Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Anti-American Art: Gunboat Diplomacy Fail

Here's a 2006 postage stamp from the Democratic People's Republic of (North) Korea marking the anniversary of the burning and sinking of the American ship the "General Sherman" in 1866. The ship had entered Korean territory on the Tae-Dong river near Pyongyang. A message was sent from the isolated Korean government of the time to the ship: "You have reached the walls of our city when asked to stay put at Keupsa Gate. You insist on trading with us, which is forbidden. Your actions have created a grave situation so much so that I must inform my King and let him decide what to do with you people."

Fearing an imminent foreign invasion the Koreans attacked the ship. "The enemy ship caught on fire and began to burn. The crew faced suffocation by the stench and vapor of the burning sulphur and saltpetre. They tried in vain to put out the flames and as the smoke grew thicker and thicker they were forced one by one to jump into the water. Our troops in boats surrounded the enemy ship and captured the enemy as they tried to escape. Drill-sergeant Park boarded the ship and rescued Lee. Some of the invaders waved white flags. Most of them were hacked to pieces before they reached the shore. Others were dragged ashore alive. These tried friendly smiles and soft words to win the goodwill of our people - in vain."

Needless to say, the repulsion of this early contact between America and Korea is celebrated today in North Korea. The stamp shows the burning ship complete with burning American flag.

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