A North Korean stamp commemorating the destruction of the SS General Sherman. Photo: Dawlish Chronicles blog
A North Korean stamp commemorating the destruction of the SS General Sherman. Photo: Dawlish Chronicles blog

Talk about coincidences …

Captured Korean battle flags dating from a forgotten 19th century American intervention against Korea have been discovered at the US Naval Academy amid the current saber rattling between Washington and Pyongyang.

Even more bizarrely, the flags — which were hidden in a display case at the naval officers’ school in Annapolis, Maryland — are directly connected to an ancestor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

USNI News reports the banners were taken as trophies when US soldiers avenged the massacre of the crew of the General Sherman, an American merchant ship that sailed to Pyongyang in 1866 to open the country to trade.

“The Koreans suspected that the true mission of the General Sherman was to loot their temples so they set the ship on fire and massacred the crew,” USNI said. “The incident is still celebrated in North Korea as a strike against American imperialism with the claim that Kim Ung-u, a direct ancestor of Kim Jong-un, planned and led the attack though there is no historical evidence of his involvement.”

North Korea, among other things, has issued postage stamps commemorating the attack on the General Sherman, which it likens to the capture of the surveillance ship USS Pueblo in 1968.

One battle standard that wasn’t part of the misplaced cache, a 15-foot square flag belonging to General Uh Je-yeon who was killed during the 1871 conflict, remained on display at Annapolis until 2007, according to USNI. It was then sent to Seoul by the US on long-term loan at the request of South Korean officials.

A US senator had previously proposed trading the flag for the return of the Pueblo, which Pyongyang turned into a floating patriotic museum.

“The State Department rejected the proposal as being unworkable due to the many complications pertaining to US-North Korean relations. Additionally, the government still maintains that the Pueblo is illegally seized US property and should be returned without barter,” USNI reported.

There is no word on whether the newly discovered Korean battle flags will figure in prospective negotiations between the US and North Korea in the current nuke crisis.