In October 1897, in an effort to defend the nation’s sovereignty against foreign powers, King Gojong changed the name of the state from the “Joseon Dynasty” to the “Korean Empire,” and thus became “Emperor Gojong.” At the same time, he attempted to implement sweeping reforms to the ruling system, all in the name of modernization.
However, after the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the status of the Korean Empire was reduced, as Japan seized control of the country’s international affairs. Then in 1910, Japan forcibly abolished the nation’s sovereignty, asserting control over all national affairs and initiating the Japanese Colonial Period (1910-1945).
Today, the period of the Korean Empire is usually remembered only as the time in which the country was lost to Japanese colonization. But the Korean Empire should be evaluated with due consideration of the specific circumstances of its time, as the nation struggled to balance between tradition and modernity. We must study the Korean Empire’s efforts to modernize through anti-feudalism and resistance to foreign powers.