Episode 157 – Best of Frenemies, Part 3

This week, a three way competition for control of Korea between Japan, China, and Russia heats up! Factional fighting in the Korean court will drag Japan and China into conflict; in the end, the Koreans themselves are sidelined when it comes to controlling their own fate.

Listen to the episode here.


Cummings, Bruce. Korea’s Place in the Sun.

Duus, Peter. The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea, 1895-1910.

Uchida, Jun. Brokers of Empire: Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876-1945.


The Japanese legation flees Seoul during the Imo Incident, 1882. The attacks by conservative elements of the Old Army on Japanese property and nationals sparked outrage and cries for retaliation back in Japan.
A French cartoon from the late 1880s which accurately depicts the situation in Korea at the time.
Members of the Enlightenment Faction who participated in the Gapsin Coup. Kim Ok-gyun is the farthest on the right.
Kim Ok-gyun in the attire of the yangban class. Kim’s radical desire for a Korean Meiji Restoration would be his undoing, as his fellow yangban did not share this asperation.
Kim Ok-gyun’s decapitated head was widely depicted in newspapers of the time; while still conservative, the Korean court was not above using modern technology to drive home this most traditional of punishments.
Chinese generals surrendering after the siege of Pyongyang. The Chinese were swiftly driven from the Korean peninsula in the Sino-Japanese War; after only two battles, all Chinese forces withdrew to Manchuria.