Mr. Foulk to Mr. Bayard.
Seoul, Corea, September 25, 1885. (Received November 6.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department of State that a commissioner of telegraphs, dispatched by China, has arrived in Corea, and with a force of workmen, consisting of foreigners of a Danish telegraph company and Chinese, is now actively engaged in erecting a line of telegraph of considerable extent in this country.
The line will begin at Chemulpo, thence go to Seoul, whence it will be extended northwards through Peng-Yang, the capital of Phyöng-An, the northwest province of Corea, to Oichu (Ichow, in Chinese), a town of Corea, on the Amnok River (Yalu, in Chinese). At the latter place the line will connect with the telegraph extending from Peking through Mukden,
Upon close inquiry of officers of the Corean Government I learn that this telegraph line is to be built under an agreement entered into by Corea with China, according to which China is to erect the line, furnishing the whole of the money required, and to establish it in working order. Corea is to receive all the receipts of the line during the first five years of its operation, and to pay no money to China on account of the cost of the line during that interval. During each of twenty years subsequent to the expiration of these five years Corea will pay to China 5,000 taels. At the end of twenty-five years, the line is to become the sole property of the Corean Government. The total cost of the line in money to be paid to China by Corea will therefore be 100,000 taels.
By the present highways the distance from Chemulpo to Oichu, via Seoul, is about 370 miles. While the length of the line will be less than this distance, it will probably be less shortened than a telegraph line over similar land in Western countries would be, on account of the circuitous routes it may be made to take in consideration of the superstitions of the people in regard to graves, dwellings, &c.
There will be four offices of the line in Corea, namely, at Chemulpo, Seoul (Hang-Söng), Peng-Yang, and Oichu. At these the operators are to be furnished by China, and at each office will be Corean students, these being under the direction of an inferior Corean officer, who has studied telegraphy in Japan, and is the chief representative for Corean interests in the line.[Page 355]
On the 11th instant there appeared posted in the most conspicuous places in Seoul a proclamation of the Chinese commissioner of telegraphs, a copy of the translation of which I inclose. This document has excited comment, as to the character of which I need not remark upon.
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The manner of conducting the arrangements for this telegraph line has given special dissatisfaction to Japan, and its establishment by the Chinese has been represented to the Corean Government as an infringement upon rights given Japan by Corea in an agreement entered into and concerning telegraphs made at the time the Japanese submarine cable was laid from Nagasaki, Japan, to Fusan, in Corea.
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It is expected that the telegraph line will be opened to Peking within sixty days, and work is being pushed upon it with much vigor.
I am, &c.,
Ensign, U. S. Navy, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.