South Korea, Prince Min Yong Ik and Diplomats


This image, showing a group of Korean and American diplomats (including Prince Min Yong Ik, minister plenipotentiary), is one of 43 photographs of Korea taken by George Clayton Foulk between 1883 and 1886 and held at the American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Foulk’s note on the image reads: “Special mission from Korea to U.S.A., 1883. Prince Min Yong Ik, minister plenipotentiary. From left to right, bottom row: Hong Yong Sik (vice minister), Prince Min Yong Ik (minister plenipotentiary), Soh Kong Pom (secretary to prince), and Percival Lowell (escort to U.S.). Top row from left to right: Kyon Kueng, Thok Chen, Yu-kil Chan, Kyong Chal, and Pyong Sue.” Foulk was a young naval officer who served as a U.S. diplomat in Korea in the 1880s. He was first sent to the country in 1883 with a Korean delegation as the only person in U.S. government service qualified to serve as an interpreter. He was not fluent in Korean, but he communicated in Japanese and quickly picked up the Korean language. Upon his arrival in Korea, Foulk undertook a 900-mile (1,450-kilometer) journey through the country by sedan chair. During this trip he kept a detailed journal and took photographs. Foulk’s trip was cut short by the unsuccessful coup d'état in the Korean capital in December 1884. Many of Foulk’s photos were destroyed during the rioting and the confused scramble for his own safety. Foulk remained in Korea as an administrator and later a naval attaché. His friendship with King Sunjong, a member of the royal family (and Emperor of Korea from 1907–10), allowed him daily visits with the king and unique opportunities to photograph Korean life. Foulk left Korea in 1887 and spent his last days in Japan as a professor of mathematics at the missionary-run Doshisha College (Doshisha University). He died in 1893, at the age of 37, while hiking with his Japanese wife and friends.

Last updated: March 22, 2016