The date of Aug. 22 is one of the darkest in Korean history. This is when the Annexation Treaty was signed by the representatives of the Korean and Japanese governments. Actually, it was largely a formal act that finalized the slow demise of an independent Korean state which began decades earlier when Korea was forced out of a few centuries of isolation and pushed into the modern world.
To be frank, in the world of the late 19th century Koreaâ??s prospects were grim, even though the Koreans themselves might have underestimated the threats they faced. Those were heydays of imperialism, when the nations of Europe were busy conquering the less fortunate parts of the globe, grabbing land and resources, killing peoples and destroying cultures.
There were attempts at resistance, nearly all futile. The odds were too uneven: the West had railways, steamships, ironclads and machine guns, while its opponents were at best equipped with matchlocks. In the entirety of Asia, only a handful of countries managed to survive the colonial onslaught and keep independence: Afghanistan (due to its mountainous terrain and exceptional toughness of its population), Thailand (being sandwiched between British and French colonies, it cleverly used the contradiction of the two global bullies) and China (size does matter, since the huge continental empire was difficult to digest for any predator).