“…the Korean people have a hard time; but among the inscriptions in Chinese ideographs over the shops of Korean merchants in Seoul I observed and copied the following:
“The People Enjoy Peace and Pleasure,” “We are Successors to the Work of Shinno and Save the People,” “Heaven and Earth are Comprised in this Residence,” “The Spring Light is Clear and Beautiful,” “Thousands of Treasures Gather Together in the Morning,” “Ten Thousand Pounds of Pure Gold,” “Distribute Liberally and Save the Populace,” “The House of Happiness and Virtue,” “Benevolence, Righteousness, Courtesy, Wisdom, Fidelity, and Filial Obedience.” These inscriptions would certainly lead a newcomer to suppose that in Korea he had found at last a land of virtue, prosperity, and happiness; but the mental jolt that he would get when he came to investigate the palace would probably dislocate all his facilities and reduce him to a state of imbecility!
The activities and operations of the existing Korean Government may briefly be summed up as follows: It takes from the people, directly and indirectly, everything that they earn over and above a bare subsistence, and gives them in return practically nothing. It affords no adequate protection to life or property; it provides no educational facilities that deserve notice; it builds no roads; it does not improve its harbors; it does not light its coasts; it pays no attention whatever to street-cleaning or sanitation; it takes no measures to prevent or check epidemics; it does not attempt to foster trade or industry; it encourages the lowest forms of primitive superstition; and it corrupts and demoralizes its subjects by setting them examples of untruthfulness, dishonesty, treachery, cruelty, and a cynical brutality in dealing with human rights that is almost without parallel in modern times."
- George Kennan, describing Korea in a 1905 article entitled, "Korea: A Degenerate State."