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The treaty on display
|Signed||February 26, 1876|
|Effective||February 26, 1876|
|Signatories|| Empire of Japan|
Kingdom of Joseon
|Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity|
The Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876, also known as the Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity in Japanese or Treaty of Ganghwa Island in Korean, was made between representatives of the Empire of Japan and the Korean Kingdom of Joseon in 1876. Negotiations were concluded on February 26, 1876.
In January 1864, King Cheoljong died without an heir and Gojong ascended the throne at the age of 12. However, King Gojong was too young and the new king's father, Yi Ha-?ng, became the Daewongun or lord of the great court, and ruled Korea in his son's name. Originally the term Daewongun referred to any person who was not actually the king but whose son took the throne. The Daewongun initiated reforms to strengthen the monarchy at the expense of the yangban class.
Even before the nineteenth century, the Koreans had only maintained diplomatic relations with its suzerain China and with neighboring Japan. Foreign trade was mainly limited to China conducted at designated locations along the China-Korea border, and with Japan through the Waegwan in Pusan. By the mid-nineteenth century Westerners had come to refer to Korea as the Hermit Kingdom. The Daewongun was determined to continue Korea's traditional isolationist policy and to purge the kingdom of any foreign ideas that had infiltrated into the nation. The disastrous events occurring in China, including the First (1840-1842) and Second Opium wars (1856-1860), reinforced his determination to separate Korea from the rest of the world.
From the early to mid-nineteenth century Western vessels began to make frequent appearances in Korean waters, surveying sea routes and seeking trade. The Korean government was extremely wary and referred to these vessels as strange-looking ships. Consequently, several incidents took place. In June 1832, a ship from the British India Company, the Lord Amherst, appeared off the coast of Hwanghae Province seeking trade but was refused. In June 1845 another British warship, Samarang, surveyed the coast of Cheju-do and Ch?lla province. The following month the Korean government filed a protest with British authorities in Guangzhou through the Chinese government. In June 1846, three French warships dropped anchor off the coast of Chungcheong Province and conveyed a letter protesting persecution of Catholics in the country. In April 1854, two armed Russian vessels sailed along the eastern coast of Hamgyong Province, causing some deaths and injuries among the Koreans they encountered.[clarification needed] The incident prompted the Korean government to issue a ban forbidding the people of the province from having any contact with foreign vessels. In January and July 1866, ships manned by the German adventurer Ernst J. Oppert appeared off the coast of Chungcheong Province, seeking trade. In August 1866, an American merchant ship, the General Sherman, appeared off the coast of Pyongan Province, steaming along the Taedong River to the provincial capital of Pyongyang, and asked permission to trade. Local officials refused to enter into trade talks and demanded the ship's departure. A Korean official was then taken hostage aboard the vessel and its crew members fired guns at enraged Korean officials and civilians onshore. The crew then landed ashore and plundered the town in the process killing seven Koreans. The governor of the province Pak Kyu-su ordered his forces to destroy the ship. In the event the General Sherman ran aground on a sandbar and Korean forces burned the ship and killed the ship's entire crew of 23. In 1866 after the execution of several of its Catholic missionaries and Korean Catholics, the French launched a punitive expedition against Korea. Five years later in 1871, the Americans also launched an expedition to Korea. Despite this, the Koreans continued to adhere to isolationism and refused to negotiate to open up the country.
During the Edo period, Japan's relations and trade with Korea were conducted through intermediaries with the S? family in Tsushima. A Japanese outpost called the waegwan was allowed to be maintained in Tongnae near Pusan. The traders were confined to the outpost and no Japanese were allowed to travel to the Korean capital at Seoul. During the aftermath of the Meiji restoration in late 1868, a member of the S? daimy? informed the Korean authorities that a new government had been established and an envoy would be sent from Japan. In 1869 the envoy from the Meiji government arrived in Korea carrying a letter requesting to establish a goodwill mission between the two countries; the letter contained the seal of the Meiji government rather than the seals authorized by the Korean Court for the S? family to use. It also used the character ko (?) rather than taikun () to refer to the Japanese emperor. The Koreans only used this character only to refer to the Chinese emperor, and to the Koreans it implied ceremonial superiority to the Korean monarch which would make the Korean monarch a vassal or subject of the Japanese ruler. The Japanese were however just reacting to their domestic political situation where the Shogun had been replaced by the emperor. The Koreans remained in the sinocentric world where China was at the centre of interstate relations and as a result refused to receive the envoy. The bureau of foreign affairs wanted to change these arrangements to one based on modern state-to-state relations.
In Korea, Heungseon Daewongun, who instituted a policy of closing doors to European powers, was forced into retirement by his son King Gojong and Gojong's wife, Empress Myeongseong. France and the United States had already made several unsuccessful attempts to begin commerce with the Joseon dynasty during Heungseon Daewongun's era. However, after he was removed from power, many new officials who supported the idea of opening commerce with foreigners took power. While there was political instability, Japan developed a plan to open and exert influence on Korea before a European power could. In 1875, their plan was put into action: the Un'y?, a small Japanese warship under the command of Inoue Yoshika, was dispatched to present a show of force and survey coastal waters without Korean permission.
On September 20, the ship reached Ganghwa Island, which had been a site of violent confrontations between Korean forces and foreign forces in the previous decade. In 1866, the island was briefly occupied by the French, and also in 1871 subject to American intervention. The memories of those confrontations were very fresh, and there was little question that the Korean garrison would shoot at any approaching foreign ship. Nonetheless, Commander Inoue ordered a small boat launched - allegedly in search of drinkable water. The Korean forts opened fire. The Un'y? brought its superior firepower to bear and silenced the Korean guns. Then it attacked another Korean fort on Yeongjong Island and withdrew back to Japan.
Japan employed gunboat diplomacy to press Korea to sign this unequal treaty. The pact opened up Korea, as Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet of Black Ships had opened up Japan in 1853. According to the treaty, it ended Joseon's status as a tributary state of the Qing dynasty and opened three ports to Japanese trade. The Treaty also granted the Japanese people many of the same rights in Korea that Westerners enjoyed in Japan, such as extraterritoriality.
The articles of the treaty were as follows:
The following year saw a Japanese fleet led by Special Envoy Kuroda Kiyotaka coming over to Joseon, demanding an apology from the Korean government and a commercial treaty between the two nations. The Korean government decided to accept the demand, in hope of importing some technologies to defend the country from any future invasions.
However, the treaty would eventually turn out to be the first of many unequal treaties signed by Korea; It gave extraterritorial rights to Japanese citizens in Korea, and forced the Korean government to open 3 ports to Japan, specifically Busan, Incheon and Wonsan. With the signing of its first unequal treaty, Korea became vulnerable to the influence of imperialistic powers; and later the treaty led Korea to be annexed by Japan.