It was the first Korean-American interaction - and it hasn't been forgotten in Pyongyang. In August 1866, a strange apparition appeared off the coast of Korea, a mysterious nation then known as the 'Hermit Kingdom' for its self-imposed isolation. Belching smoke and flying a striped flag, the vessel put into the mouth of the Daedong River and headed upstream. She was the General Sherman, a US merchant steamer, chartered by a Beijing-based British company to trade for Korean paper, gold, ginseng and tiger skins. Due to heavy rain, she passed the rapids that usually barred access to Pyongyang, dropped anchor, and demanded trade terms. The demands were rejected. Frustrated, the crew kidnapped a local official. Meanwhile, the Daedong's rapids had receded, trapping the Sherman. Fighting broke out. At first, the ship's cannon gave her the advantage, but when the Koreans launched fireboats on September 2, the crew was defenceless. Forced to abandon their burning ship, the American, British and Malay sailors were cut down in the shallows. Parts of their bodies were reportedly 'pickled' for medicinal use. There were no survivors. The present Pyongyang regime has its own spin on history. 'The pirate ship intruded and committed great brutalities,' said Ryu Ok-hui, an English-speaking guide from the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, as she stood next to a modern tablet that memorialises the incident, in front of the USS Pueblo, moored on the very spot the Sherman foundered. 'But the great, great grandfather of Great Leader Comrade Kim Il-sung, Kim Ung-u, led the Pyongyang people and sank the ship.' Unlike the Pueblo incident, the General Sherman incident did not go unpunished. In 1868, the warship the USS Shenandoah reconnoitered the Korean coast. In 1871, the US Asiatic squadron attacked Korean fortifications on Kanghwa Island, off today's port of Inchon. Although the forts were reduced to rubble and their occupants slaughtered - 350 Korean men were killed, to the Americans' three - the action had no conclusion. The flags the marines had raised on the ruined battlements were taken down, and the squadron sailed off. Korea and America would eventually open diplomatic relations in 1882. It would not be the last time Inchon heard the thunder of US guns. In 1950, General Douglas MacArthur launched an amphibious assault on the port, reversing the tide of the Korean war. That action also would prove inconclusive. Although the North Korean People's Army was shattered by the Inchon operation, MacArthur's subsequent drive to the Chinese border resulted in the massive commitment of Chinese forces. The Korean war would end in stalemate in 1953. And with no peace treaty having been signed, that war remains unfinished.