The 1728 Musin Rebellion
Politics and Plotting in Eighteenth-Century Korea
Publication Year: 2016
The 1728 Musin Rebellion: Politics and Plotting in Eighteenth-Century Korea provides the first comprehensive account in English of the Musin Rebellion, an attempt to overthrow King Yŏngjo (1694–1776; r. 1724–1776), and the largest rebellion of eighteenth-century Korea. The rebellion proved unsuccessful, but during three weeks of fighting the government lost control of over a dozen county seats and the rebels drew popular support from the inhabitants of three southern provinces. The revolt profoundly unsettled the early years of Yŏngjo's reign and had considerable influence on the subsequent course of factionalism. In this keenly reasoned study, Andrew David Jackson investigates the causes, development, suppression, legacy, and significance of the bloody Musin Rebellion.
The Musin Rebellion had its roots in the factional conflicts surrounding Yŏngjo's troubled succession to the throne. Jackson analyzes an aspect of the conflict previously neglected by researchers, namely how the rebels managed to create an armed rebellion. He argues that the rebellion should be understood in the context of other attempts on power by factional members that occurred over a hundred-year period leading up to 1728. By exploring the political and military context of the event, the book demonstrates that the Musin Rebellion was not driven by systemic breakdown, regionalism, or ideology, but was a failed attempt by political players to take control of the court. Central to the eruption of violence in 1728 was the intervention of key rebel plotters, several of whom were serving officials with access to state military resources. The book provides an in-depth view of factional politics in the Chosŏn court, and the final section deals with the rebel legacy, bringing to the fore issues about managing, forming, and directing the historical memory of the rebellion.
Published by: University of Hawai'i Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Illustrations and Maps
This research is not the product of a single person and would not have been possible without the massive financial and intellectual support of various people and institutions. Many have provided important advice and contributed to this work in different ways, and I apologize to anyone I have omitted from this list. First, I would like to thank my supervisor, mentor, and inspiration, Anders Karlsson, for all his patient help over the years. Eugene Park went far beyond the call of duty to provide detailed feedback on my manuscript. Perry Iles spent...
Korea’s Chosŏn dynasty spanned more than half a millennium, lasting from 1392 until 1910. Its twenty-first king, Yŏngjo (1694–1776; r. 1724–1776), was one of the longest serving Chosŏn kings, but he faced a crisis early in his reign. On the twenty-second day of the ninth lunar month of 1725, barely a year into Yŏngjo’s rule, his astronomers—who observed and catalogued the sky on a daily basis—reported the strange movement of a star in the heavens, a curious occurrence accompanied by unusual thunder.3 For the Chosŏn...
Chapter One. The Political and Military Background to the 1728 Musin Rebellion
The events of eighteenth-century Chosŏn Korea occurred after two centuries of monumental change, and this is perhaps why until very recently eighteenth-century Korean history has not attracted as much scholarly attention as previous periods. Chosŏn Korea was part of what Chosŏn historian James Palais calls the “imaginary cosmological hierarchy” in which Ming China (1368–1644) stood at the center of the Sinitic world order comprising China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and other areas of East Asia.2 Surrounding...
Chapter Two. Factionalism and the Formation of the Musin Rebel Organization, 1720–1727
The Musin rebels did not start out as a fully formed and armed organization with a coherent military strategy. They did not in fact achieve this state of greater readiness until the eve of battle—the fourteenth day of the third month of 1728. The route that led them to this point was shaped by the intense Soron-Noron conflict that occurred during Kyŏngjong’s 1720–1724 rule and the first three years after Yŏngjo’s controversial accession to the...
Chapter Three. Plotting in the Aftermath of the Soron Restoration
Barely a month after the tumultuous events in court, Pak P’irhyŏn and Han Sehong turned up at Yi Yuik’s house in a state of panic. The cause of the panic was the Soron restoration. During their discussion, Pak and Han pointed out that if the Noron had remained in power, then the rebellion would have been “easy,” but now with the Soron back in office the situation for the rebels was very different. Of course, it was not the Chunso holding the reins of power, but the Wanso’s dominance of the bureaucracy that still...
Chapter Four. The Outbreak of Violence
When Yi Injwa and Chŏng Seyun openly marched into Ch’ŏngju in a funeral cortege on the evening of the fifteenth day of the third month of 1728, they wore the agreed-upon uniforms, which were the white clothes of mourners.2 The rebels also used shrines to pay homage to Kyŏngjong.3 In its selection of these signs and symbols, the rebel organization was carefully and publicly displaying its loyalty to the deceased King Kyŏngjong and was creating an identifiable ideological position in opposition to the government—one that pointed...
Chapter Five. Shaping the Legacy
On the twenty-sixth day of the third month, officials lined up Yi Sasŏng and Yi Yuik, had them publicly dismembered, and had their wives and children executed alongside them.2 By plotting rebellion, the two men had committed one of the Ten Abominations (Sip ak), crimes so vile in Confucian thought that they were said to defile the entire family, and thus the family, which had shared in the evil of the rebel, received the same punishment.3 The ultimate punishment for such a crime, decapitation, prevented...
Within the court discussions that followed the suppression, Yŏngjo raised and attempted to answer many of the questions that still challenge historians almost three hundred years later—questions about the ultimate causes of the rebellion, its widespread character, the ideology and motivation of the rebels, and the place of the rebellion in history. In the post-rebellion period, different groups competed for a more permanent political victory, and it is within this political struggle that we find answers to some of these...
About the References
The following works and editions are cited in abbreviated form in the notes:
KM refers to the Kamnallok (Musin Kamnallok; Record of the suppression of the rebellion of the Musin year) and CS to the Ch’ŏnŭi sogam (Illuminating mirror of righteousness): all citations include a folio number referring to the particular volume, and a page number referring to the Chosŏn tangjaeng kwan’gye charyojip....
Names and Places
About the Author
Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 9 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2016
OCLC Number: 947119066
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The 1728 Musin Rebellion