Monthly Archives: January 2017

Emperor Gojong of Korea

He was born in 1852 and became the 26th king of Joseon Dynasty and first emperor of Korea. Under Gojong, he increased isolation from France and US in 1871.He persecuted native and foreign Catholics. In 1873, he took over his father’s reign and declared himself as Emperor. By doing this, he broke away as a protectorate of China and equal status with the Qing Dynasty of China. Korea was a protectorate of China since the 16th Century.
Tensions increased between China and Japan leading up to Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.Pro-Japanese forces in Korea fought against pro-Chinese forces under Korean Queen MIn. It ended with Treaty of Ganghwa. The treaty was unequal. It gave Japan on advantage over Korea. Britain, Russia, China, France, and Germany all wanted to annex Korea. but Japan took over Korea by 1910. Japan gave the Korean emperor new types of rifles for his soldiers. Before, the Korean soldiers had matchlock rifles, swords, spears, and bows, and arrows. Gojong and Min were separated before they fought each other. His father, Daewongun, was restored to power briefly. It was to resolve the conflict between Gojong and Min. Talk about a divorce!
Chinese abducted Daewongun and 4 years later, he was released and returned to Korea.
Back in 1884, an attempted coup was against Gojong and Min.
Increasing widespread poverty and peasant revolts lead to this.
In 1894, the peasants revolted and Gojong asked for Japanese aid.
In 1895, Japanese agents assassinated Min. There were growing anti-Japanese sentiments in Korea. There were armies that called themselves Righteous Armies fought for independence from Japan.
In 1896, Gojong fled to Russia. He returned and took over his reign once more.
1904-5 was the Russo-Japanese War. Gojong sent a delegate in 1907 to the Hague Peace Convention to sue for independence. But he was more of a puppet to Japanese and they forced him to abdicate that year. Japan annexed Korea in 1910.He died in 1919, which led to the First Student March and brought in some reforms.

King Sejong, Renaissance King

Born Yi Ta in 1397 in Korea, being the fourth king of Joseon Dynasty. His father was King Taejong. He was the king’s third son. When he was twelve, he became Grand Prince Chungnyeong. His oldest brother, Yangnyeong, was heir apparent in 1404, but he was too free spirit and rather go hunting than be a king. So, he was removed in 1418.His other brother, Hyoryeong, who abdicated to become a Buddhist monk. His father, Taejong, abdicated the throne later that year in 1418 and left his son, who became known as Sejong, to be king. Taejong died in 1422.
King Sejong followed Confucianism, which was becoming the state religion. At first, he suppressed Buddhism, but later built Buddhist temples and even became a Buddhist monk, briefly.
He made treaties with the Ming Chinese Dynasties. Korea was known as Chosan. He opened trade with Japan,but later invaded Japanese island Tsushima.He helped the funding of making cannons and mortars. Also, he had fire arrows with missiles built. He had improved on gunpowder. Japanese pirates were at Tsushima Island, which was why he invaded the island.
In Treaty of Japanese at Gyehae in 1443, he made the Japanese pirates pay tribute to Korea.
In 1443, he made an expedition against the Jurchens of Manchuria.
Science and technology were encouraged by Sejong. He wrote a farmers’ handbook to help farmers.
Jang Yeongsil became a prominent inventor under his rule. Jang Yeongsil came from a poor class family, but was promoted by Taejong and Sejong as the court inventor. He created water clocks, armillary spheres, and sundials. In 1442, he invented the first rain gauge.
Sejong reformed the calendar. With this calendar, Korean astronomers can predict, accurately, solar and lunar eclipses.
Under his rule, the Korean doctors created two major volumes on medicine.
When in times of surplus, he gave food to the poor.
King Sejong helped invent the Hangul alphabet that Koreans use to this day. It made it easier for lower classes to read. Before that, the scholars used Chinese. He encouraged literacy for everyone. He composed a Sino-Korean dictionary in 1447.
In 1442, he created Hall of Worthies, where he encouraged scholars to pursue their endeavors.
Under him, Admiral Yi created his ironclad ships.
He died of diabetes in 1450.