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Joseon (July 1392 – August 1910) (also Chosŏn, Choson, Chosun), was a Koreanmarker 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 Goryeomarker Kingdom at what is today the city of Kaesongmarker. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoulmarker and the kingdom's northernmost borders were expanded to the natural boundaries at the Amnok and Dumanmarker rivers (through the subjugation of the Jurchens). Joseon was the last royal and later imperial dynasty of Koreanmarker history. It was the longest ruling Confucian dynasty.

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 Qingmarker virtually overran the peninsula, leading to an increasingly harsh isolationist policy for which the country became known as the Hermit Kingdom. After 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 rebellions at home, the Joseon Dynasty declined rapidly in the late 19th century. In 1895, the Joseon Dynasty was forced to write a document of independence from the Qing Dynastymarker 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 Empiremarker to signify a sovereign nation no longer a tributary of the Qing Dynastymarker. The Joseon Dynasty came to an end in 1910, when the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was enforced by the Empire of Japanmarker.

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 facto occupation from the disintegrating Mongol Empire. Following the wake of the Ming Dynastymarker , 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). When a 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 Peninsulamarker (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 d'état, 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 Wonjumarker, 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.

Early strife

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 Taejong.

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 Dopyeong Assembly, 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 Office, 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 earlier, Sejong ascended the throne. In May of 1419, King Sejong, under the advice and guidance of his father Taejong, 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 of Tsushima, Sadamori, capitulated to the Joseon court. In 1443, The Treaty of Gyehae was signed, in which the Daimyo of Tsushima 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 (hangul: 사군육진 hanja: 四郡六鎭) to safeguard his people from the hostile Chinese and Manchurian nomads living in Manchuria. In 1433, Sejong sent Kim Jong-seo (hangul: 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 science, Agriculture,literature, 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 century.

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, etc.).

During the Japanese invasions of Korea , Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, plotting the conquest of Ming 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 Pyongyangmarker and Hanseong marker captured. According to the Annals of Joseon Dynasty, the Japanese were joined by rebelling Korean slaves, who burned down the palace of Gyeongbokgungmarker and its storehouse of slave records.
Local resistance, however, slowed down the Japanese advance and decisive naval victories by Admiral Yi Sun-sin 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.

Manchu invasions

After the war, the Korean Kingdom became increasingly isolationist. Its rulers sought to limit contact with foreign countries. In addition, the Ming Dynastymarker was weakened, partly because of the war in Korea against Japan, which led to the establishment of the new Qing Dynastymarker. 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 Ming.

Korea suffered from two invasions by the Manchus, in 1627 (see the First Manchu invasion of Korea) and 1637 (see the Second Manchu invasion of Korea). 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 Macaumarker. 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

Heungseon Daewongun
After invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a 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 Kyujanggakmarker, 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 Silhak 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 culture.

In 1863 King Gojong took 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 French Campaign against Korea, 1866. The early years of his rule also witnessed a large effort to restore the largely dilapidated Gyeongbok Palacemarker, the seat of royal authority. During Heungseon Daewongun's reign, faction politics and power wielded by the Andong Kim clan completely disappeared.

In 1873, King Gojong announced his direct royal rule. With the subsequent retirement of Heungseon Daewongun, the to-be Queen Min (later called Empress Myeongseong) gained complete control over her court, placing her family in high court positions.


In the 19th century tensions mounted between Qing Chinamarker and Japanmarker, culminating in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895). 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 in 1876.

Many Koreans despised Japanese and foreign influences over their land and the corrupt oppressive rule of the Joseon Dynasty. On January 11, 1894, by peasant leader Jeon Bong-jun defeated the government forces at the battle of Go-bumarker, 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. However the urgent Joseon government asked the Chinese Qing Dynastymarker government for assistance in ending the revolt. 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.

The Chinese defeat in the 1894 war led to the Treaty of Shimonoseki between Chinamarker and Japanmarker, which officially guaranteed Korea's independence from China. It 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 Empiremarker in 1897. Emperor Gojong 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 Russia.

In a complicated series of manoeuvres and counter-manoeuvres, Japan pushed back the Russian fleet at the Battle of Port Arthurmarker in 1905. With the conclusion of the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth, the way was open for Japan to take control of Korea. After the signing of the Protectorate Treaty in 1905, Korea became a protectorate of Japan. 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 Harbinmarker.In 1910, Although Many Koreans opposed the annexation, Japanese Empiremarker annexed Korea by force.

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 another.

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 century.

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 regulating the 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 Goryeomarker era. In the 14th–16th centuries, this hierarchy was strict and stable. Since economic opportunities to change status were limited, no law was needed.

But in the late 17–19th centuries, new commercial groups emerged, and the old class system was extremely weakened. Especially, the population of Daegumarker region's Yangban class was expected to reach nearly 70 percent in 1858. 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 scholar.
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 (heoritti) was used to cover them. At the end of 19th century, Daewon-gun introduced Magoja, a Manchu-style jacket, 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 or heorimari 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 realism. 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 Buddhism.

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 and Rococo style.


The Joseon Dynasty under the reign of Sejong the Great was Korea's greatest period of scientific advancement. Under Sejong's new policy that allowed Cheonmin (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.

Some of 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 Dynastymarker. 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, a court physician wrote a number of medical texts, but his most significant achievement is Dongeui Bogam, which is often noted as the defining text of Traditional Korean medicine. The work spread to Chinamarker and Japanmarker, 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 King Sejong 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 movements.Honcheonsigye is an astronomical clock created by Song I-yeong 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 time.

Kangnido, a Korean made map of the world was created in 1402, by Kim Sa-hyeong (김사형, 金士衡), Yi Mu (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.

The first soft ballistic vest, Myunjebaegab, was invented in Joseon Koreamarker in the 1860s shortly after the French campaign against Korea. Heungseon Daewongun ordered development of bullet-proof armor because of increasing threats from Western armies. Kim Gi-Doo and Gang Yoon found that cotton could protect against bullets if thick enough, and devised bullet-proof vests made of 30 layers of cotton. The vests were used in battle during the United States expedition to Korea, when the US Navy attacked Ganghwa Islandmarker 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 Pyongnam. Koreans offered brocades, jewelries, ginseng, silk, 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 Uimin, married Princess Yi Bang-ja née Nashimoto, 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 Seoulmarker and was rushed to a hospital. He never 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.

Presently Prince Yi Seok is one of two pretenders to the throne of Koreamarker. 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 Koreamarker.

Furthermore, many descendants live throughout the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker and Brazilmarker, 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(The 9th ruler of Joseon Dynasty). It was discovered that this mountain belongs to the member of the royal family named Yi Won (Born in 1958).More details 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 never reigned.
  • 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 princes.
  • 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 King Sukjong.
  • 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) afterward.
  • 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 offspring.
  • 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

See also


  1. [1]
  2. 계해약조 癸亥約條Nate / Britannica
  3. 계해조약 癸亥約條 Nate / Encyclopedia of Korean Culture
  4. 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. 195f.
  5. Turnbull, Stephen: Samurai Invasion. Japan’s Korean War 1592–98 (London, 2002), Cassell & Co ISBN 0-304-35948-3, p. 244.
  6. Roh, Young-koo: "Yi Sun-shin, an Admiral Who Became a Myth", The Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2004), p. 13.
  7. 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 DynastyNational Institute of Korean History
  8. Characteristics of Queen of Corea The New York Times Nov 10, 1895
  9. 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. 6
  10. 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.
  11. Oh SC (2006), Economic growth in P'yongan Province and the development of Pyongyang in the Late Choson Period. Korean Stud. 30: 3–22
  12. Haboush JHK (1988), A Heritage of Kings: One Man's Monarchy in the Confucian World. Columbia University Press, pp. 88–9.
  13. Korean Nobi
  14. Nobi: Rescuing the Nation from Slavery
  15. Peterson MA (2000), Korean Slavery. Int. Forum Series David M. Kennedy Center Discussion Paper
  16. Haboush (1988: 88); Ch'oe et al. (2000: 158)
  17. Ch'oe et al., 2000:7.
  18. Haboush, 1988: 89
  19. 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 (080626)
  20. Jun et al. (2008).
  21. Ch'oe et al. (2000: 73).
  22. 이중환, "총론" in 택리지, p. 355, quoted in translation in Choe et al. (2000: 162).
  23. Haboush (1988: 78)
  24. 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.
  25. Haboush (1988: 88-89); Oh (2006)
  26. 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: Hollym, 2000.
  • 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, pp. 46–7.

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