Why are you afraid of moral relativism

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C.S. Lewis and other Deals on Kindle, Today Only

Screwtape Letters, 2.99

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1871, American War in Korea, part III

At any rate, America later sent another envoy to enquire after the Shenandoah and to ask about diplomatic relations, and this time the Koreans seemed to have a ready answer for them:
“Commander Shufeldt’s threat to return with more warships was no idle threat. In the spring of 1868, the USS Shenandoah under Captain John C. Febiger reached the Daedong River’s mouth and received an official letter acknowledging the death of all crewmen of the General Sherman. The Coreans wondered why the Americans wanted to make a treaty: “We have been living 4,000 years without any treaty with you, and we can’t see why we shouldn’t continue to live as we do.” (Sterner, 2003)”

A couple years later Rear Admiral Rodgers and his fleet of ships sailed in.

This brings us to a point in time most Americans have never heard of and which Koreans know as:

The 1871 US Occupation of Kanghwado – Shinmi-yang-yo

“In April 1870, the U.S. State Department told Frederick F. Low, the US minister in Beijing, to negotiate a treaty with Corea that would secure the safe treatment of shipwrecked American sailors, to establish trade, and to look into the murder of the General Sherman crew. ”

Really, they just wanted to establish trade.  Nobody cared what happened to the General Sherman crew.  But it was a useful pretense, and perhaps the Americans thought that mentioning it would be embarrassing enough for the Koreans they would listen to negotiations, feel like they’d been put on the wrong foot?  I don’t know.  But it wasn’t really that important to them.

Rear Admiral John Rodgers was in charge of the small group of ships that carried Minister Low to Corea, and the following information is taken from his reports, either summarized (by myself) or quoting.

The ships arrived and Rodgers chose a suitable anchorage for his ship and promptly renamed the place after a French minister, Korea’s own history and place names notwithstanding.  To be fair, as arrogant as that sounds, the Koreans weren’t really interested in telling the Americans anything beyond “Go home,” and the Admiral needed a name the Americans he reported to could read, understand, and use to communicate with each other.

Rodgers sent other ships ahead to take surveys and soundings of the water passages and reported they were unmolested. His own ship sent a landing party to the nearby port and he says the Coreans seemed of pleasant disposition and :

“A paper with written Chinese characters was handed to one of the officers, and its contents, being translated, conveyed inquiries as to our nation and the purpose of our coming.  The paper was without signature or indication of official character.  An informal reply was sent to it by the minister, giving only the information that we were Americans; that our purpose was friendly, and that we had come to seek an interview with the governing authorities.”

It seems not to have occurred to them that perhaps the lack of signature or official character was meant to convey that the Korean government saw the Admiral and his minister as lacking standing themselves.



Part 1
Part 2

Soundtrack to Mr. Sunshine

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

A CASE of tissue if you decide to watch it.

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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Boys and Girls are Different in the Womb

A New Study Blows Up Old Ideas About Girls and Boys | Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sax-sex/201903/new-study-blows-old-ideas-about-girls-and-boys

I mean, obviously to people with common sense.

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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 western 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.  They saw no need for it in their country.


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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