395.116/99: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Morris) to the Acting Secretary of State

I received last night the following telegram from Consul General at Seoul: April 5, 12 noon, Eli Miller Mowry, American of Presbyterian mission [at] Pyengyang, arrested for permitting Koreans to use his premises for printing propaganda.62 Officially government [Embassy?] has reported incident to Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. I fear that this action of the Korean authorities will be followed by others of a similar character. All the evidence I can gather fully supports the statement that the American missionaries have not directly inspired or supported the present movement of passive resistance to Japanese authority and were wholly ignorant of the population [sic] to inaugurate it. We must recognize however, that it has [practically the] unanimous support of the native Christians who because of better education, closer organization and enthusiastic conviction have taken a prominent part in the leadership. It says [appears?] that among the leading centers of unrest are the cities in which the mission stations are located. [Page 461] Herein lies one of the chief causes for charging the foreign missionaries with responsibility and also the embarrassment of the missionaries. They have the closest possible relations with their native converts and in many cases deep sympathy and affection for them. Furthermore, out of some 3800 American missionaries it is safe to say that [ninety] per cent of them while recognizing the material benefits of Japanese rules [sic] are at heart antagonistic to the Japanese methods of military government in Korea.

It is a sound instinct therefore which leads the Japanese authorities to see, in the influence of Christian missions and the organization which it is building up, a serious menace to their system. The Japanese officials recently in a series of informal conferences at Seoul asked for leading missionaries to use their influence in support of the Government. This was a clever request. If acceded to they hoped it might aid in suppressing the movement and at the same time permanently weaken the mission work. If refused, as I am reliably informed it was, it tended to prove the Japanese charges and laid the ground for interference with the missionaries on any pretext whatever.

A committee of the Presbyterian mission body with which Bishop Welsh of the Methodist mission associated himself visited me yesterday and asked my advice. In reply to their questions I confidentially expressed the following personal views:

I agreed with the committee that it would be inexpedient for them to seek occasion to present the grieviences of the Koreans to Government officials in Tokyo as had been suggested. This would only serve to identify them with the national movement.
I thought it would be most unwise for them to explain local conditions for the benefit of editors of foreign newspapers in Japan. In this connection I deprecated the use of the organization of American missionaries by the foreign papers in China for the purpose of arraigning the conduct of Japanese authorities.
I counselled absolute neutrality urging the committee to return as quietly as possible to Korea and to confine their activities to religious and medical work.
I expressed the personal opinion that they were not called upon to sacrifice their convictions or their influence by openly supporting what they deemed to be the arbitrary and often cruel repressive measures of the Japanese officials but I warned them that they must be careful not to do any thing which might be interpreted as support or encouragement to the popular movement.
Finally, I expressed my appreciation of the practical difficulties of their position but explained that if by word or deed they identified themselves with the Korean national movement they would render it extremely difficult for our Government to protect their interests as American citizens resident in a foreign and friendly country.

  1. Papers on this case not printed. The charge was changed to that of harboring Korean students wanted by the police and the case was finally settled by the payment of a fine.