US Navy Man Observe Growing Foreign Settlements in Korean Open Ports

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), May 2, 1999 | Go to article overview

US Navy Man Observe Growing Foreign Settlements in Korean Open Ports


After centuries of seclusion to the outer world, Korea opened its doors to Japan for the first time in 1876. With the floodgate opened, Korea signed treaties that granted the foreign countries the right to conduct commercial activities and leased a certain territory at their disposal to support consulate affairs and trades.

By the early 1880s, Korea formed diplomatic ties with China, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and some other Western nations.

The U.S. became the first Western nation which signed a commercial treaty with Korea in 1882 and later acquired the Philippines in 1898 as a colony through a war with Spain.

The traditional foreign policy of the U.S. had revolved around the isolationist posture staying away from the Old World, as sternly expressed by its fifth president James Monroe in 1832 as a official doctrine of the fledgling state in the New World. However, having settled down internal disputes through the Civil Wars and successful industrialization process, the U.S. began to aggressively advance to the East in line with its growing power and joined in the competition of Western imperialist powers to carve out its advantageous positions in Asia.

Under these circumstances, if U.S. Navy decided to dispatch a large-scale expedition team to the Far East, it is highly probable that the decision must have been made in line with the American government's diplomatic goal in the late 19th century.

The expedition team of the U.S. Navy left the San Francisco harbor aboard the cruiser vessel U.S.S. Alert in September, 1893, carrying fleet engineer officer John D. Ford. The explorers hit the waters of far eastern Russia and Japanese archipelago by way of the Behring Sea and proceeded to Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong and the Philippines during the two and a half years' of voyage.

Based on his detailed journal and supporting research works, the American navy man published the book ``An American Cruiser in the East'' in New York in 1898. The voluminous 468-page travel log also contains 163 black and white pictures throughout 26 chapters dealing with people, lifestyle, natural environment and history of visiting locales.

To the naval officer who already tasted waters of most of the countries on the itinerary, Korea bore particular interest as a virgin destination. ``The cruise was very interesting, and the experiences were valuable. Behring Sea and Korea were revelations to me,'' he said in the preface. Through the book, he desires to ``show these countries and their people as he saw them.''

Anchoring at Korea's three open ports of Chemulpo, now Inchon, Pusan and Wonsan now in North Korea, Ford was impressed with the growing foreign community formed on the leased territories to diplomatic corps and foreign merchants. According to the author, the foreign populations at these three locales exceeded 10,000, of whom about 80 percent were Japanese.

The Americans arrived in Chemulpo on May 7, 1894, the town having grown in a few years from an insignificant fishing village into an important commercial center.

It was the home of many substantial buildings, in the European style, and commanding buildings of the British and Japanese consulate offices occupying commanding positions. There are two hotels in the settlement, the Stewart House which is conducted in the semi-foreign style by a Chinaman, and the Japanese hotel Dai Butsu, noted the U. …

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