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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

To appoint and remove Korean officials


Once again, however, the futility of looking for any real reforms under this optional system was demonstrated. Japan sent her most renowned statesman, Prince Ito, to discharge the duties of resident-general; but even he, in spite of patience and tact, found that some less optional methods must be resorted to. Hence, on the 24th of July, 1907, a new agreement was signed, by which the resident-general acquired initiative as well as consultative competence to enact and enforce laws and ordinances; to appoint and remove Korean officials, and to place capable Japanese subjects in the ranks of the administration. That this constituted a heavy blow to Korea's independence could not be gainsaid. That it was inevitable seemed to be equally obvious. For there existed in Korea nearly all the worst abuses of medieval systems. The administration of justice depended solely on favour or interest. The police contributed by corruption and incompetence to the insecurity of life and property. The troops were a body of useless mercenaries. Offices being allotted by sale, thousands of incapables thronged the ranks of the executive. The Emperor's Court was crowded by diviners and plotters of all kinds, male and female. The finances of the Throne and those of the State were hopelessly confused. There was nothing like an organized judiciary. A witness was in many cases considered particeps criminis; torture was commonly employed to obtain evidence, and defendants in civil cases were placed under arrest. Imprisonment meant death or permanent disablement for a man of means. Flogging so severe as to cripple, if not to kill, was a common punishment; every major offence from robbery upwards was capital, and female criminals were frequently executed by administering shockingly painful poisons. The currency was in a state of the utmost confusion. Extreme corruption and extortion were practised in connexion with taxation. Finally, while nothing showed that the average Korean lacked the elementary virtue of patriotism, there had been repeated proofs that the safety and independence of the empire counted for little with political intriguers. Japan must step out of Korea altogether or effect drastic reforms there.

She necessarily chose the latter alternative, and the things which she accomplished between the beginning of 1906 and the close of 1908 may be briefly described as the elaboration of a proper system of taxation; the organization of a staff to administer annual budgets; the re-assessment of taxable property; the floating of public loans for productive enterprises; the reform of the currency; the establishment of banks of various kinds, including agricultural and commercial; the creation of associations for putting bank-notes into circulation; the introduction of a warehousing system to supply capital to farmers; the lighting and buoying of the coasts; the provision of posts, telegraphs, roads, and railways; the erection of public buildings; the starting of various industrial enterprises (such as printing, brick making, forestry and coal mining); the laying out of model farms; the beginning of cotton cultivation; the building and equipping of an industrial training school; the inauguration of sanitary works; the opening of hospitals and medical schools; the organization of an excellent educational system; the construction of waterworks in several towns; the complete remodelling of the Central Government; the differentiation of the Court and the executive, as well as of the administrative and the judiciary; the formation of an efficient body of police; the organization of law-courts with a majority of Japanese jurists on the bench; the enactment of a new penal code, and drastic reforms in the taxation system.


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