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The Gabo Reform describes a series of sweeping reforms introduced in Joseon Dynastymarker Koreamarker beginning in 1894 and ending in 1896, during the reign of King Gojong, in response to the Donghak Peasant Revolution. Historians debate the degree of Japanese influence in this program, as well as its effect in encouraging modernization. The name Gabo (갑오, 甲午) comes from the name of the year 1894 in the traditional Chinese sexagesimal cycle.

At the time, the ruling Joseon Dynastymarker was under intense pressure from outside to open up, reform, and modernize, with Russianmarker, Japanesemarker competing for influence in the country. The Gabo Reform was largely the work of a group of pro-Japanese public officials.

Their policies resulted in the official discarding of the lunar calendar in favor of the modern Gregorian solar calendar, the official designation of era names independent of the Chinese tradition, and the creation of a postal service. However, These radical reform triggered protests to the many of Koreans, particularly Yangban class.

In August 1895, the Japanese and pro-Japanese officials forced King to proclamation of the order of cutting of traditional male Korean hair buns (단발령, 斷髮令). It could have cause serious repercussions, and it was surely the main cause of Eulmi righteous army with Eulmi Incident, which was the assassination of Empress Myeongseong by the Japanese agents.

With the assassination of his wife Empress Myeongseong, the King Gojong and Crown Prince (Later Emperor Sunjong) fled for refuge to the Russian legation in 1896. King Gojong ordered repeal of the Gabo Reforms. Russia quickly took the opportunity to actively interfere in domestic Korean politics, leading to the contraction of the pro-Japanese faction's influence. These years also marked the beginning of the economic exploitation of Korean natural resources by mining and timber corporations from Russia, the United States, France, United Kingdom and Japan until 1897.

The main provisions of Gabo Reform

The Gabo Reform is similar to the Meiji Restoration in Japanmarker and produced the following sweeping changes and declarations:
  1. Korea is a sovereign country (i.e., completely independent from Chinamarker).
  2. Only the King (and not the Yangban elite) is to control the government.
  3. Those with talent are to be allowed to study.
  4. The army is to be established on basis of conscription, regardless of background.
  5. Appointment to the government is to be based on merit alone.
  6. Leather working, acting, and so on are to no longer be regarded as degrading work.
  7. Slavery is abolished, as well as the sinbun (class) system.


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