Executing a rebel, burning seamen, drowning soldiersJuly 21, 1898
Donghak, a religion founded in 1860, tried to liberate people from traditional social formalities and hierarchies. It was thus an anathema to the ruling class of the Joseon Dynasty (1392 to 1910). The religion’s founder was executed and the faith pronounced illegal.
Then appeared Choi Si-hyeong, who played a significant role in rebuilding the religion. Mr. Choi tried to legalize Donghak as part of a growing revolution against the existing dynasty’s corruption and the growing influence of foreign intruders. The revolution influenced the public’s social mind-set, but was suppressed. Mr. Choi was executed on this date.
July 22, 1866
Relations between northern Korea and the United States were bumpy from their earliest stages. On this date, the General Sherman, an armed American vessel, came to Pyeongyang uninvited, seeking trade relations. Heading upstream on the Daedong River, the ship anchored at Pyeongyang.
Under the rule of Regent Daewongun, father of King Gojong, Joseon Dynasty leaders locked the country to outsiders. Never mind business deals; the very notion of getting close to Westerners violated national policy.
The General Sherman aroused Pyeongyang’s concern. A city official, Park Gyu-su, asked the crew to withdraw. The crew, however, pushed toward Pyeongyang’s heart. Mr. Park sent his subordinate, Lee Hyeon-ik, to the ship with an ultimatum. The crew took Mr. Lee hostage, which incited locals to rise against the ship. As citizens ran to the ship, the crew fired at them with rifles; citizens fought back with arrows and stones.
Luck was not on the Americans’ side, however; as the rains stopped, the river level fell, stranding the ship. The agitated crew ended up killing seven and injuring five locals. Mr. Park decided to burn down the ship, opening fire with cannons and killing the entire crew. In response to the General Sherman incident, the United States attacked the Joseon Dynasty in 1871.
July 24, 612
General Euljimundeok of the Goguryeo Dynasty (37 B.C. to A.D. 668) is remembered as one of the most courageous military men in Korean history. On this date, the general fought off China’s Sui Dynasty (581 to 618), eliminating the intruders.
The Goguryeo, at the peninsula’s far northern tip, was China’s first target. The battle appeared simple to the Sui Dynasty, with its imposing army of more than one million troops.
The general’s strategy was to pretend to surrender. The Chinese troops put their minds at ease, deciding to take over Pyeongyang Castle after crossing the Salsu, today’s Cheongcheon River. General Euljimundeok pretended to capitulate to the Chinese troops to investigate their encampment. When he saw Chinese soldiers sharing rice, the general suspected a food shortage.
The general then penned a poem, which hinted at the stupidity of his Chinese counterpart. It was not until the Chinese received the poem that they realized they were trapped. The Chinese tried to flee across the Salsu, but General Euljimundeok was waiting, having stopped the river’s flow. As the Chinese crossed the river, the general reopened the flow, sweeping away the soldiers. Fewer than 3,000 soldiers survived.
by Chun Su-jin