Confucian Statecraft and Korean Institutions. Yu Hyongwon and the Late Choson Dynasty - James B. Palais

(Darren Dugan) #1

one of the di scontented participants in the 1623 coup against K wanghaegun and
current vice-commander of troops in the northeast, rebelled against the gov-
ernment. He was able to muster 10,000 troops under his command while the
king could count on only 6,000 men, Because the king was reluctant to take the
17 ,000 on the northwestern frontier otf the front I ine because of the Manchu
threat, Yi Kwal was able to defeat government forces in three battles and seized
the capital, forcing King Injo to take refuge in Kongju. Although government
forces put down the rebellion and killed Yi K wal in less than two months, the
rebellion seriously weakened defenses in the northern provinces, depleted the
food and financial resources needed to supply the national army, and reduced
the number of available troops for frontier defense.^9
The rebellion only reinforced the policy to build up the capital at the expense
of the defense force on the northern frontier. The Royal Division was increased
from 260 to 1,000 men and put on a par with the Military Training Agency, but
only half its men served on duty at anyone time and its troops were not well
provisioned. 10 The new 20,000-man Anti-Manchu Division (Ch'ongyunggun)
for Kyonggi Province under Governor Yi So drew about 60 percent of the new
sogo soldiers created during Hideyoshi's invasions. Two thousand muskets and
three thousand bows were imported from Japan for the reorganized provincial
force, and the refurbished fort on Namhan Mountain was completed in 1626.
Since the fort did not have a permanent force of its own, troops had to be brought
in from the three southern provinces on an emergency basis. II

The Manchu Invasion of 1627

One might have expected the Korean court to pull in its horns after the debacle
ofYi K wal 's rebellion and adopt a more conciliatory policy toward the Manchus.
Unfortunately, the Westerner faction was incapable of modifying its line on for-
eign policy because of its strong moral convictions about the debt owed the Ming
and its sense of cultural superiority over the "barbarian" Manchus. Furthermore,
the operations of the Chinese general and freebooter, Mao Wen-lung, around
the Yalu River region had become a nuisance to the Manchus, who, after the
death of Nurhaci in 1626, were making preparations for an invasion of China
Even though the Korean government was already aware by 1626 that an inva-
sion was likely, it delayed transferring men from the southern provinces to the
north and rested content with preparing a number of forts and walled towns in
the northwest in P'yong'an Province along two anticipated invasion routes. Late
in 1626 it moved only about five or six thousand additional troops to the north-
west frontier before Manchu forces invaded Korea in February 1627.'2
A split in the chain of command had developed over the choice between com-
mitting all troops to defense against the Manchus or maintaining the protective
force around king and capital including the Namhan Mountain fort and the escape
route to Kanghwa Island. The former policy was supported by the supreme com-
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