Imo Incident

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

The Imo Incident, also known as the 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 training the new Special Skills Force 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]


"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, the Heungseon Daewongun, took power and tried to re-establish order. He supported soldiers' complaints.[3]

The rebelling soldiers attacked the home of Min Gyeom-ho who held joint appointments of Minister of Military Affairs and the high-level official of the Agency to Bestow Blessings. They also lynched Heungin-gun, Yi Choe-Heung and attempted to murder Queen Min even reaching the Royal Palace. The poverty stricken people of Seoul from Wangsim-li and Itaewon joined in the riot and Queen Min escaped to the home of Min Eung-sik by disguising herself as a lady of the court.

The rebellion also turned on the Japanese in Joseon including Hanabusa Yoshimoto who barely escaped with the help of the British ship HMS Flying Fish.[7][8] During the day of rioting, a number of Japanese were killed, including Horimoto Reijo.[7]


The Chinese received word about the rebellion through Li Shuchang, Chinese minister in Tokyo in Japan, on August 1 because China did not have a legation at Joseon at the time. Zhang Shu0sheng dispatched Beiyang Naval Units under the command of Ding Ruchang to Joeson with Ma Jianzhong on board to assess the status of the rebellion. The Chinese troops effectively regained control and quelled the rebellion.[2] In the aftermath of rioting, the Daewongun was accused of fomenting the disturbance and its violence,[8] and was arrested by Chinese troops.[3] He spent three years in China and returned to Korea in 1885. The Japanese government sent Ambassador Hanabusa back to Seoul with 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. 1 2 Pratt, Keith L. et al. (1999). "Imo Incident" in Korea: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary, pp. 184-185., p. 184, at Google Books
  3. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 Kang, p. 463., p. 463, at Google Books
  8. 1 2 3 Iwao, Seiichi. (2002). "Saimoppo jōyaku" in Dictionnaire historique du Japon, Vol. II, p. 2314., p. 2314, at Google Books


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