No. 231.

Mr. Foote to Mr. Frelinghuysen .

No. 128.]

We are in the midst of great excitement and, I may say, danger. It seems that the entire movement is an attempted revolution, concocted by a few ill advised young men, under the leadership of Kim OK Kinn, vice-president of the Corean foreign office; Hong Heng Shik, postmaster-general, and Pak Yong Hio, brother-in-law of the King.

Ostensibly dissatisfied with the non-progressive spirit manifested by the leading officials, they determined to seize the Government, obtain control of the person of the King, and to administer public affairs for their own purposes. The first move in their plot was the attempted assassination of Min Yong Ik, and during the excitement occasioned thereby, they rushed to the palace, informed the King that he was in great danger, and persuaded him to remove to a smaller palace. The King, fearing perhaps that some great public commotion was taking place, sent messengers to the Japanese legation asking the minister to come to the palace with his guard of soldiers. After three messages of this kind, the minister consented, and went to the palace, the Japanese soldiers, two hundred in number, being stationed at the gates. In the mean time five of the leading officials of the Government were called to the palace, ostensibly by direction of the King, and while there were put to death. These things occurred on the night of the 4th and the morning of the 5th instant.

About 12 o’clock on the night of the 4th messengers came to me from the King, asking me to come to the palace with my wife and suite, saying that he feared somewhat for our safety, and felt that we would be more secure with him.

The same messengers with the same messages were sent to Mr. Aston, Her Britannic Majesty’s consul-general, and to Captain Zembsch, His Imperial German Majesty’s commissioner, shortly after. Mr. Aston, his wife and assistant, came to the United States legation with the intention [Page 333] of going to the palace. I told him that upon consideration I had determined not to leave the legation; that I would wait upon His Majesty in the morning to learn his wishes, but that in the uncertainty of affairs I should rely upon the inviolability of the legation, making such preparations for defense as I could. On the morning of the 5th, with Her Britannic Majesty’s consul-general, Mr. Aston, and His Imperial German Majesty’s commissioner, Captain Zembsch, I went to the small palace occupied by the King. We found crowds of excited people in the streets. Corean soldiers were massed around the entrance, outside; within, Japanese soldiers were guarding the gateways. In the palace I saw the leading revolutionists, who had been installed in the positions made vacant by the death of the high officials. I also met the Japanese minister and his secretary of legation. The King had little to say, and seemed to be in a state of great excitement. After some unimportant conversation we retired.

Immediately after this I called a conference of the representatives, endeavoring to secure the attendance of the Japanese minister, but could not reach him. We jointly counseled the Chinese commissioner to do nothing to disturb the peace or to excite the populace, and under all circumstances to avoid a conflict between Japanese and Chinese troops. He seemed to sanction this line of policy.

During the day, by my advice, the two Americans residing with their families in Seoul came to the legation. That night the King, accompanied by the Japanese guard, returned to the palace proper.

From sundown until morning crowds of excited people were surging through the streets, but no actual outbreak occurred. Her Britannia Majesty’s consul-general, Mr. Aston, his wife, one attaché, and servants, came to the legation on the night of the 4th, and remained, by my invitation, for several days.

As before stated, I had arranged, with the assistance of Ensign Bernadon, U. S. N., as complete a system of defense as possible. By the kindness of the Japanese minister, four Japanese soldiers had been sent to the legation. I had also asked for, and obtained, a Corean guard, upon whom I placed but little reliance. Early on the morning of the 6th the populace commenced to commit outrages upon the Japanese subjects residing in different parts of the city. The cry was “Death to the Japanese!” During the day numbers were killed and their property destroyed. Several came to the legation for refuge, and I gave directions that all who came should be admitted. Between 3 and 4 o’clock p.m. we heard firing in the direction of the palace, and shortly thereafter the Japanese guard, one hundred and eighty in number, evacuated the palace grounds and marched to their legation. Along their line of march they were attacked by the people with stones and occasional shots. After they reached their legation great numbers of angry people gathered in the vicinity, making threats, and occasional shots were fired. Between 4 and 5 o’clock p.m. on the 7th the Japanese soldiers and civilians left their legation grounds and marched out of the city, on their way to Chemulpo. Two cannon shots were fired at them as they passed, and an occasional volley of musketry, which they returned.

The wildest excitement now prevailed. As night came on we noticed that the Japanese legation buildings were in flames. These buildings were the finest in Corea, and had just been completed, partly in the European style.

At this time there were congregated in this legation, of American citizens, myself and wife, C. L. Scudder, private secretary 5 Ensign J. B. Bernadon, [Page 334] U. S. N.; Dr. and Mrs. Allen and child, Mr. W. D. Townsend; of British subjects, W. G. Aston, esq., Her Britannic Majesty’s consul-general; Mrs. Aston, Mr. E. S. B. Allen, consul’s assistant; Mr. Hallifax, wife and child. Of Japanese subjects there were twenty-two men, women, and children. Fifteen Chinese and Corean servants, and a guard of twenty Corean soldiers, upon whom I placed no reliance, and only retained in the legation fearing that they might inform the populace that we were protecting Japanese.

The night was one of great anxiety, but the day dawned, and from that moment the excitement seemed to decrease. During the 6th and 7th a number of public and private buildings were burned. On the morning of the 8th I was asked to have an audience with His Majesty, who had temporarily taken up his residence at the Chinese camp. In company with the other representatives, I waited upon His Majesty. At this audience we were asked if we could consistently go to Chemulpo and have an interview with the Japanese minister, conveying to him the earnest desire of His Majesty to maintain friendly relations with Japan. After consultation we decided to accede to His Majesty’s wishes.

After the audience I took occasion to say that I had at the United States legation, and under my protection, a number of Japanese men, women, and children, and that I had determined to send them to Chemulpo under the escort of Ensign J. B. Bernadon, U. S. N., and to ask that a joint Corean and Chinese guard be furnished for their protection. This request was seconded by the other representatives, and was acceded to by both the Corean and Chinese authorities. On the morning of the 9th Ensign Bernadon left the legation with the Japanese refugees, escorted by Corean and Chinese soldiers, and arriving safely at Chemulpo on the morning of the 10th delivered them, as directed by me, to his excellency the Japanese minister. During the night of the 10th messengers came from the King and Queen, saying that they had heard it was the intention of the foreign ladies to retire with their husbands to Chemulpo, and urging that Mrs. Foote should remain, promising her all the protection in their power, saying that her stay would do much to quiet the excitement of the people. We replied that we were the first to come and would be the last to leave. On the morning of the 10th, with His Imperial German Majesty’s commissioner, Captain Zembsch, and Her Britannic Majesty’s consul-general, Mr. Aston, accompanied by his wife, I went to Chemulpo, leaving Mrs. Foote at the legation. Arriving at Chemulpo we sought for and obtained an interview with his excellency the Japanese minister. We informed him of the sentiment of His Majesty, and afterwards engaged in an informal discussion concerning the temper of the Corean Government, as evinced by certain dispatches which had been written to the minister by the president of the Corean foreign office. We were assured by the minister that the messages of the King should be transmitted to his Government. On the following day we had other interviews, discussing certain questions of fact which had been asserted by Corean officials and denied by the Japanese minister.

On the morning of the 12th I returned alone to Seoul, His Imperial German Majesty’s commissioner and Her Britannic Majesty’s consul-general deciding to remain at Chemulpo.

On the 14th I had an audience with His Majesty and reported to him the result of our interview with Mr. Takezoye. His Majesty asked me if I would accompany an envoy whom he was about to send to Japan, invoking thereby the good offices of the United States to bring about [Page 335] an amicable settlement between that country and Corea. I replied to him that I should prefer, first, to consult with my Government, but that the means of communication were difficult and the emergency imminent. I would consider the matter and decide at the earliest possible moment.

Recurring to the events of the 6th instant, I would say that the conflict with the Japanese troops was brought about by an attempt of the Chinese troops to force their way into the palace grounds, ostensibly to protect the King. In this attack the Corean troops joined forces with the Chinese. During the engagement the King determined to seek a place of greater safety. “Learning this fact,” as Mr. Takezoye, the Japanese minister says in a note to me, “I took my leave of His Majesty and withdrew with the Japanese guard.”

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 128.]

Report of information relative to the revolutionary attempt in Seoul, Corea, by Ensign George C. Foulk, December 4–7, 1884.

The Government of Corea has been for an indefinite period under the practical control of the Min family, of which the Queen of Corea* is at present the highest representative. The blood of this family is largely Chinese, and it has been always, and remains, the desire and aim of this family to subject, and retain in subjection, their country to the suzerainty of China. Members of this family are accorded special privileges by China, and are, to the exclusion of other Corean noble families, on comparatively social terms with the court of China, which they visit frequently. The family is very large, and includes the highest number of great nobles, with the greatest landed estates, of all the families of the nobility in Corea. Political differences of the several degrees of strength have long existed between this family and that of the King and a large body of the other nobles.

The Queen is a woman of strong will and considerable ability. * * * The great body of the Corean people at large know little or nothing of the politics of their Government, nor do they dare to use any information they may by chance possess on government affairs. They only know their King, for whom, so far as my own experience and observation goes, they hold unbounded reverence and affection. It is, however, ground deeply into the whole Corean nation, so far as the people are concerned, that their’s is the “little house” of China. Chinese coming among them are detested for their appearance, conduct, and customs; yet nothing a Chinaman might do in the [Page 336] course of his association with the common people would prompt a blow from any of them, for he is a “Ta-kuk-in,” a man of the “great country.” Japanese, on the contrary, are even admired by Coreans of the present day for their appearance, customs, and conduct; yet against them lies a deep current of hereditary hatred for their alleged cruelties in their ancient invasions of Corea, and the Coreans are always ready for the license when they may vent this feeling in shedding Japanese blood.

The first Corean nobles to leave their country to visit a progressive one, were So Kwang Pom and Kim Ok Kiun. These two men, nine years ago, left Corea secretly and visited. Japan; upon their return to Corea, they went boldly before the King and described” what they there had seen. In later years other Corean nobles visited Japan and China; of these, however, until within the past two years, but one, Pak Yong Hyo, joined the two above named in their aim towards adopting western civilization for Corea and advocated openly such a policy.

The family of So is claimed to be truly Corean, and is highly illustrious for the number of just and wise officers it has produced; it has no superior in Corea in regard to this and ancient, creditable ancestry.

The family of Kim is likewise regarded as truly Corean; it is remarkable for its extent and antiquity. Pok Yong Hyo is also of an ancient family, and is the brother-in-law of the King, bearing as such the title of royalty Kum-oi-nung, which by the ancient law, forbade his holding actual office in the government.

Prior to the revolt of the troops in Seoul in 1882, under the Tai-wen Kun, So and Kim, who held nightly discussions of the civilization problem, and were endeavoring to induce Min Yong Ik and several other young nobles to join them, were charged by the fanatical Tai-Wen-Kun with endeavoring to introduce Christianity into Corea, and both came very near losing their heads. The Tai-wen-Kun was the ex-regent and the father of the King; long after his regency had ceased he held the administrative power of the Government, and directed his great energy with fanatical zeal against the efforts of the Jesuit fathers and Christian Coreans to extend Christianity in Corea.

The members of the Corean embassy to the United States have repeatedly told me that the number of Coreans executed after torture by him for professing Christianity or being suspected of it can only be reckoned by tens of thousands; also that his fanatical hatred of the foreign religion was mainly due to the raid upon the grave of one of his ancestors by the German Jew Oppert.

Obedient to the will and direction of China the Mins were pre-eminent among Corean nobles in conducting for Corea the negotiations for a treaty with the United States, in May, 1882, at Inchun, on which occasion Admiral Shufeldt represented the United States Government, having come there in the U. S. S. Swatara.

This energy of the Mins has given them the mistaken reputation of being members of the progress party in Corea; in fact they only acted in obedience to their hereditary lord, China, without a thought patriotic to Corea, beyond that they in common with all Coreans at that time felt the danger of seizure of a part of Corea by Russia. By the King of Corea and the true progress party of three the treaty with the United States was hailed as the forerunner of complete independence from China.

To the call of China for Corea to treat with the United States for their several reasons, all the chief members of the Corean Government were obedient but the Tai-wen-Kun, who though purely patriotic to Corea, only saw in making treaties with western powers the means of introducing broadcast hated Christianity. It is natural therefore that he should be at enmity with the Mins who were negotiating the treaty with Admiral Shufeldt.

Consequently in July, 1882, we find that, taking advantage of disaffection among the soldiers of the capital, occasioned by short rations issued by the Mins, he directs their revolt against that family, and having disposed of its members, seizes the Government himself. Many Mins were killed; Min Thai Ho (father of Min Yong Ik) was left supposed to be fatally wounded in a ditch; poison was to be administered to the Queen, but a maid personating her in disguise, took the poison and died while the Queen escaped. Min Yong Ik shaved his head and after hiding in the mountains three days, walked to Fusan whence he escaped to Japan in the disguise of a Buddhist priest. For his disobedience to its command and his attempt to annihilate its loyal servants, the Mins, the Chinese Government sent its troops to Corea and carried off in banishment the Tai-wen Kun; the power of the Mins for China having been greatly cut off by the revolt. Chinese troops were placed in Seoul to strengthen the remainder, and have remained there ever since.

It has been said the Chinese did not execute the Tai-wen-Kun, because he was the father of the King; this is true if it be explained that such an action as executing the father of the King would have embittered the masses of the common people against the Mins and China, and probably to the extent of open rebellion against China.

At the time of the revolt under the Tai-wen-Kun there were no Chinese in Corea nor [Page 337] had there been for more than a hundred years. In Seoul however, resided a Japanese minister with a small guard of Japanese soldiers.

The news of the revolt of the soldiers under the Tai-wen-Kun went to Japan first, and at once that Government prepared a force to send to the assistance of the Japanese minister in Seoul. The Chinese consul at Nagasaki telegraphed to China that the Japanese were sending a force to seize Corea; this at least was the substance of what was told three Corean nobles, then at Tientsin in China, by the Chinese authorities there. These Corean nobles were, in order of rank, Cho Yong Ha, Kim Yun Sik, and O-Yun Chung.

Cho was a noted Chinese scholar and a strong Confucianist. Min Yong Ik has represented to me that Cho and his companions at Tien-Tsin held powers plenipotentiary; this, however, is emphatically denied by So Kwang Pom and the progressive party, who say that such powers were simply assumed, such deliberate assumption of the King’s power being no unusual thing for members of the Min faction. Knowing that Corea was helpless after the revolt of the soldiers to resist an invasion of the Japanese, Cho applied to the deputy viceroy at Tien-Tsin (Li-Hung Chang being then absent, in mourning for his mother) for the use of Chinese troops which he might take to Corea. His first appeal was refused, but on the second, made by him as holding powers plenipotentiary, the use of the soldiers was granted him; Cho and his companions came to Chemulpo with the soldiers on board Chinese vessels of war.

At the time the news of the revolt came to Japan there were two Corean nobles residing in Tokio; these were Kim Ok Kuin and So Kwang Pom, who had gone there with an ambassador and remained behind to study and make purchases. They heard that the Japanese were about to send an expedition to Corea, and the rumor that it was to seize their country.

Going at once to the minister for foreign affairs in Japan, they made inquiry as to the exact object of the expedition, and were assured that Japan had no intention to seize Corea, and only sent a force there to protect her subjects in Corea. Satisfied with this Kim and So proceeded to Corea at once, arriving at Chemulpo with the Japanese force. They had realized that the Tai-wen-kun’s revolt endangered their hopes of independence and progress for Corea by giving the Chinese a new lien upon them; and anticipating that Cho would bring Chinese soldiers to Chemulpo, had drawn up during the voyage from Japan a series of arguments in writing against the employment by Corea of Chinese troops in Seoul, and favoring the use of the Japanese force to restore order there.

The Japanese force with So and Kim, and the Chinese force with Cho and his companions, arrived at Chemulpo at about the same time, and while neither force was yet landed, the two parties of Corean officers discovered each other. A consultation ensued between them, in which So and Kim used every argument in their power to induce Cho to abandon the use of the Chinese troops. They urged more particularly that as Japan had a legation in Seoul to protect, she had every right to send troops there; the use of the Chinese, however, could be called for on no ground except such as would give China the opportunity of tightening more firmly than ever the grip on Corea she had loosened in aiding and permitting the American treaty negotiations three months before.

After a prolonged discussion, which grew hot towards the end, it was agreed to by all that, if practicable, to the King should be submitted the question, “Should the Chinese land and enter Seoul or not.” Kim Ok Kiun, disguised as a low Corean, then went to Seoul to submit the question to the King. He found the Tai-wen Kun (his bitter enemy) in charge of the King’s person, his friends driven away, ami that it would be impossible to reach the King. His mission having failed, he returned to Chemulpo, soon after which the Chinese force landed and entered the capital. The Tai-wen Kun was abducted, order restored, and affairs settled into the condition found in Corea on the arrival of Minister Foote.

The Chinese force took up permanent quarters in extensive camps within the walls; almost by the palace gates they erected a fort, as well as two others outside of the city near the approaches from the river Han—these two for use in case of invasion against the advance of a Japanese army towards Seoul. The number of troops landed was augmented a little later to 3,000 men, which number remained in Seoul until June of 1884, when it was reduced to 1,500. A Chinese commissioner arrived in October, 1883.

It has been positively stated to me, though not until they seemed forced to divulge it, by So Kwang Pom and Kim Ok Kiun, that the result of this use of Chinese troops was the exactment of a new agreement between China and Corea, by which the Chinese obtained such rights in Corea as made her more intimately a dependency of China than had ever been the case before. The full particulars of this agreement had not been (on principle) divulged to the western world by either Corea or China; nor could either have well done so. It was undoubtedly the effect of this new agreement with China, originated by Cho-Yong Ha, and the execution of its terms willingly abetted and enforced [Page 338] by the Mins, which drove the progressive and truly loyal party in Corea to the extreme measures taken by them in the revolutionary attempt of December 4–7 last.

The King and the progressive Coreans looked upon the American treaty as the wedge which, at least politically, freed Corea from China, and it was hailed by them with great joy. It may then be understood how great was their chagrin to find Corea, by the action of Cho and the Mins before the American treaty was yet ratified, placed anew and more rigidly than ever subservient to China. Thinking that the new status of Corea to China would be understood abroad, they feared that the American treaty would never be ratified, consequently I have been told repeatedly, “His Majesty danced for joy when Minister Foote arrived.”

This meant to them one of two things, namely: That the United States understood the real relations between China and Corea, and meant at all hazards to claim independence for Corea; or that the United States did not know of the real status of Corea, in which case, by concealment of the late agreement with China, Corea still had a hope of becoming free, through the effect of her being regarded as independent in the relations between her and the United States. The mission to the United States Government, headed by Min Yong Ik, in 1884, determined for the King and the progressive men (represented in the embassy by So Kwang Pom alone) that the latter view was correct, and they regulated their line of action accordingly.

At the time the Corean embassy was in the United States, Kim Ok Kiun (the oldest of the progressive party of three and its leader in all active measures) was in Japan and in regular correspondence with So Kwang Pom with the embassy. These two men of all Korea were the only ones who possessed any knowledge of the principles of western government; they had both made long visits to Japan, were naturally highly intelligent, and had entered with great perseverance and energy into the progressive spirit of the official classes in Japan; both had been in effect pupils of Fukuzawa, the distinguished leader of Japan in political progress. Both, but particularly So Kwang Pom, were noted among foreigners of all classes who had met them as frank, intelligent, active, useful men. In Corea they and their families were respected and beloved for their just conduct as officials.

With a view to organizing an efficient military force for Corea to replace that loaned by China, the Corean Government had after the revolt of 1882 established four battalions of Corean soldiers, and to furnish officers for these, through Kim and So, fourteen Corean young men, many of whom were connections of the houses of the progressive men, were sent to Japan to pursue a course of study and exercise in the Government military school in Tokio. The leader of these students was So Che Pil, a near relative of So Kwang Pom.

During their preparation, the troops were placed under the instruction of Chinese officers, procured for this service by the Mins and Cho-Yong Ha. Kim was much in Japan overseeing the instruction of the students, as well as directing the efforts of other Coreans who had been gotten there, largely through his energy, to study manufactures and trade, and to make purchases of certain machinery and furniture, upholstery, &c., the latter for the palace. Kim’s rank of nobility corresponds to that of baron, and his office is president of the department for improvement and colonization of waste lands. As this embodied intercourse with foreign countries, he was later made a vice-president of the foreign office.

Pak Yong-Hyo by ancient Corean law could not hold office, yet the King assigned to him the office of mayor of Seoul. He was not familar with any foreign language and was much less advanced in progressive ideas than So and Kim; he was, however, earnestly and rather hot-headedly progressive, and entered into reform in Seoul with such over-energy that loud complaints came from the common people, encouraged by the conservative faction, which soon resulted in his removal from office. The anger of the Mins was particularly aroused at the departure from the ancient law as shown, in his being given an office by the King.

All the above evidences of progress in Corea are embraced in the interval between the revolt in 1882 and the return of the embassy from the United States in May, 1884. All the work of the three progressive leaders was warmly aided by the king, who had ample opportunities of time at least for encouraging it, the actual machinery of his internal government being worked entirely by the Mins, and in which he had little or no power to act.

A part of the embassy to the United States, headed by the vice-minister, Hong Yong Sik, returned to Corea in the winter of 1883. From this time dates Hong’s connection with the progressive party. He expressed himself as having been in a “light so bright as to dazzle him.” He entered into the progressive spirit of the King’s party with great caution, however, and was always regarded by So and Kim as too slow or aggravatingly indecisive. He received the appointment of postmaster-general from the King, but for a long interval little was done by him toward establishing a postal system. With Hong, [Page 339] Chen Kyung Sok returned from America, bringing with him the generous supply of seeds furnished by the Department of Agriculture. He was promptly granted a large tract of valuable land, which he very commendably converted into what is now known as the American farm.

In May the Trenton arrived at Chemulpo, having on board Min Yong Ik, So Kwang Pom, and Pyon Su, with whom I had lived in the closest possible friendship during eight months. Min Yong Ik, the chief of the embassy, had seemed sincere in expressions of his intention to use his utmost energy towards the development of his country, yet I had long since observed that he was faint-hearted and very changeable in disposition; and his constant study of Confucian books he carried on I deemed sadly at the expense of what should have been to him invaluable opportunities for observation and enlightenment. So Kwang Pom and Pyon Su were, however, indefatigable in compiling notes on useful subjects, and from encyclopedia sources, through my translations, they brought home a great mass of information on the political and progressive histories of the principal countries of the world.

On June 2, in a gay procession I went to Seoul with these members of the embassy. On the way, So Kwang Pom took occasion to say to me that he greatly feared that the ambassador, Min Yong Ik, in spite of all that had been done for him, and however good his intentions had been while abroad, might be turned directly to the opposite of what might be expected from him; that what he had learned and seen, through his Confucian training and the hereditary instincts of his family, might be employed, after the manner of the Chinese, directly against Western progress.

The reception of the, ambassador in Seoul was enthusiastic. All parties seemed to join in it. The visit of the officers of the Trenton, the expression of good feeling exchanged between the Corean and American Governments, and of their officers, these with much else seemed to strengthen the progressive feeling in Seoul. A shadow fell, however, on the King and the progressive men when they learned that Admiral Shufeldt was not soon to arrive in Corea, for the embassy had brought word that he was to arrive in Corea in May. It was then supposed that military officers from the United States would probably arrive with Admiral Shufeldt.

Soon after his arrival Min Yong Ik became a vice-president of the foreign office; So Kwang Pom was elevated in the order of nobility, and Pyon Su, heretofore not an officer in the Government, was made a chusa, by virtue of which rank he was given direct access to the King. The progressive party, now strengthened by the addition of these members of the embassy to the United States, was in high hopes, and with the King himself as their director, began a series of preparations for a vigorous infusion of Western civilization into Corea. Evidently, however, all great measures were not to be taken in this direction until the Chinese troops had left Seoul, in effecting which the services of an adviser, and indirectly those of other persons soon expected from the United States, were believed to be efficient.

It was not long before the Chinese instructors of the Corean troops were dismissed by the King, a charge of cruel treatment having been brought against them. This was followed by the acceptance of the resignation of Mr. P. G. von Mollendorff, from the foreign office, in which he had had great influence as adviser. The creation of these vacancies was too significant to make comment necessary. Arms were also purchased, and under my direction, as requested, stored away carefully in the palace grounds. From Japan, to execute contracts made by Kim Ok Kiun, came a number of qualified Japanese, who were held in readiness to begin teaching the use of machinery, the manufacture of paper, pottery, &c.

Steps were also taken toward securing a director of agriculture, school-teachers, and several other foreigners for service under the Corean Government. In regard to these, the initiatory steps were taken in consultations of the progressive leaders, including the King, in which I was warmly invited to have a voice. I was also daily visited by Pyon Chusa, who came direct from the King with requests for services of different kinds. These I obeyed whenever permitted by my instructions.

Upon the occasion of being asked by His Majesty to order for him an electric-light plant for the palace, I declined, until it was explained to me that it was also meant to extend the right to furnish electrical apparatus to the United States; that such rights had just been refused the British consul-general, and that courtesy would prevent the immediate granting of such rights to the United States minister, who it was known held an application to do so from Mr. Thomas A. Edison. The electric-light plant I only ordered when assured that $10,000 had been secured to make prompt payments. I also ordered and paid for six head of breeding stock, purchased in California, for the Corean-American farm, to which His Majesty had added an extension some 8 miles square for breeding purposes.

In July the fourteen Corean military students returned from Japan, and were enthusiastically greeted by the progressive men. They were exercised before the King and [Page 340] gave great satisfaction. A few were given appointments in the battalion of the palace guard commanded by General Han Kin Chik at once.

Min Yong Ik soon showed the effects of the influence brought to bear on him by his family. First he endeavored to pay a visit to China, which the progressive men regarded with dissatisfaction, believing it to be intended as a make-peace visit to off-set any ill-impressions in the Chinese court due to his long association with Western foreigners. This he deferred, however, and originated the idea of changing the national dress in certain details, most prominent of which were the tightening of belts and narrowing the sleeves. This, too, was unsatisfactory to the progressive party, who saw in the change an approach to the Chinese costume, or food for an excuse against the move they contemplated, which was permitting freedom in matters of dress. Min Yong Ik’s scheme became a law, and by royal edict the changes in costume were effected by a fixed date.

Suddenly Min Yong Ik resigned from the foreign office and received an appointment as general in command of the Right Palace Guard Battalion. This was immediately following a discussion before His Majesty between himself and So Kwang Pom, in which the King decided a question in favor of the latter. Word had been received through me that Admiral Shufeldt, then expected by every steamer, had not yet left America, and that he would only come to Corea at once upon a formal invitation to do so from the King. This delay in his coming, as well as that of the military officers, left the Government in an embarrassed position, as it was without any adviser in the foreign office or instruction officers in the new army.

Min Yong Ik then proposed, as suggested by the Chinese commissioner, Chen Shu Yang, that ex-Consul-General Benny be at once invited to accept the position of adviser in place of Admiral Shufeldt. So Kwang Pom opposed this, and it was in a discussion of this question in which the King with much firmness favored So Kwang Pom. A telegraphic message was sent at once through General Foote to Admiral Shufeldt to “come at once.”

A little later, and through Min-Yong-Ik, five Chinese instructors were called from China for service with the Corean army. This created a great sensation among the progressive men, but was most disastrous to the fourteen students who, by the employment of the Chinese instructors, were thrown clear of any chance of holding military offices consistent with their rank as Corean citizens, to say the least. With the exception of three employed in General Han’s battalion, the students were turned entirely adrift from military service and given subordinate positions, out of half charity, by the progressive leaders, in the post-office department, under Hong-Yong Sik.

By September of 1884, Min-Yong-Ik was entirely clear of the progressive party. His associates were Chinese, and the strongest members of the pro-Chinese faction; he did not receive visits from Western foreigners in the daytime, and on several occasions showed contemptuous insolence in their presence. In August a Corean officer of high grade was openly seized by a party of Chinese soldiers and beaten so severely by them in the street that his life was despaired of; this was the outcome of a quarrel between the Chinese commissioner and the Corean officer about the right of passage through a gateway of the Corean officer’s house, which was next to that of the Chinese officer.

After having been beaten, the Corean officer was held as a prisoner in a Chinese house until released by the interference of the British consul-general, Mr. Aston. Min-Yong-Ik’s indifference to an appeal to him for action against the Chinese in this case served only to strengthen the feeling against him of the progressive men, and of the common people against his family.

During the autumn the numbers of Chinese in Seoul increased rapidly, and the foreign office business was reported to be almost entirely confined to actions of Chinese against Coreans for debt Chinese began to extend their homes and trading-places into the country; they came and went as they pleased without passports. Mr. P. G. von Möllendorff had again practically become the adviser in the foreign office.

In September and October some of the Japanese who had long been waiting for employment under the contracts arranged by Kim-Ok-Kiun began to push their claims through their legation.

The new army at this time consisted of the four palace guard battalions, in aggregate 5,500 men, of whom 3,000 were armed with Peabody-Martini rifles. The battalions were commanded by Generals Min-Yong-Ik, Cho-Yong-Ha, and I-jo-yun of the strong Chinese faction, and General Han-Kin-Chik; the latter officer had at first been regarded as one of the progressive party, but latterly I was told that his real political status was doubtful; that at heart he was progressive, but feared the opposition of the Chinese party. However his real status may have been, it was in his battalion only that the military students were employed, and he was on friendly terms with the progressive men.

This officer, Han-Kin-Chik, was the highest general in rank, and as such he was the representative head of the government in the great guild among the common people, [Page 341] called pusang, which may be likened to a great body of militia. It was by the invitation of this officer that I was conducted through the Pukhan Mountain fortress of Seoul, with the view of obtaining advice from me as to sites for certain new forts. Reference is made to this in a report on my first journey into the interior of Corea.

The attitude of the Japanese in Seoul had always been such as to indicate an earnest desire to aid the progress party and to be on peaceable, friendly terms with the people. The conduct of Japanese citizens towards Coreans was commendable. Indicating great consideration on the part of the Japanese Government towards Corea, was the restraint placed upon Japanese merchants establishing themselves in Seoul by the Japanese minister, who evidently in doing so followed the spirit of the treaties by which the capital was not to be thrown open to trade if the Chinese left.

In October one of the progressive party leaders told me that unless foreign intervention prevented, Corea would soon be irreclaimably in the hands of the Chinese, and with great bitterness went on to say that his small party had not only lost power to proceed further and had been receding, but that they were in actual danger of execution; that this might follow any charge made against them by the Chinese faction. He also stated that that part of the King’s revenue meant to be used by the King through them to fulfill all progressive contracts had been cut off from him by the Mins, (notably through Min-Thai-Ho, who controlled the chief revenues), and was being used to pay Chinese instructors and equip Corean soldiers with a view to amalgamation with the Chinese army.

Having heard on unquestionable authority that certain Chinese officers had informed some Corean officers of the Chinese faction that in case of war French ships would be fired on by Chinese from Corean territory, I believe that the Mins have been preparing in obedience to the will of China, their contingent of Corean troops for the use of China in the war with France. In December the annual tribute of Corea to China was to start overland for Peking in charge of the usual procession of ambassadors and underlings, numbering in all about one hundred persons; it is more than likely that, with the tribute party in this December, it was intended that Corean troops should go to Peking; above all things this would move the progressive party to desperate action.

On October 25 one of the progressive leaders called upon me, and at once began to speak passionately of the unfortunate situation of the King and his party. Later, with deliberation, he stated that for the sake of Corea Min-Thai-Ho, Cho-Yong-Ha, the four generals, and four other lower officials possibly, would have to be killed. Though the officer was passionate in his manner, he was one whom I had always found positive and correct in his statements to me; his words, therefore, did not seem empty to me, and I became indignant that he should communicate such an idea to me. A few sharp words passed between us and he then quieted down.

On October 26, during a call on Min-Yong-Ik, I learned that the separation of the two parties was so wide as to prevent any discussion of public affairs in which officers of the two parties might be brought together; this convinced me that a crisis was near at hand and one which would probably result in blood-shedding and violence not confined to the official classes of Coreans.

Prior to this I had constantly been in the habit of communicating any and all news of political interest to the United States minister, to whom I had felt this a particular duty and one which I believed would give him satisfaction, for living in the midst of the city and having intimate associates among all classes of officials, I believe I had exceptional means for obtaining useful information.

On October 28 I told him every detail of what I had heard, and expressed firmly the opinion that these were sufficient to forewarn some serious outbreak in Seoul. On October 31 I called upon Ensign Bernadon and Mr. W. D. Townsend, the two other Americans in Seoul, and told them what I believed to be the situation. On this day Hong-Yong-Sik called upon me, and I received notes from two other members of the progressive party requesting interviews; these I was forced to refuse, and on the following day I set out from Seoul to make a second journey into the interior of Corea in accordance with my instructions from the Navy Department. A report summarizing my experience during this journey, including the period of the revolutionary attempt in Seoul I have already submitted to the Department.

I append to this a list of the officers of the Corean Government, including members of both parties, who were foremost pre-eminently in Corean politics and active duty under it, together with other notes which, in my opinion, may assist in throwing light upon the situation in Corea.

Very respectfully submitted.

Ensign, United States Navy, Naval Attaché.
[Page 342]

list of corean officers, with titles, offices, etc.

The pro Chinese, or Min party.

Min-Thai-Bo, —Rank, earl (poguk); a blood relative of the Queen; father of princess royal by affinity; a brother of Queen by adoption. Head of home department; treasurer for all general revenues expended for maintenance of troops of capital guard; subsistence of relatives of King’s family and their dependencies, which include a large part of the population of Séoul. Father of Min-Yong-Ik. Held several other offices.

Min-Yong-Mok.—Rank, count (pansoh); blood relative of Queen; ex-president of foreign office. Head of military post at Poupyong, and chief recruiting officer general. Held two other offices.

Min-Ung-Sik.—Rank, count (pansoh); blood relative of Queen. Recently given, in addition to other offices, office of kaussa, governor of Pyongan province (Chinese border), and was engaged in equipping provincial troops.

Min-Yong-Ik.—Rank, prince; by affinity through adoption, nephew to Queen, to whom is nearest relative through the Min (deceased) who adopted him from his natural father Min-Thai-Ho; this made him court favorite as also champau (assistant) in board of ceremonies, but chief office is general of right palace guard battalion.

Cho-Yong-Ha.—Rank, earl (poguk); by marriage related to Mins. Greatly beloved by people for justice and generosity; bore honorable title “loyal knight” for meritorious services to the King. Since 1882 not in favor in King’s court; out of active office, yet active in all business between China and Corea, a fluent Chinese scholar; arranged contract for employment of Von Mollendorff.

I-jo-Yun.—Rank, marquis (champau); a strong member of faction; commanded left guard battalion of palace.

Yun-Tae-Jun.—Rank, marquis (champau); a rank Confucianist. Champau (assistant) in board of justice; ex-vice president of foreign office; commanded rear battalion of palace guard.

Kim-Hong-Chip.—Rank, count; president of foreign office; had risen rapidly; noted for obstinate hatred of Christianity and having torn up copy of Scriptures presented to board of which he was a member to decide as to whether it was a lit volume for the King to have.

Kim-Yun-Sik—Rank, marquis (champau), vice-president of foreign office: one of nobles who brought Chinese troops to Seoul in 1882.

Shim-S’hang-Un.—Rank, marquis (champau), governor of capital province.

O-Yun-Chung.— Rank, marquis (champau) vice head of one of the six boards; one of the nobles who brought Chinese troops to Seoul in 1882.

Kim-Kin-Pok.— Chief eunuch, head of palace household department and in constant attendance upon the Queen.

The above officers were leaders; each held large estates, and resided in extensive establishments in Séoul, connected with each of which was a great body of underlings of various grades. Besides there are many other high nobles as well as others of lower grades, but not active in international affairs of the Government.

The Progress party.

Hong-Yong-Sik.—Rank, count (pansoh) postmaster-general; of an illustrious Corean family; vice-minister in embassy to the United States. Held office in one of the six boards.

Kim-Ok-Kiun.—Rank, marquis (champau), vice-president foreign office, head of colonization department; chief of progress party; extremist.

So-Kwang-Pom.—Rank, baron (chamise); held also special rank of nobility called takiyo, by virtue of which was near person of the King constantly; held office in home department; secretary to embassy to United States, as regarded abroad; was third minister in embassy and sent with it specially for King’s service.

Pak-Yong-Hyo.—Rank, prince (kum-oi-nung); brother-in-law to King; not in office; had been mayor of Seoul; in title, first in rank of progress party; extremist.

Han-Kin-Chik.—Rank, count (pansoh); relative of So-Kwang-Pom; general commanding front palace guard battalion; government head of the guild called pusang, a large body resembling militia among lower orders of people; long a doubtful member of the progress party.

Pyon-Su.—Rank, chusa (no English equivalent); member of embassy to the United States; actively engaged in progressive affairs for the King; had long resided in Japan.

[Page 343]

Other than the above-named progressive officers there were a few officers of low rank who were inactive members; a small body of the middle class among the people favored them.

Mok-Champau is the Corean title of Mr. P. G. von Mollendorff, who regards himself as a Corean subject; rank, marquis, vice-president of foreign office; had at one time held four different offices; head of Corean customs; practically, foreign adviser of the Government; an active member of the pro-Chinese party, and highly influential, mainly through Cho-Yong-Ha, Kim-Hong-Chip, and Min-Yong-Mok.

  1. The nobles of the male line of the King’s family are few, and none hold high offices in the active government.

    The mother of the King was a Min, and through her and the powerful influence of her family his Queen was taken from the Mins. The marriage of blood relatives of close connection has from ancient times been a capital offense in Corea, and this marriage of the King, a Min on his mother’s side, to a Min again, gave general dissatisfaction throughout all Corea; but against the powerful influence by which it was brought about there could be no resistance. It is commonly reported that the King long refused association with the Queen, who practiced various superstitious rites to attract him, and was aided in this by members of her family, who are notoriously regarded as the greatest patrons of geomancers, fortune tellers, &c, in Corea. When the present prince royal was about to be born the Queen sacrificed to the various gods to such an extent, most notably for forty-nine days at Kum-gang-son, that the expense attending it, which fell directly on the people, gave rise to national complaint. Again the nation showed its dissatisfaction when the present prince royal was betrothed to a Min, the sister of Min Yong Ik.

    The prince royal, as might be expected, is delicate in health, and afflicted with sore eyes; this gives constant employment to the soothsayers, fortune tellers, who are called upon to foretell his future condition, length of life, and drive out the demons of sickness.

    In a memorial to the throne in 1883, Min Thai Ho asked that the necrologers and geomancers be called upon to direct the ire of the evil demons against the advances of the Japanese and western foreigners, on whose account the finances of Corea were thrown into disorder.