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Thursday, March 03, 2005



I kind of disagree. The relationship between China and Korea is drastically damaged when we boil it down to whether Korea was "independant" or a "vassal" state. Korea - the government and society - benefitted much from its relationship with China even though it eventually led in part to the weakness Korea found itself in during the 19th century when the industrial world's geopolitical ideas took over the weaker East Asia idea of the Middle Kingdom.

Also, Unified Silla and Koguryeo also benefitted from contact with China. They did fight to keep different Chinese dynasties from establishing colonial bases in their territory, but Korguryeo was the first Korean kingdom to incorporate Chinese governmental systems. Silla was considered "backward" compared to Paekchae and Korguryeo based on how little knowledge it had of "Chinese technological advances," but Silla and Unified Silla aggressively sought to pick and choose what items from Chinese civilization it would bring into Korean society.

It hurts more than it helps to look at geopolitical situations by trying to make a definative statement about whether country X was "truly independant" or a "vassal state" or similar argument.

Take France and the UK's relationship with the US after WWII. De Gaulle was of the opinion that France MUST find elements of disagreement with the US and Allies even when Free France was at its weakest, because he said to do nothing more than "agree with everything" the US wanted like he said Churchill was doing would forever make France little more than an American protectorate. Churchill, ontheother hand, believed the UK (and France) would never regain their pre-WWII (and WWI) strength in the world, and he decided the best way the UK could maintain a strong voice in the world and recover some of the globe spanning power it had before was to work closely with the United States.

Which of the two were correct? You could reasonably argue both points....


This is nonsense. Go back and read the piece again. It says that "a label explaining the history of the Chosun Dynasty in the Korea gallery of the London museum reads, "Korea was a vassal kingdom of China." NB: "A label explaining the history of the Chosun Dynasty in Korea". In other words, the statement in question is correct, as the Chosun dynasty was a vassal state of China. This sort of petty whingeing by VANK is so characteristic and self-demeaning and self-defeating.

Little Kim

We can't blame Japanese this time, look like Korean hippocrates want to change Korean history also. HA!

Justin Pak

No, I completely agree with this article. Joseon was without a doubt a vassal-state of Ming & Qing China.

The point made that Shilla & Goguryeo took elements from Chinese states also proves to be irrelevant. Chinese styled political institutions and culture were ADOPTED & ADAPTED to.

This is extremely key. The Korean rulers in times prior to Joseon were not obligated in any way towards the Chinese ones; however Joseon's were. That's the key difference. This is, from what I can gather, because Ming basically established Joseon. Goryeo wanted to campaign against the newly rising Ming Dynasty, but General Yi (later King Taejo of Joseon) turned his army back on Gaegyeong (Goryeo's capital) with the promise of power over Korea. The Joseon Dynasty should, if anything, be a kingdom Korea is proud of for its cultural flourishing, not for its political or economic accomplishments. It was the weakest era in Korean history by far.

China's culture was seen as central; we're in no way destroying sino-centrism, because it's completely true.

However, Korea excelled in the things it did adopt. Korea was often complimented by many Chinese rulers and scholars for its society (Goryeo & Joseon), its art & silk(Goryeo), its wealth (Shilla), devotion to their ruler (Shilla), and its beauty (Shilla, Goryeo & Joseon).

Account Deleted

I know I am Korean, so my opinion on this issue might be biased, also considering the fact that I am a member of the VANK. But I have to say, the whole issue on whether Chosun was a vassal state of China has been seen by other countries as an issue done discussing........ in the wrong way.

Chosun, according to Korean history, has indeed given tribute to China. However, anyone who can track information on correct Korean historic documents will see that Chosun has never been affected by China in its political decisions. Of course, we can also agree that China has tried to influence Chosun in its political area. Something we can't say that succeeded.

Also, some people argue that Chosun has followed China's culture in some aspects. Which also can be true... but not true. See, the aspects of culture that both existed in Chosun and China did basically come from China. But, the culture that was passed from China to Chosun can be seen as a result of trade, not from being a part of China. And many people do not know, or ignore this fact because they think Chosun has been a vassal state of China.

And although I do not want to start any discussions with bad feelings, I do not believe that "Ming basically established Joseon" as the commenter before me has said. General Yi(by the way, we state it as Lee) indeed has turned his army back to Gaegyeong on the way to go against the Ming. We call it Withdrawal on Wee-Hwa-Do. However, it wasn't because of the promise of power over Korea, as the previous commenter has stated. It was simply because General Lee did not belive going against the Ming, which he believed to be too powerful for Goryeo to go against, was going to do Goryeo any good.

To wrap things up, General Lee didn't promise to serve the Ming, he just wanted to be in a good relationship with it, so no harm would come to Chosun. And that is what the relationship between Chosun and China was. To portray it a little better, it was an alliance, although one country was, indeed, more powerful than the other.

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