Not since the imposition of the Unequal Treaties by Japan has a Korean monarch ruled the Korean peninsula. Today, after more than 200 years, that has finally changed. Yi Nari, a descendent of the last Korean Emperor, has been crowned as Empress of a united Korea. The road to get to this point was a long one.
In 1905 Korea ceased to exist as an independent country when Japan forced a protectorate on the much weaker state, this was followed only five years later by an annexation treaty that transferred powers from the late Emperor to the Emperor of Japan for all eternity. The next five decades would be filled with ethnic cleansing, cultural genocide and the unlawful arrests of and illegal experimentation on Koreans by such organizations as the dreaded Unit 731.
While many countries were safe and rescued after World War 2, the problems for Korea were only just beginning. The Soviet Union had marched into Manchuria and Korea, and by the end of the war secured major parts. Meanwhile the surrender of Japan to the non-communist Allies placed the rest of Korea under Chinese and European control. While during negotiations the Europeans were willing to cede Korea in its entirety to the Soviets to form a unified Communist Korea, under pressure of the Republic of China they eventually pushed for dividing the peninsula into two countries. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south. While both had republic in their name, they were also both dictatorships. One major shift occurred when after the complete surrender of the Kuomintang in China the first president of the Republic of Korea, Syngman Rhee, launched an invasion of Taiwan and surrounding islands to secure it and its people before the Communist Chinese could get control of the islands.
The invasion was reason for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, backed by the Chinese, to launch an invasion of the Republic of Korea who soon received support from the capitalist European powers and the before neutral United States of America. Despite initial North Korean gains, the war eventually ended in a stalemate. While no peace was signed, no fighting occurred either and a tens of kilometers wide minefield covered the peninsula as a nasty scar that wouldn’t heal.
Decades of stalemate followed where despite rhetoric and minor skirmishes, no real escalation followed. In 1988 the Republic of Korea finally began a process of democratization and soon the first true free elections were held. This governmental shift also started the greatest economic boom the world had ever seen. While decades prior the North had been economically more powerful, now the South was leaving it far behind itself. This boom continued when with the Digital Revolution in the 90s the Republic of Korea became a technology powerhouse. Taiwanese companies such as TSMC would develop the chips and Korean companies as Samsung would develop the devices using those chips. This vertical integration made the country a welcome investment for anyone wanting to get in early on the growing industry. Contracts with the now economically more liberal China and even North Korea to move production to those countries were even more effective and soon cheap yet high quality Korean technology flooded the global markets.
The first moves towards unifications came in 2018 when under French and Chinese sponsored initiatives Moon Jae-In reached out to Kim Jong-un to begin normalizing relations. With small steps the two Koreas eventually agreed to a peace agreement in 2030 and for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to give up its small nuclear arsenal in exchange for greater economic concessions. For decades this new Two Koreas Policy continued until 2090 when after 190 years of dictatorship the North Korean people were finally tired of the Kim’s. It started with peaceful protests initially but when the Korean People’s Army responded with excessive force the process soon escalated. After soldiers began firing on civilians it was a bridge too far for the Republic of Korea. Under the justification of protecting the Korean people the Republic of Korea Army with help from the French and Athenians launched invasions of the North. Owing to its superior technology, allied support and most importantly the support of the people, the invaders soon controlled all major population centres and most of the countryside. After the leader Kim Jong-il died when jumping out of a window to escape arrest by South Korean forces, the Korean People’s Army surrendered and the North was placed under occupation.
Now the Republic of Korea faced a difficult decision. Reuniting Korea had always been a dream and the North Korean people seemingly wanted it, but fears existed that after 140 years of being apart the people in both countries had changed too much. Concerns were also raised abost the cost of uplifting the North to be on the same level as the South. The biggest fear perhaps was that after so long spent under a cruel dictator and with no history of democracy, the people could pull the Republic to their level.
In the end an unorthodox solution was proposed. The appointment of a central unifying figure, someone who could bring the North and South together. Discussions went on for years until eyes fell on a particular possibility. Yi Nari was born and raised in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea until at age 13 and pushed by her family out of fears that the North Korean leader would take her as a concubine she fled to the South. From that point forward she grew up in the South. As a child of both Koreas she could be the voice of reason and grace that would keep them together. The issue still went on for another two years of debating about how much power the new Empress should have until they finally settled on something all sides could live with. The Empress to be would be required to finish her Political Science studies and upon achieving her Masters degree she would be crowned Empress. As Empress she would be placed in control of the new Korean Armed Forces and given far-reaching executive powers. Echoing the American model a Congress would be formed consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives that could pass federal laws, however the power of both the Empress and Congress would be restrained by the Constitution and the Provinces. While many proposals had been made, in the end the Eight Provinces as existed for most of the Joseon dynasty plus three provinces for Taiwan would be used to demarcate the provinces. Each province would elect its own Congress and have full control over the provincial economy, criminal laws (where they did not violate constitutional rights or federal laws) and education amongst others. This way the Empress is both truly powerful yet still in a position to act as a politically neutral leader of the nation rather than the representative of any particular ideology. Furthermore the establishment of Province rights will guarantee that the unique cultural and political identities of all Korean people are preserved.
In her first speech as Empress, she has promised that she will be a leader for all Koreans and that she will push for measures to bring the economic prosperity of the South to the impoverished people of the North. Furthermore, she has announced a general pardon for all former North Korean civil servants, police and military who have acted in a way that would be considered criminal under international or South Korean law as long as they are not suspected of torture or murder. The policy does not apply to former North Korean Ministers, Generals and Admirals as well as the remnants of the Kim family who will all be prosecuted by the new Supreme Court of the Korean Empire.
The Korean Empire will embark on a new future, yet it is bound to be an interesting one with a communist China to its west that still wants Taiwan back and a Japan with whom the past history still has not been reconciled its future is likely going to need to be found in the rest of Asia or the rising European powers.