No. 248.

Mr. Foulk to Mr. Bayard .

No. 231.]

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.

* * * * * * *

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.

* * * * * * *

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.
[Inclosure in No. 231.]

Translation of a proclamation issued by the Chinese superintendent of telegraphs in Corea made from a copy posted on the south or main gate of Seoul, September 11, 1885.

Shê, chief superintendent of telegraphs in Corea, decorated with the peacock’s feather, brevet salt commissioner, promoted to taotai in the province of Chili, and a heriditary officer of the fifth rank, issues the following proclamation:

The undersigned had the honor of completing the erection of the Chinese telegraphs, extending from north to south, over a distance of 10,000 li, through seven provinces.

Instructions have now been received from his excellency Li-Hung-Chang, the minister superintendent of trade for the north, notifying the undersigned that the King of Corea has applied to his excellency requesting him to raise funds and erect on his (the King’s) behalf a telegraph line to enable military reports to be communicated.

His excellency Li-Hung-Chang having received His Imperial Majesty’s gracious sanction thereto has now specially deputed the undersigned to act as chief superintendent of this work, (accordingly) the undersigned, accompanied by Chinese and foreign officials and operatives and students, and taking with him all the necessary telegraphic stores, materials, and instruments, started from Tien-Tsin on the 3d instant, arrived at Chemulpo on the 8th, and on the 11th opened office and began work.

Proceeding step by step, the line is to run from Seoul through the district of Peng-Yang to Oichu (last Corean town on the road to Peking, called Ichou, in Chinese), where it is to connect with the telegraph system of the province of Mukden (China).

The King of Corea has been requested to notify the various district officials to instruct the local authorities, civil and military, along the route to exercise all precautions and not allow any obstruction to be put in the way of building the line, and injury to be inflicted in any way, and that they are to send soldiers, supply workmen and students for the protection and repair of the line.

In obedience to these instructions of his excellency Li-Hung-Chang, the undersigned has now the honor to issue this proclamation notifying the military and people hereof.

The undersigned, having received the appointment directing him to proceed to Corea and superintend this work, is not capable of delegating his duties to another and must personally maintain surveillance over the erection of the line. Means will be devised to avoid interference with grave-yards, cultivated land, gardens, dwellings, &c., so that no injury may be caused the people.

And you, people, are hereby notified of His Imperial Majesty’s decree, and you are called upon to render all possible assistance in completing the work and guarding it against injury. All food and materials required during the erection of the line will be duly paid for, as will also be the regulation charges for all porterage. Not a single straw or piece of wood will be taken by force from the people. All dealings between the officials and people will be conducted on fair and honorable principles; there is to [Page 356] be no quarreling about prices; the people and traders are to pursue their avocations quietly and peaceably. Officers will be detached to see all this carefully and strictly carried out. Any interference by the operatives or any fraud on the part of the linguists will be severely punished by the undersigned.

Let all respectfully obey without fail.

A special proclamation.

Chief Superintendent of Corean Telegraphs.