Police—Detectives—The plank-walk—The square board—The wooden blocks for hands and feet—Floggings—The bamboo rod—The stick—The flexible board—A flogging in Seoul—One hundred strokes for three-halfpence —Wounds produced—Tender-hearted soldiers—Imprisonment—Exile—Status of women, children and bachelors—Guilds and the law—Nobles and the law—Serfdom—A mild form of slavery.
Should you happen to be one of the tender-hearted sort, please pass this chapter and the next over, and I shall not bear you any malice. My present object is to describe some of the punishments inflicted on criminals, and, though they are, as a whole, quaint and original, I cannot say that they are pleasing, either to see or to read about.
First of all, you may not be aware that there is in Seoul a sharp and well-regulated body of police, always ready to pounce on outlaws of any kind; and that there is hardly a crime committed, the delinquent in which fails to be immediately collared. These guardians of the peace do not wear any particular uniform, but are dressed just like the merchant classes; and thus it is that, unknown, they can mix with people of all sorts, and frequently discover crimes of which they would otherwise probably never hear. Instead of being mere policemen, they rather do the work of detectives and policemen combined; for, by ably disguising themselves, they try to get on familiar terms with people about whom they are suspicious; and in many a case, after having become a bosom-friend of one of these officials and acknowledged and confessed his evil deeds to him, the culprit finds himself arrested and very likely beheaded.
In speaking of their mode of arrest, I purposely used the word “collared”; for no better term can express the action of the Corean policeman. The man is taken before the magistrate soon after his arrest, and should he offer resistance he is dragged before him by his top-knot or his pig-tail, according respectively as he is a married man or a bachelor. If he is strong and restive, a rope with a sliding knot is passed round his neck, after his hands have been firmly tied behind his back. After his interview with the magistrate at the yamen, if he be found guilty, he is generally treated with very great severity.