Imo Incident

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Imo Incident
Hangul 임오군란
Hanja 壬午軍亂
Revised Romanization Imo gullan
McCune–Reischauer Imo kullan

The Imo Incident, also known as Imo mutiny, was a military revolt of some units of the Korean military in Seoul on July 23, 1882. "Imo" (Hangul: 임오; hanja: 壬午) is the 19th year in the sexagenary cycle, which was traditionally used in East Asia to count years. It corresponds to the year 1882.


A variety of causes for this brief disturbance have been put forward. In part, some explain the flare-up of violence by pointing to provocative policies and conduct by Japanese military advisors who had been in Korea since 1881.[1]

According to other sources, the revolt broke out in part because of Emperor Gojong's support for reform and modernization. The revolt was also explained in part as a reaction to Gojong's support for Japanese military advisors.[2] Some sources credit rumor as the spark which ignited violence. Some were worried by the prospect of incorporating Japanese officers in a new army structure.[3]

The disturbance is sometimes characterized as the "Imo Mutiny" (Imo kullan), and its cause is attributed to a dispute about unpaid wages.[4] It has also been called the "Soldier's riot"; and the unplanned flare-up of violence is said to have been a reaction to finding sand and bad rice in soldiers' rations.[5]

Japanese sources identify the incident as the "Jingo Incident" (壬午事変 Jingo-jihen?), jingo being the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters representing imo (renwu in Mandarin Chinese). Whatever its causes, violence did erupt;[3] and the incident produced unplanned consequences.


"The Korean Uprising of 1882" — woodblock print by Toyohara Chikanobu, 1882

Dissatisfaction with the Korean government was the initial focus of the violence. Some government officials were killed by the rioters. Homes of high government ministers were destroyed and Changdeok Palace was occupied by soldiers. The rioting general population of Seoul swelled the ranks of the dissatisfied army units.[6]

In the midst of the chaos, the regent father of the king, Daewongun, took power and tried to re-establish order. He supported soldiers' complaints.[3]

Anti-Japanese riots[edit]

Anti-Japanese sentiments among the rioters developed and grew. The Japanese legation was overrun.[7]

Hanabusa Yoshitada, the Japanese minister to Korea and his aides were forced to flee the legation.[8] They escaped to the sea in a small boat and were rescued by a British ship, the Flying Fish. During the day of rioting, a number of Japanese were killed, including Horimoto Reijo.[7]


The Chinese dispatched troops;[2] and three warships were sent to Seoul.

In the aftermath of rioting, Daewongun was accused of fomenting the disturbance and its violence.[8] Heungseon Daewongun was arrested by Chinese troops.[3] He spent 3 years in China and returned to Korea in 1885.

The Japanese government sent Ambassador Hanabusa back to Seoul. His security was ensured by four naval warships, three cargo ships and a battalion of armed soldiers.[8]


  1. ^ Tsuru, Shigeto. (2000). The Political Economy of the Environment: the Case of Japan, p. 45., p. 45, at Google Books
  2. ^ a b Pratt, Keith L. et al. (1999). "Imo Incident" in Korea: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary, pp. 184-185., p. 184, at Google Books
  3. ^ a b c d Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al. (2005). "Jingo-jihen" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 422., p. 422, at Google Books
  4. ^ Rhee, Syngman et al. (2001). iB8R0oEH3kEC, p. 166, at Google Books
  5. ^ Kang, Jae-eun et al. (2006). The Land of Scholars: Two Thousand Years of Korean Confucianism, p. 462., p. 462, at Google Books; 임오군란 壬午軍亂, Doosan Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Kang, p. 462-463., p. 462, at Google Books
  7. ^ a b Kang, p. 463., p. 463, at Google Books
  8. ^ a b c Iwao, Seiichi. (2002). "Saimoppo jōyaku" in Dictionnaire historique du Japon, Vol. II, p. 2314., p. 2314, at Google Books


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