Seen in Jeonju

The Independent: Saturday, July 9, 1896

10th August 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. 41 from Thursday, July 9nd, 1896.  <<REMINDER: The Independent was written over 100 years ago and the opinions expressed within DO NOT reflect my own . –tom>> In this issue:   A resident of Pyeng Yang (Pyeongyang) sends in a report on the state of affairs there, the latest news on the coming railroad in Korea, and the governor of Namwon receives praise.



The railroad ball has evidently opened in Korea. The concession to Americans of a raodway between Seoul and Chelmupo and a definite agreement about the terms has wakened other investors to the railroad possibilities of Korea.  And now an agreement has been made with a French syndicate for the building of a railroad between Seoul and Wi Ju on precisely the same terms as those specified in the agreement with the American syndicate, with the exception that a longer time is gien for the commencement and finishing of the road.

The government grants the site for the entire road bed without any further concessions of land or other property.  The road is to be begun within three years and is to be completed within nine years.  At the end of 15 years the government will have the option of buying.

It will be noticed at a glance that this road will be different from the one between Seoul and Chemulpo in several striking particulars, but will be none the less valuable to Korea as a whole. The road from Seoul to Chemulpo will be the great artery by which all manner of goods from abroad will reach the capital.  It will not be a great distributor except insofar as the produce in the immediate vicinity is concerned, but this Seoul Wi Ju road will tap a very rich and populous part of Korea, running as it wiil through the heart of Whang Hai province. Pyeng Yang will mean more to it than Seoul will, for there it will touch a port, for of course Pyeng Yang will be opened to foreign trade.  Of course in time there will be more through-trade from Russia to Seoul but it can never compete in bulk with the ocean borne trade. It will then have Pyeng Yang as its powerful center and it will branch out its arms into Pyeng Yang and Whang Hai provinces, carrying the rich produce of these sections to the port for export and in turn distributing the products of western lands throughout the North.  It thus appears that while the Seoul Chemulpo road will do most of its business in transporting imports, the other will be a great avenue for exports as well, and in this sense will have a double advantage.  On the other hand a short road, easily kept in repair, between two such important points as Seoul and Chemulpo cannot but have the brighter prospect for immediate financial success. Its work is all ready for it the day it opens, but in the other case the traffic will have to be “worked up” and the more stubborn prejudices of the country people will have to be gradually overcome, and this takes time.  In many ways the French road will be just as much, if not more, beneficial to the Korean government as the other for it will do much to develop the resources of the country.  It will speedily open up the coal and lumber regions of the North and will make Pyeng Yang a rival of Chemulpo in the amount of imports and exports.

It will be of great mutual benefit for these two roads to arrange to run through cars from Chemulpo into Whang Hai province. This will give the French a valuable outlet southward and at the same time wold add to the trade of the American road.

We wish these enterprises all success and we believe that however unsettled the politics of Korea may seem from the outside, there are great times in store for her.  These great enterprises bring with them a steadying influence, a sort of commercial force center that must speedily bring to the front in Korean eyes the commorcial and industrial importance of Korea, politics as such will be less and less looked upon as a field of personal exploitation and intrigue and the distinctly productive elements in society will rise to their proper place. All succes to these railroad enterprises.

Brief Notice

Dr. J. H.  Wells writes an interesting letter to the Independent , giving the news of Pyeng Yang and its vicinity. He says that Mr WH Ragsdale who is at Puck Chin, about four days journey from Pyeng Yang in the gold mines, reports that a tiger has killed a woman, wounded two others and killed a dog in that village.

Over fifty Japanese are quietly pursuing their business in Pyeng Yang, and he thinks this has a stimulating influence upon the Korean merchants there teaching active and energetic business methods.  The country is prosperous and crops are successful this year. He went to see a coal mine near Pyeng Yang and found that there is a great demand for coal, but the mine is not worked with proper care and push.  His medical and surgical work has been very successful considering the lack of facilities in the way of buildings.  He sees over thirty patients a day.  There is no sign of cholera yet, but one suspicious case turned out to be cholera morbus.  The early rains flushing out the sewers and other filth from the city, to a large measure prevented the outbreak of cholera this year.  The foreigners in Pyeng Yang regretthe resignation of the Governor, as he has been very honest and faithful during his term of office there.  He further writes that “We hear with pleasure that this place is soon to be opened as a port.”  ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. I doubt not but that soon, following such a course, Korea would reap pecuniary rewards in customs, etc.  It will be wondered why it was not done before.  An immense country with great natural resources will be opened up, and the benefit of the step will be far reaching.”  He finsihes the letter by congratulating the Independent on its career and the course it has taken, and he says “Long may she wave.”

Dr. Jameson, Sir John Wilougbhy, Messrs White and Grey, and the Honorable Arther Coventry, have been committed for trial.  The rest of the prisoners were discharged. (Dr. Leander Starr Jameson led the failed raid that was meant to incite a revolution within the Boer Republic in South Africa that would allow British soldiers an excuse to invade and annex the territory–tom)

H.E. Li Hung Chang enaged two German officers to establish a military school on the German model.

The Powers have proposed to the Porte to appoint a Christian Governor in Crete.

The new Japanese Minister Mr. Hara arrived in Seoul last Monday.  He will present his credentials to His Majesty in a few days.

A band of insurgents entered Pyeng Yang district and murdered the Tax Collector of that place and another band looted Be Eun district and murdered the son of a petty officer connected with that magistracy.

Five citizens of Nam Won wrote a letter to the Independent, praising their Governor for the diligent manner in which he performs his duties. Fifteen districts under him have enjoyed peace and quiet, although the neighboring magistracies have been, and still are troubled by lawless looters, or “righteous army.”  They state that he goes about among the people and talks to them personally about the duties of pepple; hence the people understand the situation and are pursuing their avocations peacefully.

Hs Royal Highness, Prince Eui Wha has left Tokio (the neswpapers spelling, not mine—tom )and arrived in Kobe for the purpose of spending the heated term in the neighborhood of that port.

The mother of the Emperor of China, the widow of Prince Chun, is seriously sick and ther is little hope of her recovery.

H.E. Li Hung Chang again denies the secret treaty with Russia, but admits that arrangements have been made for Russia to have her railraod through Manchuria.

The Governor of Song Do, hearing of the arrival of insurgents in his district, left his office immediately and came up to Seoul.

The Fourth of July was celebrated in grand style by the USS Yorktown now in Chemulpo.  They invited the officers and crews of the war vessels in the harbor and the foreign residents in the port to the exercises.  They had a theatrical performance on board the vessel and boat races.  Other sports were indulged in on shore by the marines and blue jackets of the Yorktown.  They raised $600 for the celebration, and the whole event was a memorable one.  We congratulate Uncle Sam on the enthusiant and patriotic spirit which was manifested by his navy on the glorious Fourth on this far-away shore. Long live Uncle Sam’s Navy.

The projectors of the Independence Arch and park outside the West gate have organized themselves into a Society, and it will be known as the Independence Society. They will meet regularly every Saturday afternoon at the City Hall (Office of the Governor of Seoul), and will discuss and plan out the work.  The contributions come in continually and the treasurer has over $700.00  already. We hope the foreign residents will show their interest in the shape of handome pecuniary donations as this will encourage the worthy spirit of the Korean promoters. The Independent has contributed $30.00 towards the fund, and wishes that it could have been three thousand.

The last account of the total amount of contributions for the Armenian fund was $145.00 but since we have received fifty dollars from Americans in Wonsan. Ten dollars from Mr. S.A. Moffett and five dollars fro Dr. J.H. Wells of Pyeng Yang. The total amount is now $210.00. This was turned over to J. McLeavy Brown, Esq. of the Customs who has kindly consented to secure a London draft for us, and it will be forwarded to Constantinople. The letter of transmission will be written by Minister Sill to Minister Terrill.

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