Freedom of the press


Thomas Owens, Staff

One hundred and ten years ago Japan seized Korea for a duration of thirty-five years. At the time, few things kept the nation independent. But soon it is one of those people who will be commemorated and that man is Ernst Bethell. “South Korea will seek to build a statue of a British journalist in his birthplace to commemorate his activism against Japanese imperialists in the early 20th century,” the veterans ministry said Monday.  

Veterans Minister Park Min-shik unveiled the plan in Britain on Friday as he met with Thomas Owen Bethell, a grandson of Ernest Bethell (1872-1909), who helped reveal to the world Imperial Japan’s misdeeds against Korea by publishing newspaper stories. The ministry plans to establish the statue, the first of its kind in Britain, in Bristol, where Bethell was born. The ministry will soon consult with the municipality of Bristol to proceed with the plan, according to the ministry. 

“This year is meaningful as it marks the 140th anniversary of the establishment of relations between Korea and Britain, and the 70th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War,” Park was quoted as saying. “As South Korea and Britain’s relations go beyond its blood-forged ties through the Korean War and into the independence movement, there is no reason not to pursue the building of the statue.”  

Bethell arrived in Korea in 1904 as a correspondent for the Britain-based Daily Chronicle to report on the Russo-Japanese War. Later that year, he founded an English and Korean-language newspaper, The Korea Daily News, which was critical of Imperial Japan and its rule of Korea from 1910-45. He died on May 1, 1909, amid poor health at the age of 36 while fighting a legal battle over his expulsion from Korea sought by Japan. His body is buried in Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in western Seoul.