Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598)
The Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598) refers to two invasions of Korea by Japan in those years, and to the resulting conflicts on the Korean Peninsula. Kampaku Toyotomi Hideyoshi led the newly unified Japan into these invasions with the professed goal of conquering Ming Dynasty China. The invasions are often referred to as Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea. Seven Year War is also a term used in reference to its span. They are also known as the Imjin War in reference to the "Imjin" year of the sexagenary cycle.
The first invasion (1592–1593) is literally called the "Japanese (= 倭 |wae|) War (= 亂 |lan|) of Imjin" (1592 being an imjin [= water — dragon] year in the sexagenary cycle) in Korean and Bunroku no eki in Japanese (Bunroku referring to the Japanese era under the Emperor Go-Yōzei, spanning the period from 1592 to 1596). The second invasion (1597–1598) is called the "Second War of Jeong-yu" and "Keichō no eki", respectively. In Chinese, the wars are referred to as the "Renchen (the information about the Imjin year also applies here) War to Defend the Nation" or the "Wanli Korean Campaign", after the reigning Chinese emperor.
Initially, the Japanese forces saw continual successes on land and repeated failures at sea. Later, however, the Japanese forces suffered heavily as their communication and supply lines became overly long, with troops spread thinly over the Korean peninsula. The Korean navy starved the Japanese forces by successfully intercepting the Japanese supply fleets on the western waters of the peninsula, to which most major rivers of the Korean peninsula flow. The Chinese military and diplomatic intervention under Emperor Wanli brought about a temporary truce for five years and an attempt at a compromise; however, Japan invaded Korea a second time in 1597. The war concluded with the naval Battle of Noryang. All of the Japanese forces in Korea had retreated by the 12th lunar month of 1598, and returned to Japan.
In addition to the human losses, Korea suffered tremendous cultural, economic, and infrastructural damage, including a large reduction in the amount of arable land, destruction and confiscation of significant artworks, artifacts, and historical documents, and abductions of artisans and technicians. The heavy financial burden placed on China by the war adversely affected its military capabilities and contributed to the fall of the Ming Dynasty and the rise of the Qing Dynasty.
In 1392, the Korean general Yi Seong-gye led a successful coup against King U of the Goryeo Dynasty, and founded Joseon. In search of a justification for its rule given the lack of a royal bloodline, the new regime received recognition from China and integration into its tributary system within the context of the Mandate of Heaven. Under Ashikaga Yoshimitsu's reign during the late 15th century, Japan, too, gained a seat in the tributary system (lost by 1547). Within this tributary system, China assumed the role of a big brother, Korea the middle brother, and Japan the younger brother. The two major external threats to Korea at the time were the Jurchens, who raided along the northern border, and Japanese Wokou pirates, who pillaged the coastal villages and trade ships. In response to the Jurchens, Koreans constructed a powerful defense line of fortresses along the Tumen River; in response to the Japanese, the Koreans developed a very poweful navy, and even took the island of Tsushima. This defensive environment of relative peace pushed the Koreans to depend on the heavy artillery of fortresses and war ships; Japan, on the other hand, had been in a state of civil war for over a century, so the military had come to favor the muskets adopted from Portugal over such other weapons. This strategic difference in weapons development and implementation contributed to the Japanese dominance on land, and the Sino-Korean dominance at sea.
By the last decade of the 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a daimyo under Emperor Ōgimachi had unified all of Japan in a brief period of peace. Motivated in part by a need to satisfy the perpetual hunger for territory of his vassals and to mitigate the possible threat of civil disorder or rebellion posed by the excess number of samurais and soldiers, he began to plan the conquest of Ming Dynasty China. He initially revealed his plan to Mōri Terumoto in 1586, and pursued it after having defeated the clans of Shimazu and Hōjō. Thousands of troops were mobilized and trained; weapons and supplies were gathered; and hundreds of arquebuses were imported from Portugal. Hideyoshi tried but failed to hire two Portuguese galleons to join the invasion; therefore, hundreds of ships were quickly built to carry the entire Japanese army across the sea.
Hideyoshi sent ambassadors to request the Joseon court to allow his troops to move through the Korean peninsula to China. His first request was ignored, and the second request was snubbed after King Seonjo had sent envoys to Hideyoshi's government, although it is claimed that their observations indicated that Hideyoshi posed no threat. After the denial of his second request, Hideyoshi launched his armies against Korea in 1592. Tokugawa Ieyasu, Konishi Yukinaga, and Sō Yoshitoshi were among those who opposed Hideyoshi's plan and tried to arbitrate between Hideyoshi and the Joseon court.
The Korean army in the south consisted of only a few garrison troops spread all over the provinces, and there was no autonomous military force that could be deployed. Many of the troops were sent to the northern frontier to defend Korean settlements from Jurchen raiders.
Unlike the situation over a thousand years earlier where Chinese dynasties had an antagonistic relationship with the largest of the Korean polities (see List of Chinese invasions of Goguryeo), the Joseon Dynasty had a close trading relationship with Ming China, and also enjoyed a continuous trade relationship with Japan.
Thus, by the 1580's, the Korean military had fallen into decline. Also, the decision to ignore weapons technology weakened the Korean army considerably. The conflict against the Jurchens in 1582 showed that Korea lacked a strong military in terms of both size and capabilities. Yi I (1536–1584), then an influential scholar and philosopher, advised the king to maintain an army with a minimum size of 100,000 to no avail, and only a few scholars foresaw a Japanese invasion.
In the 1580's, Yu Seong-ryong (유성룡; 柳成龍), a prominent scholar, feared an invasion by Japan and thus wanted to strengthen the military. He believed that all men, regardless of their social status (including slaves), should be conscripted. Yu also wanted to reorganize the military, develop more advanced arquebuses, and improve armor even for the common foot soldier. Yu also argued for stronger castles. However, his proposals were dismissed and the Korean court remained blissfully ignorant. Yu later became Prime Minister of Korea, and one of Admiral Yi's strongest advocates.
Since they were in terrible shape and he doubted their efficacy in defense, Yu insisted on rebuilding Korean castles near the coasts and garrisoning them with active soldiers. Yu wanted repaired walls with cannon holes and long, easily defensible walls with towers, similar to castles in Europe.
However, these proposals were opposed by most advisers of the court, who believed that Japan was not in a position to attack Korea, and Yu's proposals were snubbed. They also rejected the proposals to repair castles because of the amounts of money and labour that would have been required.
Weapons and equipment
Muskets (arquebuses) and bows
One reason the Japanese so dominated the early stages of the war was their development and implementation of advanced muskets, first introduced 50 years earlier by Portuguese traders in 1543, in Tanegashima, a small island south of Kyūshū. The arquebuses, first used in the Siege of Busan, daunted the Korean forces who had no effective way of countering these new weapons. Acquisition of these lightweight versions of matchlock muskets marked one of the earlier direct and successful receptions by Japan of Western science and technology. The local lord, Tanegashima Tokiaki, impressed by a demonstration, purchased two pieces, from which the local people soon began to manufacture copies. About twenty years later, the arquebuses were standardized and improved from the Portuguese originals, mass-produced throughout Japan at the rate of at least several thousand per year, and used with great success.
Korea, however, had not observed the efficacy of the new Western weapons. Thus, while sporadic usage of short-barrelled personal Chinese-style firearms Seungja, Baekja, etc. was seen, the main emphasis was on archery, fire arrows, and cannons. Korea's first reaction to the arquebus was much different from that of Japan's then southernmost extremity. The first arquebus was received in Korea in 1590, during the visit of one group of envoys sent by Hideyoshi to King Seonjo. The weapon was given a cursory examination, promptly archived in the royal arsenal, and forgotten.
Yu Seong-ryong, who wrote the Jingbirok (Record of Reprimands and Admonition), advocated the use of the new acquisition and its mass production as part of the strengthening of the national defenses, but his recommendations in favor of the creation of arquebus squads were dismissed as "something laughable", and Korean bows continued to be the standard long-range arms. The maximum range of the Korean bow was 460 m, in contrast to its Japanese counterpart, a heavy composite bow with a range of about 380 m, sacrificing distance for greater accuracy. Given the arquebus of the time, however, with its maximum range of about 500 m, Korean archers found themselves outranged by Japanese musketeers. Still, the bow had significant utility with its short time for reloading (six arrows could be unleashed while an arquebus/musket was being loaded and fired) and thus remained a strong asset on both sides. However, training men to become skilled archers was an arduous and repetitive task which could take several years. Fire in heavy volleys compensated for the arquebus' lack of accuracy; the weapon was also capable of piercing iron armor at relatively short range. The overall efficiency of the weapon had been proven at the Battle of Nagashino before its application in the Korean campaigns.
Although Korean troops had been equipped with brigandine and chain mail armor during the Goryeo Dynasty, its usage had declined by the mid-16th century. Commanders saw no need for armor because of their confidence in their projectile weapons, which they believed made face-to-face combat less likely. Although the government mandated wearing armor for all ranks, generally only officers complied. Most soldiers hesitated to wear armor due to its bulk and the expense of obtaining fitted armor (most soldiers at the time, save for the higher officer ranks, were from the poorer civilian class).
A common Korean soldier wore a heavy vest (usually black) over his normal white clothes.[verification needed] A strictly ceremonial felt hat gave some limited protection as well. This uniform allowed easy movement and speed but no protection against bullets and arrows, and little against swords. Korean soldiers often used a short spear called dangpa-chang as their main weapon.
A Japanese foot soldier wore iron or leather plate and/or chainmail over his chest, arms, and legs. Shin guards added protection to the lower legs and feet. A round conical hat was worn by the Japanese, usually painted with an insignia of a samurai's crest. Shoes were not usually worn among the foot soldiers.
A Chinese Ming dynasty soldier wore a steel helmet and brigandine armor which covered his chest and arms, and hung over his legs.
Probably the only military speciality in which Korea excelled during the conflict was the maritime. Largely due to Admiral Yi's preparations, the navy successfully defeated the Japanese forces at sea. The Korean navy was mainly made up of standard panokseons, and Admiral Yi's newly designed turtle ships, loosely based on an earlier ship of the same name and similar design. Each panokseon had 32 large Korean cannons and multiple hwachas, and captains often preferred to fight at a distance, utilizing the firepower and range of these weapons (for example, see Battle of Noryang Point). Japanese commanders, on the other hand, preferred to engage in close combat, as the Japanese fleet excelled in boarding and the ensuing mêlée combat. However, the advantage in long-range weapons possessed by Korea severely limited the effectiveness of boarding attacks (although boarding attacks and subsequent struggles still occurred at times, with mixed results) and ultimately produced defeats for Japan at sea.
Although the Korean military in general lacked firearms, Korean sailors had a wide selection of cannons, grenades, and mortars at their disposal. Korean versions of the cannon were first developed in the 1400's under King Sejong (1418–1450), mainly for use on battleships and castles. Although these were greatly improved over the years, infighting, philosophical barriers (the neo-Confucian ethic in Korea having been very strong during the Joseon era), and the rejection of contact with the European colonial powers of the day meant that personal firearms were rejected by the Korean military at large.
The Korean cannons that were used were much more powerful than their Japanese counterparts. Large wooden arrows with iron tips and fins, called daejon, were used to pierce the hulls of enemy ships.
First invasion (1592–1593)
|First wave of the Japanese invasion|
|1st div.||Konishi Yukinaga||7,000|
|Ōmura Yoshiaki (ja)||2,000|
|2nd div.||Katō Kiyomasa||10,000|
|Sagara Yorifusa (ja)||800||22,800|
|3rd div.||Kuroda Nagamasa||5,000|
|4th div.||Shimazu Yoshihiro||10,000|
|Mōri Yoshimasa (ja)||2,000|
|Takahashi Mototane (ja), Akizuki Tanenaga, Itō Suketaka (ja), Shimazu Tadatoyo||2,000||14,000|
|5th div.||Fukushima Masanori||4,800|
|Ikushima (Kurushima Michifusa)?||700|
|Hachisuka Iemasa (ja)||7,200||25,000 (sic)|
|6th div.||Kobayakawa Takakage||10,000|
|Kobayakawa Hidekane, Tachibana Muneshige, Tachibana Naotsugu (ja), Tsukushi Hirokado, Ankokuji Ekei||5,700||15,700|
|7th div.||Mōri Terumoto||30,000||30,000|
|Reservers (8th div.)||Ukita Hideie (Tsushima Island)||10,000|
|(9th div.)||Toyotomi Hidekatsu (ja) and Hosokawa Tadaoki (ja) (Iki Island)||11,500||22,500|
|Naval force||Kuki Yoshitaka, Wakisaka Yasuharu, Katō Yoshiaki, Otani Yoshitsugu||9,000|
|Stationed force at Nagoya||Ieyasu, Uesugi, Gamō, and others||75,000|
The invasion began when Japanese forces of the First and Second Divisions, under Katō Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga, respectively, landed at Busan and Dadaejin (다대진), respectively, on May 23, 1592 with a combined force of 150,000 soldiers. The Siege of Busan was won after the Korean troops' morale crumbled when their general, Jeong Bal, died of a gunshot wound. Dadaejin fell in a matter of hours. The cities were fortified to allow safe passage for reinforcements, supplies, and ships.
The two battles happened at nearly the exact same time.
Battle of Dongnae
After capturing Busan, Konishi's troops moved northwest to where the Dongnae fortress was, and overran the Korean troops there, which were led by Song Sang-hyon, the local magistrate. Apparently, all troops there were slaughtered along with their commander.
Battle of Sangju
After securing the ports, the First Division (under Konishi Yukinaga) with 25,000 men marched quickly north to Sangju. Sangju was defended by Yi Il, a senior general who fought the Jurchens in northern Korea. However, with a small garrison and a weak castle, Yi Il's men fell again to the powerful arquebuses.
Konishi then crossed Choryang Pass, which was a major strategic point that the Koreans failed to guard when Sin Rip made the decision to pull his cavalry back the Chungju, believing that the cavalry would fight easily in open ground. This enabled the Japanese army to simply pass the point without any resistance at all. The failure to defend Choryang Pass led to the capture of Hanyang (present-day Seoul).
Battle of Chungju
Konishi soon reached Chungju, which was defended by a cavalry division under the command of Sin Rip. The newly recruited cavalry division of 8,000, having been outnumbered and limited to melee weapons, was overwhelmed by 19,000 Japanese soldiers equipped with arquebuses. The Battle of Chungju marked the last defense line to Hanyang, and the Japanese forces journeyed north without much complication.
Upon hearing of General Sin Rip's defeat, the Yi court took flight toward Pyongyang. In Kaesong, the Korean commoners mourned bitterly because they believed that their king was abandoning them. The Yi court would eventually travel as far as the very northern states of Korea, and the prince would be sent with other ambassadors to ask the Ming Emperor for military aid.
Meanwhile, the Second Division of 23,000 men under Katō Kiyomasa captured Gyeongju, the former capital of Korea during the Silla Dynasty, and massive looting and burning took place. A series of minor battles between the Koreans and Japanese led Katō to Chuksan, and eventually Seoul in a month.
Capture of Hanseong
Chungju was the last line of defense for the Koreans and the road to Hanseong (present-day Seoul) was open to the Japanese. Both Generals Katō and Konishi vied to earn the honor of reaching Hanseong first, and the Third Division under Kuroda Nagamasa was not far behind. In the end, Konishi managed to arrive near Hanseong first, and planned to attack the East Gate.
To their surprise, the city was left undefended and was found burned and destroyed. Konishi and his men simply walked through the massive gates. King Seonjo had already fled to Pyongyang the day before. There were no soldiers either. Korean commoners had looted and destroyed the food warehouses and armories after the king abandoned them, and the Japanese failed to collect any treasures or supplies, which was in contrast to the Japanese looting that had taken place in the southern provinces.
Japanese northern campaign
- See also: Hamgyong campaign
Japanese troops ravaged and looted many key towns in the southern part of Korea, took Pyongyang and advanced as far north as the Yalu and Tumen rivers. By 1593, Konishi was already planning to invade China.
Of the Second Division, however, Katō Kiyomasa was still unhappy because of Konishi's glory from the capture of Seoul. Katō planned to invade Hamgyong province in northern Korea and begin his China campaign. With an army of 20,000 men, Katō advanced north, capturing every single castle he arrived at. This included all the castles along Korea's eastern border.
After defeating the Korean armies, he turned north to China and attacked a Jurchen fortress, capturing it. However, after a counterattack by the Jurchen forced Kato to return south.
Kato's campaign in China was the only time the Japanese ever reached their goal.
While the Korean forces on land were suffering from the Japanese attacks, Admiral Yi Sun-sin, who kept a war diary, was preparing for battle against the Japanese ships docked in Busan at his base in Yeosu.
In June 1592, a small Korean fleet, commanded by Yi destroyed Japanese flotillas and wrought havoc on Japanese logistics in The Battle of Okpo was a 2 day fight around the harbor of Okpo at Geoje Island in 1592. It was the first naval battle of the Imjin War and the first victory of Admiral Yi.
During the Battle of Sacheon (1592), the Korean iron-roofed Geobukseon, or turtle ships, were introduced. After another Korean victory at the Battle of Dangpo, Battle of Danghangpo, Japanese generals at Busan began to panic, fearing that their supply lines would be destroyed, so therefore the Japanese naval generals decided to kill Yi before his threat to Japanese supply ships escalated and sent Wakizaka Yasuharu to destroy him. However, at the Battle of Hansando, Wakizaka's fleet was shattered, destroying Japanese naval forces near Korea for several years to come. Admiral Yi's victory at Hansan Island effectively ended Hideyoshi's dreams of conquering Ming China, which was his original goal in invading Korea. The supply routes through the Yellow Sea had to be open in order for his troops to have enough supplies and reinforcements to invade China. Thus, Konishi Yukinaga, the commander of the contingent of troops in Pyongyang could not move further north due to lack of supplies, nor could more troops be sent to him because there was not enough food to feed them. It took five times the resources in food and men to move supplies via the land route over Korea's primitive roads. Furthermore, moving supplies overland left them vulnerable to attacks by regular Chinese and Korean forces as well as Korean irregular or guerrilla forces (the Righteous Armies 의병/義兵) that were becoming increasingly active as the war progressed.
In November 1592, Yi attacked the Japanese naval headquarters at Busan. Yi managed to leave with all of his ships intact, while inflicting damage on several hundred enemy ships still in their docks. Focusing on naval control, a 1592 battle near Hansan Island succeeded in severely disrupting the Japanese naval supply lines.
The Japanese lost control of the Korea Strait after such naval defeats, and their activities were largely limited around Busan until the Battle of Chilcheollyang in 1597. Without the continuous supplies coming from Busan, the Japanese army lost their initial advantage and could not proceed any further from Pyongyang.
Much credit for the war's eventual outcome has been attributed to Admiral Yi's efforts.
Siege of Jinju
Jinju (진주) was a large castle that defended Jeolla Province. The Japanese commanders knew that control of Jinju would mean the fall of Jeolla. Therefore, a large army under Hosokawa Tadaoki gleefully approached Jinju. Jinju was defended by Kim Shi-Min (김시민), one of the better generals in Korea, commanding a Korean garrison of 3,000 men. Gim had recently acquired about 200 new arquebuses that were equal in strength to the Japanese guns. With the help of arquebuses, cannon, and mortars, Gim and the Koreans were able to drive back the Japanese from Jeolla Province. Hosokawa lost over 30,000 men. The battle at Jinju is considered one of the greatest victories of Korea because it prevented the Japanese from entering Jeolla.
In 1593, Jinju would fall to the Japanese.
Korean Militia Corps
- Main article: Righteous army.
Throughout the history of Korea, irregular armies have risen to fight against invaders. It was no different during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598). As the Joseon military began to break down, Korean irregular volunteers organized themselves and began to operate against the Japanese forces. Both Korean civilians and Buddhist monks gathered to form a militia. The militias main jobs were to harass Japanese communication lines, ambush armies, assassinate Japanese commanders, and provide reinforcements.
Insurgency resistance was especially strong in the southern provinces of Chungcheong, Jeolla, and Gyeongsang. Gwak Jae-woo (곽재우), Jo Heon (조헌), Kim Cheon-il (김천일), Go Gyeong-myeong (고경명), and Jeong In-hong (정인홍) were among the notable insurgency leaders. Korean militias also were strong in northern Korea during Kato Kiyomasa's northern campaign.
Gwak Jae-woo is one of the most celebrated heroes of the war. He was originally a landowner in Gyeongsang province, but the urgency of the war caused him to begin gathering volunteers to fight the Japanese. In popular depiction, Gwak Jae-woo is wearing an all-red tunic, claiming that the tunic was stained with the blood of Korean innocents slaughtered by the Japanese. Today, Gwak is remembered by Koreans as a mysterious patriotic hero.
Gwak Jae-woo's first attack was on Japanese supply boats that transported supplies up and down on the Nam River. Gwak positioned his men in tall reeds in the water and preyed on Japanese river boats that ferried supplies. One of Gwak's most important achievements was to destroy Japanese communication systems in Korea.
In the north, another militia leader Jeong Mun-bu (정문부) fought against Katō Kiyomasa, and defeated the Japanese at the northernmost point in Korea. One of his most decisive victories was the Battle of Gilju, which forced Katō's army into retreat. Jeong's victories helped force the Japanese to retreat permanently from northern Korea. The whole of his campaign was carved into a stone memorial, called Bukgwan Victory Monument, after the war.
Buddhist monks formed a large part of the Korean irregular forces. An interesting thing to note is that the Buddhist monks were only seen in mountains since the overthrow of the Goryeo dynasty after Confucianism was adopted as the national religion. Buddhist monks proved to be great leaders and excelled at fighting the Japanese.
Buddhist monks volunteered for the Korean irregular forces, motivated by patriotism and to raise the status of Buddhism. A monk named Hyujeong called on all monk volunteers to destroy the Japanese samurai, describing them as "poisonous devils". By the fall of 1593, a total of about 8,000 monk warriors gathered over the next couple of months.
In 7th lunar month of 1592, Joseon court authorized Buddishist monk as militia soldier officialy. Songun Yu Jeong(惟政)and Cheu-young(處 英)were leader of the monks. Songun Yu Jeong eventually became ambassador after the war and went to Japan for negotiation and brought 3000 captivated Koreans in 1605. In perspective of native Korean buddhist, fighting against enemy could be a part of buddhist practice for people. Combining patriotism with practice of Buddhism is still a strong character of Korean buddhists today.
Battle of Haengju
The Japanese invasion into Jeolla province was broken down and pushed back by General Gwon Yul at the hills of Ichiryeong, where outnumbered Koreans fought overwhelming Japanese troops and gained victory. Gwon Yul quickly advanced northwards, re-taking Suwon and then swung south toward Haengju where he would wait for the Chinese reinforcements. After he got the message that the Koreans were annihilated at Byeokje, Gwon Yul decided to fortify Haengju.
Bolstered by the victory at Byeokje, Katō and his army of 30,000 men advanced to the south of Hanseong to attack Haengju Fortress, an impressive mountain fortress that overlooked the surrounding area. An army of a few thousand led by Gwon Yul was garrisoned at the fortress waiting for the Japanese. Kato believed his overwhelming army would destroy the Koreans and therefore ordered the Japanese soldiers to simply advance upon the steep slopes of Haengju with little planning. Gwon Yul answered the Japanese with fierce fire from the fortification using Hwachas, rocks, handguns, and bows. After nine massive assaults and 10,000 casualties, Katō burned his dead and finally pulled his troops back.
The Battle of Haengju was an important victory for the Koreans, as it greatly improved the morale of the Korean army. The battle is celebrated today as one of the three most decisive Korean victories; Battle of Haengju, Siege of Jinju (1592), and Battle of Hansando.
Today, the site of Haengju fortress has a memorial built to honor Gwon Yul.
Intervention of Ming China
China sent land and naval forces to Korea in both the first and second invasions to assist in defeating the Japanese.
After the fall of Pyongyang, King Seonjo retreated to Uiju, a small city near the border of China. With the First and Second Divisions rapidly approaching, King Seonjo made another desperate retreat into China. At the Chinese court, King Seonjo informed of the Japanese invasion.
The Ming Dynasty Emperor Wanli and his advisers responded to King Seonjo's request for aid by sending an inadequately small force of 5,000 soldiers. These troops provided almost no help however.
As a result, the Ming Emperor sent a large force in January 1593 under two generals, Song Yingchang and Li Rusong. The salvage army had a prescribed strength of 100,000, made up of 42,000 from five northern military districts and a contingent of 3,000 soldiers proficient in the use of firearms from South China. The Ming army was also well armed with artillery pieces.
In February 1593, a large combined force of Chinese and Korean soldiers attacked Pyongyang and drove the Japanese into eastward retreat. Li Rusong personally led a pursuit with over 20,000 strong troops, along with a small force of Koreans, but was halted near Pyokje by the sally of a large Japanese formation.
In late February, Li ordered a raid into the Japanese rear and burned several hundred thousand koku of military rice supply, forcing the Japanese invading army to retreat from Seoul due to the prospect of food shortage.
These engagements ended the first phase of the war, and peace negotiations followed. Some Japanese soldiers abandoned the army and settled down in Korea. The Japanese evacuated Hanseong in May and retreated to fortifications around Busan. An uneasy truce was to last for close to four years.
Negotiations and Truce between China and Japan (1594–1596)
Under pressure from the Chinese army and local guerrillas, with food supplies cut off and his forces now reduced by nearly one third from desertion, disease and death, Konishi was compelled to sue for peace. General Li Rusong offered General Konishi a chance to negotiate an end to the hostilities. When negotiations got underway in the spring of 1593, China and Korea agreed to cease hostilities if the Japanese would withdraw from Korea altogether. General Konishi had no option but to accept the terms, but he would have a hard time convincing Hideyoshi that he had no other choice.
Hideyoshi proposed to China the division of Korea: the north as a self-governing Chinese satellite, and the south to remain in Japanese hands. The peace talks were mostly carried out by Konishi Yukinaga, who did most of the fighting against the Chinese. The offer was taken into consideration until Hideyoshi also demanded one of Chinese princesses to be sent as his concubine. Then the offer was promptly rejected. These negotiations were kept secret from the Korean Royal Court, which had no say in the negotiations.
By May 18, 1593, all the Japanese soldiers had retreated back to Japan. In the summer of 1593, a Chinese delegation visited Japan and stayed at the court of Hideyoshi for more than a month. The Ming government withdrew most of its expeditionary force, but kept 16,000 men on the Korean peninsula to guard the truce.
An envoy from Hideyoshi reached Beijing in 1594. Most of the Japanese army had left Korea by the autumn of 1596; a small garrison nevertheless remained in Busan. Satisfied with the Japanese overtures, the imperial court in Beijing dispatched an embassy to allow retired Regent (Taikō (太閤)) Hideyoshi to have the title of "King of Japan" on condition of complete withdrawal of Japanese forces from Korea.
The Ming ambassador met Hideyoshi in October 1596 but there was a great deal of misunderstanding about the context of the meeting. Hideyoshi was enraged to learn that China insulted the Emperor of Japan by presuming to cancel the Emperor's divine right to the throne, offering to recognize Hideyoshi instead. To insult the Chinese, he demanded among other things, a royal marriage with the Wanli Emperor's daughter, the delivery of a Korean prince as hostage, and four of Korea's southern provinces.
Peace negotiations soon broke down and the war entered its second phase when Hideyoshi sent another invasion force. Early in 1597, both sides resumed hostilities.
Korean military reorganization
Proposal for military reforms
During the period between the First and Second invasion, the Korean government had a chance to examine the reasons on why they had been easily overrun by the Japanese. Yu Seong-ryong, the Prime Minister, spoke out about the Korean disadvantage.
Yu pointed out that Korean castle defences were extremely weak, a fact which he had already pointed out before the war. He noted how Korean castles had incomplete fortifications and walls that were too easy to scale. He also wanted cannons set up in the walls. Yu proposed building strong towers with gun turrets for cannons. Besides castles, Yu wanted to form a line of defences in Korea. He proposed to create a series of walls and forts, all enveloping Seoul in the center.
Yu also pointed out how efficient the Japanese army was, in that it took them only one month to reach Seoul, and how well trained they were. The organized military units the Japanese generals deployed was a large part of the Japanese success.[verification needed] Yu noted how the Japanese moved their units in complex maneuvers, often weakening the enemy with arquebuses, then attacking with melee weapons. Korean armies often moved forward as one body without any organization.
Military Training Agency
King Seonjo and the Korean court finally began to reform the military. In September 1593, the Military Training Agency was established. The agency carefully divided up the army into units and companies. Within the companies were squads of archers, arquebusers, and edged weapon users. The agency set up divisional units in each region of Korea and battalions were garrisoned at castles. The number of members in the agency soon grew to about 10,000, which originally had less than 80 members.
One of the most important changes were the eligible people that could be conscripted. Both upper class citizens and slaves were subject to the draft, and all males had to enter military service to be trained and familiarized with weapons.
The creation of the Military Training Agency was halfhearted and under-developed. In addition, nearly all the reforms Yu had called for were again ignored. The lack of manpower and a devastated economy put Korea in nearly the same position as in the first invasion. Although the second invasion was quickly repelled with the help of China, Korea ultimately failed to reform the military.
Second invasion (1597–1598)
|Japanese second invasion wave|
|Army of the Right|
|Army of the Left|
Hideyoshi was unsatisfied with the first campaign and decided to attack Korea again. One of the main differences between the first and second invasions was that conquering China was no longer a goal for the Japanese. Failing to gain a foothold during Kato Kiyomasa's Chinese campaign and the full retreat of the Japanese during the first invasion affected Japanese morale. Hideyoshi and his generals instead planned to conquer Korea.
Instead of the 9 divisions during the first invasion, the armies invading Korea were divided into the Army of the Left and the Army of the Right, consisting of about 49,600 men and 30,000 respectively.
Soon after the Chinese ambassadors returned safely to China in 1597, Hideyoshi sent 200 ships with approximately 141,100 men under the overall command of Kobayakawa Hideaki. Japan's second force arrived unopposed on the southern coast of Gyeongsang province in 1596. However, the Japanese found that Korea was both better equipped and ready to deal with an invasion this time. In addition, upon hearing this news in China, the imperial court in Beijing appointed Yang Hao (楊鎬) as the supreme commander of an initial mobilization of 55,000 troops from various (and sometimes remote) provinces across China, such as Sichuan, Zhejiang, Huguang, Fujian, and Guangdong. A naval force of 21,000 was included in the effort. Rei Huang, a Chinese historian, estimated that the combined strength of the Chinese army and navy at the height of the second campaign was around 75,000. Korean forces totaled 30,000 with General Gwon Yul's army in Gong Mountain (공산; 公山) in Daegu, General Gwon Eung's (권응) troops in Gyeongju, General Gwak Jae-woo's soldiers in Changnyeong (창녕), Yi Bok-nam’s (이복남) army in Naju, and Yi Si-yun's troops in Chungpungnyeong.
Initially the Japanese found little success, being confined mainly to Gyeongsang province and only managing numerous short range attacks to keep the much larger Korean and Chinese forces off balance. All through out the second invasion Japan would mainly be on the defensive and locked in at Gyeongsang province. The Japanese planned to attack Jeolla Province in the southwestern part of the peninsula and eventually occupy Jeonju, the provincial capital. Korean success in the Siege of Jinju in 1592 had saved this area from further devastation during the first invasion. Two Japanese armies, under Mori Hidemoto and Ukita Hideie, began the assault in Busan and marched towards Jeonju, taking Sacheon and Changpyong along the way.
Siege of Namwon
Namwon was located 30 miles southeast from Jeonju. It was the largest fortress in Jeolla Province, and a coalition force of 6,000 soldiers (including 3,000 Chinese) and civilian volunteers were readied to fight the approaching Japanese forces. The Japanese laid siege to the walls of the fortress with ladders and siege towers. The two sides exchanged volleys of arquebuses and bows. Eventually the Japanese forces scaled the walls and sacked the fotress. According to Japanese commander Okochi Hidemoto, author of the Chosen Ki, the Siege of Namwon resulted in 3,726 casualties on the Korean and Chinese forces' side. The entire Jeolla Province fell under Japanese control, but as the battle raged on the Japanese found themselves hemmed in on all sides in a retreat and again positioned in a defensive perimeter only around Gyeongsang province.
Battle of Hwangseoksan
Hwangseoksan Fortress consisted of extensive walls that circumscribed the Hwangseok mountain and garrisoned thousands of soldiers led by the general Jo Jong-Do and Gwak Jun. When Kato Kiyomasa laid siege on the mountain with a large army, the Koreans lost morale and retreated with 350 casualties. Even with this incident the Japanese were still unable to break free from Gyeongsang province and was reduced to holding a defensive position only, with constant attacks from the Chinese and Korean forces.
The Korean navy played a crucial part in the second invasion, as in the first. The Japanese advances were halted due to the lack of reinforcements and supplies as the frequent naval victories of the allied forces prevented the Japanese from accessing the south-western side of the Korean peninsula. Also, China sent a large number of Chinese fleets to aid the Koreans. This made the Korean navy an even bigger threat to the Japanese, since they had to fight a larger enemy fleet.
However, the war at sea took off on a bad start when Won Gyun took Admiral Yi's place as commander.
Because Admiral Yi, the commander of the Korean navy, was so able in naval warfare, the Japanese plotted to demote him by making use of the laws that governed the Korean military. A Japanese double agent working for the Koreans falsely reported that Japanese General Kato Kiyomasa would be coming on a certain date with a great Japanese fleet in another attack on Korean shores, and insisted that Admiral Yi be sent to lay an ambush.
Knowing that the area had sunken rocks detrimental to the ships, Admiral Yi refused, and he was demoted and jailed by King Seonjo for refusing orders. On top of this, Admiral Won Gyun accused Admiral Yi of drinking and idling. Won Gyun was quickly put in Admiral Yi's place. The replacement of Admiral Yi by Admiral Won would soon bring the destruction of the Korean navy at Chilchonryang.
At the Battle of Chilchonryang, Won Gyun was completely outmanuevered by the Japanese and overwhelmed by arquebuse fire and the Japanese traditional boarding attacks. Won Gyun's fleet had more than 100 ships, carefully accummulated by Admiral Yi. However, the battle destroyed the entire Korean fleet. However, before the battle, Bae Soel, an officer ran away with 13 panokseons, the entire fighting force of the Korean navy for many months.
The Battle of Chilchonryang is Japan's only naval victory of the war. Won Gyun was killed in the battle.
After the debacle in Chilcheollyang, King Seonjo immediately reinstated Admiral Yi. Admiral Yi quickly returned to Yeosu only to find his entire navy destroyed. Yi re-organized the navy, now reduced to 12 ships and 200 men from the previous battle.. Nonetheless, Admiral Yi's strategies did not waver, and on September 16, 1597, he led the small Korean fleet against a Japanese fleet of 300 war vessels in the Myeongnyang Strait. The Battle of Myeongnyang resulted in a Korean victory with at least 133 Japanese vessels sunk, and the Japanese were forced to return to Busan, under the orders of Mori Hidemoto. Admiral Yi won back the control of the Korean shores. The Battle of Myeongnyang is considered Admiral Yi's greatest battle because of the disparity of numbers.
Siege of Ulsan
By late 1597, the Joseon and Ming allied forces achieve victory in Jiksan. Japanese forces also defeated the Korean forces at Sangju, and laid siege on Gyeongju. After the news of the loss at Myeongnyang, Kato Kiyomasa decided to destroy Gyeongju, the former capital of the Silla kingdom. Japanese forces temporarily control of Gyeongju. The Bulguksa temple, a prominent place in Korean Buddhism, was entirely detroyed in the process (it has since been restored). However Joseon and Ming allied forces repulse the Japanese forces. The Japanese proceeded to retreat south to Ulsan, a harbor that had been an important Japanese trading post a century before, and which Kato had chosen as a strategic stronghold.
Yet Admiral Yi's control of the areas over the Korea Strait permitted no supply ships to reach the western side of the Korean peninsula, into which many extensive tributaries merge. Without provisions and reinforcements, the Japanese forces had to remain in the coastal fortresses known as wajo that they still controlled. To gain advantage of the situation, the Chinese and Korean coalition forces attacked Ulsan. This siege was the first major offensive from the Chinese and Korean forces in the second phase of the war.
The effort of the Japanese garrison (about 7,000 men) of Ulsan was largely dedicated to its fortification in preparation for the expected attack. Kato Kiyomasa assigned command and defense of the base to Kato Yasumasa, Kuki Hirotaka, Asano Nagayoshi, and others before proceeding to Sosaengpo. The Chinese Ming troops' first assault on January 29, 1598, caught the Japanese army unawares and still encamped, for the large part, outside Ulsan's unfinished walls. A total of around 36,000 troops with the help of singijeons and hwachas nearly succeeded in sacking the fortress, but reinforcements under the overall command of Mori Hidemoto came across the river to aid the besieged fortress and prolonged the hostilities. Later, the Japanese troops were running out of food and victory was imminent for the allied forces, but Japanese reinforcements arrived from the rear of the Chinese and Korean troops and forced them to a stalemate. After several losses, however, Japan's position in Korea had significantly weakened.
Battle of Sacheon
During the autumn of 1597, the Korean and Chinese allies repelled the Japanese forces from reaching Jiksan (present-day Cheonan). Without any hope of conquering Korea, the Japanese commanders prepared to retreat. From the beginning of spring in 1598, the Korean forces and 100,000 Chinese soldiers began to retake castles on the coastal areas. The Wanli Emperor of China sent a fleet under the artillery expert Chen Lin in May 1598; this naval force saw action in joint operations with the Koreans against the Japanese navy. In June 1598, under Commander Konishi Yukinaga's warning of the dire situations in the campaign, 70,000 troops were withdrawn and 60,000 troops were left behind — mostly Satsuma soldiers under the Shimazu clan commanders Shimazu Yoshihiro and his son Tadatsune. The remaining Japanese forces fought desperately, turning back Chinese attacks on Suncheon and Sacheon.
The Chinese believed that Sacheon was crucial in their program to retake the lost castles and ordered an attack. Although the Chinese were ascendant initially, the tide of battle turned when Japanese reinforcements attacked the rear of the Chinese army and the Japanese soldiers inside the fortress counter-attacked through the gates. The Chinese Ming forces retreated with 30,000 losses. However, numerous assaults on the Japanese position in the coastal fortresses weakened the Japanese forces and were barely controlling the coastal areas.
Death of Hideyoshi
On September 18, 1598, Hideyoshi ordered the withdrawal of forces from Korea on his deathbed and died peacefully in his sleep. The Council of Five Elders made a secret of Hideyoshi's death to preserve morale and sent the decree in late October to the Japanese commanders to withdraw.
Battle of Noryang Point
The Battle of Noryang Point was the final naval battle in the war. The Korean navy under Admiral Yi had recovered from its losses and was aided by the Chinese navy under Chen Lin. Intelligence reports revealed that 500 Japanese ships were anchored in the narrow straits of Noryang in order to withdraw the remaining Japanese troops. Noting the narrow geography of the area, Admiral Yi and Chen Lin led a surprise attack against the Japanese fleet at 2:00 am on December 16, 1598.
By dawn, nearly half of the Japanese battle ships were destroyed; as the Japanese began to withdraw, Admiral Yi ordered the final charge to destroy the remaining few ships. As Yi's flagship sped forward, he was shot on the left side of his chest under the arm. Only 3 nearby captains, including his cousin, saw his death. Yi told his captains to keep his death secret and to continue the battle so that the morale of the soldiers would not drop. Admiral Yi died in minutes.
The battle ended as an allied victory and a Japanese loss of nearly 250 battleships out of the original 500. Only after the battle did the soldiers learn of Yi's death, and it is said that Chen Lin lamented that Yi died in his stead.
There are marked similarities between the Battle of Noryang Point and the Battle of Salamis, which was fought between the Greeks and the Persians in 480 BC, on the tactical, strategic and even operational levels.
Although Hideyoshi's invasions were eventually repelled, they left deep scars in Korea. Farmland was devastated, irrigation dikes destroyed, villages and towns burned down, and the population plundered and dispersed.
Pottery and blacksmithing
Japanese soldiers kidnapped an estimated 200,000 skilled workers such as celadon makers, artisans, blacksmiths, and craftsmen, bringing their captives to Japan to help develop and expand Japan's crafts during and after the war.
The Japanese gained technologically during and after the war in a variety of fields as a result, particularly in the production of pottery, which came to be very heavily based on Korean models.
The Japanese looted and stole many Korean artifacts during this conflict. Even to this day, many of those Korean cultural artifacts and paintings taken at that time remain within Japanese museums or held by private collectors. This issue remains the subject of one of several ongoing conflicts between South Korea and Japan.
Korea, Japan, and China after the war
In 1598 alone, the Japanese took some 38,000 ears and heads as trophies. An estimated 100,000 Koreans were eventually sold as slaves to Portuguese traders and dispersed to various European colonies around the world. A survey conducted in 1601 revealed that the productive capacity of farmlands had been reduced from 1.5–1.7 million gyeol, assessed in 1592, to 30,000 gyeol. Most of Seoul, the capital city, was laid waste. The royal palace was heavily damaged and the markets were destroyed. Famine and disease came to be endemic. Land and census registers were destroyed, with the result that the goverment was hard pressed to collect taxes and to enforce labor service.
With the death of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu eventually gained control of Japan and established 300 years of political stability.
Ming Dynasty China had invested enormous human and material resources in Korea, which depleted the state treasury and weakened its northeastern border against the emerging power of the Manchu. The Ming Dynasty eventually crumbled after wars against the Manchu.
Following the war, political and economic relations between Korea and Japan were completely suspended. Negotiations between the Korean court and the Tokugawa Shogunate were carried out via the Japanese daimyo of Tsushima Island, Sō Yoshitomo, who had avoided intervening in the invasion. The Sō clan desired to restore commercial relations between Korea and Japan at the time, as they relied on Chinese and Korean silk for kimonos and various other mainland technologies. Tokugawa Ieyasu favoured peaceful relations abroad.
In the spring of 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu released 3,000 captives. In 1608, an embassy of three officials and 270 men was sent to Edo and received by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada, Ieyasu's son. As a result of the visit, thousands of prisoners were returned to Korea, and Japanese captives were repatriated. Following this, limited trade relations were restored.
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- 이민웅 [Yi, Min-Woong], 임진왜란 해전사 [Imjin Wae-ran Haejeonsa: The Naval Battles of the Imjin War], 청어람미디어 [Chongoram Media], 2004, ISBN 89-89722-49-7.
- Timeline of the Japanese invasions of Korea — incomplete
- List of battles during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598)
- Military history of Korea
- Naval history of Korea
- Military history of Japan
- Military history of China
- Immortal Yi Soon-shin (TV series)
- List of wars
- List of Korea-related topics