▲ Korean women washing, circa 1905. Courtesy Robert Neff Collection
After obtaining a room at a Japanese inn, Anderson decided to take a walk around Jeju City. He wandered down the narrow lanes and was unimpressed by the small stone buildings that lined either side of the path. He contemptuously declared them, and by extension, the city, to be “unspeakably filthy.”
While the architecture of the city held no interest for him; he was fascinated by the Jeju islanders. Undoubtedly, Anderson was aware of, and probably read the accounts of the adventurers before him – specifically Charles Chaille-Long, William Franklin Sands and Siegfried Genthe. [You can find accounts of all these people in earlier issues of The Jeju Weekly — Ed.] Chaille-Long and Sands had described the women of Jeju island as “Amazons” due to their strong nature, but Anderson’s opinions of them is much softer. He described them as “being bolder than their sisters of the Korean Peninsula,” but still found them to be somewhat shy.
Usually, Korean women on the mainland, save those in cities with large numbers of Western visitors, tended to run and hide when they saw a foreigner. Anderson seems to have based his opinion on the actions of several women and young girls who he witnessed washing clothing in the streams and pools.
“They were startled at seeing a foreigner so near,” he explained, “and they kept their eyes cast down until I had passed, when they all stood up and looked at me.”
As for the male islanders, Anderson looked upon them with some suspicion, at least in the beginning. Wanting to get an early start in the morning, he went to the local police station – administered by the Japanese – and asked for some assistance in obtaining coolies (porters). The Japanese policeman assured Anderson that he controlled all of the Korean coolies in the area and that Anderson had nothing to worry about – that he, the policeman, would take care of all the arrangements.
Anderson soon discovered, like many early Westerners, that haggling over wages was often a tedious and trying affair.
“The next morning several porters assembled at the officer’s place, and I met them to arrange wages. In coming to an agreement with such people one needs to exercise great patience and good nature. They wanted double wages at first, but I stood out and offered a small wage, expecting to raise my sum about as much as they came down in heir demands, as is the custom in Asiatic bargaining. We had some trouble in bringing them to reason, till after nearly half an hour of haggling the officer became exasperated at the spokesman’s conduct, and struck the big fellow a resounding blow on the cheek. The coolie rubbed his face with his sleeve, and promptly agreed that they would go for a sum equal to about fifty cents per man. Even this was a pretty high wage for that country, but as the officer explained, they were all lazy fellows, who would rather loaf in squalor than work and keep decent.”
Korean men were often looked upon as being lazy and unmotivated. In 1891, one Western missionary in Fusan (modern Busan) declared that he was “thoroughly persuaded that [Koreans] can loaf with an insistency and abandon equaled by no people on the face of the earth.” He further complained that the Koreans seemed “to make a business of representing abstract-vacuity in the concrete.”
The Jeju males were said to be even worse. Before the day was over Anderson would swear that “unlike their brothers of the peninsula, [the islanders were] not much used to carrying burdens.”
But there were reasons for this. If a Korean managed to save some money he often lost it to the nobility’s “squeeze” – extortion by way of illegal taxes. There was no incentive to work hard.
Anderson’s claim that he paid each man a rather high wage is true. Wages for coolies at this time was roughly 20 cents a day and Anderson only utilized their services for a single day.
The display of violence by the Japanese policeman may have caused Anderson some duress. As a boy, he and his brother, attended school in Germany. According to his biographer, “he and his brother found their survival among their German companions to depend in a degree upon force of arms and fists.” Anderson was not fond of Germans or militants and considered them bullies and yet this distaste for the abuse of the weak did not seem to apply to the Koreans.
Westerners in the 19th and early 20th centuries held the misperception that Koreans, as well as most Asians, only understood force, so violence was acceptable in order to get a task completed. The Japanese adhered to this belief.
They had a very bad reputation for mercilessly beating their Korean employees despite the fact that the Koreans were often much bigger and stronger than their employers. Only on the rare occasion did the Koreans strike back, but when he did so, there were usually fatalities.
Once the coolie issue was solved the expedition set out at about nine in the morning. Throughout the day they hiked through the countryside – first through farmlands with the occasional small stone and thatch cottage that Anderson caustically portrayed as “hovels of two or three rooms, with a cowshed and a chicken-coop, and most important to the Quelpartan, a pig-sty in close proximity.”
They then passed through the extensive pastures in which the islanders raised cattle and ponies before they finally arrived at their destination – the edge of the forest that surrounded Mt. Halla.
Pitching their tent not too far away from a small number of Korean huts, Anderson and his companions dismissed their Korean porters, and prepared for the evening.
The next day, and, in fact, the next several weeks, would be very trying.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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