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Descriptions of the Hideyoshi Invasions of Korea Found in China ․ Korea History Textbooks

  • The Review of Korean History
  • 2009, (96), pp.125-154
  • Publisher : The Historical Society Of Korea
  • Research Area : Humanities > History

Jang, Hee Heung 1

1대구대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Hideyoshi’s Invasion of Chosŏn in 1592(imjin waeran), an event which impacted Korea, China, and Japan, has been described within each of these countries in a manner that has reflected the unique situation of each nation. For instance, while Korean textbooks tend to identify the unresolved trading issues between Chosŏn and Japan and the end of the era of domestic chaos in Japan as the main causes for the emergence of the Hideyoshi Invasions, Chinese textbooks(a term which is taken here to also include those from Hong Kong and Taiwan) focus on the unification of Japan, the ensuing need to expand at the expense of other countries, and Hideyoshi’s delusional wish to conquer Chosŏn. Meanwhile, Taiwanese textbooks also identify Hideyoshi’s expansionist policy as the main reason for the outbreak of this conflagration. As far as the preparations for war are concerned, Korean textbooks have tended to focus on the fact that although the Chosŏn government took steps such as the establishment of the Pibyŏnsa (Border Defense Council) and kept a close eye on the political situation, sheer numbers resulted in it ultimately having no other choice but to request assistance from Ming. For their part, Chinese textbooks tend to attribute Korea’s feeble response to internal conflicts, the political corruption that permeated the ruling class, and the marked decline in Chosŏn’s national power. More to the point, Chinese textbooks have generally regarded the period in which Chosŏn politics was splintered into two overarching groups led by the Easterner(tongin) and Westerner(sŏin) factions as one governed by chaos. For their part, Taiwanese textbooks pay little to no attention to either side’s preparations for war, or to the political situation before the war. Rather, they simply state that Emperor Shen Zong of Ming’s dispatch of military troops to Chosŏn had the effect of turning the tide in the latter’s favor. Korean textbooks’ descriptions of the early stages of the war tend to revolve around King Sŏnjo’s flight to Ŭlju in the aftermath of the fall of Hanyang(capital of Chosŏn) at the hands of the Japanese army, and the military’s defeat during these early stages. They however focus heavily on the fact that Admiral Yi Sunsin’s brilliant tactics at sea and the emergence of righteous armies (ŭibyŏng) throughout the land helped Chosŏn regain the upper hand. While Chinese textbooks also highlight the activities of Admiral Yi Sunsin as well as of the righteous armies, they tend to strongly emphasize the fact that Ming came to the help of Chosŏn. They also make ample mention of the role played by turtle ships(kŏbuksŏn), and ofthe structure of these turtle ships. Both countries’ textbooks highlight the role and actions taken by the Chosŏn-Ming alliance. In terms of Hideyoshi's Second Invasion of Chosŏn in 1597(chŏngyu chaeran), Korean textbooks focus mostly on the activities of the Chosŏn-Ming alliance,and the victory of Admiral Yi Sunsin. Meanwhile, Chinese textbooks emphasize the activities of General Deng Zilong, who was killed in battle while helping Chosŏn. Korean textbooks regard the fact that national finances were thrown into ruins amidst great physical and emotional losses as the main outcome of this conflict. They also focus heavily on the fate of books and pottery makers in the aftermath of the war, Chosŏn’s relationship with Ming and Qing in the post-war era, the Kwanghaegun’s policy of neutrality toward Ming and Qing, and the ‘march north’ campaign initiated following the Injo Restoration of 1623. Chinese textbooks claim that Ming assistance was the main factor that made it possible for Chosŏn to survive the ravages of this conflict, make frequent mention of the significant damage incurred by Chosŏn, and focus on the decline of the latter in the post-war era amidst growing factionalism. Meanwhile, Taiwanese textbooks argue that the conflict eventually led to the collapse of Hideyoshi’s power and of the Ming dynasty. They also emphasize the point that despite this military conflict between Chosŏn and Japan, trade between the two countries continued unabated. In addition, they also make mention of the fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu assumed power in Japan following the death of Hideyoshi. Hong Kong textbooks identify Japanese marauders, the Hideyoshi Invasions, and eunuchs as the main causes of Ming’s collapse. The textbooks produced by East Asian nations tend to approach the Hideyoshi Invasions of Chosŏn from the standpoint of their individual countries and the influence which they had on the conflict in Korea rather than from that of the wider East Asian context. To this end, the same can be said to be true of the descriptions found in Korean textbooks. In this regard, East Asian textbooks should contain more objective and broader descriptionswhich are based on the analysis of this conflict from the wider East Asian context.

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