Seen in Jeonju

The Independent: June 25th, 1896

27th June 2012

Continuing my project of retyping the issues of Korea’s first English-language newspaper, The Independent, this week I bring you vol. 1, Issue No. 35 from Thursday, June 25th, 1896.  In this issue, the students of the Royal English School challenge the decrees of the Minister of Education, the town of Ri Chun burns to the ground, and the Ladies Lawn Tennis Club will no longer serve tea! <<Reminder:  Opinions expressed in The Independent DO NOT represent my views and are merely presented here for historical purposes–tom>>



“The way of a fish in the sea, the way of a bird in the air, the way of a snake on a rock and the way of a man with a maid” are all hard to understand but we also find some difficulty in foretelling what a government official will do when charged with malfeasance and indirection.  The position of the chusa, or clerk, is sometimes spoken of as being secure we would call attention to the danger of his position. It is something like that of a man employed to carry the can of nitro-glycerine from place to place in the mine and handle it. He gets paid for little work but if anything goes wrong you have to hunt over several counties before you can get his ensemble.  So with the under official. If anything goes wrong in the office and someone up at Seoul takes it into his head to make trouble, the first business of hte chief is to decide which one of his clerks shall have the honor of shouldering the responsibity.  But now another unforeseen feature crops out.  It is becoming the fashion when anything goes wrong in the country, to say “Oh, His Majesty ordered this an I am not concerned with it.”  This is one of the, to us, unforeseen consequences of His Majesty’s peronal control of matters political.  So long as he was largely led by the opinion of three or four men immediately near his person it was difficult to do this, for the statement would reflect upon the above-mentioned favorites and bring swift punishment but now that His Majesty has more direct and personal control of matters, officials do not scruple to lay the blame of mistakes upon him. On the other hand when things move on successfully and the work amounts to something there is no mention of a higher source but the official in question reaps, so far as possible, the whole praise and benefit of the transaction. In other words, while landscape gardening is not much affected in Korea, they all “hedge.”  Reap the benefit if things go well and lay the blame on someone else if things go wrong is a common motto in Korea.

On the other hand on principle of oriental government is to make the chief of a department responsible for every thing that goes wrong.  If a general is beaten in war he loses his head though he be quite innocent of blame. The Viceroy Li lost his peacock feather because of events that transpired hundreds of miles away and which he could not have prevented by any foresight.  This principle is the cause of the marvellous resourcefulness of the Korean when making excuses.

We hope to see the time when every official in Korea shall be clearly instructed as to the exact amount of responsibility that he carries and the exact limits of his prerogatives, and then be held strictly up to the mark, neither more nor less.

***  It is also a matter of concern that the officials in the country consult their own convenience in publishing to the people the edicts of His Majesty.  These are often suppressed and the people do not learn the fact that the King is personally interested in them. It is not so much the contents of the edicts as the fact that they evince an interest in the common people on the part of His Majesty which would go far toward quieting the country.

Brief Notice

t56-2The students of the Russian an French Schools were called by His Majesty on Tuesday afternoon at 4 o’clock and he saw them perform several interesting gymnastic exercises and drill.  The boys marched into the Russian Legation headed by a drum corps and went through th exercises very creditably and received hearty praise from His Majesty and His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince. His Majesty gave each student two fans, and the boys responded with three cheers for His Majesty.  They adjourned to the buildings below and had their dinner. After the meal they had some fireworks in the tennis court behind the Legation in honor of the schools. Mrs Weaber distributed some prizes to the students who passed the best examinations in their studies. The Russian teacher Mr Birukoff, French teacher Mr Martel, Lieut. Hmeleff, Prince Dondukoff Korsakoff, Dr Voloschinow, and the Russian Minister had an audience with His Majesty.  He expressed his gratification at the success of these schools.  The boys went home in the most happy and contented frame of mind.

The students of the Royal English School sent a letter to the Minister of Education to the effect that they do not consider the action of the Minister in regard to the uniform question as a loyal obedience to His Majesty’s Edict.  His Majesty graciously allowed his subjects to wear whatever clothes they deem convenient, and the students considered the European dress most suited to them hence they have been wearing it and with approval of His Majesty and the former Minister of Education.  They state that the Minister has no right whatever to infringe upon the liberty which His Majesty has granted to them.  The letter was signed by 98 students and 3 Korean teachers. They all marched to the Department in their uniforms and delivered the letter to the secretary of the Department as the Minister was not in.  The Minister has not yet replied.

The Governor of Ham Heung, Kim Yu Sung has been re-establishing all the old customs in his Office. He now has six private Secretaries, over a hundred servants, two dozen dancing girls or Kisaengs, and other unnecessary officials for his gratification.  Of course this was all abolished by the Government some years ago hence there is no money allowed for luxury. He levied more taxes on the people to defray the expenses, and the people in that province make bitter complaints.  He sent six of his lieutenants, who claim to be disciples of Confucius, to Seoul to lay claim before the Home Department the imaginary great deeds of the Governor. The scheme is to have the Governor remian in the office longer.

Kim So Sung of Chemulpo who has been drinking hard and has been out of employment for some days became despondent lately and last Saturday night he committed suicide by hanging in his own room.

After Friday next June 26th tea will not be served at the Ladies Lawn Tennis Club until Fall by order of the Recreation Committee.

M. Lefevre of the French Legation has received from his Gov’t leave of absence. He intends to go back to France in a few weeks.

The Governor of Chung Ju reports that the insurgents of Ri Chun, Juk San and Kwang Ju districts joined their forces and had a fight with the Japanese telegraph liners in Ri Chun. The former were routed but during the fight a fire broke out  and burned the whole town and only a few kans of the Magistrates Office were saved. 

The wife of Chung Chong Won was intoxicated a few days ago and her husband scolded her for the unwomanly act. The woman took a large dose of opium and killed herself that night.

The Governor of Nam Won reports to the Department of Justice that a man name So Chun Sam was murdered by Kim Suk Cho.  The wife of So avenged her husband by killing the murderer with a stone mortar.

The base ball game on Tuesday afternoon between the Seoul Athletic Club and the Base Ball club of the USS Yorktonwn was played in HunYunAn.  The game was well played on both sides and at times it was quite exciting.  The score was 16 to 22 in favor of the marines (what follows is a list of players and how many runs they scored.. I am not typing it as all 9 players on each team scored at least 1 run in this well-played game…tom)

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