Japan’s Invasion of Korea, As Seen by Jack London

San Francisco Examiner/March 4, 1903

Cavalry Weak Spot Of Japanese

Little Brown Men Now in Field, However, Make ‘The Best Infantry in the World’

Vivid Description of Army in Korea

SEOUL, March 4–To the Korean the Japanese occupation is a source of ineffable joy.

The first war prices obtained increase day by day and the coolie, mapu and merchant are equally busy amassing money which will later be squeezed from them by the master class, which is the official class.

Just now the officials and nobles are anxious and frightened, while the poor, weak Emperor knows not where to turn. He cannot elect to fly nor to remain in his palace, so in the meantime he graciously decrees whatever the Japanese politely intimate they would like to have, as, for example, when he turns his soldiers out of their barracks in order that the Japanese soldiers may be made comfortable.

At Chemulpo all is bustle and excitement, but perfect order rules. There is no confusion, no delays and no blocking of traffic. Daily transports from Japan arrive, drop anchor in the outer harbor and men, horses, mountain artillery in strings, towed by launches, cross the inner harbor to the shore and depart by train to Seoul, twenty-seven miles away. It is the last time in a long while that the men will lift up their legs and let steam carry them to their destination.

From Seoul begins their 180-mile march north to Ping Yang and from Ping Yang still north.

Through the snowclad Korean mountains their way leads to Wiju, on the river Yalu, where the Russians are waiting for them.

I doubt if there be more peaceable, orderly soldiers in the world than the Japanese. Our own soldiers, long ere this, would have painted Seoul red with their skylarking and good-natured boisterousness, but the Japanese are not boisterous. They are deadly serious.

Yet no one of the civilian population is afraid of them. The women are safe; the money is safe; the goods are safe. The Japanese established a reputation in 1894 for paying for whatever they took and they are living up to that reputation.

“But if they were the Russians”—say the Koreans, and the Europeans and American residents ominously shake their heads. I have yet to see one drunken Japanese soldier. Not one disorderly nor even boisterous one have I seen—and they are soldiers.

I may quote General Allen in saying, “The infantry is as splendid as any in the world. They will render a good account of themselves.”

They march along without apparent effort under their forty-two-pound kits. There is no stooping forward, no slouching, no lagging nor does one see a man continually adjusting straps and pads or hear tin cups rattling or accouterments clattering. As it is with their organization as a whole so with it as a unit. The man is everything. He works smoothly. Above all he works toward an end.

The Japanese are a race of warriors and their infantry is all the infantry could possibly be; but it cannot be said that the Japanese are a race of horsemen. Their cavalry would appear ridiculous to a western eye. The horses are small and strong, it is true, but not fit for comparison with our own steeds. But do the Japanese know how to manage their horses?

It is a common thing to see them riding with the rein in either hand, while practically all of them sit in their saddles most uncouthly.

Nearly all of the horses are stallions. There are constant fights among the beasts, and the men are quite helpless when it comes to managing them. It required an American General the other day, General Allen, to rush in and break up a fight among the stallions in front of the Seoul Hotel. Several cavalrymen present knew not what to do and were ineffectually trying to prevent their horses from destroying one another.

But to the infantry too much praise cannot be given. However, the cavalrymen, afoot or ahorse, are men, and fighting men, and anyway, ere long, they soon may be astride large Russian horses.

Historic journalism from Jack London and other major American writers is freely available athttp://www.historicjournalism.com