Seen in Jeonju

The Independent, Tuesday June 30th, 1896

11th July 2012

Continuing with my project of retyping the issues of Korea’s first English-language newspaper, The Independent, this week features the next edition, vol. 1 no. 37 from Saturday, June 30th, 1896.  <<REMINDER:  The opinions expressed in The Independent DO NOT represent my views and are merely presented here for historical context.–tom>> In this issue:  The editor worries that cholera is on its way again due to unsanitary conditions, the police of Seoul are rejecting their western style clothes in favor of their traditional looks, the poplation of Seoul was counted, and an incident of stupidity on the part of a thief. 



It is not improbable that the cholera may visit the city of Seoul again this summer.  To be sure the severe epidemic of chlera in 1886 was not followed by another in 1887, but of course, the inherent probability was greater than if there had been none the preceding year. A few sporadic cases have made their appearance which, though not cholera proper perhaps, show marked similarity to that dreaded disease. If anything is to be done to fight it this year, a beginning must be made immediately, if indeed it is not already too late.

It is such a simple thing to say, “keep the sewers open and clean, prevent the accumulation of garbage, look out for contamination of wells, make people drink boiled water and stop their washing vegetables in the gutters,” but the carrying out of these simple directions means a revolution in Korean methods of life and in their time-honored customs. If my father washed his cabbage in this ditch, it is good enough for me to wash mine in.

The Koreans have a proverb which says; “In trying to take a short cut across lots he fell in with thieves,” which means that the man who goes around by the old time-honored road will  do better than the one who tries some new-fangled method.  There is a ponderous inertia in these Eastern people, and a stolid indifference to the channels through which disease is contracted, however much they dread the disease itself.  It amounts almost to fatalism.  A few object lessons on Korean well water through a compound microscope would open their eyes.

It is of no avail to talk about what might be under different circumstances, but we must ask the question, what can now be done, taking all obstacles into consideration, to prevent the coming of cholera or check its spread if it does come.

In the first place a sum of money must be appropriated, commensurate with the work to be done. It must be put in the hands of some man who will dispense it judiciously and honestly. The government should set all the city convicts at work cleaning up the streets.  The police should watch the wells and see that refuse is not allowed to lie around them. If possible it would be an excellent plan to have each of the main wells put in charge of a competent man and have him see to it that only proper vessels are used in drawing the water; of better still, a man should be stationed at each well, whose business it should be to draw water for all comers, but money must be forthcoming to pay them. This would take a comparatively small sum and wuld be one of the very best preventatives, for there is probably nothing that tends to spread disease more than this prmiscuous use of wells, each person using his own utensils for drawing the water.  Besides this, the bringing into the city of green fruit such as apricots, melons, peaches and the like should be prohibited. It would entail some hardship on the people but better that tan a summer like last.

We look for something to tbe done immediately by those in authority and upon them will the balme fall if the epidemic comes and finds the city wholly unprepared.

Brief Notice

The June number of the Korean Repository appeared Wednesday.  It gives us its usual varied contents, interesting to all kinds and conditions of people, all the way from philological discussions to town gossip.  Rev. GH Jones gives us a clear and concise exposition of the status of women in Korea, which shows clearly that the ‘new woman’ form of inebriety has not yet reached Korea. Dr. Edkins gives another talk on affinities of the Korean language, a sort of philological tight rope walk in which few can follow him. Mr Hulbert talks about the origin of the alphabet, adducing some evidence in support of its Thibetan origin. Mr. Appenzeller gives an interesting account of a visit to Pyeng Yang and the battle-field and Dr. Wells tells us of some of his medical impressions.  The editorial, literary and miscellaneous departments are filled with timely and interesting material. On the whole our monthly contemporary is sustaining its customary high level.

The new Chief of Police does not wear his official uniform, and still wears his top-knot. His subordiantes are gradually following the example of their Chief and there are a number of new top-knots being raised among the Police force.  If the Chief does not change his mind, we will soon see every police officer regaining his top-knot  and probably the unifrom will be shelved.  Even now, we notice the army and police officers are not proud of their uniforms and helmets, as is the case with the officers of other countries. It is largely due to the discouragements they meet from their superiors.

The Governor of Tong Nai and Tai Ku reports that the Government troops routed the insurgents in Kyeng Ju district.

The Magistrate of Po Chun reports that 300 insurgents entered the town of Kai Pyeng on the 23rd.

The Governor of Tai Ku reports that the Tai Ku troops encountered a band of insurgents a few days ago and firing bgan on both sides, but the insurgents were on the higher ground so the Tai Ku troops made a retreat. The insurgents followed them down to the lower ground where the Tai Ku troops turned and made a sudden assault upon them and routed them completely.

The Governor of Kong Ju reports that two leaders of the insurgents in Chen Chun and Mok Chun districts have been caught be the Seoul troops and were beheaded on the 22nd.

According to the latest census taken by the Police Department, the population of Seoul and the immediate vicinity (the river towns are excepted) is 179,702 and the number of houses 37,737.  The population inside of the wall 117,915, and the number of houses is 22,974.  This does not include foreign residents.

A thief wrote a letter to Yi Sun So of Kat-Chun-Kol saying that he needed 10,000 cash and must get it from somebody. He asks Yi to place the sum under the stone bridge across the street at 2 o’clock in the morning when he wil come and get it. He further states that if Yi should not obey the order, Yi’s house will be burned the next night, and if Yi should tell this to anyone he will kill Yi in a few days.  Yi placed the money in the place named and gave the letter to the police. At 2 o’clock next morning the police were watching for the thief near the bridge, and as he came up punctually they captured him at that hour. He was very much surprised when told that he was under arrest.

Mr. Hara, the new Japanese Minister is a native of Iwata Prefecture. In 1876, he entered the Law School which was then attached to the Judicial Department, but did not complete his studies. He took to journalism, but later joined the Foreign Department and was sent to Tientsin as Consul. Subsequently he became Director of the Commercial Bureau in the Foreign Department, which appointment he held until he succeeded Baron Hayashi as Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, when the latter gentleman was appointed Minister to Peking.

The Russians at Peking are buying large lots of Chinese books for the use of their countrymen who may wish to learn the Chinese language and literature. It is said Chinese Schools will be established in various parts of Rusia, and that some Chinese teachers have actually been engaged.

Last Friday, the Seoul Chamber of Commerce had a mass meeting and discussed the feasibility of encouraging Commerce, and other topics relating to the improvement of general traffic.  The Ministers of Finance, and Commerce and other prominent officials were present and took part in the discussion. It is commendable on the part of these high officials to meet together with the businessmen of the city and explain the importance of commercial aggrandisement for the country’s good.  March on, everybody!

The Capitalists of Seoul are perfecting the scheme of a banking organization in the city. They expect to secure $200,000 of capital by shares. They will issue 400 shares at $50 each and so far they have recieved already enough subscribers to cover more than half the capital.  They will open the bank in one of the brick houses in the business block belonging to the Seoul Improvement Company, Chong Dong.  The institution will be managed by a cometent foreigner whose business sagacity and intergity is beyond question.  We will keep the public informed of the details fo the laudable enterprise.

A well-dressed woman, about 70 years old, while walking along on the street near Chong No, lost consciousness suddenly and fell on the curb stone.  The police carried her to the station where she recovered her senses and asked the police to take her to her home in Chung Pai, outside the South Gate. She was taken there in a chair.

Major Jang Ki Ryem, while marching with his battalion to Won Ju, met a band of insurgents who occupieda village in Won Ju and routed them.  After the fight, some of the Seoul soldiers entered the houses of the citizens and took away some articles.  The Major immediately siezed the culprits and shot them on the spot. The War Office commended his action and the people in that disctrict praised the Major’s exemplary discipline among his troops.

The Governor of Seoul issued an order saying that after repairs of the streets in Seoul, whoever throws garbage or any other filthy substance on the street will be punished severely. We are in hearty sympathy with you, Mr. Governor.

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