The Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905, also known as the Eulsa Protective Treaty or Japan–Korea Protectorate Treaty, was made between the Empire of Japan and the Korean Empire in 1905. Negotiations were concluded on November 17, 1905.
In the metonymy “Ulsa Treaty,” the word Eulsa or Ulsa derives the Sexagenary Cycle’s 42nd year of the Korean calendar, in which the treaty was signed. It was influenced by the result of the Russo-Japanese War.
Following Japan’s victory in the Russo–Japanese War, with its subsequent withdrawal of Russian influence, and the Taft–Katsura Agreement, in which the United States allegedly agreed not to interfere with Japan in matters concerning Korea, the Japanese government sought to formalise its sphere of influence over the Korean peninsula.
Delegates of both Empires met in Seoul to resolve differences in matters pertaining to Korea’s future foreign policy; however, with the Korean Imperial palace under occupation by Japanese troops, and the Imperial Japanese Army stationed at strategic locations throughout Korea, the Korean side was at a distinct disadvantage in the discussions.
On 9 November 1905, Ito Hirobumi arrived in Seoul and he gave the letter from Emperor of Japan to Gojong, Emperor of Korea, asking him to sign the treaty. On 15 November 1905, he ordered Japanese troops to encircle the Korean imperial palace and threatened the emperor in order to force him to agree to the treaty.
On 17 November 1905, Hasegawa and Ito entered the Jungmyeongjeon Hall, a European-style building that was once part of Deoksu Palace, to persuade Gojong to agree, but he refused. Ito pressured the cabinet with the implied, and later stated, threat of physical bodily harm, to sign the treaty. According to 한계옥(Han-Gyeok), Korean Prime minister Han Gyu-seol disagreed, shouting loudly. Ito ordered the guards to lock him in a room and said if he continued screaming, they could kill him. The Korean cabinet signed an agreement that had been prepared by Ito in the Jungmyeongjeon. The Agreement gave Japan complete responsibility for Korea’s foreign affairs, and placed all trade through Korean ports under Japanese supervision.
The Five Eulsa Traitors refers to those officials serving under Emperor Gojong who signed the Eulsa Treaty of 1905 making Korea a protectorate of Japan. The five officials were Education Minister Yi Wan-yong, Army Minister Yi Geun-taek (ko), Interior Minister Yi Ji-yong (ko), Foreign Affairs Minister Pak Je-sun (ko), and Agriculture, Commerce, and Industry Minister Gwon Jung-hyeon (ko).
Opposition to the Treaty was made by Prime Minister Han Gyu-seol and by the ministers of finance and justice, but they and the politically weakened Gojong were unable to effectively resist the Five, even though the Emperor refused to sign the treaty himself, an act required to bring the treaty to conclusion under Korean law. The Japanese government forced Prime Minister Han to step down and installed Park in his place.
In 2005, the Research Center for National Issues (민족문제연구소) identified the names of the five officials responsible for the Eulsa Treaty, as part of its efforts to compile a directory of individual Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese before and during its colonial rule.
Explanation of the picture: After signing the Eulsa or Protectorate Treaty, Korean and Japanese officials pose for a photo at the Deoksu Palace in Seoul on Nov. 17, 1905 in this file photo. At fifth from left in the front row wearing a black garment is Hirobumi Ito, Japan’s first prime minister and resident general dispatched to Korea, who was assassinated by Ahn Jung-geun in Harbin, northeastern China, on Oct. 26, 1909.