Sunday, May 21, 2006

A History Lesson May 22, 1882

May 22, 1882 Treaty of Amity and Commerce

There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between the President of the United States and the King of Chosen and the citizens and subjects of their respective Governments. If other Powers deal unjustly or oppressively with either Government, the other will exert their good offices, on being informed of the case, to bring about an amicable arrangement, thus showing their friendly feelings.
Article I, Treaty of Amity and Commerce, 1882

Since the late 1870s, America was aggressively expanding its overseas markets, partly in response to periods of domestic economic downturns. One strategy for American manufacturers and entrepreneurs was to seek out new markets for their goods so that their businesses were not based solely on the peaks and valleys in the U.S. economy--often driven by the period's self-serving bankers and financiers.

This need to open new markets for American commerce led to pro-business government-led endeavors, which included a voyage by Commodore Robert W. Shufeldt to Asia. Shufeldt was under orders to promote American interests in the region and craft a treaty with Korea. The commodore, after an unsuccessful attempt by supportive Japanese officials to act as an intermediary, changed tactics and sought assistance from Chinese official Li Hongzhang. As for why the Chinese aligned with America, China's true aim in assisting the Americans was to strengthen its eastern flank from Japanese domination.

As the talks progressed, Korean King Kojong who had for eight years grown increasingly receptive to a treaty with the United States sent two diplomats to the Chinese capital Beijing. After formal diplomatic introductions the Korean envoys told the Chinese they were ready to sign an agreement with the Americans. After a round of amiable negotiations, the Korean-American agreement, the Treaty of Peace, Amity, Navigation, and Commerce was finalized on May 1882. Subsequently, similar pacts were signed with Germany, Great Britian, and France.

The 1882 Korean-American treaty heralded the growing involvement of Americans in the affairs of Korea. In turn, this opened the door for American involvement in the westernization and modernization of the peninsula...but that's another story.

Excepts from my book_Intrepid Americans: Bold Koreans--Early Korean Trade, Concessions, and Entrepreneurship , 2005.

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