The Forgotten Korean War You Might Not Find in the History Books

    Sebastien Roblin

    Security, Asia

    And America was involved 

    The American troops had lost just three men, while they estimated to have killed 243 defenders of the fort. Korean sources claim the total is closer to 350, perhaps accounting for men who drowned fleeing across the river. The landing force counted twenty prisoners and five hundred firearms and artillery pieces captured. The greatest prize was General Eo’s gigantic yellow commandant’s Sujagi battle flag, which measured four by four meters in length. The flag was taken back to the United States and put on display at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum for over a century, but was loaned back for display in South Korea in 2007.

    Seventy-nine years before American troops launched the landing operation at Inchon during the Korean War, U.S. troops were involved in another amphibious assault in that corner of Korea. The Korean Expedition of 1871 sought to open trade with the insular Asian nation—and avenge the destruction of an American ship crewed by kidnappers and pirates. Fifteen American sailors and marines won the Medal of Honor in the brief war, the first such medals awarded for service overseas. Though their actions were skillfully executed, the lamentable political context of the conflict may explain why their deeds are not exactly celebrated in the history textbooks.

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    The “Hermit Kingdom” of Korea was renowned for its isolationist policies, a result of it having sustained repeated invasions from China and Japan. By the 1860s, the ruling Joseon dynasty was in no way encouraged to change its ways by the example of China, then a nominal ally. Western influence in China had seriously undermined the Chinese Qing dynasty’s authority, and led to two humiliating defeats in the Opium Wars begun in 1839 and 1856. The British felt perfectly justified in going to war to defend their right to a free trade in dope in Chinese territory. Furthermore, the spread of Christianity in China, transmitted by European missionaries, indirectly led to the even more calamitous Taiping Rebellion.

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    The National Interest



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