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ARCHIVED How British experience in Japan influenced Parkes’ approach to extraterritoriality in Korea

Monday 19 July 2021 / 6:45pm
How British experience in Japan influenced Parkes’ approach to extraterritoriality in Korea

Monday 19 July 2021
6.45pm (BST)
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Online Lecture
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In this lecture Chris Roberts will discuss his latest research into British extraterritoriality in Japan and how Britain’s experiences in Japan went on to guide its approach to the subject in Korea. Sir Harry Parkes used his practical experience of the operation of extraterritoriality in both Japan and China to guide his negotiations with Korea on the subject—almost with a view to setting out his ideal system.

Studying British extra-territoriality in Korea holds up a contrasting mirror to Britain’s experience in Japan. By examining why extraterritoriality (a thorn in Anglo-Japanese relations for the last quarter of the nineteenth century) barely featured in Anglo-Korean relations, we can see the nature of the British presence in Japan with greater clarity. What does the dramatically lower caseload in Korea tell us about the different British populations and presence in both countries?

With the twentieth century’s opening, we see the impact of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance on Britain’s dealings with Japan in a Korea which became a Japanese Protectorate but where Britons continued to benefit from extra-territorial rights which had been abolished in Japan itself. This fed through into the famous Bethell cases and the administrative arrangements for the former treaty port of Chemulpo after Korea became a Japanese colony.

Chris Roberts lived, and worked as a lawyer, in Tokyo for six years in the 1980s/1990s. Since retiring, he has studied at SOAS and published on the exercise of British extraterritoriality in Japan. He has spoken before to the Society about his studies in Japan and how the seemingly arid subject of extraterritoriality can tell us much about the life of the wider British community in Japan in the treaty port era. He has also written several “Lives” of British judges and lawyers in Japan at that time for the Japan Society’s Biographical Portraits series. His latest book British Extra-territoriality in Korea, 1884 – 1910: a comparison with Japan is published by Renaissance Books in June 2021.

If you have any questions, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email

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