Migrants of the Ming dynasty who were displaced from the Liaodong Peninsula by Nurhaci flushed into Joseon in 1621, led by Mao Wenlong. Prince Gwanghae contemplated what consequences this would bring to Joseon, especially after the defeat at the Battle of Sarhū. Can they be turned into allies if he accepts them? Or will they trigger the Later Jin dynasty’s invasion? Will they try to seize the land?
The decision he came to in 1623 was to convince Wenlong to move to Ka Island just off the waters of the Cholsan Peninsula in the Pyongan Province. And Wenlong had become a nuisance for him ever since. Wenlong took in about one million refugees from the Liaodong Peninsula to grow his power and threatened to reclaim the peninsula with the help of the Ming dynasty. He went as far as to pretend to wage a war against the Later Jin dynasty by crossing the Yalu River with his army.
At first, both Gwanghae and Injo had a grain of hope for Wenlong’s military. However, reports of the officials who met Wenlong suggested that what he had was more of a random group of migrants than a military. What was worse was his incessant demand for rations and trade. When his needs were not met, he sent out his soldiers to loot towns, and looting and violence only increased after the Later Jin invasion of Joseon as he was no longer shy about his ambition to take land away from Joseon.
Mao Wenlong was an ambitious cunning conman. He never offered help when Joseon was in danger. His military, on the other hand, were not completely incompetent. After Wenlong died, they played an important role in the fight against the Later Jin dynasty and were good enough to become a military of a warlord.
There is no doubt that Wenlong was not a great man. However, it provides us with an opportunity to take stock of what we did. We could have used his ability to our advantage. We could have noticed the potential of his military. We could have avoided bad deals that did not do any good to us and only invited the Later Jin’s invasion. Is it normal to rely solely on the other party’s decency in international relations? The problem was the officials who saw the world in black and white and were ignorant of reality, obsessed with ideology. They pursued only the interests of national politics, unaware of global politics.