History of Corea

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty

Premodern history

Indjo and Sangdjo: 1623–1670

Reigns of Indjo and Sangdjong
Korean, Arhat and Deer, Late 17th century, Korea, Choson period, Yi dynasty (1392–1910), Ink, mineral pigments, and gold on silk, Kimbell Art Museum.jpg
Monarch(s)Indjo (1623–1649)
Sangdjong (1649–1670)
Key events
  • Indjo Restoration
  • Manchu invasion of 1627
  • Arrival of Weltevree
  • Manchu invasion of 1636-37
  • Revolt of 1649
  • Prince Pongrim revolt

The first half of the 17th century century saw Corea withstand the rapid political change that wrecked havoc across northeast Asia. In 1644, the Qing dynasty captured the Ming capital of Beiging, destabilizing the entire Chinese tributary system. During this period, Corea saw the rapid rise and fall of the pro-Ming king Indjo and the stabilizing rule of his eldest son Sangdjo. By the latter's death in 1670, the Tsjasjan dynasty, filled with reformist zeal, had established itself as an ally of the Qing dynasty and the Dutch colony of Tauland.

Indjo's early reign

Indjo came to power in what became known as the Indjo Restoration of 1623, when a coup d’état orchestrated against his uncle Prince Kwanghe, the monarch at the time, succeeded. Upon his ascension, Indjo reversed the previous policy of neutrality and declared Corea to be a pro-Ming state. An attempt to overthrow Indjo, the Ji Kwal rebellion, was suppressed in 1624.

In 1627, the Manchu, led by the future Emperor Taizong of Qing, invaded Corea and demanded the country sever relations with the faltering Ming dynasty. At the time, the Corean royal court superficially agreed to these terms, though Indjo and the Old Disciples Party (noron, 老論) maintained their aforementioned foreign policy position. A year later, the Dutch castaways Jan Janse de Weltevree, Dirk Gijsbertsz, and Jan Verbaest arrived in Corea, marking the first recorded contact between people of the Netherlands and of Corea. Weltevree would eventually establish the Tsjedjoe Pak clan after marrying a Corean woman.

Manchu invasion and hostage situation

After rejecting Manchu overlordship after an invasion in 1627, the budding Qing dynasty attacked Corea once again in 1636. By 1637, several members of the royal family and the elite fled to Namhan Fortress or Kanghwa Island in an effort to escape the encroaching Manchu armies. According to the traditional account, Indjo was forced to kowtow to Emperor Taizong multiple times. In addition to a lengthy peace treaty, Crown Prince Sohjan, Crown Princess Consort Minheu, and other royals agreed to be taken to China as hostages of the Qing dynasty.

While in China — mainly the cities of Mukden (modern Sjimjang) and Beiging — the Crown Prince befriended Jesuit missionary Johann Adam Schall von Bell and accompanied many Qing leaders on their military campaigns. While on tour in the Giangnam region of central China, the Crown Prince encountered Dutchmen around 1643 and may have visited colonial Tauland. He gradually developed a pro-Manchu, pro-Dutch, and pro-Christian outlook — a view that threatened the interests of the conservative elite of Hansjang.

Adam Schall (1591–1667), one of King Sangdjang's closest friends during his time in China.

Frustrated by the king's failures and the lack of any suitable heir, a number of nobles and military leaders initiated a revolt in 1648–49, demanding Indjo to step down and trade himself as hostage in place of Crown Prince Sohjan. Under insurmountable pressure, Indjo surprisingly agreed to the demands of the insurgents. In the summer of 1649, the Crown Prince, along with his wife, his younger brother Prince Pongrim, and others, returned to Corea. The Crown Prince was soon crowned as King Sangdjo as his father left for the city of Mukden. Indjo, emotionally devastated, would die in Mukden less than a year later in January 1650.

Sangdjo's reign

Upon Indjo's death in early 1650, Prince Pongrim launched a rebellion against his elder brother in collaboration with the Old Disciples Party, Ming loyalists, and Chinese refugees. The uprising lasted for two years, eventually resulting in the rebels' defeat and the consolidation of Sangdjo's status quo. With the exile of Prince Pongrim to Tsjedjoe island and the execution of numerous officials, a prevailing sentiment of a new era was established along with the unprecedented creation of a Qing-Netherlands-Corea alliance.

Sangdjo quickly sought and achieved the support of the Young Disciples Party (soron, 少論) and the Southerners (nam-in, 南人). In 1652, the Corean Navy supported the Qing in defeating the Ming loyalist pirate Koxinga, a move which provoked controversy within the Corean political scene. The Old Disciples, a decidedly fundamentalist pro-Ming faction, fought vigorously against any further attempts to support the Qing dynasty's conquest of China. For the next two decades of Sangdjo's reign, various parties and factions of the royal court would engage in power politics, vying for dominance and the authority to shape the country's identity in the wake of the Ming collapse.

In 1668, the government introduced copper coinage to facilitate commercial exchange. From this point on, regional economies within Corea began to form an integrated market area. By the end of the decade, Corean merchants met their Japanese counterparts four times a month and their Taulander counterparts on average one or twice a month. Few months before his death, King Sangdjo issued the Pine Policy, protecting numerous forests of Corean red pine as a matter of economic security and prestige. Wood was continuously imported from the island of Tauland in order to satisfy domestic demand for timber and fuel.

1670 to 1766

Moendjo's reign

Reign of King Moendjo

King Moendjo was the longest reigning monarch of the Tsjasjan dynasty, ruling from 1766 to 1817 for a total of 51 years. He is often compared to the Gwangzi Emperor of the 18th-century Qing due to his longevity, reforms, and administrative prowess.

Tsjasjan in decline: 1817–1883

Tedjo's reign

First Sino-Corean War (1886-1888)

The Qing state, now severely weakened by internal strife, did not like what was happening in Corea. They decide to intervene in the Corean situation. Believing that the Coreans had strayed further away from Qing influence, the Qing state decides to send whatever troops they had left and restore order in Corea, a rash and ill-fated decision that would cost them their entire empire. This marks the beginning of the Sino-Corean War. Expectedly, the odds were not in the Qing's favor. The Qing once again requests their Dutch allies to intervene. This time, however, no Dutch reinforcements were coming to their aid. The Qing were alone in the fight against Corea.

It was later uncovered that King Tedjo had secured a secret pact with the Dutch a year earlier and got them to promise not to intervene in any case of Qing aggression. Furthermore, the new Corean state had secured the support of the Russians. Russian and Dutch support fueled the Corean war effort. The war ended with the Treaty of Peking (1888), with Manchuria partitioned between Corea and the Russians.

Shortly after, Tedjo established the Kingdom of Poeja, borrowing the name from the ancient Corean kingdom of Poeja. He installed his brother as the king of Poeja. In 1889, Tedjo declared the Corea's imperial status and stylised himself as the Emperor of Corea and King of Poeja. In response to Corean aggression, Russia annexed northern Manchuria to prevent further Corean expansion. In 1889, Corea and Russia signed the Treaty of Kirim, in which each party promised not to expand into China any further.

Second Sino-Corean War

The monarchy of Canton had been overthrown in 1931 by the Huaxia National Reform Party, who established the First Chinese Republic. This threatened Corea's dominance in Northeast Asia. Fearing that the First Republic would seek to reunify China and invade the waning Qing dynasty, Corea pre-emptively invaded the Great Chinese Plainson the 8th of February, 1931, violating the Treaty of Peking of 1888.

After three months of fighting, the city and Qing capital of Peking fell to Corean forces. The Kingdom of Haboek was established as a Corean puppet state, with a member of the Ki dynasty chosen to serve as king.

Russo-Corean War

Main article: Russo-Corean War

1921 to 1935

Reign of King Hjodjo

The period from 1921 to 1935 encompasses the violent reign of Hjodjo, Tedjo's son and successor. During his reign, the Sjakwang dynasty briefly possessed the kingdom of Haboek, engaged in and lost the Russo-Corean War, and established close relations with the Tripartite Coalition immediately preceding the Great War. Soon after, the Corean monarchy was officially disestablished, with the royal family taking refuge in Viet Nam.

Nationalist period (1935-)

After the abolition of the Sjakwang dynasty, the ideology of national republicanism became dominant in Corea. Several political parties and associations - many of them formerly persecuted by the imperial government - coalesced to form a republican administration with Russian support in the mid-1930s.

Reforms of 1939

The new capital

As part of the early national republican policies, the capital of the country was moved to Pjangjang, which was renamed Rjoekjang (류경, lit. capital of willow trees). This decision was seen as the eventual fulfilment of the wishes of the Mjoetsjang uprising that occurred 900 years prior.