Seen in Jeonju

The Independent, June 4th, 1896

2nd May 2012

Continuing the weekly project of retyping Korea’s first English-language newspaper, this week’s issue is Vol.1, No. 26 from Thursday, June 4, 1896. In this issue: The editor further explores the possible monetary benefits of growing Chinese Grass, the Minister of Education protests the westernization of  Korea and someone cheats a shoe store out of seven pairs of shoes!  <<Reminder:  All opinions expressed in the newspaper are the views of the editors of The Independent. They do not reflect the opinions of this website and are reproduced here for the sole purpose of providing historical context>> 



We mentioned in a late issue of this paper the advantages that would accrue from the cultivation in Korea of the fibre producing plant called by the Malays ramie but which is ordinarily known to the west as Chinese grass-cloth.  We must crave the pardon of our readers for the mistake we made in calling it the same as the Korean mo-si.  There are two kinds of cloth in Korea which resemble each other very much; one is mo-si and the other is pye.  The former is flax or hemp and the latter is the ramie or grass cloth. The former which is the same as our linen is higher in price than the latterbeing finer and whiter asmade up here. The pye is coarser and a darker color and is used exclusively in making mourners’ clothes.  It is evident thereforethat large quantities of it are grown in Korea now everyone wears mourning forthe Queen.  Al the light brown hats and coats we see are of this same grass cloth. It is obtained from the bark of a plant that grows luxuriantly in poor soil attaining a height of five or six feet and, the Koreans say, higher. It is stronger than the hemp and has a much finer luster but the Koreans cannot make it look as well as the hemp.  We learn now that a gentleman in Shanghai, Mr. Bennertz, has discovered a simple process for the separating of the fibre of this plant and we have seen written statements by expert weavers n England to whom samples of his product were submitted and they are unanimous in their praise of it, considering it better than cotton, having a luster which will render it very acceptable in conjunction with silk, and European manufacturers would be pleased to handle it if the raw material could be provided in large enough quantities.  But we hear that the inventor of the process is taking steps to establish a large manufactory in Shanghai where the raw material can be sent and be made up far cheaper than by sending it to distant England. Here is a splendid opportunity to make use of some of the uncultivated hillsides in Korea.  It does not require a rich soil.  It grows rapidly, two and somtimes three crops being gathered from one field the same year. If there were a few enterprising Korean who would go to work energetically getting farmers all about to grow this plant, guaranteeing them a certain fixed price for the product it would not be long before an impetus would be given to its culture which wuld speedily repay all the time and labor put on it and show a handsome profit for both the farmer and the middle-man.

The English manufactures think the fibre ought to brig easily from 35 to 45 pounds per ton. This means about $400 silver per ton. We believe it would be asimple matter for a farmer to raise a ton of it a year in addition to his regular crops. It requires little care or attention and can be raised on land that today lies fallow.

Brief Notice

After the abolishment of the old horse courier service in the country, the Department of Communications, with a view to establishing a postal system in its place, sent special officials to different districts to ascertain the amount of land belonging to the bureau of courier service. One of these men, Chang Che Yung, who was looking up districts near Seoul, received a bribe from farmers and let them retain land belonging to the Dep’t.  The Independent investigated the charge and found it confirmed.

At the time of a disturbance some months ago a policeman, Kim Eung Kiu, of Chun Chon district, seized an insurgent Kim Chi Yung and turned him over to the captain of the Seoul company who shot the man. The son of the executed man met the policeman on the street a few weeks agoand killed him in revenge for his father. Now the mother of the dead policeman makes complaint to the Governor of Chun Chon asking him to punish the murderer according to the law.

Ha Eung In of Ma Chang Ni outside the East Gate used bad language to a neighbor’s wife  and while drunk threw away a sack of barley belonging to his neighbor. The people in the town had him hand-cuffed and reported the case to the police station. After a few hours he recovered from the influence of hte liquor and felt ashamed of his actions and tried to kill himself by stabbing his throat with a pocket knife, but the wound was not serious. The police made him apologize to the woman and he paid the cost of the barley he had destroyed.

A former judge of the Seoul Court, Yi Do Ik discharged all the employees of the court while he was Judge and put in his servants in their places. Since he left the office, two of his servants have been discharged from the employ of the court. But Judge Yi Do Ik still collects one dollar from each of the two new employees on the ground that these places were intended for his servants, hence they must pay him one dollar as premium for these positions. A legal mind might perpaps reason out such an action being proper but we, not being well versed in the law, cannot see it as anything but a squeeze.

The Minister of Education memorialized the Throne severely criticizing all attempts at foreign innovations such as uniforms of the soldiers, police and the Government students; use of the unmun; adoption of the Gregorian calendar and freedom of debate in the Cabinet. We will deal with it in the next issue.

The Russia Minister and Mrs. Waeber and the French Minister M. du Plancy visitied the Russian and French Schools in Pak Dong Tuesday. One of the students presented Mrs. Waeber with a handsome boquet tied with ribbons representing the French and Russian colors, in the name of the teachers and students. He also delivered a short address in French. The exercises were thoroughly enjoyed by those who were present.

Leiut. CM Knepper and Asst. Engineer ES Kellogg of hte USS Yorktown arrived in Seoul yesterday.

The Daily News gives the following from its Berlin ccorrespondent dated April 9th. The statement from Korea that the German Consul there had joined the protest of his English and American collegues againt the King’s further stay at the Russian Legation is, I learn, completely unfounded. On the contrary, the German representative has been instructed to remain absolutely neutral. The statement, indeed sounded improbable from the beginning for it is contrary to the whole trend of Germany’s Eastern Asiatic policy, namely, not to oppose Russian interests. Shanghai Mercury.

Governor of Tai Ku reports that the insurgents in Eui Heung had been dispersed by the Tai Ku troops, but the insurgents of An Dong, Pung Ki, and Ye Chon district joined together in the last named place and they are committing most outrageous acts.

Pak Seung Pil and Kim Kang Yep of Chemulpo wanted the position of chief of coolies in the port and asked Yi Pyeong Heui, Kim Seung Heun and Song Chong Hun who are supposed to have influence in Seoul.  They made out fradulent letters supposed to have come from HRH Tai Won Kun (the then-current King’s father–tom), Hon. Yi Chai Yun, the Vice-Minister of Agriculture and Mr. Im O Chun, the Magistrate of In Chun, requesting the Governor of In Chun to appoint these men to the positions  they desire. The three culprits reeived $1,400 from Pak and Kim for the consideration of their service in securing these positions. The scheme was known to the Police Department and the three men were arrested and brought to Seoul for trial.

The German Cruiser Arcona arrived at Chemulpo on Monday. The Commander, Captain Sarnow, is expected to visit the German Counsuate in Seoul in a day or two.

Rev. Alex Kenmure returned from Chefoo the day before yesterday.

Yi Heui Kyeng of Pak Dong went to a shoe store in Won Dong a few days ago and bargained for seven pairs of shoes at $9.98. He left the store ordering to send the shoes to his house. This was done and being asked for money, Yi gave him a check for the amount, but the shoe dealer found that the check was forged. Yi was arrested by the police.

Magistrate of Juk San reports that the chief of insurgents Kim Ju Suk commands 2000 men and now they are in the Southern part of Juk San district, where they are getting more recruits and the number is increasing daily. A quick and prompt relief is requested.

Governor of Kong Ju reports that 200  insurgents were looting villages in Kong Ju and Hyo Dok districts, but 30 Kong Ju soldiers defeated them and killed several. These districts are comparitively quiet at the present.

On Sunday last the students of the Government schools in Seoul had drill exercise in Heun Yan An before a large number of Government officials and teachers.  They went through different forms of calisthenics and other drills very creditably; at the end of the exercises they sang patriotic airs and gave three cheers for His Majesty.

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