Willard D. Straight took 380 photographs of Korea during his two trips in 1904 and 1905 first as a correspondent for Reuters to cover the Russo-Japanese War and subsequently as the personal secretary to the American ambassador to Korea, Edwin V. Morgan. These evocative and often heartbreaking photographs documenting landscapes, daily life, people and important diplomatic events provide a rare glimpse into the start of a painful period in Korea history. The images below also include Japanese postcards (some of them hand-colored) depicting Korean life.
Here are some important historical markers: February 8, 1904 – The Russian and Japanese rivalry erupts into war to determine the control of Manchuria and Korea. February 23, 1904 – Korea becomes a protectorate of Japan under the terms of a treaty in which Japan takes over the foreign affairs of Korea while guaranteeing it’s integrity. September 5, 1905 – The Russo-Japanese War ends by a treaty in which Russia recognizes the Japan’s “paramount interest” in Korea. November 17, 1905 – An agreement between Japan and Korea formalizes Korea’s status as Japan’s protectorate. November 28, 1905 – The United States Legation at Seoul is closed and all subsequent diplomatic business relating to Korea is conducted in Tokyo.
Pictured on the right is Min Young-hwan, a fierce opponent of Japanese encroachment into Korea. On November 30, 1905, Min killed himself to protest against the validity of the treaty making Korea a protectorate of Japan. Prior to his suicide he sent his will to every legation in Korea, asking them to help Koreans rise against the Japanese to gain their independence. His death shocked people and the contents of his will were widely reported in the newspapers. Included below are pictures of the State funeral procession for Min.
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These images are from the Straight Archive. There are no known U.S. copyright restrictions on these image. The digital files are owned by the Cornell University Library which is making it freely available with the request that, when possible, the Library be credited as its source.