[Footnote 1: Curiosity may be felt about my authority for many of the particulars supplied in this chapter. Accounts published by foreigners living at Seoul at the time are of use as giving current impressions, but are not wholly to be relied on for details. A very interesting official report, based on information supplied by the King, is to be found in the unpublished papers of Lieutenant George C. Foulk, U.S. Naval Attache at Seoul, which are stored in the New York Public Library. A valuable account from the Japanese point of view was found among the posthumous papers of Mr. Fukuzawa (in whose house several of the exiles lived for a time) and was published in part in the Japanese press in 1910. I learned the conspirators’ side directly from one of the leading actors in the drama.]
THE MURDER OF THE QUEEN
“We are not ready to fight China yet,” said the Japanese Foreign Minister to the impetuous young Korean. It was ten years later before Japan was ready, ten years of steady preparation, and during that time the real focus of the Far Eastern drama was not Tokyo nor Peking, but Seoul. Here the Chinese and Japanese outposts were in contact. Here Japan when she was ready created her cause of war.
China despised Japan, and did not think it necessary to make any real preparations to meet her. The great majority of European experts and of European and American residents in the Far East were convinced that if it came to an actual contest, Japan would stand no chance. She might score some initial victories, but in the end the greater weight, numbers and staying power of her monster opponent must overwhelm her.
The development of Korea proceeded slowly. It seemed as though there were some powerful force behind all the efforts of more enlightened Koreans to prevent effective reforms from being carried out The Japanese were, as was natural the most numerous settlers in the land, and their conduct did not win them the popular affection. Takezoi’s disastrous venture inflicted for a time a heavy blow on Japanese prestige. The Japanese dead lay unburied in the streets for the dogs to eat. China was momentarily supreme. “The whole mass of the people are violently pro-Chinese in their sentiments,” the American representative stated in a private despatch to his Government, “and so violently anti-Japanese that it is impossible to obtain other than a volume of execrations and vituperations against them when questioned,” A semi-official Japanese statement that their Minister and his troops had gone to the palace at the King’s request, to defend him, made the matter rather worse.