The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis during the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis during the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis during the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

The Book of Corrections: Reflections on the National Crisis during the Japanese Invasion of Korea, 1592-1598

Excerpt

The Japanese invasion of Korea (Chosŏn) in 1592 and the subsequent seven-year war was one of the most tragic and traumatic experiences in Korean history. The magnitude of this tragedy was unprecedented. Hundreds of thousands died and the country was devastated. It took many years for Korea to recover.

Looking back upon this tragedy from start to finish, Yu Sŏngnyong’s memoir vividly portrays all the major developments of the crisis, as well as the men who were involved in it, and persuasively demonstrates what went wrong. The purpose of writing Chingbirok (The book of corrections), as the author professes in his preface, was to prevent the same mistakes from taking place in the future. What is the historical lesson to be learned from the Japanese invasion? The author offers his own answer to that question and at the same time challenges his readers to reach their own conclusions.

The Japanese invasion in 1592, known as the Imjin War, was a sobering experience for Korea, Japan, and China, for it led them to test their own strength and arrive at a new international order. Korea and China were roused from their complacency by the severity of the ordeal, and Japan emerged as a new, potential regional power, although the war ended inconclusively. In the short term, Korea and China were rudely awakened by the crisis; however, they soon fell asleep once again. From the long-term perspective, it is clear that these three countries failed to learn their lesson from history, because a similar crisis was to recur approximately three hundred years later. Playing the role of the aggressor once again, Japan provoked a war with China in 1884, and following its victory, took over Korea in 1910. Hideyoshi’s old dream had finally become a reality after more than three centuries, although it too eventually ended in failure.

After the war with Japan at the end of the sixteenth century, Yu Sŏngnyong, who served as the chief state councilor during the . . .

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