Chargé Wilson to the Secretary of State.

No. 389.]

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.,

Huntington Wilson.

[Inclosure 1.]

Marquis Ito has made an address to the various newspaper editors in Seoul, whom his excellency invited to luncheon for the purpose. He is reported to have said: “It is most desirable that newspaper editors, in conveying information about Korean affairs to Japan should exercise the utmost caution so as to avoid misleading the Japanese people. Some people in Japan seem to imagine that the new convention has placed Korea in the hollow of Japan’s hand and has virtually contrived the overthrow of the empire. Such a view is as precipitate as that referred to in the Chinese proverb where the egg is mistaken for the crow of the full-grown cock. It is true that Japan has assumed the charge of Korea’s foreign affairs, but, on the other hand, the Emperor of Japan has sent his special ambassador to convey to the Korean court a solemn assurance of the preservation of its safety and prestige. That is a point of the greatest importance. Further, it need scarcely be stated that the machinery of administration remains as before under the control and direction of His Majesty the Emperor. At a moment of such changes the Koreans themselves were likely to fall into greater errors than the Japanese. Therefore the policy to be hereafter pursued toward Korea would be informed by the utmost sincerity of act and intention. She would be assisted and led along the paths of gradual progress, and everything savoring of precipitate pressure would be avoided. When I had the honor of being received by His Majesty the Emperor of Korea with reference to the terms of the new treaty, [Page 1029] His Majesty expressed and seemed profoundly moved by the fact that even in the days when Korea used the Chinese almanac and was in effect a tributary of China she nevertheless retained the control of her own foreign affairs, whereas now in the reign of His Majesty, after his dynasty had continued for five hundred years, he was asked to sign a convention which would destroy his empire and render him guilty in the sight of his ancestors. I accordingly sought to resolve His Majesty’s doubts by pointing out in the utmost detail that the vicissitudes of the time rendered this inevitable, and that so soon as Korea’s development had become assured it was the earnest desire of the Japanese Government to restore to her forthwith the direction of her own foreign affairs. When the time came for signing the convention the prime minister, Mr. Han Kyuhwa, sobbed with emotion and seemed wholly overcome. These things render it imperative that Japan, being the pioneer in progress, should behave toward all classes in Korea with the utmost circumspection and sincerity, so that her true purpose may not be mistaken or her intentions doubted. A residency general will be established, but as to its personnel nothing will be known until after my return to Japan. There can, however, be no error in explicitly asserting that the policy of the resident general will not be in any sense revolutionary, but will be one of gradual progress. If the state of affairs in Korea be examined, it is found that the relations between sovereign and subject, government and governed, are of a very distant nature, and are by no means so close as those in Japan. Hence it becomes inevitable to adopt toward the Government measures of a more or less compulsory nature. The people, however, are eminently peaceful and quiet, and toward them, therefore, the policy pursued must be one of gentle persuasion. Those are points which have to be kept in view not merely by our officials, but also by all Japanese subjects residing in Korea. Such Japanese subjects must carefully refrain from all acts of violence to which their country’s victories may prompt them, and must be guided by a spirit of kindness in their dealings with the Koreans. Already the United States representative in Seoul has received instructions from his Government for the removal of the legation, and it may be assumed that the other powers will similarly recognize Japan’s convention. It will then be for Japan not to forget the duties that heaven has delegated to her, but to lead Korea gently and helpfully along the path of progress, for assuredly anything like arbitrary or coercive conduct will earn for Korea the sympathy of the nations, and will defeat the true and abiding policy of Japan.

[Inclosure 2.]

The reports of Marquis Ito’s speech at the dinner given by his excellency to the leading journalists of Tokyo are not at all as full as is desirable. The gist of what the distinguished statesman said, however, may be gathered pretty clearly:

Gentlemen: As I am starting soon for Korea I have invited you this evening for the purpose of laying before you a general statement of the hopes I entertain with regard to the affairs of that country and for the purpose of learning your views. On the 17th of last November the fundamental relations between this Empire and Korea were settled by treaty, but the provisions were very brief. They did not do more than fix foundations, leaving the superstructure of details and the consummation of purposes to depend upon the method of applying the covenant. For example, with regard to business arising out of discussions between the foreign consuls and the Korean local officials, it was arranged that our residents should discharge it, but concerning the relations between the latter and the local officials the details of procedure have still to be enacted. Thus it must be settled that there shall devolve on the Korean local officials the duty of immediately carrying out, on receipt of a communication in that sense from our residents, any business about which representations have been made by the foreign consuls, and again, in the event of the local officials failing or neglecting to discharge such duty, it must be decided that orders to discharge it forthwith shall be conveyed to them in the sequel of reports to the Emperor of Korea or of communications to the Korean Government. Among such matters there will be, on the one hand, some with regard [Page 1030] to which the Japanese Government must approach foreign Governments by way of preliminary, and, on the other hand, there will be some calling for the arrangement with the Korean Government of an accurate line of procedure. In the case of the former I hope that before I assume office they will have been disposed of, and in the case of the latter I hope to settle them myself after careful consultation with the Korean Government subsequently to my’ arrival in Seoul.

“As for the reform of the Korean Administration, it will be the duty of the Government of this Empire to take it upon itself in accordance with the protocol, but governmental corruption in Korea is of remote origin, and to reform it in a day is no easy task. Of course, to revise laws and thus effect superficial reforms is a matter presenting no difficulty, but such, I believe, is not by any means the way to achieve the object of administrative reform. What I hope with regard to this subject of Korean administrative reform is to give the matter the fullest thought and to accomplish it gradually, so that the people of Korea shall be made simultaneously to reap its blessings.

“The poverty of the Koreans is a matter of universal knowledge, and if it be neglected and no means devised for relieving it, this Empire will not only be violating its responsibility as protector of Korea, but will also itself have to suffer in the end.

“The Japanese Government has taken upon itself the burden of Korea’s national defenses, and has accepted the duty of posting a certain force of troops in Korea. Looking at the expense of this alone, it is seen to be not inconsiderable. Further it would be by no means a wise arrangement that she should shoulder Korea’s various expenditures which are destined to grow hereafter larger and larger, and that they should be imposed on our people. Therefore it is essential that we should make the Koreans gradually increase their financial strength and should devise means for getting the people of Korea themselves to bear, as far as possible, the expenses of all Korean undertakings. With regard to contriving an increase of their financial strength the first thing to be considered is agricultural improvements. But in the domains of engineering, and forestry also, there are not a few matters calling for reform and organization pari passú with agriculture. I hope to investigate all these matters fully and to carry them out gradually.

“The population of our country shows a very rapid rate of increase, and it is natural that this increment should overflow Korea. Above all, when the various enterprises in that country reach a stage of development it is quite evident that we shall witness a very great addition to the number of our people going there as compared with to-day. But there has been much to censure in the conduct of our nationals hitherto in Korea. The greatest indignities have been put upon the Koreans, and they have been obliged to suffer them with tears in their eyes. It is true that persons guilty of such conduct constitute only a small part of the Japanese residing in Korea, but now that this Empire has taken upon itself the protectorate of Korea this improper behavior calls for the utmost correction; especially inasmuch as, since the beginning of the Meiji era many difficulties have been eliminated from the relations of the two countries, and two great wars have taken place, the practical results of which are now for the first time displaying themselves. Yet because the conduct of our nationals toward the Koreans is not what it ought to be, they (the Koreans) pose abroad as sufferers, and entertain the keenest dislike for us at home, with the very regrettable result that much injury is done to the relations of the two countries. I am persuaded that when our nationals go to Korea hereafter in increasing number earnest steps must be taken to check this impropriety. It is needless to say that after I have assumed my duties such of my nationals as are engaged in legitimate enterprises in Korea will be protected, but I propose to take ample measures for dealing with all mauvais sujets.

“What I have now said conveys only the gist of the hopes I entertain. In realizing them there must, of course, be order and method, but I am resolved to follow, on the whole, the policy I have here indicated. As some of you gentlemen must be well versed in Korean affairs I trust that you will have no hesitation in expressing your views with regard to my intentions. I shall be most pleased to hear them, and if there be any reason to modify my policy I will not hesitate to do so.”

[Page 1031]

[Inclosure 3.]

Marquis Ito’s recent speech on the line of policy he intends to adopt as resident general in Korea is receiving hearty indorsement from the Tokyo press. His speech, as reported in our columns, dealt with the necessity of negotiating with the foreign governments, on the one hand, and on the other with the Korean Government, to smooth the way for full discharge of Japan’s duties as protecting power, since the Peninsular Empire’s diplomatic affairs are now entirely intrusted to this country. In his discussion of administrative problems, the Marquis pointed out very sensibly that it is a comparatively easy matter to reform the laws, but it may be immeasurably difficult to secure the real confidence of the Koreans. How to proceed in the matter is still a knotty problem, in Marquis Ito’s mind. The most important work is to elevate the low financial and economic status of that country; and this can only be done by developing the national resources, to the mutual benefit of Korea and Japan, since this Empire has taken upon itself the burden of the defense of the country, and has invested money heavily in improving her means of communication and other civilizing factors. To realize this end, the resident general will encourage, foremost among all other things, agriculture. There is room for great undertakings in engineering, forestry, and other material improvements of the country; these should be taken in hand in the order of their importance. And Marquis Ito’s speech concluded with an assurance that the Koreans would be protected against arrogant or overbearing conduct of the “superior race,” now such a frequent cause of complaint against the Japanese residents. Thus recapitulating the chief points of the speech, the Nichi Nichi compares this policy with that of the American Government in dealing with the Philippines; and the paper concludes that the enlightened policy outlined by Marquis Ito compares well with the most advanced colonial policy now practiced in the world. The Nichi Mchi is confident that the public will join in its appreciation of the Marquis’s great service to the country.

The Asahi says that it feels now free from all anxiety about our relations with Korea since the appointment of Marquis Ito as resident general. It expresses appreciation of the candid manner in which he invited the press representatives to offer suggestions in regard to our Korean policy. In response, then, to his invitation, the paper wishes to draw his attention to two points. First, it is true, as Marquis Ito says, that there is urgent need to provide a remedy for the grievance of the Koreans as to the overbearing, not to say tyrannical, conduct of Japanese residents in the peninsula. The Marquis has duly recognized this need; but the Asahi says that there is another evil—the unpleasant and often underhand ways prevalent among the Japanese residents themselves. This also should receive his excellency’s close attention. There is need to study the causes, deep rooted, as the paper believes them to be, and a way should be devised for reforming the low social tone of the Japanese settlers over there, by some means other than administrative. The paper prays for good government for the Japanese as well as the Koreans. It would place special emphasis upon the importance of giving fair and respectable treatment to the self-governing bodies in the settlements, for they have been the most important factor in developing and maintaining Japanese predominance in Korea.

The Mainichi regards the Marquis’ speech before the press representatives as a public declaration of his policy to both Koreans and Japanese, and thinks his pledges should be kept in mind as a check on the future conduct of his Government in Korea. It has been the consistent practice of the Mainichi, in discussing our Korean policy, to ignore the existence of the incurably corrupt official world of Korea and to advocate trying to win the hearts of the people themselves. But this opinion, it says, has been ridiculed as too unpractical, and requiring too long a time; and the contrary principle—that of obtaining the acquiescence of the people by gentle but firm pressure or real force—has been accepted and used as a working principle of practical politics by our Government and by our diplomatic and consular representatives in Korea. The Mainichi therefore rejoices to see its own more liberal views practically embodied in Marquis Ito’s declaration. It appreciates the caution shown by the resident-general in seeking to disarm criticism on one point; he sees that for sake of promoting confidence and good will among the Koreans, by really [Page 1032] studying their welfare and the principles of fair play, it may be necessary to deal summarily with certain “undesirables” among the Japanese residents; it may be even necessary to go so far as to deport them from Korea, and naturally in such cases there would result a crop of evil reports spread by these persons on returning to Japan—malicious slanders, most likely, which Marquis Ito wishes now to discount abundantly. The Mainichi praises his foresight, circumspection, and courage. But our contemporary warns Marquis Ito not to be over confident of succeeding with the Koreans, for Count Inouye went to Korea with just as high ideals and just as promising plans, but hardly a year passed before he was driven to utter despair at the hopeless and incorrigible worthlessness of most of the Koreans, and this his mission proved a failure. If Marquis Ito now goes earnestly resolved to make this mission a glorious climax to his long and useful career, the Mainichi will give him unstinted support. Finally, this frank appeal to the press is an excellent sign; it is the only such instance in Marquis Ito’s life, not to mention any other statesman gifted with less ability, acumen, and enlightenment than he, says our contemporary, and it is an admirable example for the rising generation of would-be constitutional statesmen.

Marquis Ito’s public expression of his political views before the press representatives draws praise from the Jinmin. It indorses the Marquis’ policy, which aims at the regeneration of Korea on the “slow but sure” basis. As to his economic policy, the paper supports it entirely, for it is of paramount necessity in Korea to raise the intelligence and character of the people through modern education and development of industrial activities.

[Inclosure 4.]

The speech made by Marquis Ito on the 5th instant to the parliamentary members of the Seiju-kai was as follows:

“I am extremely gratified that you, gentlemen of the Seiyu-kai, remembering my old relations with you, have enabled me to meet you at this farewell party on the eve of my departure for Korea. It is still to me a source of great satisfaction to recall how you gentlemen formerly shared my political opinions, and how when, in spite of my very humble attainments and small abilities, I acted as your leader in my capacity of President, you made every allowance for my incompetence and deferred to my views. I am also profoundly pleased that in conjunction with Marquis Saionji you are to apply yourselves to the post-bellum enterprises. My intercourse during many years with Marquis Saionji has been a source of gratitude to me. I have learned not a little from him, and being entirely at one with his political opinions, I am persuaded that with him assuming an important position as to the post-bellum enterprises and you, gentlemen, standing by his side and sharing his responsibility in great affairs of state, not only will the advantages of the people be furthered, but also the security of the realm will owe much to your exertions. Concerning present-day problems of the legislature, you are making them, I am persuaded, an object of the fullest study, and therefore there does not appear to be any need to refer to them here. But inasmuch as any error with respect to the post-bellum undertakings would not only sacrifice the good results of the war, but also involve the state’s future in peril, I earnestly hope that your attitude will be one of extreme circumspection.

“I turn now to the Korean problem, which for the past thirty or forty years has well nigh shaken the far eastern firmament. Japan’s special geographical and political relations with the peninsula affected her relations with the powers also and plunged her into two wars which cost her heavily. To-day at length we have succeeded in obtaining a formal solution of the problem, but to solve it in practice still belongs to the future. This is the result of the sacrifices that Japan has made of life and treasure, and since, as I believe, it is a matter of serious import to the safety and independence of the Empire, I go to assume office in Korea with much trepidation and with full consciousness of my own inability. Nevertheless, though I can not certainly count on attainment, seeing that in all things failure is more frequent than success, I am resolved to labor to the utmost of my ability.

[Page 1033]

“From Japan’s point of view we certainly have had a most painful experience with regard to Korea, yet from Korea’s point of view she doubtless believes that she too has been subjected to great pressure, and she certainly does not submit to us willingly. That she feels reluctant is because, when there is question of forfeiting independence, it is much the same by what country one is deprived of it. Hence, if there be any to mislead her, she will at once break away from the Japanese bridle, and it follows that unless this country can win her sincere allegiance we may again beget for ourselves all the old troubles. We must consequently make her understand that Japan’s protection is not for the purpose of harming her independence; that if the Japanese extend protection to her, it is because they are compelled to do so for the purpose of preserving their own independence, and that no injury of any kind is to be inflicted on her. Hence, while I myself will approach the Korean problem with all sincerity of purpose, I shall not confine myself to words in dealing with the pitiable condition of the people, but whether in matters of administration or of finance will give them practical proofs of sympathy.

“Thus since, as I have explained, Korea does not feel at all easy about our protectorate, it is to be hoped that you, gentlemen, will take care not to give cause of offense to the Koreans, but that by seeking to inspire them with sentiments of community of interests—in other words, to show them that we are fellow-passengers on the same boat—you will remove their feelings of doubt and umbrage. This is not merely my thought. It is what our fellow-countrymen universally hope and what our Sovereign desires. I take office with the firm resolve to carry out His Majesty’s purpose, and therefore I pray that you also, gentlemen, will sympathize and take care that the lives of tens of thousands of our countrymen shall not have been sacrificed in vain.

“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.

“A great political party may be said to represent the country, yet it can not be guaranteed against erring against the country’s interests, and thus much more than common diligence must be brought to the discharge of political duties. Let not the State be sacrificed by seeking to please the people only. That is what I declare with all earnestness. I believe, further, that any change of the Government’s present financial policy would be injurious to the State, and it has been a source of great comfort to me to learn that the attitude of the Seiyu-kai toward this matter is settled. I most strongly hope, too, that you will go forward to the full realization of your aims.

“To-day’s meeting is engraved upon my heart and will remain a perpetually agreeable memento which shall never fade from my mind.”