Summary and Keywords
In the fourth month of 1592, and at the direction of Toyotomi Hideyoshi—the feudal baron, or daimyo, who unified the Warring States (Sengoku) across the Japanese Archipelago—a massive force invaded the Korean Peninsula, which, at the time, was controlled by the Chosŏn dynasty. The war lasted until late 1598. Initially, the defending Chosŏn armies were helpless, but they managed to frustrate Hideyoshi’s goals before leaders of the Ming dynasty dispatched a large rescue force in the twelfth month of 1592. The Ming, whose empire spanned much of the central and eastern territories of present-day China, were concerned about the security of their borders, but they were also pressured by the Chosŏn to help. There were two intense battles in 1593 (albeit the second did not involve the Ming); however, despite the Chosŏn’s strong opposition, the Ming court and the Hideyoshi regime pursued a negotiated settlement to end the war. These negotiations ended in failure: Hideyoshi ordered his daimyo generals to resume an attack against the Chosŏn in 1597, the Ming court sent reinforcements, and more battles ensued. In the end, none of the belligerents got what they wanted. The war came to an end when Hideyoshi died in the eighth month of 1598. All battles took place in the Chosŏn-controlled Korean Peninsula, and the casualties far exceeded those that occurred anywhere else in the world during the 16th and 17th centuries. Hideyoshi’s invasion of the Chosŏn kingdom went through three phases: (1) invasion, defense, and retreat (4/1592–4/1593); (2) attempted truce negotiations (5/1593–8/1596); and (3) massive resumption of battle and the path to the withdrawal of Hideyoshi’s invading troops (9/1596–11/1598). The aftermath of the war involved the collapse of the Hideyoshi regime and socially transformed the entire region.
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