Then came a bolt from the blue. The Russian Minister at Seoul at this time, M. Waeber, was a man of very fine type, and he was backed by a wife as gifted and benevolent as himself. He had done his best to keep in touch with and help the King. Now a further move was made. The Russian Legation guard was increased to 160 men, and almost immediately afterwards it was announced that the King had escaped from his jailers at the palace, and had taken refuge with the Russians. A little before seven in the morning the King and Crown Prince left the palace secretly, in closed chairs, such as women use. Their escape was carefully planned. For more than a week before, the ladies of the palace had caused a number of chairs to go in and out by the several gates in order to familiarize the guards with the idea that they were paying many visits. So when, early in the morning, two women’s chairs were carried out by the attendants, the guards took no special notice. The King and his son arrived at the Russian Legation very much agitated and trembling. They were expected, and were at once admitted. As it is the custom in Korea for the King to work at night and sleep in the morning, the members of the Cabinet did not discover his escape for some hours, until news was brought to them from outside that he was safe under the guardianship of his new friends.
Excitement at once spread through the city. Great crowds assembled, some armed with sticks, some with stones, some with any weapons they could lay hands on. A number of old Court dignitaries hurried to the Legation, and within an hour or two a fresh Cabinet was constituted, and the old one deposed.
The heads of the Consulates and Legations called and paid their respects to the King, the Japanese Minister being the last to do so. For him this move meant utter defeat. Later in the day, a proclamation was spread broadcast, calling on the soldiers to protect their King, to cut off the heads of the chief traitors and bring them to him. This gave final edge to the temper of the mob. Two Ministers were dragged into the street and slaughtered. Another Minister was murdered at his home. In one respect the upheaval brought peace. The people in the country districts had been on the point of rising against the Japanese, who were reported to be universally hated as oppressors. With their King in power again, they settled down peaceably.
THE INDEPENDENCE CLUB
It was a double blow to Japan that the check to her plans should have been inflicted by Russia, for she now regarded Russia as the next enemy to be overthrown, and was already secretly preparing against her. Russia had succeeded in humiliating Japan by inducing France and Germany to cooperate in a demand that she should evacuate the Liaotung Peninsula, ceded to her, under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, by China. Forced to obey, Japan entered on another nine years of preparation, to enable her to cross swords with the Colossus of the North.