West to harbour entrance where Russian Cruiser returned and sank after battle with Japanese, Chemulpo, Korea. 1904. Public Domain / mediadrumworld.com

By Tom Dare

FASCINATING IMAGES FROM the turn of the century showing what life was like in Korea before it was divided into North and South have resurfaced today, as tensions between Washington and Pyongyang intensify once more.

The images, taken between 1903 and 1904, show what a typical market street looked like in Chemulpo, Korea at the turn of the century, with another picture shows a busy harbour in the same city.

Other photos see Korean men hard at work in a traditional Korean saw mill, while further images show what life was like for the Koreans after the Japanese had settled following the Russo-Japanese war in 1905.

Houses in the poorer quarter of the northeastern suburbs of Chemulpo looking north – Korea, 1904. Public Domain / mediadrumworld.com


At the turn of the century Korea was still a united country, and was heavily influenced by neighbouring Russia until the Russo-Japanese war in 1904-05.

Japan’s victory in this war changed things dramatically for Korea, with the 1905 Protectorate Treaty effectively establishing it as a Japanese protectorate without any say from the ruler at the time, Emperor Gojong.

Japan’s grip over Korea only tightened in 1910 after the signing of the Japan-Korea annexation treaty. The Japanese had begun to grow concerned by the growth of independence movements across Korea, and even forced Emperor Gojong to abdicate after discovering he had written to the second Hague Convention to complain about the protectorate.

Chemulpo. Public Domain / mediadrumworld.com


Japan’s rule over Korea continued unchecked until the end of the Second World War, when Japan’s defeat saw the allies take control of Korea. It was divided into two sections, the Soviet controlled North and the US administered South. Though only meant as a temporary measure until a solution could be reached the division remains to this day, entrenched by the Korean War.

The North is famously ruled over by the Kim family, who have had several high-profile clashes with the USA over the years.

One of the most notable examples of this is the recent war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The two have traded several insults over the past few months, with North Korea attempting to intimidate the West with several missile tests despite a international ban. The latest of these, which occurred on Tuesday, was met with this statement by the President:

“I will only tell you that we will take care of it. … It is a situation that we will handle.

Characteristic market sceen, Chemulpo, Korea, 1903. Public Domain / mediadrumworld.com


“After North Korea missile launch, it’s more important than ever to fund our gov’t [sic] & military! Dems [sic] shouldn’t hold troop funding hostage for amnesty & illegal immigration. I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can’t now threaten a shutdown to get their demands,”