The diplomat and scholar-official Min Yông-hwan (1861-1905), described by one contemporary Western observer as "undoubtably the first Korean after the emperor," is best remembered in Korean historiography for his pioneering diplomacy at the courts of Tsar Nicholas II and Queen Victoria in the late 1890s. Furthermore, he is considered to be the foremost patriot of Korea's Taehan era (1897-1907). This pioneering study of Min Yông-hwan is long overdue and provides us with a new perspective on a period of Korean history that still casts its shadow over the region today.
This new biography of Min contributes substantially to our understanding of this period by looking beyond the established view of Korea as being polarized between reformists and reactionaries in the late Choson era. In doing so, it provides us with deeper insight into the full range of responses of the late Choson leadership to the dual challenges of internal stagnation and external intervention at the juncture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in the recent history of Korea, late nineteenth century imperialism, and Russian, Japanese, American, and British foreign policy in northeast Asia.