Diplomacy in the Imjin War (1592-1598): Chosŏn Korea’s Steadfast Performance and its Survival

Diplomacy in the Imjin War (1592-1598): Chosŏn Korea’s Steadfast Performance and its Survival

Nam-lin Hur - Professor, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia

Tuesday, April 18, 2023 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm
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Room 203, Henry R. Luce Hall See map New Haven, CT 06511

In the war of Japan’s invasion of Chosŏn Korea (1592-1598) in which Ming China was involved, the three countries were all vigorously engaged in diplomacy while fighting on and off. In fact, diplomacy occupied a far longer period than what military confrontation did in this seven-year war. However, historians in the field by and large ignore Chosŏn Korea’s diplomatic agency. In particular, when it comes to a discussion of the diplomatic attempt from mid-1593 to 1596 for truce, Chosŏn Korea is missing. The discussion is almost invariably focused on the negotiations between Japan and Ming China with the assumption that Chosŏn Korea lacked diplomatic autonomy as a vassal country of Ming China. In this talk, Hur suggests that Chosŏn Korea survived from the disaster of Japan’s invasion thanks to its skillful diplomacy exercised toward both Ming China and Japan from early on in the war to its end. Indeed, Chosŏn Korea’s diplomatic performance, which was grounded in experience, practicality, and resourcefulness, helped bring Chinese troops and let them fight against the Japanese while decisively thwarting Japan’s war goals in the end. In contrast, Japan and Ming China, which were outmaneuvered by Chosŏn, failed to achieve what they wanted to produce through diplomacy and, as a result, suffered from the adverse consequences in one manner or another.


Nam-lin Hur (PhD, Princeton) is a professor in the Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia. His teaching and research involve international relations in premodern East Asia, premodern Korean/Japanese history, and East Asian Buddhism. He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled Food, Diplomacy, and Governance: Japan’s Invasion of Chosŏn Korea in 1592-1598 and Ming China’s Involvement. His recent publications on the Imjin War include: “Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Invasion of the Chosŏn Kingdom, 1592-1598” in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History (Oxford University Press, 2019), 27 pages (online publication); “Japan’s Invasion of Chosŏn Korea and Abduction of Koreans,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 81 (2021): 67-83; “Japan’s Invasions of Korea in 1592-98 and the Hideyoshi Regime,” in The Tokugawa World, edited by Gary P. Leupp and De-min Tao. London and New York: Routledge, 2022, pp. 23-45.

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Region: 
Japan, Korea, Transregional