[KS] "Sugi" Flag Issue
bluelake at handong.edu
Fri Oct 14 23:51:02 EDT 2005
At the time, the U.S. was not at war with Korea. However, it did not have
to be the case in order for Korea to believe the U.S. had hostile
intentions. To begin with, over the preceding five years Korea had very bad
interactions with the West (the "General Sherman" incident and also the
French military action in 1866, along with the Ernst Oppert attempted tomb
robbery in 1868); all of those events were of a hostile nature. Also, Korea
considered the Kanghwa Straits to be a highly restricted area (and still has
some military control to this day). Pak Kyusu (the governor of P'yongan
Province at the time) wrote an entry that appeared in the "Kojong Sillok"
(as shown in Y.K. Kim, 2001, "The Five Years' Crisis, 1866-1871" pgs.
"The Korean government had received Low's (U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary
Frederick Low) communication through the Chinese Board of Rites and speedily
sent a reply that it hoped would be transmitted to Minister Low through the
same channels. Korea is aware that the United States is the greatest
country in the world when it comes to maintaining proper courtesies and
etiquette. It is well known that Minister Low is a person of the greatest
discretion and would never act dishonorably. Given these considerations,
Korea does not understand why America is now crossing the vast ocean to
penetrate the territory of a sovereign nation. Even though the United
States disclaims any intention of killing or harming Korean people, who
could help but be puzzled and suspicious of her current actions? The
barriers of defense of a country are important places within which it is not
permissible for foreign vessels to make their way. This is the fixed rule
of all nations. It was the action of U.S. vessels attempting to navigate
their way up the mouth of the Han River that first brought Korea and America
into confrontation. Since Minister Low has stated that the U.S. arrival in
Korea 'came with the best of intentions,' it is regretful that an engagement
such as this should have occured. These American vessels, ignoring the
generally accepted regulations of other countries, penetrated a key
defensive position of Korea and Korean officers, acting to guard the
frontier, took the necessary measures..."
The Americans and Koreans were constantly in contact with each other. The
U.S. had an American who could read and write Chinese, and also had two
Chinese scribes; letters were exchanged many times during the U.S. stay in
Korean waters. The problem was most likely caused by a cultural
misunderstanding. On May 31, 1871, three Korean envoys of the third rank
visited the U.S.S. Colorado to find out why the U.S. was in their territory.
The U.S. told them of their intentions to sail up the Kanghwa Straits and
take soundings. The envoys were silent, which the U.S. took as meaning they
had no objection. In many cases in Korean culture, as I'm sure list members
are well aware (and many have probably experienced), a lack of assent can
have the same meaning as "no." Also, the envoys, due to their relatively
low rank, probably only had the powers of a messenger, with little or no
authority to say yes or no; that is a guess on my part.
In any case, Korea felt threatened and reacted accordingly. I believe the
shots the Koreans fired on June 1 were more of a warning than anything else,
as they came from unaimed hand-carried cannons (ch'ongt'ong) that were laid
out on the ground with a train of gunpowder from one to another. They had
larger, aimable cannons in the fortress (Yongdudondae) nearby, which
evidently were not fired.
----- Original Message -----
From: "William Brown" <wmbbrown at hotmail.com>
To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Friday, October 14, 2005 10:52 AM
Subject: Re: [KS] "Sugi" Flag Issue
> Thomas Devernay wrote:
> "As for foreign warships sailing up the Potomac, I should have stated that
> clearer. I meant foreign warships sailing up the Potomac with hostile
> intent. Such was the case in the War of 1812, and defenses for it were
> maintained up into the 20th century"
> I didn't know we were at war with Korea at the time or that the ship had
> hostile intent. With no way to communicate, it would seem rather natural
> for ships to sail up rivers and visit foreign harbors. But I'm no expert
> on such things.
> <BLOCKQUOTE style='PADDING-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; BORDER-LEFT:
> #A0C6E5 2px solid; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px'><font
> style='FONT-SIZE:11px;FONT-FAMILY:tahoma,sans-serif'><hr color=#A0C6E5
>>From <i>"Thomas duvernay"
> <bluelake at handong.edu></i><br>Reply-To: <i>Korean Studies
> Discussion List <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws></i><br>To:
> <i>"Korean Studies Discussion List"
> <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws></i><br>Subject: <i>Re: [KS]
> "Sugi" Flag Issue</i><br>Date: <i>Thu, 13 Oct 2005 09:40:52
> +0900</i><br><br>I would have responded sooner, but for some reason
> anything I post to the list, or is replied to, I do not receive by e-mail.
> I had to check the KS archives.<br><br>William Brown
> wrote:<br><br>"No doubt we would like the flag back, and probably
> woulld give it to Seoul<br>if asked, but, and correct me if I'm wrong,
> didn't foreign warships<br>regularly sail up the Potomac to Alexandria in
> the 1700 and 1800s, without<br>being fired upon?"<br><br>Regarding
> the first part of your response, the problem is the U.S. has not been
> willing to return the flag. They have been asked several times, both
> officially and
> unofficially.<br><br>(http://www.nps.gov/fowa/coastdefense.htm). An
> example of such an encounter: "A British squadron made an attempt to
> ascend the Potomac in July 1813 but turned back after meeting some
> resistance from militia..."
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