While I knew that he had been sent to Korea from Japan to cover the Russo Japanese War (like these journalists) and had been let go because Japanese control of information in Korea made their international press releases more informative than reports from most journalists in the field, I hadn't known this:
Bethell insisted that he was dismissed for another reason. "My instructions from the Chronicle were that the policy of the paper was pro-Japanese and I was told that my correspondence would have to fit in with that policy.''Bethell stayed on in Korea and went on to found the Korea Daily News and the Daehan Maeil Sinbo. I hadn't realized it was initially called the Korea Times, nor had I realized that Bethell had been sent to Korea with fellow Englishman Thomas Cowen, who started the paper with him and eventually betrayed him:
Unknown to Bethell, Cowen was pro-Japanese and informed the Japanese authorities that they were getting ready "to start a paper here (in Seoul) called the Korea Times, with a lot of support from the Korean Court, the policy to be Korea for the Koreans and the anti-Japanese.''It's also noted that " Emperor Gojong helped finance Bethell through Antoinette Sontag, the proprietress of the Sontag Hotel -- the headquarters for the pro-Russian party in Seoul." I also found this interesting:
Shortly after the inauguration of the Korea Times and the Daehan Maeil Sinbo on July 18, 1904, Cowen quit and returned to Japan. It was at this point that Bethell changed its name to the Korea Daily News.
Bethell was also attacked by Japanese-owned Korean newspapers. One paper claimed that it was a "great folly'' for Koreans to trust the Korea Daily News and those who did were likened to "Chinese opium-smokers." It asked its readers if it was "wise for Korean people to give their confidence to men of another race'' and insisted that Koreans should "trust men of their own color.''As is well known, Bethell was able to print such critical articles about the Japanese because his British nationality prevented the Japanese (or Koreans, really) from prosecuting him due to Britain's extraterritoriality agreement with the Korean government. He was hounded in various ways until the Japanese pressed the British government to censure him, and after a first trial he handed over control of the paper to his assistant editor Arthur Marnham. A second trial saw him sent to a British prison in Shanghai for three weeks. He died soon after his return due to his heavy drinking (though the stress he had been put under no likely played a part in his early death - he was not yet 40). His papers would not long outlast him.
It was Bethell's wish for his newspapers to continue printing but shortly after his death, Marnham suspended production of the Korea Daily News; only the Daehan Maeil Sinbo was printed under the supervision of Yang Ki-taik, the Korean editor.It was in the Daehan Maeil Sinbo that Shin Chae-ho published his influential essay, "A New Reading of History" in 1908 (discussed briefly here); Shin was in fact editor-in-chief and a regular contributor to the paper. As for Yang Ki-tak, he ended up becoming a target of the Japanese - twice - which led one British diplomat to stand up to the Japanese, but I'll save that story for another time. What I really found interesting was this:
Marnham, unwilling or unable to endure the threat of Japanese persecution and encouraged to do so by the British consul-general in Seoul, sold the newspaper to the Japanese government for about 7,000 yen.This is quite interesting, as Yi Kwangsu's Mujeong (the first modern Korean novel) was serialized in the Maeil Sinbo in 1917, and it was in the Maeil Sinbo in the 1940s (after other Korean papers had been closed down) that he would write many of his pro-Japanese articles. Worth noting is that you can actually read most (all?) of the Maeil Sinbo here, at the Korean Internet News Database (KINDS). To see the full selection of papers available (in pdf form) look here. Among the papers you can find are the turn of the century papers Daehan Maeil Sinbo, Hwangseong Shinmun, Dongnip Shinmun, and the English-language version of the Dongnip Shinmun, The Independent. I think it's great that this material is now freely available online. Started as it was by Seo Jae-pil (Philip Jaisohn), the first naturalized Korean-American, I imagine he wrote the editorial which appeared in the first issue. Speaking of the outrages caused by the Righteous Armies which formed in the wake of the murder of Queen Min, at one point it reads,
The sale of the newspaper was kept relatively secret until after Japan's annexation of Korea when the paper's name was changed to the Maeil Sinbo on Aug. 30, 1910.
The paper that had once defied the Japanese government's steps to colonize Korea was now nothing more than a propaganda tool for the very government it had opposed.
We are told that some foreigners have been killed by these rebellious bands and that some of Our people have been killed by foreigners, all of which shocks and pains us. As We have opened up intercourse with the world, We consider that we are all brothers, whether foreign or native born. For brothers to hate and kill one another is an offense to Heaven and will bring its punishment. Our messengers tell us that the governors and magistrates have received Our orders to protect the people regardless of nativity.Compare this to what the Japanese said later about Bethell, asking if it was "wise for Korean people to give their confidence to men of another race,'' insisting that Koreans should "trust men of their own color," describing his foreign physical attributes as an "Englishman, with deep-set eyes and white nose, with white face and yellow hair'' and accusing him of "taking advantage of the ignorance of the Koreans.'' Luckily, after liberation, Koreans put a stop to such negative media portrayals of foreigners and harping on their different physical characteristics. Right?
Ye people, cast away all savage customs and become peaceful and obedient children. Cast aside the doubts and suspicions which you entertain against foreigners.
Just for fun, it's worth pointing out that after the Japanese turned the anti-Japanese Daehan Maeil Sinbo into their mouthpiece as the Maeil Sinbo, it became the Seoul Shinmun after liberation, which now publishes things like this.
While it's nice that cut flowers are often left at Bethell's grave at the Seoul foreign cemetery, one wonders how someone in a similar position, looking critically at what goes on in Korea, would be treated today.