After graduation from Georgetown University in 1896, William Franklin Sands joined the US diplomatic corps as second secretary in Tokyo. His year there sparked his interest in East Asia, so when a position in Korea opened, he took it, with the help of his influential father, an admiral in the US navy. For two years he served under US Minister Horace Allen until a more powerful position opened as chief qdviser to the Korean government in 1900. As the most influential foreign adviser, Sands attempted to convince Emperor Kojong to undertake reforms and to promote Korean neutrality to keep the country independent. The author argues, however, that Sands was hampered by corrucpt officials who had the ear of the emperor, by the Japanese and the Russians who competed for influence and who tried to replace Sands with their own advisers, and, ironically, by Horace Allen. When he lost the confidence of Kojong and when the Russo-Japanese War broke out, Sands was forced out, having failed to maintain Korea's independence as Japan moved to take over. Although his subsequent activities included other diplomatic postings, teaching, and writing, he maintained an interest in Korea and offered his services as World War Two raged.
Wayne Patterson is professor of history at St. Norbert College.
Chapter 1: Prologue: Japan, 1896–1897
Chapter 2: Arrival in Korea, January 1898
Chapter 3: Entering His Majesty’s Service, January 1900
Chapter 4: The Cheju Uprising, 1901
Chapter 5: Sands Undercut: Koreans, Japanese, and Russians
Chapter 6: Sands Undercut: Horace Allen
Chapter 7: Troubles Mounting
Chapter 8: Memorials to Kojong
Chapter 9: Leaving Korea, March 1903 to February 1904
Chapter 10: Epilogue: 1904–1946
The end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth marked a fascinating time in Korean history, as the country maneuvered between the great powers with a degree of independence that it would soon lose. Equally fascinating was William Franklin Sands, who seemed to take in everything and write about it with great eloquence, including Korea's brief sojourn as an empire, and never-before-seen rebels on Jeju Island. Wayne Patterson has brought this period and this man to life in a deeply-researched book that readers will have trouble putting down.
William Franklin Sands—a youthful, low ranking American diplomat who became the most influential foreign advisor in the court of Emperor Kojong—was undoubtedly one of the key figures active in Korea in the twilight years of the Taehan Empire before it became a Japanese protectorate in 1905. Wayne Patterson, who has published several other outstanding monographs on this period, has done a great service in bringing to light hitherto unknown material on Sands and weaving it into an extremely readable narrative that complements Sands’ own autobiographical work Undiplomatic Memories: The Far East 1896–1904, as well as considerably increasing our understanding of another important figure from this period, Horace N. Allen. This book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the history of Korean–American relations and who wishes to gain a deeper insight into the international rivalry over Korea around the beginning of the twentieth century.
The historical narrative became amazingly complex as the tottering Korean Empire approached the turn of the twentieth century. Most often this story is one in which the main actors are the great powers who were competing for a preponderance of influence on the peninsula. Patterson’s study goes against the grain of great power competition and provides an intimately granular narrative of one young diplomat’s experience amid the political maelstrom of Korea in its last years of independence. Following a young William Franklin Sands from the machinations of finding a diplomatic position in the Far East through his tenure as secretary in the American Legation in Seoul and finally to a position of advisor to the Korean Emperor, Kojong, this book provides a rare glimpse at not only the political infighting between foreign powers in Korea, but also a revealing portrait of internecine conflict between foreign diplomats and struggles for position and influence in this charged political setting. Thus this study provides insights to not only larger international struggles in Korea but also an intimate portrait of personal intrigue, the politics of appointment, and life in turn of the century Korea.
This is an amazing story of the role that a young American diplomat played in the last years of Korean independence at the turn of the century. Wayne Patterson unearths new material that paints a portrait of the internal and external machinations swirling around Emperor Kojong from the pressure of great power politics. Patterson teaches us masterfully about the importance of this relatively unknown figure in U.S.-Korea relations.