Talk:French campaign against Korea (1866)

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Change name[edit]

The name of this article is completely counterintutive to English speakers, who are not familar with Sino-Korean dating practices. I suggest a page move to a page name corresponding to the French language page, Expédition en Corée du contre-amiral Roze. What about French intervention in Korea, 1866? --Niohe 03:02, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

I would agree. When I first began it I knew the name was inadequate but was more eager to get it started than in finding the right name. Also, I could not come up with a succinct and appropriate title. I am not sure about French it sounds as if there were already a conflict in progress (true, there was an anti Catholic campaign going on). How about French Expedition against Korea, 1866? Straitgate 05:39, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

That sounds much better. Why don't we just move it then?--Niohe 12:08, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Recent edits concerning return of missionaries[edit]

I changed the portions asserting that the encounter resulted in the return of the remaining missionaries. To my mind only three French missionaries survived the crack down (including Father Ridel). None of these were returned per se. Ridel escaped to China first to alert the French authorities there of the massacre and the other two later escaped by boat as well, just as the French expedition was crossing to Korea. By the time the French arrived at Ganghwa there were no more French missionaries in country. Straitgate 07:15, 7 June 2007 (UTC)

Hi Straitgate. The story about the return of the two missionnaries is from here ("Le résultat est immédiat: les deux missionnaires sont remis à l'Amiral.", in Leon Rochotte "La Corée 5.000 ans d'Histoire en raccourci"). Do you have sources for the alternative story? Regards PHG 07:26, 7 June 2007 (UTC)
Hello PHG. Thanks for the link. I found it very interesting since that was the first I had ever read that Roze forced the release of the two prisoners (or in fact that they were ever taken prisoner, from all I have read they escaped into hiding). I was curious as to his source for that but all he has is Marc Orange (I think that other citation is a biographical piece on Roze). I have a copy of an article by Orange of the same title but published by the Revue de Coree in 1976. Nowhere in that does he mention such an encounter and release. However, he does quote in his appendix a letter from Father Ridel which recounts how Ridel questioned some fishermen during the expedition to Ganghwa regarding news of the two lost missionaries: “J‘eus ensuite des détails sur mes deux confrères, MM. Féron et Calais. Lors de la première expédition, ces mêmes matelots avaient essayé de les amener jusqu‘à nos navires, mais ils étaient arrivés deux jours trop tard, et, après avoir erré longtemps dans les îles, les avaient déposés sur une barque chinoise qui avait dû les amener à Tchefou.” (I then received some details regarding my brethren, Monsieurs Feron and Calais. At the time of our first expedition [the reconnaissance expedition of Sept.] these same fishermen had attempted to lead them [Feron and Calais] to our vessels but they arrived two days too late, and, after some time wandering among the islands, they placed them aboard a Chinese junk which took them to Chefoo). I guess it comes down to tracking the source of that online article but up to now I can find nothing that corroborates it. I am pretty sure Dallet would follow the account of Ridel. 00:59, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for the Ridel quote, it does sound quite compelling. Maybe it should even be included in the article. Best regards. PHG 05:16, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
Greetings Straitgate and PHG and other user. I'm Leon C. Rochotte, French Kor and Nam Vet Navy and author. About the return of the two missionaries my source is in "Cols bleus" 1998/10/24 (Bulletin of the French Navy) article "L'Amiral Roze" author M.Maxime Ferrière. Quote : ".... Entre les mains de l'amiral tombent des drapeaux, des canons, huit mille fusils, vingt caisses de lingots d'argent, sans compter des laques, des jades, des manuscrits et des rouleaux de peinture. L'amiral lance une proclamation assurant qu'il ne veut aucun mal aux Coréens, mais il exige qu'on lui livre deux missionnaires encore prisonniers. Et il attend. Le gouverneur coréen lui aussi attend. L'amiral finit par s'impatienter, et, après sommation, envoie quelques obus sur le palais royal, et sur les bâtiments officiels. Le résultat est immédiat : les deux missionnaires sont remis à l'amiral. Alors, celui-ci, ayant obtenu satisfaction et laissant les Coréens dans l'admiration respectueuse et craintive de la puissance française, appareille, et , pavillon haut, l'honneur étant sauf, redescend la rivière Han". About the term "boulevard", I think that the word "faubourg" is more appropriated. "Faubourg" means "suburb" in english. Sorry for the bad english... Regards Leon_C._Rochotte —Preceding undated comment added 15:16, 17 August 2009 (UTC).


I felt I had to give a little more explanation of some major changes/additions. Before I could make them I had to go back and look at some sources. Only on the first exploratory expedition did Roze attempt to steam up the Han River. He almost didnt make it back due to the treacherous currents, shallow waters, and narrow passages that could easily be blocked by scuttled boats, logs, or even chains. So the former account here about the French forces going up to the capital and bombarding it were simply not right; there was bombardment but only of the coastal fortifications and of Ganghwa City, where they destroyed some powderhouses and buildings. Again, there might have been some confusion here with the earlier expedition, where two of the ships did go up nearly to Seoul and did fire along the coast. But even then they were never near enough to fire upon Seoul. Even if they made it to Seoul, the city is way too distant from the Han River to be bombarded. Also, concerning the two missionaries. There was an earlier reference to a French website that did indeed claim the two missionaires were “released”. But there again I can only say he/she is wrong because there are no sources that claim the two were captured. The two missionaires themselves say they eluded capture and finally managed to escape on a Korean vessel. Word then reached Roze from China that the two were safe. I also changed the casuality figures and participant figures for the French after looking at many sources. Almost all sources give 3 dead, though one gives 2. As for injured they vary from 31 to 50 so I said 40+. I could give all the sources but that would be tiresome. I could provide them if interested or maybe make a table some day.Straitgate 07:07, 4 August 2007 (UTC)

Hi Straitgate! Roze himself claims at the end of the expedition that he fired on Seoul: "Lastly, the destruction of one of the avenues of Seoul, and the considerable losses suffered by the Korean government should render it more cautious in the future." Do you have alternative sources claiming they did not go to Seoul and shell it? Regards PHG 12:37, 7 August 2007 (UTC)
Hey PHG. Thanks for the comment. I also have this source (the report by Roze), which is my primary source for him not going to the capital. Within the article I also quote from the final report (via Marc Orange since I didnt think I should write any interpretation of my own based on primary sources) by Roze, in which he admits he had no hope of advancing to the capital and so satisfied himself with a coup de main at Ganghwa, the main guardpost to the Han River leading to Seoul. It is also clear in all the accounts that the second expedition did not go to Seoul. Here by “avenue de Seoul” is meant not a literal avenue in Seoul but the primary artery leading to the capital, that is Ganghwa Island and its fortifications. Roze felt (or was claiming) that he had destroyed Ganghwa, and he did indeed take a slightly scorched earth policy before departing. I believe this can be taken as him trying to put a positive spin on what was by most accounts a failed expedition.
Hi Straitgate, the actual French is "un des boulevards de Seoul", which could only mean a large street of Seoul. The sourced article also says that the French fought their way to Seoul ("les Français remontent vers SÉOUL"), that the Palace was bombarded and that Roze then sailed down the river Han (Source). Would you have the actual Roze quote from the final report, on which Orange is basing his analysis? Regards PHG 08:36, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
Hi PHG. I still don’t see how the use of the plural or the word boulevard changes the meaning (but thanks for the link to boulevard!). We might say in English alternately the that the Rhine is a central avenue or highway or artery of Europe. The Han River was seen as one of the principle avenues of Seoul (=leading to Seoul). In a mountainous country like Korea the Han River was extremely important as the primary transportation highways to and from the capital from the outlying regions. It is also not clear from the website source that the bombardment of the fortifications was Seoul. He does say the proceeded to Seoul and seized some fortifications but all I can say again is the writer is mistaken if he/she thinks the French moved on Seoul. The fortifications were in fact government buildings and storehouses on Ganghwa. Ganghwa had been for centuries the traditional place of refuge for the royal family and government and there were actually royal dwellings there and government complexes, storehouses, archives, etc. Right on the coast opposite Ganghwa were two large gates that Roze at one point describes as the gates of Seoul, meaning they guarded the river entrance and a road along the river that led eventually to the capital. It was not a route he ever took though they did fire on the gates (that was the engagement of Oct. 26).

In any case, I include here some key quotes from Roze. These are all taken from: Andreas Choe, ed. Han-pul kwan’gye charyo (1986) [Original documents relating to Korea-French relations] Seoul: Hanguk kyohoesa yŏn’guso. This is a collection of original documentation collated into one volume. Page numbers are from there. I only translated a few key passages to hopefully demonstrate: 1. Roze did not go to Seoul nor did he ever plan to; and 2. Roze saw Ganghwa as a strategic military location, highly fortified, and commanding a highway (boulevard) of Seoul. Sorry, I did not want to take the time to put in all the French pronunciation marks.

Roze to Naval Minister (22 October 1866) (from Kanghwa)

Mon intention etais de me render au mouillage de l’Ile Boisee avec la Guerriere et les batiments de ma Division. Mon but etait de frapper un coup aussi rude que possible sur l’Ile de Kanghoa qui est la place la plus fortifiee de la Coree et qui, par sa position geographique, domine la riviere de Seoul…j’avais reconnu, dans l’exploration qui m’avait conduit a la rive la plus raprochee de Seoul, qu’il ne m’etait pas possible de tenter un attaque contre cette Capitale avec les simples moyens de ma disposition, mais un coup de main contre Kanghoa me s’emblait de nature a pouvoir etre effectue…(p. 319)

Nous avions deja decouvert la veille trois grandes poudrieres pleines de poudre et de munition dans la voisinage de nos cantonements. A n’en pas douter, l’ile de Kanghoa devait avoir ete choisie par le Gouvernment de Seoul, comme le boulevard militaire de la Coree. (p. 323)

[The previous day we had already discovered three large magazines full of gunpowder and munitions in the vicinity of our encampments. There can be no doubt, the Island of Ganghwa must have been selected by the government of Seoul as the military avenue of Korea].

Je ne pourrais marcher sur Seoul, ainsi que je les deja dit, avec le peu de forces dont je dispose…quoi qu’il arrive, le but que je m’etais propose est atteint: celui de punir le meurtre de nos missionaries en detruisant le place la plus foritifie du Royaume et en montant a ce pays qu’il n’etais pas invulnerable. (p. 326)

Roze to Naval Minister (17 Novembre 1866) (just after the withdrawal from Ganghwa)

Ainsi que jai eu l’honneur de l’ecrire a Votre Excellence, le but que m’etais propose en debarquant a Kanghoa, en detruisant cette place de guerre le plus forte de la Coree, en bloquant vigoreusement la riviere de Seoul, etait de punir et d’humilier dans les limites des seuls moyens fournis par ma Division, un gouvernment qui dans la confiance de son impunite avait ose faire massacre nos missionaries. (p. 332)

Ayant accompli avec tout le success desirable le coup de main que j’avais projete sur Kanghoa, après avoir bloque vigoureusment Seoul precisement au moment ou les jonques chargees de riz arrivent des provinces du Sud pour alimenter la Capitale et avoir cause par ce fait un grand prejudice au Gouvernment qui, dans ce pays, s’est institute le fermier general de presque toutes les productions…j’avais former le projet d’evacuer au premier jour l’ile de Kanghoa…(p. 335)

Roze to Naval Minister (31 Janvier 1867) (after his return to Japan)

Votre Excellence a connu le programme que je m’etais trace après mon exploration de la riviere de Seoul. Ayant reconnu l’impossibilite d’aller, avec les seules forces donc je disposais, venger dans la capitale de la Coree, le meurtre de nos missionaries, j’avais concu la pensee de frapper le gouvernment de ce pays dans l’ile de Kanghoa, place forte que je recontrais sur ma route et qui, par son importance ainsi que par les richesses militaries qu’elle renfermait, meritait de fixer mon attention. (p. 373)

[Your Excellency is aware of the plan which I outlined to you following my return from the exploration of the river of Seoul. Having recognized the impossibility of proceeding to the capital of Korea, with the limited forces of which I was disposed, and there avenging the murder of our missionaries, I conceived the idea of striking the government of this country at the Island of Ganghwa, a place I spotted along my route and which, by its importance as well as the wealth of military stores it held, sufficed to determine me in this strategy].

Sorry for awkward translation but you get the idea.Straitgate 07:56, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Latest Changes[edit]

I would have to disagree that the change from "Korea was a nominal vassal of China" to "China had influence in Korean affairs" as being a grammatical error. Where's the grammar error? Intentional or no, this change totally reconstitutes the history and the article. The latest revision overlooks a considerably major aspect of the whole affair. i.e., at a time when Korea was closed off to foreign (=Western) intercourse, Western powers, here France, saw China as being the responsible party for righting what they saw as wrongs. In traditional East Asian foreign affairs, especially between China and Korea, Korea was a "nominal" (meaning in traditional name but not in current fact) vassal of China. It had for many centuries proffered submission to the Chinese emperor in the realm of foreign affairs but not domestic. It was not a case here that China had influence in the modern sense, but that China was the ultimate arbiter of international relations in terms of Korea. Again, I am not saying this was the case in reality, but in the "perception" of Western powers. Certainly I think in this case this view of traditional Sino-Korean relations was exploited by the French to justify their attack (i.e., China was not willing to rectify things so France was forced to act). In reality there was little China could have done to influence things in Korea. They were busy enough as it was. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Straitgate (talkcontribs) 09:22, 11 January 2008 (UTC)

I've reverted the deletion that Korea "was a nominal vassal of China". The key word here is "nominal". I can't honestly believe that anyone would disagree with this in fact. Emotionally, yes but not in fact.


The "c" in "campaign" does not need to be capitalized. Also, the year seems superfluous in the title. (talk) 02:17, 21 April 2009 (UTC)

Korean military victory???[edit]

How is it possible? Koreans barely resisted in one of the last monastery, had their capital bombed, missionaries escaped (so mission accomplished?) and the French captured a good booty. Plus, they had fewer casualties. I don't figure out as a big success for the French, but it is not a Korean victory either. I change the result. "French withdrawal, Korea reaffirms its isolationism" looks good for me. Does everyone agree? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:03, 27 September 2011 (UTC)


This depends on where you stand. Christian missionaries could be martyrs for Christians and evangelists. Korean troops killing them and fighting against the French could be martyrs for nationalist Koreans. So lets not use the word except when talking about the memorial maybe. I added quotes there too.-- (talk) 12:03, 8 February 2016 (UTC)