Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No.363 THE ROAD TO THE GREATER EAST ASIAN WAR Part 3: Chapter 1 Beginnings of Modern Japan-Korean Relation

Nakamura Akira, Professor Emeritus of Dokkyo University

(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)

Part 3: Chapter 1 Beginnings of Modern Japan-Korean Relation

Japan started Meiji-Renovation for opening up policy and modernization in 1872. To resume a new formal relation with Qing China and Korea was of utmost importance.

Qing refused Japanese request for the first time, but because of recognition of some progressive bureaucrats of the court, the Sino-Japanese Friendship and trade Treaty was concluded in 1871.

An important aspect of the 1871 treaty was the acknowledgement of mutual extraterritoriality and consular jurisdiction, which made it in an equal treaty.

Then, how did the relation with Korea progress? In January 1868 the new government sent notifications to some nations announcing the restoration of imperial rule. However, Koreans received to accept the message. The reason given for their refusal was that the message from So contained several Chinese characters that did not appear in previous missives of that sort. They were the characters representing Imperial House of Japan, imperial decree, and imperial court. Since Korea was a tributary state of China, in the minds of the Koreans, the Chinese characters to which they took offense could be used only when referring to China. This was the start of Japan Korea modern relations.

Even if Japan changed the expression characters, Korean stance did not change but became more arrogant. So, advocate of sending a punitive expedition against Korea intensified in Japan. Councillor Saigo Takamori volunteered himself as envoy plenipotentiary, and said that he would not be accompanied by military personnel, not even one soldier. However, Saigo’s proposal to launch a punitive expedition against Korea was declined; “Dispatching an emissary to Korea would be premature, there are frequent disputes with Russia over Karafuto (Sakhalin).

Even though the Sino-Japanese Friendship and trade Treaty was concluded in 1871, Korea continued to stick to old tradition until 187, when Japan-Korea Treaty was concluded by the effect of

The Ganghwa Island Incident.

In December 1884, the Enlightenment Party, Kim-Ok-gyn and Pak Yong-hyo as leader, made a coup d’état with the support of from Japan. The Conservative Party asked China to send Troops to Korea. The coup was reversed. Kim Ok-gyun, Pak Yong-hyo, and other key members of the Enlightenment Party sought refuge in Japan.

After this incident, the Convention of Tsientsin was concluded between Japan and Korea agreeing that both military in Kore be withdrawn and if Japan or China were to send troops due to unrest in Korea, the nation sending troops was obliged to notify the other before the fact. China dominated its position in Korea but Russia increased its control in Korea.

Under such circumstances, Fukuzawa Yukichi, who made efforts to modernize Korea, wrote an article in Jiji shinpo: “Argument in Favor of Abandoning Asia”

When our thoughts turn to Japan’s foreign policy, we must realize that Japan does not have the time to wait for China and Korea to acquire modern civilization to the extent where Japan can join with them in encouraging the growth of Asia. Instead, Japan should separate itself from its declining neighbors and cast its fate with the enlightened nations of the West. …


 MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact