1868년(고종 5) 독일의 상인 E.J.오페르트(Ernst Jakob Oppert)가 충청도 덕산(德山:예산군)에 있는 흥선대원군의 생부 남연군 구(球)의 묘를 도굴하려다가 실패한 굴총(掘塚)사건이다. 덕산굴총사건이라고도 한다. 오페르트는 1866년 2차에 걸친 한국과의 통상요구에 실패하고 돌아갔다가, 1868년 4월 제3차 한반도 답사를 계획, 한때 상하이 미국영사관에 근무한 미국인 모험가 F. Jenkins를 자본주로 하고, 프랑스 선교사 페롱을 통역관 겸 보좌관으로 대동하여 차이나호(號)에 백인 8명, 말레이시아인 20명, 한국 천도교인 약간 명, 청국인 승무원 약 100여 명을 태우고 상하이를 출항하였다.

1b50fe1e8b3757969966f637734e1b15.jpg한국에 도착한 그들은 북독일연방(北獨逸聯邦)의 국기를 게양하고 충청도 홍주군(洪州郡) 행담도(行擔島)에 와서 정박하였다가, 구만포(九萬浦)에 상륙하여 러시아 군병이라 자칭하면서 함부로 총칼을 휘둘러 지방관헌조차도 접근하지 못하게 한 다음, 어둠을 타서 덕산 가동(伽洞)에 있는 남연군의 무덤을 파헤치기 시작했다. 덕산군수 이종신(李鍾信)과 묘지기 및 몇몇 주민이 이를 제지하려 하였으나 무장한 서양인을 당할 수가 없었다. 그러나 날이 밝아 주민들이 몰려오며 내하(內河)의 퇴조(退潮)시간이 임박해지자 이들은 관곽(棺槨)까지 파낸 것을 그대로 버려두고 구만포로 퇴각하였다.

2일간에 걸친 이 사건이 관찰사 민치상(閔致庠)에게 알려지자 즉시 군관 100여 명을 출동시켜 추적하였으나 찾지 못하였다.  또 경기도 영종진(永宗鎭)에 이르러 대원군에게 올리는 글을 제시하면서 영종진을 습격하다가 실패하고 돌아가 버렸다. 이 소식이 중앙에 전해지자 대원군은 양이(洋夷)의 추적을 명하는 동시에, 이러한 괴변은 필시 천주교도의 내응(內應) 향도(嚮導)에서 발생하는 것으로 결론을 내리고 국내에 남아 있는 천주교도를 더욱 엄중히 단속하도록 명령을 내렸다.

이 사건은 비록 미수에 그치기는 하였으나 국민에게 악감정을 일으키고, 흥선대원군의 쇄국정책을 더욱 강화하게 하는 계기가 되었다. 이들의 항해목적은 뒷날 젠킨스가 이 사건으로 법정에서 진술한 바에 의하면:

  1. 조선왕국과 통상조약의 체결을 교섭하는 것,
  2. 조선의 사신 1명을 배에 태워 세계일주여행을 시키자는 것,
  3. 이와 같이 하여 은둔국인 조선을 세계에 소개하자는 것 등이었다고 한다. 

하지만 정확한 이유는 밝혀지지 않았으나, 이들은 조선인이 시신을 소중히 여긴다는 사실을 알고 관을 미끼로 조약을 체결하려 했던 것 같다.

한편, 남연군 묘에 대한 풍수를 살펴보면 다음과 같다. 1846년 남연군 묘를 이장한 7년 후에 흥선대원군은 1852년 장남 재명에 이어 고종이 된 명복을 낳고, 이명복은 조대비의 후원을 얻어 1863년 12살의 나이로 임금에 등극했다. 하지만 열강의 침략과 동학 혁명의 혼란을 격으며, 국운이 쇠락하더니 1905년에는 외교권을 일본에게 박탈당한 을사조약이 체결되었다.

조선의 국권을 회복하고자 고종은 헤이그에 열사를 파견했고 그 일로 인해 1907년 일본에 의해 강제로 하야 되고, 아들인 순종이 즉위하였다. 순종 역시 임금으로써 역할보다는 일본의 꼭두각시 임금으로 두 명의 부인에게 자식을 두지 못한 채 1910년 경술국치로 하야 하였다. 고종은 비교적 장수했으나(1852∼1919, 68세) 적통의 자식은 오직 순종 한명 뿐이고, 순종도 53세의 나이로 승하하고 절손되었다.

가야봉 북쪽의 석문봉에서 동진한 용맥은 가파른 경사를 이루며 상가리 쪽으로 내려뻗고, 상가저수지를(최근에 조성된 저수지)마나 북동방으로 몸을 약간 비튼 다음 계속해서 동진하였다. 혈장 위쪽에서 잘록하고 강한 과협을 이루고서는 낮은 구릉을 이루며 내려뻗는데, 기세가 상하로 기복하며, 좌우로 요동치는 생룡이다.

또한 곁가지를 많이 뻗지 못한 채 몸을 좌우로 비틀며 내려왔고, 내룡은 산등선이 후덕한 부룡에 해당한다. 묘는 긴 백호가 짧은 청룡을 껴안은 형국으로 수구가 좁으며 관쇄되어 장풍이 잘 된 곳이다. 하지만 외당의 흐름은 좌측에서 우측으로 흘러가는 좌선수인데, 내당 우측의 상가저수지의 양기가 좌측 계곡의 양기를 압도하는 느낌을 주기도 한다. 혈장으로 뻗어온 내룡의 기세는 매우 활달하면서 생기 충만하나, 패철로 격정하면 수국(水局)의 목욕룡(沐浴龍)인 건해룡(乾亥龍)이다.

따라서 묘에는 수맥이 흐르는 흉지이고, 이것을 증명하듯 봉분에는 이끼가 두텁게 덮었고, 둘레석은 벌어진 채 아귀가 비틀려있다. 입수룡(入首龍)은 생기를 품지 못한 흉룡이고, 혈장이 들어선 당판이 후덕한 채 앞쪽으로 전순이 발달하였다. 하지만 묘 좌우측의 여러 판석은 혈의 기를 보호하는 선익으로 보기 어렵다.  또 주변의 사봉을 살피면 현재 안산은 백호자락이 상가리의 냇물쪽으로 몸을 경사지게 낮춘 곳을 바라보아 안산으로써 격식을 갖추지 못했고, 청룡 자락과 백호의 기세가 매우 웅장해 혈을 압도하는 느낌을 준다. 따라서 이 묘는 수국의 진파(辰破)에 건자손향(乾坐巽向)을 놓았음으로, 좌득좌파(左得左破)에 해당한다. 향상으로 금국(金局)의 장생향(長生向)을 놓고서 양방(養方)을 충파함으로 어린 자식을 키우기 어렵고 후손이 끊어질 묘이다.

주변 산세의 형세와 수의 흐름을 판단할 때에 이 묘는 자왕향인 유자묘향(酉坐卯向)을 놓아야 격에 맞는다. 수가 쇠방(衰方)으로 빠지고 건해 장생수(乾亥長生水)를 얻음으로 자손이 번창하고 부귀를 누렸을 것이다.

정만인이 잡은 혈 처에는 가야사가 있어 흥선대원군은 절을 불태우고 그곳에 부친의 묘를 쓸 계획을 세웠다. 그래서 가깝게 지내던 김병학의 집에 가보를 전해 오는 벼루를 난 그림을 그려 주고서 얻은 다음, 영의정인 김좌근을 찾아가 선물로 주었다. 명품 벼루를 얻은 김좌근은 곧 충청 감사에게 가야사의 터에 남연군의 묘를 쓰는데 협조하라는 편지를 써 주었다. 하지만 풍수에 남다리 공부가 깊었던 대원군은 이 묘의 발복은 3년을 넘지 못할 것으로 판단하고, 조선 왕조의 사직을 위해 자기의 묘까지 명당에 잡아 그 발복으로 조선의 왕업을 연장코자 하였다.

그래서 사후에 고양군 공덕리 묘를 썼는데, 이 역시 1906년 조선의 국운번창을 염려한 일제의 계책에 의해 파주군 대덕리로 이장되고, 다시 1966년 남양주시 지곡리로 이장되어 현재에 이른다.

일설에 의하면 남연군의 묘는 지금의 위치가 아니라 현재의 묘에서 100여보 위쪽에 있었고, 가야사를 불태운 뒤에 현재의 위치로 이장했다고 한다. 풍수에서 임금이 태어날 제왕지지(帝王之地)는 명당이면서도 다음과 같은 조건이 추가로 따라 붙는다. 첫째는 임금을 상징하는 표지물이 있어야 하는데, 무엇보다 옥쇄를 닮은 인암(印岩)이 필요하다.

인암은 옥쇄처럼 둥굴거나 네모진 큰 바위를 말하며, 남연군 묘에는 인암이 아닌 넓적란 판석이 깔려있다. 또 옥좌의 뒤쪽에 펼쳐논 어병(御屛)을 닮은 어병사가 묘의 뒤쪽에 필요하다. 남연군 묘의 뒤쪽에는 석문봉에서 옥양봉으로 뻗어간 산줄이가 어병의 모양을 띄고는 있으나 너무 멀리 떨어져 그 효과는 반감된다. 또 묘에서 보아 해방(亥方)에 수려한 산봉우리를 필요로 한다. 해방의 산은 천황(天皇)으로 바로 하늘의 옥황상제를 뜻한다.

하지만 현 묘는 해방에 수려한 봉우리를 맞이하지 못한다. 따라서 현재 남연군 묘는 명당의 터가 못 될 뿐만 아니나, 임금을 상징하는 풍수적 표지물도 없어 제왕이 날 터로 보기 어렵다. 현 위치보다 100여보 위쪽에 소위 풍수적으로 왕이 태어날 제반 조건을 구비한 대 명당터가 비어있고, 아마 대원군은 처음에 그곳에 묘를 마련했을 것으로 추측된다.


The Oppert Affair

American diplomatic interest in Choson intensified after the loss of the U.S.S. General Sherman. While America sought answers, the German merchant Ernest Oppert, in collusion with a French priest, raided the tomb of the Taewongun's father in a desperate attempt to force Choson to open its doors to foreign trade.

After carefully considering Choson's reported sinking of a "British" ship in the Taedong River, the Zongli Yamen suspected that it may have been the General Sherman. Prince Gong and other Yamen ministers decided to take the matter before Emperor Mu Zong. They pointed out the danger that Choson might be drawn into a dispute with not only France, but Britain and the United States as well. Should Choson become involved in hostilities with these three powers, it would surely face demands to open itself to trade and missionaries and could also face the damaging consequences of indemnities.

The Zongli Yamen issued a dramatic memorial to Emperor Mu Zong that reflected China's basic policy toward Choson during this crucial period. It stated, in part,

"...From the time of her use of arms against Choson, France's conduct contradicts her original statement [that] her interest is the propagation of religion. As for Great Britain and the United States ... they also have been implicated in trouble with Korea lately. Their interest is trade. ...If we decide to make them change their intentions completely, they well certainly raise questions as to the propagation of religion, trade and indemnities. An examination of the Korean note shows that there is no possibility that she will permit trade and the propagation of religion. At any rate, we have to consider her interest too ... [Therefore] our Yamen is unable to insist upon pressing Korea [to accept their demands]."

When pressed to offer concrete advice or suggestions on such concrete matters as opening the country for trade and the free propagation of religion, the Zongli Yamen abstained. The Chinese felt trapped between Choson's insistence on maintaining its seclusion policy and Western demands for mediation services and wished to minimize engagement. It took the position of a middleman, merely transmitting the essence of Western notes to the royal court in Seoul. The Emperor ordered the Board of Rites to advise the Taewongun to act carefully and avoid trouble, suggesting he develop a cautious, prudent plan to settle whatever disputes Choson might have with the France, Britain and the United States. Time and time again, China assured the Western nations that the nature of Chinese-Choson relations was purely ceremonial and that China had no responsibility for Choson's management of foreign relations and trade. It was a position that would come back to haunt them in future generations.

Choson was still rejoicing in its "great victory" over the French when the imperial communiqué from the Qing Board of Rites reached Seoul in early December 1866. The great nation of China had been humiliated by these foreign barbarians and Choson had scattered them in disgrace. Neither the Taewongun nor his advisors were in a mood to heed Chinese advice and the message from the Qing Emperor did little to dampen their enthusiasm. Their reply, prepared by the Bureau of Diplomatic Correspondence on December 11, was vague, belligerent and less than encouraging. It expressed an unjustifiably high degree of confidence in Choson's military strength and announced they were quite ready to repel any attack from the West. It reminded the Board of Rites that they had a detailed report of the incident at Pyongyang and assurances that absolutely no Americans had been involved.

Because the Anglican Reverend Thomas had been aboard ship, Choson authorities believed they had destroyed a British vessel. That's exactly what they reported to the Chinese, adding that erroneous allegations about the destruction of an American ship were unfounded. The letter also explained that Ernest Oppert's trade proposals had been rejected because he did not carry an official note from China. As for matters of trade and religion, Seoul replied that "they shall never be permitted, no matter how many years our little country and her people may suffer from the Western barbarians."

Choson proudly informed the Qing Board of Rites and the Japanese emperor that Choson - though small in size and weak in military power - had defended itself from the "barbarians" by virtue of the unity of its people and their adherence to rules of propriety. Nothing short of burning the capital of Seoul would have led the Taewongun to a different conclusion. He saw the "victory" over the French as a vindication of his exclusionist policy and instituted a sweeping reconstruction of Choson's defense system. Caught up in the joy of the moment, the Taewongun totally misjudged the real strength of the Western powers and the motives that brought them to Choson. As a result, after 1866, he consistently viewed every other Western power as a mere reflection of the hated French.

Convinced that the invasion of Kanghwa Island was the result of treasonous collaboration between native Catholics and the French, the Taewongun introduced a more extreme anti-Western policy and tightened restrictions even further. Communication with Westerners was forbidden and all Western goods, some of which had found their way into Choson via China or Japan, were strictly banned. The persecution of Catholics went on unabated as the Taewongun redoubled his efforts to rid his kingdom of Christians.

On November 21, government agencies and offices throughout the kingdom were ordered to hunt down the "heretics" relentlessly. Anyone catching more than twenty "heretics" was promised an appointment as an officer of the border guard in a good district. In the capital region, which probably housed the largest concentration of Christians in Choson, a total of 407 people were arrested, including 107 women. Of the 300 men arrested, only 131 were found guilty, i.e. Catholic, and executed. Converts were rounded up, imprisoned and executed by the hundreds. Over the next six years of intense religious persecutions, nearly eight thousand Christians were killed and many more languished in Choson's prisons. The Yi government also pushed ahead with a wide variety of military preparations, especially coastal defenses and the casting of new cannon, all in the expectation that future encounters with the West could be driven off just as easily.

Among the large number of Choson envoys who visited Beijing each year for trade and ceremonies, many were usually quite willing to call on foreigners. During the winter mission to Beijing of 1866-67, they circulated the improbable story that the crew of the ship destroyed at Pyongyang had brought on their own demise by starting a fight ashore while trying to refloat the vessel and guard it from local townspeople. Their chief interest was to learn the probability of Admiral Roze renewing his attempt to reach Seoul. They were no doubt amused when they read French chargé d'affaires Henri de Bellonet's proclamation that, since Admiral Roze's visit to Choson, King Kojong held his position and authority only at the good pleasure of Napoleon III and must conduct himself accordingly.

American diplomatic officials in China, while they discounted rumors that the U.S.S. General Sherman had been destroyed and its crew killed, became increasingly concerned over the disappearance of ship and the fate of its crew. After all, Choson had treated shipwrecked sailors humanely in the past. Since the Zongli Yamen had already disclaimed all responsibility for Choson, America's Foreign Minister in Beijing, Anson Burlingame, decided to take independent measures to investigate the General Sherman's fate. On November 27, 1866, he suggested to Rear Admiral Henry H. Bell, acting commander of the United States Asiatic Squadron, that he send a warship to Choson to inquire about the lost ship. Admiral Bell assigned the mission to Commander Robert Wilson Shufeldt and the U.S.S. Wachusett.

The U.S.S. Wachusett steamed out of Yantai, China, bound for the Taedong River on January 21, 1867. Finding the Taedong blocked by winter ice, Commander Robert Shufeldt steamed south, arriving at Wollae Island off the coast of Hwanghae Province on January 23. Shufeldt prepared a note of inquiry about the fate of the General Sherman that acknowledged the kind treatment given Captain McAslin and his seven-man crew aboard the Surprise in June 1866, and requested the return of the survivors of the General Sherman. The note was handed to local authorities who promised a reply in four days. Meanwhile, Shufeldt learned from local villagers that a Western ship had been set afire on the Taedong and all her crew had been killed. While Shufeldt waited off Wollae Island for a response from Seoul, a Chinese sailor aboard the Wachusett named Yu Wen-t'ai was sent on an intelligence mission up the Taedong River. Yu returned and reported having seen the charred remains of a foreign ship along the south bank of the river. While in the area, he met a man named Kim Cha-p'yong who said he personally saw two Westerners and two Chinese detained at the governor's office in Pyongyang. According to Kim, the rest of the crew had been killed. That was evidence enough. Commander Shufeldt immediately returned to Yantai.

Commander Shufeldt's intelligence information prompted American chargé d'affaires Samuel Wells Williams to write Prince Gong on March 3, 1868, seeking China's help in securing the release of survivors from the General Sherman. The reply was less than encouraging. Prince Gong refused to intervene directly and reminded Williams that, although Choson was subordinate to China, all matters related to foreign trade and the propagation of religion were dealt with independently by the Seoul government and on its own responsibility.

The following month, chargé d'affaires Williams requested Commodore John R. Goldsborough, commander of the United States Asiatic Squadron, send another warship to Choson to carry out the rescue mission. Commander John C. Febinger departed Yantai, China aboard the corvette U.S.S. Shenandoah, arriving at the mouth of the Taedong River on April 11, 1868. Febinger spent about three weeks in the vicinity of the river mouth investigating the fate of the General Sherman's crew.

While Commander Febinger searched for answers, Mr. Frederick H. B. Jenkins, an American businessman in Shanghai, paid a visit to the American Consul-General George F. Seward, nephew of Secretary of State William H. Seward. He told Consul-General Seward that four Koreans and a French bishop from Choson were in Shanghai. They were sent by the Choson government to inquire about current feelings toward Choson regarding the alleged murder of French priests and of the crew of the General Sherman. They wanted to determine whether it was wise for Seoul to send an embassy to America and Europe to explain those incidents and to conclude treaties of amity and commerce. Jenkins also told Seward he expected to sail with these people to Choson in a few days and believed that the result of their report and his visit will be the sending of a diplomatic embassy. He said he expected to return to Shanghai in about a month, bringing the Choson ambassadors with him.

According to George Seward, Frederick Jenkins told him the story of what happened to the General Sherman. After describing the attack on the ship, Jenkins said, "... they attacked the vessel, killing eight persons and capturing the others, who are still held." Jenkins said he expected to bring back, "those of the crew of the General Sherman who are still living." Seward took the story seriously and on April 24 dispatched a note to the U.S. Secretary of State proposing that in case the Choson embassy was not sent, he should be authorized to proceed to Choson to get an official explanation of the General Sherman affair and to negotiate a treaty similar to those in force with China and Japan "without the exercise of show of force."

Within weeks, an event occurred in Choson that was remarkable for its ignorance, farcical in its execution and significant for the effect it had on the country's future. It was the kind of incident that would chill the heart of a modern statesman; an incident that served only to deepen and intensify Choson's anti-foreign sentiment. It came to be known a "The Oppert Affair."

Ernest Oppert ranks high among those men who willingly take great risks for the sake of excitement and a chance of success, but who never give a second thought to the consequences of their actions and the impact felt by those who come after them. Armed with ample information about Choson and little encouragement for another attempt at opening the kingdom to foreign trade, Oppert was approached by French Monsignor Stanislas Fèron, one of the three French missionaries who escaped Choson. Monsignor Fèron proposed that Oppert should try again, this time with a plan that he felt certain would, "...compel the Regent to accede to the demand to throw the country open." In a half-apologetic manner, Monsignor Fèron described his remarkable plan concocted with help from a small group of Choson converts:

"If the project I am now going to lay before you will at first sight appear to you strange, and out of the common, remember that a great aim can never be gained by small means, and that we must look at this affair from another point of view than that which may be taken by narrow-minded people.
"And further, that while it will serve as an effective means of coercion on the Regent, it will not even cause any lasting harm to him, much less endanger the life or property of a single person in the country itself. If it will become necessary to take a rather strong escort with us, it is not because I myself, or my native friends have the least apprehension of any real danger, but mainly for the sake of protecting us from any idle curiosity which might otherwise impede our progress.
"The Regent, a person of very superstitious disposition, laid great store upon the possession of some old relics, which had been in his family for long years, and which were kept and guarded in a secluded place belonging to him. The possession of these relics was thought to insure the fortune of himself and his family, and were accordingly much treasured, and looked upon with a kind of superstitious awe.
"The temporary possession of these objects would be tantamount to invest their holders with an almost absolute power, and equivalent to having possession of the capital itself; that the Regent would only be too glad to accede to anything to have them restored to him, and that he would be compelled to listen to the terms to be proposed to him. These men are so positive in their belief of success, that they assert the Regent would come down in person to sign a preliminary treaty, to have these relics restored.
"Above all, before you come to a decision, remember always that the benefit which is to be gained will be shared by the world at large, and by the natives of the country in particular, and is beyond comparison to the harm done to the Regent personally, who, by all his deeds and actions has placed himself beyond the pale of nations."

Ernest Oppert embraced this fantastic scheme at the ill-advised urging of Monsignor Fèron, a man whose character Oppert described as "unquestionable and undoubted" and who "was altogether free from religious zealotry." Oppert never hid the fact it was an adventurous undertaking, but the stakes and his own previous experiences in Choson led him to believe it could work. Oppert planned to sail to Choson with a few carefully picked confederates and secretly enter the country. Once there, he would open the tomb of the Taewongun's father, Prince Namyon, and hold the relics hostage, refusing to return them until the country was open to free trade and Christian missionaries. It is likely the alleged wealth of treasure buried in the royal tomb described by a number of Fèron's converts provided further inducement. It was strange enough that Oppert agreed to such a bizarre plan;  worse, that he actually tried to carry it out.

Oppert organized the small expedition early in the spring of 1868. Its members included Monsignor Fèron, Mr. Frederick H. B. Jenkins, who financed the voyage, a crew of eight European sailors, twenty-one Malays, about a hundred Chinese sailors, and several knowledgeable Choson converts to act as guides. Oppert chartered the 648 ton steamer China and the smaller, shallow-draft riverboat Greta and began his bizarre adventure from Shanghai on April 30, 1868. After stopping in Nagasaki to buy muskets, the expedition dropped anchor near Haengdam Island on May 10, thirty miles off the coast of Chungchong Province. Just after daybreak the next morning, the party boarded the Greta and started up Asan Bay, hoping to reach their intended landing site at Kumanp'o in four hours.

Oppert and Fèron led the landing party of about sixty armed men into Asan Bay aboard the Greta, landing at a beach that was accessible for only thirty hours each a month during spring tides, when the water rises three feet at most. At other times, the beach remained nearly dry, making it impossible for a steamer to even approach the branch of Asan Bay near the landing. When they finally reached Kumanp'o about 11 o'clock that morning, a large crowd had already assembled on the beach to learn their intentions. After identifying themselves as Russians, the determined men marched inland toward the tomb's location at Kayadong in Toksan county. The first part of the march across a long plain dotted with a few small villages went without incident. Hiking into the wooded hills, they learned their approach had already been signaled.

The Toksan District Magistrate appeared in the area with a force of soldiers and civilians and blocked the road. Oppert walked up to the magistrate and ordered him to stand aside with his people. As tensions mounted, Monsignor Fèron assured the man the landing party had no intention of harming him or the townspeople, after which the magistrate calmed down. He even told the group the shortest way to the tomb at Kayadong. The Choson guides underestimated the time needed to reach the tomb and it was 5 o'clock in the evening on May 11 when they finally reached Sangga-ri, the large hilltop village containing the tomb site.

Instead of finding a single stone house containing the relics, Oppert and his party were disappointed to discover a walled-in structure strongly protected by an earthwork all around. No one in the party except Oppert and Fèron knew the ultimate objective, but they understood the mission was important and that everything depended on its being done quickly. After five hours of hard digging through the surrounding earthen wall, much of it with tools borrowed from local villagers, they exposed the tomb's inner stone vault. Oppert estimated it would take another five or six hours to remove the huge stone fitted into the tomb's opening.

Disappointed and fearing for the men's safety, Oppert told Monsignor Fèron the group had already exceeded the allotted time to grab the relics by nearly twelve hours. Even if they left immediately, there was barely enough time to reach the Greta before low tide stranded the ship in the mud. All further digging was halted and the landing party set out for the beach, making the return march in less time along virtually deserted roads. News of the attempted breach of the tomb spread rapidly and by the time they reached Kumanp'o, they saw the Greta surrounded by an enormous crowd.

When the Greta rejoined the steamer China on the afternoon of May 12, the water had fallen so low that the heavier China had barely enough water under her keel to make headway. Instead of returning to Shanghai however, Oppert ordered the two ships north toward Kanghwa Island, where they anchored off Yongjong Island. The following morning, a local official rowed out to the ships to inquire of their intentions and were astonished to learn of Oppert's demand that Choson be opened to free trade. The official was given a letter, written in Korean, signed by Oppert and addressed to the Taewongun. The document, including a draft treaty, attempted to justify the excavation of Prince Namyon's tomb and advised the Taewongun in no uncertain terms to reconsider his trade policy and accept their proposals.

A special messenger delivered the Taewongun's reply to Oppert on May 17. Bearing the affixed seal of the Taewongun, the document was an adamant refusal to entertain any further communication on the matter of trade. Choson had no need of foreign intruders and the Taewongun indicated he would find the means to keep them out, just as he had done with the French. He would show the world it was pure vanity to attempt to overcome Choson valor. The messengers who carried the letter to Oppert invited the men ashore and agreed to meet with them the following morning at the Yongjong garrison. When the landing party of about twenty Europeans and Malays arrived at the garrison, they were surprised to find the walls manned by over 400 armed troops.

While waiting for the conference to start, the landing party dispersed to examine the local countryside. One of the men caused a major incident by seizing a small calf to carry back aboard ship. Oppert and Fèron hurried back to the garrison gate to settle the matter by offering to pay for the calf, restore it to its owner and punish the thief. In the midst of this tense discussion, troops on the garrison walls suddenly opened fire on the landing party without warning, killing one man instantly and wounding two others before the panicked men could reach the safety of the Greta. It was obvious that no Choson official was likely to set foot on either ship and Oppert refused to risk another landing on Yongjong. As the China and Greta steamed away from Yongjong Island on the morning of May 18, the adventurous Oppert bemoaned his failure and hoped that Russia would take possession of Choson rather than see the present state of things continue.

The U.S. State Department received Consul-General Seward's April 24 note on June 24 and Secretary of State William H. Seward wholeheartedly agreed with the proposal to negotiate a treaty with the Choson government. Two days later, he replied in a letter that confirmed Seward's proposal, adding "...You will endeavor to procure a treaty of amity and commerce as nearly similar in the provisions to those now existing between the United States and Japan, as may be found practicable and expedient." Secretary Seward granted George Seward full power and authority to negotiate with the Choson government, stressing that no threat of force was to be made. Seward was also charged with delivering a letter from President Andrew Johnson, dated June 27, 1868, to the king of Choson. Secretary Seward notified the Navy Department of the proposed diplomatic mission and instructed Admiral S.C. Rowan, commander of the United States Asiatic Squadron, to place a ship at George Seward's disposal.

Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Shenandoah steamed out of Choson waters on May 17 and returned to Yantai, China, without a single hard fact to corroborate the belief that Choson held any survivors from the General Sherman. By now it was virtually certain the General Sherman had been destroyed and her crew lost. Captain Febinger reported that he had found nothing to substantiate the story of "four survivors" or that Choson had any inclination of sending an embassy. Febinger's report convinced Consul-General George F. Seward to drop his earlier proposal to negotiate without a show of force and he began to advocate the use of "gunboat diplomacy" toward Choson. On May 25, 1868, he wrote Secretary of State William H. Seward that "No negotiations, not supported by a considerable show of force, would be likely to be successful." After receiving Consul-General Seward's letter on July 13, Secretary Seward immediately ordered his nephew not to act on his earlier instructions of June 27.

In the aftermath of Oppert's remarkable misadventures, the United States Consular Court in Shanghai instituted conspiracy proceedings against Frederick Jenkins for "having, in concert with others, prepared an unlawful and scandalous expedition, having for its object the exhuming of the remains of a dead sovereign, or of some other person or persons, in Corea." Consul-General George F. Seward conducted the trial. Ernest Oppert testified that Jenkins went on the expedition only as a passenger and never set foot on Choson soil. Furthermore, Oppert told the court that Jenkins knew nothing of the arrangements regarding the proposed treaty before sailing and nothing of the activities ashore until the China was on its way back to Shanghai. Jenkins' trial ended with an acquittal. The French refused to prosecute Monsignor Fèron, who disappeared as soon as he reached Shanghai. As a consequence of his ridiculous attempt at grave-robbing, Ernest Oppert was later tried and imprisoned in Hamburg, Germany. Ironically, George Seward was later recalled by the U.S. State Department to face a Congressional impeachment hearing for the illegal, personal use of public funds and other official misconduct.

It's hard to imagine a greater offense than Oppert's, particularly against such a man as Yi Haung. The Taewongun was a rigidly orthodox Confucian and the entire Oppert Affair greatly hardened his heart against the West and strengthened his already genuine abhorrence of Westerners and their ways. It also had the unfortunate effect of reinforcing Choson's fears of Western political domination. Oppert could have done nothing more calculated to not only intensify the persecution of Catholics, but to further guarantee the exclusion of foreigners from Choson.

Seoul grew ever more confident of its ability to cope with the growing Western military threat and expressed an unjustifiably high degree of confidence of its own military strength. There was little inclination in Seoul to follow China's lead in establishing relations with Western nations. Convinced of the moral rectitude of their position and influenced by a long-standing anti-Manchu sentiment, the majority of Choson officials took a dim view of China's accommodation of the West, a policy they identified with the Manchus rather than the Han Chinese. Prince Gong and his associates in the Zongli Yamen, the men in charge of Qing foreign policy, were viewed with moral reprobation and suspicion and singled out for criticism and attack.

Seoul's belief in a supreme moral duty not to follow China did not imply disloyalty to the Middle Kingdom. Regardless of private feelings about the Manchus and regardless of Choson's domestic policy or position, King Kojong, the Taewongun and government officials remained submissive and fundamentally loyal to China. Every time Choson was approached or confronted by foreigners seeking trade or freedom to spread Christianity, Yi authorities referred them to China by invoking the alleged Chinese prohibition against a tributary state having unauthorized relations with foreign countries. Pleading ignorance of diplomatic arts and emphasizing its "total dependence" on China, Choson appealed to China for guidance, all the while determined to pursue its own independent course. Neither Choson nor the Chinese authorities saw a conflict between the peninsula's political independence and its ceremonial submission to the Chinese emperor.

The once vaunted strength of the Manchu Qing dynasty was in decay. China was weak militarily and its suzerain authority over Choson was the best and perhaps the only available means by which China could keep the peninsula under its control and prevent it from falling under foreign domination. Although China's authority over Choson was absolute in theory, as a practical matter the exercise of Chinese suzerainty over Choson was limited to ceremonial matters. It is highly unlikely that the Qing government would entertain any thought of abandoning its suzerainty over Choson, a country considered vital to the security of the Qing dynasty. Japan's centuries-old policy of seclusion and isolation had been revoked by the West. Choson, China's small vassal state to the East was terrified. If the mighty Chinese Empire and the power of the Japanese Shogun were so helpless against the West, what chance did a small country like Choson have to survive?

It was not the West that Choson needed to worry about.

Source: http://www.koreanhistoryproject.org/Ket/C21/E2104.htm