Seonjo of Joseon bigraphy, stories - King of Joseon

Seonjo of Joseon : biography

26 December 1552 - 17 March 1608

King Seonjo (26 December 1552 – 17 March 1608) ruled in Korea between 1567 and 1608. He was the fourteenth king of the Joseon Dynasty. He is known for encouraging Confucianism and renovating state affairs at the beginning of his reign, although political chaos and his incompetent leadership during the Japanese invasions of Korea marred his later years. at Doosan Encyclopedia

Later days (1598–1608)

Despite all the efforts Seonjo put in during the war, such as establishing army training facilities and reforming taxation laws – people were awarded with increase of social class, exemption of labor or crimes in return for payment of tax in rice – the war left a devastated land and starving people. After the war, his wish of reconstructing the nation was impeded by the political turmoil caused by the quarrelling political factions and famine. King Seonjo lost hope in governing the nation, and let his Crown Prince Gwanghaegun rule in his place. However, when the queen gave birth to a son (Gwanghaegun was the second son of Lady Kim, the king's concubine), the succession also became a matter of contention. at Encyclopedia of Korean Culture King Seonjo died in 1608, while political division and outside threats still darkened the skies over Korea.But before he died he left a death mark it was still unsure whether the deathmark means anything.

Political division and East-West feud (1575–1592)

Among the scholars King Seonjo called to the government were Sim Ui-gyeom and Kim Hyowon. Sim was a relative of the queen, and heavily conservative. at Doosan Encyclopedia Kim was the leading figure of the new generation of officials, and called for liberal reforms. at Doosan Encyclopedia The scholars who supported King Seonjo began to split into two factions, headed by Sim and Kim. Members of the two factions even lived in the same neighborhood; Sim's faction lived on west side of the city while Kim's followers gathered on the east side. Consequently the two factions began to be called the Western Faction and the Eastern Faction; this two-faction political system lasted 400 years and later helped bring about the collapse of the dynasty.

At first the Westerners earned the favor of the king, since Sim was related to the queen and also had larger support from wealthy nobles. However, their attitudes on reformation and Sim's indicisiveness helped the Easterners take power, and the Westerners fell out of favor. Reforms were accelerated during the first period of influence of the Easterners, but then many Easterners began to urge others to slow down the reforms. The Easterners were once again divided into the Northern and the Southern Faction. Yu Seong-ryong led the Southern faction while the Northerners divided even further after arguments over many issues; the Greater Northerners Faction was an extreme leftist faction, while the Lesser Northerners Faction became less reform-minded than the Greater Northerners Faction, but still more leftist than the Southerners.

The political divisions caused the nation to be weakened, since the size of the military was also one of the issues on the reform agenda. Yi I, a neutral conservative, urged the king to increase the size of the army to prepare against future invasions from the Jurchens and Japanese. However, both factions rejected Yi's suggestions, and the size of the army was decreased further since many believed the peaceful period would last. The Jurchens and Japanese used this opportunity to expand their influence in East Asia, resulting in the Seven-Year War, and the foundation of the Qing Dynasty in China, both of which would lead to devastation on the Korean Peninsula.

King Seonjo faced many difficulties dealing with both new threats, sending many skilled military commanders to the northern front, while contending with Japanese leaders Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu in the south. However, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified Japan, the Japanese soon proved themselves to be the greater threat; and many Koreans began to fear that their country would be taken over by the Japanese. Many officials concerned with the defense of the kingdom urged the king to send delegates to Hideyoshi, their major purpose being to find out whether Hideyoshi was preparing for invasion or not. However, the two government factions could not even agree on this issue of national importance; so a compromise was made and one delegate from each faction was sent to Hideyoshi. When they returned to Korea, their reports only caused more controversy and confusion. Hwang Yun-gil, of the Westerners faction, reported that Hideyoshi was raising huge numbers of troops, at Doosan Encyclopedia but Kim Seong-il, of the Easterners faction, told the king that he thought these large forces were not for the war against Korea, since he was trying to complete his reforms quickly to prevent lawlessness and quash the bandits now roaming the countryside. at Doosan Encyclopedia Since the Easterners had the bigger voice in government at the time, Hwang's reports were ignored and Seonjo decided not to prepare for war, even though the attitude of Hideyoshi in his letter to Seonjo clearly showed his interest in the conquest of Asia. at Doosan Encyclopedia

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Living octopus

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