Korean and American Memory of the Five Years Crisis, 1866-1871
This project examines the events from 1866 to 1871 in Korea between the United States and Joseon, with a specific focus on the 1866 General Sherman Incident and the United States Expedition to Korea in 1871. The project also examines the present memory of those events in the United States and North and South Korea. This project shows that contemporary American reactions to the events in Korea from 1866 to 1871 were numerous and ambivalent in what the American role should be in Korea. In the present, American memory of 1866 to 1871 has largely been monopolized by the American military, with the greater American collective memory largely forgetting this period.
In the Koreas, collective memory of the five-year crisis (1866 to 1871) is divided along ideological lines. In North Korea, the victories that Korea achieved against the United States are used as stories to reinforce the North Korean line on the United States, as well as reinforcing the legitimacy of the Kim family. In South Korea, the narrative focuses on the corruption of Joseon and the Daewongun and the triumph of a “modernizing” Korean state against anti-western hardliners, and is more diverse in how the narrative is told, ranging from newspapers to K-Dramas, leading to a more complicated collective memory in the South.
This Thesis shows that understanding the impact that the first state-to-state encounters had on the American-Korean relationship not only at the time but also in the present, is key to analyzing the complicated history of the Korean-American relationship writ large.