Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Facts about Korean History
In the winter of 1883/1884, an American visitor to Seoul, Percevial Lowell, noted that there did not appear to be much crime in the city, especially at night.
After the sun set, two-men teams patrolled the darkened streets — the senior was armed with a lantern and a bell while the subordinate was equipped with a massive chain and bar used to restrain any criminal that they might encounter.
Lowell noted that the bar and chain were rarely used. Of course, the curfew barring all men (except the blind and those with extreme emergencies) from roaming the darkened streets may have also played a part.
But in 1898, the curfews were lifted. William Franklin Sands, an American advisor to the Korean government, noted that crime in
Jemulpo (modern Incheon) was virtually non-existent when they employed a Chinese night watchman.
The watchman was a “very old and respectable Chinese (man) with a huge sleep-dispelling wooden clapper.” The sound of the clapper, much as the earlier mentioned bell, warned the would-be thief that a patrol was about; they were more hesitant to attempt any thefts.
Annoyed by the sound of the clapper the Westerners at Jemulpo had the watchman replaced with a former British sailor. He was well-armed, much quieter and far more expensive. Almost immediately a crime wave struck the foreign community. According to Sands,
“(No) house was safe from robbers. Burglaries took place right under the nose of our constables.”
It was later deduced that because the Western constable was so quiet it embolden thieves instead of deterring them. He was promptly fired and the old Chinese watchman brought back. The crime wave ceased.
Lee Kyeong-jae, author of “Cheonggye Stream is Alive,” says because men were unable to enter some areas ― particularly women’s buildings ― undercover policewomen were used.
These policewomen could disguise themselves as servants and secretly investigate possible crimes. Interestingly enough, women candidates had to be at least five feet tall, able to carry an 88-pound bag of rice, and be able to drink three bowls of makgoeli, which is a Korean rice wine.
Despite the success of the old methods, Korea was determined to modernize its police force.
In early 1897, Alfred Burt Stripling, an Englishman who had served with various police organizations including Scotland Yard and the Shanghai Metropolitan Police, was hired as an advisor to the Korean police department.
Almost immediately he conducted a physical examination of each of the just over 1,000 policemen. He found the tallest to be just under 6 feet and the shortest at 4 feet 9 inches. He also tested them on their knowledge of the police regulations.
Nearly 50 men were found unfit to be in the service on account of their physical and mental disabilities and Stripling asked that they be dismissed.
An Whan, the assistant chief of police, took offense with Stripling’s attitude and declared he had no use for a foreign advisor. To punctuate his strong feelings, he hurled an inkstand at the Westerner. An was later forced to resign.
There were others not pleased with the changes. Isabella Bird Bishop wrote that the new police, dressed in their “semi-military uniforms, with shocks of hair behind their ears and swords in nickel-plated scabbards by their sides” had changed from “docile and harmless” to “truculent, insubordinate, and ofttimes brutal...without civic sympathies or patriotism, greedy of power and spoil.”
With nearly 1,200 policemen, Seoul was, she declared, “much overpoliced.” She summed up the revised police force as a “useless and extravagant expenditure.”
Source: The Korea Times