The U.S. GOP Convention & Echoes from the Chosun Dynasty

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The U.S. GOP Convention & Echoes from the Chosun Dynasty

The U.S. Republican Party, commonly referred to as the GOP (the Grand Old Party), was founded in 1854 by the combination of political forces against slavery. Two years later, the GOP became a national political party by presenting a candidate for the presidential election. It succeeded in its second try in 1860 with Abraham Lincoln as its candidate.

The Republican Party enjoyed continued prosperity during the growth of the country into an industrialized nation for decades after the Civil War (1861-1865). It served as an engine for the development of capitalism until the early 20th century, on the basis of an alliance between Eastern business and Midwestern farming. From the 1870s to the Great Depression of 1929, all but two presidents were Republicans. And, it was almost always a Republican administration that the Choson Kingdom (1392-1910) talked to in its dealings with the United States.

In 1871, the eighth year of the reign of King Kojong (1852-1919), six U.S. warships docked at Kanghwa Island where they clashed with the royal Korean guard. The "Sungjongwon Diary," a 3,245-volume record of the Royal Secretariat during the twilight of the Choson Kingdom, contains the minutes of a conversation Kojong shared with his minister Kim Byong-hak on the U.S. incursion. Kim Byong-hak reported to his sovereign, "Mirikyon (America) is only an assembly of small tribes. At the center of this tribal nation is Hwasongdon (Washington), and it also engages in trade with foreign barbarians." In response, Kojong declared, "Then, they are no different from pirates."

The Choson Kingdom had been deplorably ignorant of the U.S in the late-19th century and its gradual emergence as a world power, riding on the strength of the Republican administration's collusion with so-called "robber barons." Although the Choson Kingdom tried in its way, it was sorely lacking both in judgement and strength to take on the dominant global trends with the rise of the West and the decline of the East.

The 'Hermit Kingdom' (as Korea was sometimes referred to at that time) established diplomatic relations with the United States in 1882. In the following year, the Choson Kingdom sent its first diplomatic delegation to the United States, who had the honor of having an audience with their 'king', president Chester A. Arthur, also a Republican. By this time, though, the winds of change were moving against the fortunes of the Choson Kingdom. The United States, under the leadership of President Theodore Roosevelt, also a Republican, agreed to the clandestine 'Taft-Katsura Agreement' in 1905, recognizing Japan's claims to Korea in return for the U.S.' occupation of the Philippines.

The Republican National Convention wrapped up today in the historic city of Philadelphia. This, the 37th convention of the GOP, adopted an unprecedentedly hard-line party platform, some of which directed at policies towards the Korean peninsula, particularly North Korea. In an age of international politics and rapid changes, it is necessary for us to keep a cool head to objectively see our situation in the world so that we do not repeat the same mistake the rulers made more than a century ago during the twilight of the Chosun Kingdom.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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