British journalist remembered in Seoul

2012-05-13 19:04

U.K. Ambassador Scott Wightman gives a speech in front of an image of Ernest Bethell at a memorial in Seoul on May 8. (Yonhap)
The British Embassy has held a memorial ceremony for a journalist who opposed the Japanese colonial rule of Korea.

U.K. Ambassador Scott Wightman attended Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery on May 8 to remember British journalist Ernest Bethell, who is buried there.

Former Korean Prime Minister Lee Soo-sung chaired the ceremony and President Lee Myung-bak sent flowers to mark the event organized by the Bethell Commemoration Committee. Some 250 people participated in the ceremony, also including Park Yoo-chul, chairman of the Korea Liberation Association.

Bethell, also known by his Korean name Bae Seol, founded the Korea Daily News (in Korean, the Daehan Maeil Sinbo) while living here from 1904.

He first came to Korea as a correspondent for British newspaper the Daily Chronicle to cover the Russo-Japanese War. But he stayed on after the conflict ended to report on Japanese rule, including abuses by colonial soldiers, in the newspaper which was printed in both English and Korean. In 1907, Bethel was prosecuted in the British Consular Court in Seoul for breach of the peace. He was given a 6-month good behavior bond but was then prosecuted in the British Supreme Court for China and Corea in 1908. He was convicted of sedition against the Japanese government of Korea and spent three weeks imprisoned in the British Consular Gaol in Shanghai. On his release, he returned to Seoul, where he died of cardiac enlargement on May 1, 1909.

“This ceremony celebrates Ernest Bethell’s contribution to the history of modern Korea and his particular role in strengthening the bonds which bind our two countries,” said Wightman on visiting the cemetery in Mapo-gu, Seoul.

“Recent events in other parts of the world remind us that freedom of expression is not universal. It’s fitting therefore that we celebrate the role of people such as Ernest Bethell who highlighted the cruelty of imperialism, defended the rights of the marginalized and reaffirmed the basic rights of all to live in a free and just society.”
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