This article deals with the encounters between a traditional Korean rural and island population and western military forces when the British navy occupied Geomundo, an archipelago known to them as Port Hamilton, for 22 months between 1885 and 1887. The paper first outlines the sometimes painful process of East Asian countries being opened up to trade and outside influences in the 19th century, a process sometimes urged upon them by naval weapons in this era of gunboat diplomacy. This provides the setting for the Port Hamilton Affair itself when in preparation for possible war with Russia, a British naval squadron steamed into Port Hamilton and took it without reference to the local people or their national government. After brief reference to the political consequences of this action, the focus is then on what the records from the occupation and earlier investigations by the British, who had long coveted the islands’ strategic harbour, reveal about the life of the islanders. The article considers both their traditional life, from a time rather before western travel accounts were written about the Korean mainland, and how the islanders fared under the British.
- Port Hamilton; Geomundo; Korea; Gunboat diplomacy; Islands; Great Game