[KS] Alice in Calm-land

Seang Ill Bae PBae at uamail.albany.edu
Sun Apr 20 22:03:41 EDT 2008

Hello All

Recently I have discovered an interesting and sad (for many Koreans)
fact regarding the last days of the Korean Empire (Daehan Jeguk). I
would like to share it with the list members.

In 11/20/1909, the New York Times has published two articles about an
incident occurred four years ago in Seoul. In one article, a German
author named Emma Kroebel claimed that she was neither crazy, nor drunk.
And all things she has mentioned in her book regarding Mrs. Longworth's
visit to Korea, were true. In another article, certain Mrs. Jones from
Utica,NY who had been in Korea in 1905, said she haven't heard about
this women Kroebel while she was in Korea. And Mrs. Jones also made a
statement which rendered Emma Kroebel's claim rather suspicious.

Mrs. Longworth who was at the center of the dispute was indeed Mrs.
Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the eldest daughter of the President Theodore
Roosevelt, then the wife of Ohio Congressman Nicholas Longworth. When
she visited Far East countries in 1905, she was still single and treated
as "American Princess". After visiting Japan, Philippine and China, she
arrived in Chemulpo(current day Incheon) on 09/19/1905. She stayed in
Korea about 10 days and left for Japan.

While she was in Seoul and having various events with Koreans and
Americans in Korea, Miss Emma Kroebel was in Seoul too, working as "the
Chief Mistress of Ceremonies at the Court of the Emperor of Korea." In
her book published in Germany in 1907, "Wie ich an den koreanischen
Kaiserhof kam", Kroebel described an incident caused by the "American
Princess", then Miss. Alice Roosevelt.

According to the New York Times article published on 11/17/1909 which
has translated some excerpts from Kroebel's new book, "American
Princess" was ill-mannered and disrespectful to Korea. Kroebel has
described an incident happened at the grave side of the Empress where
the welcoming reception was held. Kroebel wrote; 

"Spying a stone Elephant, which seemed particularly to strike her fancy,
Alice hurtled off her horse and in a flash was astride the elephant,
shouting to Mr. Longworth to snapshot her. Our suite was paralyzed with
horror and astonishment. Such a sacrilegious scene at so holy a spot was
without parallel in Korean history. It required indeed 'American ways'
to produce it."

After this article was released, Mr. Longworth denied everything through
an interview published on Nov.18, 1909. He has criticized Emma Kroebel
as "either drunk or crazy, or both". He also supposed that Kroebel might
have confused with other members of the delegation. In any case,
according to him, the "Princess Alice, or American Princess" has behaved
as she was supposed to do. 

Who was lying then? There were no more articles regarding this issue,
and I was not able to find any other sources which talk about this
incident. But I was curious to know who was telling the truth so started
digging up here and there. Amazingly, within an hour, I have found
undeniable evidence which shows what happened at the Empress's grave
side in Seoul in 1905.

The Cornell University Library's division of rare and manuscript
collection maintains a digital collection of Willard Dickerman
Straight's paper and photos.( http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Straight/)
Mr. Straight was at Seoul in 1905 as personal secretary to the American
ambassador to Korea, Edwin V. Morgan. From this collection, I have found
a photo of young lady mounted on a stone horse (not elephant) in the
royal grave. The caption written at the back of the photo 'kindly' said,
"Alice Roosevelt at Seoul". So Kroebel was right. Browsing through the
collection, I have noticed that she was not the only person who jumped
over the stone horse; there were couple of more folks who did the same

Being a Korean, I felt the photo was rather sad and it made me think
about the last days of the Korean Empire. In Kroebel's description and
Alice's autobiography published in 1934, the Emperor Kojong was very
eager to welcome "American Princess". Did he think that he could use the
occasion for getting supports from the U.S. government, against
omnipresent Japanese power in Korea? He might, but it is clear that he
did not know that the same U.S. delegation has stopped in Japan in July
and a member of the delegation, William Taft has made a secret agreement
with Japanese Prime Minister Katsura Taro. The agreement was later known
as the Taft-Katsura Agreement.

Was Alice aware of the agreement? Maybe not, but the way she behaved in
Korea makes me think that she might know the future of the Korean
Empire. Alice in Calm-land was not calm at all. 

I put this story on my blog(in Korean) with photos and other details.
Any Korean readers may visit http://cliomedia.egloos.com/1847903 

Thank you for reading. 

Seangill (Peter ) Bae
Collections manager/Document delivery specialist 
for History and Korean Studies 
UL-108, University Library, University at Albany 
1400 Washington Ave.
Albany NY, 12222

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