Empress Myeongseong

(October 19, 1851 – October 8, 1895) – also known as Queen Min, was the first official wife of King Gojong; the 26th King of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. At the age of 16 she was married to the then 13 year old King. But, instead of being a demure Queen expected of her, she was assertive and ambitious. She gave up many of the royal functions such as hosting tea parties for the aristocracy, and instead , read books reserved for men only, teaching herself philosophy, history, science, politics, and religion. When her husband took full power (at 22), Queen Min took a very active role in politics, and placed her own family members into high positions, solidifying her power. It was during her so called rule that Korea began to open to modernization – first with the help of the much despised Japanese (due to forced treaties and threats of war) and later from the west.

The Queen reorganized the government to deal with the influence of westernization, and allowed freedom of religion, which previously had been suppressed. This caused great upset amongst her own political leaders. The Japanese, seeing her power, decided to assassinate her – which they did, in 1895, by stabbing her multiple times. The King, despairing from the loss of his wife, began to sign treaty after treaty with the Japanese, which eventually led to their colonial rule from 1910 – 1945.

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