Joseon (July 1392 – August
1910) (also Chosŏn, Choson, Chosun), was a
Korean sovereign state
founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that
lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the
aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo Kingdom at
what is today the city of Kaesong.
Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day
Seoul and the kingdom's northernmost borders were
expanded to the natural boundaries at the Amnok and Duman rivers
(through the subjugation of the Jurchens). Joseon was the last royal and later
imperial dynasty of Korean
It was the longest ruling Confucian
During its reign, Joseon consolidated its absolute rule over Korea,
encouraged the entrenchment of Confucian ideals and doctrines in
Korean society, imported and adapted Chinese culture, and saw the
height of classical Korean culture, trade, science, literature, and
technology. However, the dynasty was severely weakened
during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when invasions by the neighboring Japan and
overran the peninsula, leading to an increasingly harsh
isolationist policy for which the country became known as the
invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year
period of peace.
However, whatever power the kingdom recovered during its isolation
further waned as the 18th century came to a close, and faced with
internal strife, power struggles, international pressure and
home, the Joseon Dynasty declined rapidly in the late 19th century.
the Joseon Dynasty was forced to write a document of independence
from the Qing
Dynasty after the Japanese victory in the First Sino-Japanese War and its
peace treaty, the Treaty of
Shimonoseki. From 1897 to 1910, Korea was formally known
as the Korean
Empire to signify a sovereign nation no longer a
tributary of the Qing
Dynasty. The Joseon Dynasty came to an end in 1910,
when the Japan-Korea
Annexation Treaty was enforced by the Empire of Japan.
The Joseon's rule has left a substantial legacy on the modern face
of Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal
attitudes towards current issues, and even the modern Korean
language and its dialects stem from the traditional thought pattern
that originated from this period.
By the late 14th century, the 400 year-old Goryeo Dynasty
established by Wang Geon
in 918 was
tottering, its foundations collapsing from years of war and de
occupation from the disintegrating Mongol Empire
. Following the wake of the Ming Dynasty , the royal court in Goryeo split into two
conflicting factions: the group led by General Yi (supporting the
Ming Dynasty) and the camp led by General Choe (standing by the Yuan Dynasty).
Ming messenger came to Goryeo in 1388 (the 14th year of King U) to demand the return of a significant
portion of Goryeo’s northern territory, General Choe seized the
chance to argue for the attack of the Liaodong Peninsula (Goryeo claimed to be the successor of the ancient
kingdom of Goguryeo; as such, restoring Manchuria as part of Korean territory was part of
its foreign policy throughout its history).
Yi was chosen to lead the attack; however, he revolted and swept
back to Gaegyeong and initiated a coup
, overthrowing King U in favor of his son, King Chang
(1388). He later killed King U
and his son after a failed restoration and forcibly placed a royal
named Yo on the throne (he became King Gongyang
). In 1392, Yi dethroned
King Gongyang, exiled him to Wonju, and
ascended the throne.
The Goryeo Dynasty had come to an end
after almost 500 years of rule.
In the beginning of his reign, Yi Seonggye, now King Taejo
, intended to continue use of the name
Goryeo for the country he ruled and simply change the royal line of
descent to his own, thus maintaining the façade of continuing the
500 year-old Goryeo tradition. However, after numerous threats of
mutiny from the drastically weakened but still influential Gwonmun
nobles, who continued to swear allegiance to the remnants of the
Goryeo Dynasty, now the demoted Wang clan, and the overall
atmosphere in the reformed court that a new dynastic title was
needed to signify the change, he declared a new dynasty in 1393
under the name of Joseon (meaning to revive an older dynasty also
known as Joseon
, founded nearly four
thousand years previously) and renamed the country the "Kingdom of
Great Joseon". He also moved the capital to Hanyang.
When the new dynasty was promulgated and officially brought into
existence, Taejo brought up the issue of which son would be his
successor. Although Taejo's fifth son by Queen Sineui, Yi Bang-won
, had contributed most to assisting
his father's rise to power, he harbored a profound hatred against
two of his father's key allies in the court, the prime minister
Jeong Do-jeon and Nam Eun
. Both sides were
fully aware of the mutual animosity that existed between each other
and constantly felt threatened. When it became clear that Yi
Bang-won was the most worthy successor to the throne, Jeong Do-jeon
used his influence on the king to convince him that the wisest
choice would be in the son that Taejo loved most, not the son that
Taejo felt was best for the kingdom. In 1392, the eighth son of
King Taejo (the second son of Queen Sindeok), Grand Prince Uian (Yi
Bang-seok) was appointed Prince Royal, or successor to the throne.
After the sudden death of the queen, and while King Taejo was still
in mourning for his second wife, Jeong Do-jeon conspired to
pre-emptively kill Yi Bang-won and his brothers to secure his
position in court. In 1398, upon hearing of this plan, Yi Bang-won
immediately revolted and raided the palace, killing Jeong Do-jeon,
his followers, and the two sons of the late Queen Sindeok. This
incident became known as the First Strife of Princes.
Aghast at the fact that his sons were willing to kill each other
for the crown, and psychologically exhausted from the death of his
second wife, King Taejo immediately crowned his second son Yi
Bang-gwa, later King Jeongjong
as the new ruler. One of King Jeongjong's first acts as monarch was
to revert the capital to Gaeseong, where he is believed to have
been considerably more comfortable. Meanwhile, Yi Bang-won, not in
the least discouraged by the fact that his elder brother held the
throne, began plotting to be invested as Royal Prince Successor
Brother. However, Yi Bang-won's plans were opposed by Taejo's
fourth son Yi Bang-gan, who also yearned for power. In 1400, the
tensions between Yi Bang-won's faction and Yi Bang-gan's camp
escalated into an all-out conflict that came to be known as the
Second Strife of Princes. In the aftermath of the struggle, the
defeated Yi Bang-gan was exiled to Tosan, while those who urged him
to battle against Yi Bang-won were executed. Thoroughly
intimidated, King Jeongjong immediately invested Yi Bang-won as
heir presumptive and voluntarily abdicated. That same year, Yi
Bang-won assumed the throne of Joseon at long last as King
Consolidation of Power
In the beginning of Taejong's reign, the Grand King Former, Taejo,
refused to relinquish the royal seal that signified the legitimacy
of any king's rule. Taejong began to initiate policies he believed
would prove his intelligence and right to rule. One of his first
acts as king was to abolish the privilege enjoyed by the upper
echelons of government and the aristocracy to maintain private
armies. His revoking of such rights to field independent forces
effectively severed their ability to muster large-scale revolts,
and drastically increased the number of men employed in the
national military.Taejong's next act as king was to revise the
existing legislation concerning the taxation of land ownership and
the recording of state of subjects. With the discovery of
previously hidden land, national income increased twofold.
In 1399, Taejong had played an influential role in scrapping the
, a council of
the old government administration that held a monopoly in court
power during the waning years of the Goryeo Dynasty, in favor of
the State Council of Joseon
a new branch of central administration that revolved around the
king and his edicts. After passing the subject documentation and
taxation legislation, King Taejong issued a new decree in which all
decisions passed by the Euijeong Department could only come into
effect with the approval of the king. This ended the custom of
court ministers and advisors in making decisions through debate and
negotiations amongst themselves and with the king only as an
onlooker, and thus, through the implication of the king in the
actual administration of Korea, brought royal power to new heights.
Shortly afterward, Taejong also installed a branch of the
government, known as the Sinmun
, to receive cases in which aggrieved subjects felt that
they had been exploited or unfair actions had been taken against
them by government officials or aristocrats
In August of 1418, following Taejong's abdication two months
ascended the throne. In May
of 1419, King Sejong, under the advice and guidance of his father
, embarked upon the Gihae Eastern Expedition
to remove the
nuisance of Japanese pirates who had been operating out of Tsushima
. In September of 1419 the Daimyo
capitulated to the Joseon court. In 1443, The Treaty of Gyehae
was signed, in which the
was granted rights to conduct trade with Korea in fifty ships per
year, in exchange for sending tribute to Korea and aiding to stop
any Japanese coastal pirate raid on Korean ports.
On the northern border, Sejong established four forts and six posts
: 사군육진 hanja
四郡六鎭) to safeguard his people from the hostile Chinese and
Manchurian nomads living in Manchuria. In 1433, Sejong sent
: 김종서, hanja
: 金宗瑞), a
prominent general, north to destroy the Manchu. Kim's military
campaign captured several castles, pushed north, and restored
Korean territory, roughly the present-day border between North
Korea and China.
During the rule of Sejong
, Korea saw
technological advances in natural
, traditional medicine
etc. Because of
his success, Sejong
was credited the title
"King Sejong the Great of Joseon". The most remembered contribution
of King Sejong is the creation of Hangeul
(the Korean alphabet) in 1443. Everyday written use of Hanja and
Hanmun eventually came to end slowly in the latter half of the 20th
Early Japanese invasions
Throughout Korean history, there were frequent pirates
attacks on both the sea and land. The only
purpose for the Koreans running a navy was to secure the maritime
trade against the Wokou pirates
. The Korean
navy maintained superiority over the pirates by using an advanced
form of gunpowder technologies (i.e. cannons, fire arrows
in form of Singijeon
deployed by Hwacha
During the Japanese
invasions of Korea
, Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi
, plotting the conquest
China with Portuguese guns, invaded
Korea with his daimyō
and their troops
in 1592 and 1597, intending to use Korea as a stepping stone.
Factional division in the Joseon court, inability to assess
Japanese military capability, and failed attempts at diplomacy led
to poor preparation on Joseon's part. The use of European
firearms by the Japanese left most of the southern peninsula
occupied within months, with both Pyongyang and Hanseong
captured. According to the Annals of Joseon Dynasty, the
Japanese were joined by rebelling Korean slaves, who burned down the palace of Gyeongbokgung and its storehouse of slave records.
Local resistance, however, slowed down the Japanese advance and
decisive naval victories by Admiral Yi
left control over sea routes in Korean hands, severely
hampering Japanese supply lines. Furthermore, Ming
China intervened on the side of the Koreans,
sending a large force in 1593 which pushed back the Japanese
together with the Koreans. During the war, Koreans developed
powerful firearms and high-quality gunpowder and the Turtle ships
. The Joseon and Ming forces
defeated the Japanese at a deep price. Following the war, relations
between Korea and Japan had been completely suspended.
After the war, the Korean Kingdom became increasingly isolationist
. Its rulers sought to limit
contact with foreign countries. In addition, the Ming Dynasty was weakened, partly because of the war in Korea
against Japan, which led to the establishment of the new Qing Dynasty.
The Koreans decided to build tighter
borders, exert more controls over inter-border traffic, and wait
out the initial turbulence of the Manchu overthrow of the
Korea suffered from two invasions by the Manchus, in 1627 (see the
First Manchu invasion of
) and 1637 (see the Second Manchu invasion of
). Korea surrendered to the Manchus and agreed to pay
tribute to the new Qing dynasty emperors as a Qing dynasty's
protectorate, which at this time involved two way trade missions
with China. The Qing rulers adopted a foreign policy to avoid the
creation of foreign trading enclaves on Chinese soil. This policy limited
the presence of the traditional entrepot of
the foreign hong to Macau.
These entrepot handled the significant trade of Chinese silks for
foreign silver. This arrangement relegated foreign trade to the
southern provinces of China, leaving the more unstable northern
region under careful regulation and limiting the influence of
foreigners. This decision affected Korea since China was Korea's
main trading partner.
Late Joseon period
After invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly
200-year period of peace. King
and King Jeongjo
new renaissance of the Joseon dynasty. King Sukjong
and his son King Yeongjo
tried to solve the problems
resulting from faction politics. Tangpyeong's policy was to
effectively freeze the parties' disputes. Yeongjo's grandson,
King Jeongjo made various reforms
throughout his reign, notably establishing Kyujanggak, an imperial library.
However, its purpose
was to improve the cultural and political position of Joseon and to
recruit gifted officers to run the nation. King Jeongjo also
spearheaded bold new social initiatives, opening government
positions to those who would have previously been barred because of
their social status. King Jeongjo had the support of the many
scholars, and in addition the Silhak
scholars supported Jeongjo's regal power. King Jeongjo's reign also
saw the further growth and development of Joseon's popular
In 1863 King Gojong
the throne. His father, Regent Heungseon Daewongun
, ruled for him until
Gojong reached adulthood. During the mid 1860s he was the main
proponent of isolationism and the instrument of the persecution of
native and foreign Catholics, a policy that led directly to the
against Korea, 1866
. The early years of his rule also witnessed a
large effort to restore the largely dilapidated Gyeongbok
Palace, the seat of royal authority.
faction politics and power wielded by the Andong Kim
In 1873, King Gojong announced his direct royal rule. With the
subsequent retirement of Heungseon Daewongun, the to-be Queen Min
(later called Empress
) gained complete control over her court, placing
her family in high court positions.
19th century tensions mounted between Qing China and Japan, culminating
in the First Sino-Japanese
Much of this war was fought on the
Korean peninsula. Japan, after the Meiji Restoration
, acquired Western
military technology, had forced Joseon to sign the Treaty of Ganghwa
Many Koreans despised Japanese and foreign influences over their
land and the corrupt oppressive rule of the Joseon Dynasty.
January 11, 1894, by peasant leader Jeon
Bong-jun defeated the government forces at the battle of
Go-bu, after the
battle Jo's properties were handed out to the peasants.
Meantime, the Joseon government army attacked Jeonju and both the
Joseon government and the peasant army concluded an agreement.
the urgent Joseon government asked the Chinese Qing Dynasty government for assistance in ending the
After notifying the Japanese in accordance with the
Convention of Tientsin Qing sent troops into Korea. It was the
catalyst for the First Sino-Japanese War.
The empress had attempted to counter Japanese interference in Korea
and was considering turning to Russia or China for support. In
1895, Empress Myeongseong
(referred to as "Queen Min") was directly assassinated by Japanese
agents.. The Japanese minister to Korea, Miura Goro
orchestrated the plot against her. A
group of Japanese agents along with Hullyeondae
Army entered the Royal palace in
Seoul, which was under Japanese and Empress Myeongseong was killed
and her body desecrated in the North wing of the palace.
Chinese defeat in the 1894 war led to the Treaty of Shimonoseki between China and Japan, which
officially guaranteed Korea's independence from China.
was a step for Japan to hold regional hegemony
in Korea. The Joseon court, pressured by
encroachment from larger powers, felt the need to reinforce
national integrity and declared the Korean Empire in 1897.
assumed the title of Emperor in order
to assert Korea's independence.In addition, other foreign powers
were sought for military technology, especially Russia, to fend off
the Japanese. Technically, 1897 marks the end of the Joseon period,
as the official name of the empire was changed; however the Joseon
Dynasty would still reign, albeit perturbed by Japan and
complicated series of manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres, Japan
pushed back the Russian fleet at the Battle of
Port Arthur in 1905.
With the conclusion of the
1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War
the Treaty of Portsmouth
way was open for Japan to take control of Korea. After the signing
of the Protectorate Treaty
Korea became a protectorate
Itō Hirobumi was the first
Resident-General of Korea, although he was assassinated by Korean independence activist
An Jung-geun in 1909 at the train
station at Harbin.In 1910,
Although Many Koreans opposed the annexation, Japanese
Empire annexed Korea by
Provinces of Joseon Dynasty
During most of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea was divided into eight provinces
(do; 도; 道). The
eight provinces' boundaries remained unchanged for almost five
centuries from 1413 to 1895, and formed a geographic paradigm that
is still reflected today in the Korean Peninsula's administrative
divisions, dialects, and regional distinctions. The names of all
eight provinces are still preserved today, in one form or
Social and Population Structure
The population of Joseon Korea is controversial. Government records
of households are considered unreliable in this period. One recent
estimate gives 6 million at the start of the dynasty in 1392,
growing irregularly to a peak of as many as 18 million by about
1750. Between 1810 and 1850, the population declined approximately
10% and remained stable.
Joseon Korea initially lacked a landed nobility in the usual sense.
However, a centralised administrative system was installed
controlled by Confucian scholars who were called Yangban
. By the end of the eighteenth century, the
yangban had acquired most of the traits of a hereditary nobility,
except that status was based on a unique mixture of family
position, the results of a Confucian-style competitive examination,
and a civil service system. The yangban and the king, in an uneasy
balance, controlled the central government and military
institutions. The proportion of yangban may have reached as high as
30% by 1800, although there was considerable local variation. As
the government was small, a great many yangban were local gentry of
high social status, but not always of high income.
Another 30-40% of the population were slaves or "low borns".
Slavery was hereditary, as well as a form of legal punishment.
There was a slave class with both government- and privately-owned
slaves, and the government occasionally gave slaves to citizens of
higher rank. Privately owned slaves could be inherited as personal
property. During poor harvests, many sangmin
people would voluntarily become slaves in order to survive. During
the Joseon Dynasty about 30% to 40% of the Korean population
consisted of slaves. However, Joseon slaves could, and often did,
own property.. Private slaves could buy their freedom.
Government-owned slaves were all emancipated in 1801, and the
institution gradually died out over the next century. The
institution was fully abolished during the Gabo Reform
at the end of the nineteenth
Many of the remaining 40-50% of the population were surely farmers,
but recent work has raised important issues about the size of other
groups: merchants and traders, local government or
quasi-governmental clerks (Chungin
), craftsmen and laborers, textile
workers, etc. Given the size of the population, it may be that a
typical person had more than one role. Most farming was, at any
rate, commercial, not subsistence. In addition to generating
additional income, a certain amount of occupational dexterity may
have been required to avoid the worst effects of an often heavy and
corrupt tax system.
During the Late Joseon, the Confucian ideals of propriety and
"filial piety" gradually came to be equated with a strict
observance to a complex social hierarchy, with many fine
gradations. By the early 1700s the social critic Yi Junghwan
(1690–1756) sarcastically complained
that "[W]ith so many different ranks and grades separating people
from one another, people tend not to have a very large circle of
friends." But, even as Yi wrote, the informal social distinctions
of the Early Joseon were being reinforced by legal discrimination,
such as Sumptuary law
dress of different social groups, and laws restricting inheritance
and property ownership by women.
Yet, these laws may have been announced precisely because social
mobility was increasing, particularly during the prosperous century
beginning about 1710. The original social hierarchy of the Joseon
Dynasty was developed based on the social hierarchy of the Goryeo era.
In the 14th–16th centuries, this hierarchy was strict and stable.
Since economic opportunities to change status were limited, no law
But in the late 17–19th centuries, new commercial groups emerged,
and the old class system was extremely weakened. Especially, the
population of Daegu region's
Yangban class was expected to reach nearly 70 percent in
The Joseon government ordered to set the official
slaves in 1801 (공노비 해방). Finally, the class system of Joseon was
completely banned in 1894 (사노비 해방).
The Joseon Dynasty presided over two periods of great cultural
growth, during which Joseon culture created the first Korean tea ceremony
, Korean gardens
, and extensive historic works.
The royal dynasty also built several fortresses, palaces.
Male dress of a Confucian
A portrait painted by Yi Je gwan(1783-1837)
.In Joseon Dynasty, jeogori of women's hanbok
became gradually tightened and shortened. In the 16th century,
jeogori was baggy and reached below the waist, but by the end of
Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century, jeogori was shortened to the
point that it did not cover the breasts, so another piece of cloth
) was used to cover them. At the end of 19th
, a Manchu
to Korea, which is often worn with hanbok to this day.
Chima was full-skirted and jeogori was short and tight in the late
Joseon period. Fullness in the skirt was emphasized round the hips.
Many undergarments were worn underneath chima such as darisokgot,
soksokgot, dansokgot, and gojengi to achieve a desired silhouette.
Because jeogori was so short it became natural to expose heoritti
which functioned like a corset. The white
linen cloth exposed under jeogori in the picture is heoritti.
The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie
cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials
in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the
year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to
cotton at best. The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though
bright colors were generally worn by children and girls and subdued
colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by
law to everyday clothes of white, but for special occasions they
wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal.
Formally, when Korean men went outdoors, they were required to wear
overcoats known as durumagi
which reach the knees.
The Mid-Joseon dynasty painting styles moved towards increased
. A national painting style of
landscapes called "true view" began - moving from the traditional
Chinese style of idealized general landscapes to particular
locations exactly rendered. While not photographic, the style was
academic enough to become established and supported as a
standardized style in Korean painting.
The mid to late Joseon dynasty is considered the golden age of
Korean painting. It coincides with the shock of the collapse of
Ming dynasty links with the Manchu emperors accession in China, and
the forcing of Korean artists to build new artistic models based on
nationalism and an inner search for particular Korean subjects. At
this time China ceased to have pre-eminent influence, Korean art
took its own course, and became increasingly distinctive.
Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall)
The history of Joseon architecture would be described in three
periods of the early, the middle, and the late period, in
accordance with the cultural and architectural development. In the
early period, the architecture developed as a succession from the
cultural inheritance of the previous dynasty with the new political
guiding principles of Confucianism that took the place of
Through the influence of Confucianism, a refined aristocratic taste
of the previous era was replaced by the characteristics of
unsophisticated, simple and humble beauty with the qualities of
commonness and steadiness. The intercolumnar bracket set system was
used in building the most important edifice on the premises. The
columnar bracket set system and the eclectic bracket system, which
consists of architectural elements from both columnar and
intercolumnar systems, were also used for temples and other
important buildings. In the period of the Joseon dynasty, Korean
architecture developed further with a unique will to manifest the
expression of the ideas and values of the period.
The bracket cluster system, structurally and visually important
elements of the buildings, were developed to follow structural
function and to express the unique formal beauty of Korean
architecture. Architectural ornaments and their symbolic
connotation had more variety and richness. Architects of the period
intended to express a strong will to form an indigenous style in
architecture, and tried to use decorative elements of all kinds.
This achieved a kind of symphonic quality with the methods of
architectural organization by strong contrast of light and dark, of
simplicity and complexity, and then finally reached the definite
climax of architectural ingenuity. This tendency of architectural
expression of the later period might remind us somewhat similar
impressions of the Western Baroque
The Joseon Dynasty under the reign of Sejong the Great
was Korea's greatest
period of scientific advancement. Under Sejong's new policy that
(low-status) people such
as Jang Yeong-sil
to work for the
government. Jang is one of Korea's most famous inventors. When he
was very young he built machines to help make worker's jobs easier
such as aqueducts, canals among others. Jang eventually was allowed
to live at the royal palace where he led a group of scientists to
work on advancing Korea's science.
his inventions were an automated (self-striking) water clock, the Jagyeokru which worked by
activating motions of wooden figures to indicate time visually was
invented in 1434 by Jang Yeong-sil,
who later developed a more complicated water-clock with additional
astronomical devices, as well as an improved model of the previous
metal movable printing type created in the Goryeo
The new model was of even higher quality
and was twice as fast. Other inventions were the sight glass
, and the udometer
Also during the Joseon Dynasty Heo Jun
court physician wrote a number of medical texts, but his most
significant achievement is Dongeui
, which is often noted as the defining text of Traditional Korean medicine
spread to China and Japan, where it is
still regarded as one of the classics of Oriental medicine today.
The highpoint of Korean astronomy was during the Joseon period,
where men such as Jang created celestial globes which could,
whether day or night, allow the instrument to be updated on the
positions of the sun, moon, and the stars among other devices Later
celestial globes (Gyupyo, 규표) could measure time changes according
to the seasonal variations.
The apex of astronomical and calendarial advances made under
was the Chiljeongsan
, made up of compiled computations
on the courses of the seven heavenly objects (five visible planets,
the sun, and moon)developed in 1442. This work made it possible for
scientists to calculate and accurately predict all the major
heavenly phenomena, such as solar eclipses and other stellar
astronomical clock created by Song
in 1669. The clock has an armillary sphere with a
diameter of 40 cm. The sphere is activated by a working clock
mechanism, showing the position of the universe at any given
, a Korean made map of the world
was created in 1402
, by Kim Sa-hyeong
(김사형, 金士衡), Yi
(이무, 李茂) and Yi Hoe
(이회, 李撓). The map
was created in the second year of the reign of Taejong of Joseon
. The map was made by
combining Chinese, Korean and Japanese maps.
soft ballistic vest, Myunjebaegab, was invented in Joseon Korea in the 1860s
shortly after the French campaign against
ordered development of bullet-proof armor because of
increasing threats from Western armies. Kim
and Gang Yoon
could protect against bullets if thick
enough, and devised bullet-proof vests made of 30 layers of cotton.
were used in battle during the United States expedition to
Korea, when the US Navy attacked Ganghwa Island in 1871.
The US Army captured one of the
vests and took it to the US, where it was stored at the Smithsonian
Museum until 2007. The vest has since been sent back to Korea and
is currently on display to the public.
Trade and commerce
During the Goryeo Dynasty, Korea had a healthy trade relationship
with the Arabians
, Japanese, Chinese, and
Manchurians. An example of prosperous, international trade port is
. Koreans offered brocades
, jewelries, ginseng
, and porcelain
, renowned famous worldwide. But, during
the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism was adopted as the national
philosophy, and, in process of eliminating certain Buddhist
beliefs, Goryeo Cheongja
porcelains were replaced by white Baekja
which lost favour of the Chinese and the Arabians. Also, commerce
became more restricted during this time in order to promote
agriculture. In addition to this, constant Chinese request for
tribute pushed the Korean policy of ceasing to produce various
luxury item elements (i.e. gold, silver), and importing only the
necessary amounts from Japan. Because silver was used as currency
in China, it played important role in Korea-China trade.
The Last Imperial Family
After the invasion and de facto
annexation of Korea by
Japanese in 1910, the Princes and Princesses of the Imperial Family
were forced to leave for Japan to be re-educated and married. The
Heir to the Throne, Imperial Crown Prince
, married Princess Yi Bang-ja
, and had two sons, Princes Yi Jin and Yi Gu
. His elder brother, Imperial Prince Ui
had twelve sons and
nine daughters from various wives and concubines.
The Crown Prince lost his status in Japan at the end of World War
II and returned to Korea in 1963 after an invitation by the
Republican Government. He suffered a stroke as his plane landed in
Seoul and was rushed to a hospital.
recovered and died in 1970. His brother, Imperial Prince Ui died in
1955 and the Korean people officially considered this to be the end
of the Royal line.
Prince Yi Seok is one of two pretenders to the throne of Korea.
He is a
son of Prince Gang of Korea, a
fifth son of Gojong of Korea and currently a professor of history
lecturing at Jeonju University in
the Republic of
Furthermore, many descendants live
throughout the United
States, Canada and Brazil, having
settled elsewhere, outside of Korea.
Today, many tombs of the descendants still exist on top of the
mountain in Yangju. According to the pedigree written on the
tombstone, it is believed that these descendants are from the great
king of Joseon, Seongjeong
9th ruler of Joseon Dynasty). It was discovered that this mountain
belongs to the member of the royal family named Yi Won (Born in
of current descendants of the House of Yi.
The Imperial Family
Titles and styles
During the Kingdom
- King (王 왕 wang), the king, with the
style of His Majesty (殿下 전하 jeonha) or, not as
correct but yet still quite commonly, His Royal Highness
(媽媽 마마 mama). Before the style of "jeon ha" were used a
variety of titles for the king. Native names such as "naratnim"
(나랏님) and "Imgeum" (임금) were also used colloquially. For references
to late monarchs the title was Great Predecessor
King (先大王 선대왕 seondaewang) or Great
King (大王 대왕 daewang); for foreign envoys the
title used was State King (國王 국왕
gugwang); and for those in the court who needed to mention
the king outside his presence, and thus more formality was required
in addressing the monarch, the title was Current
King (今上 금상 geum-sang),Sovereign
(主上 주상 jusang or 上監 상감 sanggam), or Grand
Palace (大殿 대전 daejeon). The style remained the
same for all titles with the exception of queens dowager and the
relatively few kings who abdicated, who simply addressed or
mentioned the king without using his style.
- Queen consort (王妃 왕비 wangbi), the
queen consort, with the style of Her Royal Highness (媽媽 마마
mama). The title used in the court language was
Center Palace (中宮殿 중궁전 junggungjeon or 中殿
중전 jungjeon). Queens consort that remained married to the
king until their death were generally given a title consisting of
two Hanja in the front and the customary suffix
Queen (王后 왕후 wanghu) in the back.
- King Former (上王 상왕 sangwang), a king
who has voluntarily abdicated for his son to take his place. They
usually remained influential or even powerful through the remaining
years of their lives. The style of His Majesty (殿下 전하
jeonha) or, less frequently but yet still quite commonly,
His Royal Highness (媽媽 마마 mama) was used.
- Queen Dowager (大妃 대비 daebi), the
current incumbent of the throne's mother, with the style of Her
Royal Highness (媽媽 마마 mama). Queens dowager often
exercised a great deal of influence on the king's influence through
their regencies, which took place when the king was too young to
rule in his own name, or simply through their role as the mother or
even a senior female relative of the monarch.
- Grand King Former (太上王 태상왕
taesangwang), an abdicated king whose relinquishment of
power precedes that of another former king. The style of His
Majesty (殿下 전하 jeonha) or, less frequently but yet
still quite commonly, His Royal Highness (媽媽 마마
m-ma) was used.
- Royal Queen Dowager (王大妃 왕대비
wangdaebi), a former consort preceding the least senior
queen dowager or current king's aunt or grandmother, with the style
of Her Royal Highness (媽媽 마마 mama).
- Grand Royal Queen Dowager (大王大妃 대왕대비
daewangdaebi), a former consort senior to two other queend
dowagers or the current king's great-grandmother, with the style of
Her Royal Highness (媽媽 마마 mama).
- Grand Internal Prince (大阮君 대원군
daewongun), the father of a king who was unable to take
the throne himself as he was not part of the generation following
that of the last incumbent of the throne (kings who are honored at
the royal Jongmyo Shrine must be senior generation-wise for the
current incumbent to pay homage there). There have been cases when
grand chief princes acted as regents for their sons, the last
person to do so having been the Regent Heungseon.
- Grand Internal Princess Consort (府大夫人 부대부인
budaebuin), the mother of a king whose father himself
- Internal Prince (府院君 부원군 buwongun),
the queen consort's father.
- Internal Princess Consort (府夫人 부부인
bubuin), the queen consort's mother.
- Prince (君 군 gun), a son born to the
match between the king and a concubine or a descendant of a grand
prince. The style used is His Young Highness (아기씨
agissi) before marriage and the style His
Excellency (大監 대감 daegam) afterward.
- Princess Consort (郡夫人 군부인 gunbuin),
the consort of a prince.
- Grand Prince (大君 대군 daegun), a prince
born to the official match between the king and queen with the
style of His Young Highness (아기씨 agissi) before
marriage and the style His Excellency (大監 대감
daegam) afterward. The title of a grand prince is not
inherited and his sons are generally referred to as mere
- Grand Princess Consort (府夫人 부부인
bubuin), the consort of a grand prince.
- Prince Royal (元子 원자 wonja), the
firstborn son of the king before being formally invested as
heir apparent, with the style of
His Royal Highness (媽媽 마마 mama). Generally,
princes royal were the son who was born first between the king and
his official wife, but there were exceptions when the title of
Prince Royal was given to the firstborn son of the king through a
concubine, the most notable case having occurred in the reign of
- Royal Prince Successor (王世子 왕세자
wangseja) the heir apparent to the throne, with the eldest
son of the king given precedence over his brothers given that there
were no major problems with his conduct, with the simplified title
Prince Successor (世子 세자 seja) being
frequently used instead of the full name with the style of His
Royal Highness (邸下 저하 jeoha). In less formal but
still official court language, the title Eastern
Palace (東宮 동궁 donggung) or Spring
Palace (春宮 춘궁 chungung) and the style His
Royal Highness (媽媽 마마 mama) was used intermittently
with "Prince Successor," although the style was frequently dropped
by more senior members of the royal family.
- Royal Princess Successor Consort (王世子嬪 왕세자빈
wangsaejabin), the consort of the heir apparent, or simply
Princess Successor Consort (世子嬪 세자빈 saejabin), with the
style of Her Royal Consort Highness (마노라 manora
or 마누라 manura). Later, as the distinction between "Her
Royal Highness" and "Her Royal Consort Highness" became unclear due
to the influence of the Andong Kim clan, the style Her Royal
Highness (媽媽 마마 mama) also came to apply to the
consort of the heir apparent. The style ~ Royal Highness
also came to apply to grand princes, princes, and princess as well
for the same reason.
- Princess (公主 공주 gongju), the daughter
of the official match between the king and his official wife, with
the style of Her Young Highness (아기씨 agissi)
before marriage and Her Excellency (자가 jaga)
- Princess (翁主 옹주 ongju), the daughter
of the king and one of his concubines, with the style of Her
Young Highness (아기씨 agissi) before marriage and
Her Excellency (자가 jaga) afterward.
- Royal Prince Successor Brother (王世弟 왕세제
wangseje), the younger brother of the king who has been
formally invested as heir presumptive as the king has no
- Royal Prince Successor Descendant (王世孫 왕세손
wangseson), the son of the prince successor and the
princess successor consort, and the grandson of the king, with the
style of His Highness (閤下 합하 hap-a).
During the Empire
- Hwangje (皇帝 황제), the emperor, with the style
of His Imperial Majesty (陛下 폐하 pyeha)
- Hwanghu (皇后 황후), the empress (consort), with
the style of Her Imperial Majesty
- Hwangtaehu (皇太后 황태후), the empress dowager
- Taehwangtaehu (太皇太后 태황태후), the empress
dowager, current Emperor's living grandmother
- Hwangtaeja (皇太子 황태자), the crown prince of the
Empire, the eldest son of the emperor, with the style of His
Imperial Highness (殿下 전하 jeonha)
- Hwangtaeja-bi (皇太子妃 황태자비), the crown princess
(consort) of Empire, with the style of Her Imperial Highness
- Chinwang (親王 친왕), the prince (imperial), son
of Emperor, with the style of His Imperial Highness
- Chinwangbi (親王妃 친왕비), the princess (imperial)
(consort), with the style of Her Imperial Highness
- Gongju (公主 공주), the princess of the Empire,
the daughter of the emperor and his empress consort, with the style
of Her Imperial Highness
- Ongju (翁主 옹주), the princess of the Empire, the
daughter of emperor and one of his concubines, with the style of
Her Imperial Highness
- 계해약조 癸亥約條Nate / Britannica
- 계해조약 癸亥約條 Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean
- Hawley, Samuel: The Imjin War. Japan's Sixteenth-Century
Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China, The Royal
Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, Seoul 2005, ISBN 89-954424-2-5, p.
- Turnbull, Stephen: Samurai Invasion. Japan’s Korean War
1592–98 (London, 2002), Cassell & Co ISBN 0-304-35948-3,
- Roh, Young-koo: "Yi Sun-shin, an Admiral Who Became a Myth",
The Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2004), p.
- 宣祖實錄二十五年 (1592) 五月壬戌 (May 3) “危亡迫至, 君臣之間, 何可有隱?
大抵收拾人心爲上。 近來宮人作弊。 內需司人, 假稱宮物, 而積怨於民。 今日生變之由, 皆緣王子宮人作弊, 故人心怨叛,
與倭同心矣。 聞賊之來也, 言: ‘我不殺汝輩, 汝君虐民, 故如此。’ 云我民亦曰: ‘倭亦人也, 吾等何必棄家而避也?’
請誅內需司作弊人, 且免平安道積年逋欠。” “慶尙道人皆叛云, 然耶?”—The
annals of the Choson Dynasty—National Institute of
- Characteristics of Queen of Corea
The New York Times Nov 10, 1895
- Ch'oe YH, PH Lee & WT de Bary (eds.) (2000), Sources of
Korean Tradition: Volume II: From the Sixteenth to the Twentieth
Centuries. Columbia University Press, p.
- Jun SH, JB Lewis & H-R Kang (2008), Korean Expansion
and Decline from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century: A View
Suggested by Adam Smith. J. Econ. Hist. 68: 244–82.
- Oh SC (2006), Economic growth in P'yongan Province and the
development of Pyongyang in the Late Choson Period. Korean
Stud. 30: 3–22
- Haboush JHK (1988), A Heritage of Kings: One Man's Monarchy in
the Confucian World. Columbia University Press, pp. 88–9.
- Korean Nobi
- Nobi: Rescuing the Nation from Slavery
- Peterson MA (2000), Korean Slavery. Int. Forum Series David M.
Kennedy Center Discussion Paper
- Haboush (1988: 88); Ch'oe et al. (2000: 158)
- Ch'oe et al., 2000:7.
- Haboush, 1988: 89
- Jun SH & JB Lewis (2004), On double-entry bookkeeping in
Eighteenth-century Korea: A consideration of the account books from
two clan associations and a private academy. International
Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Jun et al. (2008).
- Ch'oe et al. (2000: 73).
- 이중환, "총론" in 택리지, p. 355, quoted in translation in Choe et al.
- Haboush (1988: 78)
- Haboush JHK (2003), Versions and subversions: Patriarchy
and polygamy in Korean narratives, in D Ko, JHK Haboush &
JR Piggott (eds.), Women and Confucian Cultures in Premodern China,
Korea and Japan. University of California
Press, pp. 279-304.
- Haboush (1988: 88-89); Oh (2006)
- Korea And The Korean People
- A Cultural History of Modern Korea, Wannae Joe, ed.
with intro. by Hongkyu A. Choe, Elizabeth NY, and Seoul Korea:
- An Introduction to Korean Culture, ed. Koo & Nahm,
Elizabeth NJ, and Seoul Korea: Hollym, 1998. 2nd edition.
- Noon Eu Ro Bo Neun Han Gook Yuk Sa #7 by Jang Pyung
Soon. Copyright 1998 Joong Ang Gyo Yook Yun Goo Won, Ltd,