I'd actually known next to nothing about that event, other than that the American was named D.W. Stevens and that it took place in 1908. I've since poked my nose around the internet and found out more about it. Durham White Stevens had worked as a counselor at the Japanese Legation at Washington and in September, 1894 wrote an article in The North American Review titled "China and Japan in Korea", defending Japan's actions at the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war. Later, during the first year of the Russo-Japanese War, as Japan took control of more and more of the Korean government, Stevens was appointed as an advisor. These New York Times headlines give an idea of what he was up to:
AMERICAN TO GUIDE KOREA'S DIPLOMACY; Japan Appoints D.W. Stevens Adviser to Seoul Government. TOKIO'S TIGHTENING GRIP It Is Now Admitted That Japan Means to Have Complete Control of Korea's Foreign Affairs.Another headline on October 22, 1904, gives an idea of how well regarded he was by the Japanese: "MIKADO HONORS D.W. STEVENS.; Decorates American with Grand Cross of the Sacred Treasure." This, from a year later, is also interesting:
TOKIO, Sept. 4. -- The Japanese Government announces that Durham White Stevens, counselor of the Japanese Legation at Washington, will be the diplomatic adviser to the Korean Government, while M. Megata, Director of the Revenue Bureau at Tokio, will be Korea's financial adviser.
WOULD DIVERT EMIGRATION.; Japan Wants to Turn the Tide to Manchuria and Korea.If you're starting to get the idea that he sounds like a public relations officer for the Japanese...
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29. -- Raymond Crist, formerly private secretary to Secretary Metcalf, and now engaged in special commercial investigations in Japan, has sent a report to the Secretary of Commerce and Labor based on a long interview with Durham White Stevens, the American diplomatic adviser to the Emperor of Korea.
KOREA WAS NOT COERCED.; Letter from D.W. Stevens Disposes of the Recent Reports.In 1908 he would make his way to the U.S. to comment favourably on Japan's progress in Korea, which led to this headline:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 28.  -- In a private letter to a friend in this city, Durham White Stevens, Diplomatic Adviser to the Korean Government, strongly denies the reports that the treaty establishing a Japanese protectorate was extorted by force.
D.W. STEVENS SHOT BY KOREAN ASSASSIN; Late Foreign Adviser of the Emperor Badly Wounded at San Francisco. TWO ATTACKS MADE ON HIM Surgeons Believe He Will Recover -- Korean Hostility to Him Due to His Japanese Affiliations.The two Koreans responsible for the shooting were Jeon Myeong-un, and especially Jeong In-hwan. This webpage gives an outline explaining how two local groups of Koreans in San Francisco met and argued over what to do after Stevens was interviewed and praised Japan's administration of Korea. Stevens was approached at his hotel, but he rebuffed them, so the next day, March 23, they went to the ferry terminal and tried to shoot him. Jeon's gun misfired, so he attacked Stevens; Jang fired and hit Stevens twice (and Jeon once). Stevens died 3 days later, and the Times reported the response in Japan: "JAPAN MOURNS STEVENS.; Widespread Sorrow Is Manifested Throughout the Country at His Death"
SAN FRANCISCO, March 23. -- Durham White Stevens, who from 1904 until recently was the foreign adviser of the Emperor of Korea, was shot and perhaps fatally wounded this morning at the ferry station just as he was about to leave for Washington.
On March 26, George Trumbull Ladd wrote a very even-handed op-ed piece for the Times:
KOREANS A BLOODY RACE.; Attempted Assassination of Mr. Stevens Not an Isolated Case.It was that year that Ladd's book In Korea with Marquis Ito was published. To say the book is pro-Japanese would be to understate the case. He and Stevens were of the same ilk, so to speak. It appears not everyone attacked Koreans, however, as an article the next day is titled "A DEFENSE OF THE KOREANS.(3); An Indolent but Harmless Race That Is Being Oppressed by Japan."
The cowardly and shockingly brutal assaults upon our distinguished citizen, the Hon. Durham White Stevens, furnish an instructive object lesson for the correct estimate of the Korean character and the Korean method of self-government. Since his appointment under the protocol of August, 1904, as "Diplomatic Adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs," this American gentleman has served the Government of Korea faithfully, wisely, and honestly.
Jang went to trial in July, 1908, and was 'found guilty of murder in the second degree' on Christmas Eve that year.
As this article relates, the need Koreans felt to collectively raise funds for Jang's defense (maybe because their meeting on March 21 gave Jang the opportunity to decide that Stevens needed to be killed?) led to the formation of the Korean National League (which Syngman Rhee tried to take over, but failed). (The tastefully chosen photos at that site could stand to be corrected; in this one, the Japanese were not going off to attack Koreans, but to fight Russia, as it was the opening day of the Russo-Japanese War). Another, much longer account of the effect of D.W. Stevens' appearance in San Francisco and of his murder and the trial can be found here, but I wouldn't go there looking for exact details, based on memory as it is. It also recounts the importance of this incidence in uniting Koreans throughout California and Hawaii together, and both accounts make it clear that it was considered a just act to kill Stevens. Perhaps that's why busts of his killers can be found at a local Korean People's Hall (Pic from here):
Stevens was a civilian who, though not of the same nationality as the invading army in Korea, whole-heartedly supported Japan and worked for the Japanese government on several occasions. This made him a justifiable target for 'assassination'. One has to wonder if Jang and Jeon might have said as they shot him, "This is what your hands have committed. You have not come here for the sake of Korea, but for cursed Japan."
One also has to wonder what to make of a Korean working for an American contractor in a country recently invaded by the U.S. military, where 660 Korean military medics and engineers had recently been sent with 3000 more troops to come. Would he be just as justifiable a target as D.W. Stevens? As the BBC reported, after Kim Sun-il's beheading,
One of the masked kidnappers read a statement addressed to the Korean people, saying: "This is what your hands have committed. Your army has not come here for the sake of Iraqis, but for cursed America."Obviously, there are differences; Kim Sun-il was held and his life used as leverage to try to force Korea to remove its troops from Iraq. Stevens was simply shot on the spot. If we use this as a definition of terrorism - any act "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act" - then Kim Sun-il's murder certainly had the 'purpose to compel a government' aspect covered. Stevens' murder, however, wanted to silence an American mouthpiece for the Japanese government, and as far as I know the Japanese never sent such person to the US again (though Ladd continued to write articles supporting them, most notably during the Samil uprising in 1919).
Another of the more famous 'candidates' for the terrorist label is Yun Bong-gil, who on April 29, 1932, threw a bomb at Japanese military and civilian delagates in Hongkew Park, Shanghai on the occasions of the Japanese Emperor’s birthday. Killing a general and an official, and wounding several others, including Shigemitsu Mamoru, Japanese Minister to China, who lost a leg. At the end of World War II, Shigemitsu was the foriegn minister, and came on board the USS Missouri to sign the instrument of surrender.
The reason he has a cane (and false leg) is due to Yun's bomb attack. I seem to remember a book I read somewhere describing this scene as an example of the effects of Korean resistance upon the outcome of the war.
I suppose some might argue that someone who kills in the name of an ideal might have a touch of madness. I couldn't see Yun's photo above without thinking of a more recent photo of a Korean man posing with weapons.
I'm sure both of them felt justified in killing the people they did, but whether they're judged a national hero or national shame depends on whether or not we agree with them.