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Ito Hirobumi

Count Itō Hirobumi (伊藤 博文 1841-1909, also called Hirofumi/Hakubun) was a Japanese politician and the country's first Prime Minister (and the 5th, 7th and 10th).

He was a Choshu samurai's adopted son and gained samurai status for himself in 1863, but a visit to England in the same year convinced him of the necessity of modernising Japan by adopting Western ways. Following the Meiji Restoration, Ito served as a junior councillor in a number of different ministries. In 1873, Ito was made a full councillor and following the death of Okubo Toshimichi in 1878 he was home minister and dominated the government, by 1881 he forced Okuma Shigenobu to resign and gain the key role for himself. He headed a number of missions to study foreign governments. Based on the European ideas he established a cabinet and civil service in 1885, replacing the Dajokan as the decision-making state organisation, and became the first Prime Minister. In 1885 he negotiated the Convention of Tientsin with Li Hung-chang. He supervised the drafting of the German-alike constitution of 1889. He remained head of the Privy council while Kuroda Kiyotaka and Yamagata Aritomo were Prime Ministers.

As Prime Minister again (1892-96) he supported the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and negotiated the Treaty of Shimonoseki in March 1895. After the war he became the first leader of the Seiyukai party, opposing Yamagata Aritomo. Prime Minister twice more (1898-1899, 1900-1901) he tried to negotiate a settlement with Russia before being forced from office by more militaristic politicians. He remained a power in the government as the premiership alternated between Saionji Kimmochi and Katsura Taro.

In November 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War Korea was occupied by Japanese forces and the Korean government was made to sign the Protectorate Treaty, Ito became the first Resident General there in 1906. He forced the Korean ruler, King Gojong, to abdicate in 1907 in favour of his son King Sunjong and pushed through the Korean-Japanese Convention (1907) giving Japan considerable control of Korean internal affairs. Despite resigning as Resident General in 1909 Ito was assassinated at Harbin in Manchuria by a Korean nationalist An Jung-geun in 1909. His death provoked the full annexation of Korea in 1910 with the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty.

Preceded by:
Tokugawa Yoshinobu (shogun)
Matsukata Masayoshi (2)
Matsukata Masayoshi (3)
Yamagata Aritomo (4)
Prime ministers of Japan Succeeded by:
Kuroda Kiyotaka (1)
Matsukata Masayoshi (2)
Okuma Shigenobu (3)
Katsura Taro (4)