Mr. Rockhill to Mr. Bayard
Seoul , March 31, 1887. (Received May 7.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on the 8th instant William McKay, an American citizen in the service of the Edison Electric Light Company, and then employed putting up electric lights in the royal [Page 264] palace in this city, was accidentally shot by a Corean bannerman (ki-su), who was examining McKay’s revolver. The following day McKay died. The testimony of all those who witnessed the accident, among whom was another American mechanic, shows that no blame can be attached to the Corean. Notwithstanding this the ki-su was thrown into prison, severely beaten, and orders given for his execution, the case being considered exceptionally grave—the victim being a foreigner.
I immediately wrote to the general commanding the corps to which the ki-su belonged and to the president of the foreign office asking that, in view of the death of McKay being purely accidental, the man who had involuntarily caused it might be set at liberty. I inclose herewith the reply of the president of the foreign office to a second note, which I wrote him on the 18th, asking him to beg of His Majesty, in my name and in that of the other Americans here, the pardon of the ki-su.
The lex talionis having full sway in this country, this request of Americans, that a man who had caused the death of another be pardoned, has caused great astonishment among the officials here, and their generosity has been greatly lauded.
His Majesty has shown great kindness to the wife of the deceased, paying all funeral expenses, presenting the widow with $500, and offering her a home for life if she would remain in Corea, and to have her son educated at his expense. One reason why so much concern has been shown is undoubtedly on account of the idea Coreans have, in common with many other Asiatic nations, that all foreigners residing in their country are guests, and that any mishap befalling them is to the shame of the host. Residence as a treaty right is but very imperfectly understood.
I have, etc.,