The Secretary of that Commission is the Rev. Sydney Gulick, the most active defender of Japanese interests of any European or American to-day. Mr. Gulick lived a long time in Japan; he sees things, inevitably, from a Japanese point of view. He at once acted as though he were resolved to keep the matter from the public gaze. This was the course recommended by the Japanese Consul-General Yada at New York. Private pressure was brought on the Japanese authorities, and the preparation of a report was begun in very leisurely fashion.
Every influence that Mr. Gulick possessed was exercised to prevent premature publicity. The report of the Federal Council was not issued until between four and five months after the atrocities began. A Presbyterian organization, The New Era Movement, issued a stinging report on its own account, a few days before. The report of the Federated Council was preceded by a cablegram from Mr. Hara, the Japanese Premier, declaring that the report of abuses committed by agents of the Japanese Government in Korea had been engaging his most serious attention. "I am fully prepared to look squarely at actual facts."
The report itself, apart from a brief, strongly pro-Japanese introduction, consisted of a series of statements by missionaries and others in Korea, and was as outspoken and frank as any one could desire. The only regret was that it had not been issued immediately. Here was a situation that called for the pressure of world public opinion. In keeping this back as long as possible Mr. Gulick, I am convinced, did the cause of Korean Christianity a grave injury, and helped to prevent earlier redress being obtained.
"No neutrality for brutality" was the motto adopted by many of the missionaries of Korea. It is a good one for the Churches as a whole. There are times when the open expression of a little honest indignation is better than all the "ecclesiastical statesmanship" that can be employed.
In Japan itself, every effort was made by the authorities to keep back details of what was happening. Mr. Hara, the Progressive Premier, was in none too strong a position. The military party, and the forces of reaction typified by Prince Yamagata, had too much power for him to do as much as he himself perhaps would. He consented to the adoption of still more drastic methods in April, and while redress was promised in certain particular instances, as in the Suigen outrage, there was no desire displayed to meet the situation fully. Taxed in Parliament, he tried to wriggle out of admissions that anything was wrong.
The attitude of the people of Japan at first was frankly disappointing to those who hoped that the anti-militarist party there would really act. One American-Japanese paper, the Japan Advertiser, sent a special correspondent to Korea and his reports were of the utmost value. The Japan Chronicle, the English owned paper at Kobe, was equally outspoken. The Japanese press as a whole had very little to say; it had been officially "requested" not to say anything about Korea.
The Japanese Constitutional Party sent Mr. Konosuke Morya to investigate the situation on the spot. He issued a report declaring that the disturbances were due to the discriminatory treatment of Koreans, complicated and impracticable administrative measures, extreme censorship of public speeches, forcible adoption of the assimilation system, and the spread of the spirit of self-determination. Of the assimilation system he said, "It is a great mistake of colonial policy to attempt to enforce upon the Koreans, with a 2,000-year history, the same spiritual and mental training as the Japanese people."
By this time the Japanese Churches were beginning to stir. The Federation of Churches in Japan sent Dr. Ishizaka, Secretary of the Mission Board of the Japan Methodist Church, to enquire. Dr. Ishizaka's findings were published in the Gokyo. I am indebted for a summary of them to an article by Mr. R.S. Spencer, in the Christian Advocate of New York:
"Dr. Ishizaka first showed, on the authority of officials, missionaries and others, that the missionaries could in no just way be looked upon as the cause of the disturbances. Many Koreans and most of the missionaries had looked hopefully to Japanese control as offering a cure for many ills of the old regime, but in the ten years of occupation feeling had undergone a complete revulsion and practically all were against the Japanese governing system. The reasons he then sketches as follows: (1) The much-vaunted educational system established by the Governor-General makes it practically impossible for a Korean to go higher than the middle schools (roughly equivalent to an American high school) or a technical school. Even when educated Koreans were universally discriminated against. In the same office, at the same work, Koreans receive less pay than Japanese. (The quotations are from the translation of the Japan Advertiser.) 'A Korean student in Aoyama Gakuin, who stayed at Bishop Honda's home, became the head officer of the Taikyu district office. That was before the annexation.... That officer is not in Taikyu now. He is serving in some petty office in the country. The Noko Bank, in Keijo (Seoul) is the only place where the Japanese and Koreans are treated equally, but there, also, the equality is only an outward form.' (2) The depredations of the Oriental Improvement Co., the protege of the government, resulted in the eviction of hundreds of Korean farmers, who fled to Manchuria and Siberia, many dying miserably. The wonderful roads are mentioned, it being shown that they are built and cared for by forced labour of the Koreans. That most galling and obnoxious of all bureaucratic methods, carried to the nth power in Japan—the making out of endless reports and forms—has created dissatisfaction. Dr. Ishizaka relates how an underling official required a Korean of education to rewrite a notice of change of residence six times because he omitted a dot in one of those atrocious Chinese characters, which are a hobble on the development of Japan. This last opinion is mine, not the doctor's. (3) The gendarmerie, or military police system, is mentioned, 13,000 strong, of whom about 8,000 are renegade Koreans. Admittedly a rough lot, these men are endowed with absolute power of search, personal or domiciliary, detention, arrest (and judging from the reports, I would say torture) without warrant. Bribery is, of course, rampant among them. (4) Associated closely with the police system, indeed controlling it and the civil administration and everything else, is the military government. The Governor-General must be a military officer. Dr. Ishizaka says: 'Militarism means tyranny; it never acts in open daylight, but seeks to cover up its intentions. The teachers in primary schools and even in girls' schools, that is, the men teachers, wear swords.' (5) Lastly, Dr. Ishizaka speaks of the method, which we can easily recognize as to source, of trying to 'assimilate' the Koreans by prohibiting the language, discarding Korean history from the schools, repressing customs, etc.
"In conclusion Dr. Ishizaka points out that not alone must these errors be righted, but that the only hope lies in the assumption on the part of Japanese, public and private, of an attitude of Christian brotherhood towards the Koreans. He announces a campaign to raise money among Japanese Christians for the benefit of Koreans and their churches."
The Japanese Government at last came to see that something must be done. Count Hasegawa, the Governor-General and Mr. Yamagata, Director-General of Administration, were recalled and Admiral Baron Saito and Mr. Midzuno were appointed to succeed them. Numerous other changes in personnel were also made. An Imperial Rescript was issued late in August announcing that the Government of Korea was to be reformed, and Mr. Hara in a statement issued at the same time announced that the gendarmerie were to be replaced by a force of police, under the control of the local governors, except in districts where conditions make their immediate elimination advisable, and that "It is the ultimate purpose of the Japanese Government in due course to treat Korea as in all respects on the same footing as Japan." Admiral Saito, in interviews, promised the inauguration of a liberal regime on the Peninsula.
The change unfortunately does not touch the fundamental needs of the situation. No doubt there will be an attempt to lessen some abuses. This there could not fail to be, if Japan is to hold its place longer among the civilized Powers. But Mr. Hara's explanation of the new program showed that the policy of assimilation is to be maintained, and with it, the policy of exploitation can hardly fail to be joined.
These two things spell renewed failure.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
"What do you want us to do?" men ask me. "Do you seriously suggest that America or Great Britain should risk a breach of good relations or even a war with Japan to help Korea? If not, what is the use of saying anything? You only make the Japanese harden their hearts still more."
What can we do? Everything!
I appeal first to the Christian Churches of the United States, Canada and Britain. I have seen what your representatives, more particularly the agents of the American and Canadian Churches, have accomplished in Korea itself. They have built wisely and well, and have launched the most hopeful and flourishing Christian movement in Asia. Their converts have established congregations that are themselves missionary churches, sending out and supporting their own teachers and preachers to China. A great light has been lit in Asia. Shall it be extinguished? For, make no mistake, the work is threatened with destruction. Many of the church buildings have been burned; many of the native leaders have been tortured and imprisoned; many of their followers, men, women and children, have been flogged, or clubbed, or shot.
You, the Christians of the United States and of Canada, are largely responsible for these people. The teachers you sent and supported taught them the faith that led them to hunger for freedom. They taught them the dignity of their bodies and awakened their minds. They brought them a Book whose commands made them object to worship the picture of Emperor—even of Japanese Emperor—made them righteously angry when they were ordered to put part of their Christian homes apart for the diseased outcasts of the Yoshiwara to conduct their foul business, made them resent having the trade of the opium seller or the morphia agent introduced among them.
Your teaching has brought them floggings, tortures unspeakable, death. I do not mourn for them, for they have found something to which the blows of the lashed twin bamboos and the sizzling of the hot iron as it sears their flesh are small indeed. But I would mourn for you, if you were willing to leave them unhelped, to shut your ears to their calls, to deny them your practical sympathy.
What can we do? you ask. You can exercise the powers that democratic government has given you to translate your indignation into action. You can hold public meetings, towns meetings and church meetings, and declare, formally and with all the weight of your communities behind you, where you stand in this matter. You can make your sentiments known to your own Government and to the Imperial Japanese Government.
Then you can extend practical support to the victims of this outbreak of cruelty. There could be no more effective rebuke than for the Churches of the English-speaking nations to say to their fellow Christians of Korea, "We are standing by you. We cannot share your bodily sufferings, but we will try to show our sympathy in other ways. We will rebuild some of your churches that have been burned down; we will support the widows or orphans of Christians who have been unjustly slain, or will help to support the families of those now imprisoned for their faith and for freedom. We will show, by deeds, not words, that Christian brotherhood is a reality and not a sham."
In doing so, you will supply an example that will not be forgotten so long as Asia endures. Men say—and say rightly—that Korea is the key-land of Northeastern Asia, so far as domination of that part of the lands of the Pacific is concerned. Korea is still more the key-land of Asia for Western civilization and Christian ideals. Let Christianity be throttled here, and it will have received a set-back in Asia from which it will take generations to recover.
"The Koreans are a degenerate people, not fit for self-government," says the man whose mind has been poisoned by subtle Japanese propaganda. Korea has only been a very few years in contact with Western civilization, but it has already indicated that this charge is a lie. Its old Government was corrupt, and deserved to fall. But its people, wherever they have had a chance, have demonstrated their capacity. In Manchuria hundreds of thousands of them, mostly fled from Japanese oppression, are industrious and prosperous farmers. In the Hawaiian Islands, there are five thousand Koreans, mainly labourers, and their families, working on the sugar plantations. They have built twenty-eight schools for their children, and raise among themselves $20 a head a year for the education of their children; they have sixteen churches; they bought $80,000 worth of Liberty bonds during the war, and subscribed liberally to the Red Cross. Some of these Hawaiian Koreans—210 in all—volunteered to serve in the war. A large number of Manchurian Koreans—their total has been placed as high as thirty thousand—joined the Russian forces, fought under General Lin, and later, in conjunction with the Czecho-Slovak prisoners, fought the rearmed German prisoners and the Bolsheviks.
In America the Koreans who were fortunate enough to escape have brought the culture of rice into California, and are a prosperous community there. Young Koreans have won prominent place in American colleges and in American business. One big business in Philadelphia was created and is conducted by a Korean. Give these people a chance, and they soon show what they can do.
A word with the statesmen.
Japan is a young country, so far as Western civilization is concerned. She is the youngest of the Great Powers. She desires the good will of the world, and is willing to do much to win it. Be frank with her. You owe it to her to deal faithfully with her.
When you ask me if I would risk a war over Korea, I answer this: Firm action to-day might provoke conflict, but the risk is very small. Act weakly now, however, and you make a great war in the Far East almost certain within a generation. The main burden of the Western nations in such a war will be borne by America.
To the Japanese themselves, I venture to repeat words that I wrote over eleven years ago. They are even more true now than when they were written:
"The future of Japan, the future of the East, and, to some extent, the future of the world, lies in the answer to the question whether the militarists or the party of peaceful expansion gain the upper hand in the immediate future (in Japan). If the one, then we shall have harsher rule in Korea, steadily increasing aggression in Manchuria, growing interference with China, and, in the end, a titanic conflict, the end of which none can see. Under the other, Japan will enter into an inheritance, wider, more glorious and more assured than any Asiatic Power has attained for many centuries.... Japan has it in her to be, not the Mistress of the East, reigning, sword in hand, over subject races—for that she can never permanently be—but the bringer of peace to, and the teacher of, the East. Will she choose the nobler end?"