Concept

General Sherman incident

Summary
The General Sherman incident () was the destruction of the American merchant ship SS General Sherman in the Taedong River during an unsuccessful and illegal attempt by the ship's crew to open up trade with the isolationist Joseon dynasty of Korea. With the rapid increase in Western imperialism in Asia during the 19th century, Asian nations came under increasing pressure to end their isolationist policies. Despite China and Japan being forcibly opened to foreign trade by Western powers, Korea maintained its isolationism. The General Sherman purchased stocks of cotton textiles, tinware, mirrors and glassware from Tianjin before sailing up the Taedong River. Korean officials informed the ship's captain that he was not allowed to trade in Korea; these instructions were ignored. Eventually, regent Daewongun, believing the General Sherman to be a French Navy warship on a punitive mission to avenge the deaths of Catholic priests in Korea, ordered Pyongan Province governor Bak Gyusu to inform the crew that if they did not leave Korean waters they would be executed. The crew of the General Sherman then dispatched a dinghy to forage, which took Korean official Yi Hyon-ik hostage. Korean diplomat Bak Gyusu attempted to negotiate for his release, while a crew of civilian onlookers gathered around the General Sherman, attacking the merchant ship in anger. The General Sherman responded by firing its cannons against the civilians onshore. The Koreans then dispatched troops and an improvised warship to destroy the General Sherman, but these efforts were repulsed. Eventually, waves of fire ships set the merchantman on fire. The crew of the General Sherman jumped off the ship and were killed by enraged civilians on the shore. Korean officials did not inform the U.S. government of the incident and evaded inquiries from American officials. Five years later in 1871, the United States dispatched a military expedition to Korea, in part to ascertain the fate of the General Sherman. After being ambushed, the expeditionary force captured and occupied several Korean forts after a brief battle.
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