|Japan's Korea War: First Invasion
The Imjin War (1592–1598)
|Korea under the Joseon Dynasty ,
China under the Ming Dynasty,
|Japan under Toyotomi Hideyoshi|
Li Rusong† (pr.),
Ma Gui (pr.),
40,000 Korean Army,
(at the beginning)
at least 22,600 Korean volunteers and insurgents
|total 100,000 (est.)|
Japan made two invasions of Korea, in [Japan's Korea War: First Invasion (1592-1596)|Japan's first invasion 1592 and 1596], creating war along the length of the peninsula until, with a truce period, 1598. Those Imjin Wars involved China and resulted in further conflicts on the Korean Peninsula. Japan's second invasion of Korea, shortly after of the first invasion, plunged Korea into a life and death struggle for existence as a people and a kingdom. Although the second invasion often took a turn against the Koreans, they prevailed with help of China. China's role as cultural inspiration and protector of Korea's sovereignty proved critical to Korea's survival and development.
|Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598)|
|Busan – Tadaejin – Tongnae – Sangju – Ch'ungju – Okpo – 1st Sacheon – Imjin River – Dangpo – Danghangpo – Hansando – Pyongyang – Chonju – Haejongchang – Busan – Jinju – Pyeongyang – Byokchekwan – Haengju – Jinju – Busan – Hwawangsan – Chilchonryang – Namwon – Myeongnyang – Ulsan – 2nd Sacheon – Noryang Point|
|Hangul:||임진왜란 / 정유재란|
|Hanja:||壬辰倭亂 / 丁酉再亂|
|Revised Romanization:||Imjin waeran / Jeong(-)yu jaeran|
|McCune-Reischauer:||Imjin waeran / Chŏng'yu chaeran|
|Japanese:||文禄の役 / 慶長の役|
|Hepburn Romaji:||Bunroku no Eki/ Keichō no Eki|
|Hanyu Pinyin:||Rénchén Wèiguó Zhànzhēng
(Wànlì Cháoxiǎn Zhīyì)
Under pressure from the Chinese army and local guerrillas, with food supplies cut off and his forces reduced by nearly one third from desertion, disease and death, Konishi felt compelled to sue for peace. General Li Rusong offered General Konishi a chance to negotiate an end to the hostilities. When negotiations got underway in the spring of 1593, China and Korea agreed to cease hostilities if the Japanese would withdraw from Korea altogether. General Konishi had no option but to accept the terms; he would have a hard time convincing Hideyoshi that he had no other choice.
Hideyoshi proposed to China the division of Korea: the north as a self-governing Chinese satellite, and the south to remain in Japanese hands. Konishi Yukinaga, who carried out most of the fighting against the Chinese, conducted most the peace talks. The Chinese considered the offer until Hideyoshi demanded one of Chinese princesses as a concubine. The Chinese promptly rejected the offer. The Chinese and Japanese kept the negotiations secret from the Korean Royal Court, which had no say in the negotiations.
By May 18, 1593, all the Japanese soldiers had retreated back to Japan. In the summer of 1593, a Chinese delegation visited Japan and stayed at the court of Hideyoshi for more than a month. The Ming government withdrew most of its expeditionary force, but kept 16,000 men on the Korean peninsula to guard the truce. An envoy from Hideyoshi reached Beijing in 1594. Most of the Japanese army had left Korea by the autumn of 1596; a small garrison nevertheless remained in Busan. Satisfied with the Japanese overtures, the imperial court in Beijing dispatched an embassy to allow retired Regent (Taikō (太閤)) Hideyoshi to have the title of "King of Japan" on condition of complete withdrawal of Japanese forces from Korea.
The Ming ambassador met Hideyoshi in October 1596, but a great deal of misunderstanding arose about the context of the meeting. Hideyoshi expressed outrage to learn that China insulted the Emperor of Japan by presuming to cancel the Emperor's divine right to the throne, offering to recognize Hideyoshi instead. To insult the Chinese, he demanded among other things, a royal marriage with the Wanli, the Emperor's daughter, the delivery of a Korean prince as hostage, and four of Korea's southern provinces. Peace negotiations soon broke down and the war entered its second phase when Hideyoshi sent another invasion force. Early in 1597, both sides resumed hostilities.
During the period between the First and Second invasion, the Korean government had a chance to examine why the Japanese had easily overrun them. Yu Seong-ryong, the Prime Minister, spoke out about the Korean disadvantage. Yu pointed out the extremely weak Korean castle defenses, which he had already pointed out before the war. He noted how Korean castles had incomplete fortifications and walls too easy to scale. He also wanted cannons set up in the walls. Yu proposed building strong towers with gun turrets for cannons. Besides castles, Yu wanted to form a line of defenses in Korea. He proposed to create a series of walls and forts, all enveloping Seoul in the center.
Yu also pointed out how the efficiency of the Japanese army, taking only one month to reach Seoul, and their excellent training. The organized military units the Japanese generals deployed played a large part of the Japanese success. Yu noted how the Japanese moved their units in complex maneuvers, often weakening the enemy with arquebuses, then attacking with melee weapons. Korean armies often moved forward as one body without any organization.
The Korean court finally began to reform the military, establishing the Military Training Agency in September 1593. The agency carefully divided up the army into units and companies. The companies contained squads of archers, arquebusers, and edged weapon users. The agency set up divisional units in each region of Korea and garrisoned battalions in castles. The number of members in the agency soon grew to about 10,000, which originally had less than eighty members. A change in the rule for people eligible people for conscription marked one of the most important changes. Both upper class citizens and slaves became subject to the draft, and all males had to enter military service for training and familiarized with weapons.
The creation of the Military Training Agency proved halfhearted and under-developed. In addition, the government ignored nearly all the reforms Yu had called for. The lack of manpower and a devastated economy put Korea in nearly the same position as in the first invasion. Although China helped to quickly repel the second invasion, Korea ultimately failed to reform the military.
|Japanese second invasion wave|
|Army of the Right|
|Army of the Left|
Hideyoshi expressed dissatisfaction with the first campaign and decided to attack Korea again. Japan dropped the goal of conquering China. Failing to gain a foothold during Kato Kiyomasa's Chinese campaign and the full retreat of the Japanese during the first invasion affected Japanese morale. Hideyoshi and his generals instead planned to conquer Korea. Instead of the nine divisions during the first invasion, he divided the invading armies into the Army of the Left and the Army of the Right, consisting of about 49,600 men and 30,000 respectively.
Soon after the Chinese ambassadors returned safely to China in 1597, Hideyoshi sent 200 ships with approximately 141,100 men under the overall command of Kobayakawa Hideaki. Japan's second force arrived unopposed on the southern coast of Gyeongsang province in 1596. However, the Japanese found that Korea was both better equipped and ready to deal with an invasion this time. In addition, upon hearing this news in China, the imperial court in Beijing appointed Yang Hao (楊鎬) as the supreme commander of an initial mobilization of 55,000 troops from various (and sometimes remote) provinces across China, such as Sichuan, Zhejiang, Huguang, Fujian, and Guangdong. A naval force of 21,000 joined in the effort. Rei Huang, a Chinese historian, estimated that the combined strength of the Chinese army and navy at the height of the second campaign was around 75,000. Korean forces totaled 30,000 with General Gwon Yul's army in Gong Mountain (공산; 公山) in Daegu, General Gwon Eung's (권응) troops in Gyeongju, General Gwak Jae-woo's soldiers in Changnyeong (창녕), Yi Bok-nam’s (이복남) army in Naju, and Yi Si-yun's troops in Chungpungnyeong.
Initially the Japanese found little success, being confined mainly to Gyeongsang province and only managing numerous short range attacks to keep the much larger Korean and Chinese forces off balance. All through out the second invasion Japan would mainly be on the defensive and locked in at Gyeongsang province. The Japanese planned to attack Jeolla Province in the southwestern part of the peninsula and eventually occupy Jeonju, the provincial capital. Korean success in the Siege of Jinju in 1592 had saved that area from further devastation during the first invasion. Two Japanese armies, under Mori Hidemoto and Ukita Hideie, began the assault in Busan and marched towards Jeonju, taking Sacheon and Changpyong along the way.
Namwon,located 30 miles southeast from Jeonju, served as the largest fortress in Jeolla Province, with a coalition force of 6,000 soldiers (including 3,000 Chinese). The Korean government readied civilian volunteers to fight the approaching Japanese forces. The Japanese laid siege to the walls of the fortress with ladders and siege towers. The two sides exchanged volleys of arquebuses and bows. Eventually the Japanese forces scaled the walls and sacked the fotress. According to Japanese commander Okochi Hidemoto, author of the Chosen Ki, the Siege of Namwon resulted in 3,726 casualties on the Korean and Chinese forces' side. The entire Jeolla Province fell under Japanese control, but as the battle raged on the Japanese found themselves hemmed in on all sides in a retreat and again positioned in a defensive perimeter only around Gyeongsang province.
Hwangseoksan Fortress consisted of extensive walls that circumscribed the Hwangseok mountain and garrisoned thousands of soldiers led by the general Jo Jong-Do and Gwak Jun. When Kato Kiyomasa laid siege on the mountain with a large army, the Koreans lost morale and retreated with 350 casualties. Even with that incident the Japanese still remained contained in Gyeongsang province, establishing a defensive position only, with constant attacks from the Chinese and Korean forces.
The Korean navy played a crucial part in the second invasion, as in the first. The lack of reinforcements and supplies halted the Japanese advance as the frequent naval victories of the allied forces prevented the Japanese from accessing the south-western side of the Korean peninsula. Also, China sent a large number of Chinese fleets to aid the Koreans. That made the Korean navy an even bigger threat to the Japanese, since they had to fight a larger enemy fleet. The war at sea took off on a bad start when Won Gyun took Admiral Yi's place as commander.
Because Admiral Yi, the commander of the Korean navy, proved so able in naval warfare, the Japanese plotted to demote him by making use of the laws that governed the Korean military. A Japanese double agent working for the Koreans falsely reported that Japanese General Kato Kiyomasa would be coming on a certain date with a great Japanese fleet in another attack on Korean shores, and insisted that Admiral Yi be sent to lay an ambush.
Knowing that the area had sunken rocks detrimental to the ships, Admiral Yi refused. King Seonjo demoted and jailed him for refusing orders. On top of that, Admiral Won Gyun accused Admiral Yi of drinking and idling. Won Gyun quickly replaced Admiral Yi. The replacement of Admiral Yi by Admiral Won would soon bring the destruction of the Korean navy at Chilchonryang.
At the Battle of Chilchonryang, the Japanese completely outmaneuvered and overwhelmed Won Gyun by arquebus fire and the Japanese traditional boarding attacks. Won Gyun's fleet had more than 100 ships, carefully accumulated by Admiral Yi. The battle destroyed the entire Korean fleet. Before the battle, Bae Soel, an officer ran away with thirteen panokseons, the entire fighting force of the Korean navy for many months. The Battle of Chilchonryang proved Japan's only naval victory of the war. Won Gyun died in the battle.
After the debacle in Chilcheollyang, King Seonjo immediately reinstated Admiral Yi. Admiral Yi quickly returned to Yeosu only to find his entire navy destroyed. Yi re-organized the navy, now reduced to twelve ships and 200 men from the previous battle.. Nonetheless, Admiral Yi's strategies remained firm, and on September 16, 1597, he led the small Korean fleet against a Japanese fleet of 300 war vessels in the Myeongnyang Strait. The Battle of Myeongnyang resulted in a Korean victory with at least 133 Japanese vessels sunk, forcing the Japanese to return to Busan, under the orders of Mori Hidemoto. Admiral Yi won back the control of the Korean shores. Historians consider the Battle of Myeongnyang Admiral Yi's greatest victory.
By late 1597, the Joseon and Ming allied forces achieve victory in Jiksan. Japanese forces also defeated the Korean forces at Sangju, and laid siege on Gyeongju. After the news of the loss at Myeongnyang, Kato Kiyomasa decided to destroy Gyeongju, the former capital of the Silla kingdom. Japanese forces temporarily control of Gyeongju. The Japanese entirely destroyed Bulguksa temple, a prominent place in Korean Buddhism. Joseon and Ming allied forces repulse the Japanese forces. The Japanese proceeded to retreat south to Ulsan, a harbor that had been an important Japanese trading post a century before, and which Kato had chosen as a strategic stronghold.
Yet, Admiral Yi's control of the areas over the Korea Strait permitted no supply ships to reach the western side of the Korean peninsula, into which many extensive tributaries merge. Without provisions and reinforcements, the Japanese forces had to remain in the coastal fortresses known as wajo that they still controlled. To gain advantage of the situation, the Chinese and Korean coalition forces attacked Ulsan. That siege constituted the first major offensive from the Chinese and Korean forces in the second phase of the war.
The Japanese dedicated their entire garrison (about 7,000 men) of Ulsan to construct fortifications in preparation for the expected attack. Kato Kiyomasa assigned command and defense of the base to Kato Yasumasa, Kuki Hirotaka, Asano Nagayoshi, and others before proceeding to Sosaengpo. The Chinese Ming troops' first assault on January 29, 1598, caught the Japanese army unawares and still encamped, for the large part, outside Ulsan's unfinished walls. A total of around 36,000 troops with the help of singijeons and hwachas nearly succeeded in sacking the fortress, but reinforcements under the overall command of Mori Hidemoto came across the river to aid the besieged fortress and prolonged the hostilities. Later, the Japanese troops, running out of food and with victory imminent for the allied forces, faced extermination. Japanese reinforcements arrived from the rear of the Chinese and Korean troops, forcing them to a stalemate. After several losses, Japan's position in Korea had significantly weakened.
During the autumn of 1597, the Korean and Chinese allies repelled the Japanese forces from reaching Jiksan (present-day Cheonan). Without any hope of conquering Korea, the Japanese commanders prepared to retreat. From the beginning of spring in 1598, the Korean forces and 100,000 Chinese soldiers began to retake castles on the coastal areas. The Wanli Emperor of China sent a fleet under the artillery expert Chen Lin in May 1598; that naval force saw action in joint operations with the Koreans against the Japanese navy. In June 1598, under Commander Konishi Yukinaga's warning of the dire situations in the campaign, 70,000 troops withdrew, leaving 60,000 troops behind—mostly Satsuma soldiers under the Shimazu clan commanders Shimazu Yoshihiro and his son Tadatsune. The remaining Japanese forces fought desperately, turning back Chinese attacks on Suncheon and Sacheon.
The Chinese considered Sacheon crucial in their program to retake the lost castles and ordered an attack. Although the Chinese gained ascendancy initially, the tide of battle turned when Japanese reinforcements attacked the rear of the Chinese army with the Japanese soldiers inside the fortress counter-attacking through the gates. The Chinese Ming forces retreated with 30,000 losses. Numerous assaults on the Japanese position in the coastal fortresses weakened the Japanese forces, who barely controlled the coastal areas.
On September 18, 1598, Hideyoshi ordered the withdrawal of forces from Korea on his deathbed, dying peacefully in his sleep. The Council of Five Elders made a secret of Hideyoshi's death to preserve morale and sent the decree in late October to the Japanese commanders to withdraw.
The Battle of Noryang Point marked the final naval battle in the war. The Korean navy under Admiral Yi recovered from its losses and enjoyed the aid the Chinese navy under Chen Lin. Intelligence reports revealed that 500 Japanese ships anchored in the narrow straits of Noryang to withdraw the remaining Japanese troops. Noting the narrow geography of the area, Admiral Yi and Chen Lin launched a surprise attack against the Japanese fleet at 2:00 am on December 16, 1598.
By dawn, they had destroyed nearly half of the Japanese battle ships; as the Japanese began to withdraw, Admiral Yi ordered the final charge to destroy the remaining few ships. As Yi's flagship sped forward, a Japanese archer shot him on the left side of his chest under the arm. Only three nearby captains, including his cousin, saw his death. Yi told his captains to keep his death secret and to continue the battle so that the morale of the soldiers would not drop. Admiral Yi died in minutes. The battle ended as an allied victory and a Japanese loss of nearly 250 battleships out of the original 500. did the soldiers learn of Yi's death only after the battle, Chen Lin lamenting that Yi died in his stead.
Marked similarities exist between the Battle of Noryang Point and the Battle of Salamis, fought between the Greeks and the Persians in 480 B.C.E., on the tactical, strategic and even operational levels.
Although Korea and China eventually repelled Hideyoshi's invasions, they left deep scars in Korea. The Japanese left farmland devastated, irrigation dikes destroyed, villages and towns burned down, and the population plundered and dispersed.
Pottery and blacksmithing. Japanese soldiers kidnapped an estimated 200,000 skilled workers such as celadon makers, artisans, blacksmiths, and craftsmen, bringing their captives to Japan to help develop and expand Japan's crafts during and after the war. The Japanese gained technologically during and after the war in a variety of fields as a result, particularly in the production of pottery, which came to be very heavily based on Korean models.
Artifacts. The Japanese looted and stole many Korean artifacts during this conflict. Even to this day, many of those Korean cultural artifacts and paintings taken at that time remain within Japanese museums or held by private collectors. This issue remains the subject of one of several ongoing conflicts between South Korea and Japan.
In 1598 alone, the Japanese took some 38,000 ears and heads as trophies. An estimated 100,000 Koreans were eventually sold as slaves to Portuguese traders and dispersed to various European colonies around the world. A survey conducted in 1601 revealed that the productive capacity of farmlands had been reduced from 1.5–1.7 million gyeol, assessed in 1592, to 30,000 gyeol. Most of Seoul, the capital city, was laid waste. The royal palace was heavily damaged and the markets were destroyed. Famine and disease came to be endemic. Land and census registers were destroyed, with the result that the goverment was hard pressed to collect taxes and to enforce labor service. A number of peasant uprisings resulted from attempts to alleviate their suffering.
With the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu eventually gained control of Japan and established 300 years of political stability. Ming Dynasty China had invested enormous human and material resources in Korea, which depleted the state treasury and weakened its northeastern border against the emerging power of the Manchu. The Ming Dynasty eventually crumbled after wars against the Manchu.
Following the war, political and economic relations between Korea and Japan were completely suspended. Negotiations between the Korean court and the Tokugawa Shogunate were carried out via the Japanese daimyo of Tsushima Island, Sō Yoshitomo, who had avoided intervening in the invasion. The Sō clan desired to restore commercial relations between Korea and Japan at the time, as they relied on Chinese and Korean silk for kimonos and various other mainland technologies. Tokugawa Ieyasu favoured peaceful relations abroad.
In the spring of 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu released 3,000 captives. In 1608, an embassy of three officials and 270 men was sent to Edo and received by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada, Ieyasu's son. As a result of the visit, thousands of prisoners were returned to Korea, and Japanese captives were repatriated. Following this, limited trade relations were restored.
All links retrieved March 24, 2018.
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