Seen in Jeonju

The Independent: April 11 & 14, 1896

4th December 2011

I opted to combine these two issues as the Editorial found in the April 11th issue was taken up with the growing tensions between Spain and the USA regarding Cuba…   Reminder: All opinions expressed herein belong to the editors of The Independent and written 120 years ago…

bullock and bicycle

Local Items—The long expected, the long hoped for and sighed for railroad between Seoul and Chemulpo seems to be in sight. It may be only to the eyes of faith but the hope is backed by more than rumor. The contract has been signed by the Korean government, the money is forth-coming and if that proverbial slip between the cup and the lip does not occur we shall be soon taking sweet revenge on that unspeakable thoroughfare between the Capital and the port which has so long been dignified by the name road. We understand that it will be done with American capital and that the whole plant will be on the American system. Of course, the great crux of the undertaking will be the bridging of the river but we will hope that engineering skill we overcome this formidable obstacle.

 -Even at the risk of being charged with vanity we cannot refrain from giving some of the comments which have been made apropos of the appearance of The Independent in the journalistic field. Among foreigners we hear such expressions as “A good thing,””Just what Korea needs,””An important innovation.”  We take these expressions to mean a commendation of the general plan and not of the form or matter of the first issue The Independent must be given time to prove its right to its name and to its existence.  Among Koreans the best praise is the rapidity with which the first issue was sold, and not merely so, for many doubtless bought from idle curiosity, but the number of permanent subscribers enrolled at first sight bids fair to compel us to increase our issue from 2000 to 3000 immediately.

 –Even at this early date the editorial “club” has been brought into requisition. One of the Independent staff, passing a place where Chinese coolies were at work, found them busily engaged in stoning a Korean private citizen who had gotten into an altercation with one of them. The Chinamen’s queue formed a good point d’appui and our peacemaker laid hold of it and soon the matter was successfully ‘arbitrated.’ <<’Queue’ is the pigtail Chinese workers used to wear. In other words, the reporter pulled their hair to stop the fight>>

 –A recent graduate from the Law School named Kim Pyung-che being disappointed at not receiving an official appointment immediately wrote insulting letters to the Ministers of the Interior and of Justice, for which offence he was arrested and beaten at the department of Justice. If this was done, as we understand, without the semblance of a trial it is to be deplored. It is important that no man should be punished even for a trivial offence and, however clear his guilt, without going through the proper forms.

 –Probably driven by poverty, its parents threw a new-born male child, still living, into the street night before last. It was fortunately rescued and adopted by people who were not so fortunate as to have an heir. Such an event as this lifts the veil for an instant from the awful straits to which many of the lower classes are reduced and instead of condemnation calls for pity.

 –We understand that the Japanese government intends to demand indemnity for the Japanese subjects who have been killed by the Korean insurgents. $5000 is said to be demanded for each life.  <<This subject will be brought up again at a later date>>

 –The large fire which occurred outside the west gate a few days ago seems to have been caused by spontaneous combustion in the straw roof. The Koreans called it the work of devils but we hope, by giving a proper explanation in the unmun <<hangul>> column, to help to dispel this wrong impression.

–Rev. Graham Lee and Dr. J.H. Wells left Pyeng Yang on Monday morning and arrived at Seoul on Tuesday evening.  This is the fastest trip ever made by bicycle between the two cities.

–A Chusa named Yi Sung Won memorialized His Majesty to the effect that the late cabinet were all traitors and that the present one is little better. For this offence he was arrested, tried at the Supreme Court, found guilty and sentenced to receive 100 blows and to be banished for life. The place of his banishment has not been decided on. <<A ‘chusa’ is a clerk or a low level administrator// Memorials were a special audience before the King in order to accuse a member of government of misdeeds in the hopes of getting him removed from office>>

–Four wealthy men of Duk Som went hunting one day last month and as they were returning home they met some loaded bullocks. One of them happened, in the dark, to let the muzzle of his gun touch one of the oxen, so the story runs, and the driver being in liquor tried to wrench the gun away. In the scuffle, the piece was discharged and the driver was shot through the thigh. The people of the neighboring village where the driver lived arose and went into Duk Som and pulled down the houses of the four hunters. One of them was arrested but was released under the Edict of Amnesty of Feb. 11. The wounded driver is now in the Si Pyung Won Hospital just inside the South gate and is being cared for by Dr. J.B. Busteed. The hunters are paying all expenses. If this is all true we wonder who will pay for the houses that were torn down.

–The expedition sent out by the government to suppress disturbances in Chin-Ju Kiung Sang Province, reports that things are quieting down there. The trouble is that they quiet down where the government troops are sent but only to break out somewhere else. <<Jinju, Gyeongsang Province>>

Editorial—As we intimated in a note in the issue of the 7th, the outbreaks in the country are due not so much to dislike of the present government as to the dislike of all government. Large numbers of men who have little to lose and much to gain by turning highwaymen are trying their hand at a great game of pickpocket. This may be the worst feature of the case, for if it were mere dislike of the government diplomacy and conciliation might bring about a change for the better but where the spoliation is merely mercenary the only remedy would seem to be that applied to ordinary robbery and we can hardly look for a cessation of the trouble till the country is so policed as to render the profits too small to warrant the risk. We fear therefore that mere conciliation will not affect the purpose. It is reasonable to suppose that the great mass of country people are peaceful citizens and would like nothing better than to pursue their ordinary avocation unmolested but are unable to do so because of constant fear of the “Righteous Army.” Would it not be possible to make use of this large peaceful element in the country and by a system of militia to put each district on such a footing that it can defend itself against the plunderers?

It is beyond question that country people of means dread nothing so much as the approach of these fellow who are a sort of “Coxey” army and levy mainly on the well-to-do. The moment the insurgents find themselves opposed by a determined band of armed countrymen, they will go to pieces. Now they simply terrorize the country districts. Could not the government send a well equipped expedition into the country organizing the yeomen into bands of militia who can act as minute-men, leave two or three competent officers in charge of each important position and distribute arms and ammunition as much as possible? This will serve two purposes, first it will demonstrate the good will of the government toward the country people in unmistakable terms and second it will be the death-warrant of the “Righteous Army.” That this will take money we are well aware but the transaction will be a paying one in the end. However great the cost, the relations between the Capital and its food supply are so vital as to be of absolutely first consideration.

International TelegramsLondon, Mar. 27.  A dispatch from Cape Town states that the Matabeles have risen in revolt and have massacred a number of white settlers. London, Mar. 30. The situation in Matabele land is of the gravest character. All the Whitesin the Filibushi district have been murdered and their bodies mutilated. The Rt. Hon. Cecil Rhodes is hastening to Buluwayo. London, Apr. 1. The position at Buluwayo is most serious, a general rising of the native tribes is feared. The defenders of Buluway are short of arms and have only a month supplies while the Matabeles have plenty of arms. <<This is the start of the Second Matabele War>>

One Response to “The Independent: April 11 & 14, 1896”

  1. Adam Hartzell Says:

    Being a big ‘Active Transport’ (or self-propelled commuting) proponent, this excerpt caught my eye – “Rev. Graham Lee and Dr. J.H. Wells left Pyeng Yang on Monday morning and arrived at Seoul on Tuesday evening. This is the fastest trip ever made by bicycle between the two cities.”

    Maybe, one day, this ride could be annually revisited in unification of the peninsula eventually happens.