The research tries to understand the motivation, the process, and consequence of Korean ruling class' intension to connect with and reach out outside world in the fin-de-siècle by focusing on the case of Paris Exposition of 1900. Did Chosun in the end of the 19th century still remain to be 'a hermit kingdom' or/and 'a country of morning calm', as depicted by western travelers and missionaries? How did the ruling elite of the kingdom perceive their positions vis-a-vis hostile imperial forces, and to what a degree did their self-perception differ from that of ordinary Korean people? What kind of knowledge and impression, if any, did most Western countries had with a poor and isolated kingdom at far East? Had the Korea's participation at the Paris Exposition left any significant impact on modernization process at all? These are basic questions that this paper will raise and endeavor to answer.
World Exposition of the 19th century was a place where a variety of races, cultures, and nations encountered each others. It was also a space of political rivalry and commercial competition in which the West, the Center, the White, the Colonizer, and the Civilized overrode the East, the Periphery, the non-White, the Colonized, and the Uncivilized. Then, was Korean participation at the Paris Exposition a tragic episode which revealed impotence of fin-de-siècle Korea? Or, was the event a remarkable hallmark which demonstrated how earnestly King Kojong did his best to cope with challenges within and without? If so, why his noble dream of transforming a hermit kingdom into an enlightened country fell short of achievement? These are additional questions that concluding part of my research will address and assess.