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Who Were the Wako?


Ming Dynasty Chinese picture of wako, Japanese pirates

Wako, Japanese pirates, on the attack

Public domain via Wikipedia

Wako: A group of pirates who raided the coasts of China and Korea in the 13th through 16th centuries. The pirate bands originated in Japan during the Sengoku era, but likely also included rogue fishermen and smugglers from China and Korea as well, particularly in the last century of their operations.

The wako declined in power during the 15-16th centuries due to increased Japanese stability under Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the increase in Korean military preparedness as well as openness to legitimate trade under King Sejong the Great.

The name "wako" comes from the Chinese wo meaning Japanese and kou meaning "bandit" or "invader."

Pronunciation: "woh-KOH"
Also Known As: pirates, Japanese pirates, dwarf pirates
Alternate Spellings: wokou, waegu
"The Ming Chinese government called out the Shaolin Monks to fight against the wako in the 1500s."

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