Spanning from the late 19th to the early 20th century, the intricate dynamics between Britain and Korea reveal a multifaceted interplay often overshadowed in broad historical discourses. This article offers an exploratory glance into the multifaceted nature of the British-Korean relationship, touching upon a variety of political, economic, and cultural interactions. The study highlights the geopolitical concerns of the time, marked by Korea’s nuanced role amidst its relations with regional powers like China, Russia, and Japan and Britain’s intermittent sidelining of East Asia due to its global imperatives. The economic exchanges, while not vast, were pivotal, illustrated by the flow of Korean art to Britain and the seeding of British industries in Korea. Central to this narrative are key figures like Isabella Bird, Sir John Jordan, John McLeavy Brown, Ahn Changho, and Syngman Rhee, whose personal experiences and informal influences brought unique depth to the cross-cultural dynamics. The vibrant cultural exchanges, emphasizing both the arts and societal norms, underline the depth and resilience of the Korean-British connection. While the process of Korea’s reception of and response to Western culture took place primarily under the influence of the Japanese Empire, Korea was also unofficially incorporated into the global network of capitalism organized under the leadership of the British Empire during this period, and it is therefore academically relevant to analyze this division in line with recent trends in the study of the history of the British Empire. Looking at how the informal networks of the British Empire worked on the Korean peninsula holds significance. Ultimately, this comprehensive exploration underscores the significance of historical cultural engagements, emphasizing their relevance in today’s world of diplomacy and global collaboration. This article suggests that further research should address these issues from an intercultural perspective.
Korea-British relations, cultural exchange, imperialism, economic interactions, geopolitical concerns