ICAS Historical Document

No. 1885-0619-SFC

Corean Refugees

The San Francisco Chronicle
June 19, 1885

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

965 Clover Court, Blue Bell, PA 19422

Email: icas@icasinc.org

[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge this contribution to ICAS of this article from the San Francisco Chronicle of June 19, 1885. While the age of the document exceeds the statute for copyright, the Permissions Department of the San Francisco Chronicle -- in the person of Phyllis Kittleson -- has confirmed their permission to copy and reprint of the article.

The 115 year-old news article is hard to read when scanned into this electronic format. However, the flavor of the original does add to the immediacy -- as well as accuracy -- of the piece, and so is reprinted below in its entirety. Immediately below that is a transcription of the same text in standard font and format. sjk]

[ San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, June 19, 1885, Page 3 ]


Exiles From the Hermit


San Francisco as the Asylum for
Three Leaders of the

There are living in strict seclusion in this city three Coreans of high rank, who have within the past year passed through an exciting period, which, in all probability will leave an impress on their lives that will never be effaced. Their names are Pak Yong Hio, Soh Kwang or Jo Kohan Pom and Soh or Jo Jai Phil. Their experience is one that has been uncomfortably common of late in the "Land of the Morning Calm." A brief review of the salient facts in the last Corean "rebellion" will be the best means of properly presenting the three political refugees. Corea is called an independent kingdom, but it really occupies the position of the ground grain between the upper millstone of Japan and the nether millstone of China. As if the grinding of these two outside nations was not enough, Corea has also of late been rent by internal dissensions. She has by turns been dominated by the Exclusionist and Progressionist parties the first made up of those who wish Corea to remain the hermit nation, which she has been for so many years; the second party being composed of the younger and more liberal Coreans, who wish to see their country adopt the new and better things of modern civilization. The Chinese, both covertly and openly favor the Exclusionists, while the Japanese support the Progressionists, and are rivals in consequence.


The King, who, however, appears to have been little more than a figure head, was, for a Corean, of a liberal turn of mind. At any rate the King's ministry, headed by Kieu Ok Kun or Kin Glokukin or Kin Yok Kin he is called indifferently by any of these names was largely made up of Progressionists. Forming part of the Cabinet were the three refugees spoken of, Pak Yong Hio, Soh Kwang Pom and Soh Jai Phil. Dressed in ordinary Anglo-Japanese costume, undersized and with beardless faces, the three Coreans offer nothing either in features or in form to attract attention, and yet they are among the best specimens of young, progressive Corea. Belonging to the highest rank and accustomed to the luxuries of the Orient, they are now the occupants of lowly quarters in a strange city of the West. Once wealthy and powerful, they are now poor and weak; are almost without means and are nearly without friends. They accept these changes however, without complaint, and consider themselves less the slaves of adverse fortune than the martyrs to a cause. They are entirely ignorant of the English language but are skilled in that of Japan; and from the interpretations and information of a friendly Japanese or two, the following information has been secured.


Pak Yong Hio is not yet 30 years old. He is a prince of the highest rank and is a nephew of the present King, having married a daughter of his Majesty's brother, who was his predecessor. In 1881 he was sent as Corean Embassador to Japan and there became so imbued with the advancement of that country that he determined to affect whatever changes he could in the fashions and institutions of his own. Joining himself with the Progressionists he started out as a reformer. He first attempted some radical changes in the laws and next tries his hand at shaping the army after the European models. When the Kin Yok Kin Ministry was formed these talents were recognized and he was made commander of the North and South army.

Soh Kwang Pom, a strong personal friend of Pak Yong Hio, is aged 27 years. He was made Secretary of the Corean Embassy to Japan in 1882, and afterwards occupied a similar position to the Embassy sent to the United States in 1883. Returning home he was made the King's Chamberlain and second Vice-Minister of State. In the new Cabinet he was given the portfolio of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and made commander of the army of the East and West.

Soh Jai Phil is the youngest of the three, being as yet under 25 years of age. He graduated from the Tokio Military College and was made a Colonel of the Corean army. By the influence of his friends he was appointed vice-commander of the North and South army.


The new Cabinet at once commenced the work of progress, and at once encountered the strongest opposition from the exclusionists. The chief of these was Ta-on Kun, the uncle of the King. With all the trickery of the Oriental, he plotted and caballed against KinYok Kin. The King was led to believe that his life was in danger, and on December 4, 1884, asked the Japanese Minister for protection, at the same time changing his residence to the fortified castle or palace at Seoul. The Japanese Minister, nothing loath, responded to the appeal by sending 150 troops to garrison the palace. This was exactly what the wily Ta-on Kun was waiting for, and raising the cry that the Japanese intended to run the Government, the sparks of rebellion were fanned into a destroying flame. Aided by the Chinese soldiery and influence, the Exclusionists attacked the palace and after a ten-days' investment captured it and those it contained. The King was taken in charge he was virtually made prisoner and those Progressionists who were found were hacked to pieces. Kin Yok Kin fled to Japan and is still, it is believed, living in retirement in Yokohama. The three officials who are more particularly the subject of this article also escaped to Japan, and thence came to San Francisco by the last Chinese steamer. The "rebellion," so far as Corea's relations with her neighbors were concerned, left her in a pitiful condition. Japan and China both sent an army and fleet to the peninsula as soon as the trouble was over, but no clash occurred and the armaments returned home. On the one hand the King apologized to Japan and paid her an indemnity for those subjects of the Mikado who had been killed in the emeute. On the other hand, Tai-on Kun was removed to China, but Chinese influence remained for the time supreme.


A new Ministry was formed, but one decidedly hostile to the Progressionists, and on the work of paying off old scores it embarked with semi-barbaric thoroughness. The extradition of Kin Yok Kin was demanded of Japan, but up to the latest information received by the Coreans this had been refused. Angered at this refusal, the Exclusionist Ministry hanged the father, mother, wife and children of Kin Yok Kin outside the south gate of Seoul on February 2d. The next day all the relatives that could be seized of the exiles now in San Francisco were either hanged or beheaded. Sixty-seven young Liberals had been thrown into prison on the reversal of the Ministry, and of these eleven were beheaded in those dark February days, with the strong probability of the remaining fifty-six captives being treated in a similar way. Pak Yong Hee, Soh Kwang Pom and Soh Jai Phil do not intend to be idle while here. Their prime movement will be to learn the English language. At first they thought of applying for entrance into the university at Berkeley, but they have about come to the conclusion that they had better begin at lower rung of the educational ladder. Moreover, there are pecuniary difficulties in the way, and the deposed noble and his friends are in a position that, while not exactly one of want, is one that calls for the assistance of some good friends of progress.


[ The scan of the original was made from a copy of the print of a microfilm image of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper page in the archives of the San Francisco Public Library. The scan and transcription of the scan were made by Jerry Boucher on July 12, 2000. ]

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