Seen in Jeonju

The Independent: Thursday, June 18th, 1896

15th June 2012


Continuing the weekly project of retyping Korea’s first English-language newspaper, this week’s issue is Vol.1, No. 32 from Thursday, June 18, 1896. In this issue: The Minister of Education tries to humilate the students of French for not knowing Chinese, other Ministers make failed efforts to resign and the shamans succeed in getting the Chief of Police fired and ending their persecution but the new Chief of Police earns the scorn of the editor for using coarse language to his subordinates.   <<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. >>


The cause of Korea’s weakness at the time of the great Japanese Invasion three hundred years ago was that when a really capable man appeared, the rest, through jealousy, caused him to be either killed or banished or stripped of office.  We fear that history is repeating itself for no sooner do we see a strong, firm, manly man in the position of Chief of Police, a place where those qualities are eminently necessary, than he is pounced upon by a lot of harpies who malign him and, by arts that he would scorn to use, encompass his downfall.

Of all desparate and indefensible practices this of working on the superstitious fears of the ignorant common people is the height and crown.  It is par with the custom of selling ones own flesh an blood for hire and the people who carry on this mudang trade are notoriously corrupt. If anything could make Korea rotton at the core these creatures will.  We expect bad habits and corrupt practices among higher classes. They go hand in hand with Confucianism the world over, but these creatures passing in and out before the common people and playing on their superstitious natures, meanwhile ply other and less excusable trades so that the whole mass of the people is contaminated by their very breath.

In Japan such elements are segregated from the masses an put by themselves in a separate quarter so that he who would associate with them must go where they are but these mudangs, plying their trade under to the cover of a holy office, as they claim, are the epitome of corruption.

And now they claim that they have made the pictures of ancient kings their idols.  This in itself should bring down upon them swift punishment.

In the days of Sun Jo Tae Wang a picture of one of the Korean Kings was stolen by a Japanese and taken to Japan but after a while it was brought back and handed over to the Governor of Chulla Province. What did he do with it? He burned it immediately because it had been desecrated by being carried to Japan.  If so what shall be said of the pictures of Kings which have been hung in the halls of harlots and been the objects of their reverence? We beg of the authorities that they will mak th comparison an see how free of guilt are these officials who have tried to clean these augean stables and how worthy of punishment are those who have hindered them in the necessary but thankless task.

Brief Notice

The law of the Supreme Court is that no suits of any kind are received by the said court until the case has been decided by the common court.  The former Magistrate of Sin Chun, Kim Sang Heun who is the brother-in-law of a Judge of the Supreme Court, Yi Heui Ik, ignored the law and sued the Government for his alleged back pay, through the Supreme Court. The judge received the complaint even though the case did not come through the Common Court.  If the Supreme Court of the land disregards the laws of the Nation on account of family considerations it will be a hard matter to make the people obey them.  We do not attempt to criticise the merits of the nature of the complaint but he must take the same steps of legal procedure as any other individual, even though he has a brother-in-law on the bench of the Supreme Court.

Yi Pyeng Eui of Chemulpo who raised money on false pretenses from the coolies of that port was tried and convicted. He received 60 blows and two years imprisonment with hard labor.

A live male infant was wrapped in sheets and thrown on the street near Hyo Dong.  The police in that neighborhood picked it up and took it to his house.

We notice in the street small children go about naked. The hot rays of the sun produce a bad effect on the skin, and the sight is certainly disgusting.  We hope the police department will forbid it right away.

Major Yi Cho Heun volunteered to go down to the Southern provinces and crush out the insurgents.  He was offered a mixed battalion of three companies but he refused to take a mixture.  He guarantees that he can finish them with 40 well-trained soldiers. He left Seoul on Tuesday with 40 men. We admire his loyalty as well as his bravery.  He shall have all the good wishes from us and we hope to see him come back triumphant, and take laurels which he will undoubtedly deserve.

The murderers of Ex-Finance Minister O Yun Chung have been sentenced to five years banishment.

The new Chief of Police Yi Chong Keun uses a low form of language to his sub-ordinate officers when they are not of yangban <noble> class. This custom was abolished in 1894 but the new Chief institutes the obnoxious custom again. Go slow Mr. Yi Chong Keun.

The Minister of the Home Department, Pak Chong Yang sent in his resignation, but His Majesty did not accept it. Minister Pak has been allowed a vacation to recuperate his health. In the meantime the Vice Minister Sin Suk Heui has been appointed Acting Minister.

The Minister of Finance Sim Sang Hun sent in his resignation, but His Majesty did not accept it.

Kim Sang Dok was appointed Governor of Hong Ju, but he declined to serve and sent in his resignation. He has been arrested for the crime (?) of declining the honor and sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labor. We do not pretend to know the intricacies of the law of this country, but it seems to us very odd to imprison a man for three years with hard labor for declining an office.

At the meeting of the Municiple Council in Chemulpo on the 10th, the matter of the selection of a Chief of Police, in the place of Mr. Ragsdale, resigned, was left open for the present. It was decided to forbid sampan (rickshaw)  men from running up into the streets for passengers. Other matters such as the grading of new streets was attended to. Chemulpo presents the unusual spectacle of an eastern settlement being out of debt with a good bank account to its credit.  Mr. F. Krien, the German Consul, went down from Seoul to attend the meeting as did Dr. Allen, US Vice Counsel General. Dr. Allen made the trip up over rough roads on his bicycle in three hours.

The Russians are laying out a supply station on Rose Island Chemulpo.

Diabutsu Hotel is being renovated before being opened to foreign customers.

The Minister of Education, Shin Ki Sun possesses one quality of statesmanship in common with statemen of America and Europe and that is he does not mind the newspaper criticisms. We venture to say that he is the most thick-headed man in the Government.

Four hundred soldiers of Kang Wha garrison now at Chai Chon district have been notified by the Minister of War that the troops are to be dismissed except two hundred men and four officers. These officers and men have been fighting insurgents for the last five months and hearing the above order have now refused to fight not knowing as to  who is to be dismissed or retained. It seems to us to be an unwise move on the part of the War Office to send down such an order while these men are in the disturbed districts. This will necessitate sending down new troops thus incurring unnecessary expense and consuming more time.

The Armenian Fund so far has received the Office of the Independent: $10.00 from the Independent, $5.00 from Col. FJH Niensted, $10.00 from HB Hulbert, $10.00 from Mr. Eugene Bell.

To the Editor of the Independent.  Dear Sir– the cringing and servile action of the Minister of Education (or the champion of the insurgents) have been already aired in your columns to the satisfaction of law-abiding citizens of Korea, hence I would not take much of your space to give my view of this man. But I would like to call your attention to the fact that Mr. Sin came to the Russian and French School a few days ago, and ordered the students to recite old Chinese classics to him in place of Russian and French text books which they have been studying. Does the Minister think that the Chinese classics are taught in these schools or is he playing the fool to amuse the world? Any information on the subject will be appreciated.  Yours sincerely, Choi Kak.     ———— Ask us something easy, Mr. Choi.

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