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인천 - 체코인 묘지에 헌화

2012년 3월15일 야로슬라브 올샤,jr. 주한체코대사는 인천(제물포) 외국인묘지에 안장되어 있는 막스 타우벨레스 묘지에 헌화를 했습니다. 막스 타우벨레스는 체코계 미국인으로 126년 전 조선을 방문한 최초의 외신기자이자 안타깝게도 조선에서 처음으로 사망한 외국인으로 기록되어 있습니다. 이날 헌화에는 체코대사를 비롯한 로버트 네프 역사학자, 인천 청학동 주민센터 직원 분들이 함께 했습니다. On March 15, 2012, Ambassador of the Czech Republic H.E. Mr. Jaroslav Olša, jr., laid a wreath at Chemulpo Foreigners´ Cemetery, Incheon, at a grave of Max Taubles, the first person born on the territory of today´s Czech Republic, who died in Seoul 126 years ago. This Prague-born US journalist was not only the first Czech, but also the first Westerner and the first foreign correspondent to die on Korean peninsula since its opening a few years earlier. The small ceremony was held in a presence of historian Robert Neff, who wrote about Taubles in the past, and representatives of Cheonghak-dong Jumin center which is in charge of this historically important cemetery.

photo Irena Marce

Not much is known about the deceased man – Max Taubles. He was born in Prague in 1845 as Maximilian Taubeles, but he spent almost his entire adult life moving around the world. After a carreer as a journalist in San Francisco, he moved to Korea to work for Harper´s Magazine, but in a mere month since he landed in Chemulpo, he died on March 15, 1886.  Taubles never sent a single article about Korea, as he met his final destiny after contracting one of the most frightening diseases, smallpox, soon after his arrival. Despite being treated by the most competent doctors in Korea at the time, Horace N Allen and J W Heron, he succumbed to his illness in less than two weeks after its first gruesome symptoms appeared.

Taubles´ death was a new consular task for recently established US legation in Seoul as Taubles was the first American to be buried in their area of jurisdiction. There was no place in Seoul for the body to be buried. The only option was thus to take the body to Chemulpo Foreigners’ Cemetery, which took at least the whole day. The last rites was thus carried out by Reverend Underwood and witnessed by some of the members of the foreign community at Chemulpo two days after his death. Following Taubles´ untimely death only three things survive of his Korean adventure. His death is mentioned in Allen´s Korean Chronological Index,  his tombstone still stands in the graveyard at Chemulpo Foreigners´ Cemetery while there is the first stanza of a short poem written, in his memory, by his friend, the famous American writer Ambrose Bierce:

Nay, Peter Robertson, ‘tis not for you

To blubber o’er Max Taubles for he’s dead.

By Heaven! my hearty, if you only knew

How better is a grave-worm in the head

Than brains like yours – how far more decent, too,

A tomb in far Corea than a bed

Where Peter lies with Peter, you would covet

His happier state and, dying, learn to love it. 

More about Max Taubles could be find in a text about early Czech travellers in Korea to be freely downloaded here

http://www.mzv.cz/seoul/en/bilateral_relations/czech_korean_encounters_through_the/first_czechs_in_korea.html

And a few words about the wreath-laying ceremony as published in The Korea Times is here

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/03/117_107249.html

and about the Chemulpo Foreigners  Cemetery

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/03/115_107248.html

 

photo Irena Marce