▲ Young Korean boys. Photo from “Yi Dynasty Through Pictures," published by Somundang.
In September 1878, the British schooner Barbara Taylor was wrecked off Jeju Island. In October, the ship’s captain, John Taylor, Mr. Paul (the British representative at Nagasaki), Frederick Ringer (the ship’s agent) and Italian hotelier Nicolas C. Mancini joined Capt. Bergh aboard the Norwegian steamer Hakon Adelsten and returned to Jeju.
While the salvage operations were going on ashore, diplomatic efforts were being made aboard the Hakon Adelsten. Paul had invited the Korean official to visit the ship and, with three young women attendants and a large number of men, he deigned to do so.
There were some initial difficulties. The roughness of the sea made the short voyage from the shore to the ship rather unpleasant for the Koreans. Once aboard, the Korean official insisted on presenting Paul and Bergh with two bottles of Korean alcohol and a couple of dozen hams as gifts. Paul promptly refused them. He asserted that because his gifts to the Korean official the previous day had not been accepted that he was honor bound not accept to accept these. The Korean official, however, explained that if Paul did not accept his gifts then the official would later be severely punished by his government. Reluctantly Paul accepted them.
The Koreans were then given a tour of the ship and were quite impressed, especially with the steam whistle. The Westerners were also quite impressed with the Koreans, especially the three young women. Few Westerners had ever seen Korean women, and those who had been seen were usually elderly with coarse features and not pleasant to gaze upon. These young women, however, with their flowing white clothing, long braided hair, and soft smooth skin were extremely pleasing to the eyes of the hardened sailors.
Soon refreshments were handed out which were well received by the Koreans - especially the gin “which they drank without water, by the half tumbler, and without even winking, calling out ‘chiotah, chiotah’ [the Korean word for good].” The crew of the Hakon Adelston, much to the delight of their Korean guests, produced musical instruments and began to play. The Koreans reciprocated by bringing out their own musical instruments and began to play and sing. Soon many of the guests were drunk, including the Korean official who polished off a half bottle of gin by himself. The abundance of alcohol caused inhibitions to be lost and led to a startling and disappointing revelation - the Korean official’s personal attendants were, in fact, young beardless boys! The ribald thoughts and banter that the crew had exchanged amongst themselves quickly died down.
As the sun began to set, the party broke up and the Koreans were returned to shore. The first day of salvage operations had gone well and Taylor and Ringer expected to be finished by the following day but they had not counted upon Mother Nature. The following morning another storm struck the region and the Hakon Adelsten was forced to ride it out a couple of miles off shore. The expedi-tion passed its time dining upon the fine Italian food prepared by Mancini and discussing their Jeju adventure.
The following day, despite the poor weather, the recovery crew was sent ashore to finish salvaging the Barbara Taylor. Throughout the day they recovered the sails, riggings, ropes and even chopped down the masts and conveyed them to the steamer.
A Korean delegation of officials from Jeju’s capital arrived and paid a visit to the Hakon Adelsten. They brought with them as gifts a large amount of dried awabi, a hundred pounds of awabi shells, chickens and two small live pigs. They also returned the umbrellas that had been purposely left out on the beach. Flabbergasted at their generosity and their refusal to accept his gifts, Paul, in turn, reciprocated by refusing to accept their gifts.
Eventually a compromise was reached in which the Koreans would accept the umbrellas and the Westerners would accept the recent gifts.
Paul also expressed his great appreciation to the Korean officials for their kind treatment in aiding the survivors of the Barbara Taylor and for keeping the wreck and its cargo safe - even refusing the promised compensation that had been offered for all their efforts. The Koreans replied that they were only doing their duty and that payment was not desired or acceptable. They further stated that once the steamer left Jeju, the wreck of the Barbara Taylor would be burned so that the commoners would not be tempted to pilfer from it.
That evening, the Hakon Adelsten with its steam whistle shrilling dipped its Norwegian flag three times in honor of the citizens of Jeju and then departed. Unsurprisingly it soon encountered severe weather and in the darkness of night lost one of the Japanese coolies who was swept overboard. The unfortunate coolie’s loss wasn’t discovered until the next day when the steamer arrived in Nagasaki.
Taylor was later brought before a Naval Court in Nagasaki and found guilty of “only certain errors in judgment” and given a reprimand but was not held liable for the loss of his ship.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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