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Bloody Headcount: A Dispute Over Reward and the Mutiny of the Ming Southern Soldiers in the First Stage of the Korea War (1592–1595)

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War and Trade in Maritime East Asia

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This chapter explores the strife between the Ming Northern and Southern Soldiers in the first stage of the Korea War (1592–1595). In the Ming, government soldiers were rewarded and promoted on the basis of the number of enemies they killed, with the enemies’ decapitated heads as proof. During the Battle of Pyongyang in early 1593, the Southern Soldiers fought bravely, sustained heavy losses and scaled the wall of Pyongyang first. However, Li Rusong, the commander-in-chief of the Ming Expedition Force, not only transferred this credit to his Northern Soldiers, but also turned a blind eye to Northern Soldiers’ cowardice and disgrace of snatching heads of Japanese soldiers slain by Southern Soldiers. The grievance of Southern Soldiers finally led to their mutiny in Shimen Barrack. Although the Southern Soldiers involved were not executed en masse, they were further marginalized and the Ming military prowess suffered a further blow.

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    Mingshilu—Shenzong shilu: (Veritable record of Ming emperor Shenzong).


    Sonjo sillok (Veritable record of Korean King Sonjo).


    Sonjo sujong sillok (Revised veritable record of Korean King Sonjo).


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This chapter is one of the outputs of my General Research Fund project #14409014 “Beijing: the other theater of the Korean War (1592–1598)” funded by the Research Grants Council, HKSAR, PRC.

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Correspondence to Wing Kin Puk .

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Puk, W.K. (2022). Bloody Headcount: A Dispute Over Reward and the Mutiny of the Ming Southern Soldiers in the First Stage of the Korea War (1592–1595). In: Oka, M. (eds) War and Trade in Maritime East Asia. Palgrave Studies in Comparative Global History. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore.

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