Pretty much slept all afternoon due to a cold, awake I was at midnight desperate for something to watch on TV. So, found the pirates on Flix and meandered through the winding and whimsical tales that defies all laws of physical world and logic which usually means it’s a good movie to help one sleep. But, something is off about this movie either it’s unnatural pacing or it’s formulaic comedic sequences which actually made it a difficult movie to sit through.
After the movie, eyes not yet shut, I read up about each of the main actors And, I learned that one actress is in a girl band called f(x) who is managed by SM Entertainment that also represents Girl Generation and Kwon Boa. I know of Boa but am not familiar with her so started reading her page. There, I learned she earned the ire of many Japanese by donating quite a bit of money to a memorial for one named An Jung-Geun.
An Jung-Geun assassinated a Japanese prime minister named Iro Harabumi. According to An, he did so because of these reasons:
“15 reason why Ito Hirobumi should be killed.
1. Assassinating the Korean Empress Myeongseong
2. Dethroning the Emperor Gojong
3. Forcing 14 unequal treaties on Korea.
4. Massacring innocent Koreans
5. Usurping the authority of the Korean government by force
6. Plundering Korean railroads, mines, forests, and rivers
7. Forcing the use of Japanese banknotes
8. Disbanding the Korean armed forces
9. Obstructing the education of Koreans
10. Banning Koreans from studying abroad
11. Confiscating and burning Korean textbooks
12. Spreading a rumor around the world that Koreans wanted Japanese protection
13. Deceiving the Japanese Emperor by saying that the relationship between Korea and Japan was peaceful when in truth it was full of hostility and conflicts
14. Breaking the peace of Asia
15. Assassinating the Emperor Komei.”
So, naturally, my next inclination is to find out who this Empress Myeongseong (Min) is all about. And, this is where it starts to get interesting. Min was wed to the Joseon King Gojong. Gojong at the time was a figure head and real power was held by his father Heungseon Daewongun. Gojong became king merely because the king before him didn’t have any eligble heirs. The father Daewongun purposely chose Min as Gojong’s wife to wed at age 16 while Gojong was 15 because he thought she would be easy to control just as easily as Gojong is. Min is an orphan and was considered of average intellect with no political ambition. So, Daewongun thought Min is both rootless and directionless.
After marriage, Min educated herself with Chinese classics and started getting involved in political activities particularly with progressivism. Daewongun didn’t like this but allowed it as he thought Min was studying to be an accountant. As King Gojong reached his 22nd birthday, he was urged by Min to get his father to retire in order for Gojong to take full control of his kingdom. With this, and with Gojung still reticent about taking part in political affairs, Min became de facto ruler in Korea.
With Min in charge, she implemented economic, political, military and educational reforms. At the time, Korea was a poor country with very little in terms of technology and infrastructure. Min’s goal was to transform Korea into a modern country. She got a lot of her cues from a book called “Korea Strategy” written by a Chinese ambassador Huang Zunxian. The book entails how China and Korea should work together to achieve mutual goals of modernization.
At the same time in China, emperor Guanxu read the “Korea Strategy” as well. Guangxu, at the time, was acting emperor of China who had temporarily wrestled power away from the Dowager Cixi. Parallel to Min, Guanxu was trying to modernize China. And parallel to Daewongun, Cixi wanted to do away with progressivism. So, at the same time that Korea was struggling against internal factions who were against modernization, China was experiencing the same. But, unlike China where the Dowager holding too much power was bad for the country, Korea under the queen’s control was actually a good thing for the country.
However, the story ended up the same way for both countries. The conservative factions regained power and eventually the countries is successfully invaded by foreign aggressors as result. Fortunately for China, it’s a big country and is hard to take over quickly. Same could not be said for Korea as the country was eventually annexed by Japan.
King Gojong stayed on as king after Min was assassinated as the puppet ruler when real power. Another parallel, after Chang Kai Shek removed the last Emperor Puyi from the forbidden city, Puyi also became a puppet emperor of Manchukuo for the Japanese.
As I was reading about the Chinese war against the puppet state Manchukuo, I found out about Ma Zhanshan. Ma is literally a cowboy who made a name for himself militarily through his many movie like exploits. He was known to be good with a gun and at riding a horse. He gradually worked his way up from security guard to commander-in-chief of the northern army.
Ma’s army fought for years to prevent Manchukuo from penetrating deeper into Northern China but was eventually defeated. But, his army was able to contain the Japanese armies for many years despite overwhelming odds through better use of geographics and logistics.
After defeat, Manchukuo offered Ma $3 million to act as their minister of war. Ma agreed and defected to Manchukuo and witnessed Puyi sworn in as emperor. However, Ma’s defection was only a ruse to buy time and resources for his army to recover. He used Japanese money to buy weapons to arm his troops while evacuating women and children out of harms’ way. This “northern anti-japanese” army was reached 300k soldiers. However, this army was eventually defeated by the Japanese Kwantung army which was considered the strongest army at the time.
The rest of the wikipedia article on Ma’s life is poorly written. But, suffice to say, Ma is probably the least boring man on the planet. Before the anti Japanese war ended, he escaped to Russia and convinced Russians to join his army to fight against the Japanese. Which is funny because the Russians were actually easier to convince than Chang Kai Shek who Ma had to kidnap in order to force him to help him fight the Japanese.
After the war, Ma was offered the post of Commander at Shengyang by the KMT, but, instead he retired from the post then defected to the communist party perhaps because he feared Chang would imprison him as he did Ma’s friend Zhang was imprisoned for life by Chang because he was part of the party that kidnapped Chang. Ma reminds me of Cincinnatus who rose from no where to protect Rome from invaders only to return to civilian obscurity immediately after the war ended.
What should’ve been. Had the conservatives in China and Korea not have prevented their own countries from progressing technologically, militarily and politically, the Japanese invasion could’ve been circumvented.