The first encounter between Korea and France occurred in the middle of the 19th century, when a number of French Catholic missionaries arrived at the Hermit Kingdom to convert Koreans into Christianity. Korean ruling class, whose political legitimacy ...
The first encounter between Korea and France occurred in the middle of the 19th century, when a number of French Catholic missionaries arrived at the Hermit Kingdom to convert Koreans into Christianity. Korean ruling class, whose political legitimacy had been based on an orthodox neo-Confucianism, rigorously prohibited the spread of Catholicism among poor peasants and discontented elites. The incompatibility of religious beliefs combined with political sense of crisis after all triggered a massacre against Catholics in 1866, in which nine French missionaries had been executed. And memories of the bloody incident prevented friendly relationships between Korea and France even after the official sign of treaty in 1886. Both countries had to wait for the change of tides. Finally when G. Lefèvre, then French diplomat in Seoul, delivered on behalf of French Third Republic an official invitation to the Paris Universal Exposition of 1900 to King Kojong, he welcome it as an opportunity to readdress Franco-Korean relation. Perhaps he wanted to take advantage of the Exposition as another chance of soliciting economic aids and diplomatic allies, obtaining the first-handed information and technology from Western countries as well.
Not to repeat ill preparation and disappointed turn-outs of the previous Chicago Columbian World Exposition of 1893, the King Kojong in 1897 appointed Min Younghan, the ministry of foreign affair, to an special envoy in charge of handling all the business regarding the incoming Paris Exposition, and later also appointed Min Youngwhan, the vice-ministry of justice to a sécretaire de Corée auprès de l'Exposition universelle de Paris. French government cooperated by arranging financial aid in the construction of Korean Pavilion. Thanks to monetary support from Baron Delort de Gléon and Comte de Mimerel, the Korean Pavilion managed to open at the corner street of suffren in Champ-de-Mars. Morris Courant, a de factor curator of the Korean exhibition in Paris, recorded in his memoir that many a visitors had stopped by the Korean Pavilion and expressed curiosity about Korean society and culture.
This paper tries to reappraise the motivation and consequences of Korea’s participation at l’Exposition Universelle de Paris of 1900. What prompted King Kojong to have Korea be a part of the Paris Exposition at the critical time of domestic and foreign crisis In terms of constructing and propagating new national identity of modern Korea, were there any significant differences between its participation at the Chicago Columbian Exposition and Paris Universal Exposition What kind of knowledge and (mis)perception did European countries had on a poor and isolated kingdom in the Far East Had the Korea's involvement with the Paris World Exposition at the turn of the century left any positive and/or negative impacts on its modernization movement These are major questions that this paper will raise and attempt to answer.
In addition, the paper, instead of interpreting the case exclusively within the context of Korean history, will approach the Paris Exposition in a global historical perspective. Assuming that the Exposition would mean many different things to different nations, the paper will pay a close and comparative attention to contemporary (international) politics and society of both France and Korea. How did the French Third Republic endeavor to reestablish its national unity and dignity after the humiliating experiences of Panama scandal and Dreyfus Affair, whereas the Great Han Empire of Korea struggled to become a respectful and legitimate member of the newly emerging international community at the turn of the century In other words, the paper will present a kind of "the tales of two nations," which were ignorant each other but entangled at the Paris Exposition.