No. 250.

Mr. Foulk to Mr. Bayard .

No. 237.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 3d instant a Chinese vessel of war arrived at Chemulpo, Corea, bearing the Tai-Wön-Kun, ex-regent and father of His Majesty the King of Corea, who was taken to China by force in 1882 and has since been retained there by the Chinese Government.

The possible return of the Tai-Wön-Kun has for some time been the subject of much speculation, and has excited wide interest in the East. However, no exact or probable date for his return to Corea would seem to have been fixed, or at least been intimated to the public or the Government of Corea. His arrival therefore at Chemulpo on the 3d instant was a sudden suprise in Corea. The news of the arrival spread with great rapidity, and by the morning of the 4th instant some 7,000 or 8,000 natives of Seoul had assembled at Chemulpo to welcome him. [Page 357] The Government dispatched but one officer of high rank and His Majesty was represented by two of the principal eunuchs of the palace.

The duty of escorting the Tai-Wön-Kun to Corea was intrusted to the Chinese General Yuen, who commanded the Chinese troops prior to and during the émeute in Seoul of December last. On the 5th instant the Tai-Wön-Kun was conducted to Seoul under a guard of forty Chinese marines, and followed by the multitude of people who had gone to Chemulpo to welcome him. At the great south gate of Seoul a temporary pavilion had been erected; in this, to which he had proceeded in state, screened from public gaze, the King met his aged father. The streets of Seoul were thronged during the day by excited multitudes of people. From the pavilion the King returned to the palace, and the Tai-Wön-Kun was escorted by the Chinese to his former residence.

The general expression of the people over the return of the Tai-Wön-Kun is one of joy mingled with apprehension, evinced in many ways. Among the officers of the Government anxiety amounting almost to consternation is evinced; numbers of these, and some of the people as well, left the city, and the offices of the Government were half deserted and inactive for several days following the arrival.

A most unfortunate occurrence in its effect upon the already excited state of the Government and people took place by the Queen’s order on the 5th and 6th instants in the execution of three persons charged with having aided the Tai-Wön-Kun’s attempt of three years ago upon the life of the Queen.

The 9th ultimo was the anniversary of the return of the Queen to Séoul after the attempt of the Tai-Wön-Kun in 1882, during which she was supposed to have been poisoned, but had escaped to the country. The anniversary was celebrated in the palace by a grand dinner and a series of games, to which the foreign representatives were invited, and attended, though not without some misgivings. On this date the Queen effected the beginning of a fresh system, after a lapse of over three years, of ferreting out persons supposed to have aided in the Tai-Wön-Kun’s attempt of 1882. By the 5th instant the prisons were well filled with suspects, whose names had been divulged under the severe torture applied to the first few arrested.

The three executions above referred to were timed to the arrival of the Tai-Wön-Kun with the evident object of intimidating the people against giving him new support in their enthusiasm over his return. This action the foreign representatives openly criticised to the Government, as one tending only to increase public danger and excitement. On the 9th instant the Chinese general, Wön, took steps and prevented further executions, and the dismembered bodies of the executed persons were removed from the streets in which they had been lying.

As might be expected, these executions have had the effect of placing the people in a deplorable state of apprehension and excitement. The Chinese, however, have taken pains to cause it to be known that no further executions would be allowed, and now the excitement is waning.

However, the time is regarded as a critical one in the history of Corea, as may be judged from the fact that simultaneously with the return of the Tai-Wön-Kun, there arrived a Russian chargé d’affaires in a Russian vessel of war, a nominee for the position of inspector-general of customs of Corea sent by China, a military officer to relieve the Chinese commissioner of trade, and a relief for the present consul-general for England.

I have, &c.,

Ensign, U. S. Navy, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.