No. 203.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 1555.]

Sir: In the Japan Daily Herald of the 23d instant I find an article entitled “Gorea, its trade and mineral resources,” which it seems to me is worth recording, and a copy of which I have the honor to inclose.

* * * * * *

I have, &c.,

[Page 379]
[Inclosure in No. 1555.— Extract from the Japan Baily HeraM, August 23, 1882.]

corea: its trade and mineral resources.

The interest that is at present taken in Corea makes any reliable information with respect to the trade and mineral resources of this hitherto forbidden land of great importance; and the following extract from Mr. Walter Lay’s (commissioner of customs) report to Sir Eobert Hart, inspector-general of customs, on the trade relations between Newchwang and Corea during the year 1881, will be read with interest. Mr. Lay says:

“The exchange of commodities between Newchwang and Corea has not been on such an extensive scale lately as it was at one time, owing, it is said, to the footing which the Japanese have secured for themselves on the eastern side of the Corean peninsula. By virtue of a treaty which they have concluded with Coreans, two places on the seaboard, called Bushan, in the south, and Yuanshan, in the east, have been opened to them, and through these new ports they have been supplying the country with many things which were formerly admitted into it on its western side through this port. Many influential Corean merchants, who at one time carried on their business at the Corean Gate, have transferred their operations to the new ports, leaving behind them a class of traders who are simply peddlers.

“The old conservative ideas of exclusiveness are fast disappearing from the Corean people, and the Corean Government, unable to stop the march of events, is now allowing its subjects both to leave and to return to their country. Formerly, commercial transactions between Chinese and Coreans were carried on at the Corean Gate, the Coreans having to obtain a pass to go thus far, and being forbidden on pain of death, to go farther. Now, it appears that a Corean has simply to pay duty on his goods to enable him, if he cannot dispose of them at the Gate, to carry them where he likes. He can bring them down here, if he thinks the market will suit him better, but he cannot take them beyond Shanhaikwan, unless he holds a proper pass, which is a wooden ticket, and he can only obtain this if he is attached to the suite of an embassador.

“An embassy is sent from Corea to Pekin at periodical intervals, the number of individuals composing it being about two hundred. To each of these a passport is given so that he may have something to show should his official right to travel be called in question. The holders of passports either bring with them Corean productions for sale, or, for a consideration, they transfer their passports to others for that purpose. Without a passport a Corean can come as far as this port, but he cannot travel in the direction of Pekin.

“The restrictions against the exit of Coreans from their country having been relaxed, there is no longer any necessity to confine operations to the Gate, and the fairs, therefore, which have been held there three times a year, are now losing all their former importance. The Chinese are beginning to feel dissatisfied at the influx of Coreans into their country, arguing very rationally that privileges to trade should be reciprocal. Whilst Coreans can come in this direction with freedom, Chinese who venture across the border do so at the peril of their lives. Far north, in the wilds of Manchuria, the Coreans have been induced to settle on Chinese territory, and in one of the Peking Gazettes issued a few months ago there appeared a memorial from the Tartar general of Kirin, requesting the imperial sanction to allow taxes to be paid in cattle to suit the convenience of settlers, who were not allowed to bring away money from their own country.

“The chief item which the Coreans bring across the border is ginseng, and this is the most valuable. Wild ginseng is found among the hills, and takes more than thirty years to arrive at perfection. The root can he used when it has been in the ground about twelve years, but it is not so valuable as that of mature age. The other kinds of ginseng, known as first and second quality Corean, are a special branch of culture. Only well-to-do people can afford to set apart the ground for its cultivation, and to devote to it the time which it requires. The usual period allowed for the root to attain its full growth is from five to six years; it is then dug up, washed, and dried in a pan over a fire, and after the skin has been scraped away it is ready for the market. Once every year a small flower is put forth, the seed from which is carefully preserved and sown the following year. The root thrives, best in a sandy soil.

“Among other things that Corea produces are gold dust, tiger skins, sable skins, and human hair. An experimental shipment of the last-named to England was made last year, but with what result has not yet been ascertained. Tigers and leopards abound in Corea; but few skins from that country pass through this port.

“In his work on Corea, Pere Dallet affirms that the mountains conceal a wealth of gold, silver, and copper. Gold, he says, may be met with in the north by merely turning over the soil, but that excavations for this hidden treasure are not allowed under the severest penalties, the people not even venturing to pick it up on account of the impossibility of disposing of it. Some assert that the government discourage mining enterprise, because they are afraid of exciting the cupidity of powerful neighbors [Page 380] ;others attribute it to the fear of a revolt, which they are afraid would infallibly break out if a large number of workmen were concentrated on ground far away from the Capital and where there is little or no official authority. Iron, Pere Dallet says, is so plentiful in some places that after heavy rain it may be freely obtained— people picking up as much as they like of it.

“A country with such mineral resources as Corea is said to possess can scarcely remain closed much longer to the outer world. The Japanese have secured a footing-there, and it now remains for England, with her large commercial interests, to obtain one also. I am given to understand that Coreans generally are in favor of opening the country to trade and simply await the advent of foreigners to receive them with open arms. This may mean that the mercantile portion of the people would like to see foreigners appear; it does not necessarily indicate a desire on the part of the official class to welcome a change.

“In exchange for the various articles which Coreans bring down here, they obtain foreign piece goods, native cloth, silk piece goods, and treasure. They also like foreign dyes, and are not proof against the seductive charms of opium. As the. trade of this port has been almost entirely in the hands of the Chinese since it was first opened, it is more than likely that it has been the Chinaman, and not the foreigner, who has introduced this well-known narcotic into this new and unexplored country.”—Shanghai Courier.