The Imjin War (Chinese:壬辰倭亂; Korean: 임진 왜란 -- Imjin Waeran, lit. "Japanese Turmoil of the Year Imjin"); Japanese: 文禄, 慶長の役, lit. "Battles of Bunroku and Keicho") was the conflict from 1592 to 1598 on the Korean peninsula, following two successive Japanese invasions of Korea. Chinese :壬辰衛國戰爭
Toyotomi Hideyoshi initiated two invasions of Korea, in 1592 and again in 1597, with the professed aim of conquering China. In both campaigns, the Japanese were defeated by the expeditionary armies of Ming Dynasty China and local Korean forces, notably the naval fleet of Yi Sun-sin.
The war brought the local political, economic, and social order in Korea to a state of complete collapse. It also carried dramatic consequences for East Asian history. For Korea, the horrible devastation would leave the country in a perpetually weakened state until the Japanese returned and annexed Korea in 1910. In addition, the cost of the conflict also helped to bankrupt the Ming Dynasty and led to its eventual collapse at the hand of the Manchus.
The first invasion : Japanese: 文禄の役 Battle of Bunroku Korean: 임진 왜란; 壬辰倭亂 Japanese Turmoil of the Year Imjin
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who established his hegemony in Japan in the latter part of the 16th century, had hoped but failed to receive cooperation from the Ming Dynasty in his attempt to make himself the new Shogun. Motivated in part also by a need to satisfy the perpetual land hunger of his vassals and find employment for restive samurai, he began making plans for the conquest of China. He first made his intentions to conquer China known to Mori Terumoto in 1586, then set about trying to realize it after he defeated the clans of Shimazu and Hojo. First he intended to secure the Korean peninsula as an invasion route for his forces. After King Sonjo refused his offer of an alliance against China and military access for the Japanese troops, Hideyoshi launched a war against Korea in 1592 to secure passage to China.
The Japanese invasion of 1592 with 160,000 troops had great initial success mainly due to the element of surprise and its use of firearms. Two armies, under Konishi Yukinaga and Kato Kiyomasa, landed on the 25th and 26th of May and marched north. Konishi reached the Han River south of Seoul and entered the city on June 12, just 18 days after landing at Busan. King Seonjo and his court withdrew first to Songdo, then Pyongyang and finally to Uiju, on the Yalu River. Japanese troops ravaged many key towns in the southern part of Korea, took Pyongyang and advanced as far north as the Yalu and Tumen rivers. Korean marines and irregulars harassed the Japanese rear so no attempt was made by the Japanese to exploit their initial advantage.
In May and June, a small Korean fleet commanded by Yi Sun-sin destroyed several Japanese flotillas and wrought havoc on Japanese logistics. The Korean iron-roofed Geobukseon, or turtle ships, were technologically superior in almost every way. In all perhaps 72 Japanese vessels were sunk by the end of June.
In July, the Wanli Emperor, responding to King Seonjo's request for aid, sent a small force of 5,000, which was not enough to fend off the Japanese. At this juncture Hideyoshi, after suffering numerous setbacks, including logistical problems caused by Korean saboteurs and major naval defeats at the hands of the Korean navy, 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 promptly rejected.
Having seen the token forces they had sent to Korea wiped out, China sent a much large force in January 1593 under Song Yingchang and Li Rusong. The expeditionary army had a prescribed strength of 100,000, made up of 42,000 from five northern military districts, a contingent of 3000 soldiers proficient in the use of firearms from South China, and far more from Siam and the Ryukyus. Seaports in China were closed for fear that the Wokou invasions of the 1550s would be repreated. In February 1593 a large combined force of Chinese and Korean soldiers attacked Pyongyang and drove the Japanese into southward retreat. Li Rusong personally led a pursuit with a force of 1000 cavalry. He was checked by a large Japanese formation outside Seoul and thoroughly routed.
These engagements ended the first phase of the war, and peace negotiations followed. The Japanese evacuated Seoul in May and retreated to fortifications around Busan. Some Japanese soldiers left the army and settled down in Korea, even marrying Korean women. The ensuing truce was to last for close to four years.
The interlude - 和平交渉
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. Satisfied with Japanese overtures, the imperial court in Beijing dispatched an embassy to invest Hideyoshi with the title of "King of Japan" on condition of complete withdrawal of Japanese forces from Korea. Most of the Japanese army had left Korea by autumn 1596; a small garrison was nevertheless left in Busan. The Ming embassy was granted an audience with Hideyoshi in October 1596 but there was a great deal of misunderstanding about the context of the meeting. Hideyoshi considered himself the victor in the war, and was enraged to find out that he was to be installed as a tribute-bearing vassal. He demand 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 ceased and the war entered its second phase. Early in 1597 both sides resumed hostilities.
Soon after the Chinese embassy was given safe conduct home, 200 Japanese ships carrying a force of 140,000 were sent to Korea. The court in Beijing appointed Yan Hao as supreme commander of an initial mobilisation of 38,000 troops from as far away as Sichuan, Zhejiang, Huguang, Fujian, and Guangdong. These were assisted by a naval force of 21,000 men. Ray Huang has estimated the combined strength of the Ming army and navy at the height of the second campaign at 75,000 men.
The second invasion differed from the first in that the Japanese met with stronger resistance. They pushed to just south of Seoul in August 1597 but were turned back by a large Korean and Ming force that winter. As the Japanese retreated south through Gyeongsang-do they burned Gyeongju and destroyed and stole much of the historic and artistic legacy of Silla. Thereafter they were on the defensive. Naval operations, already deemed important in the first campaign, had a decisive influence on the outcome of the second. Following the loss of Hansan Island, Yi Sun-sin, who had been sent to jail, was reinstated. With his return the Koreans soon regained control over the waters of the straits, forcing the Japanese to land men to take defensive positions along the coast from Ulsan in the east to Suncheon in the west. On September 16, 1597, Yi led 12 ships against 133 Japanese ships in the Myongnyang Straits. The Koreans sank 31 enemy ships and forced a Japanese retreat. In November, the Japanese fleet was lured by Yi into a tide-race where the oar-driven turtle ships caused wholesale destruction.
By early 1598, the Japanese forces, hemmed in by Korean and Chinese armies, found themselves unable to break out of the south despite fierce fighting. The Wanli Emperor sent a Chinese fleet under artillery expert Chen Lin in May 1598; this naval force saw action in join manouvres with the Koreans. Konishi Yukinage warned that the Japanese position in Korea was untenable. Hideyoshi in turn ordered the withdrawal of close to half of the invading force, leaving mostly Satsuma warriors under Shimazu clan member commanders. The remaining Japanse forces fought fiercely, turning back Chinese attacks on Suncheon and Sacheon. The invasion was suddenly abandoned only when news of Hideyoshi's death on 18 September 1598 reached the Japanese camp late in Ocotber.
The Seven-Year War left deep scars in Korea. Farmlands were devastated, irrigation dikes were destroyed, villages and towns were burned down, the population was first plundered and then dispersed, and tens of thousands of skilled workers (celadon ware makers, craftsmen, artisans, etc) were either killed during the war or kidnapped to Japan as captives to help Japanese develop their crafts. In 1598 alone, the Japanese took some 38,000 ears as horrific trophies. The long war reduced the productive capacity of farmlands from 1,708,000 kyol to 541,000 kyol. Pillage and foraging by Chinese troops only added to the unmitigated tragedy of a war from which the peninsula kingdom never fully recovered.
Following the war, relations between Korea and Japan had been completely suspended. Japan was cut off from the technology of continental Asia. After the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, however, negotiations between the Korean court and the Tokugawa shogunate were carried out via the Japanese lord on Tsushima. In 1604, Tokugawa Ieyasu, needing to restore commercial relations with Korea in order to have access to the technology of the mainland again, met Korea's demands and released some 3000 captive Koreans. As a result, in 1607, a Korean mission visited Edo, and diplomatic and trade relations were restored on a limited basis.