Thursday, October 27, 2011
Consort Profile: Empress Myeongseong of Korea
During this time the Kingdom of Korea was still maintaining a policy of isolation and had already greatly offended the Japanese by turning away their envoys sent to establish formal diplomatic relations. In fact, had Japan been prepared, there may have been war much sooner. In any event, Japan later sent a powerful naval force to compel Korea to open her ports to them, in much the same way Commodore Perry of the United States had done to Japan. Rather than risk war the Korean government agreed to trade with Japan and allow Japanese persons to buy land in Korea, though many were still nervous about having anything, whatever, to do with the outside world. Tensions, however, only increased as Japan was already more advanced than Korea and the local merchants were unable to compete with the Japanese which hurt the Korean economy.
In 1882 there was a more serious mutiny by elements of the army resentful of the special status of the new, modern military units and they attacked areas associated with the Queen’s family and killed many of her friends and allies. The old regent even came out to take charge of the rebellion which was aimed almost solely at the Queen. The rebels grew in strength and finally King Gojong and Queen Min were forced to flee the palace and go into hiding with the Daewongun taking control of the government and quickly issuing orders ending all of the modernization programs and reasserting the policy of isolationism. This prompted the Qing Empire to dispatch Chinese troops to Korea (which they still viewed as within their traditional sphere of influence). They arrested the former regent, bringing him back to Peking for trial and restored the King and Queen who promptly retracted the retractions enacted in their absence. In the aftermath, King Gojong signed a new agreement with Japan and when Queen Min learned of this she quickly tried to strengthen ties with China as a way of off-setting Japanese influence in an effort to ensure that no one power gained dominance over Korea. She also sought relations with the United States in an effort to advance Korean industry, hoping to surpass Japan.