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International Journal of Korean History > Volume 15(1); 2010 > Article
International Journal of Korean History 2010;15(1): 93-120.
Kaesŏng Uprising of 1893
Hang-seob Bae
HK Research Professor, Research Institute of Korea Studies, Korea University
고려대학교 민족문화연구원 HK연구교수
With the exception of the Kaesŏng Uprising of 1893, none of the other uprisings that emerged from the opening of the three ports in 1876 until 1910 featured demands related to the landlord system. That being said, the land ownership related demands made by the leaders of the Kaesŏng Uprising were in actuality not intended to overcome the inequality of the land ownership system. Rather, these demands were focused on preventing illegal exploitation of their land by the magistrate. Moreover, the fact that the leadership group of the Kaesŏng Uprising consisted of merchants and former government officials means that the wishes of peasant famers were in all likelihood not reflected in these demands. Even the cases of uprisings led by peasant farmers, such as the Uprising of 1862, did not feature any overt slogans against the landlord system. Moreover, no demands hinting at an out and out opposition to the landlord system are evident in the proposed reform program (p’yejŏng kaehyŏkan) prepared by the leadership behind the large-scale rebellion known as the Tonghak Peasants’ War of 1894. Rather, much like had been the case in the Kaesŏng Uprising, the demands related to the reform of the land system raised by the peasant soldiers were geared towards the solid entrenchment of the private ownership system. Meanwhile, one finds almost no instances in which actual anti-foreign power related demands were raised during the type of collective struggle known as an uprising. While the possibility of Japanese merchants infringing on the interests of Kaesŏng merchants can be understood as the main rationale for the inclusion of Article 15, “Any person who rents out his residence to a Japanese national shall have their home destroyed,” no lingering sense of outright belligerence toward Japanese merchants was recorded. Moreover, no objections to Japanese power were raised during the first Tonghak Peasants Uprising. To this end, it was only during the second uprising that the movement took on an anti-Japanese character, a denouement which was in large part motivated by the Japanese military’s attempt to seize Kyŏngbokkung Palace. As mentioned above, the only popular uprising from 1894 to 1910 other than the Tonghak Peasants' War in which demands related to land ownership or to an opposition to a foreign power were made was the Kaesŏng Uprising. In addition, a closer look at these demands reveals that they in fact had little to do with out and out opposition to the landlord system or foreign powers. These points have the effect of calling into question the prevailing perception of the people (minjung) during the transition towards the modern era as both the main actors in bringing about reform and the flag-bearers of the efforts to resolve Chosŏn’s feudal and national contradictions.
Keywords: Kaesŏng Uprising, Kaesŏng merchants, owners of ginseng fields, repurchase of land (hwant'oe), landlord system, antiforeign power

개항(1876) 전후부터 1910년 이전 시기에 일어난 민란 형태의 집합적 투쟁에서 개성민란 이외에는 지주제 반대는 물론 토지소유와 관련된 요구가 전혀 없었다. 개성민란에서 제시된 토지소유와 관련 요구도 토지소유의 불균등을 해소하려는 것이 아니었다. 수령에 의해 토지소유권이 부당하게 침해되는 것을 방지하려는 목적에서 제시된 것이었다. 물론 개성민란의 주도층은 상인이나 전직관리였기 때문에 빈농들의 요구가 반영되지 않았을 개연성이 크다. 그러나 1862년 임술민란 당시 처음부터 빈농들이 주도한 경에도 역시 지주제를 반대하는 구호는 없었다. 뿐만 아니라 민란에 비할 수 없을 정도의 대규모 반란인 1894년의 동학농민전쟁 시기에도 농민군들이 요구한 「폐정개혁안」에 지주제를 반대하는 요구가 없었다. 농민군이 제시한 토지관련 개혁요구도 개성민란에서와 마찬가지로 사적 소유권의 안정적 확보를 지향하는 내용이었다. 한편 반외세와 관련된 요구 역시 개성민란을 제외한 민란형태의 집합적 투쟁에서 제시된 사례가 없다. 개성민란에서는 일본상인들이 개성상인들의 이익을 침해하거나, 침해할 가능성이 있었기 때문에 “일본인을 들여 살게 한 사람은 그 집을 부술 것”이라는 구호가 제기되었다. 그러나 일본인에 대한 적극적인 공격의지는 보이지 않았다. 동학농민전쟁에서도 제1차 봉기에서는 일본에 대한 반대 구호가 전면에 제시되지 않았다. 일본군에 의한 경복궁 침범이라는 구체적 침략행위가 일어난 다음에는 일변하여 제2차 농민전쟁은 기본적으로 반일투쟁의 성격을 띠게 된다. 이상에서 살펴 본 바와 같이 1894년 농민전쟁 이전 시기는 물론, 1910년까지 동학농민전쟁을 제외한 민중의 집합적 투쟁에서 토지소유와 관련된 요구나 외세에 반대하는 요구가 개성민란에서만 유일하게 나타났다. 또한 그 내용도 지주제에 대한 반대와 거리가 멀었고, 외세에 대한 반대도 제한적이었다. 이 점은 근대이행기의 민중을 “봉건적”, “민족적” 모순의 담지자이자, 그에 맞서는 변혁주체로 이해해 오던 기왕의 견해에 의문을 제기하는 것이다.
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