Wesleyan University

Jonathan Best Empress Jingu's Magical Conquest of Korea: A Legend of Multiple Uses


The Nihon shoki - Japan's oldest chronicle (compiled in 720) - contains a detailed account of how Jingu, purportedly the first female ruler of Japan, aided by her magical powers, conquered southern Korea at the start of the 3rd century. Also according to the Nihon shoki, Jingu's conquest enabled the establishment of Japanese political control over the peninsula's southern coastal region, control that the text alleges persisted until the middle of the 6th century. This legend, which is not totally devoid of historical roots, has repeatedly and in different ways at different times proven useful to the Japanese leadership - perhaps most conspicuously through its manipulation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for justifying the Japanese colonization of Korea. In this presentation not only will the origins of the legend be addressed, but also its subsequent employments in different contexts directed at different audiences and for different ends.

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