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Korea in the Imperial Era and Japanese Occupation

c. 1895-1920


Korea was long known as the "Hermit Kingdom," more or less content to pay tribute to its western neighbor, Qing China, and leave the rest of the world alone.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, though, as Qing power crumbled, Korea fell under increasing control by its neighbor across the East Sea, Japan.

The Joseon Dynasty lost its grip on power, and its last kings became puppet emperors in the employ of the Japanese.

Photographs from this era reveal a Korea that was still traditional in many ways, but that was beginning to experience greater contact with the world. This is also the time when Christianity began to make inroads into Korean culture - as seen in the photo of the French missionary nun.

Learn more about the vanished world of the Hermit Kingdom through these early photographs.

Images 1-12 of 24
Photo c. 1910-1920Korean Boy, Engaged to be MarriedUndated photo of Korean girls, probably early 20th centuryGisaeng-in-Training?Photo c. 1910-1920Buddhist Monk in KoreaPhoto by C.H. Graves, 1903Chemulpo Market, Korea
Photo by C.H. Graves, 1903The Chemulpo "Sawmill," KoreaThe sedan even has a fancy windshield.Wealthy Lady in her Sedan ChairThe men wear several different styles of traditional Korean hats.Korean Family PortraitThis photo was taken some time between 1890 and 1923.Food-Stall Vendor
George Grantham Bain was a photojournalist in Korea during the early 20th centuryFrench Nun in Korea and her ConvertsThis photo is by Underwood and Underwood.A Former General and His Interesting TransportHard work is more fun when you have companions to talk with.Korean Women Wash Laundry in the StreamThe embroidered screens behind them are lovely.Korean Women Iron Clothes
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