Tax Resistance in Korea

From the Daily Saratogian, :

 The Japanese population at Mak-Po, Korea, have taken a decided stand on the side of the brokers of that city who were recently put into prison by the Korean authorities for refusing to pay the guild tax. The Japanese attacked the officials of the prison and burst open the cells of the brokers setting them at liberty.

I did a little googling but wasn’t able to find any more information about this tax resistance incident or much that could help me put it into context or figure out what the dispute might have centered on. Another dispatch from is vague enough that I have no idea whether or not it is related:

Increased Taxation Causes Rioting in Corea

Governors Taken Prisoners

 A special to the Herald from its correspondent at Seoul, Corea, says that increased taxation has caused considerable disturbance.

In several provinces the governors have been taken prisoners and government funds taken by organized bands of natives.


While I was hunting for more information I found Homer Bezaleel Hulbert’s The Passing of Korea, which includes this observation:

I remember once in the governor of the city of Pyeng-yang sent some of his ajuns down in to the town to collect a special and illegal tax from the merchants of a certain guild. The demand was preferred, and the merchants, without a moment’s hesitation, rose up en masse, went to the house of the ajun who brought the message, razed it to the ground and scattered the timbers up and down the street. This was their answer, and the most amusing part of it was that the governor never opened his mouth in protest or tried to coerce them. He had his argument ready. The ajuns should have kept him informed of the state of public opinion; if they failed to do so, and had their houses pulled down about their ears, it was no affair of his.

George Trumbull Ladd, in his In Korea with Marquis Ito quotes from the Korean Daily News, but in the course of claiming this is sensationalist journalism designed to inflame anti-Japanese sentiment in the period. One of these quotes reads:

A report from South Chul-la Province states that the people in a certain section there do not look with favor on the new tax-collectors; on the contrary, they say that they will tie up the collectors with ropes and make life hard for them.

This anecdote from Volume 4 of the Korea Review was prompted by the editor of the Che-guk Siu-mun who had been accused of writing anti-foreigner editorials. One of the pieces bemoaned that there was no Korean willing to “shoulder his axe” and come to the aid of his country.

This sounds very incendiary and may be so to some Koreans but very many of the people know that this refers to Choe Ik-hyŭn who in , when another high official secured the imposition of a tax upon wood merchants, took an axe, went to the palace gate and placing his written memorial upon the axe waited for it to be presented to His Majesty the present Emperor. The memorial denounced the tax and said: “If my words are not true take this axe and kill me but if they are true take it and kill the man who proposed this tax.”

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