Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pluto and the Land of the Morning Calm

Walls of Kyongbok Palace, looking towards Namsan 1883-84

Some of my students mentioned to me the other day that Pluto was no longer considered a planet; I promptly forgot about it until I read this post by the Metropolitician.

Pluto was discovered on February 18th, 1930 by an astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh, working at Lowell observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. The observatory had been built 36 years earlier by Percival Lowell, who had been interested in studying the surface of Mars. In 1895, Lowell published a book titled, simply enough, Mars, which can be found online here. In this book, Lowell, having seen canals such as these, theorized that life might exist on Mars. Three years after Lowell's book was published, H.G. Wells published "War of the Worlds", which seems to have been influenced by Lowell's book (and is also notable for Orson Welles' radio adaptation which caused mass panic in the US on October 30, 1938 (downloadable here), as well as Alan Moore's second volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - which also references an Edgar Rice Burroughs's Princess of Mars - another book perhaps influenced by Lowell's writing). Lowell wrote more books about Mars, but in 1905 began looking for planet X, which he theorized must exist beyond Neptune. He failed to discover it before his death in 1916, but his work would be carried on by relatives a decade after his death, who built a special photographic telescope, and who hired the aforementioned Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto's astronomical symbol became PL, standing not only for 'Pluto', but also for Percival Lowell.

Lowell's past before becoming an astronomer is also rather interesting, as he lived in in Japan for a number of years in the 1880s and 1890s, before returning home for good in 1893. In 1883 he was invited to accompany Korea's first trade mission to the US.

Korea's 1st trade mission to the US. Percival Lowell, 2nd from left

Upon returning to Korea in late 1883, stayed several months in Korea, where he witnessed the 1884 coup d'etat, which he wrote about in the November 1886 issue of The Atlantic Monthly (which can be found here). He also took a number of photos of Korea at that time, which can be found here (click' search').

Children on Namsan, overlooking Seoul and Bugaksan

At a market in Seoul

Lowell also published Choson, Land of the Morning Calm: A Sketch of Korea in 1886, as well as a number of books on Japan, such as The Soul of the Far East and Noto: an Unexplained Corner of Japan (available via the gutenberg project).

Quoting the passage below from Lowell's book about Korea (pictured above), Scott Bug, in Korea Bug, notes "how uncannily it invokes the mood or ambience of science fiction, despite being a travel book about a very real place written in the latter part of the nineteenth century."
Two days out from Pusan found us steaming, like some lost vessel, up the long reaches that were to end at Chemulpo. "The world forgetting, by the world forgot," only a strong faith in human testimony justified the assumption that we were approaching anything. The feeling was heightened by the strange look of both people and land. About me were men clad, as imagination might paint the denizens of another planet, but not such as I had once supposed existed on this; while, on turning to the coast, I seemed to be carried back in geological time as before I had felt changed in space. Around me lay suggestions of the earlier unformed ages of the earth. Huge purpoise-backed mounds, unslightly because deprived of Nature's covering of trees, and vast plains of mud alternated with stretches of sea. The scene had the desolateness of the early geologic ages.

Is he describing Korea? Mars? Pluto? You almost get the feeling the years of being an expat in those heady days when much of the world was left to be "discovered" had left its mark on him, that his decision to take up astronomy when he returned was influenced by the strange things he had seen in Korea and Japan, and that his experiences there may have left him wanting to find even stranger, more remote landscapes on neighbouring planets, or even upon planets (or as of this week, planetoids) that had not even been discovered yet.

(More biographical information on Lowell can be found here).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Girl Saturday

As Lost Nomad has discontinued his popular "Girl Wednesday" posts, I thought I'd pick up the pace with a one-off "Girl Saturday" post, with a slight twist, of course.

Choi Seung-hui was born on Nov. 24, 1911, and died on Aug. 8, 1969. Numerous photos of her can be found here and here. As this article tells us,
Choi was born in 1911 in Seoul when the Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule. She came to Japan when she was 15 and started her artistic career under the tutelage of avant-garde dancer Baku Ishii. She incorporated traditional Korean dances into her creation of modern dancing and captured the hearts of many people[...]

Her dancing included slow finger movements, symbolic signs, and quiet smiles that hovered around her mouth. She won great admiration for her dance portraying a Buddhist saint standing on a lotus flower. Critics gave her unreserved praise for her dancing form calling it a ''perfect formative sculpture.''

Choi performed before a full house every day during her 20-day wartime appearance at Tokyo's Imperial Theater in 1944, although she had been branded as ''anti-Japanese'' following her successful performance tour of Europe and the United States before the war.

Photos like the one below remind me of ones you mind find while doing a search on naver or daum, of celebrities chillin' with their friends.

And much like the present day photos you might find of celebrities hanging out together, the photo below shows Choi meeting Son Gi-jeong in 1936, the year he won a gold medal for Japan for his victory in the marathon at the 1936 Berlin olympics.

Meeting celebrities of the day, being toasted in Japan and Korea, travelling the world... it might sound like an enviable life. However...
She was forced to dance for Japanese Imperial Army soldiers in Korea during the war, and after the war, when she returned to Seoul, she was boycotted as ''pro-Japanese.'' She crossed the 38th parallel and went to North Korea in 1946. Choi established a dancing research institute in Pyongyang and served as a member of the Supreme People's Assembly.

Above is a photo of her with her husband and daughter in the 1940s. Her high position was not destined to last however...
She lost her seat in disgrace when her husband, a senior government official, fell under suspicion of being a U.S. spy. She was last heard of in 1967 when her family was reported to have been put under house arrest.
The report I'm quoting from exists because in early 2003 Choi Seung-hui was rehabilitated.
Choi's grave was set up in the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery on Feb. 5. Her remains were transferred there from another grave after Kim Jong Il visited the cemetery in January and asked why her grave was not there. Kim ordered a biography on Choi [which is rather silent about her death] to be published and her remains to be transferred to the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery.
A possible reason for her rehabilitation is offered in the first article:
A contingent of more than 200 members of Pyongyang's Mansudae dance troupe arrived in Japan in 1973 and people in Japanese dance circles were attracted by a dancer who performed with a traditional Korean musical instrument. One of them said of her, ''She towered over all others in technique and beauty. It was obvious that Choi had an influence in her graceful movement.'' The dancer's name was Go Yong Ki, who later became the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, and bore him a son, Kim Jong Chol. Choi's rehabilitation may not be unconnected with her relationship with Go.
Luckily, since she's now in the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery, her story now has a happy ending.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

1907 and 1928 Seoul (Keijo) Travel Guides

Celebrating 2 years of Japanese Administration
Look at the Improvements!

A you may have noticed in my last post, I quoted several times from the book (provided by Google Books) Times Past in Korea: An Illustrated Collection of Encounters, Customs and Daily Life Recorded by Foreign Visitors. By looking though the table of contents, it's easy to find lots of interesting entries from over the years. I found the two below to be rather fascinating. From the 1907 Welcome Society's A Guide Book for Tourists in Japan, under the heading "From Japan to Korea", comes this entry:
The Sanyo Railway's new steam-ship service between Shimonoseki and Fusan affords considerable convenience to intending travellers to Korea. The new relation which Korea has to Japan, makes it entirely necessary that the time taken in a journey from Tokyo to Seoul must be decreased as much as possible. Before the Russo-Japanese campaign, travellers had to reach Chemulpo by steamer via Nagasaki, and it always took five days even if the connection was accomplished. At the present time, however, the journey can be finished in about fifty hours. From Tokyo to Shimonoseki via Kobe has already been described. From Shimonoseki to Fusan is 122 m., and travellers may be conveyed by means of the commodious and luxurious new steamers of the Sanyo Railway, the passage taking about ten hours (with foreign food: Ist 12.00 ; 2nd 7.00). The scenery is panoramic and charming. Travellers cross the famous Tsushima Straits on the Japan Sea where the greatest naval battle of modern times was fought with the utmost determinaton on the 27th and 28th of May 1905, the whole of our Fleet participating in the engagement, and in which the enemy made use of his entire force. The contest was most severe, quite unprecedented in naval history, and at length resulted in the annihilation of the enemy's fleet practically decided and the termination of the great war.

Korea possesses an agreeable and healthy climate. The winter is dry and pleasant and sport for hunters is unrivalled. Besides tiger hunting in the interior one can find an abundance of ducks, geese, pheasant, hare, snipe, and deer about Seoul and its neighborhood.

Twenty one years later, in 1928, Terry's Guide to the Japanese Empire provided this information for those planning on travelling to Seoul:

Arrival. Hotel runners meet trains. Information Bureau and Lunch Room in the Station.

Taxis ply for hire. The usual charge to the hotel (5 min,) is 50 sen. If there is any question about it, submit the matter to the hotel manager.

Motor-car rates by the hour about 6 yen. Special rates for country trips. The hotel-cars usually are kept in the best condition. Rates the same as others.

Jinrikis ply for hire at from 70 sen to one yen the hour. Consult the hotel manager.

Tramcars run to many parts of the city and suburbs. Cheap and useful.
Hotels. *Chosen Hotel (Tel. add. Choho, Keijo). Best in the city. Reccomended. Modern, fire- and earthquake-proof. Member of the Japan Hotel Association. Many comforts and modern conveniences. Telephones, radio, moving pictures, good food, and service. English spoken. The manager, Mr. J. Sakai, is well known for his ability to please foreign guests. Consult him about sight-seeing plans.

Rates, American plan. Songle room from 8 yen a day and up. With private bath, from 11 yen. Double room from yen 16.50 and up. With private bath from yen 19.50. Special terms for a long stay. Meals only: Breakfast, yen 1.75. Tiffin, yen 2.50. Dinner, yen 3.

Seoul (pron. sowl, or sow-ohl) or Keijo (kay-jo), a one time walled city with a population (Japanese, Koreans, Mongols, etc) of approx. 302,000, stands on the N. side (2 M. distant) of the swift Han River (120 ft. above it and 35 M. from its mouth), in the heart (Kyongkwi Province) of the ancient kingdom of Korea (lat. 37 35' N., and long. 127 0' E. from Greenwich), is one of the most picturesque and romantically situated mediaeval capitals of Eastern Asia. It was founded in (in 1392) by the Emperor Yi Taijo under the name of Han yang ('Fortress on the Han'), but it is generally known as Seoul ('capital'), the Japanese equivalent for which is Keijo. As the political, intellectual, educational, and commercial center of the country, with (so-called) palaces, art, and museums, libraries, botanical and zoological gardens, colleges, banks, electric lights, street cars, and telephones, and many additional adjuncts of a modern and progressive metropolis, it is Korea to most foreigners, since it represents in the large everything Korean; much as Tokyo represents N. Japan. For upward 8 centuries it was home of the concubine- loving Korean sovereigns, and few cities have seen more maladministration, cruelty, rioting, and bloodshed. For almost that length of time it was a sort of cancerous growth that choked the national ambition and sapped the life-blood of the people - a poisonous blight on all progress and civilization. To-day it is the center whence all benefits and reforms radiate. The japanese Governor-general dwells here, and from the Residency the affairs of the nation are administered. The situation of the old capital (2 M. by 2 M.), in a broad valley (5 M. long by 3 broad) surrounded by rugged hills that tower in somber grandeur above it, is very attractive. From the highest of these (N.) hills, the San-kak-san, or Three-peaked Mountain (2,270 ft.), - which foreigners know as Cock's Comb, - one may enjoy a magnificent panorama of the wide city with its mushroom-like houses and the lordly Han flowing broadly to the sea.[...] The tall mountain to the S. of the capital long served as a signal station on which bonfire messages were received from the southern provinces.

One has to wonder in reading these just how much European imperial powers advertised their colonial possessions for the purpose of travelling. While these guides certainly arouse historical curiosity (tiger hunting?!), they actually sound rather contemporary; I guess travellers' needs never really change. Beyond the necessities, they also require souveniers like postcards. Numerous postcards from Korea during the colonial period can be found on these pages (1, 2, 3, 4); it's interesting to see the image of Korea that these postcards attempt to convey. Beyond the travelling aspect of these books, they are also interesting for the way in which they carefully position Korea within the Japanese empire in a very benign manner, even if it may not seem very subtle. They certainly build up Japan's national esteem by embellishing the battle of Tsushima, describing it as "the greatest naval battle of modern times", "quite unprecedented in naval history", which "resulted in the annihilation of the enemy's fleet". The best description of Korea, and of its need for Japanese guidance (nice to see Terry's Guide was so willing to accomodate this) really needs to be quoted in full once again, so beautifully wrought it is:
For upward 8 centuries it was home of the concubine- loving Korean sovereigns, and few cities have seen more maladministration, cruelty, rioting, and bloodshed. For almost that length of time it was a sort of cancerous growth that choked the national ambition and sapped the life-blood of the people - a poisonous blight on all progress and civilization. To-day it is the center whence all benefits and reforms radiate. The japanese Governor-general dwells here, and from the Residency the affairs of the nation are administered.
No subtlety here - my head is still ringing from the sledgehammer blows. It seems rather telling that, even 18 years after Japanese colonial rule in Korea began, they still felt compelled to justify it at every turn. Coercion and the threat of violence for the natives, pretty words for the foreign tourists - my how things have changed.

Or at least, that's how we might first think, as we look at this obvious propaganda (and propaganda techniques of old tend to seem fairly obvious to us now, we like to think). Beyond the obvious justifications for empire, and the boosting of its military esteem through exaggeration, however, it's interesting to see how, three years before Korea was annexed outright, the 1907 travel book is already speaking of the need for speed between the two countries and describing in a mundane manner the ways in which one can travel in comfort between Tokyo and Seoul. I would argue that the bombast of the description of the Battle of Tsushima in fact draws your attention away from the mundane way in which this new, faster connection between the two countries is described: "travellers may be conveyed by means of the commodious and luxurious new steamers of the Sanyo Railway, the passage taking about ten hours (with foreign food: Ist 12.00 ; 2nd 7.00). The scenery is panoramic and charming." Yawn. But it's precisely that description which makes our eyes glaze over and turn the page which is insinuating that Korea should be more closely within Japan's reach, normalizing a "new relation which Korea has to Japan".

And this is the fun I have with two documents. Think of the fun I could have reading these.

A final note: When I read the above paragraph, with its descriptions like "cancerous growth", "poisonous blight", "choked the national ambition", etc., etc., I couldn't help but think of present day justifications for Japanese colonial rule rendered into English, and how they pale in comparison to descriptions like the one above. My advice to those writing in English trying to justify the Japanese colonial project over 60 years after it ended is to stop searching through Japanese language revisionist sites and translating them into English (which in the past has inspired flat, uninteresting, and unconvincing writing such as this), and instead look at what was being written by Japanese or on Japan's behalf in English during the colonial period. The writing at that time was simply much more descriptive and fun to read. They also stand a better chance of convincing people that the stream of words appearing on their webpages actually have depth if they can get their readers to focus on the bright and flowery surface of the language they use, as this may postpone the realization that the stream is, in fact, rather shallow.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dancing Girls, War, and Missionaries: Pyongyang in 1894

Taedongmun, Pyongyang, circa 1890

James Creelman, in his report on the battle of Pyongyang, which took place on September 15, 1894 during the first Sino-Japanese War, tells us about the actions of the Chinese army in the city before the battle and their effect upon the city's inhabitants:
In forty-two days the Chinese army built more than thirty earthworks outside the walls of Ping Yang. There were miles of new fortifications. [...] As the Japanese army moved forward to the rescue, the Chinese generals made merry with the dancing girls of Ping Yang, renowned throughout Asia for their grace and beauty. All was pomp by day and revelry by night. The Chinese soldiers broke into the houses of timid Coreans, and treated their wives and daughters shamefully. Drunkenness and debauchery ran riot, and while the generals caroused with the dancing girls, the whole city was looted. Hell seemed to be let loose. The frightened inhabitants fled to the fields and forests -- men, women, and children -- and remained there until the Japanese army entered the city, when they crept back, many of them dying from starvation and exposure.
Even allowing Creelman his penchant for slight exaggeration, it should be noted, however, that he never actually stayed to see the city's inhabitants return, or the behaviour of the Japanese army after it triumphantly entered the city. Isabella Bird Bishop, on the other hand, in her book Korea and Her Neighbours, described Pyongyang during her visit there in November 1895, more than a year after the battle, as
a prosperous city of 80,000 inhabitants reduced to decay, and 15,000 - four-fifths of its houses destroyed, streets and alleys choked with ruins[...] Everywhere there were the same scenes, miles of them[...]

Phyongyang was not taken by assault; there was no actual fighting in the city[...] When the Japanese entered and found that the larger part of the population had fled, the soldiers tore out the posts and woodwork, and often used the roofs also for fuel, or lighted fires on house floors, leaving them burning, when the houses took fire and perished. They looted property left by the fugitives during three weeks after the battle... Under these circumstances the prosperity of the most prosperous city in Korea was destroyed.
After reading this, I had wondered if there was a connection between the incredible growth of Pyongyang's Christian population and the destruction the city experienced during the Sino-Japanese war. This description of early missionaries in Pyongyang, from Donald N. Clark's Living Dangerously in Korea: The Western Experience 1900-1950, makes no mention of the war, however:
The story of P'yôngyang as a missionary station began in 1890, when the newly arrived Samuel A. Moffett paid a two-week visit to investigate the possibility of opening evangelistic work there. The following spring, Moffett and his colleague James Scarth Gale visited P'yôngyang again while on a three-month exploratory journey by foot and horseback. They held services in the city but found that people were still "suspicious of foreigners and afraid of Christian books" because of the government's recently lifted prohibition against Christianity. P'yôngyang remained impenetrable for several years, receiving occasional visits from Seoul-based missionaries who invariably found the local authorities inhospitable. The Presbyterian Mission assigned Samuel Moffett to P'yôngyang as a full-time missionary in November 1893, and, after a rocky beginning that included attempts on his life by neighbors intent on killing the "foreign devil," he succeeded in buying property and founding a proper mission station in January 1895.
A somewhat humourous description of the difficulties in starting missionary work can be found in Elizabeth A. McCully's book A Corn of Wheat (quoted from in Times Past in Korea: An Illustrated Collection of Encounters, Customs and Daily Life Recorded by Foreign Visitors), from which this January 17, 1894 entry is taken:
After seven days' journey I reached Phong Yang, and went at once to one of the houses which had been purchased for our use, but which, on account of the opposition of the governor, we were unable to occupy for several months. It had been used as a home for dancing girls, and was still being used for the same purpose. After some difficulty they consented to give up the house. The following two nights the house was vigorously stoned by a band of men who had been accustomed to spend their evenings there, but had now been defeated in their evil purposes.
The aforementioned Samuel Moffett was Isabella Bird Bishop's guide in Pyongyang (she mentions that the Japanese troops looting the city helped themselves to $700 worth of his possessions). She describes the efforts taken to find him during her visit in November 1895:
Taking a most diverting boy as my guide, I went outside the city wall, through some farming country to a Korean house in a very tumble-to-pieces compound, which he insisted was the dwelling of the American missionaries; but I found only a Korean family and their were no traces of foreign occupation[.] Nothing daunted, the boy pulled me through a smaller compound, opened a door, and pushed me into what was manifestly posing as a foreign room[.]

I had reached the right place. It was a very rough Korean room, about the length and width of a N.W. Railway saloon carriage. It had three camp-beds, three chairs, a trunk for a table, and a few books and writing materials, as well as a few articles of male apparel hanging on the mud walls.

William James Hall and Rosetta Sherwood Hall's House where
they carried out their medical and missionary work.

Upon meeting Mr. Moffett, he described the post-battle scene in the Pyongyang area
as one of 'indescribable horror'. [Three weeks after the battle] there were 'mounds' of men and horses stiffened in the death agony, many having tried vainly to extricate themselves from the pile above them. There were blackened corpses in hundreds lying along the Peking road, ditches filled up with bodies of men and animals[...] Even in my walks over the battlefield, though the grain of another year had ripened upon it, I saw human skulls, spines with ribs, spines with the pelvis attached, arms and hands, hats, belts, and scabbards.
Such a description is not surprising, as it echoes James Creelman's report on the immediate aftermath of the battle:
The scene was horrible beyond words to tell, and the streams on either side of the valley road were red with Chinese blood. After the battle, there were counted in a space of two hundred yards the bodies of two hundred and seventy horses and two hundred and sixty men.
This print by Kobayashi Kiyochika, titled "Banzai for Japan! Victory Song of Pyongyang" reflects some of this horror (or it does if you're able to peel away the jingoism just a little):

Two months after the battle, L.H. (Lillias) Underwood, in Fifteen Years among the Top-knots (quoted here), wrote:
According to native superstition that the city is a boat, and to dig wells would sink the boat, there were no walls in Pyeng Yang; but a large number of bodies of men and horses were lying in the river, polluting for weeks the only water supply. In this dreadful situation out brave missionaries remained and worked, and on October 17th Dr. Hall wrote the following cheerful words, 'We have very interesting services, the hymns of praise that less than a year ago brought cursing and stones are now listened to with delight, and carry with them a feeling of security similar to the sound of a policeman's whistle in New York. Comparatively few of the Koreans have returned to their homes, but every day brings fresh additions. Every day numbers of those who have returned and those from the surrounding villages and towns visit us. They buy our books and seem far more interested in the gospel than I have ever seen them before.'
Hall's letter seems to confirm what I had suspected - that Pyongyang's ruin had helped spur the population to look more kindly upon the Missionaries who quickly returned. Before continuing with Underwood's account, it might be worthwhile to look a little more closely at Dr Hall. Most of the photos and biographical information about him in this post come from this blog (there are three pages).

Dr. Hall, with poor children.

William James Hall arrived in Korea in December 1891, a year after his future wife Dr. Rosetta Sherwood, who he married in 1892. Arriving in Pyongyang in 1894, Rosetta Sherwood Hall adapted Braille to the Korean script and began teaching blind girls, the first instance of 'handicapped' education in Korea. After Mrs Alice Moffett (Samuel Moffett's wife?) began a school for blind boys in Pyongyang in 1903, she opened the School for the Blind the next year.

The first educated blind girl, Oh Bok-Rye

In case you're wondering why William James Hall's future accomplishments aren't being noted, perhaps we should let Mrs. Underwood finish her letter:
Very soon after writing these words Dr. Hall returned to Seoul; the boat on which he came was full of sick Japanese soldiers. There were cases of typhus fever and army dysentery, the water was doubtless poisoned, and he reached Seoul, after numerous most trying vicissitudes, fatally ill with typhus fever. Quite early, articulation became very difficult, but every halting sentence spoke of perfect peace and joy, and almost his last words were, 'I'm sweeping through the gates.' Tears dim my eyes while I write, for we all not only loved, but reverenced Dr. Hall, and we felt he possessed a larger share of the Master's spirit than most of us.[...] Euopeans and natives alike testified to the same impressions of him, the same love for him, his sweet spirit drew all hearts to him, so that he was both universally loved and honored. [He died on November 24, 1894.]
While he may have died young, his wife and son would continue to work as missionary doctors in Korea for decades to come.

Going back to the effect the Battle of Pyongyang had upon the efforts of missionaries there, Isabella Bird Bishop returned to Pyongyang in late 1895 or early 1896 after travelling further north, and made the following observations:
Christian missionaries were very unsuccessful in Phyong-yang. It was a very rich and immoral city. More than once it turned out some of the missionaries, and rejected Christianity with much hostility. Strong antagonism prevailed, the city was thronged with gesang [kisaeng], courtesans, and sorcerers, and was notorious for its wealth and infamy. The Methodist Mission was broken up for a time, and in six years the Presbyterians only numbered 28 converts. Then came the war, the destruction of Phyong-yang, its desertion by its inhabitants, the ruin of its trade, the reduction of its population from 60,000 or 70,000 to 15,000, and the flight of the few Christians.

Since the war there had been a very great change. There had been 28 baptisms, and some of the most notorious evil livers among the middle classes, men shunned by other men for there exceeding wickedness, were leading pure and righteous lives. There were 140 catechumens under instruction, and subject to a long period of probation before receiving baptism, and the temporary church, though enlarged during my absence, was so overcrowded that many of the worshippers were compelled to remain outside.

On the Sunday I went with Dr. Scranton of Seoul to the first regular service ever held for women in Phyong-yang. There were a number present, all daemon worshippers, some of them attracted by the sight of a "foreign woman". It was impossible to have a formal service with people who had not the most elementary ideas of God, of prayer, of moral evil, and of good. It was not possible to secure their attention. They were destitute of religious ideas. An elderly matron, who acted as a sort of spokeswoman said, "They thought that perhaps God is a big daemon, and He might help them get back their lost goods." That service was "mission work" in its earliest stage.
Also worth mentioning in Pyongyang at that time might be that
The main street on my second visit had assumed a bustling appearance. There was much building up and pulling down, for Japanese traders had obtained all the eligible business sites, and were transforming the small, dark, low, Korean shops into large, light, airy, dainty Japanese erections, well stocked with Japanese goods, and specially with kerosene lamps of every pattern and price, the Delfries and Hinckes patents being unblushingly infringed.
In In Korea With Marquis Ito (quoted here), Gerorge Trumbull Ladd, speaking in Pyongyang on April 7, 1907, said there were 1400 in his audience, "equally divided between the two sexes", divided by a screen.
It was said that there was enough of the population of the city attending Christian services at that same hour to make three congregations of the same size. The afternoon gathering for bible study and the evening services were even more crowded; so that the aggregate number of church-goers that Sunday in this Korean city of somewhat more than 40,000 could not have been less than 13,000 or 14,000 souls. Considering also the fact that each service was stretched out to the minimum length of two hours, there was probably no place in the United States that could compete with Pyeng-yang for its percentage of churchgoers that day. Yet ten years ago there was in all the region scarely the beginning of a Christian congregation.
Three years before Ladd's visit, during the campaign of 1904 (during the Russo-Japanese war), Japanese troops had once again found themselves marching through Pyongyang - but this time, the absence of enemy forces there (and a growing awareness of the need for good P.R.), led to much better treatment of the city during the subsequent occupation.

Japanese Infantry await the completion of a pontoon
bridge before entering Pyongyang, March 1904

Koreans watching Japanese troops enter Pyongyang

Below is a photo of Pyongyang's missionary community taken around March 4, 1904, by R.L. Dunn (who, along with Jack London, had reported on the Japanese advance northward), which makes obvious that the growth of Pyongyang's (Korean) Christian community was accompanied (or preceded) by a large growth in the number of missionaries there - a far cry from the previous descriptions of mission efforts we've seen from before the Sino-Japanese war (Photos taken from here).

It seems to me to be very difficult to explain the sudden growth of Pyongyang's Christian community (or of its development in other aspects) without examining the effect of its destruction during the Sino-Japanese War.

Prior to the war, Bishop describes it as " a very rich and immoral city[...] the most prosperous city in Korea." "[T]he city was thronged with gesang, courtesans, and sorcerers, and was notorious for its wealth and infamy". Creelman spoke of "the dancing girls of Ping Yang, renowned throughout Asia for their grace and beauty", while Elizabeth McCully noted that a house purchased by the missionaries "had been used as a home for dancing girls". In the minds of these good Christians, as they speak of an "immoral city" full of "infamy" and "evil", Pyongyang seemed to have been perceived as a modern Sodom and Gommorah (which makes you wonder how its destruction during the war was perceived). As Bishop put it, this was all before "its desertion by its inhabitants, the ruin of its trade, the reduction of its population".

The most obvious effect the battle had upon the city was "the reduction of its population from 60,000 or 70,000 to 15,000". Bishop also mentioned a figure of 80,000 for Pyongyang's pre-war population; whatever the exact number, a year later in 1895, it seems that only a quarter of the population had returned. Twelve years later, in 1907, Ladd gives the population of the city as 40,000, which is still only 2/3 of its population in 1894 (if a figure of 60,000 is accepted). One can only guess at how this disrupted the social fabric of the city and ruined its economy; pondering this might lead one to understand how Christianity might suddenly seem more palatable, especially when those preaching it are also opening schools and healing people.

As Dr Hall put it two months after the battle, "Comparatively few of the Koreans have returned to their homes, but every day brings fresh additions. Every day numbers of those who have returned and those from the surrounding villages and towns visit us. They buy our books and seem far more interested in the gospel than I have ever seen them before." Bishop's description of the city's first church service for women provides a fascinating look at the participants' perception of deities, as well as their reasons for wanting to explore Christianity in a looted and ruined city: "They thought that perhaps God is a big daemon, and He might help them get back their lost goods." As Bishop put it succinctly, "That service was "mission work" in its earliest stage."

Beyond the effect on missionary work the city's ruin and desertion had, Bishop mentions another change: "Japanese traders had obtained all the eligible business sites". The degree to which, prior to the war, a Japanese presence existed in Korea outside of Busan, Wonsan, Chemulpo (Incheon) and Seoul I'm not sure of. After 1894, of course, Japanese people (and soldiers) were able to move about with much more ease. I'm not certain if there were any Japanese living in Pyongyang prior to the war, but after the war it seems their presence was becoming much more prominent, as they bought up prime land in a city their troops had helped lay to ruin (and after the fighting had ended, remember). Pyongyang, in regards to its growing Japanese population, could likely have simply served as a microcosm of the rest of the country, as Japan consolidated its control and prepared for its eventual war with its other rival, Russia. Russia's reappearance in Pyongyang in 1945 would, of course, set in motion events that would lead to Pyongyang's destruction once again - along with the (apparent) destruction of the Christian faith there.

Of further note regarding Pyongyang and missionaries: this page comments on the influence on music in Korea the missionaries had, due to their music lessons. A bibliography of writing about (and by) missionaries in Korea can be found here. Turn-of-the-century (or earlier) photos of Pyongyang and Gaeseong can be found here. A 1946 US military map of Pyongyang can be found here, while a current map (and metro map) of contemporary Pyongyang can be found here.

Also, on a vaguely related yet fascinating note, a school in Oregon was named Pingyang after the battle in 1894, and was eventually bombed and destroyed a few years later. The story can be found here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The more things change...

On this 61st anniversary of Korean independence, I couldn't help but remember this postcard published on the first anniversary in 1946:

(From Under the Black Umbrella: Voices from Colonial Korea, 1910-1945, by Hildi Kang).

This photo was taken in early 2005, and features a repeat performance of the image above, this time by Korean lawmakers protesting a prefecture in Japan declaring that Takeshima/Dokdo belongs to it:

Is it possible that the 'protest' seen in the second photo is in fact inspired by the image in the first photo? For people to be doing this in 2005 seems a little odd, but if it was inspired by an older form of 'protest', it might help explain it a little (though not excuse it). What was perfectly understandable in 1946 is not so wise to carry out in the present day, 60 years later.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Namdaemun: Pedestrians run through it

The above photo of Namdaemun was taken from a collection of photos taken by Rev. Corwin Taylor and Nellie Blood-Taylor, who were Methodist missionaries active in Korea between 1908 and 1922. When I saw this photo, I couldn't help but remember this quote from something I posted at the beginning of this year about the opening of the center of Namdaemun gate to the public:
[The] entrance to the national treasure had been forbidden since 1907, when the occupying Japanese government regulated traffic by removing the fortress walls on both sides and putting in a road and streetcar line.
In my post, I looked at the photo below, wherein the gate is open to the public, and which is obviously from the 1910s or 1920s, and figured that the line Seoul City was spinning about Namdaemun being closed for 99 years was just a little on the false side of the truth. The photo above (which is likely facing south (whereas the photo below is likely facing north)) was taken at a much earlier time than this photo -

- and is, I think, further proof that the statement printed by the Chosun Ilbo, above, is not historically correct. It should also be mentioned that the Japanese did not build the streetcar line at Namdaemun that was present in 1907; it was built seven years earlier.

For those curious about the tearing down of the fortress walls around Namdaemun (and Dongdaemun) the essay "Colonial City Planning and Its Legacy", by Sohn Jung-Mok (from Seoul, 20th Century: Growth and Change of the Last 100 Years) provides a great deal of information about this project (on pages 438-441):

When the streetcar line from Seodaemun to Dongdaemun and Cheongryangri was built between October 17 and December 25, 1898 (with another line going from Jongno to Namdaemun and Wonhyoro 4-ga (near the river) completed in 1900), the trams were routed through the doors of the city gates, as the Korean government feared the public response to tearing down any part of the walls. By 1905, when the Gyeong-Bu (Seoul-Busan) train line was compete, with its main station south of Namdaemun, the traffic through the narrow gate entrances had become incredibly congested. On June 27 of that year, Japanese diplomatic minister Hayashi suggested in a note to foreign minister Lee Ha-yong that the walls on either side of Namdaemun be torn down to make room for the trams and more traffic, but this suggestion was ignored.
Finally, on March 30, 1907, one year after Japan took complete control over all domestic affairs of Korea, a high state councilor of the State of Council Park Jae-soon, Internal Affairs minister Lee Ji-yong, Defense minister Kwon Jung-hyun drafted an agenda titled Removal of fortress walls adjacent to Dongdaemun and Namdaemun.

The South and the East are gateways to the royal palace and have long been the busiest where people bump their shoulders against each other and overflow with with cars and horses. A tramway has been built running through the gates and added more traffic to the already bustling area, causing more inconvenience. Due to this situation, it is deemed necessary to take urgent measures to ease transportation in this area. It is now necessary to remove 8 gans (gan is a unit of length equal to 180 cm) from either side of the fortress walls at the gates for streetcars and the gates will be for the exclusive use of pedestrians. This will greatly reduce problems due to the narrow roads and correct traffic flow. We hereby duly present this proposal with attached blueprint for approval by your highness.

The next day, on March 31, King Gojong sanctioned the plan. [...] The government appropriated 135,595 won 93 jeon from the budget for the project using government bonds and began purchasing land, homes and relocating people to other regions. While work was in progress, a new cabinet moved in as of May 22, 1907 and petitioned King Gojong, who gave his royal approval on June 22. The new petition reads as follows.

The removal of the fortress walls on both sides of Namdaemun and Dongdaemun have already been approved. The partial removal of the fortress walls will leave unsightly remains and the residual walls would be of no use in the defense of Seoul. We humbly suggest that the remaining fortress walls be removed under the aegis of the Nambu (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and the Takjibu (Ministry of Finance), thus demonstrating to people that there would be no 'outside' in the king's mind.
Of course, the king would soon have little to say about any of this. A month after approving this proposal, on July 20, 1907, King Gojong was forced to abdicate the throne by the Japanese and his son Sunjong was made king. On July 30, the Fortress Wall Removal Committee was established, composed of members of the ministries of Internal Affairs, Defense, and Finance (who by that point were mostly Japanese).
At the beginning of September, construction teams filled Namji pond, southeast of Namdaemun, the main body of the gate was left intact, the walls on both sides were removed to build a new 8 gans wide street (inclusive of the old road, the Namdaemun area eventually had three streets). Detailed plans and execution of the plans were carried out by the committee: a stone wall was built around the gate, lawns and trees were planted inside the wall, stone pillars were put up at the four corners on top of which were placed jade electric lights. The Fortress Wall Removal Committee was dissolved on September 5, 1908 when the planned construction was completed. Construction of the two roads on either side of Namdaemun gate was completed on October 3, 1908. Supplementary work continued however until May 30 into the next year.

The continued construction work further expanded these roads toward Namdaemun Station (presently Seoul Station) , a total of 436 meters with 34.54 meter widening. Other roads such as Gurigae road (presently Euljiro), and the road between Gwanghuimun gate - Wangshimni were repaired with a budget of 454,604 won.
I have no idea where those living and working near the gates would have been moved, but there most certainly would have been a number of people who would have needed to have their dwellings/places of business torn down, as these photos taken in 1904 show:

One can only wonder how fairly they were treated in being relocated (or whether they would have been considered as squatters on the land outside of the gates).

On a related note, an earlier civic improvement project in Seoul was carried out in 1896, and improved a number of roads and drainage systems in the city, as described by Isabella Bird Bishop in the scanned pages below:

At any rate, this description of the destruction of the walls around the gates questions the idea that it was all the doing of the Japanese, seeing as those who proposed the project were all Korean (that there might have been pressure from the increasingly powerful Japanese authorities isn't impossible, of course). Of course, the description of the areas opened up by the destruction of the walls being used for streetcars and a road, and that the gates will be for the exclusive use of pedestrians corroborates with the photographic evidence above to show that Namdaemun's doors had been open for many years after the walls were removed, contrary to the claims of the Seoul city government's overzealous public relations staff.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Beneath Legation Row, Deoksu Palace

An update can be found here.

Paichai Dormitory

In Seoul, 20th Century: Growth and Change of the Last 100 Years, a description of the development of Jeong-dong can be found. Speaking of the street improvements of 1896 (which Isabella Bird Bishop wrote about - here and here), Jung-Mok Sohn writes:
One thing that needs to be mentioned here is that Seoul at this time was improved in a Korean way, not in European manner. Jeong-dong, however, was an exception. Jeong-dong was allotted for occupation by foreign diplomacy offices and missionary organizations. Were it not for Gyeonggunggung [Deoksu] palace at its center, it would look completely non-Korean. Most Korean residents who once lived there sold their houses and moved away. Wide roads were built and shops run by foreigners moved in. The French legation was built on a hill and competed in magnificence with the Russian legation building. A Methodist church of redbrick was erected by an American mussionary organization around the time the legations were constructed; the church could be seen from all directions. [p 435]

Pai Chai drill grounds, possibly with the church in the background?

To get a glimpse at what life was like on "Legation Row", as Jeong-dong was known, in the early 20th century, one need only browse through The Reverend Corwin & Nellie Taylor Collection (which was linked to over at Frog In A Well). The collection consists of photos taken between 1908 and 1922 of Seoul, Pyongyang, Wonju, Kongju and Suwon, as well as of Korean rituals and daily life at the time. As the photographers were Methodist missionaries, there are many photos of the Pai Chai school (Romanized as Baejae these days) and the Ehwa girl's school, which they must have been involved with considering the number of photos of these two schools that turn up.

Lower level classes at Ewha

According to this,
Mrs. Mary Scranton established the first school for girls in 1886 with only one student. However, Queen Min supported the school and named it Ewha Haktan, Pear Blossom Institute, in 1887. Rev. Henry Appenzeller opened a school for boys which King Kojong named Paichai Haktang, Hall for Rearing Useful Men [this link says it was opened in December 1886 and translates the name as “School to Nurture the Talent,”]; and that same year Rev. Horace Underwood organized an orphanage and school as part of his missionary work.
Looking at these photos, it's incredible how spacious the surroundings of these schools look, when they are actually within a rather small area; the legation/missionary area of Jeong-dong was about 500 by 600 meters, including Deoksu palace. To get an idea of what the area would have looked like 15 years after the Taylors left, this map (a detail of this one) may be of some use:

For a description of the area at that time, we can turn to the article An American Boy in Yesterday's Seoul : "Golden Days" Fondly Recalled in which Horace G. Underwood remembers his school days in the 1920s (and which is well worth reading in its entirety):
School for us was the Seoul Foreign School, then located in Chong-dong, where the Franciscan Fathers now have their center. The school was also a sort of community center with its "Morris Hall" auditorium on the second floor. Seoul Union Church met there on Sundays, for a time movies (silents, in those days) were shown by Mr. Morris on Saturday evenings, and the Hall was used as a matter of course for many gatherings - meetings, plays, recitals or what have you. Just down the street next to the American Consulate, was the Seoul Club, the recreation center for the business community, and although the Seoul Union Club had by this time moved to a new site just outside Sosomun (Little West Gate) it was still within the circle of "Legation Street" access [The road from City Hall to Sosomun did not exist then].
Other western-related institutions on the street included Ewha School, the Methodist "Grey House" residence, Paichai School, and the offices of the Singer Sewing Machine Company (now owned by the Kyunghyang Shinmun), while nearer the Seoul Foreign School were the Russian Orthodox Church (MBC Building now), the offices of J.H. Morris and Co., and around the corner were other foreign firms, while not far away were the offices of Shell and Standard Oil. Some "White Russians" lived in the Russian Orthodox Church, and a Belgian lady, Madame Boutant, had a dress shop right across from the SFS gate. On the corner about where the gate to the Chong-dong Methodist Church is located stood a two-story building that housed the community's principal tailor, a Chinese.
As I mentioned, and as the map above shows, Jeong-dong also contained Deoksu palace, and its history in relation to the foreign compounds (and vice-versa) is rather interesting.

Pai Chai athletic field, Deoksugung in the background

The palace was first built in the late 1400s or early 1500s as a residence for the current King's brother, Prince Wolsan, but was used as a palace (beginning with King Seonjo) for 30 years after the 1592 Japanese invasion left the other palaces in ruins (ruins, it should be mentioned, caused by Seoul's citizens, who were mighty pissed off that their king decided to flee and leave them to their fate, setting fire to the palaces - not the Japanese troops). When Changdeok palace became the new royal residence in the early 1600s, Deoksu palace fell into disuse. This continued through the 1800s when Gyeongbok palace was reconstructed, but the takeover of that palace by the Japanese during and after the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War (during which time they had Queen Min killed), led to Gojong fleeing to the Russian legation for protection in 1896. As this article tells us,
Gojong's sojourn in the Russian legation lasted only a year until 1897 when Japan and Russia agreed to send Gojong to Deoksu Palace. It was at this point that Gojong declared himself Emperor of Daehan. Russia's influence remained paramount until her defeat in the 1904/05 Russo/Japanese War.[...]

Ancient blueprints of Deoksu indicate that the palace was much grander in scale than it is today. From 19th century onwards, the area of the palace site was gradually reduced to less than half, with numerous buildings destroyed in the process. Events that contributed to the deterioration of Deoksu Palace were the allotment of a significant portion of the palace site to accommodate the British and Russian legations in the 1880s, the huge fire of 1904 and extensive urban planning in the 1960s.
The aforementioned fire took place on April 14, 1904, and destroyed most of the buildings (as the descriptions of the palace's buildings here show).

The fire would have taken place shortly after the beginning of the Russo-Japanese war when Japanese troops occupied the country, but I haven't found any definite connection between the fire and the Japanese occupation. The most dramatic change to the palace after the fire would have been the building of Seokjojeon, the western style building, which would have been massive for its time. It was initially built by a British company but was taken over by Japan and finished in 1910. The construction of its West Wing was begun in 1936 and was completed in 1938, when Deoksu palace was opened to the public, and Seokjojeon became a Japanese art gallery; following liberation, the meetings of the United States/Soviet Union joint commission on the future of Korea were held there in May, 1946. A photo of the original, east wing taken in 1958 can be found here. Of course, the photo below (again) was taken before the west wing was built (the photographer would be facing north east); the map above, though made in 1946, was based on a 1937 Japanese map in which the (incomplete) west wing would have been absent.

Besides the fire (and the Japanese takeover), the other factor contributing to Deoksu palace's 'deterioration' was "the allotment of a significant portion of the palace site to accommodate the British and Russian legations in the 1880s". As this interview with Patty Hill, wife of former U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill, reminds us, however, there were other nations taking up residence in former parts of the Deoksu palace complex. The US ambassador's residence, which is now behind the palace, was also a part of this allotment of palace land (do read the entire, fascinating article):
"One of the things I've tried to stress is the unique link that this property symbolizes because not only was it the first property that the United States every purchased outside of the continental United States as a government but it's also the first time that any land in Korea was sold to a foreigner." [...]

The property owned by the U.S. government that encompasses the residence was originally purchased in 1884 by the first American resident representative to Korea, Lucius Foote [and was purchased from him by congress in 1887]...

A long time before Foote's arrival it was believed that Legation House, now the guest house for the ambassador's visitors, housed one or more of the royal concubines.

"The Legation House's structure is believed to go back to the 1600s, and I think that it was the embassy consulate from 1883 to 1905. That was where the first visas were given," said Hill.

There is a belief amongst Seoul historians that the original embassy structure was built in the early 1600s as part of [King] Seonjo's many additions to Prince Wolsan's old palace.

This vignette helps illustrate both the degree to which perhaps Deoksu had become unimportant (really now - housing foreigners on palace ground?) and how the land was sold off to foreign diplomats and missionaries. The flip side of this, however, is that the it was the presence of these foreigners that helped Deoksu palace become important again. The fact that Gyeongbok palace was no longer safe (as it was controlled by the Japanese) led King Gojong to seek refuge in the Russian legation (on land that once belonged to Deoksu palace), and in 1897 the Russians convinced him to make Deoksu palace (right next door) his new home, where he declared the Great Korean Empire (while building Jeonggwanhun, a western-style building with a secret passageway to the Russian legation).

It was a short-lived resurgance for Deoksu palace, however. Once King Gojong was forced to abdicate the throne in 1907, his son was made by the Japanese to make Changdeok palace his home. Gojong would die in January of 1919, and the palace from which he had declared the Great Korean Empire would eventually be turned into a park and art gallery (which was the fate of most of the palaces).

As for the foreigners living in Jeong-dong prior to and during the colonial period, Robert Neff's articles for the Korea Times are worth reading; the essay American Missionaries in Korea and US-Japan Relations 1910–1920 may be of some interest, as might the later history of the Seoul Foreign school.