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HIdeyoshi’s Goal of Conquering Ming China? A Misconstrued Narrative of Japan’s Invasion of Chosŏn Korea in 1592-1598

Nam-lin Hur, University of British Columbia

April 13, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 202 Jones Hall

East Asian Studies Program

It is common that a narrative of Japan’s invasion of Chosŏn Korea in 1592 starts with some words on what Hideyoshi, the de facto ruler of Japan at that time, had in his mind: a goal of conquering China and beyond. Such a narrative has been dominant regarding the warfare that unfolded in Chosŏn for seven years until 1598. The narrative has perpetuated the myth that Hideyoshi invaded Chosŏn in order to conquer China through the Korean peninsula. To be sure, Ming China eventually sent troops to Chosŏn and fought against the Japanese invaders during the war. However, Hideyoshi’s alleged goal of continental conquest has no evidence. At best it was no more than a daydream which he developed only briefly in the early stage of the war. In this talk, Hur suggests: (1) Hideyoshi’s goal was to subjugate Chosŏn Korea; (2) even so, his goal did not last long but for a few months only; and (3) more importantly, Hideyoshi struggled, but in vain, to end his doomed foreign military campaign without destabilizing his power for almost six years until he died. As a conclusion, Hur discusses how the misconstrued narrative has damaged research on, and teaching of, Japan’s invasion of Chosŏn Korea for so long.

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