The Gabo Reform
describes a series of sweeping reforms introduced in Korea
(at that time called Joseon
) beginning in 1894
and ending in 1896
, during the reign of King Gojong
, in response to the Donghak Rebellion
. Historians debate the degree of Japanese influence in this program, as well as its effect in encouraging modernization.
The Gabo Reform is similar to the Meiji Restoration in Japan and produced the following sweeping changes and declarations:
- Korea is a sovereign country (i.e., completely independent from China).
- Only the King (and not the Yangban elite) is to control the government.
- Those with talent are to be allowed to study.
- The army is to be established on basis of conscription, regardless of background.
- Appointment to the government is to be based on merit alone.
- Leather working, acting, and so on are to no longer be regarded as degrading work.
- Slavery is abolished, as well as the sinbun (class) system.
At the time, the ruling Joseon Dynasty was under intense pressure from outside to open up, reform, and modernize, with Russia, Japan, and the United States competing for influence in the country. The Gabo Reform was largely the work of a group of pro-Japanese public officials.
The name Gabo (갑오; 甲午) comes from the name of the year 1894 in the traditional Korean sexagesimal cycle.