SOAS University of London

Centre of Korean Studies

Seminar: Interrelation between British Fleet's Withdrawal from Port Hamilton (KĊmundo) and the British Foreign Policy: The Li-Ladygensky Joint Agreement of 1886

THIS EVENT IS ARCHIVED
Professor HyunSoo Kim (SOAS / Dankook University)

Date: 15 May 2009Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 15 May 2009Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Faber Building Room: FG08

Type of Event: Seminar

Abstract

On 28 April 1884, Britain and Korea exchanged a ratification instrument for the Second British-Korean Treaty of Amity & Commerce (the Parkes treaty). With this treaty’s ratification, Britain and Korea created an official diplomatic channel and wrote clearly the first page of British-Korean diplomatic history. However, the Port Hamilton affair (1885.5~1887.2), in which the British navy occupied a Korean island group known as Kŏmundo (Port Hamilton to the British) seemed to undermine the meaning of the Parkes treaty. Several events connected with the occupation indicate that the British–Korean diplomatic link created by the treaty was ignored. Firstly, British government directly occupied Port Hamilton without contacting the Korean Government. Secondly, the British government discussed about the future of Port Hamilton with neighboring countries such as Russia and China, while excluding Korea, the sovereign power. Finally, the British withdrawal from Port Hamilton followed on from the Li-Ladygensky Joint Agreement (L-L Agreement - sometimes known as the Tianjin Agreement) of 1886, which resulted from Sino-Russian negotiations without involving Korea. The British government did not even discuss the practical arrangements for the evacuation of the islands with the Korean government. 

If above account are accurate, do existing studies about the Port Hamilton affair deal with the meaning of Parkes treaty in the context of the occupation? In fact, while several studies exist about the occupation, but there is little about the withdrawal. Therefore, in this paper, I will deal with British foreign policy relating to the withdrawal from Port Hamilton withdrawal, and in particular, with the L-L Agreement which was at the core of it.

The research focus of this paper is the evaluation of the L-L Agreement in the context of the Great Game (Anglo-Russian rivalry) and British foreign policy to East Asia. First of all, the L-L Agreement is positively evaluated in the context of the Great Game because the British succeeded in interrupting Russian progress toward East Asia without direct conflict as a result of the Agreement. And the L-L Agreement can also be evaluated positively as part of Britain’s East Asia foreign policy because it gave Britain a good reason for withdrawing from Port Hamilton without international confusion. However, this paper tries to look at the issue from a different perspective.

This paper found two negative aspects of the L-L Agreement:-

  1. First, the agreement failed to control Russian expansion in East Asia. By the L-L Agreement, China alone was given the task of stopping Russian expansion toward East Asia. But after the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), however, China’s diplomatic role in East Asia was weakened. Then no country, not even Britain, could control the Russia drive towards Asia as shown by the planning for Siberia railroad construction. To stop this kind of Russian expansion toward East Asia, Britain arranged the 1902 Alliance with Japan, the victor in the Sino-Japanese War. Consequently, it is certain that Britain could not become the victor in the Great Game in East Asia because of the L-L Agreement.
  2. The second negative evaluation of the agreement relates to British foreign policy to East Asia. Through the conclusion of the 1883 treaty, the British diplomat, Sir Harry S. Parkes prevented the Chinese Li Hongzhang (who thought that Korea was China’s Vassal State) from intervening in Korea. But the effect of Parkes’ treaty was overturned by L-L Agreement because Li started his intervention to Korea again. And, by L-L Agreement, Britain herself gave up recognition of Korean sovereignty. The major principles of British foreign policy in East Asia which were formed by Parkes were thrown into confusion, as was shown during the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). If Britain had kept to the principles behind Parkes treaty, Britain could have arbitrated between China and Japan in order to preserve British interests in Korea, and war might have been avoided. Britain’s abandonment of the recognition of Korean sovereignty led to the outbreak of the war. Following the British position, China and Japan did not treat Korea as a sovereign nation during the war.

The British government may have thought that withdrawal from Port Hamilton was a tiny incident, because the whole Port Hamilton occupation was a side issue of the Great Game. However, this paper argues that the issue of withdrawal from Port Hamilton and especially the way it was brought about through the L-L Agreement, offers important evidence for understanding of British foreign policy of the nineteenth century.

Biography
  • Kim, HyunSoo ( Academic visitor, SOAS)
  • University of Dankook (BA), California State University( MA), University of Glasgow( PhD)
  • Present: Professor , Department of History, University of Dankook
  • My major research field is British diplomatic history in the Imperial times, focused it on its diplomatic role and influence in the world history. As a part of my research, I am studying diplomatic relations between Korea and Britain from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Recently I have written several papers about Sir Harry S. Parkes, a famous British diplomat who served in China, Japan and Korea to the 19th century.
Citations
  1. the L-L Agreement’s contents are: -
    I: Russia and China pledge themselves to respect the integrity of Korea.
    II: Russia and China pledge themselves to protect Korea against encroachment at the hands of other powers.
    III: Russia and China pledge themselves to discuss any part of Korea’s political circumstances together.
  2. Sir Harry S Parkes( 1828-1885): Consul in Guangzhou (1856-8), Minister in Japan( 1865-1883), Minister in China & Korea(1883-1885)
Enquiries 

Dr Jaehoon Yeon (Centre Chair): mailto:jy1@soas.ac.uk
or Rahima Begum:  rb41@soas.ac.uk