Gabo Reform describes a series of sweeping reforms
introduced in Joseon
Dynasty Korea beginning in
1894 and ending in 1896, during the reign of King Gojong, in response
to the Donghak Peasant
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
time, the ruling Joseon
Dynasty was under intense pressure from outside to open up,
reform, and modernize, with Russian, Japanese competing for influence in the country.
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
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
, which was the assassination of Empress Myeongseong
by the Japanese
With the assassination of his wife Empress Myeongseong
, the King Gojong
and Crown Prince (Later Emperor Sunjong
) fled for refuge to the
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
Reform is similar to the Meiji
Restoration in Japan and produced
the following sweeping changes and declarations:
is a sovereign country (i.e., completely independent from China).
- Only the King (and not the Yangban
elite) is to control the government.
- Those with talent are to be allowed to study.
- The army is to be established on basis of conscription,
regardless of background.
- Appointment to the government is to be based on merit
- Leather working, acting, and so on are to no longer be regarded as
- Slavery is abolished, as well as the
sinbun (class) system.