Diplomatic Missions of Joseon Envoy Min Yonghwan
Min Yonghwan (1861-1905), was a minister of the Korean Empire and known as a conservative proponent for reform. He is remembered today for his efforts on behalf of Korean independence in the waning days of the Joseon dynasty and a statue to his memory now stands near the gates of Seoul's Changdeok Palace. In 1895, Min was appointed as the first ambassador to the United States. However, the murder of his aunt, the Empress Myeongseong, by Japanese troops in October 1895, prevented his taking up the post. In April 1896, Min was appointed special ambassador and sent to Russia to attend the coronation of Czar Nicholas II. After a six month journey Min returned to Korea in late October of the same year. In January 1897, Min was again sent to Europe as Korean envoy to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. These journeys served to further convince Min of the necessity of modernization. Upon his return to Korea, Min was an active supporter of the Independence Club.
On November 17, 1905, Japan succeeded in foisting upon Korea the Eulsa Treaty making Korea a Japanese protectorship. Min and many other officials pleaded with King Gojong to annul the treaty and execute the five Korean officials who had signed it, now widely referred to as the "Five Traitors of Eulsa" (Eulsa ojeok). But, his remonstrations were silenced by Japanese force, Min decided to commit suicide as a final act of resistance and protest by a loyal official. On November 30, 1905 Min cut his own throat. After his death, in his pockets were found five identical messages on the back of his calling cards to the representatives of China, Great Britain, the United States, France, and Germany in which he pleaded with those powers to recognize the true situation within Korea. He also left a final message directed towards the people of Korea, in which he promised to help his fellow countrymen "from the nether world" if they would strengthen their collective will and spirit and exercise their learning in an all out effort to "restore our freedom and independence." - Wiki
Plea found on the back of envoy calling cards:
Our twenty million citizens may be annihilated in the midst of their struggle for survival. Noble envoys, how can you not recognize Japan's purpose and also ignore Japan's actions? November 30th 1905
*Note all connection descriptions are from the personal travel diaries of Min Yonghwan during his travels as a Joseon envoy.
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