celebrations of the day and night in Yu-chom-sa are accompanied by the booming of the great bronze bell—an elaborate casting of the fourteenth century—and by the beating of a large circular drum many feet in circumference. Both instruments stand in their own towers in the courtyard. During the minor services, the genuflections of the priests are accompanied by the jarring notes of the small brass bells, which they strike repeatedly with deer-horns. A magnificent figure of Buddha sits in the Temple of the Lotus Blossom, in an attitude of impassive benignity behind a screen of glass, looking solemnly upon the devotions and pious exercises of his faithful attendants. This altar is recessed, the entire shrine being protected by plates of glass, and the offerings of rice, which are presented to the altar for benediction, stand without the screen. Among other temples and shrines at Yu-chom-sa there are the House of Everlasting Life, the Temple of the Water Month, the Temple of People who come from the West. There are fifty monks in Yu-chom-sa, twelve nuns, and eight boys who have not yet been admitted to the order. Many of the boys in these monasteries are quite young. Some have been handed over by their parents in extreme infancy, while others have been received out of the wide charity of the Buddhists, and dedicated to the service of the monasteries. These boys[237] appear intelligent. They are taught little beyond the different chants and litanies, with the words of which they soon become familiar. The boys are clean and well fed; but the monks, if equally clean, are more sparing in their diet. Their frugal repast consists of rice and varieties of minced vegetables, cakes of pine nuts glued together with honey, and other cakes of popped rice and honey. The extreme richness of the dishes soon palls upon the palate. While managing to exist, signs of emaciation are noticeable in their bodies and faces. Among the nuns who are attracted to these different monasteries, there are many who have entered the cloister from religious motives, and a few who, alone in the world, find it a convenient spot in which to pass their lives. Neither class, however, encroaches upon the religious and devotional functions of[238] the monks, but lives entirely apart, existing altogether in a world of their own making.


The forms of religion which prevail in Korea to-day are Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shamanism. Statements of ancient Chinese and Japanese writers, and the early Jesuit missionaries, tend to prove that the worship of spirits and demons has been the basis of national belief since the earliest times. The god of the hills is even now the most popular deity. Worship of the spirits of heaven and earth, of the invisible powers of the air, of nature, of the morning star, of the guardian genii of the hills and rivers, and of the soil and grain, has been so long practised that, in spite of the influences of Confucianism, and the many centuries in which Buddhism has existed in the land, the actual worship of the great mass of the people has undergone little material alteration. However widespread this leaning of the lower classes towards demonolatry may be, the philosophy of Confucius has been from the fifteenth century the official and fashionable cult in Korea. In its middle period, it attained to that point when a religion, which at first was fostered by the few and has spread gradually until it became absorbed by the people, feels itself firmly established, and emphasises its ascendency by the bigotry of its assertions, its intolerance, and, crowning triumph of all usurping tenets, by the virulence of its persecution. Confucianism now overspreads the whole peninsula. From the fourth to the fourteenth century, when the religion of the Enlightened One prevailed, it was studied and practised only by the learned classes. Buddhism predominated throughout the southern half of the peninsula, and only partially leavened the northern division of the Empire, where it was unable to combat the teachings of Confucius.[239] Throughout its development, however, Buddhism has exercised a potent influence in Korean affairs, which continued until the close of the last dynasty. The power of the bonzes at one time controlled the Court and nullified the decrees of the monarch. During its pristine supremacy it became the strongest and most formidable factor in the education of the country. It wielded unlimited and unrestricted power, while it guided the political and social revolutions of the period. Great respect is still shown to the tenets of Buddhism in Korea. New monasteries and temples are in process of construction—the Buddhist priests of Japan and Korea making common cause against the activities of Western missionaries. The Emperor has also shown himself interested in the propagation of this faith, and, with Lady Om, he has given large sums to the restoration of certain dilapidated temples without the city. All things[240] considered, Buddhism has left such a mark upon the history of the little kingdom that, although the purely ethical character of the teachings of Confucius be acknowledged, Korea must be classed among the Buddhist countries of the earth.




The Abomination of desolation—Across Korea—The east coast—Fishing and filth

The peace, piety, and sublime earnestness of the monks of the monasteries of Yu-chom and Chang-an is in startling contrast to the state of things at Shin-ki-sa. The magnificence of Yu-chom-sa, and the charitable benevolence of Chang-an-sa, engender a mood of sympathetic appreciation and toleration towards those, whose lives are dedicated to the service of Buddha, in these isolated retreats of the Diamond Mountains. The spectacle presented by the monastery at the north-eastern base of the Keum-kang-san, however, reveals the existence of certain evils which happily do not disfigure the more important Buddhist centres in this region. It is not time which alone has brought about the disorder; nor would the material decay be so lamentable if the dignity and charm of a picturesque ruin were not lacking. The tone of the monks here is totally different. Everything is neglected, and every one is indifferent to the needs of the temples. A litter of broken tiles lies about the buildings; dirt and dust, the natural consequences of carelessness and neglect, disgrace them within. The spirit of reverence is wanting. The scene is changed.


Shin-ki is a small monastery. Perhaps its temples have never been comparable with the shrines of Yu-chom-sa in grace and beauty. Nothing, however, can excuse the disorder and neglect of its court-yards, and the slovenliness of the temple service. There seems to be nothing in common between this and those other monasteries, which rest within the heart of the ranges. One looks in vain for the courtly dignity of the aged Abbot of Yu-chom-sa, whose humanitarian spirit was so impressive. The principles of consideration, politeness, and devotion that govern his conduct are sadly lacking in the Abbot, the priests, and monks attached to Shin-ki-sa. The contrast is indeed great. The most painful emotions are excited by the decline which has taken place in the prosperity of the temples. Anger and sorrow fill the soul. As one gazes beyond the temples into the peace and beauty of the valley below, it is as if one were looking across from a place of abomination into another and a better world. The colourless skeleton of the past alone remains, and one longs for the power to restore the fabric to its former self.

In its setting the monastery has caught something of the spirit of nature. If there is any compensating element in its decadence, it is found in the wild beauty of the rugged mountains, which tower above it from across the valley. Beyond their granite faces lie the trials and tribulations of the outer world; once enclosed within their grey embrace the little ironies of life disappear. The hours are cool and undisturbed. Primeval forests adorn the deep gullies of the ranges; a flood of colour comes from the open spaces where wild flowers are growing and the tints of the woodland foliage disclose an endless variety of green. In the centre of a patch, cleared of its undergrowth and[243] approached by a path winding through deep woods, is Mum-sa-am. This retreat is given over to the twenty nuns who are associated with Shin-ki-sa. I know nothing of their lives, but from the state of their temples, and the roughness and disorder of their surroundings, it did not appear to me that they, any more than the sixty priests, monks, and boys of the lower monastery, find the tenets of Buddha very elevating, or derive much satisfaction from the surrounding scenery.


The history of our days in the more important monasteries of the Diamond Mountains was uneventful. The anxious care and solicitude of the monks for the welfare of their guests was hourly manifested, and some kindly attention was shown to us at every possible opportunity. Cool and lofty quarters were allotted for our entertainment; the resources of the monastery were placed at our disposal. The Abbot of Chang-an-sa prepared draughts of honey-water and cakes[244] of pine-seeds for our refreshment. Every morning supplies of honey, rice, and flour, and small bundles of fresh vegetables were brought to the table; throughout the day nothing was left undone, which, in the minds of these simple men, would be conducive to our comfort. A deep pool in the tumbling mountain-stream was reserved for our use, and when, in the fresh air of the morning, and again when the cool winds of the evening had tempered the heat of the day, we went to bathe, the Abbot, upon his own initiative, arranged that we should be left in undisturbed possession of the water-hole.

The Temple, which we occupied during our stay at Chang-an-sa, contained The Altar of the Three Buddhas. The building was spacious and impressive. A wide verandah surrounded it, teak pillars supported a massive roof; scrolls and allegorical pictures, illustrating incidents in the life of Buddha, decorated the wall. Layers of oiled paper carpeted the floor; an altar cloth of silk, richly embroidered, small mats, bronze incense bowls and brass candelabra, embellished the altar, in the centre of which was a large gilt image of the Three Buddhas. Every evening at sunset, the monks who officiated in this Temple placed bowls of rice, honey, and pine-seed cakes upon the altar, and lighted the small lamps and candles which illuminated it. Prayers were not always said, nor were the services always the same, the numbers of the monks varying nightly according to the character of the special office. When the services concluded, there were many who found something to attract them in our small encampment. They gathered round the kitchen; they assisted the interpreter to cook, and tasted his dishes. They handled with amazement the cooking utensils of a camp-kitchen, the cutlery of a traveller’s table. Occasionally,[245] as their increasing familiarity brought about some small degree of intimacy between us, the monks would display their beads and alms-bowls for our inspection, requesting our acceptance of copies of their books in return for photographs of their temples. The intricacies of a camera delighted them, the appearance of a sporting rifle created consternation in their breasts, and they were never tired of swinging in my camp-bed.


Before the camp at Chang-an-sa was shifted to Yu-chom-sa, a fast friendship, engendered by many kindly acts and the uninterrupted expression of a thoughtful consideration for our needs, sprung up between the monks and ourselves. They consulted us about their ailments, which usually took the shape of an acute attack of indigestion or a form of intermittent dysentery. My medicines were limited to some quinine pills and a bottle of fruit salts;[246] they accepted either prescription with gratitude and much melancholy philosophy. But although they remained always the same well-disposed visitors to our camp, I noted that they did not frequently present themselves as candidates for treatment again. When the moment came for our departure, many small gifts were pressed upon us. For a long time, too, it seemed as if it would be impossible to obtain an account of our indebtedness to the monastery. In the end the persuasion of the interpreter prevailed. When we added to the reckoning a few dollars for the funds of the monastery, the expressions of gratitude and appreciation, to which our little gift gave rise, made it almost possible to believe that the kindness and hospitality shown had been all on our side.

Our quarters at Yu-chom-sa were in no sense inferior, and none the less delightful in their situation, to those which we left behind at Chang-an-sa. The guest-house in Yu-chom-sa affords views of the mountain torrent as it dashes through the boulder-strewn, tree-clad slopes of the valley. At Chang-an-sa we camped beneath the protecting eaves of the spacious verandah which surrounds the Temple of The Three Buddhas, avoiding whenever possible any general use of the sacred edifice. In the case of Yu-chom-sa, this diffidence was unnecessary; the building placed at our disposal being that usually set aside for the requirements of those persons of official position who might be visiting the monastery. The apartments were clean, comfortable, and bright. They were hung with tablets, upon which had been inscribed the names and dignities of previous visitors. High walls enclosed the buildings, and massive gates preserved the compound from unexpected intrusion. The life in these encampments is one of ideal[247] peace and happiness. It was possible to work undisturbed and unprovoked by any harrowing influences. Indeed, there was no suggestion of any other existence. We lived in the seclusion of a sanctuary, where mortal misgivings had not penetrated, and where the tribulations, which oppress mankind, were unknown.

Beyond Shin-ki-sa, a journey of fifteen li, a well-made road leads east north-east to the coast, which it touches at Syöng-chik. The sight and scent of the sea, after the exhausting discomforts of Shin-ki-sa, was peculiarly welcome. Between Yu-chom-sa and Shin-ki-sa the country is intersected with marshes and rice-fields. The difficulties of marching through these bogs and mud-holes greatly impeded the horses. The road by the coast, if rough and stony in places, is at least free from these obstacles, affording a tortuous, but none the less pleasant, course. Wending across basaltic slopes, ascending their smooth surfaces by a series of roughly-hewn steps, it drops to a level of burnished sand. A sweep inland to the west and south-west avoids the rugged spurs of a neighbouring range. The sea licks the white sand with gentle murmurs and the slight breeze scarcely ripples the blue surface, the constant variations, which the golden sands and glittering sea, the open valleys and green hills present, adding to the charm and freshness of the journey. The feeling of isolation, inseparable from travel in regions where the sense of freedom is shut out by a world of enclosing mountains, is at once lost in contact with the ocean and the ships that go down to it. Far out, in the great expanse of the peaceful sea, were fishing-boats, grey junks, hull down upon the horizon, their brown sails bellying spasmodically in the fitful gusts of the breeze. In the shallows off-shore men, brown[248] and naked, dragged for herring and sprat while their children gathered crabs, diving after their victims in the deep pools with screams of delight.

Around the hovels, in all these clusters of small villages by the waves, men slept in the blazing sunshine. While their lords reposed, the women mended the rents in the nets, or busied themselves in constructing crude traps, with the aid of which their husbands contrived to catch fish. The aspect of these villages upon the beach was not inviting; and they did not compare favourably with any of the inland villages through which we had passed. They were dirty, tumble-down, and untidy; the appearance of the people suggested great personal uncleanliness. The air was laden with the smell of fish drying in the sun—of itself a pleasant perfume, smacking of the salt of the sea—but here so mingled with the odours of decaying offal, piles of rubbish, and varieties of fish and seaweed in different stages of decomposition that the condensed effluvium was sickening. The people, however, were neither curious nor unkindly; for the great part they were indifferent, offering baskets of fresh eggs, fish, and chickens readily for sale. The beach by these villages was black with rows of fish, drying, upon the white sand, in the most primitive fashion. The art of smoking fish is unknown, and the careless manner in which the curing is done proves that the treatment has neither principle nor system. Dogs lay upon these rows of fish, fowls feed undisturbed off them, and, in many places, men slept peacefully with a number of them heaped together, to serve as pillows for their weary heads. Where such neglect prevails, it is perhaps not unnatural that much of the disease among the Koreans should be attributed to the dried fish which they eat so greedily.


The trade in salted and sun-dried fish is extensive and finds its way all over the kingdom; an overland traffic of considerable importance exists with the capital. Strings or stacks of dried fish are to be seen in every village. Pack ponies, and coolies laden with loads of dried fish, are met upon every road in the kingdom. The pedestrian who “humps his own swag” almost always carries a small stock with him. The parallel industry to the business of curing fish is the operation of making salt from sea-water, a pursuit which is conducted in a manner equally rough and casual. In both of these industries there is a crying need for simple technical instruction, as well as for capital, the lack of which hinders the work from achieving any particular success. There is so much fish in the sea along the coast, that, if the catches were properly treated, the beginning of a prosperous export trade could be readily laid. At the present only a bare sufficiency is secured, the days of prosperity not yet having begun to dawn. The industry is completely paralysed by the exactions of the officials; the fishermen, like the peasants, knowing only too well that an immunity from the demands of the Yamen is found only in a condition of extreme poverty.

Many fishing villages were passed through in the journey from the Diamond Mountains. Each seemed to reflect the other, the sole difference between them lying in their size, the number of fishing-boats drawn up on the beach, the strength and density of their smells. The poverty and squalor of these hamlets was astonishing. The people seemed without spirit, content to live an idle, slatternly existence in sleeping, yawning, and eating by turns. Despite offers of payment, it was impossible to secure their services in a day’s fishing, although they generally admitted that the[250] boats, nets, and lines were not otherwise engaged. As the outcome of this spirit of indifference among the natives, Japanese fishermen are rapidly securing for themselves the fishing-grounds off the coast. Unless these dreary, meditative, and dirty people arouse themselves soon, the business of fishing in their own waters will have passed altogether from their hands. The Japanese catch fish at all seasons; the Koreans at one only—when it suits them. They have consequently a diminishing influence in a trade so exceedingly profitable that some ten thousand Japanese fishing-boats subsist by it.



The filthy condition of the villages renders any stay in them perilous. It is wiser to camp beyond them in the open. It was my misfortune to stay in several, but in the village of Wha-ding, seventy-five li from Won-san, the virulence and variety of the insects surpassed all my experience in Australia, America, Africa, or Asia. Fleas were everywhere; they floated through the atmosphere, much as the north-west winds of New Zealand and the hot winds of Africa drive particles of fine sand through the air. In this case, however, nothing remained without its thin penetrating covering of fleas. One night in Wha-ding stands out as the most awful of these experiences. It was impossible to stand; it was impossible to sit; sleep was out of the question. We shook our clothes; we bathed and washed and powdered. Every effort was a torture, and each precaution increased the ironies of the situation. To add to the plagues of this accursed place, we were deafened by the ear-splitting incantations of a sorcerer, who had been hired by the proprietor of the village inn to exorcise a devil that had bewitched him. We wondered, afterwards, whether this accounted for the damnable activity among the vermin.[252] After a futile attempt to come to terms with the magician by bribery and corruption through the medium of my interpreter, it was arranged that one of the grooms should represent the evil spirit. He passed out into the desolation of the night and howled plaintively, while we, having collected the elders and the necromancer, solemnly fired our revolvers into the darkness at the departing spirit. Unfortunately, we did not convince the wizard that the devil had been expelled. It was not until, losing my temper and my reason together, I dropped his gongs and cymbals down a well, depositing him in it after them, that we were rid of the agonies of this additional nuisance.




Drought—Starvation—Inland Disturbances—Rainfall and disease

It is difficult for us in England to understand how far-reaching may be the evils, resulting from the complete failure of the rainfall, in countries where the population relies upon it for their daily bread. A brief mention, in the Press, of the lateness of the monsoon gives no sign of the anxiety with which many millions of people are regarding the approaching harvest. Water means life to the rice-fields, and a drought implies, not alone the failure of a staple crop, but famine, with disorder and starvation, disease and death, as its accompaniments. A drought in the rice-fields makes a holocaust of the people in the winter. The forces of law and order at the disposal of the Government of India place some restraint upon the populace. In the Far East, where the civil administration is incompetent[254] to deal with the exigencies of the situation, and the systematic dispensation of relief is unknown, the decimation of the population and the complete upheaval of the social fabric follows closely upon the break-down in nature. Indirectly, too, the consequences of famine in India prove this.

An even more emphatic evidence of the effects of a drought, where the population live upon the rice crop, is afforded by the appalling loss of life and the grave eruption of disorder, which took place in Korea as the consequence of the famine in 1901. Widespread ruin overtook the country; the inland districts were thronged with mobs of desperate people. Persons, normally peace-loving and law-abiding, banded together to harass the country-side, in the hope of extorting sufficient food to keep their families and themselves from starvation. Hunger drove whole communities from the villages to the towns, where no provision for their welfare existed. Anarchy prevailed throughout the country, the dire needs of the population goading them to desperation. A horde of beggars invaded the capital. Deeds of violence made the streets of Seoul unsafe after darkness, and bandits carried on their depredations openly in the Metropolitan Province. From a peaceful and happy land of sunshine and repose, Korea was transformed, in a few months, into a wilderness of misery, poverty, and unrest.

The measures for relief were quite inadequate, and although rice was imported, large numbers of the people, lacking the money with which to buy it, starved to death. The absence of an efficient organisation in the face of this further disaster increased the confusion. Before any arrangements could be made for their relief, several[255] thousands had died. More than 20,000 destitute people were discovered in Seoul, out of a population of rather less than 200,000. Reports from the provincial centres disclosed a relapse into a state of absolute savagery in many rural districts. Famine, pestilence, and death stalked abroad in Korea for months, and many, who escaped starvation, lost their lives subsequently in the great wave of disease which swept over the land.


It is impossible to believe that the famine would have assumed its late proportions had the Government of Korea maintained its embargo against the exportation of cereals from the country. There can be no doubt that the withdrawal of this prohibition contributed to the scarceness of the food-stuffs which were procurable by the people, when their straits were most severe. Mortality returns from the[256] areas devastated by the famine prove that the welfare of more than one million persons was affected. The action of Japan, therefore, in insisting upon the suspension of the prohibition in order that the interests of some half-dozen Japanese rice merchants might not suffer, deserves the utmost condemnation. The primary responsibility for this great loss of life rests entirely with the Japanese Government. In terrorising the Government of Korea into an act, the consequences of which brought death to one million people, the Japanese Government committed themselves to a policy which traversed alike the dictates of reason and common sense, and outraged every principle of humanity. The impartial observer must hold Korea guiltless in this matter. It is, indeed, deplorable that the vehement opposition of the Korean Government was not respected. Nevertheless, the incident is valuable, as an illustration of the objectionable attitude which distinguishes the Government of Japan in its relations with Korea.

At the beginning of the drought the inhabitants of Seoul believed that the Rain God was incensed. The Emperor and his Court offered expiatory sacrifices upon three occasions. As the rains were still withheld a period of penance was proclaimed, in which prayers and fastings were ordained, the populace ceasing from every form of labour and relapsing into a condition of supreme idleness. Unhappily, while the great mass of the people refrained from work, the Emperor continued to employ many hundreds of labourers upon the construction of the new Palace buildings. This proceeding was held by the superstitious subjects of His Majesty to account for the singular inclemency of the Rain Demon, and some anxiety was felt in the capital lest the usual calm of the city should be broken by riots. These[257] horrors were spared to Seoul, however, by the fortuitous visitation of a passing shower. Men and women resumed their toil, rejoicing in the belief that the evil influences had been overcome. It was, however, but a brief respite only that was granted. In a short time the drought prevailed throughout the land, drying up the rice-fields, scorching the pastures, and withering the crops. Under this baneful visitation, the circumstances of the people became very straitened. Hundreds were reduced to feeding off the wild roots and grass of the wayside, and isolated cases of cannibalism were reported.

The exceptional character of the drought lends interest to the hydrometrical records for Chemulpo from 1887 to the middle of 1901, which were forwarded to the bureau by the correspondent of the Physical Observatory, St. Petersburg. The rain-fall given is for the years 1887 to 1900, inclusive, and the first half of 1901; the snow-fall is reduced to the proportion of water which the melted snow would make. Professor H. Hulbert has pointed out, however, that in estimating what is or what is not a proper amount of rain, it is necessary to know in what season of the year the rain has fallen. Thirty inches of rain in November would be of less value to the rice-fields than half that amount if it fell in June. In the cultivation of rice, rain must fall at the proper time. Otherwise it is valueless, and, although adding to the actual measurement of the fall, a very considerable deluge, under these conditions, would be of no material advantage to agricultural interests.



1887 30.86 2.00 32.86 13d 3h 19d 17h 4d 2h
1888 20.91 2.15 23.06 14d 5h 12d 6h 3d 3h
1889 28.18 0.91 29.09 25d 13h 25d 5h 5d 9h
1890 47.00 1.06 48.06 12d 18h 27d 10h 0d 64h
1891 41.04 1.66 41.70 13d 5h 30d 20h 3d 7h
1892 34.04 1.20 35.24 15d 20h 16d 10h 4d 6h
1893 50.64 3.55 54.19 31d 5h 36d 6h 8d 11h
1894 31.81 0.64 32.45 33d 18h 21d 9h 1d 8h
1895 31.88 2.06 33.94 32d 7h 29d 11h 6d 17h
1896 31.08 5.15 36.23 51d 7h 27d 0h 2d 0h
1897 48.35 3.23 51.58 24d 5h 31d 17h 4d 18h
1898 37.80 4.73 42.53 31d 14h 29d 19h 5d 15h
1899 25.07 2.05 27.12 18d 19h 1d 3h
1900 29.14 0.83 29.97 21d 2h 0d 20h
1901 7.09 0.06 7.15 7d 5h 3d 7h 2d 0h

I give, also, the rainfall during the years 1898-1901, at the period when a plenteous rain is of supreme importance to the rice industry:

Year June July August Total
1898 4.5 10.0 11.0 25.5
1899 8.5 7.5 6.7 22.7
1900 2.0 6.2 4.5 12.7
1901 0.3 2.7 1.1 4.1

In a rice-growing country such as this is, it is essential that an adequate supply of rain should fall during the three summer months to allow of the seed-rice being transplanted and to ensure the maturing of the grain. In 1901, owing to the lack of water, the bulk of the seed-rice was never transplanted at all. It simply withered away.

It is, of course, inevitable that one of the immediate[259] results of famine should be a general increase of mortality throughout the country. The impoverished condition, to which so many thousands of Koreans were reduced, weakened their constitutions so seriously that, in many cases, even those who were fortunate enough to escape starvation found their powers fatally impaired. There were many whose inanition and general debility, resulting from their deprivations, had rendered them peculiarly susceptible to disease. More particularly was this the case in the inland districts.

Under normal conditions, malaria is, perhaps, the most common disease in Korea. It prevails in all parts of the country, but it is specifically localised in sections where there are numerous rice-fields. Small-pox is nearly always present, breaking out in epidemic form every few years. Nearly all adults, and most children over ten years, will be found to have had it. Leprosy is fairly prevalent in the southern provinces, but it spreads very slowly. While this disease presents all the characteristics described in the text-books, the almost imperceptible increase, which distinguishes its existence in Korea, is strong presumptive evidence that it is non-infectious.

The great enemy of health is the tubercle bacillus. The want of ventilation, the absence of sanitation, and the smallness of the houses, foster this little germ. Tubercular and joint diseases are common; also fistula, hare-lip, diseases of the eye, throat and ear. The most common disease of the eye is cataract; of the ear, suppuration of the middle drum, in the great majority of cases the result of small-pox in childhood. Cases of nasal polypi are also very numerous. Hysteria is fairly common, while epilepsy and paralysis are among other nervous disorders which are encountered.[260] Indigestion is almost a national curse, the habit of eating rapidly large quantities of boiled rice and raw fish promoting this scourge. Toothache is less frequent than in other countries; diphtheria and typhoid are very rare, and scarlet fever scarcely exists. Typhus, malarial remittent fever, and relapsing fever are not uncommon. Venereal disease is about as general as it used to be in England.

In short, there is a preponderance of diseases which result from filthy habits, as also of those produced by the indifferent qualities of the food, and the small and over-crowded houses. Most of the diseases common to humanity present themselves for treatment in Korea.


Erected to mark the spot where the corpse of the late Queen was burned by the Japanese.



The missionary question—Ethics of Christianity—Cant and commerce—The necessity for restraint

The history of missionary enterprise in Korea abounds in illustrations of the remarkable manner in which French missionaries may be relied upon to offer up their lives for their country. It may be cynical to say so, yet there is much reason to believe that the Roman Catholic priests in the Far East of to-day are the agents provocateurs of their Government. They promote anarchy and outrage, even encompassing their own deaths, whenever the interests of their country demand it. From the beginnings of Christianity in China they have wooed the glory of martyrdom, and they have repeated the process in Korea.


Christianity made its way into Korea about 1777, by the[262] chance arrival of a packet of translations in Chinese of the works of the Jesuits in Pekin. From this small beginning the ideas spread, until the King’s Preceptor was compelled to fulminate a public document against this new belief. Finding this insufficient, examples were made of prominent enthusiasts. Many were tortured; and others condemned to perpetual exile. Persecution continued until 1787; but the work of proselytism proceeded, despite the injurious attentions which converts received from the public executioners.

The first attempt of a foreign missionary to enter Korea was made in 1791. It was not until three years later, however, that any Western evangelist succeeded in evading the vigilance of the border sentinels. Where one came others naturally followed, undeterred by the violent deaths which so many of these intrepid Christians had suffered. While the French missionaries were prosecuting their perilous labours, in the face of the undisguised hostility of the great proportion of the people, and losing their lives as the price of this work, the walls of isolation which Korea had built around herself were gradually sapped. Ships from France, Russia and Great Britain touched her shores during their explorations and trading ventures in the Yellow Sea. Under the association of ideas which sprang from the appearance of these strange ships, the Koreans grew accustomed to the notion that their world was not limited by the resources of their own country and the more distant territories of China. However, judging the sailors who fell into their hands by the standards of the French priests, who had set every law in the land at defiance, they at once killed them. This practice continued until 1866, when word reached the Admiral of a French squadron at Tientsin of the slaughter[263] of his compatriots in Korea. Upon receipt of the news, an expedition was prepared, of itself an early manifestation of that policy by which the French Government is inspired in its dealings with missionaries and missionary questions in countries, the development of whose geographical or industrial peculiarities may be turned to advantage.

For many centuries the land was without any accepted religious doctrine. Buddhism, which existed for one thousand years before the present dynasty came to the throne, had fallen into disfavour; the tenets of Confucius did not completely satisfy the minds of the upper classes, and Shamanism was the worship of the more primitive masses. The moment was ripe for the introduction of a more practical philosophy, and in time, as the gospel of Christianity spread, opposition to the great creed of humanitarianism lessened. Toleration of the many phases of Western belief is now general, the Korean finding in the profession of Christianity an easy means of evading the exactions of the officials. Nevertheless, the diffusion of Christianity is not unattended with bloodshed and disaster. Apart from this drawback to the propagation of Christian beliefs in Korea, it may be doubted whether the methods of the various missionary bodies bear the impress of that spirit of charity which should illustrate their teaching. Without impugning the individual attainments of any of the many missionary groups who administer to the needs of the Koreans, I find it difficult to affirm that the principles of self-abnegation so manifest in the lives of the Roman Catholic priests and the workers of the Church of England Mission, are equally in evidence in the comfortable existence which is led by the well-paid attachés of the American Mission Boards. The French priests live in abject poverty;[264] striving to identify themselves with the conditions of their flock, they accept neither holiday nor reward as compensation for their services. In this bare comparison of the principles of ministration, I do not wish, at the moment, to venture into the domain of controversy, but merely to convey some impression of the competing systems of procedure.

The Church of England Mission, which has become known as the English Mission, under the direction of Bishop Corfe has adopted a system of communism. The expenses of board, lodging, clothing, laundry and fuel are met from a common fund, quarterly remitted from the Mission Treasurer to the responsible head of each Mission House. In proportion to the number of residents, the expenditure is returnable upon a pro rata calculation of about £70 per head per annum. This estimate includes the cost of the male staff. The proportionate rate of expenditure in respect of the lady workers of the English Mission is one-third of this annual disbursement less. The depôts of the Mission are situated at Seoul, Chemulpo, Mok-po, and Kang-wha; in addition to the stations in Korea, a chaplaincy is maintained in New-chwang. The chief centre of activity of this Mission is upon the island of Kang-wha. The task of improving the condition of the very poor, by means of education, kindness and patience, proceeds quietly at Chemulpo and Seoul too, where particular attention is given to the welfare of the sick. At one time, there were important dispensary and hospital institutes in these places, the medical establishment at Chemulpo, however, is now abandoned.

The members of this Mission endure no little privation in the primitive simplicity of their surroundings. Their[265] services, on the other hand, display much unnecessary pomp; and the white, full-skirted cassock with rough hempen girdle, which they wear in public and private, emphasises their ritualistic tendencies, and is, to my mind, somewhat of an affectation. Nevertheless, in their daily practice, those associated with the Church of England Mission in Korea set before themselves that standard of idealism in missionary enterprise which is represented by the unnecessary sacrifices, the sublime heroism, and fortitude distinguishing the priests of the Roman Catholic Church, a standard, I am compelled to admit, that other missions in the Far East—American, English, Scotch, and Irish—appear incapable of realising.

The American missionary in the Far East is a curious creature. He represents a union of devices which have made him a factor of considerable commercial importance. American missionaries in Korea were formerly closely associated with the more important export houses in the leading industrial centres of America. Owing to diplomatic representation this practical demonstration of Western superiority is no longer openly indulged. In Seoul, however, an American missionary inconsiderately receives paying guests, causing a manifest loss of business to the Station Hotel; in Won-san, another exploits his orchard. As a class they are necessarily newspaper correspondents and professional photographers; upon rare occasions—and here I refer especially to a small coterie of American missionaries in Seoul—they are the scholarly students of the history, manners, customs and language of the country in which they happen to be placed.

The American missionary has a salary which frequently exceeds £200 a year, and is invariably pleasantly supplemented[266] by additional allowances. Houses and servants are provided free, or grants are made for house rent; there is a provision for the education of the children, and an annual capitation payment is made for each child. As a class, American missionaries have large families, who live in comparative idleness and luxury. In Korea, they own the most attractive and commodious houses in the foreign settlements, and appear to me to extract from their surroundings the maximum of profit for the minimum of labour. I do not know whether it is with the permission of the executive officers of the American Mission Boards that their representatives combine commerce with their mission to the heathen. When a missionary devotes no little portion of his time to literary labours, to the care of an insurance agency, to the needs of a fruit farm, or to the manifold exigencies of casual commerce, it seems to me that the interests of those who sit in darkness must suffer.

American mission agents have made Korea their peculiar field. Converts, who prattle of Christianity in a marked American accent, are among the features of the capital in the twentieth century. Mission centres, which have been created in a number of places, now show signs of prosperity. They enlist no little practical sympathy and support from the native population. The self-supporting character of much of the missionary work in Korea bears out the spirit of toleration which distinguishes the attitude of the people towards the propaganda. It is not to be supposed that the work of the missionaries is agreeable to all shades of native opinion. Riots and bloodshed disfigure the path of proselytism, the credulity of the natives entailing heavy sacrifices of life. The disturbances which have thus marked the spread of Christianity in Korea, notably in the anti-Christian rising in[267] Quelpart, a few months ago, are due to the jealousy with which the heathen mass of the population regard the protection from official rapacity, enjoyed by those who accept The Light.

In the case of Quelpart, this feeling of animosity, and the immunity from taxation which the French priests gave to their following, created an intolerable position. Anarchy swept over the island, and some six hundred believers were put summarily to death. Whatever may be the compensating advantages of this martyrdom, the reckless and profligate sacrifice of life, which missionary indiscretion in the Far East has promoted, is an outrage upon modern civilisation. We have passed through one terrible anti-Christian upheaval in China, and, if we wish to avoid another such manifestation, it is necessary to superintend all forms of missionary enterprise more closely. This, however, can be done only by legislative supervision, imposing restraint in the direction which recent events have indicated. It is imperative that certain measures should be adopted in missionary work which will ensure the safety of the individual zealot, and be agreeable to the general comfort of the community. It is unfortunate, but inevitable, that such reforms must be radical. The violence of missionary enterprise during recent years has been altogether unbridled. The great activity of the different societies, resulting from their unrestricted liberty, has recoiled most fatally upon the more indefatigable, as well as upon the heads of many wholly innocent of any unwarrantable religious persecution. The time has come, therefore, when vigorous restrictions should chasten this vigorous, polemical proselytism. The practice of scattering missionaries broadcast over the interior of these Far Eastern countries should not continue; the assent[268] of the local Consul and a representative council of the Foreign Ministers should be required in every case. Moreover, it would be wiser, if, under no conceivable circumstances, single women were permitted to proselytise beyond the carefully prescribed treaty limits of the different settlements. Again, missionaries with families, as well as single women, should not be allowed to live beyond the areas of these neutral zones.


These restraints upon missionary labours will, of course, be resented. If the total number of lives which have been lost in Korea, China, and Japan, by the interference of Western missionaries, were published, their vast aggregate would reveal to the unthinking masses of the public how urgent is the need for strong action. Such restraint is morally justifiable by the appalling massacres with which[269] the world is now familiar. The blind perseverance of the missionary has frequently brought about the simultaneous baptism and crucifixion of the convert. What more does the fanatical enthusiast wish than that some one should be thus doubly glorified by his means? The increasing death-roll among masters and pupils supplies the only necessary argument for immediate rectification of the entire system of missionary enterprise.



Inland journeying—Ponies, servants, interpreters, food and accommodation—What to take and how to take it—Up the Han River, frolic and leisure

Travelling in the inland regions of Korea is not the most comfortable pastime which can be devised, although it has many attractions. The lively bustle of the roads gradually gives place to the passing panorama of the scenery, which presents in constant variation a landscape of much natural beauty, with hills and meadows, bush-clad mountains and rice-fields, rivers, lakes, and raging torrents as prominent features. The shifting camp soon leaves the outposts of civilisation behind. This slow passing into the wilderness gives a subtle charm to the journey. Each turn of the track emphasises the desolation of the ever-changing scene. The wide expanse of plains and valleys makes way for the depths of wild and gloomy forests, where the ragged mountain-paths are slippery and dangerous. The ozone of a new life pervades the air. There is no doubt that such moments seem, for the time, the most perfect existence imaginable. Freedom is untrammelled by a care; the world for the day is comprised within a space as great as can be seen. Upon the morrow, its limitation is only a little more remote. The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the[271] game in the bushes, supply the provender of the camp. Villages provide rice, vegetables and eggs, the hillside springs give water, the rivers permit bathing. The air is pure, and the whole aspect of life is beautiful and joyous.

At the end of a trying day, one, perhaps, marred by an accident to an animal, trouble with the native servants, rain, fog, or the difficulties of the track, there is the evening camp. Those hours of rest and idleness, when the horses are fed and groomed, the packs unswung, the camp-beds slung beneath the mosquito curtains, and the evening meal prepared, are full of a supreme sensation of contentment. I have always loved these moments of peace, accepting what they brought as the best that life held for me at the time. At such an hour the refinements of civilisation and the restrictions of convention seem puerile enough. Moreover, there is much material benefit to be derived from such an undertaking. The trials and difficulties develop stability of character; the risks and dangers promote resource and self-reliance. There is much to be learnt from this contact with a human nature differing so radically from the prescribed types and patterns of the Western standard. There is something new in every phase of the experience. If it be only an impression, such as I have endeavoured to trace in these few lines, it is one which lingers in the mind long after other memories have faded.

Preparation for an inland journey of any extent takes a considerable time; ponies have to be hired, servants engaged, and interpreters secured. It is as well to personally examine the pack ponies which are to carry the loads. Koreans treat their animals shamefully, and the missionaries make no efforts to lighten the lot of these unhappy beasts. In consequence of the carelessness with which the[272] ponies are treated by their Korean masters, the poor little brutes suffer from back-sores larger and more dreadful than anything I have seen in any other part of the globe. If the Koreans could be taught the rudiments of horse-mastering and a more humane principle of loading and packing their rough saddles, as well as some practical veterinary knowledge, the lot of the unlucky little pony of the capital might be softened. But the spectacle of broken knees, raw necks, bleeding backs, and sore heels which these poor animals present, as they pass in quick succession along the streets of Seoul, is revolting. The American missionaries boast so much of their good deeds that it seems strange that they should neglect such a crying evil as this. There is, I presume, no credit to be “gotten” from alleviating the sufferings of a mere, broken-down, Korean pack pony.

Large numbers of the pack ponies of Korea come from Quelpart. They are diminutive in size, little larger than the Shetland breed, and rather smaller than the Welsh pony. They are usually stallions, given to fighting and kicking amongst themselves, and reputed savage. Their wildness is aggravated through a daily irritation by the rough surfaces of their pack saddles of the inflamed swellings on their backs. They endure longer marches and shorter food allowances than almost any other species of horse; they are quick in their gait, very strong, and willing, good feeders, and reveal extraordinary obstinacy, tenacity, and patience. Much of the pleasure in my travels in Korea, however, was entirely spoilt by the abominable neglect with which the native grooms treated their charges. Their dreadful condition goaded one to fury, and almost daily I remonstrated with one or other of the grooms for gross cruelty. My remarks had not the smallest effect, however, save that they wore me out,[273] and in the end I abandoned my expeditions to avoid the horrors of such spectacles. The Korean is quite callous to the sufferings of his animals. He will feed them well, and he will willingly disturb himself at night to prepare their food; but he will not allow ulcerated and running wounds to interfere with the daily work of the poor beasts. This is comprehensible; but he will not, upon his own initiative, even endeavour to bridge the sore by the tricky placing of a pad. However bad the gathering may be, on goes the load, the agony of the poor pony manifesting itself in a flourish of kicks, bites, and squeals.

In demonstration of this extreme callousness I may mention this incident. Once, outside Won-san, I saw a Korean seat himself upon the side of a stone, and leisurely proceed to rain blows upon the head of a dog which he was holding, until the poor thing collapsed insensible. He then beat it about the ribs, and put the body on the embers of a fire. We were several hundred yards off when this attracted my notice; but I chased the brute across two paddy stretches, until the heavy going compelled me to abandon it. At a later time I noticed that the grooms were most careful to dress the backs of the horses at our different halts, and also to endeavour to prevent the pack saddles from rubbing the wounds, prompted, I have no doubt, to this most desirable kindliness by the lesson which they had read between the lines upon the occasion of the dog incident.

The character of the native followers who accompany these journeys is a matter of great importance to the future welfare of the traveller. The proprietor of the Station Hotel, Seoul, secured me an excellent boy. Shortly after entering my service, an American missionary, who had been[274] hankering after the lad for some time before he was brought to me, suborned him. He deserted me upon the eve of my second expedition. This trick is seldom perpetrated east of Suez between Europeans with native servants; it is one of the few unwritten laws of the East and observed everywhere. I reported the matter to the American Minister, Dr. Allen, but the missionary kept the boy. Servants, grooms, and a coolie of a sort, are all necessary upon these expeditions; one groom to each horse is a wise allowance. Koreans like to send three horses to two men; however, my division is the better. Europeans require a body-servant, who will look after the personal effects of his master, and wait at table. An interpreter, who can speak Chinese and some European language, either German, French, or English, is invaluable. It is safer in each case to take men who are not converts. A coolie is useful and gives a little variety to the beasts of burden; he carries the camera, water-bottles, and small impedimenta of the hour. A chef is not really necessary—my interpreter voluntarily served as cook. The interpreter in any journey inland should be mounted; it saves considerable friction if the personal servants be allowed to ride on the baggage ponies. Interpreters receive from thirty to forty dollars a month; personal servants from eight to twenty dollars a month; coolies from eight to ten dollars a month. The hire for the horses, with whom the grooms are included, is a dollar a day, half the amount paid down in advance upon the day of starting. All calculations are made in Korean currency. The entire staff, except the horses and grooms, is fed by the traveller. The interpreter takes charge of the accounts. He will, if ordered, take down the Chinese and Korean names of the villages, streams, lakes, valleys, plains, mountains and[275] roads which are passed. This is useful; the map of Korea is most hopelessly out of date, and by forwarding these names to the Geographical Society some little good is accomplished. The interpreter will pay the coolies, grooms, and other servants in debased currency, and charge the account in Mexican dollars, making a profit of seventy-five per cent.; he is greedy and tenacious to the interests of his pocket, and he will suggest that he requires a servant. For this remark he should be flogged. He will muddle his accounts whenever he can; he will lose receipts if he can find no other way of squeezing. He is apparently an innocent, transparently honest, and devoted to the principles of sobriety and virtue—unless there is an opportunity to go the usual path. Under every condition he should be watched.

The Korean does not approach the Chinaman as a body-servant; he has neither initiative nor the capacity for the work, while he combines intemperance, immorality, and laziness in varying degrees. The master usually ends by waiting upon his man. There is, however, an antidote for this state of things. If sufficient point be put into the argument, and the demonstration be further enforced by an occasional kick, as circumstances may require, it is possible to convert a first-class, sun-loving wastrel into a willing, if unintelligent, servant. Under any conditions, his dishonesty will be incorrigible.

It is never necessary to take any large stock of provisions when travelling in Korea. Eggs, fowl, fresh fish, fruit, matches, tobacco, vegetables, and crushed rice flour can be procured at any village in large quantities. The inhabitants will perhaps declare that there are no such things in the village; that they are miserably poor. The village usually bears the stamp of its condition pretty plainly, and I found[276] that where this occurred the most effectual remedy was to call up the oldest man visible, to offer him a cigarette, to calm him down, and then to give the interpreter some money and to send off the pair of them. Once this system failed in a flea-infested hole on the west coast, where the village inn had no stables, and I really thought there were no fowls; of a sudden, as though satirising the expression of regret of several villagers, two fowls fluttered over a wall into the road. The meeting broke up in confusion. The grooms, the servants and the interpreter at once tackled the mob, laying about them with their whips; little damage was done, but considerable commotion ensued, and stables, fowls and eggs were at once forthcoming and as promptly paid for. In regard to payments made to the villagers, it is as well to make certain that the grooms pay for the horses’ accommodation; if they can avoid it they will do so, and a memory of this lingering in the mind of the inn-keeper, makes him shut his doors when the next foreigner is passing. But, in a general way, if everything is paid for, anything is procurable—even crockery and charcoal stoves, at a pinch, when the difficulties of the precipitous track have played unusual havoc in the china basket.

In the routine of the march, it is pleasant to camp beyond the village for the noonday halt; near the river, if the weather permits bathing. The food can be prepared in the sunlight under some trees. This picnic halt gives an agreeable change from the native inn, over which the missionaries wail perpetually; it is, indeed, always to be avoided. I was several times in Korean inns, driven in by some sudden and temporary downpour, which cut off my retreat. The evening camp made me independent of them in general; every evening the interpreter found the cleanest-looking private[277] house and bargained with its proprietor to let two rooms for the time of my visit. The arrangement was never refused, nor was I ever subjected to rudeness or to any insult upon these occasions. The family would freely help my servants, and when the grooms had removed themselves and their horses to the inn stables, no one was disturbed. The boy prepared breakfast in the morning. The space allotted to us was always ample for my camp-bed, kit, and mosquito curtains. It opened, as a rule, upon the courtyard, around which the house is built. There was plenty of air, as one side was open; the flooring was of thick timbers, raised from the ground. If the weather proved inclement the place afforded warmth and shelter. Moreover, this system has much to commend it on the score of cleanliness; the price paid by me, half a dollar, for the rooms was of course usually double the price which had been arranged. Occasionally while travelling, when these private houses were unprocurable, other makeshifts had to be adopted, an open encampment or the official quarters at the Yamen. This latter place was inconvenient, and we always accepted anything of a private nature rather than venture into the Yamen or the inn. Many nights were passed upon the verandahs of these houses, with a private room leading from it at the back, in case it became necessary. Our beds were pitched as much in the open as possible, the silent beauty of the night hours quite justifying the measure. Many nights I undressed upon the edge of the street, my camp-bed pitched beneath a verandah, a peaceful and inoffensive crowd of Koreans smoking and watching me a few feet off. I would get into my sleeping-suit, roll into my camp-bed, and close the mosquito curtains, upon which the crowd would quietly disperse. As publicity was unavoidable, and[278] it was useless to object, it was easier to accept the situation than to struggle with the curiosity of the spectators.

It is always well to dispense with everything which can be discarded. A camp-bed well off the ground and more strongly made than those of the usual American pattern, is essential; a field kit canvas valise, the Wolseley pattern, containing a pocket at either end, with a cork mattress, is also indispensable. It will carry all personal effects. Flannel shirts, towels, socks and the like, including a book or two, writing materials, mackintosh sheets, mosquito curtains, and insect-powder are all which need to be included. Fresh mint is useful against fleas if thrown about near the sleeping things in little heaps. It is an invaluable remedy and usually effective, though, by the way, I found the fleas and bugs in the houses of New York and Philadelphia infinitely less amenable to such treatment than any I came across in Korea during my stay there. A camera, a colonial saddle, Zeiss glasses, a shot-gun, a sporting-rifle, a revolver, a hunting-knife, and a large vulcanite water-bottle are necessary. A supply of sparklets is to be recommended; these articles, with a coil of rope, balls of string, jam, cocoa, tea, sugar, alcohol, potted meats, tinned fruits, and biscuits, enamelled ware eating and cooking things, with a few toilet accessories, completed my materials. It is good policy to take a small hamper of wines and luxuries, in case the opportunity occurs of extending hospitality to an official or some other travelling European. They are very serviceable among the officials. Native tobacco is light, mild, and easily smokable. I carried a pouch of it invariably. Canvas valises of the service type are better than any kind of a box. With this arrangement there are no corners or sharp edges to hurt[279] the horses, and as a load, too, they do not make such hard, unyielding objects against the side of a horse as any leather, tin, or wooden contrivance. My bed and field-kit just balanced upon one pony; my provisions and servants’ baggage fitted another. There was one spare pony. The interpreter and myself rode; the servants were mounted upon the baggage animals, the coolie walked.

At one time, when I was travelling with a German friend, our retinue was exceedingly numerous; we each had our personal establishment and a combined staff for the expedition. This, however, is not quite the way to rough it. It was, moreover, comparatively expensive and a bother, inasmuch that so large a cavalcade required no little managing. There was, however, something luxurious and enjoyable in that procession across Korea, although it is not the plan to be adopted in general.

There was little further to be accomplished by me in Korea. My journey overland had taken me from Fusan to Seoul, and again from Seoul to Won-san, my examination of the inland and coast centres of mining and industry was concluded: the beauties of the Diamond Mountains, with their Buddhist monasteries, had been studied. At the end of these labours, I was weary and ill at ease; moreover the time was approaching when my long journey overland from Seoul, the ancient capital of Korea, to Vladivostock, the seat of Russian authority upon the Pacific coast, would have to be begun. The heat in Seoul had been most oppressive, when one day Mr. Gubbins, the British Minister, suggested a short spell of rest and recuperation upon an island a few miles up the Han River. Before nightfall, my staff and I were floating, with the turn of the tide, up the estuary of the river. Sea breezes blew over the mighty[280] expanse of the smoothly gliding waters, and the burden of weariness which had been depressing me, lightened under the influence of these gusty winds and the freshening air from the harbour. The change from the hot and stuffy surroundings of the capital, where the crowds had ceased to be attractive and domestic bothers, arising from the preparation for my Vladivostock journey, had begun to jar upon the nerves, was most entrancing. When the moon burst out from behind a blackened canopy of cloud, as we sailed easily against the rapid current of the river, the rugged outline of the cliffs across the waters proved the reality of the transformation. During the small hours of the night I lay awake, playing with the bubbles and froth of the water in sweet contentment. I resolved to dally for a few days upon the small islands in the stream, halting in the heat of the sun and moving forward at night or in the twilight, when sea-birds could be killed for the pot and fish dragged from their cool depths for the breakfast dish. How delightful were the plunges into that swift current; and how often they were taken in the cool shade of some island backwater! Care and anxiety dropped away in those days of idle frolic, giving the mind, worn by the strain of many months of travel and the hardships of two campaigns, opportunity to recover its vigour. Then came some pleasant weeks in the island monastery, where, from a Buddhist haunt, perched high upon a lofty peak on Kang-wha, mile upon mile of smiling scenery lay open to inspection from my chamber window.



The salt water estuary of the Han is tempestuous and deep, given over to much shipping and small craft. The river itself does not begin for twenty miles above the tide-water mouth, the intervening stretch of water belonging[282] more correctly to the sea. Above Chemulpo, where the full force of the Han current is hardly felt, the velocity of the stream is quite five knots an hour. Where the breadth of the river narrows the rapidity of the flow increases. At a point, where the river makes a sudden sweep round some overhanging bluffs, which confront each other from opposite banks, the heavy volume of water thus tumbling down becomes a swirling, boisterous mill-race, as it twists and foams through its tortuous channels into another tide-swollen reach. The place of meeting between the sea and the river current shows itself in a line of choppy water, neither rough nor smooth. The water is always bubbling and always breaking at this point, in a manner poetically suggestive of the spirits of the restless deep. The Han river gives access to Seoul. In the days before the railway, the choice of route to the capital lay between[283] spending a night aground upon one of the many shifting sand-banks in the river or the risks of a belated journey overland, with pack ponies and the delights of a sand-bath in the Little Sahara. There were many who found the “all land” way preferable to the “land and water system,” to which many groundings and much wading reduced the experiment of travelling by junk or steam-launch in those days. Now, however, the iron horse rules the road.




Kang-wha, brief history of the island—A monastic retreat, an ideal rest—Nocturnal visitors—Midnight masses—Return to the capital—Preparations for a great journey—Riots and confusion

Kang-wha, the island to which I was sailing in these easy stages, lies in the north-east quarter of the gulf, formed by the right angle which the coast makes before taking that northerly sweep which carries it, with a curve, to the mouth of the Yalu River. On the south and south-west, Kang-wha is exposed to the open sea; on the north, the island is separated from the mainland by the Han estuary; and on the east a narrow strait, scarce two hundred yards wide, through which boats, journeying from Chemulpo to Seoul must travel, severs the island from the mainland.



The geographical features of the island include four clearly-defined ranges of mountains, with peaks attaining to an altitude of some two thousand feet. Broad and fertile valleys, running from east to west, separate these ranges, the agricultural industry of the population being conducted in their open spaces. The villages and farmsteads, in which the farming population dwell, are folded away in little hollows along the sides of the valleys, securing shelter and protection from the severity of the winter. Many hundred acres of the flats, which form the approaches to these valleys from the coast, have been reclaimed from the sea during the last two centuries, the erection of sea dykes of considerable length and immense strength having proceeded apace. But for these heavy earthworks, what is now a flourishing agricultural area would be nothing but a sea of mud washed by every spring tide. The continuous encroachment of the sea threatened at one time the extinction of all the low-lying level land.

Kang-wha, with its curious monasteries and high protecting battlements, now reduced to picturesque decay, played a prominent part in the early history of Korea. It has repelled invasion, and afforded sanctuary to the Royal Family and the Government in days of trouble; the boldness of its position has made it the first outpost to be attacked and the most important to be defended. Twice in the thirteenth century the capital was removed to Kang-wha under stress of foreign invasion. With the exception of the terrible Japanese invasion under Hideyoshi in 1592, and the Chino-Japanese War in 1894-95, Kang-wha has felt the full force of nearly every foreign expedition which has disturbed the peace of the country during the past eight centuries, notably those of the Mongols in the thirteenth, of[286] the Manchus in the seventeenth centuries, of the French in 1866, and of the Americans in 1871. Furthermore, Kang-wha was the scene of the affair between Koreans and Japanese which led to the conclusion of the first treaty between Korea and Japan in 1876. The actual signing of that instrument, the first of the series which has thrown open Korea to the world, took place in Kang-wha city. The predecessor of the present Emperor of Korea was born in Kang-wha in 1831, living in retirement in the capital city until he was called to the throne in 1849. Upon occasion, Kang-wha has been deemed a suitable place of exile for dethroned monarchs, inconvenient scions of Royalty, and disgraced Ministers.

At two points in the narrow strait upon the east are ferries to carry passengers to the mainland. Kang-song, where the stream makes an abrupt turn between low cliffs, is the scene of the American expedition of 1871; near the southern entrance of the strait, and close to the ferry, are the forts which repelled the American storming-party. The famous rapids and whirlpool of Son-dol-mok, whose evil reputation is the terror of the coast, are close by. There are numerous forts dotted round the coast of the island, recalling the Martello towers of Great Britain. They were not all erected at one time; the majority of them date only from the close of the seventeenth century, having been raised in the early years of Suk-chong. The rampart upon the eastern shore, which frowns down upon the straits and river below, was erected in 1253. Ko-chong, of the Ko-ryö dynasty, fled before the Mongol invasion of that date, removing his Court and capital from Song-do to Kang-wha. Kak-kot-chi, where there is a second ferry, is a few miles beyond Kang-song. At the point where the ferry plies,[287] the hill of Mun-su rises twelve hundred feet high from the water’s edge. From a junk a short distance from the shore it appears to block the straits, so closely do the cliffs of Kang-wha gather to the mainland. This little place became the headquarters of the French expeditionary force in 1866.

The capital of the island, Kang-wha city, is a battlemented citadel, with walls fifteen li in circumference, and four pavilioned city gates. It is a garrison town, beautiful in its combination of green vistas and ancient, crumbling walls. The Chino-Japanese War, so fatal to many of the old institutions of Korea, diminished the ancient glory of Kang-wha. For two hundred and sixty years prior to this campaign, Kang-wha ranked with Song-do, Kang-chyu, Syu-won and Chyön-chyön as one of the O-to, or Five Citadels, upon which the safety of the Empire depended. It controlled a garrison of ten thousand troops; the various officials numbered nearly one thousand. The change in the destiny of the kingdom brought a turn in the fortunes of the island, and it is now administered by an official of little importance. It is still, however, the seat of government for a widely scattered region, and the centre of trade and industry for some thirty thousand people. Agriculture is the staple industry; stone-quarrying and mat-making are other means by which the population exists. At the water’s-side there are salt-pans; a certain amount of fishing, a little pottery-making, smelting, the weaving of coarse linen, to which work the wives of the farmers devote themselves, complete the occupation of the inhabitants. One pursuit, horse-breeding, for which Kang-wha was once famous, is now completely abandoned.

There are nine monasteries under the government of[288] the island. Seven are situated upon the island; the chief of these is the fortified monastery of Chung-deung, the Temple of Histories, the sometime pillar of defence of the Kingdom, thirty li south of Kang-wha, famous as the scene of the reverse suffered by the French troops in 1866. Mun-su-sa, standing upon the mainland opposite, is included in this little colony of Buddhistic retreats, as is another, upon the island of Ma-eum-to, called Po-mun-sa, famous for the wildness of its scenery and for a natural rock temple in the side of the hill upon which it stands. The monks of Chung-deung-sa enjoyed military rank until quite recently. They were regarded as soldiers in times of national distress; they received Government allowances, food, and arms, in order to maintain them in a state of efficiency. Buddhism has lost much of its hold upon the islanders, although it existed before 1266. There is a branch of the English Mission (Seoul) in Kang-wha, under the administration of the Rev. Mark Napier Trollope, whose notes upon this island were presented in a paper which their author read before the local branch of the Royal Asiatic Society during my stay in Korea. They materially assisted me to collect the interesting data from which these few paragraphs have been compiled.

I stayed five weeks in Kang-wha monastery, preparing the skeleton of this present volume. Having gone there for a week at the outside, I found the quiet and solitude of the spot such a sanctuary from trouble, and such a panacea to the nerves, that I was loath to abandon it. After a few days in the cramped confinement of the native junk which had conveyed me from Chemulpo, delaying much en route, it was pleasant to stretch my limbs again upon the shore. Landing one morning at daybreak, I fell upon the unsuspecting[289] guardian of the English Mission, Father Trollope, and moved off at a later hour in the day across country to the monastery. The monks were not at all disturbed by my intrusion. Although strangers are not such frequent visitors to this monastery as to those in the Diamond Mountains, their presence excites no comment, and they are allowed to go their way with that kindly indifference to their existence which is, under the circumstances, the height of courtesy. The Chief Abbot was informed of my arrival, and, after a little explanation, ordered a very airy building to be prepared for my reception. It was well raised from the ground, and, situated just below the main courtyard, afforded a magnificent view of the entire domain. In the distance I could see the farm-lands of the island and the sparkle of the sunlight upon the water; more within the picture, and quite near to my new home, were two wells, a running stream, and a stretch of mountain slopes, cool, fragrant, and overgrown with scrub and bush. Temples revealed themselves in a sea of foliage, through which the drifting breezes played soft music. At one end of this Hall of Entertainment were placed the cooking and eating paraphernalia, in the middle my camp-bed, and, overlooking the landscape, an improvised writing table with my books and papers. There was no element of unrest in the setting of my little camp. Every morning the Chief Abbot welcomed me to the glories of another day; in the evening we, through the medium of my interpreter, talked together upon an amazing variety of subjects—Buddha and Christ, this world and the next, Paris, London, America. Duties in the monastery would prevent these new friends from coming on certain nights; but they always forewarned me of their absence, never disturbing[290] me at my work, never taking me by surprise. The sense of consideration and courtesy which their kindly hospitality displayed was manifested in countless ways. The small return which it was possible to make quite shamed me before them. Frequently, at midnight, when my lights were burning, the Abbot would walk across from his own apartments and force me to bed with many smiles and much gentle pressure, covering my manuscript with his hands and nodding towards my camp-bed. There was no screen to the front of my building, so it was always possible for them to observe the stranger within their gates. This inspection was most quietly carried on; indeed, if I turned to the open courtyard, those who, perhaps, had been noting the structure of my camp-bed, or the contents of my valise, hanging to air upon a stout rope, flitted away like ghosts. I was left, as I wished, in peaceful contemplation of my work and the splendour of the scenery around me.

Catering arrangements were quite simple during my stay in this monastery. Rice and eggs and fowls were procurable from the villages beyond the walls of the temple, and rice-flour or vegetables could be procured from the butterman of the monastery. It was my plan to take breakfast about ten o’clock in the morning, and to dine about six o’clock in the evening. Between these hours was my time for writing, and I was always fully occupied. Before breakfast I walked abroad or prepared my notes of the work for the day; after dinner I received my callers, arranging anything of interest in my notes when they were gone. Usually I witnessed the midnight gathering of the monks, listening, with pleasure, to the booming of the great bell of the monastery and the accompanying peals of smaller bells of less melodious volume and much shriller tone. The vibration in the air, as these wonderful noises broke upon it, filled the high woods with melody and the deep valleys with haunted strains as of spirit-music. After the midnight mass, when the echoes had died away, the delight of the moment was supreme. In utter weariness and most absolute contentment I stretched myself to slumber beneath the protecting draperies of the mosquito-curtains, within the vaulted spaciousness of my Hall of Entertainment.




Visitors to Chung-deung-sa were frequent during my stay, some attracted by the reported presence of a foreigner, others by their very genuine wish to sacrifice to the All-Blessed-One. Two Korean ladies of position arrived in the course of one morning to plead for the intercession of Buddha in their burden of domestic misery and unhappiness. Presenting the Korean equivalent for ten shillings to the funds of the monastery, they arranged with the Abbot for the celebration of a nocturnal mass in the Temple of the Great Heroes. During the afternoon the priests prepared the temple in which the celebration was to be held; elaborate screens of Korean pictorial design were carried into the temple from the cell of the Chief Abbot; large quantities of the finest rice were boiled. High, conical piles of sweetmeats and sacrificial cakes were placed in large copper dishes before the main altar, where the three figures of Buddha sat in their usual attitude of divine meditation. In front of each figure stood a carved, gilded tablet, twelve inches high, exactly opposite to which the food was placed, with bowls of burning incense at intervals between the dishes. Lighted candles, in long sticks, were placed at either end of the altar; above it, in the centre, serving as a lamp and hanging from a long gilded chain,[293] was suspended a bowl of white jade, in which lay the smoking end of a lighted wick. Numerous side altars were similarly decorated. The furniture of the temple comprised a big drum, a heavy, cracked bell, cast in the thirteenth century, and a pair of cymbals. There were five monks; the two women sat, mute, upon the left of the Abbot. The four priests arranged themselves upon the right—one to the bell, one to the drum, and two to the pair of cymbals, in the playing of which they took turns. Upon each side of the temple, recessed right and left of the main altar, were mural representations of the Ten Judges. Save for the altar illuminations, the effect of which was to render the interior even gloomier and more eerie than usual, the building was in darkness.

The service began with the customary calling for Buddha. The Abbot tapped upon a bamboo cane; every one leant forward, their faces pressed down, and their foreheads resting upon the floor. The palms of their hands were extended beyond their heads in an attitude of reverence and humility. This prostration was accompanied by the intoning of a Thibetan chant, to the accompaniment of a brass gong, struck with a horn handle by the Abbot himself. Further prostrations followed upon the part of the entire assemblage, the women joining in this part of the service. For the most part they squatted silently and reverently in their corner of the temple. As the different services concluded the Abbot shifted the offerings before the main altar to their appointed stations before the smaller shrines, when the prayers proceeded afresh. Protracted overtures were made to the picture of the Ten Judges, before which the service apparently became fully choral. One priest danced amazing and grotesque steps, strangely[294] reminiscent of a Kaffir war-dance, the sole of one foot striking the floor to the accompaniment of a clash of cymbals as the other leapt into the air. Another priest played upon the cracked bell, and a third kept up a dull, monotonous thumping on the drum. The sole idea of the priests, as conveyed to my mind by their celebration, seemed to be the breaking up of the solemn silence of the night by the most amazing medley of noises. At intervals, in the course of the unmusical colloquy between the drums, the cymbals, and the big bell, the monks chanted their dirges, which were, in turn, punctuated by the dislocated tapping of the Abbot’s brass bell and wooden knocker.

It was deafening, the most penetrating discord of which I have ever been the unfortunate auditor. With the conclusion of the exercises upon the cymbals, which were beaten together in a wide, circular sweep of the arms, then tossed aloft, caught, and clanged together after the fashion of the South African native with his spear and shield, the performing priest returned to the companion who relieved him. His more immediate activities over, he stood aside laughing and talking with his colleagues in a voice which quite drowned the chants in which his companions were engaged. Then, panting with his late exertions, he proceeded to fan himself with the most perfect unconcern, finally examining the hem of his jacket for lice; his search repaying him, he returned to his seat upon the floor and lifted up his voice with the others. After the sacrifices and prayers had been offered before the main altar and those upon the right and left, extra tables of fruit, apples, dates, nuts, cakes and incense, together with the previous dishes of rice, cakes, incense and bread, were spread before a[295] small shrine placed in front of the screen. Rice was piled into a bowl, and, while the other monks were laughing and chattering among themselves in the temple itself during the progress of the sacrifice, the two women approached the shrine and made obeisance three times, then touching each dish with their fingers, bowed again and retired to their corner. At the same time three priests, breaking from the group that were talking by the doors of the building, sat down in the centre of the temple upon their praying-mats, seven or eight feet from the shrine. While one chanted Korean prayers from a roll of paper, another struck and rang the brass bell repeatedly, and the third hammered the gong. Throughout this part of the service the others chatted volubly, until they, too, joined in a chorus and pæan of thanksgiving, breaking off from that to chant, in low, suppressed tones, a not unimpressive litany.

Repetitions of the services I have described continued all night. Sometimes there was more noise, sometimes less, occasionally there was none, the tired, quavering voices of the sleepy priests tremulously chanting the requisite number of litanies. The women, who sat with wide-opened eyes, watched with interest and were satisfied. The priests seemed bored. Personally I was tired, dazed and stunned by the uproar. During the progress of this strange service, I was struck by the utter absence of that devotional fervour which was so characteristic of the priests in the principal monasteries of the Diamond Mountains.

The ceremony presently shifted from the Temple of the Great Heroes to the spacious courtyard in front of it. Here, when numerous fires had been lighted, the Abbot and three priests, together with the two Korean women, moved in procession. Their march was accompanied by[296] the striking of many gongs and bells. The monks offered prayers round heaps of pine branches, which had been thrown together and lighted at the different spots. Chants and prayers were repeated, and the same clashing of instruments went on as before. It was not until a heavy rain descended that the worshippers returned to the seclusion of the temple. I felt, somehow, quite grateful to that shower of rain. In the morning, my interpreter told me that this progress in the courtyard formed a part of services which accompanied the offering of special prayers for rain. It would be a curious coincidence if this were so. Next day, at the hour of my breakfast, there was some desire to continue the celebration. My head was still aching with the jarring discord of the bells, gongs, and cymbals of the previous entertainment, and at the sight of the preparations my appetite vanished. Breakfast became impossible; I relinquished it to pray for peace. Happily this blessing was granted me; and it was decided to hold no further service—the rain, I presume, having appeared—and to devour the sacrifices. All that day the monks and their two guests ate the offerings. It was therefore a day of undisturbed quiet, and as my prayer also had been granted, each was satisfied, and we were a happy family.




My little holiday passed all too quickly. One day I found myself preparing very sorrowfully to return to Seoul. This accomplished, the news of my intended journey was quickly bruited abroad by my servants. During these days curio-dealers crowded the compound of the Station Hotel, where, made very comfortable by the kindly forethought of Mr. and Mrs. Emberley, I was still living. There is little enough to buy in Seoul: quaint, brass cooking-utensils; iron, inlaid with silver; tobacco boxes, jade cups, fans, screens, and scrolls. My purchases were few; the native furniture, massive presses, and cabinets faced with copper plates, and small tea-tables, attracting me more than anything else. The Emperor had already sent a present of silk and fans to my hotel, and, with these few remaining articles, my stock of Korean relics was completed. The dealers were importunate, and crowded into the private apartments of the hotel like bleating sheep into a pen. Remonstrances were in vain, and I found the specific cure for their pestiferous attentions to be administered best in the shape of a little vigorous kicking. They took the cuffing with much good humour, and retired to the courtyard, where, at intervals in the day, a plaintive voice would be heard calling upon His Highness to inspect the treasures of his slave. His Highness, however, had concluded his inspection.

The atmosphere in these hot days in Seoul was very bad; the air was heavy with malodorous vapour; the days were muggy and the nights damp. The steaming heat of the capital emphasised the wisdom of an immediate departure, and I hastened my exodus, touched up with a little ague and a troublesome throat. The endless business of obtaining servants, guides, and horses was repeated, until at last the day of my removal was arranged and the hour of actual departure fixed. The prospect was alluring—a journey from Seoul to Vladivostock, through a wild and desolate region, nearly eight hundred miles in length, lay before me. Much of it was unexplored. It was the chance of a lifetime, and, in thus embarking upon it, I was very happy. My last farewells were said; my last calls had been paid—the kindly hospitality of Seoul is not forgotten. The day had come at last, the horses were pawing in the courtyard.[299] My effects, my guns, and camp-bed, my tent and stores, were packed and roped. The horses had been loaded; the hotel account had been settled, when my interpreter quietly told me that my servants had struck for ten dollars Mexican—one sovereign—monthly increase in the wages of each. Mr. Emberley stood out against the transaction; I offered to compound with half; they were obdurate. It seemed to me that a crisis was impending. I was too tired and too cross to remonstrate. I raised my offer to eight dollars; it was refused—the servants were dismissed. Uproar broke out in the courtyard, which Mr. Emberley pacified by inducing the boys to accept my last offer—a rise of eight dollars Mexican. My head-servant, the brother of my interpreter, repudiated the arrangement, but the significance of this increase had assumed great importance. It was necessary to be firm. I think now that it was unwise to have entertained any change at all in the standard of payment. Upon the question of the additional two dollars I stood firm; nothing more would be given. The interpreter approached me to intimate that if his brother did not go he also would stay behind. I looked at him for a moment, at last understanding the plot, and struck him. He ran into the courtyard and yelled that he was dead—that he had been murdered. The grooms in charge of the horses gathered round him with loud cries of sympathy. Mr. Emberley called them to him and explained the position of affairs. I strode into the compound. The head groom came up to me, demanding an increase of thirty dollars, Korean currency, upon the terms which he had already accepted; he wanted, further, three-quarters of the contract price to be paid in advance; one quarter was the original stipulation.[300] I refused the thirty dollars, and thrashed him with my whip.

The end of my journey for the moment had come, with a vengeance. The head groom stormed and cursed and ran raving in and out of the crowd. He then came for me with a huge boulder, and, as I let out upon his temple, the riot began. My baggage was thrown off the horses and stones flew through the air. I hit and slashed at my assailants and for a few minutes became the centre of a very nasty situation. Servants and grooms, my interpreter, and a few of the spectators went at it keenly while the fight continued. In the end, Mr. Emberley cleared his courtyard and recovered my kit; but I was cut a little upon the head and my right hand showed a compound fracture—native heads are bad things to hammer. Postponement was now more than ever essential; my fears about my health were realised. By nightfall upon the day of this outbreak signs of sickness had developed; the pain had increased in my hand and arm; my head was aching; my throat was inflamed. I was advised to leave at once for Japan; upon the next day I sailed, proposing to go to Yokohama and thence to Vladivostock, starting the expedition from the Russian fortress. However, by the time my steamer arrived at Japan, I was in the clutch of enteric fever. Further travel was out of the question, and when they moved me from an hotel in Yokohama to a cabin upon a Japanese steamer, which was to carry me to England, in my mind I had bidden farewell to the countries of this world, for the doctor told me that I was dying.



Leave Day Arrive
Port Arthur Tuesday
13 days, 2 hours, 42 minutes

Through trains from Moscow arrive at Dalny and Port Arthur on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The train comprises first- and second-class cars and dining-car.

The cost of the journey is almost prohibitive if compared with ocean steamer charges.

The train service is very unreliable and subject to many interruptions.

The steamers of the Chinese Eastern Railway Company are scheduled to make the connection with Korea upon arrival of the train. Time required, from twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

The estimate of the length of time occupied by the journey between Korea and Japan upon the completion of the Seoul-Fusan Railway is forty-four hours.

Chemulpo or Seoul to Fusan 10 hours
Fusan to Moji by sea 4
Moji to Kobe 15
Kobe to Tokio 15



Flag Chemulpo Fusan Won-san
Sailing Steam Sailing Steam Sailing Steam
Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons
British 3 7198 1 4800
Korean 167 4031 187 34,877 12 308 77 32,633 5 190 94 22,057
Chinese 73 406
French 1 1744
German 1 1379
Italian 1 2791
Japanese 205 12,945 299 186,050 943 28,447 685 326,858 77 8238 189 106,755
Norwegian 1 25 1 25
Russian 42 58,332 21 12,555 4 294 41 22,752
United States 6 162 1 15
Total 451 17,544 533 287,851 956 30,499 786 379,662 86 8722 325 151,589
1901 571 18,839 465 220,053 765 30,147 686 312,029 65 6333 259 112,583
Average, five years, 1898-1902 596 19,968 415 206,996 726 27,086 569 287,725 63 6085 243 121,791
Flag Chin-am-po Mok-po Kun-san[3]
Sailing Steam Sailing Steam Sailing Steam
Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons
Korean 412 6897 200 26,898 9 154 92 20,694 35 666 101 13,478
Chinese 264 3113 1 4 1 8
Japanese 126 5349 52 31,263 62 3672 281 144,422 33 818 66 22,297
United States 53 1408 31 465
Total 855 16,767 283 58,626 72 3830 373 165,116 69 1492 167 35,775
1901 870 18,424 203 35,826 75 4572 320 133,494 111 2731 141 36,163
Average, five years, 1898-1902 716 14,678 195 36,793 100 4655 278 121,014
Flag Ma-sam-po[3] Songchin[3] Total for Korea
Sailing Steam Sailing Steam Sailing Steam
Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons Number of Vessels Tons
British 4 11,998
Korean 1 31 2 847 92 14,298 641 12,277 845 165,782
Chinese 339 3531
French 1 1744
German 1 1379
Italian 1 2791
Japanese 61 796 205 28,902 9 858 127 30,646 1516 61,123 1904 877,193
Norwegian 2 50
Russian 9 7583 4 294 113 101,222
United States 59 1570 32 480
Total 62 827 207 29,749 9 858 228 52,527 2560 80,539 2902 1,160,895
1901 72 1033 169 20,223 4 294 196 32,565 2533 82,373 2439 902,936
Average, five years, 1898-1902 2331 75,352 2053 833,334

Note.—Japanese shipping (steamers of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, Osaka Shosen Kaisha and the Hori Company) easily occupies the first place. The Korean share in the trade is increasing, and Russian steamers show a larger tonnage in Korean ports than before.



Articles 1902 1901 Average,
Five Years,
Quantity Value Quantity Value
£ £ £
Barley Lbs. 359,600 395 100,133 111 1165
Beans, all kinds 107,887,600 186,293 114,273,600 194,115 185,839
Bêche-de-mer 312,666 6517 447,466 6820 7199
Cattle and live-stock Head 6552 19,383 13,611 17,288 11,514[4]
Copper Lbs. 264,400 4041 300,533 6448 [5]
Fish, dried, salt and manure 4,909,600 8418 7,645,066 14,814 11,782
Ginseng, red 85,201 122,304 24,575 25,670 77,386[6]
white 3333 213 16 121 109
Gold ore 5409 7205 [5]
Hides Lbs. 3,981,600 70,815 3,500,400 66,396 53,652
Millet 213,333 309 439,866 437 1539
Nutgalls 67,866 875 99,866 1308 1866
Paper 173,066 3164 133,200 2575 3161
Rice 126,401,066 359,804 184,566,266 427,459 314,081
Seaweed 2,596,666 9354 3,027,600 9118 8744
Skins of all kinds Pieces 29,660 2239 21,077 1392 2039
Tallow Lbs. 421,466 3015 306,266 2185 1055
Whaleflesh and blubber 4737 22,858 11,410
Wheat Lbs. 11,751,333 18,022 2,787,866 3682 9523
Other exports 20,727 26,822 44,641
Total 846,034 836,824 746,705



Articles 1902 1901 Average,
Five Years,
Quantity Value Quantity Value
£ £ £
Cotton goods—
Shirtings, grey and white—
British Pieces 389,730 172,515 402,156 176,892 159,763
Japanese 18,926 3934 19,236 3933 2328
T-cloths 18,771 4169 29,798 6782 4400
British and American 20,045 9274 34,970 16,250 9546
Japanese 2032 1036 919 188 298
Turkey-red cloths
British 6357 1873 6815 1928 1934
Japanese 9763 1539 10,274 1904 1726
Lawns and muslins 100,513 10,133 95,460 9750 12,915
Lenos 33,602 8797 38,897 10,296 9062
British and American 134,282 57,342 189,554 80,177 60,164
Japanese 173,907 72,098 171,235 72,303 52,961
Cotton reps 21,094 9461 28,412 14,598 7707
Japanese piece-goods 658,462 65,407 909,811 88,069 75,405
Piece-goods, non-Japanese 39,356 3054 39,699 3517 8600
British and Indian Lbs. 111,333 3923 120,933 4193 5641
Japanese 4,154,533 98,933 5,028,800 119,781 105,454
Chinese 4 12
Other cottons 23,282 33,235 42,003
Total 546,772 643,808 559,919
Woollen goods 7846 16,618 8235
Miscellaneous piece-goods 1701 1645 1148
Metals 59,266 74,156 54,218
Arms, accoutrements, and ammunition 9556 38,606 17,979
Bags and ropes for packing 31,408 28,464 25,011
Clothing and haberdashery 21,918 17,916 14,260
Raw Lbs. 239,066 3806 447,866 7883 5244
Wadding 652,606 12,340 688,533 14,650 14,596
Dyes 259,333 8361 327,466 13,791 8814
Flour 1,937,066 7433 1,899,066 7860 6724
Grain and pulse 3,998,266 9337 3,110,133 6348 14,495
Grass-cloth 57,310 53,979 46,823
Machinery 14,608 12,546 8816
Matches Gross 576,629 18,110 562,338 17,747 15,991
Mining supplies 46,659 39,267 28,859
Kerosene oil—
American Gallons 3,461,980 77,988 2,463,631 62,833 55,691[7]
Japanese 760 17 19,260 530 1873
Paper Lbs. 878,666 7654 901,733 8033 6475
Provisions 19,154 19,359 15,695
Railway plant and material 46,112 27,963 33,816
Rice Lbs. 11,447,466 40,675 10,963,200 40,924 24,348[8]
Saké and samshu 15,924 14,228 13,247
Salt Lbs. 17,491,733 7998 28,845,200 13,879 13,031
Silk piece-goods 86,444 125,381 81,911
Sugar Lbs. 2,501,600 15,039 1,992,933 12,588 10,984
Tobacco, cigars, and cigarettes 20,273 17,425 14,576
Other sundries 188,642 161,838 135,910
Total 766,766 764,038 615,169
Grand total 1,382,351 1,500,265 1,238,689



Port 1902 1901
Imports Exports Imports Exports
Yen Yen Yen Yen
Chemulpo 2,517,819 91,443 1,991,757 98,364
Fusan 443,235 587,513 455,256 445,963
Won-san 514,936 573,025 306,909 626,965
Chin-am-po 83,805 803,828 34,662 708,561
Mok-po 105,577 817,359 104,926 456,632
Kun-san 73,691 527,187 57,122 472,850
Ma-sam-po 10,896 191,547 15,173 110,968
Syöng-chin 94,997 84,892 78,439 74,829
Total 3,844,956 3,676,794 3,044,244 2,995,132
coast trade[9] 7,521,750 6,039,376


Year Amount Exchange
Currency Sterling
Yen £ s. d.
1902 1,204,776 122,783 2
1901 1,325,414 135,303 2
1900 1,097,095 109,710 2 0
1899 902,955 90,296 2 0
1898 1,000,451 101,087 2
Average, five years 111,836



Year Amount
Currency Sterling Exchange
Yen £ s. d.
1902 5,064,106 516,961 2
1901 4,993,351 509,738 2
1900 3,633,050 363,305 2 0
1899 2,933,382 293,338 2 0
1898 2,375,725 240,047 2
From Value
1902 1901 1900
Yen Yen Yen
Chemulpo 2,538,101 2,556,095 1,927,665
Fusan 104,915 122,968 121,809
Won-san 1,361,580 1,668,245 1,425,576
Chin-am-po 1,053,800 646,043 158,000
Mok-po 5,710
5,064,106 4,993,351 3,633,050
To Value
1902 1901 1900
Yen Yen Yen
China 59,805 136,150 567,670
Japan 5,004,300 4,857,201 3,065,380
Total 5,064,106 4,993,351 3,633,050

Exchange sterling, 2s.d.—2s. 0d.½.—2s. 0d.





Silver and Lead.


Iron Ores, Magnetite and Limonite.




The preceding minerals are yielded by the different provinces.




Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co.
London & Edinburgh

Transcriber’s Note: The map is clickable for a larger version.




Transcriber’s Note: The cover image was omitted from some printings of the book, including this one, where the front and back covers are both blank.


[1] The Japanese Government, on December 22nd, 1903, decided to find the capital necessary for the immediate completion of the railway. An additional million sterling has been allotted for this purpose, and the line will be finished within the course of 1904.

[2] Ten li equal three English miles.

[3] Opened May 1, 1899.

[4] Large rise in price owing to increased demand at Vladivostock and elsewhere.

[5] No returns for 1898.

[6] To China by Korean Government.

[7] Highest on record. Large direct import in sailing-vessels from America.

[8] Large quantity imported from Saigon by Government to relieve national distress.

[9] Increasing annually with greater transport facilities.