Contents of Sangso for Reinstatement of the Crown Prince Sado and Results

By the mid 19th century, western powers and Japan, which had undergone the capitalistic industrial revolution and armed as imperialist nations, advanced towards Joseon in search for a market and raw materials. Specifically, the French invasion of Gangwhado island in 1866 (in the 3rd year of Gojong’s reign), the United States expedition to Gangwhado island in 1871, the Treaty of Gangwha, an unequal treaty signed with Japan in 1876, and the expansion of trade with western countries in 1882 were the historical examples. Experiencing historical events like these, the Joseon society felt a significant sense of crisis. That is because Joseon, facing the invasive threat from western powers and Japan, was in an urgent crisis to lose her nation and people and fall into a semi-colony or complete colony.
In the process of experiencing two invasions from the western powers, the government made clear its will of ‘Chokwha’ (the rejection of peace offer by the western countries). Because of this government stance, WijongChoksa grew quite. However, after the fall from power of Heungseon Daewongun, Queen Min pursued the opening of ports, and the Choksa opinion boiled again. In the process, radical protests appeared such as Bokhapsangso (伏閤上疏) in which a person was on his hands and knees in from of the royal palace, Jibubokgwual (持斧伏闕) in which a person brings an axe with him and was on his hands and knees in front of the royal palace, filing a collective sangso and so on.
These people succeeded intact the WijongChoksa thought of 1866 when French army invaded the Gangwhado island. They objected the opening of ports, maintaining that they could not trade with western powers which are no better than the beasts. The problem was the nation which demanded the opening of ports was Japan, a neighboring country with which Joseon had long maintained a medieval relationship. While the government thought that the trade with Japan was not a problem as it would restored the old relationship, the people of WijongChoksa opposed it, claiming the so-called ‘Woeyangilcheron (倭洋一體論)’ meaning Japan is not different from western countries.
They cited four reasons to claim that Japan is the same as western countries. First, they maintained that Japan and western countries were one in sprit and body. According to them, Japan was the guide (嚮導) for the western barbarians when she alongside with France and the US intruded China. Second, Japanese people came to Joseon boarding the western ships and used western cannons. In other words, Japan and western countries were using the same products. Third, when Japan came to Joseon bringing 4,000 troops, the intent was to invade Joseon, not to restore diplomatic ties with it. Lastly, the western barbarians, who invaded Gangwhado island in 1866, was just replaced by Japan in 1876. That is, Japan was just another face of the western barbarians. The reason why the western countries set Japan at the head was Joseon’s defense was so tight that they could not find any weak points to intrude into it and satisfy their greed. According to the WijongChoksa way of thought, it was okay to engage in trade with neighboring countries, but trading with Japan should never be allowed because Japan became the guide for the western barbarians.
Meanwhile, the WijongChoksa movement regarded Joseon as the small China which had the Chinese culture intactly. After the Ming dynasty’s collapse, it was said that only “one ray of sunshine (陽氣) remains in this eastern country, and its fate is like a lonely star shining in the confusional chaos.” And it was also said that the westerners “are the most hideous barbarians. Their appearance is that of a human, but actually they are beasts.”
The hardliners of WijongChoksa gave a warning that if Joseon opened ports and engaged in trade with western countries, “the wrong study’s book (the Bible) and the portrait of Jesus would come into Joseon with other products, and before long, the wrong and evil books missionaries and believers brought with them would spread throughout the country.” They said that, then, every household and everyone would read the evil books, sons would not respect their fathers, retainers would not be loyal to the king, manners and clothing would fall into a sewer, and the mankind would become animals. Therefore, they claimed that if Joseon traded with Japan, which was the same as the western countries, it, the small China, the nation of people, would reduce to a nation of animals.
In addition, they pointed out that there would be negative effects if western products would flow as a result of trading. First was the negative effect the trading with the west had on Joseon’s economy. That is, “The western products are all obscene, extravagant, and bizarre. And as they are products of handicraft manufacturing, the amounts are limitless. However, all of our products come from the land, our people’s lifeline, and the amounts are limited. If limitless products and limited products were exchanged, the damage would be borne by the producer of the limited products. As a result, if this trading continued, an enormous amount of money would flow out of Joseon annually, and in just a few years, the nation’s land would be left unattended and barren, and the houses would be collapsing, and inevitably Joseon would fall.” The discussions like these came up after the 1866 French invasion, and continued coming up.
Second, they also sounded an alarm bell about the intent of the west. They said, “the reason why the west wants to trade with our nation is to satisfy their greed for women and wealth.” That is, if Joseon began trading with Japanese people, and the westerners could come into our land, the westerners, according to them, would commit robbery and looting. Moreover, as the western products are obscene in nature, it was also an important problem that they would corrupt people’s minds and make people become like animals.
The hardliners of WijongChoksa proposed solutions to the nation’s problems alongside with the reasons of opposing the opening of ports. To sum up, the solutions were, first, the king should put into practice the principles of neo-Confucianism, based on these principles, calm down the people, and prepare military defense measures to repel foreign invasions. They called these ‘strenuous efforts (自强)’, and stuck to it as a principle.
However, despite the WijongChoksa movement, the ports became open. The logic of the government was, “For the matter of dominating Japan, we ourselves can dominate Japan, and for the matter of repelling the western countries, we can repel them.” Therefore, “If Japan were the guide for the west, there would also be a way to deal with that.” The government said that the restoring of diplomatic ties with Japan was just continuing the 300–year-long relationship with the neighboring country. Emperor Gojong said, “we are continuing friendly relations with Japan. That does not mean reconciling with the west,” and made clear the ban on Catholicism, appeasing the opposing yusaeng. The WijongChoksa movement also made a conclusion, “while it is impossible to reconcile with the west, it is okay to make peace with Japan,” and stopped filing sangsoes of opposing the port opening.
Eventually, the hardliners of WijongChoksa had to accept the realities of opening ports to trade with Japan. However, in order to protect Joseon, the sacred place for neo-Confucianism and where true humans were living, they themselves did not use the western products. The content of the maninso that Joseon maintained the elegant custom by not wanting to wear or sell the western clothes, summarized a situation like these.

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