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Joseon, was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries, from July 1392 to October 1897.
Joseon (Korean: 조선; Hanja: 朝鮮; also Chosŏn, Choson, Chosun, Cho-sen), was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries, from July 1392 to October 1897. It was founded following the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo Dynasty in what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul. 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 dynasty of Korean history and the longest-ruling Confucian dynasty.
During its reign, Joseon consolidated its effective rule over the territory of current Korea, encouraged the entrenchment of Korean 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 states of Japan and Qing nearly overran the peninsula, leading to an increasingly harsh isolationist policy for which the country became known as the Hermit Kingdom. After the end of 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. The Joseon period has left a substantial legacy to modern Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and the modern Korean language and its dialects derive from the culture and traditions of Joseon.
Early Joseon Period
By the late 14th century, the nearly 500 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 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). 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 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 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 Yi on the throne (he became King Gongyang). In 1392, Yi eliminated Jeong Mong-ju, highly respected leader of a group loyal to Goryeo dynasty, and dethroned King Gongyang, exiling him to Wonju, and before he 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 and now the demoted Wang clan, and the consensus 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.
Strife of Princes
When the new dynasty was promulgated and officially brought into existence, Taejo brought up the issue of which son would be his successor. Although Yi Bang-won, Taejo's fifth son by Queen Sineui, had contributed most to assisting his father's rise to power, the prime minister Jeong Do-jeon and Nam Eun used their influence on King Taejo to name his eighth son (second son of Queen Sindeok) Grand Prince Uian (Yi Bang-seok) as the crown prince in 1392. This conflict arose largely because Jeong Do-jeon, who shaped and laid down ideological, institutional, and legal foundations of the new dynasty more than anyone else, saw Joseon as a kingdom led by ministers appointed by the king while Yi Bang-won wanted to establish the absolute monarchy ruled directly by the king. With Taejo's support, Jeong Do-jeon kept limiting the royal family's power by prohibiting political involvement of princes and attempting to abolish their private armies. Both sides were well aware of each other's great animosity and were getting ready to strike first. After the sudden death of Queen Sindeok, and while King Taejo was still in mourning for his second wife, Yi Bang-won struck first by raiding the palace and killed Jeong Do-jeon and his supporters as well as Queen Sindeok's two sons (his half-brothers) including the crown prince in 1398. 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 abdicated and immediately crowned his second son Yi Bang-gwa, or 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. Yet Yi Bang-won retained real power and was soon in conflict with his disgruntled older brother 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 his supporters 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, the third king of Joseon.
Consolidation of royal 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 qualification 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 (의정부), 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 State Council could only come into effect with the approval of the king. This ended the custom of court ministers and advisors making decisions through debate and negotiations amongst themselves, and thus brought the royal power to new heights. Shortly thereafter, Taejong installed an office, known as the Sinmun Office, to hear cases in which aggrieved subjects felt that they had been exploited or treated unjustly by government officials or aristocrats. However, Taejong kept Jeong Do-jeon's reforms intact for most part. In addition, Taejong executed or exiled many of his supporters who helped him ascend on the throne in order to strengthen the royal authority. To limit influence of in-laws, he also killed all four of his Queen's brothers and his son Sejong's father-in-law. Taejong remains a controversial figure who killed many of his rivals and relatives to gain power and yet ruled effectively to improve the populace's lives, strengthen national defense, and lay down a solid foundations for his successor Sejong's rule.
King Sejong the Great
In August 1418, following Taejong's abdication two months earlier, Sejong ascended the throne. In May 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 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 (Korean: 사군육진; Hanja: 四郡六鎭) to safeguard his people from the hostile Chinese and Jurchens (lwho later became the Manchus) living in Manchuria. In 1433, Sejong sent Kim Jong-seo (Korean: 김종서; Hanja: 金宗瑞), a prominent general, north to destroy the Jurchens. 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 advances in natural science, agriculture, literature, traditional medicine, and engineering. Because of such success, Sejong was given the title "King Sejong the Great of Joseon". The most remembered contribution of King Sejong is the creation of the Korean alphabet, in 1443. Everyday use of Hanja and hanmun in writing eventually came to an end in the later half of the 20th century.
Six Martyred ministers
After King Sejong's death, his son Munjong continued his father's legacy but soon died of illness in 1452, two years after becoming the king. After his son Danjong became the king at the age of twelve, his uncle Sejo gained control of the government and eventually deposed his nephew to become the seventh king of Joseon himself in 1455. After six ministers loyal to Danjong attempted to assassinate Sejo to return Danjong to the throne, Sejo executed the six ministers and also killed Danjong in his place of exile. Despite having snatched the throne from his young nephew, Sejo proved himself one of the most able rulers like Taejong. He strengthened the administrative system, enabling the government to determine exact population numbers and to mobilize troops effectively. He also revised the land ordinance to improve the national economy and encouraged publication of books. Most importantly, he compiled the Grand Code for State Administration, which became the cornerstone of dynastic administration and provided the first form of constitutional law in a written form in Korea.
Institutional arrangements and Prosper culture
After Sejo, his weak son Yejong became the eighth king, but died two years later in 1469, when Yejong's nephew Seongjong ascended the throne. His reign was marked by the prosperity and growth of the national economy and the rise of neo-Confucian scholars called Sarim (사림), who were encouraged by Seongjong to enter the court politics. He established Hongmungwan (홍문관, 弘文館), the royal library and advisory council composed of Confucian scholars, with whom he discussed philosophy and government policies. He ushered in a cultural golden age that rivaled King Sejong's reign by publishing numerous books on geography, ethics, and various other fields.
He also sent several military campaigns against the Jurchens on the northern border in 1491, like many of his predecessors. The campaign, led by Gen. Heo Jong (허종, 許琮), was successful, and the defeated Jurchens led by Udige (兀狄哈) retreated to the north of Amrokgang. King Seongjong was succeeded by his son, Yeonsangun, in 1494.
Seongjong's son Yeonsangun is often considered the worst tyrant in Joseon dynasty, whose reign was marked by a series of bloody purges of neo-Confucian scholars between 1498 and 1506. His behavior became erratic after he learned that his biological mother was not Queen Jung-hyeon but deposed Consort Yoon, who was forced to drink poison after poisoning one of Seongjong's concubines out of jealousy and leaving a scratch mark on Seongjong's face. When he was shown a piece of clothing that was allegedly stained with his mother's blood vomited after drinking poison, he beat to death two of Seongjong's concubines who accused Consort Yoon and pushed Grand Queen Insu, who died afterward. He executed government officials who supported Consort Yoon's death along with their families. He also executed Sarim scholars for writing phrases critical of Sejo's usurpation of the throne. He also seized a thousand women from the provinces to serve as palace entertainers and appropriated the Seonggyungwan, Royal University, as a personal pleasure ground. He abolished the Office of Censors, whose function was to criticize inappropriate actions and policies of the king, and Hongmungwan. He banned the use of the Korean alphabet when the common people wrote with it on posters criticizing the king. After 12 years of misrule, he was finally deposed in a coup that placed his half-brother Jungjong on the throne in 1506.
Jungjong was a fundamentally weak king because of the circumstances that placed him on the throne, but his reign also saw a period of significant reforms led by his minister Jo Gwang-jo, the charismatic leader of Sarim scholars. He established the local self-government system called Hyang'yak to strengthen local autonomy and communal spirit among the people, sought to reduce the gap between the rich and poor with a land reform that would distribute land to farmers more equally and limit the amount of land and number of slaves that one could own, promulgated widely among the populace Confucian writings with vernacular translations, and sought to trim the size of government by reducing the number of bureaucrats. According to the Annals of Joseon Dynasty, it was said that no official dared to receive a bribe or exploit the populace during this time because as Inspector General, he applied law strictly. These radical reforms were very popular with the populace but were fiercely opposed by the conservative officials who helped to put Jungjong on the throne. They plotted to cause Jungjong to doubt Jo's loyalty by writing "Jo will become the king" (주초위왕, 走肖爲王) with honey on leaves so that caterpillars left behind the same phrase as if in supernatural manifestation. Jo Gwang-jo was executed, and most of his reform measures died with him in the resulting Third Literati Purge of 1519.
For nearly 50 years afterward, the court politics was marred by bloody and chaotic struggles between factions backing rival consorts and princes. In-laws of the royal family wielded great power and contributed to much corruption in that era.
Middle Joseon Period
The middle period of Joseon dynasty was marked by a series of intense and bloody power struggles between political factions that weakened the country and large-scale invasions by Japan and Manchu that nearly toppled the dynasty.
The Sarim faction, which suffered a series of political defeats during the reign of Yeonsangun, Jungjong, and Myeongjong gained control of the government in Seonjo's reign, but soon split into Western and Eastern factions, the Eastern faction in turn splitting into Northern and Southern factions. The Western faction also eventually split into Old Learning and New Learning factions. The alternations in power among these factions were often accompanied by charges of treason and bloody purges, initiating a cycle of revenge with each change of regime.
One example is Gichuk Treason Case of 1589 (기축옥사), in which Easterner Jeong Yeo-rip was accused of conspiracy to start rebellion. Jeong Yeo-rip had formed a society with group of supporters that also received military training to fight against the Japanese marauders. There is still a dispute about the nature and purpose of his group, which reflected desire for classless society and spread throughout Honam region. Jeong Cheol, head of the Western faction, was in charge of investigating the case and used this event to effect widespread purge of Easterners who had slightest connection with Jeong Yeo-rip. Eventually 1,000 Easterners were killed or exiled in the aftermath.
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 repelled 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 (1592–1598), 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 part of the Korean Peninsula occupied within months, with both Hanseong (present-day Seoul) and Pyongyang captured.
However, the invasion was slowed down due to Admiral Yi Sun-shin destroying the Japanese invasion fleet. The guerrilla resistance that eventually formed also helped. Local resistance slowed down the Japanese advance and decisive naval victories by Admiral Yi Sun-shin 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 the Turtle ships (right before the war started, however). The Joseon and Ming forces defeated the Japanese at a deep price. Following the war, relations between Korea and Japan had been completely suspended until 1609.
After the war, Korean peninsula was seriously devastated. Meanwhile Nurhaci (r. 1583–1626), the chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens, was unifying the Jurchen tribes of Manchuria into a strong coalition that his son Hung Taiji (r. 1626-–1643) would eventually rename the "Manchus." After he declared Seven Grievances against the Ming dynasty in 1618, Nurhaci and the Ming engaged in several military conflicts. On such occasions, Nurhaci required help from King Gwanghaegun (r.1608–1623), putting Joseon in a difficult position because the Ming court was also requesting assistance. The Joseon king tried to maintain neutrality, but most of his officials opposed him for not supporting the Ming, which had saved Joseon during Hideyoshi's invasions.
In 1623 King Gwanghaegun was deposed and replaced by King Injo (r. 1623–1649), who banished Gwanghaejun's supporters. Reverting his predecessor's foreign policy, the new king decided to support the Ming openly, but a rebellion led by military commander Yi Gwal erupted in 1624 and wrecked Joseon's military defenses in the north. Even after the rebellion had been suppressed, King Injo had to devote military forces to ensure the stability of the capital, leaving fewer soldiers to defend the northern borders.
In 1627, a Jurchen army of 30,000 led by Nurhaci's nephew Amin overran Joseon's defense. After a quick campaign that was assisted by northern yangban who had supported King Gwanghaegun, the Jurchens imposed a treaty that forced Joseon to accept "brotherly relations" with the Jurchen state. Because King Injo persisted in his anti-Manchu policies, Qing emperor Hong Taiji sent a punitive expedition of 120,000 men to Joseon in 1636. Defeated, King Injo was forced to end his relations with the Ming and recognize the Qing as suzerain instead. Injo's successor King Hyojong (r. 1649–1659) tried to form an army to enemy away and conquer the Qing for revenge, but could never act on his designs.
Despite becoming a tributary state of the Qing dynasty, Joseon leaders and intellectuals remained resentful for conquest by the Manchus, whom they regarded as barbarians. Long after submitting to the Qing, the Joseon court and many Korean intellectuals kept using Ming reign periods, as when a scholar marked 1861 as the 234th year of Chongzhen.
Late Joseon Period
After invasions from Japan and Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. Joseon witnessed the emergence of Silhak (Practical Learning). The early group of Silhak scholars advocated comprehensive reform of civil service examination, taxation, natural sciences and the improvement in agromanagerial and agricultural techniques. It aimed to rebuild Joseon society after it had been devastated by the two invasions. Under the leadership of Kim Yuk, the chief minister of King Hyeonjong, the implementation of reforms proved highly advantageous both to state revenues and to the lot of the peasants.
Under the reigns of King Sukjong and his son King Yeongjo, aiming to solve the problems caused by the dominating party or its faction eagerly trying to monopolize power, the kings pursued a strict policy of equality, favoring no faction over another, under which individuals were selected for government office regardless of their party affiliation.
King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a renaissance of the Joseon dynasty. Yeongjo's grandson, the enlightened King Jeongjo enacted various reforms throughout his reign, notably establishing Kyujanggak, a royal library in order to improve the cultural and political position of Joseon and to recruit gifted officers to run the nation.
King Jeongjo also spearheaded bold social initiatives, opening government positions to those who would previously have been barred because of their social status. King Jeongjo had the support of the many Silhak scholars, who supported his regal power. King Jeongjo's reign also saw the further growth and development of Joseon's popular culture. At that time, the group of Silhak scholars encouraged the individual to reflect on state traditions and lifestyle, initiating the studies of Korea that addressed its history, geography, epigraphy and language.
Spontaneous acceptance of Catholicism and the persecution of faith
From the 17th century onward, Western science and inventions were introduced to Joseon society by Korean emissaries to foreign nations. Joseon government envoys engaged in academic and religious exchange with missionaries residing in Beijing, and brought Chinese translations of Western scientific literature to the nation, triggering the academic interest of Joseon's intellectuals. Some of the latter party avidly read these Western texts and developed their intellectual curiosity into a religious concern. Scholars such as Kwon Cheol-sin (권철신), Yee Byeok (이벽) organized the 'Western Science Doctrine Research Association' in 1777 to support practice of the Catholic faith, and began to research Western science and Catholic writings. They adhered to the precepts of Catholic doctrine, praying in the morning and evening, and this faith movement ultimately developed into a faith community committed to preaching Catholicism and researching its doctrines.
The museum features Chinese translations of Western science texts, preaching groups, lists of believers, doctrinal works, and other artifacts. These offer a glimpse at the development of Catholicism in its early stages, from the initial academic approach to the faith to the spontaneous acceptance of the faith by the people and the formation of a faith community.
Wider Joseon society followed the Neo-Confucianism, so Catholicism was regarded as a heterodoxy that threatened the existing order and was consequently rejected. The Joseon government branded Catholicism as the science of aggressive foreign forces, barbarians no less than birds and beasts; Catholics were attacked and persecuted by the Joseon government for about 100 years, until the signature of the Korean-French Treaty in 1886. Anti-Catholicism reached a peak in 1866 when about 8,000 Catholics, including nine foreign priests, laymen, and faith leaders, were martyred. Displayed in this exhibition are items of Catholicism's persecution literature and martyrdom records such as the Official Notice Banning Catholicism, the Royal Proclamation to persecute Catholicism, and the Gihaeilgi (Record of the Persecution of Catholicism, 1839).
Government by in-law families
After death of King Jeongjo, the Joseon faced difficult external and internal problems. Internally, the foundation of national law and order weakened as a result of "Sedo" politics (in-law government) by royal in-law family. When young King Sunjo succeeded King Jeongjo, the power of the royal in-law family (Andong Kim clan) completely dominated the authority of the throne, and the era of the so-called in-law government began. The formidable in-law lineage monopolized the vital positions in government, holding sway over the political scene, and intervening in the succession of the throne. These kings had no monarchic authority and could not rule over the government. The yangban of other families, overwhelmed by the power exercised by the royal in-laws, could not speak out. As the power was concentrated in the hands of the royal in-law lineage, there was disorder in the governing process and corruption became rampant. Large sums were offered in bribes to the powerful lineages to obtain high-ranking government appointments. Even the low-ranking posts were bought and sold. This period, which spanned 60 years, saw the manifestation of both severe poverty among the Korean population and ceaseless rebellions in various parts of the country.
Externally, Joseon became increasingly isolationist. Its rulers sought to limit contact with foreign countries.
In 1863 King Gojong took the throne. His father, Regent Heungseon Daewongun, ruled for him until Gojong reached adulthood. During the mid-1860s the Regent 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 Palace, the seat of royal authority. During Heungseon Daewongun's reign, factional politics and power wielded by the Andong Kim and Pungyang Cho families completely disappeared. In order to get rid of the Andong Kim and Pungyang Cho families, he promoted persons without making references to political party or family affiliations, and in order to reduce the burdens of the people and solidify the basis of the nation's economy, he reformed the tax system. In 1871, U.S. and Korean forces clashed in a U.S. attempt at "gunboat diplomacy" following on the General Sherman incident of 1866.
In 1873, King Gojong announced his assumption of royal rule. With the subsequent retirement of Heungseon Daewongun, the future Queen Min (later called Empress Myeongseong) gained complete control over her court, placing her family in high court positions. Japan, after the Meiji Restoration, acquired Western military technology, and forced Joseon to sign the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1876, opening three ports to trade and granting the Japanese extraterritoriality. Port Hamilton was occupied by the British Navy in 1885.
Many Koreans despised Japanese and foreign influences over their land and the corrupt oppressive rule of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1894, the Donghak Peasant Revolution saw farmers rise up in a mass rebellion, with peasant leader Jeon Bong-jun defeating the forces of local ruler Jo Byong-gap at the battle of Go-bu on January 11, 1894; after the battle, Jo's properties were handed out to the peasants. By May, the peasant army had reached Jeonju, and the Joseon government asked the Qing Dynasty government for assistance in ending the revolt. The Qing sent 3,000 troops and the rebels negotiated a truce, but the Japanese considered the Qing presence a threat and sent in 8,000 troops of their own, seizing the Royal Palace in Seoul and installing a pro-Japanese government on 8 June 1894. This soon escalated into the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) between Japan and Qing China, fought largely in Korea.
Empress Myeongseong (referred to as "Queen Min") had attempted to counter Japanese interference in Korea and was considering turning to the Russian Empire or to China for support. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong was assassinated by Japanese agents. The Japanese minister to Korea, Lieutenant-General Viscount Miura, almost certainly orchestrated the plot against her. A group of Japanese agents entered the Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace in Seoul, which was under Japanese control, and Queen Min was killed and her body desecrated in the North wing of the palace.
The Qing acknowledged defeat in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895), which officially guaranteed Korea's independence from China. It was a step toward Japan gaining 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, along with the Gwangmu Reform in 1897.
King 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 maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, Japan pushed back the Russian fleet at the Battle of Port Arthur 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. Prince Itō 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, the Japanese Empire annexed Korea by force.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "Joseon Dynasty", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.