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Revisiting the origins of Korea-U.S. relations: Northeast Asian situation after the General Sherman incident and USS Wachusett

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2021, (143), pp.125-172
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History
  • Received : August 18, 2021
  • Accepted : September 14, 2021
  • Published : September 30, 2021

Park, Myung Soo 1

1서울신학대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The interest of the United States in the Korean Peninsula was initiated as a part of its foreign policy regarding the Pacific Ocean after the Civil War. This Korea-U.S. relationship started with the U.S. favor toward Joseon’s amicable foreign policy, namely the rule of pacifying distant peoples or nations (柔遠之義). However, the General Sherman incident, which had led to the death of Americans, brought about a conflict between Joseon and the U.S. over the Americans’ prospect of survival and the responsibility over their death, and resolving this issue had become an important task in determining the relationship between the U.S. and Korea. The U.S. State Department tried to resolve the Korea-U.S. relations diplomatically, but the U.S. Pacific Fleet had the use of military force under serious consideration. Bell, the commanding officer of the Pacific Fleet, sent Robert W. Shufeldt, who had a lot of experience in military and diplomacy, to investigate the matter. Unlike the France government, Shufeldt expressed gratitude for the hospitality shown by the Joseon government in accordance with their foreign policy while demanding the Joseon government to provide factual information about the circumstance of the General Sherman incident. In Joseon, Shufeldt made various attempts to investigate the matter, but as he could not fully resolve the issue, this then became the source of conflict between Joseon and the United States. Initially, France had shown the most interest in Joseon, but France, along with Great Britain, had been withdrawing from Joseon since the French intrusion on Korea (丙寅洋擾) had failed. Under these circumstances, the U.S. eventually became a country among the western world with the greatest interest in the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. intention was to act jointly with Britain and France in dealing with Joseon, but their refusal led U.S. to an independent intrusion upon Joseon. This eventually made the United States the first Western country to sign a treaty with Korea.

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