Chargé Wilson to the Secretary of State.
Tokyo , February 13, 1906.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose clippings from the Japan Mail reporting Marquis Ito’s speech to the local editors in Seoul last November, after he had signed the Japan-Korea convention, and giving also the gist of the Marquis’s address at the dinner given by him to the leading journalists of Tokyo, and a translation of his remarks to the members of the Constitutionalist party, both of which latter were delivered early this month on the eve of his excellency’s departure from Tokyo for Korea.
Marquis Ito’s speech was calculated to dispel the idea that Korea is to be considered fair prey for the Japanese, and to persuade the Koreans that although their foreign relations are taken over by Japan, yet the prestige of their court is upheld and the machinery of the Government is to remain under the direction of the Korean Emperor. The desire of Japan to restore to Korea the control of her foreign relations when that country’s development might make possible such a course is also asserted. Along with these efforts to reassure the Koreans, the Marquis proceeded to enjoin upon the Japanese consideration and kindness toward the Korean people.
In his address to the Tokyo journalists, Marquis Ito mentions some of the specific tasks before him and then speaks of the corruption of Korean administration and the need of its reform, and the poverty of the people. The Marquis makes the point that, since Japan has undertaken the defense of Korea and must keep a garrison there, and the expense on behalf of Korea will grow quite considerable with the new order of things, there is imperative need of introducing improvements in agriculture, engineering, forestry, and such matters, in order to increase the wealth of the Koreans so that they may bear as far as possible the expense of all Korean enterprises, instead of leaving these to be borne by the Japanese. His excellency then looks forward to an increased Japanese immigration to Korea. In this connection he strongly condemns the harsh treatment of the Koreans by many of the bad sort of Japanese now in that country, and promises to take ample measures for dealing with that class of offenders, whom he blames for Korean dislike of the Japanese. In closing he invites the views of the press in regard to his policy thus outlined.
Marquis Ito’s taking the press into his confidence and asking an expression of journalistic opinion was a great innovation in Japan, and was profoundly appreciated by the newspapers. This will no doubt go far to bring him public support in his work. To show how heartily the proposed policy of the resident-general is approved by the journals, I have the honor to inclose a clipping from the Japan Times containing an epitome of the comment of some of the principal newspapers.
In addressing the members of the Constitutionalist party, Marquis Ito emphasized the gravity of the Korean problem and charged his hearers with the duty of impressing the Koreans with the community of interests of the two countries, of dispelling their suspicions and [Page 1028] gaining their confidence. Before leaving the subject of Korea, his excellency said:
It is not with regard to Korea alone, but with regard to the whole problem of the Far East, that nothing opposed to the sentiment of the powers should be done. No strong country whatsoever can march forward independently and at its own arbitrary convenience. If Japan, puffed up by her victories in war, should forfeit the sympathy of the powers, she will be laying up for herself misfortune in the future.
At an informal interview which I had with the Marquis Ito on the 2d instant, his excellency gave the most satisfactory assurances along these same lines, and especially referred to the attention he would give to the open-door policy, as to which the United States, Great Britain, and Japan were in accord.
At the same interview the new resident general spoke in an exceedingly friendly manner of the American missionaries in Korea, the correctness of whose attitude toward the Koreans, in the delicate position in which they were placed during the excitement following the signature of the new treaty, is without doubt appreciated by the Japanese.
The tone of what the Marquis Ito has said on these occasions is very conservative, earnest, and sincere. His speeches are interesting as announcing the Japanese Government’s Korean policy by the mouth of the greatest Japanese statesman and the man who is to undertake the very delicate and onerous labors of the first resident-general at Seoul. He goes to take up his post in Korea after giving to the world expressions of the most high-minded intentions of protecting and bettering the conditions of the Koreans, of improving and controlling the conduct of the Japanese immigrants, and of giving full consideration to the interests of other powers. With such explicit guaranties, there is every reason to expect that American interests in Korea will receive good treatment under the new régime.
I have, etc.,