[KS] "Sugi" Flag Issue

Thomas duvernay bluelake at handong.edu
Sat Oct 8 23:48:44 EDT 2005

Peter Schroepfer schroepfer at gmail.com 
Thu Oct 6 14:26:44 EDT 2005 


> However, there has been an initiative by another American, Doug Sterner, who> runs a website dedicated primarily to Medal of Honor recipients> (http://www.homeofheroes.com/).  He has been in contact with a U.S.> congressman who is willing to sponsor a bill supporting the return of the> flag to Korea.  The hurdle now is not so much in the U.S. Congress as it is> with the Korean people.  As few people outside of military and academic> circles in Korea know much of anything regarding the 1871 conflict, there> has been no general call for the flag's return. I can't imagine how the Korean people would ever be a hurdle toanything like returning something what was pillaged from Korea'sshores, or that rekindling an issue that would for many be loaded withanti-American undertones (to say the least) would be anything close todifficult, although it would be nice to see the issue be an issue thatisn't written off by Korean conservatives as an mostly anti-Americanone and therefore not something to be openly pursued. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but is not a replica on display at theKanghwa YOksagwan? I was just there last Saturday and next to thedescription, which describes the original as being an a U.S. archive(don't remember which), is a picture of it in the custody of U.S. navymen. Unless there are _two_ flags that the U.S. took from the area andthat it currently keeps in storage somewhere, then we're talking aboutthe same flag. Kanghwa isn't exactly downtown Seoul or a universitycampus so it isn't at the center of attention, but I have to believethat if it really looked like it could be returned that people wouldpay attention. I would like to bring up the subject with friends in the(vernacular!!) Korean media and I imagine many others on the KS Listmight like to know: (1) at what stage would the U.S. congressman bewilling to have his name mentioned, since you haven't done so here,and (2) what grounds are there to believe with confidence that theU.S. Congress wouldn't be a hurdle? Has the congressman informallysurveyed his colleagues? What happens if Congress votes _against_returning it? I don't mean to doubt your thinking but I myself wouldlike to hear more about why Congress wouldn't be the biggest obstaclebefore encouraging a "general call for its return." Finally, (3) wouldyou, Doug Sterner, or perhaps even the congressman be willing to beinterviewed by the Korean media? When (I think) I saw a replica of the flag at Kanghwa YOksagwan Ithought of your website. It would be very nice to see the flagreturned and that's why I ask so many questions. Regards, Peter SchroepferPeter, Thank you very much for your response.  The Korean people, themselves, are not a hurdle to the flag's return, but rather it has to do with their not knowing of its existence.  It does not need to become a negative issue at all regarding Korean-American relations; in fact, it could be a small building block in that area, if handled well. You are correct that a replica of the flag is on display at the Kanghwa Historical Center; I have seen it on several occasions.  It was copied from the original that is, as I mentioned in my original post, rolled up on the bottom shelf of a display case at the United States Naval Academy Museum, in Annapolis, Maryland (see http://www.shinmiyangyo.org/flaghistory.html).   I will try to answer your questions.  First, I kept my comments brief and general on the first post, so that I could answer questions (such as these) on subsequent posts.  I think it is o.k. for me to mention the congressman’s name—John Salazar.  Also, I have discussed the matter in the past few years with a congressman from my state of Michigan—Bart Stupak.  Next, I never said the U.S. Congress wouldn’t be a hurdle; on the contrary, it is a big one.  The flag (and all war prizes) were added into the country’s inventory by an Act of Congress, and requires an equal one to have it returned to Korea.  The problem, from my understanding, is that the U.S. is worried that if they return one war prize, other countries will be asking for theirs back too (However, it is not without precedent, as I believe the way is being cleared for a church bell, captured at the turn of the twentieth century by U.S. forces, to be returned to the Philippines).  If a bill is written (and that’s a big IF), and it is voted down, then it would be back to the drawing board.  There needs to be an interest generated on both sides of the Pacific in order for Congress to gain an interest; they would need to know that both the American people support its return, and that the Korea people want it returned.   I would be willing to be interviewed by the Korean media.  Presently, I am writing an article (English and Korean) that I will submit to Korean newspapers; if they would like to follow up on it that would be fine.   I think the hurdles are not insurmountable.  As for the U.S. worry that returning the flag might bring calls to return other objects, they wouldn’t even have to call it a return.  They could call it a long-term loan, or some other euphemism.  Although it was unintentional on the part of its captors, they unwittingly did Korea a favor.  If the flag had not been captured, it most likely would have been destroyed over the years; as far as I know, it is the only original of its kind extant.  However, now is the time for it to return home. I’ve heard other reasons from the U.S. government why they do not want to return the flag.  They have said things like, “Many U.S. servicemen fought for that flag and some even died.”  My reply was that many Koreans fought to defend that flag and hundreds died (there were three U.S. battle deaths and more than three hundred Koreans killed).  The superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy wrote me, “The flag is an inspiration to our Midshipmen.”  My response was that most Midshipmen probably have no idea of its existence, and few even know the battle in which it was taken.   It should also be remembered that U.S. ships traveling up the Kanghwa Straits in 1871 would have been akin to a foreign warship traveling up the Potomac; I find it doubtful that the U.S. would not have defended itself against such an action.  The U.S. used the Korean military response as its pretext to attack (as did the Japanese in 1875/76).  I think the U.S. would have wanted Old Glory back if the circumstances were reversed. Although not government-oriented, there was a war prize returned to Korea.  A Korean horn bow, captured in the 1866 French military action, was returned three years ago (I was the intermediary); it now is housed at the Korean Army Museum at the Korea Military Academy.  Also, I discussed with the curator of the medical museum at Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky the return of a cannon captured in 1871; it is presently housed there.  They are not unfavorable towards its return, but many details still have to be worked out.  They also have in their inventory several other items that were captured, but the cannon is the only one that was located. Last week, I gave a special lecture here at my university on the 1871 conflict.  It went well, and the audience was very receptive.  I mentioned to them that the issue of the flag needs to be told to the Korean people; hopefully, the word will get out that way too.   I really appreciate your interest.  Best wishes,  Thomas    
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