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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Destroyed her legation in Seoul


exercise independence in practice, however, was not permitted to Korea. A Chinese resident was stationed in Seoul, the Korean capital, and he quickly became an imperium in imperio. Thenceforth Japan, in all her dealings with the Peninsular Kingdom, found the latter behaving as a Chinese dependency, obeying the Chinese resident in everything. Again and again, Japanese patience was tried by these anomalous conditions, and although nothing occurred of sufficient magnitude to warrant official protest, the Tokyo Government became sensible of perpetual rebuffs and humiliating interferences at China's hands. Korea herself suffered seriously from this state of national irresponsibility. There was no security of life and property, or any effective desire to develop the country's resources. If the victims of oppression appealed to force, China readily lent military assistance to suppress them, and thus the royal family of Korea learned to regard its tenure of power as dependent on ability to conciliate China.

On Japan's side, also, the Korean question caused much anxiety. It was impossible for the Tokyo statesmen to ignore the fact that their country's safety depended largely on preserving Korea from the grasp of a Western power. They saw plainly that such a result might at any moment be expected if Korea was suffered to drift into a state of administrative incompetence. Once, in 1882, and again, in 1884, when Chinese soldiers were employed to suppress

reform movements which would have impaired the interests of the Korean monarch, the latter's people, counting Japan to be the source of progressive tendencies in the East, destroyed her legation in Seoul, driving its inmates out of the city. Japan was not yet prepared to assert herself forcibly in redress of such outrages, but in the ensuing negotiations she acquired titles that "touched the core of China's alleged Suzerainty." Thus, in 1882, Japan obtained recognition of her right to protect her legation with troops; and, in 1885, a convention, signed at Tientsin, pledged each of the contracting parties not to send a military force to Korea without notifying the other.

In spite of these agreements China's arbitrary and unfriendly interference in Korean affairs continued to be demonstrated to Japan. Efforts to obtain redress proved futile, and even provoked threats of Chinese armed intervention. Finally, in the spring of 1894, an insurrection of some magnitude broke out in Korea, and in response to an appeal from the Royal family, China sent twenty-five hundred troops, who went into camp at Asan, on the southwest coast of the peninsula. Notice was duly given to the Tokyo Government, which now decided that Japan's vital interests as well as the cause of civilization in the East required that an end must be put to Korea's dangerous misrule and to China's arbitrary interference. Japan did not claim for herself anything that she was not willing to accord to China. But the Tokyo statesmen were sensible that to ask their conservative neighbour to promote in the Peninsular Kingdom a progressive programme which she had always steadily rejected and despised in her own case, must prove a chimerical attempt, if ordinary diplomatic methods alone were used. Accordingly, on receipt of Peking's notice as to the sending of troops to the peninsula, Japan gave corresponding notice on her own part, and thus July, 1894, saw a Chinese force encamped at Asan and a Japanese force in the vicinity of Seoul.

In having recourse to military aid, China's nominal purpose was to quell the Tonghak insurrection, and Japan's motive was to obtain a position such as would strengthen her demand for drastic treatment of Korea's malady. In giving notice of the despatch of troops, China described Korea as her "tributary State," thus emphasizing a contention which at once created an impossible situation. During nearly twenty years Japan had treated Korea as her own equal, in accordance with the terms of the treaty of 1876, and she could not now agree that the Peninsular Kingdom should be officially classed as a tributary of China. Her protests, however, were contemptuously ignored, and Chinese statesmen continued to apply the offensive appellation to Korea, while at the same time they asserted the right of limiting the number of troops sent by Japan to the peninsula as well as the manner of their employment.

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