Min Yong-hwan: A Political Biography

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The closing years of the Choson dynasty have received considerable attention from historians of Korea. Nevertheless, surprisingly few biographical studies have been written on the major Korean political figures of that time. The diplomat and scholar-official Min Yong-hwan (1861-1905), described by one contemporary Western observer as ""undoubtably the first Korean after the emperor,"" is considered to be the foremost patriot of Korea's Taehan era (1897-1910). This pioneering study of Min Yong-hwan is long overdue and provides us with a new perspective on a period of Korean history that still casts its shadow over the region today. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Min left behind a substantial collection of written works, including political essays and travel diaries. Based on these important documents and other primary source materials from Korea and the West, Michael Finch's study traces Min's life and political development from 1861 to 1905. It contributes substantially to our understanding of this period by looking beyond the established view of Korea as being polarized between reformists and reactionaries in the late Choson era. In doing so, it provides us with deeper insight into the full range of responses of the late Choson leadership to the dual challenges of internal stagnation and external intervention at the juncture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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University of Hawai'i Press
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