Cheoljong of Joseon

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King of Joseon
Reign 1849–1863
Predecessor Heonjong
Successor Gojong
Spouse Queen Cheonin, the daughter of Kim Mun-geun
Park Gwi-in, concubine
Jo Gwi-in, concubine
Lee Gwi-in, concubine
Bang Suk-ui, concubine
Beom Suk-ui, concubine
Palace Lady Lee, concubine
Palace Lady Kim, concubine
Palace Lady Park, concubine
Issue a son
two daughters
Princess Yeonghye, Marquise Park Yeong-hyo
Father Jeongye, Prince of the Great Court
Mother Yeom Yongseong
Born 1831
Died 1863 (aged 31–32)
Cheoljong of Joseon
Revised Romanization Cheoljong
McCune–Reischauer Ch'ŏljong

King Cheoljong (25 July 1831 – 13 December 1863, r. 1849–1863) was the 25th king of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. He was a distant relative of King Yeongjo.[1]


At the beginning of the 19th century, the Andong Kim clan, who had provided the Joseon state with several queens, had seized power almost everywhere in Korea. The social stagnation that resulted was a breeding ground for unrest. Corruption and embezzlement from the treasury and its inevitable exploitation were taken to extreme levels, and reached staggering proportions. One rebellion after another was accompanied by natural disasters. Indeed it was one of the most gloomy periods in the country’s history.[2]

The only aim of the Andong Kim clan was the preservation of their influence. Their fierce campaign truly to dominate the royal house had led to a situation in which almost all of the representatives of the royal family fled from Seoul. When the royal family produced intelligent and appropriate candidates for the accession, they were either accused of treason and executed or sent into exile, so when Heonjong died, leaving no son, no acceptable candidate could be found to succeed to the throne.[2]


Cheoljong ascended to the throne in 1849 at the age of 19 after King Heonjong died without an heir. As a distant relative of King Yeongjo, the 21st king of Joseon, Cheoljong was selected for adoption by the Dowager Queen at the time and to allow him to ascend to the throne. The future Cheoljong was found on Ganghwa Island where his family had fled to hide from oppression.

When the envoys (dispatched in order to seek for the future king) arrived on Ganghwa Island, they found the remaining clan of the Yi's barely surviving in wretched poverty.[3] In 1849, at the age of 18, Yi Byeon/Seong[4] (the future Cheoljong), the 3rd son of Prince Jeon-gye (great-grandson of King Yeongjo), was proclaimed King, amidst obvious degradation and poverty. Though from the start of the Joseon Dynasty Korean kings had given top priority to the education of their sons, Cheoljong could not even read a single word on the notice delivering congratulations to him on his elevation to the royal throne.[2]

For the Andong Kims, Cheoljong was an excellent choice. His illiteracy made him manipulable and vulnerable to their control. Proof of this was that even though Cheoljong ruled the country for 13 years, until his very last days he had not yet learned how to move with dignity or how to wear royal clothes, so that in even the most luxurious of robes he still looked like a fisherman.[2]

As part of the Andong Kim's manipulation of Cheoljong, in 1851, the clan married Cheoljong to Kim Mun-geun, daughter of a member of the clan, known posthumously as Queen Cheol-in.[2]


He died without a male heir at the age of 32 in December 1863, by suspected foul play by the Andong Kim clan, the same clan that had made him king. Despite having five sons and six daughters, only one child, a daughter, lived past infancy.


Monarchs of Korea
Joseon Dynasty
  1. Taejo 1392–1398
  2. Jeongjong 1398–1400
  3. Taejong 1400–1418
  4. Sejong the Great 1418–1450
  5. Munjong 1450–1452
  6. Danjong 1452–1455
  7. Sejo 1455–1468
  8. Yejong 1468–1469
  9. Seongjong 1469–1494
  10. Yeonsangun 1494–1506
  11. Jungjong 1506–1544
  12. Injong 1544–1545
  13. Myeongjong 1545–1567
  14. Seonjo 1567–1608
  15. Gwanghaegun 1608–1623
  16. Injo 1623–1649
  17. Hyojong 1649–1659
  18. Hyeonjong 1659–1674
  19. Sukjong 1674–1720
  20. Gyeongjong 1720–1724
  21. Yeongjo 1724–1776
  22. Jeongjo 1776–1800
  23. Sunjo 1800–1834
  24. Heonjong 1834–1849
  25. Cheoljong 1849–1863
  26. Gojong 1863–1907
  27. Sunjong 1907–1910
  • Father: Great Prince Jeongye (전계대원군, 1785–1841)
  • Mother: Princess Consort Yeongseong of the Yeom clan (용성부대부인 염씨)
  • Consorts and their Respective Issue(s):
  1. Queen Cheonin of the Andong Kim clan (철인왕후 김씨, 1837–1878)[5]
    1. No issue
  2. Park Gwi-in (귀인 박씨)
    1. No issue
  3. Jo Gwi-in (귀인 조씨)
    1. No issue
  4. Lee Gwi-in (귀인 이씨)
    1. A Son [6]
    2. Two Daughters [7]
  5. Bang Suk-ui (숙의 방씨)
    1. No issue
  6. Bŏm Suk-ui (숙의 범씨)
    1. Princess Yŏnghye (영혜옹주, 1859 – July 4, 1872). She married Marquis Park Yŏng-hyo and was the grandmother of Lady Park Chan-ju, who later married her fifth cousin Wu, Prince of Korea
  7. Palace Lady Lee (궁인 이씨)
    1. No issue
  8. Palace Lady Kim (궁인 김씨)
    1. No issue
  9. Palace Lady Park (궁인 박씨)
    1. No issue

Hanja name[edit]

The King's name in Hanja is 李昪. In Korean, it is Yi Byŏn. However, in most Chinese materials, his name is often misrecognized as 李昇, which is pronounced as Yi Sŏng. This is a very serious yet very popular error, as the character is a very rare word. , however, is a very common one. Therefore, we need to take care when searching.


His full posthumous name[edit]

  • King Cheoljong Huiyun Jeonggeuk Sudeok Sunseong Heummyung Gwangdo Donwon Changhwa Munhyeon Museong Heonin Yeonghyo the Great of Korea
  • 철종희윤정극수덕순성흠명광도돈원창화문현무성헌인영효대왕
  • 哲宗熙倫正極粹德純聖欽命光道敦元彰化文顯武成獻仁英孝大王



  1. ^ Neff, Robert (4 January 2013). "Child kings". Korea Times. Retrieved 25 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e
  3. ^ Since he was found at Ganghwa Island in poverty, he was also known as "The Woodcutter Prince of Ganghwa Island".
  4. ^ Cheoljong of Joseon#Hanja name
  5. ^ Daughter of Kim Mun-geun (김문근) and Lady Min
  6. ^ Born on August 08, 1862.
  7. ^ The first one was born on December 13, 1858
  8. ^ Prince Jeongye was the son of Prince Euneon, who was the son of Prince Sado, who was the son of King Yeongjo)(r. 1724–1776)

Further reading[edit]

  • Byeon Tae-seop (변태섭) (1999). 韓國史通論 (Hanguksa tongnon) (Outline of Korean history), 4th ed. ISBN 89-445-9101-6. 
  • Cummings, Bruce. (1997). Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York. ISBN 0-393-04011-9

See also[edit]

Preceded by
Rulers of Korea
(Joseon Dynasty)

Succeeded by