By Seung-young Kim
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Additional resources for American Diplomacy and Strategy toward Korea and Northeast Asia, 1882 - 1950 and After: Perception of Polarity and US Commitment to a Periphery
But the murder turned out to be counterproductive for Japan, at least in the short term. King Kojong, who felt threatened and under virtual captivity by pro-Japanese forces around the palace, sought temporary domicile in the Russian legation in February 1896. 39 During such upheaval, Horace Allen, the American secretary in its Seoul legation, took a leading role in revealing Japanese misdeeds and protecting the King. Allen was temporarily in charge of the legation while Minister Sill was on leave in Japan and was instructed repeatedly by Washington to refrain from involvement in the political turmoil in Korea.
55 He also refused to participate in a joint action when the British representative suggested to him to protest against the Korean government for using force to disperse mass meetings. ”57 In parallel with the movement of the Independence Club, the Korean government initiated its own reform efforts in October 1897. This effort has been referred to as the Kwangmoo Reforms by some Korean scholars, but the success of the reforms has been debated. After returning from his flight to the Russian legation, Kojong promoted himself to emperor and proclaimed the inauguration of the independent Great Han (Korean) Empire in response to the urge of public opinion.
Kojong, however, suppressed the movement when he felt a challenge to his own security. 51 Kojong became captive to such rumors spread through posters and ordered the disbandment of the club in December 26, 1898. 52 Allen, the US Minister to Seoul, sympathized with the club movement, but avoided becoming involved with it. He had great enthusiasm for its work and diligently reported its activities to Washington. The club was, in fact, virtually led by pro-American reformers, who had studied or worked in the United States.