The Righteous Army Korean Resistance Timeline 1894-1915

Righteous Army 1907
Members of the Righteous Army photographed in 1907 by Frederick Arthur Mackenzie

In Korean history a righteous army is an irregular force of civilian nationalists, freedom fighters and revolutionaries that operate independently of the military, using guerrilla tactics, to resit invasion and occupation.

This timeline details the activities of Korean Righteous Armies, particularly the Righteous Army of the late Joseon Dynasty.

See also: Late Joseon Dynasty & Korean Empire 1864 – 1910


993 (around)
The first Righteous Armies were formed when the Khitan Empire, also known as the Liao dynasty, attacked Goryeo.
1592 (Summer)
When the Japanese invaded Korea, Righteous Armies were formed throughout Korea and numbered around 22,200. They worked to interrupt Japanese supply lines and divert the Japanese army from conquering land.
1594 (May)
The Japanese retreated and peace talks began.
1597 (early)
Talks between Korea and Japan failed and the conflict between the two resumed.
1598 (18th September)
The Japanese Emperor Toyotomi Hideyoshi died. At the time of his death the war was at a stalemate and the Council of Five Elders ordered Japanese forces to withdraw from Korea.
Late Joseon Dynasty – Resistance 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 (during)
Yu In-seok formed a Righteous Army to support the Donghak peasants.
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 – 1896 (October – February)
The pro-Japanese government introduced reforms that included a move away from traditional dress and the banning of the male topknot hairstyle. These reforms were extremely unpopular and widely resented.
1897 (during)
Following the assassination of Queen Min and the new reforms, many Koreans joined the Righteous Army, determined to stop the dominance of Japan. Led by Min Jeong-sik, Choe Ik-hyeon and Shin Dol-seok they began making attacks on Japanese in Korea and pro-Japanese officials.
1905 (during)
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 (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)
Emperor Gojong appealed to many World leaders for support but failed to gain aid.
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 (around)
Daily Mail photographer and war correspondent, Frederick Arthur Mackenzie, photographed 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 (25th July)
the Righteous Army, which was about 10,000 strong, rebelled against the Japanese takeover. The Japanese ordered the rebellion put down.
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)
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.
1908 (during)
Righteous Army leader Chae Eung-eon, led a number of raids on Japanese police stations, taking weapons and ammunition to use against the Japanese army.
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)
Many surviving members of the Righteous army fled to Manchuria which they used as a base to continue their fight for Korean independence. Others, including Chae Eung-eon remained in Korea.
1910 (late)
Chae Eung-eon continued to destroy Japanese police facilities, take weapons and cut their communication lines.
1914 (during)
Chae Eung-eon’s activities had caused so much disruption to the Japanese that a price was put on his head.
1915 (5th July)
Chae Eung-eon was captured by the Japanese and imprisoned after he was betrayed.
1915 (4th November)
Chae Eung-eon was executed in prison.
1915 (after Novmeber)
Without the leadership of Chae Eung-eon the activities of the remaining members of the Army petered out.


Published Apr 05 @ 7:02 pm – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2022). The Righteous Army Korean Resistance 1894 – 1915.

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