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Old Choson and the Three Kingdoms

Discuss about the Political History of Korea and East Asia Countries.

History of China and Korea is known extensively from various myths and legends. The historical facts found there link the past with the present. These people come to know about their ancestors. They come to know their history of inheritance. Dent (2016) outlined Kija and Tan-gun are such two mythological figures of Korea. During 2333 BCE, Tan-gun’s existence was described and during 1000 BCE, Kija made his presence. The oldest dynasty of China was Shang dynasty, and Zhou dynasty. Ancient kingdoms of korea were Gojoseon and Buyeo. Tan-gun was among the early founders of this kingdom. Puyo or Buyeo was found in second century BC, i.e. 494 AD. However, Puyo felt the political pressure from the west and the south. China also became a warrior state and the first empire that emerged was The Qin Dynasty. As found by Dillon (2013), the Han Empire expanded itself in China. Koguryo and the three Han were the influential four commanderies in China. The three kingdoms that indulged into war were the Southern Dynasties, the Northern Wei and the Five Hu and Sixteen Kingdoms. Koguryo expelled Lelang and moved to south to Py’ongyang. There was a constant conflict between north and south. Paekche pushed itself to north and made an active contact with Japan and China. They established a sophisticated culture. Silla build their capital at Kyongju and occupied South Korea.

Kabo Reforms occurred from July 1894 to February 1896. Birth of nationalism, Egalitarianism, and Modern capitalism the reformation took place. Korea became a sovereign country by reconstruction of the government. The distinction between the military and civil officials demolished. Some social stigma and practice of slavery were also abolished. The conservatives became unhappy and Korea turned towards Russia. The Japanese plotted the assassination of Quin Min in 1895. Outrage of people occurred. Kojong escaped to Russian deputation. Then all pro-Japanese members are either murdered or banished. The Taehan Empire rose to power in 1897. Manchuria was captured by the Russian. The States of US Hawaii and Philippines extended their relation with Japan due to formation of Anglo-Japanese alliance. Again, Russia entered into Korea. In 1904, Russo-Japan war occurred as Russia forced agreements on Japan. Japan won and in 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth was signed. In South Sakhalin and Liaotung Peninsula, Japanese control established. Ito Hirobumi forced Korea to sign agreement on 1905. Between the colonial period, 87,000 bureaucrats and 60,000 police came into existence. Japan adopted landlord-tenant system and class differences increased. They incorporated into the international market. In 1914, Japan captured territories in the pacific and declared war on Germany. In 1919, peaceful independence occurred with people coordinating many events. China, Manchuria and Russia resisted Japan. In Shanghai Korean interim government formed.  In 1911, revolution occurred with overthrowing of the last emperor. In 1919, the May Fourth Movement occurred through protesting against Treaty of Versailles. In 1927, Chiang Kaishek formed new government as a result of civil war. Global Great Depression happened. Germany’s economy suffered a lot due to unemployment and inflation.

The Kabo Reforms, Russo-Japanese War, Colonial period

In 19th century, unequal treaties were made and shift from direct to indirect colonization occurred. In the new world system, traditional relations became invalid and new hierarchy of power established. In the hands of Western imperialism, Japan became inferior and subjugated. Meiji restoration abolished traditional rules and expanded western culture there. During Taewon’gun’s rule, finances and kinship developed. His Isolationism repulsed foreign intruders. In 1866, armed merchant ship captured Koreans into the ship. German businessman Ernst Oppert endeavored to steal royal treasures. US entered Korea and declared China had no control on Korea. Korea denied America’s request and in 1871, Korea and America exchanged fire. They switched to conciliatory approach and America left for China. Taewongun spread Anti-Catholicism and many converts into it. Foreigners were seen as threats to Korea. Korea tried to regain its control through development of military strengths and financial resources. Korea and Japan clashed in 1875. Next year Japanese naval vessels demanded apology to Korean officials. However, unequal treaty was imposed upon Korea. In 1894, Korea faced Tonghak uprising through several thousands of peasants. China sent troops to Japan and Japan also sent troops. Sino-Japanese war occurred. Korea became independent with the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Russia, France, and Germany intervened. Pro-Japanese officials were appointed and Kabo reforms occurred.

In 1388, koryo established military forces. Ming drove out Yuan and in northeastern region they established Ch’ollyong Commandery in the northeast region. Ebrey and Walthall (2013) outlined, Koryo dynasty ended and new Choson dynasty established with Yi Songgye. Succession problem occurred as he had eight sons. However, his youngest son was appointed as crown prince and became T’aejong, 3rd king. During his regime from 1400 to 1418, major institutional reform took place. The military and civil officials established control. Fiscal reform occurred with new land survey, increase of public lands and redirecting money to the government. Military reform occurred with recreation of standing army and abolition of private armies. Political institutional reform occurred with development of Security Council, six ministries, and elimination of concurrent appointments. Power of throne was strengthened with dispersal of bureaucratic power. Ethical and moral principles of Confucius were adopted as political ideologies. King is seen as a moral example. Stability, peace and harmony within society are focused. As a result, control among some Yangban lineages extended control. Qing Dynasty and Tokugawa dynasty exercised control respectively. Neo-Confucian ideology doctrine was practiced in 16th century. Yongjo established policy of impartiality.  Chongjo continued this policy and enhanced royal authority. However, Factionalism remained even after Yongjo’s son’s controversial death. Injae et al (2014) outlined, after 1800, new in-law government began. Then came Sunjo, Honjong, Ch’oljong, Kojong respectively. After that social discontent became occurred due to corruption, extortion, and high tax rates. Then came Ming Dynasty and established foreign relation with Japan, and extended contact with western countries. Tribute system was established with ritually accepting Chinese suzerainty. Then Hideyoshi invasions occurred with Yi Sun-Shin. After the war Korea suffered with disease and death. Manchu took over there and in China peace and stability occurred. Trade was improved.

The 19th century: Western Imperialism in East Asia, The Opening of Korea

Wang Kong was made king in 918. He renamed the state to Koryo and moved the capital to Kaesong. He extended foreign relations by developing friendship with Silla but not with Later Paekche. According to Hsiao (2015), there were hostilities among Koryo and Later Paekche. Koryo tied with West and Northern China and Later Paekche with west and southern China. Victory of Koryo in 930 intensified the pressure. Later Paekche declined with internal disorder and military losses. Koryo unified as Silla and Later Paekche surrendered. Marital ties between Koryo and Silla was a strategic movement of Koryo.  During mid 10th and 12th centuries bureaucracy centralized with Warlord coalition, military council, and emergence of new aristocracy. In countryside, Koryo tried to establish direct control. King Kwangjong established Slave Review Act, and Civil service Examination system. King Songjong abolished private army system, and appointed officials of the Capital’s to supervise local government. In 993, Khitan invaded Koryo. The Jurchen engaged in conflict with Koryo and Jurchen became the Jin Dynasty. They overtook Khitan and captured Song capital. During the Song Dynasty, conflicts occurred due to Liao and Jin. Koryo refrained from it. Mid-Koryo rebellion occurred and military officials were degraded. Ch’oe Ch’ung-hon won and established Residence Reinforcement. Later Mongol attacked Koryo for 30 years. Most parts of Peninsula devastated by 1257. The next year Koryo fell and Yuan Dynasty was established. They did expedition against Japan and forced Koryo to participate. Again, Koryo’s rotyal family developed kinship with imperial family of Mongol. With Mongol backing, Koryo kings ruled. The Mongol control changed the Bureaucracy system. However, civil aristocracy emerged with King Kongmin. Sin Ton did reform programs following Buddhist religious ideals. Koryo felt the external pressure of Ming and Japanese pirates.

During the three kingdom period, China was recognized as a developed country without any recognition of suzerainty. There emerged the Tributary system in which China was at the center and Emperor was the ruler. As discussed by Embree and Gluck (2015), in 612, Sui attacked Koguryo fearing that the latter would develop alliance with the Turks. However, Koguryo’s conflict with Sui and tang continued and Japan tied with Paekche. Japan tied with Paekche and Koguryo and Peakche allied against Silla. The Tang Dynasty also tied with Silla. As Palais (2015) discussed, in 655, Koguryo and Paekche entered Silla, Tang sent minor expeditions against Korea and it failed, Tang and Silla forces entered Peakche. Helgesen (2014) discussed, in 668, Koguryo fell after the joint attack of Sill and Tang. After that the Tang struggled and the king of Silla increased its powers. The aristocratric power thus fell. Bureaucracy increased as Board of Ministry of War, Board of Chancellory office, Board of justice and Board of Ministry of Surveillance developed. The local administration also developed. International trade faced threats of piracy during 787-846.

References

Dent, C.M., 2016. East Asian Regionalism. Routledge.

Dillon, M., 2013. Dictionary of Chinese history. Routledge.

Ebrey, P.B. and Walthall, A., 2013. East Asia: a cultural, social, and political history. Cengage Learning.

Embree, A.T. and Gluck, C., 2015. Asia in western and world history: a guide for teaching. Routledge.

Helgesen, G., 2014. Democracy and authority in Korea: the cultural dimension in Korean politics. Routledge.

Hsiao, K.C., 2015. History of Chinese Political Thought, Volume 1: From the Beginnings to the Sixth Century, AD (Vol. 1). Princeton University Press.

Injae, L., Miller, O., Jinhoon, P. and Hyun-Hae, Y., 2014. Korean History in Maps. Cambridge University Press.

Palais, J.B., 2015. Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions: Yu Hyongwon and the Late Choson Dynasty. University of Washington Press.

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