|Revised Romanization||I Wan-yong|
Born to a prominent family in Gyeonggi-do province, Lee spent three years in the United States from 1887–1891. Lee was a founding member of the Independence Club established in 1896 and belonged to the ‘reform faction’ which wanted to westernize Korea and to open the country to foreign trade. Lee was a prominent government minister at the time of Eulsa Treaty of 1905, and was the most outspoken supporter of the pact which made the Korean Empire a protectorate of the Empire of Japan, thus stripping it of its diplomatic sovereignty. The treaty was signed in defiance of Korean Emperor Gojong, and he is thus accounted to be the chief of five ministers (including Park Jae-soon, Lee Ji-yong, Lee Geun-taek, Gwon Joong-hyun) who were later denounced as Five Eulsa Traitors in Korea.
Under Japanese Resident-General Ito Hirobumi, Lee was promoted to the post of prime minister from 1906-1910. Lee was instrumental in forcing Emperor Gojong to abdicate in 1907, after Emperor Gojong tried to publicly denounce the Eulsa Treaty at the second international Hague Peace Convention.
In 1910, Lee signed the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty by which Japan took full control over Korea, while Korean Emperor Sunjong refused to sign. For his cooperation with the Japanese, Lee was rewarded with a peerage in the Japanese kazoku system, becoming a hakushaku (Count), in 1910, which was raised to the title of kōshaku (Marquis) in 1921. He died in 1926.
After the independence of Korea at the end of World War II, the grave of Lee was dug up and his remains suffered the posthumous dismemberment, which is often considered to be the most disgraceful punishment in Confucian ideology[verification needed]. Lee Wan-Yong's name has almost become synonymous to that of ‘traitor’ in modern Korea[verification needed].
The Special law to redeem pro-Japanese collaborators' property was enacted in 2005 and the committee confiscated the property of the descendants of nine people that had collaborated with Japan when Korea was annexed by Japan in August 1910. Lee is one of those heading the list.
- English JoongAng Ilbo August 30, 2001
- "Cho (who spoke fluent Japanese) called that night on Terauchi an told him that he and Yi agreed that unless the name Han-guk and the title of king were retained, no compromise could be reached. They were apparently under the impression that annexation would be a union of two countries, each retaining sovereign status, rather in the manner of Austria-Hungary or Sweden-Norway. Terauchi was surprised by this lack of understanding of Japanese aims, but he finally agreed to allow the country to be known by the old name of Chosen." Keene, Donald. Emperor of Japan: Meiji and his world, 1852-1912 (2002) pg. 674
- Committee OKs Seizure of Collaborators’ Property The Chosun Ilbo,December 7, 2005
- South Korea: Crackdown On Collaborators The New York Times, December 24, 2007