1871, An America War in Korea, part II

The U.S. attempted to send enquiries after the fate of the General Sherman and its men several times. The Koreans were disinclined to discuss the General Sherman, possibly because they thought compensation would be demanded and they didn’t feel they should have to compensate a nation over dispensing with a ship of thieves. Or perhaps they resented a foreign government’s demands that they explain themselves for the treatment of trespassing criminals on their own borders.  They were even less interested in establishing trade with foreign governments.  Not for nothing were they known as The Hermit Kingdom.  China had established trade, and Koreans watched the resulting Opium Wars and the disruption of China’s ruling class and social structure and the introduction of western practices and values which seemed incompatible with the strict Confucianism which was the basis for social and political structure of Korea.


The U.S. sent another ship to inquire after it, led by Captain Shufeldt.

“According to Welles, the US Secretary of Navy at the time, Shufeldt’s inquiry went something like this:

Commander Shufeldt: Have you heard or do you know anything about the ship that was wrecked?

Corean official: I know nothing about it whatever. I only hope you will immediately leave and return to your native land.

Commander Shufeldt: What objection can there be to our waiting? If I am obliged to leave without an answer to my dispatch, many more armed vessels will return to your country.

Corean official: To return with many armed vessels would be exceedingly unjust. To return to your country would be praiseworthy.

Commander Shufeldt: To allow your country to murder our men without cause or provocation cannot be passed over uninvestigated.

Corean official: I do not know anything about this business.

Commander Shufeldt: If you know nothing, I have nothing more to say to you. (Welles, 1867)

The Corean official’s account of this meeting differs. He told Shufeldt that he had no authority to talk to foreigners and that he had sent a messenger to Seoul for the official permission and instructions, and that the messenger would be back in a few days. He told the Americans to wait but the Americans left without waiting.”

It’s impossible to know how much of this failed communication was a result of poor translations and interpreters, how much was a result of a lack of cultural intelligence on both sides, how much was garden variety arrogance, and how much was fudging on the part of officials involved for reasons of their own.  That does not stop me from speculating, though.

To be continued



(from an archived article titled The early US-Korea relations
Excerpt from “A Brief History of the US-Korea Relations Prior to 1945”
Kim Young-Sik, Ph.D.)

Thomas Duvernay (he has an unrelated udemy class here: https://www.udemy.com/user/thomasduvernay/)




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How a cultural misunderstanding started a war, part 1

In the 19th century a number of Western countries, including the U.S., attempted to open up trade in the east. Korea, known as the Hermit Kingdom, resisted firmly, trying to keep China as a buffer between them and the west. Several western countries attempted to sail into Korea and negotiate some further trade relations. They were rebuffed, usually politely enough, but coolly. One or twice hostilities were the result. A French ship had most of its crew captured or shot.
Another ship that fared poorly was the Steam Ship Sherman. It was not a government ship but a privately owned American merchant ship seeking for trade opportunities- and, it was rumoured, for plunder.It was more heavily loaded with weapons than the usual trade ship. The Captain had a reputation for being an adventurer. Only three people on board were Americans. The rest were Malaysian with two or three Chinese, and the Malaysians had a reputation (deserved) for piracy.

In 1861 it sailed into Korea and headed upriver toward what is now Seoul. Its captain ignored all orders to turn back, and refused to recognize anybody who contacted him as high enough ranking officials to be worth listening to. When the ship was stranded on a sandbank during a storm, according to one account, when the General Sherman found itself stranded on a sandbank after a storm, the captain (knowing he’d created some hostility between himself and the locals) sent some of his men out to hunt up some food supplies to steal and hostages to kidnap to use as bargaining chips. His ship was destroyed and all the crew killed. It’s likely the American government didn’t know that’s what had happened since all the surviving witnesses were Koreans and there were no diplomatic relations between Korea and the U.S.
Korea did persecute Catholics at the time, and a French ship had also had some of their crew murdered, but there were more incidents both before and after where western trade ships were treated politely. In some cases, ships arrived and their captains attempted to establish a trade relationship and they were politely declined and redirected home. In several cases western ships were shipwrecked on Korean shores and the survivors were treated well and then sent to China, where they could be returned to their own governments as China had opened some trade with western nations and had settled trading companies and government representatives in the country.  So there are several reasons to suspect that the S.S. General Sherman was not an innocent party and there was no reason for the American government to be particularly concerned about it.


But the matter did not end there.

Soundtrack to Mr. Sunshine

The K-drama Mr. Sunshine (it’s at Netflix as well)

The Five Year’s Crisis: 1866 to 1871, Korea in the Maelstrom of Western Imperialism by Kim Yongkoo

The Trespassors, Korea, June 1871

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Jack Sprat and Wife

My husband loves the spicy kimchi ramyun cup noodles, but he doesn’t really like soup at all.  I am not a huge fan of pasta in almost any form, but I love soup and I do like the flavor of kimchi ramyun noodles.  So he eats the noodles, and then I slurp down the broth.

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Oh, those preacher stories

While skimming an old teacher magazine from around WWI era, I came across an article where the author (favourably)  referred to ‘the old darkie’ who always prayed and asked the Lord to ‘prop me up on the leaning side.’  I liked the word picture of asking for propping on the leaning side, but know but I still do feel shocked when I come across that other term and the like, that I have forgotten what the rest of the article was about entirely.  Later, I was thinking about it and couldn’t remember.

I tried to look it up, because surely ‘prop me up on the leaning side’ is kind of specific and singular, right? Not so much.  It’s apparently a common preacher story, only the praying man has often morphed into an old deacon.  Occasionally he’s become the speaker himself in these online sermons, the authors claiming it’s based on the old barn, shanty, or other outbuilding on the property where they grew up.  Well, maybe so.

But there’s a reason why preacher’s kids and others familiar with the practice tend to ask, “Is this a preacher story or did it really happen?”

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Case in point

In December on my regular FB account, I posted a link to this article on the Daily Wire.  The headline says:

“Whiteness Forum Denounces Christian Cartoon Veggie Tales as Racist.”

I commented, “At first I thought it was The Onion.
Everything is racism now, so nothing is, and college students are resorting to sending themselves racist threats to prove how widespread racism and how threatened they feel.”

FB deleted it because, they said, it went against their community standards.

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