Competition in absentia: China, Japan, and British Cotton Textiles in Korea: 1876–1910
Machine-woven cotton textiles are emblematic of British industrialization and imperialism. Trade was also permitted but severely regulated at designated periodic trade fairs along the Sino-Korean border. The British Empire took a leading role in the 19th-century transformation of the nature of commercial relations between the Qing Empire and the outside world. The import of cotton, silk, and hemp textiles constituted the largest and most significant component of Korea's imports during the open port period. Competition in the transit trade was fierce but the advantages possessed by Chinese merchants meant that they quickly seized the upper hand. One of the first areas where Japanese competition in Korea was evident was cotton yam. Much more work needs to be done before the aggregate impact of Korea's foreign trade on domestic industry and commerce can be fully and thoroughly measured.