Kim Hong-jip

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This is a Korean name; the family name is Kim.
Kim Hong-jip
Kim Hong-jip.jpg
Korean name
Hangul 김홍집
Revised Romanization Gim Hong-jip
McCune–Reischauer Kim Hongjip
Pen name
Hangul 도원
Revised Romanization Dowon
McCune–Reischauer Towŏn
Courtesy name
Hangul 경능
Revised Romanization Gyeongneung
McCune–Reischauer Kyŏngnŭng

Kim Hong-jip (1842–1896) was a Korean politician best known for his role as prime minister during the Gabo Reform period from 1895-1896. His name was initially Kim Goeng-jip; he later changed it to Kim Hong-jip (Hangul김굉집). His father, Kim Young-jak, served as 'Kai-sung mayor' in the Joseon Dynasty.

In 1880, Kim Hong-jip had undertaken an official mission to Japan where he learned first-hand of the modernizing reforms taking place in that country. This inspired in him a profound desire to effect such changes in Korea.[1] After the Gapsin Coup, he became the first vice-premier 'Jwauijeong' and entered into the 'Korea-Japan Treaty of 1885'. Then, in 1896, Hong-jip was appointed as prime minister to suppress the Donghak Peasant Revolution. During this period, he abolished the caste system in Joseon Dynasty and carried out the ordinance prohibiting topknots. After the assassination of Queen Min, "pro-Japan cabinet members like Kim Hong-jip and O Yun-jung were killed."[2]

Sightseeing and Observation of Japan[edit]

In the summer of 1880, Kim Hong-jip went to Japan with Yun Ung-nyeol and Ji Seog-yeong. This party was called 'Susinsa'. Hong-jip's party took a Japanese ship, 'Chitose', and arrived on Tokyo in July 1880. They observed and studied Japan's modernization carefully while they stayed in Tokyo, and their ideology became Pro-Japanese. They agitated the Joseon to open Incheon ports to trade and claimed that the Japanese minister should reside in Joseon. These behaviors were Pro-Japanese activities, and Hong-jip's party forgot their duties as a 'Susinsa'. They were also surprised at Japan's hygiene, railroad, and operation of a steam train and car.[3]

After returning to Joseon, Hong-jip introduced Huang Zunxian's stratagem of Joseon with the purpose of creating an enlightened Joseon. He was then promoted to the position of Minister of Culture and Education in the Joseon Dynasty. But, he resigned because of movement against enlightenment by Confucian scholar. With Queen Min and Gojong's confidence, he resumed his seat as a Minister of 'Tongrigimuamun', which was a department that handled military secrets and general politics. He asserted that Joseon should join with Japan, Qing dynasty and America in order to contribute to global development. However, he was constantly argued against and labeled as 'Pro-Japanese' by a Confucian scholar who opposed enlightenment.[4]

Return to Joseon and Political activities[edit]

After returning to Joseon in1882, Kim Hong-jip was re-appointed to the Joseon Dynasty because, at that time, Joseon was confronted by many problems, including demanding trade from America and post treatment of Imo Incident. He finalized the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1882 with Japan, and also made many agreements with Britain, Germany and America. Hong-jip finalized the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1882, using his diplomatic ability, and because of this, Joseon did not accommodate Japan's requirements. Due to this accomplishment, Hong-jip was promoted to governor of Gyeonggi-do.[5]

Then, Hong-jip was sent to Qing dynasty, Tientsin, for liberation of Heungseon Daewongun. For the purpose of liberation, he persuaded and negotiated with Li Hongzhang,who was a head of that incident. Also, he finalized the China-Korea Treaty of 1882, a trade agreement. In 1883, he served in many positions and became a practical head of foreign policy. He thought it was important for Joseon to cooperate with other nations for Joseon's development. To do that, he also thought that Joseon should developed gradually, not radically. But his thought caused a hostility from Confucian scholar, and even Heungseon Daewongun had a cynical attitude toward him. In 1884, when the Gapsin Coup happened, Kim Hong-jip was appointed "Jwauijeong" and became an ambassador plenipotentiary, but he resigned because of the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1885. He was then demoted to a less important post, and he insisted an significance of opening a port. He was re-appointed to Jwauijeong in 1887, but resigned shortly after because local Confucian scholars denounced Hong-jip as a traitor.[6]

Kim Hong-jip cabinet[edit]

During Donghak Peasant Revolution, Queen Min first asked for auxiliary troops to Qing dynasty, but Japan infiltrated Joseon using the Convention of Tientsin. Kim Hong-jip formed cabinets in four times to enlist the help of Japan from 1894 until 1896.[7]

The First Cabinet[edit]

July 23, 1894, Japanese troops attacked Gyeongbokgung Palace and took over the armory to help Hong-jip's forces. Hong-jip organized the First Cabinet and became the prime minister. He brought back Heungseon Daewongun from Qing, then proceeded with Gabo Reform. He set up an organization for reform,'Gungukkimucheo', and became a governor of that organization. During the Gabo Reform, his cabinet abolished Gwageo, which was Joseon's imperial examination. Also, they reformed the monetary system, government system, and the weights and measures system.

The Second Cabinet[edit]

December 17, 1894, Japan brought Heungseon Daewongun down because he didn't follow Japanese way. Then, Japan broke up 'Gungukkimucheo' and brought back Park Young-hyo, who was in exile. So, the second cabinet was a Kim Hong-jip and Park Young Hyo's coalition cabinet. They wrote a doctrine, Hongbeom-14 articles' which contained a reformation spirit. They also reorganized Joseon's government department that changed '8 A-mun' to '7 Bu'. They also reshuffled Joseon's territory that changed '8 Do' to '23 Bu'. The cabinet announced a protocol of entry education and established a normal school. However, Hong-jip resigned from the minister position a short time later because of feuds with Park.

The Third Cabinet[edit]

Kim Hong-jip's third cabinet was organized after Qing-Japanese war. As a result of Japanese victory, Japan occupied the peninsular Liaodung. Other imperialist nations like France, Russia, and Germany didn't support Japan's expansion, so they pressured Japan using the Triple Intervention. In this period, Joseon had a Russophilism cabinet, whose header was Kim Hong-jip. Because Japan felt threatened, they killed Queen Min, and the third cabinet collapsed.

The Fourth Cabinet[edit]

The Fourth Cabinet was a last Hong-jip's Cabinet. This Cabinet was a pro-Japanese. At first, Kim Hong-jip declined the position of minister, though the king Gojong pleaded to him. But, the King was afraid of Japan, and he carried out 'Korea royal refuge at the Russian legation'. Hong-jip was surprised at that decision and wanted to meet Gojong. Unfortunately, Gojong issued an order to arrest pro-Japanese officials. In the end, Hong-jip and his subordinates were killed by the public.

The Last Period of His Lifetime[edit]

Pro-Japanese suspicion[edit]

Kim Hong-jip tried to change the legislative systems and garments of Joseon, and adopt the government structure of Japan. Also, he implemented a solar calendar and the postal system to Joseon. Those changes were influenced by Japan. According to the one report, there were some assertions that Hong-jip held the additional post of Gungukkimucheo's master. During this period, he attracted Japanese ministers to his cabinet and empowered them.[8]

An attempted suicide[edit]

In October 8, 1895, Queen Min was assassinated by Japanese, and Kim Hong-jip attempted suicide. Just in time, Yu Kil-chun visited Hong-jip's house and stopped him from completing the act. He persuaded Hong-jip by saying, "Please calm down sir and listen to me. Your death cannot resolve anything. The queen already was killed and the situation has occurred. This state is that Japan stroke to us. However, It is a loyal work for king and nation to resolve a crisis. It is never too late to die after we do that. So please take it easy and deliberate on my opinion.″

Then, Hong-jip replied to Kil-chun like, "I know what you say. We endure all humiliation to the end for reformation and preservation of Joseon. However I do not forgive Japan for killing our queen. As a major and loyal servant, how can I granted an audience with king and our subjects? My situation is different from yours. You have an important mission which resolve this crisis and save our nation, but in my case, there is only way that kill myself."[9]

Persistently, Yu Kil-chun convinced Hong-jip and brought him to the royal court. At last, in October 9, 1895, the fourth cabinet was constructed.


Kim Hong-jip's cabinet was a pro-Japanese cabinet. They implemented 'the ordinance prohibiting topknots' which was a radical policy, because of this, there were many rebellion in Joseon. In 1896, Russophilia became more powerful, This caused 'Korea royal refuge at the Russian legation'. As a result, Hong-jip's cabinet collapsed and he was killed by the public. Angry subjects trampled him to death. Joseon government got his corpse and cut off his head then expose his head in Gwanghwamun. His corpse was divided into 8 parts and sent to each region of Joseon. As Hong-jip's wife was afraid of the guilt-by-association system, she killed their sons and killed herself. Because Hong-jip's daughters were married before, they were able to avoid punishment.[10]


  1. ^ Lee Ki-baek,down because he didn't follow Japanese way. Japan broke up 'Gungukkimucheo' and brought back Park Young-hyo who was in exile. So, The Second Cabinet was established as 'Kim and Park's' coalition cabinet. They wrote a doctrine, 'Hongbeom-14articles', which contained a reformation spirit. But Hong-jip resigned from minitserrby feuds with Park. ea. Translated by Edward W. Wagner with Edward J. Shultz (Seoul: Ichokak Publishers, 1984), p. 270.
  2. ^ Lee Ki-baek, A New History of Korea., op. cit., p. 300.
  3. ^ "한국근현대사사전(Korean Modern History Encyclopedia)  : 수신사(Susinsa)". 
  4. ^ "The Academy of Korean Studies(한국학중앙연구원):수신사(Susinsa)". 
  5. ^ "두산백과(Doopedia)  : 김홍집(Kim Hong-jip)". 
  6. ^ "『고종시대사 6』(History of Gojong's Period 6)  : 국사편찬위원회(National History Compilation Committee), 1969, 583p". 
  7. ^ "The Academy of Korean Studies(한국학중앙연구원)  : 김홍집(Kim Hong-jip)". 
  8. ^ "한국근현대사사전(Korean Modern History Encyclopedia  : 김홍집(Kim Hong-jip)". 
  9. ^ "『유길준전』(A Book about Yoo kil-chun)  : 유동준(Yoo Dong-jun). 일조각(Iljogak), 1997, 205p". 
  10. ^ "네이버캐스트(Navercast)  : 김홍집(Kim Hong-jip)". 
  • Kim Sang-ung(July 1, 1995).《100 years of Pro-Japanese Politics》. Seoul:East wind. p37
  • Yoo Young-ik(1990).《Research of Gabo Reform》. Yiljogak.
  • 《Global World Encyclopedia》. (Policy of Enlightenment and reverbelation).