CHAPTER ELEVEN Corea, 1885

THE equilibrium effected in Corea by the treaties of 1884- was only a temporary lull in the conflict of foreign rivalries. While English merchants tried what could be made out of Corean commerce, China was backing the inertia of the Conservatives at Seoul, Japan intrigued on the side of the soi-disant "Progressives" and Russia watched for an opening. Already in November 1882 Admiral Enomotto expressed strong dislike of China's Corean policy and prophesied that it would one day produce war. Li, at a dinner at Tientsin, invited officials of all foreign nations except Japan.1 These portents were ominous. Meanwhile the hoped-for rejuvenation of the country was further off than ever.2 Aston in the middle of November 1884 drew a gloomy picture of prevailing conditions. Political circles at the capital were uneasy. The Treasury was empty. Only a third of the taxes raised was reaching the Government. The crops had failed. The currency was depraved. There was no force capable of repressing disaffection. The pay of the militia was in arrears. The functions of the Council were being usurped by powerful families. Some Coreans sounded Aston as to whether England would lend support to a movement of reform by violence. Aston gave "a decided negative'.3 To other foreign interests, the suggestion was not so unwelcome.

On the night of 4 December occurred the celebrated Banquet given by the newly appointed Post-Master General, Kong Yong Sik; when six Councillors were assaulted by members of Kim Ok Kun's "Progressive" faction and hacked to death

____________________
1
Grosvenor 142 conf., 24.11.82, 17. 900.
2
Parkes, Corea 38, 12.12.84, 17. 953.
3
Aston 46 conf., 15.11.84, with above.

-160-

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