Seen in Jeonju

The Independent: June 11, 1896

24th May 2012


Continuing the weekly project of retyping Korea’s first English-language newspaper, this week’s issue is Vol.1, No. 29 from Thursday, June 11, 1896. In this issue: The editor continues to to criticize the Minister of Education who releases some new rules for the students of foreign languages. Meanwhile, the citizens of Yang Hwa Do prove to be a little fickle and the police hit a snag in their crackdown on the shamans. <<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. >>


From many quarters evidence has reached us that the recent memorial of the Minister of Education has awakened considerable feeling in native and foreign circles alike. In native circles it has met with a certain degree of sympathy, for whatever else may be said about it, it was at least an extreme expression of a feeling that undoubtedly exists in among the older members of the community. But its sweeping assertions, its blind antagonism to everthing like progress, its entire unreasonableness and its arrogance have gone far to defeat its object and expose its impracticability.  Among foreigners there appears to be but one sentiment, that of profound astonishment. They cannot understand how a “Minister of Education” could pen such an illogical, retrograde and altogether unwise document.  In their countries the Minister of Education is a man selected for his eminent possession of the qualities which are in this memorial most conspicuously absent.  He is a man thoroughly versed in the lore of the sages, in the deepest reverence but at the same time able to see that the times are changing, that new conditions have to be met with new appliances and new learning, and especially that other nations have something to teach which is well worth knowing.  Beyond everything else he is able to put the best interests and the highest well-being of his King and country far before his own personal feelings and prejudices. Such a man is therefore cautious but progressive. He does not accept everything that is suggested to him simply because it is new or because it is in use in other countries; neither does he reject anything simply because it was not known to Yun and Yu or because it is not found in the classics. His first thought is “Will this thing be of any real and permanent befefit to my King and country?” and his second thought is “How can I make this new thing most serviceable?”  The necessary result of the labors of such a wise and patriotic Minister is that the nations of the West are daily becoming wiser and richer and there appears to be no limit to their possible growth.

Now can it be said that the new Minister has shown himself wise or patriotic?  Is there a single word to show that hehasany sympathy with the people or any desire to do them good. Is there anything to show that he has respect or loyalty for His Majesty the King? Does not every word reveal an intense love of self, an inordinate belief in his own infallible wisdom and a daring and a rudeness towards His Majesty and His Majesty’s Ministers which is deserving of the severest reprobation?

Let it not be forgotten that the adoption of foreign clothes by the soldiers, police and Government students, and the cutting of the hair, was in loyal obedience to the command of His Majesty.  The Minister of Education, therefore, has openly expressed his contempt for His Majesty’s laws and by his ill-advised speech has incited others to sedition.  Is thisthe act of a loyal Minister?

But we have no wish to be unduly severe. The Minister is wrong; thoroughly, radically wrong, wrong from beginning to end, but we are willing to beleive that he drew up his memorial without due consideration– perhaps more at the instigation of foolish friends than at the suggestion of his own mind. At the same time it must not be forgotten that is offence has a most grave aspect. It is not only that he has rudely and inconsiderately assailed His Majesty’s edicts– edicts, which since their first issuance have been endorsed by His Majesty in the quietness, freedom and independence of the Russian Legation– not only that he has set an example of disrespect to His Majesty, but that he has incited to a course of delibrate bad faith and dishonesty. We are now thining of the bearing of his memorial upon his own Department.

When the schools recieve the permission of the Government to adopt a uniform it was upon the understanding that the scholars should provide it at their own expense. In reliance upon the good faith of the Government the students have have provided themselves with a neat and servicable uniform which was first submitted for and receivedthe approval of the Education Department. Sin Ki Sun now proposes to break up the agreement thus arrived at. Is he prepared to justify such a breach of food faith? And is he prepared to refund to the scholars the money so expended?

Without going further into the subject we would entreat the Minister to reconsider the position he has taken up. We assure him that no member of the Government has a better opportunity for serving his country than he has. The Education Department is the brightest hope for Korea. The Minister has it in his power to influence and mould the young minds of the country at the most suceptible period of their lives and through them to exert for all times a beneficial influence upon the nation at large.  Let him seek to direct their thoughts and studies into those courses which in China as in Korea are commending themselves to the wisest and most patriotic and most far-seeing minds, viz., the paths of well-considered progress in native and foreign learning.  Let him speak to the scholars the word of encouragement which can come from no lips with such weight as from his; let him cherish their esprit de corps; let him engender, stimulate and foster their love forking and country and his administration will be like therain of heaven. In his present attitude he is like a farmer who should refuse to dig and manure the ground or who lops off the yong ears of corn and rice, regardless of the misery and famine which must thereby ensue. But if he is wise and opens his eyes to the needs of of the times, encourages diligence fosters learning and rewards merit his name shall go down to posterity along with those of the wisest and greatest of the sages.

Brief Notice

The rain fall on the 7th was 1.1 inch by the gauge.

The mail carrier was robbed by the insurgents in Yun Pong district and lost sixty six letters and paper directed to Tai Ku and Tong Nai Magistracies.

A French new agency has received a communication from St. Petersburg, to the following effect– It has been rumored during the last few days that the the Ambassadors of Germany, England and the United States have protested to Prince Lobanof on the subject of the preponderate situation taken by Russia in Korea. In official circles it is mentioned that no protest of the kind has taken place. What is true is that Great Britain and the United States have asked in the most courteous manner for some light upon the Korean question. As to the German Government, it has made no overture of any kind; in fact, the German Minister has received instructions enjoining him to remain  absolutlely neutral in the matter. For the rest, it is affirmed in the same circle that the events in Korea inspire no disquietude and that negotiationswllcommence at once with Japan, to ensure the independence and neutrality of Korea– Kobe Chronicle.

The police arrested two suspicious characters from Yang Wha Do but the people in that village thought they were innocent of any crime and sent a petition to the Police Department praying for their release. The two men had a trial and were convicted of highway robbery. The villagers now congratulate the authorities on the apprehension of these men.

The US Marines nowin the Legation challenge all Seoul to a game of base ball on Saturday afternoon in Hun Yen An. Everybody is requested to be present.

The Russian soldiers will have rifle practice at Hong Che Won, beyond the Peking Pass in a day or two.

After the order from the Police Department to destroy pictures and images of differnt evil spirits, the police carried it out creditably. But one or two Police Officers became too zealous and attempted to destroy some pictures of ancient Korean statesmen. For which offence several policemen were discharged. The latest trouble is that one police officer burned the picture of Tai Cho, the first King of the present dynasty. Of course the officer did not know it was a portrait of Tai Cho as it was stored in one of the granaries under South Mountain with the images ofother deities. The officer has been arrested and dealt with severely. The police have a hard road to travel.

By special edict the old cavalry has been abolished and a new company of hussars will be organized numbering one hundred men.

The Minister of Education Sin Ki Sun issued a new order to the Governement Schools Tuesday as follows:  (1) The students of the Government schools for languages are forbidden to wear European dress hereafter. But at the time of physical exercise they are allowed to wear the old Korean soldiers costume.  (2) This costume is only permissible at the time of physical exercise in the school compound and is not to be worn outside of the School.  (3)  If any student should go out in the street with European dress on, the teacher second in command and the student will be punished heavily and dismissed from the School. (4) This order will take effect from the day of issuance.

The telegraphic communication between Seoul and Fusan has been re-established since Tuesday.

The Fourth of July:  It is proposed by the loyal American citizens of Seoul to Celebrate the National Holiday in an appropriate manner. In order to bring the subject before the attention of all interested a mass meeting is hereby called for Tomorrow, Friday, from four to five PM in the rooms of the Seoul Union. All Americans are expected to be present, ladies as well as gentlemen. Don’t fail to be there. (original text was in bold print and in typeset three times larger than the one used for the regular news–tom)

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