Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876

Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876
Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity
Korean name
Hangul 강화도 조약
Hanja 江華島條約
Revised Romanization Ganghwado Joyak
McCune-Reischauer Kanghwado Choyak
Japanese name
Kanji 日朝修好条規
Hiragana にっちょうしゅうこうじょうき
Hepburn Nitchō-shūkōjōki

The Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity, also known as the Treaty of Ganghwa or Treaty of Kanghwa, was made between representatives of the Empire of Japan and the Kingdom of Joseon in 1876.[1] Negotiations were concluded on February 26, 1876.[2]



After the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, European nations began to colonize many other weaker nations in Africa and Asia, the political ideology called Imperialism. Almost all of Africa was colonized by European Powers; most of Central, South and Southeast Asia including India was taken over by various European nations. East Asia also was invaded by foreign powers, beginning with the Opium Wars in China by Britain and other foreign powers; China's empire was reduced to a half-colonized territory. Meanwhile, the American Asiatic Squadron under the leadership of Matthew C. Perry forced Japan to open its ports to the western world in 1854.

Humiliated by unequal treaties and the prospect of losing its independence and integrity to imperialist powers, Japan embarked on a rapid transformation, successfully turning itself from a comparatively medieval society into a modern industrialized state.

Ganghwa incident

The Japanese gunboat Un'yō.
The landing of the forces of the Un'yō at Ganghwa Island in 1875.

In Korea, the strong dictatorship of Heungseon Daewongun was overthrown by Empress Myeongseong, who instituted a policy of closing doors to European powers. France and United States had already made several unsuccessful attempts to begin commerce with the Joseon Dynasty, all of them happening during Heungseon Daewongun's era. However, after he was removed from power, many new officials who supported the idea of opening commerce with foreigners took power. While there was political instability, Japan developed a plan to open and exert influence on Korea before a European power could. In 1875, their plan was put into action: the Un'yō, a small Japanese warship under the command of Inoue Yoshika, was dispatched to survey coastal waters without Korean permission.

On September 20 the ship reached Ganghwa Island, which had been a site of violent confrontations between Korean forces and foreign forces in the previous decade. In 1866, the island was briefly occupied by the French, and also in 1871 subject to American intervention. The memories of those confrontations were very fresh, and there was little question that the Korean garrison would shoot at any approaching foreign ship. Nonetheless, Commander Inoue ordered a small boat launched – allegedly in search of drinkable water. The Korean forts opened fire. The Un'yō brought its superior firepower to bear and silenced the Korean guns. Then it attacked another Korean port and withdrew back to Japan.

Treaty provisions

Japan-Korea Treaty of Amity, 26 February 1876. Diplomatic Record Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Japan employed gunboat diplomacy to press Joseon Dynasty to sign this unequal treaty. The pact opened up Korea, as Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet of Black Ships had opened up Japan in 1853. According to the treaty, it ended Joseon's status as a tributary state of Qing dynasty and opened three ports to Japanese trade. The Treaty also granted Japanese many of the same rights in Korea that Westerners enjoyed in Japan, such as extraterritoriality.

The chief treaty negotiators were Kuroda Kiyotaka, Governor of Hokkaidō, and Shin Heon, General/Minister of Joseon Dynasty Korea.

The articles of the treaty were as follows:

  • Article 1 stated that Korea was a free nation, "...an independent state enjoying the same sovereign rights as does Japan." The Japanese included this seemingly harmless statement in an attempt to detach Korea once and for all from its traditional tributary relationship with China. Even though Japan asserted the treaty acknowledgment of Korea's autonomous status constituted proof of its peaceful intent, its real purpose was just the opposite.
  • Article 2 stipulated that Japan and Korea would exchange envoys within fifteen months and permanently maintain diplomatic missions in each country. The Japanese would confer with the Ministry of Rites; the Korean envoy would be received by the Foreign Office.
  • Under Article 3, Japan would use the Japanese and Chinese languages in diplomatic communiques, while Korea would use only Chinese.
  • Article 4 terminated Tsushima's centuries-old role as a diplomatic intermediary by abolishing all agreements then existing between Korea and Tsushima.

In addition to the open port of Pusan, Article 5 authorized the search in Kyongsang, Kyonggi, Chungchong, Cholla, and Hamgydng Provinces for two more suitable seaports for Japanese trade to be opened in October 1877.

  • Article 6 secured aid and support for ships stranded or wrecked along the Korea or Japanese coasts.
  • Article 7 permitted any Japanese mariner to conduct surveys and mapping operations at will in the seas off the Korean peninsula's coastline.
  • Article 8 permitted Japanese merchants residence, unhindered trade, and the right to lease land and buildings for those purposes in the open ports.
  • Article 9 guaranteed the freedom to conduct business without interference from either government and to trade without restrictions or prohibitions.
  • Article 10 granted Japan the right of extraterritoriality, the one feature of previous Western treaties that was most widely resented in Asia. It not only gave foreigners a free rein to commit crimes with relative impunity, but its inclusion implied the grantor nation's system of law was either primitive, unjust, or both.


The Imperial Japanese Navy, in Pusan, on its way to Ganghwa Island, Korea, January 16th, 1876. There were 2 warships (Nisshin, Moshun), 3 troop transports, and one liner for the embassy led by Kuroda Kiyotaka.
Four Gatling guns set up in Ganghwa by Japanese troops. 1876 Kuroda mission.

The following year saw a Japanese fleet led by Special Envoy Kuroda Kiyotaka coming over to Korea, demanding an apology from the Joseon government and a commercial treaty between the two nations. The Korean government decided to accept the demand, in hope of importing some technologies to defend the country from any future invasions.

However, the treaty came out to be the first unequal treaty signed by Korea; It gave extraterritorial rights to Japanese citizens in Korea, and forced the Korean government to open 3 ports to Japan, specifically Busan, Incheon and Wonsan. With the signing of its first unequal treaty, Korea became another easy hunt for many imperialistic powers; and later the treaty led Korea to be annexed by Japan.

See also


  1. ^ Chung, Young-lob. (2005). Korea Under Siege, 1876-1945: Capital Formation and Economic Transformation, p. 42. at Google Books; excerpt, "... the initial opening of Korea's borders to the outside world came in the form of the Korea-Japan Treaty of Amity (the so-called Ganghwa Treaty)."
  2. ^ Korean Mission to the Conference on the Limitation of Armament, Washington, D.C., 1921-1922. (1922). Korea's Appeal, p. 33. at Google Books; excerpt, "Treaty between Japan and Korea, dated February 26, 1876."


  • Chung, Young-lob. (2005). Korea Under Siege, 1876-1945: Capital Formation and Economic Transformation. New York: Oxford University Press. 10-ISBN 0195178300; 13-ISBN 9780195178302; OCLC 156412277
  • Korean Mission to the Conference on the Limitation of Armament, Washington, D.C., 1921-1922. (1922). Korea's Appeal to the Conference on Limitation of Armament. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. OCLC 12923609
  • United States. Dept. of State. (1919). Catalogue of treaties: 1814-1918. Washington: Government Printing Office. OCLC 3830508

Further reading

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