Late Joseon Dynasty & Korean Empire Timeline 1864-1910

Late Joseon Dynasty

This timeline details the events of the late Joseon Dynasty under the rule of King Gojong and the Korean Empire 1864 – 1910

See also:
Ancient Korea and the Three Kingdoms 4000 BCE – 936 CE
Kingdom of Goryeo 936 – 1392


Late Joseon Dynasty
1864 (21st January)
Cheoljong, King of Joseon, died. He had no surviving children so 12 year old Yi Myeong-bok, as the closest blood relative was chosen to succeed as King Gojong. His father, Heungseon Daewongun, acted as regent. Joseon was an independent client state of China.
1864 (after)
As regent, Heungseon Daewongun, pursued a policy of isolationism for Joseon. He rejected all offers of trade from other countries and ordered the persecution and execution of Catholic missionaries and converts.
1866 (20th March)
King Gojong married Myeongseong, who became known as Queen Min. She was a strong and ambitious woman who took a keen interest in politics.
1866 (11th October)
French Invasion of Korea
In retaliation for the execution of French Jesuit missionaries, France invaded and occupied Ganghwa Island.
1866 (12th November)
French Invasion of Korea
The Joseon military managed to force the French to withdraw from Ganghwa Island. However, the French took with them much of the island’s treasures and riches.
1866 (16th – 20th August)
General Sherman Incident
The American merchant ship, ‘General Sherman’ docked at Korea with a view to negotiating a trade deal. The ship was told to wait at the Keupsa Gate while Regent Heungseon Daewongun was consulted. However, after taking the Adjutant General Yi Hyon-ik prisoner, the ship sailed further inland. The Koreans attacked and managed to secure the release of Yi Hyon-ik and forced the ship to retreat, but it then ran aground. Fighting continued for 4 days and then the ‘General Sherman’ was set alight. US sailors fleeing the ship were attacked and killed.
1871 (1st June)
American Expedition to Korea (Shinmiyangyo)
An American force of 1200 men aboard five ships sailed for Korea to discuss the ‘General Sherman’ incident. Due to cultural differences the Americans, mistakenly believed they had permission to survey the coast of Korea. As the ships neared the fortresses at Sandolmok, the Koreans opened fire.
1871 (10th June)
American Expedition to Korea (Shinmiyangyo)
The United States force attacked Choji Garrison and pushed onwards to Gwangseong Garrison where a battle ensued. The Korean’s firearms were no match for the superior American rifles.
1873 (during)
Heavily influenced by his wife, King Gojong managed to persuade the royal guards to arrest his father and exile him to China. He then took over rule of Joseon. Queen Myeongseong believed that Korea should open up to the outside World.
1875 (20th September)
A Japanese warship arrived at Ganghwa island. The Koreans opened fire but the Japanese were better equipped. After this action the ship returned to Japan.
1876 (early)
Japan demanded an apology from Korea for firing at their ship and insisted on a treaty of trade between the nations.
1876 (27th February)
Treaty of Ganghwa
This treaty between Korea and Japan was a trade agreement between the two. However, the terms of the treaty were far more favourable to the Japanese.
1882 (22nd May)
Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce and Navigation
This treaty, signed by Korea and America, was Korea’s first treaty with a Western nation.
1882 (23rd July)
Imo Incident
This was a violent uprising started by Korean soldiers angry at the growing Japanese influence and Gojong’s support for Japanese military advisors. The Japanese legation was attacked and a number of Japanese officials were killed. Others fled the country.
1882 (August)
Japan-Korea Treaty
The Japanese demanded compensation from Korea following the Imo Incident. As well as financial compensation, the treaty allowed the Japanese military to protect their legation and Japanese living in Korea.
1884 (4th December)
Gapsin Coup
A group of pro-reform Koreans, with Japanese backing, attempted to take over leadership of Korea. The coup was suppressed by Chinese soldiers stationed in Korea. Those leaders that were caught were executed while the others fled to Japan.
1894 (11th January)
Donghak Peasant Rebellion
This was an armed uprising by poor peasants angered by their poor situation in Korea. The Korean government asked China for support.
1894 (3rd May)
A Chinese force arrived in Asan to help put down the Donghak Peasant Rebellion.
1894 (8th June)
Japanese troops arrived in Incheon. They had been sent to combat the Chinese force requested by Korea.
1894 (July – October)
Gabo Reform – First Reforms
Following the Donghak Peasant the government began a programme of reforms. 210 reforms were introduced. They included giving greater power to the State Council and a number of social reforms aimed at reforming the traditional feudal structure of society.
1894 (25th July)
First Sino-Japanese War
War broke out between the Qing dynasty of China and the Japanese Empire over control of Joseon Korea.
1894 – 1895 (December – July)
Gabo Reform – Second Reforms
213 articles were introduced including restructuring of administrative regions, changes to taxation, military and police. Royal court affairs were placed under the control of the Council of Royal Household rather than being classed as state affairs.
1895 (17th April)
First Sino-Japanese War – Treaty of Shimonoseki
The war ended when China sued for peace. The peace treaty agreed the independence of Joseon with China giving up all claims to Korea.
1895 (after 17th April)
Although Korea was independent, the withdrawal of China exposed the country to greater Japanese involvement in their affairs. To counter this many government officials and Queen Min advocated greater ties to Russia.
1895 (September)
Miura Goro was appointed Japanese minister in Korea. He recognised the anti-Japanese stance of Queen Min.
1895 (8th October)
Assassination of Queen Min
Queen Min was assassinated in the early hours of the morning by Japanese agents. King Gojong and his son fled to the Russian legation for protection.
1895 (after 8th October)
There was widespread anger and unrest following the assassination of Queen Min.
1895 – 1896 (October – February)
Gabo Reform – Third Reforms
The pro-Japanese cabinet introduced further reforms including changes to the calendar, educational reforms and a new postal service. The reforms also included a move away from traditional dress and the banning of the traditional male topknot hairstyle. These latter reforms were extremely unpopular and widely resented.
1896 (11th February)
There was widespread anger and unrest following the assassination of Queen Min and the third reforms. Prime Minister Kim Hong-jip was attacked and killed in the streets. Other pro-Japanese ministers were also murdered.
1896 (2nd July)
Independence Association
Established by Philip Jaisohn, a Korean-American activist, this association aimed to free Joseon from outside interference and move to independence. The association published a newspaper to spread their ideas.
1897 (during)
Righteous Army
The Righteous Army was a historical informal army of civilians that had supported the regular army in times of need. They armed themselves with whatever weaponry they could lay their hands on. Following the assassination of Queen Min, many Koreans joined the Righteous Army, determined to stop the dominance of Japan. During this period the leaders were Min Jeong-sik, Choe Ik-hyeon and Shin Dol-seok.
Korean Empire
1897 (20th February)
King Gojong returned to Joseon and set up residence at Gyeongungung Palace. The palace was close to the American, British, Russian and German legations.
1897 (12th October)
Gojong ended the Joeson dynasty by proclaiming the Great Korean Empire with himself as Emperor, hereditary head of State. He named his reign Gwangmu and was crowned at Hwangudan (Altar of Heaven).
1897 (October)
Gwangmu Reform
Emperor Gojong began a period of reforms aimed at modernising the new Korean Empire. His plans included improved infrastructure including a railway network, abolition of the traditional class system, a move towards western dress and economic reforms.
1898 (April)
Independence Association – Democracy
With Korea now proclaimed independent, the association began to push for democracy. Daily demonstrations were staged outside the royal palace.
1898 (December)
Independence Association Disbanded
Emperor Gojong ordered the association to disband. It is likely that he felt threatened by their ongoing push for democracy.
1900 (during)
All civil officers and ministers were ordered to wear western clothing.
1904 (8th February)
Russo-Japanese War
War broke out between Russia and Japan after Japanese forces attacked and lay siege to Port Arthur on the Liadong Peninsular which had been leased to Russia by the Chinese. Japan was keen to expand its territory by taking Manchuria and Korea.
1905 (during)
Righteous Army
With the increasing dominance of Japan in Korea, the Righteous Army increased activities making, often covert, attacks on Japanese military and leaders. They also attacked Japanese merchants and pro-Japanese Korean officials.
1905 (20th February – 10th March)
Russo-Japanese War – Battle of Mukden
More than 90,000 Russian soldiers lost their lives in this battle against the Japanese.
1905 (27th – 28th May)
Russo-Japanese War – Battle of Tsushima
The Russian fleet reached the east and were defeated by Japanese.
1905 (27th July)
Taft-Katsura Agreement
US War Secretary William Howard Taft and Prime Minister of Japan, Katsura Taro met for talks. While there was no formal treaty, it is believed that the two agreed that Japan would not interfere in the Phillipines if the United States allowed Korea to become a protectorate of Japan.
1905 (5th September)
Treaty of Portsmouth
This treaty brought the Russo-Japanese war to an end. Under the terms of the peace negotiation Russia lost Port Arthur to the Japanese and recognised Japan’s claim to Korea.
1905 (17th November)
Eulsa Treaty/ Japan-Korea Treaty
The Japanese presented this treaty to Emperor Gojong but he refused to sign. However, five pro-Japanese ministers – Yi Wan-yong (Minister of Education), Yi Geun-taek (Army Minister), Yi Ji-yong (Interior Minister), Park Je-sun (Foreign Minister) and Gwon Jung-hyeon (Agriculture Minister) agreed to sign the treaty on Korea’s behalf. They are known collectively as the five Eulsa traitors. The treaty placed Korea under the protection of Japan.
1906 (during)
Righteous Army leader Choe Ik-hyeon was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. He went on hunger strike and died 3 months later. Shin Dol-seok took over command of around 3,000 members of the Righteous Army.
1907 (19th July)
Gojong Abdication
Emperor Gojong was forced to abdicate in favour of his son, Sunjong who became Yunghui Emperor. Gojong was placed under house arrest at the Deoksu Palace.
1907 (24th July)
Japan-Korea Treaty
This treaty stipulated that Korea should be under the guidance of a Japanese resident general. This effectively handed the government of the Korean Empire to Japan.
1907 (1st August)
Battle of Namdaemun
The Korean army was disbanded. Colonel Park Seung-hwan committed suicide in protest at the order. Korean soldiers refused to give up their weapons and fought against the Japanese military. However, the inferior weapons of the Koreans meant they stood no chance of victory. 68 Korean soldiers were killed, 100 wounded and 516 captured. Many of those that escaped joined the Righteous Army.
1907 (late)
Planned liberation of Hanseong (Seoul)
The Righteous Army planned an offensive to liberate Hanseong and defeat the Japanese army stationed there. They had trained 10,000 members and marched towards Hanseong. However, 12 km outside of the city they were met by 20,000 Japanese soldiers and forced to retreat.
1907 (late)
Righteous Army
More than 17,000 members of the Righteous Army had been killed and 37,000 injured. Despite these heavy losses they refused to give up their fight. They split into small bands and used guerilla warfare tactics to continue their struggle against Japan.
1910 (22nd August)
Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty
Japan annexed Korea and took full control of the country signalling the end of the Korean Empire. They would hold Korea until the end of World War Two in 1945. Gojong was given the title King Emeritus Yi of Deoksu and recognised as a member of the Imperial Japanese family.
1910 (after 22nd August)
Righteous Army
Surviving members of the Righteous army fled to Manchuria which they used as a base to continue their fight for Korean independence.


Published Dec 07, 2020 @ 8:55 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). Late Joseon Dynasty and Korean Empire 1864 – 1910. Last accessed [date]


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