Seen in Jeonju

The Independent: Saturday, June 20, 1896

20th June 2012

Continuing the weekly project of retyping Korea’s first English-language newspaper, this week’s issue is Vol.1, No. 33 from Saturday, June 20, 1896. In this issue: The rather random origin of the Korean word for police ‘kyeongchal’  still in use today, there is a brawl at the market,  the editor celebrates the plans to erect the Independence Arch outside the west gate of Seoul, and a report of various bits of news from the city of Kunsan which includes the birth of a 4-legged chicken… <And just a reminder, the articles were published in 1896. The views expressed within do no reflect the views of this website or anyone associated with it. They are merely here to provide historical perspective>



The croakers may croak and the pessimists may growl and the independence of Korea may be treated as a joke by those who can see nothing but the fact that His Majesty is still enjoying the hospitality of the Russian legation but they all argue from their fears and not from either present facts or future probablities. Today we rejoice in the fact that the King has decided to erect upon the ruins of the arch outside the West Gate, a new one to be entitled Independence Arch, 독립문.    We do not know as its inscription will be written in onmun (hangul or Korean letters as most things at this time were still written in Chinese–tom) but we wish it might. For centuries the arch stood there as a constant insult to the autonomy of Korea, an autonomy which China always hastened to assert when called upon to stand responsible for any trouble in the peninsula but which she always denied when it was safe to do so.  She denied it once too many times and now her “suzerainty” (a tributary state allowed some self-government–tom) is where the old arch is, namely op-so (Romanized Korean for 없서’ which mean ‘is not/have not’– tom).  And now the arch is to be raised on the same spot to stand forever as a negation of Manchu dominance, to show that Korea is once and for all cut off from the blighting influence of Chinese patronage; cut off, we hope, also from the system of fraud, corruption and trickery which today makes that most populous empire the laughing stock of the world. This arch means independence not from China alone but from Japan from Russia and from all European powers.  Not that she could stand against them in the brunt of war but that she is so situated that the interests of peace, of humanity, of progress demand for her and will secure to her the enjoyment of an intergal position among the powers of the East.  War might rage around her–may pour  over her but she would again emerge intact if only by the law of the equilibrium of forces.  All sucess to the Independence Arch and may future generations point to it and to the sovereign at whose hand it was reared with feelings similar to which Englishmen, Americans, Frenchmen or others point to those events which mark the glorious achievements of their progenitors.

There was an ancient prophecy that if the dynasty should outlive its 500th year it would be perpetual. The coincidence is interesting. Almost exactly at the expiration of the semi-millenium the events transpired which delivered Korea from a condition which promised a speedy dissolution and she took a new lease of life, began another five hundred year period which we trust will not be interupted.

Korea is a small State but I would say of her as Pere Hyacinthe said of Judea:  “The little States! They are constituted by the hand of God an I trust in Him, that He will not suffer them to be removed.  He has placed them between the great states as the negation to universal empire– a pacific obstacle to the shocks of their power and the plots of their ambition.”

Brief Notice

A soldier wanted to buy a fish from a huckster outside the West gate yesterday, but he thought the price was too high.  He tried to buy it at the price which he considered was proper, but the huckster did not think the same way.  A fight ensued and the soldier beat the fisherman o the policeman in that neighborhood hastened to the scene and tried to stop the fight but the soldier was too much for tbe guardian of the peace, hence he went under the mighty fist of the warrior. Four more policemen arrived just at this time to rescue their unfortunate comrade but they shared the same fate.  In a few minutes there were six victims prostrate before the soldier, half unconscious. The report of the complete defeat on the part of the police was delivered to their station and a squad of them marched to the scene.  Some more up-cuts and side blows were exchanged between the combatants and at last the soldier was handcuffed and brought to the Police Officer in the station.  The soldier was comparatively meek after he was brought to the station, but when the police officer tried to examine him, he became again furious an pounced upon the officer with such marvelous alertness the officer had to seek asylum behind the screen.  However the policemen overpowered the breaker of law and turned him over to the War Office.  He is now in military prison awaiting trial. 

Thursday noon one of the Independent staff, on his way to tiffin in front of the Office, noticed an old man sitting in the middle of the street in front of the German Consulate with an axe and a roll of manuscript in front of him. It was raining furiously and the old man did not have even a pretense of cover on his head.  He was soaked through and was shivering like a man taking a cold bath on a January morning.  The scribe asked him the cause of his self-inflicted punishment, he answered in mono-syllabc “Sangso” (a memorial to the Throne). It was evident that he wanted to memoralize the Throne on some pet scheme of his and he could not enter the street leading to the Russian Legation on account of the sentries at that point, so he concluded to sit right there with the document before him in hopes His Majesty might hear of his pressence there and call him into the Legation.  The meaning of carrying the axe was learned afterwards. If he did not tell His Majesty proper things His Majesty could kill him with that axe.  He was shivering and his teeth chattered so badly he could not articulate properly.  He was politely invited by the scribe to come into the Newspaper Office and get warmed, which he doggedly declined.  However, the scribe had his own way and pulled him into a room in the Independent building and gave him some hot food and dry clothes. He stayed there all day and went away in the evening. The contents of the document are still a mystery as he persistantly declined to reveal them.

In connection with the new Independence Arch, a fine carriage road is to be built reaching from the West gate out through the Peking pass which will then be in reality what it is now only in name– a pass.  It is a thing  upon which the government is to be congratulated that this so-called pass, on the main thoroughfare of the country and within sight of the city walls, which has for centuries been an epitome of Koren unprogressiveness, is now to be made thoroughly passable for carts and vehicles of every kind.

A policeman found the body of a dead man in Pul-Keun Ko-Kai on Wednesday night.  There was a stab wound in the body and a knife was found beside the body, stained with blood. The knife evidently belonged to the dead man as he had the sheath fastened on his clothes.  The police are making a thorough investigation of the true cause, but so far everything indicates suicide.

There was a fire in the old granary inside the little West gate caused by rain getting into the store room where a large quantity of quick lime was stored and fire was the result.  There was no damage of any consequence except that one fireman was hurt.

The Governor of An Dong reports that a band of insurgents entered An Dong district from Sang Ju.  The Seoul troops routed them and obtained twelve Remington rifles. He further reports that Lieut. Nam Heui Dok killed ten insurgents in An Dong, and shot two leaders.  Next day he had a sharp encounter  with two thousand insurgents and killed 35 and captured 10. On the third day he had another fight and killed 50 insurgents.  There was no casuality among the Seoul troops. Lieut Wo Nam Kiu had a fight with the insurgnents of Ye Chun and killed 42 and captured 20.  Captain Kim Kin Heun met a band of insurgents in Ye An and dispersed them. Lieut. Kim Sa Sang went to Ye Chun and Pung Ki districts and drove away the insurgents and pacified the people.  He obtained several hundred bags of rice and a large number of guns from the insurgents and gave the rice to the people of that district.

The Chief of Police and Police Officers are called in Korean Kyeng Mu Sa and Keng Mu Kwan. The new Chief of Police, Yi Chong Keun objects to the word Kyeng Mu because one of his ancestors’ names was Kyeng Mu.  Now in the Police Department they call th Chief Kyeng Chal Sa and the subordinate officers Kyeng Chal Kwan.

The Governor of Chun Chon prohibits the use of the Korean calendar in place of the Chinese; also he forbade the policemen or police officers wearing uniform by saying it is an act of kai wha and he does not approve of anything progressive. He further objects to the use of the Korean unmun by the people in that province. He requested that the insurgents be not punished by the Seoul troops after their capture. Here is another disciple of Mr. Sin Ki Sun and the second champion of the insurgents.

A letter from Mr. WM Jenkins of Kun San says,  a Korean tried to drown his son in the river, but was prevented by an American. Two loads of passengers went by sail boat to Chemulpo owing to the non-arrival of the steamer. Dr. AD Drew set the bones of a Korean’s leg. The man was a sailor, and getting drunk, fell and shattered both bones just above the ankle.  He came to Dr. Drew after three days but with care there is a good chance for his recovery.  He also states that a four legged chicken was hatched there.

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