The Medieval and Early Modern History section displays historical and cultural items from the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1897) periods, tracing the events, conflicts, and achievements that marked the two most significant periods of Korea’s national development.
Toward the mid-19th century, Western powers began seeking greater access to East Asia, and they demanded that Joseon open its ports for trade. Joseon’s refusal to comply with such demands led to multiple armed clashes, among which the Foreign Disturbance of 1866 and the Foreign Disturbance of 1871 are the two best known examples. Then, in 1876 (13th year of Gojong’s reign), Joseon’s royal government signed a trade treaty with Japan and adopted a new modernization policy. In an effort to safeguard Joseon’s sovereignty and independence, in 1897, the kingdom was officially declared to be the “Empire of Korea.” However, this largely semantic proclamation did not prevent Japan from taking control of the country. On the brink of Japanese colonization, the Korean people rose up to defend their independence through anti-Japanese confrontations and patriotic movements to educate the masses.