Ambassador Wright to the Secretary of State.

No. 24.]

Sir: During the last few days there have been appearing in the columns of the local press reports, which I believe to be true, of energetic measures taken by the Japanese authorities in Seoul with reference to the Korean court. The reports state that Marquis Ito, in the course of several long interviews with the Emperor of Korea, pointed out the absolute necessity of clearing the court of the intriguers who continually infest the palace and whose machinations seriously imperil the friendship between Japan and Korea, and suggested [Page 1042] the advisability of replacing the Korean palace guards by a force of constables largely consisting of Japanese and under the control of the Japanese police adviser. Later reports indicate that these proposals have been strictly carried out.

I have telegraphed to Mr. Paddock for full information on the subject. Meanwhile I have the honor to inclose herewith notes from the local newspapers, English and Japanese, giving such information and comment as is at present available.

I have, etc.,

Luke E. Wright.

[Inclosure 1.]

[From the Japan Daily Mail of Yokohama, Friday, July 6, 1906.]

It would seem that a strong movement is on foot in official circles in Seoul to effect the apprehension of all the persons in the Imperial court who are connected with the disturbances. There have been long conferences at the palace between the Emperor and his chief ministers. The resident-general had a protracted audience on the 2d, and various consultations have taken place between him and the leading members of the cabinet. Meanwhile the duty of guarding the gates of the palace has been transferred from the Korean police to Japanese constables, and on the 2d Mr. Maruyama, adviser on police affairs, went into the palace accompanied by a body of police. The Asahi Shimbun says that the resident-general’s first audience lasted fully two hours.

Three hundred and sixty policemen are expected soon to reach Korea. This is in accord with the programme recently described in our columns. Two hundred and fifty of the constables will be attached to the residency-general and the remaining 110 will be sent to the various residencies.

Thursday, July 5.

It is easy to foresee that there will now be a recrudescence of stories analogous to those circulated in connection with the signing of the November convention between Korea and Japan. The latter’s very scrupulous critics in the Far East charged her roundly with securing the convention by force, and now a false rumor has been started that Marquis Ito, accompanied by 50 policemen and a detachment of soldiers, repaired to the palace at midnight on the 2d instant and did not leave it until 5 a.m. on the 3d, by which time he had secured three important concessions from the court. This exploit is now explicitly denied, but a denial will count for little with the gentry who sit in judgment. We may observe, en passant, that these critics are curiously reckless about consistency. For while charging Marquis Ito with obtaining the November convention by force, they lose no opportunity of encouraging the Koreans to fight by assuring them that Japan dare not exercise force.

The Japan Times, in its issue of the 4th instant, published the following telegram from Seoul:

Seoul, July 3.

“Marquis Ito, the resident-general, had yesterday afternoon a two hours’ audience with the Emperor and talked with His Majesty on subjects of the most vital importance. Among other things the marquis pointed out the absolute necessity of clearing the court of all sorts of evil characters, such as soothsayers, charmers, intriguers, etc., who daily and nightly infest the palace and whose unceasing machinations seriously imperil the friendship between Japan and Korea, and dangerously compromise the dignity and safety of the Korean Imperial house. In order to save the Emperor the annoyance and dangers caused by these persons, the resident-general suggested the advisability of replacing the incompetent palace guards by a more efficient force of constables under the Japanese police adviser, to which the Emperor readily consented.

[Page 1043]

“The resident-general summoned this morning the Korean ministers and gave them instructions regarding the purification to be made in the court circles.”

Japanese journals supplement this by saying that the marquis asked His Majesty to take steps such as should prevent the dispatch of the Emperor’s sympathy to the Wi Pyon and to the anti-Japanese parties in Shanghai, Vladivostok, and elsewhere. In other words, the resident-general required the Korean sovereign to refrain in future from using the Wi Pyon and the intriguers in Shanghai and Vladivostok as instruments for opposing Japan’s reforms in Korea. His excellency further asked that greater attention should be paid to the engagement which pledges the court to communicate with the residency-general on each occasion of audience being granted to a foreign consul.

The Emperor has issued an edict calling for the purification of the court, which is now infested with literati, soothsayers, and other semiadventurers, whose intrigues are a constant menace to public peace. His Majesty alludes to previous edicts of the same character, all of which have proved futile in the enforcement, and he demands, with apparent sincerity, that on this occasion there shall be no paltering in giving effect to his clearly expressed wishes.

The first measure for the purpose of carrying out this edict and cleansing the court of objectionable characters has been the appointment of a committee consisting of Messrs. Li Chaikeuk, minister of the household; Li Ohiyong, minister of home affairs; Maruyama, police adviser; Li Keung-ho, chief of the administrative bureau in the household; and Kokubu, a secretary. Further, the duty of guarding the palace has been placed in the hands of the Japanese police under Mr. Maruyama.

As illustrating the extraordinary changeableness of Korean policy, it is mentioned that on the morning of the 3d instant Messrs. Li Keung-ho—a member of the above committee—and Li Yong-tai, vice-minister of the household, called on Marquis Ito and begged that the arrangement for having the palace guarded by Japanese police should be abandoned. Marquis Ito gave a very emphatic refusal. He reminded his visitors that only a few hours had elapsed since the sovereign himself had sanctioned this arrangement, and he declared his opinion that no other step could secure the effectual carrying out of the Imperial edict for purifying the court. Such vacillation was at the root of nearly all past troubles. The two ministers could not choose but consent.

An interesting feature of the situation is that Mr. Kang Sak-ho, a high court official, said to be the chief instigator of the recent insurrection, is believed to have been hiding within the palace ever since the arrest of so many of his associates, and it is expected that his apprehension will speedily follow the posting of Japanese police as court guards. The household denies that Kang is in hiding there, but the denial is not credited.

[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

the effect of the resident general’s advice to the emperor of korea.

Resident General Ito’s audience with the Emperor of Korea is producing manifold effects. By issuing an edict, the Emperor has prohibited the coming of unqualified persons to the court. Courtier Cho has been arrested, while Mr. Li, minister of imperial household, has sent in his resignation. Each minister keeps watch every other night at the court, and the ministerial decision not to admit any but the court officials within the palace has received the Emperor’s sanction, and the regulations have been published. The bureau of court police will be reorganized as the first step to the reforms of the Korean court.

It may be added that the step taken was not expected at all on the part of the Koreans, and the court was very much disturbed. The Emperor sent for Prince Wi-hwa on the night of the 3d instant, but His Highness did not come to the palace under pretext of indisposition.

There is a rumor current that Resident General Ito’s advice to the Emperor was to make His Majesty abdicate in favor of Prince Wi-hwa. Many other conjectures are being circulated in order to bring about discord between Japan and Korea.

[Page 1044]

[Inclosure 3.—Translation.]

the palace police of korea.

As a measure of reforming the Imperial Court of Korea, Resident General Ito has added outside police forces to the regular palace police for guarding the palace. In this connection, the appointment as the palace guard commissioners of Lisaikoku, minister of imperial household; Lishiyo, minister of interior; Likonko, superintendent of palaces; Maruyama, Japanese police adviser to the Korean Government; and Kokubu, secretary to the residency general, must be regarded as a noteworthy reform. It has been a great evil of long standing that those vagrants who have no official connection whatever have had free access to the court, have won imperial favors for attaining their own selfish ends, and started various intrigues, both at home and abroad. The troubles of Korea’s internal administration and diplomacy have mainly sprung from this source. But if the access of unqualified persons to the palace can be restricted by the enforcement of the new police system, with the addition of the Japanese police forces, the order of the Korean court will gradually be restored, while the welfare and dignity of the Korean imperial family will also be maintained.

the maintenance of the welfare and dignity of the korean imperial family.

The fact that those dangerous persons who start intrigues abroad or stay at home to disturb the peace of the country have hitherto had free access to the court demonstrates the utter incompetency of the native palace police of Korea. The reform just inaugurated by our resident general is, therefore, a measure perfectly in conformity with his functions.

Should, however, this state of things be left for a long time to come as it is now, the Korean imperial court will eventually become a hotbed of conspiracies and intrigues, whence spring all sorts of troubles, domestic as well as foreign. Then the sacred imperial palace will become a rendezvous of knaves and rascals, while at the same time nothing will remain of the welfare and dignity of the imperial family of Korea. It will therefore mean the gradual downfall of the imperial family. Japan can not keep silent without doing anything, according to the provisions article 5 of the Japan-Korean agreement, and it is probable that the Korean Emperor has become uneasy about the situation and has promptly accepted the advice of the resident general. The Korean Emperor can be an enlightened monarch if he be properly assisted and guided, but it should be remembered that the present reform is an extremely important one to the court. Since it is not improbable that the Korean people fail more or less to understand the significance of the situation, we hope that it may carefully be explained and specially that the Emperor may be reassured.