||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (July 2013)|
|Kingdom of Joseon
|Vassal state of Ming Empire (nominally, ~ 1637)
Vassal state of Qing Empire(nominally, ~ 1895)
Territory of Joseon after Jurchen conquest of King Sejong
|Religion||Neo-Confucianism (state religion)
|-||1418–1450||Sejong the Great|
|Historical era||Early Modern Period|
|-||Coup of 1388||May 20, 1388|
|-||Coronation of Taejo||July 17, 1392|
|-||Promulgation of the Korean alphabet||October 9, 1446|
|-||Treaty of Ganghwa||February 27, 1876|
|-||Elevation to empire||October 12, 1897|
|-||1753  est.||est. 18,960,000|
|Today part of|| South Korea
|1Became Emperor of Korea in 1897|
Joseon (Korean: 조선; Hanja: 朝鮮; also Chosŏn, Choson, Chosun, Cho-sen), was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries, from July 1392 to October 1897. It was founded following the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo Dynasty in what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul. The kingdom's northernmost borders were expanded to the natural boundaries at the Amnok and Duman rivers through the subjugation of the Jurchens. Joseon was the last dynasty of Korean history and the longest-ruling Confucian dynasty.
During its reign, Joseon consolidated its effective rule over the territory of current Korea, encouraged the entrenchment of Korean Confucian ideals and doctrines in Korean society, imported and adapted Chinese culture, and saw the height of classical Korean culture, trade, science, literature, and technology. However, the dynasty was severely weakened during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when invasions by the neighboring states of Japan and Qing nearly overran the peninsula, leading to an increasingly harsh isolationist policy for which the country became known as the Hermit Kingdom. After the end of invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace.
However, whatever power the kingdom recovered during its isolation further waned as the 18th century came to a close, and faced with internal strife, power struggles, international pressure and rebellions at home, the Joseon Dynasty declined rapidly in the late 19th century.
The Joseon period has left a substantial legacy to modern Korea; much of modern Korean etiquette, cultural norms, societal attitudes towards current issues, and the modern Korean language and its dialects derive from the culture and traditions of Joseon.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early Joseon period
- 1.2 Middle Joseon period
- 1.3 Late Joseon period
- 1.4 Decline
- 2 Government
- 3 Society
- 4 Culture
- 5 Science and technology
- 6 Economy
- 7 Titles and Styles during Joseon Kingdom
- 8 House of Yi
- 9 See also
- 10 Citations
- 11 Sources
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
Early Joseon period
|Part of a series on the|
|History of Korea|
|North and South States|
|Later Three Kingdoms|
|Unitary dynastic period|
|Division of Korea|
|Monarchs of Korea
By the late 14th century, the nearly 500 year-old Goryeo Dynasty established by Wang Geon in 918 was tottering, its foundations collapsing from years of war and de facto occupation from the disintegrating Mongol Empire. Following the wake of the Ming Dynasty, the royal court in Goryeo split into two conflicting factions: the group led by General Yi (supporting the Ming Dynasty) and the camp led by General Choe (standing by the Yuan Dynasty). When a Ming messenger came to Goryeo in 1388 (the 14th year of King U) to demand the return of a significant portion of Goryeo’s northern territory, General Choe seized the chance to argue for the attack of the Liaodong Peninsula (Goryeo claimed to be the successor of the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo; as such, restoring Manchuria as part of Korean territory was part of its foreign policy throughout its history).
Yi was chosen to lead the attack; however, he revolted and swept back to Gaegyeong and initiated a coup d'état, overthrowing King U in favor of his son, King Chang (1388). He later killed King U and his son after a failed restoration and forcibly placed a royal named Yi on the throne (he became King Gongyang). In 1392, Yi eliminated Jeong Mong-ju, highly respected leader of a group loyal to Goryeo dynasty, and dethroned King Gongyang, exiling him to Wonju, and before he ascended the throne. The Goryeo Dynasty had come to an end after almost 500 years of rule.
In the beginning of his reign, Yi Seonggye, now King Taejo, intended to continue use of the name Goryeo for the country he ruled and simply change the royal line of descent to his own, thus maintaining the façade of continuing the 500 year-old Goryeo tradition. However, after numerous threats of mutiny from the drastically weakened but still influential Gwonmun nobles, who continued to swear allegiance to the remnants of the Goryeo Dynasty and now the demoted Wang clan, and the consensus in the reformed court that a new dynastic title was needed to signify the change, he declared a new dynasty in 1393 under the name of Joseon (meaning to revive an older dynasty also known as Joseon, founded nearly four thousand years previously) and renamed the country the "Kingdom of Great Joseon". He also moved the capital to Hanyang.
Strife of Princes
When the new dynasty was promulgated and officially brought into existence, Taejo brought up the issue of which son would be his successor. Although Yi Bang-won, Taejo's fifth son by Queen Sineui, had contributed most to assisting his father's rise to power, the prime minister Jeong Do-jeon and Nam Eun used their influence on King Taejo to name his eighth son (second son of Queen Sindeok) Grand Prince Uian (Yi Bang-seok) as the crown prince in 1392. This conflict arose largely because Jeong Do-jeon, who shaped and laid down ideological, institutional, and legal foundations of the new dynasty more than anyone else, saw Joseon as a kingdom led by ministers appointed by the king while Yi Bang-won wanted to establish the absolute monarchy ruled directly by the king. With Taejo's support, Jeong Do-jeon kept limiting the royal family's power by prohibiting political involvement of princes and attempting to abolish their private armies. Both sides were well aware of each other's great animosity and were getting ready to strike first. After the sudden death of Queen Sindeok, and while King Taejo was still in mourning for his second wife, Yi Bang-won struck first by raiding the palace and killed Jeong Do-jeon and his supporters as well as Queen Sindeok's two sons (his half-brothers) including the crown prince in 1398. This incident became known as the First Strife of Princes.
Aghast at the fact that his sons were willing to kill each other for the crown, and psychologically exhausted from the death of his second wife, King Taejo abdicated and immediately crowned his second son Yi Bang-gwa, or King Jeongjong, as the new ruler. One of King Jeongjong's first acts as monarch was to revert the capital to Gaeseong, where he is believed to have been considerably more comfortable. Yet Yi Bang-won retained real power and was soon in conflict with his disgruntled older brother Yi Bang-gan, who also yearned for power. In 1400, the tensions between Yi Bang-won's faction and Yi Bang-gan's camp escalated into an all-out conflict that came to be known as the Second Strife of Princes. In the aftermath of the struggle, the defeated Yi Bang-gan was exiled to Tosan while his supporters were executed. Thoroughly intimidated, King Jeongjong immediately invested Yi Bang-won as heir presumptive and voluntarily abdicated. That same year, Yi Bang-won assumed the throne of Joseon at long last as King Taejong, the third king of Joseon.
Consolidation of royal power
In the beginning of Taejong's reign, the Grand King Former, Taejo, refused to relinquish the royal seal that signified the legitimacy of any king's rule. Taejong began to initiate policies he believed would prove his qualification to rule. One of his first acts as king was to abolish the privilege enjoyed by the upper echelons of government and the aristocracy to maintain private armies. His revoking of such rights to field independent forces effectively severed their ability to muster large-scale revolts, and drastically increased the number of men employed in the national military. Taejong's next act as king was to revise the existing legislation concerning the taxation of land ownership and the recording of state of subjects. With the discovery of previously hidden land, national income increased twofold.
In 1399, Taejong had played an influential role in scrapping the Dopyeong Assembly, a council of the old government administration that held a monopoly in court power during the waning years of the Goryeo Dynasty, in favor of the State Council of Joseon (의정부), a new branch of central administration that revolved around the king and his edicts. After passing the subject documentation and taxation legislation, King Taejong issued a new decree in which all decisions passed by the State Council could only come into effect with the approval of the king. This ended the custom of court ministers and advisors making decisions through debate and negotiations amongst themselves, and thus brought the royal power to new heights. Shortly thereafter, Taejong installed an office, known as the Sinmun Office, to hear cases in which aggrieved subjects felt that they had been exploited or treated unjustly by government officials or aristocrats. However, Taejong kept Jeong Do-jeon's reforms intact for most part. In addition, Taejong executed or exiled many of his supporters who helped him ascend on the throne in order to strengthen the royal authority. To limit influence of in-laws, he also killed all four of his Queen's brothers and his son Sejong's father-in-law. Taejong remains a controversial figure who killed many of his rivals and relatives to gain power and yet ruled effectively to improve the populace's lives, strengthen national defense, and lay down a solid foundations for his successor Sejong's rule.
King Sejong the Great
In August 1418, following Taejong's abdication two months earlier, Sejong ascended the throne. In May 1419, King Sejong, under the advice and guidance of his father Taejong, embarked upon the Gihae Eastern Expedition to remove the nuisance of Japanese pirates who had been operating out of Tsushima. In September 1419 the Daimyo of Tsushima, Sadamori, capitulated to the Joseon court. In 1443, The Treaty of Gyehae was signed, in which the Daimyo of Tsushima was granted rights to conduct trade with Korea in fifty ships per year, in exchange for sending tribute to Korea and aiding to stop any Japanese coastal pirate raid on Korean ports.
On the northern border, Sejong established four forts and six posts (Korean: 사군육진; Hanja: 四郡六鎭) to safeguard his people from the hostile Chinese and Manchurian nomads living in Manchuria. In 1433, Sejong sent Kim Jong-seo (Korean: 김종서; Hanja: 金宗瑞), a prominent general, north to destroy the Manchu. Kim's military campaign captured several castles, pushed north, and restored Korean territory, roughly the present-day border between North Korea and China.
During the rule of Sejong, Korea saw advances in natural science, agriculture, literature, traditional medicine, and engineering. Because of such success, Sejong was given the title "King Sejong the Great of Joseon". The most remembered contribution of King Sejong is the creation of the Korean alphabet, in 1443. Everyday use of Hanja and hanmun in writing eventually came to an end in the later half of the 20th century.
Six martyred ministers
After King Sejong's death, his son Munjong continued his father's legacy but soon died of illness in 1452, two years after becoming the king. After his son Danjong became the king at the age of twelve, his uncle Sejo gained control of the government and eventually deposed his nephew to become the seventh king of Joseon himself in 1455. After six ministers loyal to Danjong attempted to assassinate Sejo to return Danjong to the throne, Sejo executed the six ministers and also killed Danjong in his place of exile. Despite having snatched the throne from his young nephew, Sejo proved himself one of the most able rulers like Taejong. He strengthened the administrative system, enabling the government to determine exact population numbers and to mobilize troops effectively. He also revised the land ordinance to improve the national economy and encouraged publication of books. Most importantly, he compiled the Grand Code for State Administration, which became the cornerstone of dynastic administration and provided the first form of constitutional law in a written form in Korea.
After Sejo, his weak son Yejong became the eighth king, but died two years later in 1469, when Yejong's nephew Seongjong ascended the throne. His reign was marked by the prosperity and growth of the national economy and the rise of neo-Confucian scholars called Sarim, who were encouraged by Seongjong to enter the court politics. He established Hongmungwan (홍문관, 弘文館), the royal library and advisory council composed of Confucian scholars, with whom he discussed philosophy and government policies. He ushered in a cultural golden age that rivaled King Sejong's reign by publishing numerous books on geography, ethics, and various other fields. He also sent several military campaigns against the Jurchens to stabilize the northern border.
Seongjong's son Yeonsangun is often considered the worst tyrant in Joseon dynasty, whose reign was marked by a series of bloody purges of neo-Confucian scholars between 1498 and 1506. His behavior became erratic after he learned that his biological mother was not Queen Jung-hyeon but deposed Consort Yoon, who was forced to drink poison after poisoning one of Seongjong's concubines out of jealousy and leaving a scratch mark on Seongjong's face. When he was shown a piece of clothing that was allegedly stained with his mother's blood vomited after drinking poison, he beat to death two of Seongjong's concubines who accused Consort Yoon and pushed Grand Queen Insu, who died afterward. He executed government officials who supported Consort Yoon's death along with their families. He also executed Sarim scholars for writing phrases critical of Sejo's usurpation of the throne. He also seized a thousand women from the provinces to serve as palace entertainers and appropriated the Seonggyungwan, Royal University, as a personal pleasure ground. He abolished the Office of Censors, whose function was to criticize inappropriate actions and policies of the king, and Hongmungwan. He banned the use of the Korean alphabet when the common people wrote with it on posters criticizing the king. After 12 years of misrule, he was finally deposed in a coup that placed his half-brother Jungjong on the throne in 1506.
Jungjong was a fundamentally weak king because of the circumstances that placed him on the throne, but his reign also saw a period of significant reforms led by his minister Jo Gwang-jo, the charismatic leader of Sarim scholars. He established the local self-government system called Hyang'yak to strengthen local autonomy and communal spirit among the people, sought to reduce the gap between the rich and poor with a land reform that would distribute land to farmers more equally and limit the amount of land and number of slaves that one could own, promulgated widely among the populace Confucian writings with vernacular translations, and sought to trim the size of government by reducing the number of bureaucrats. According to the Annals of Joseon Dynasty, it was said that no official dared to receive a bribe or exploit the populace during this time because as Inspector General, he applied law strictly. These radical reforms were very popular with the populace but were fiercely opposed by the conservative officials who helped to put Jungjong on the throne. They plotted to cause Jungjong to doubt Jo's loyalty by writing "Jo will become the king" (주초위왕, 走肖爲王) with honey on leaves so that caterpillars left behind the same phrase as if in supernatural manifestation. Jo Gwang-jo was executed, and most of his reform measures died with him in the resulting Third Literati Purge of 1519. For nearly 50 years afterward, the court politics was marred by bloody and chaotic struggles between factions backing rival consorts and princes. In-laws of the royal family wielded great power and contributed to much corruption in that era.
Middle Joseon period
The middle period of Joseon dynasty was marked by a series of intense and bloody power struggles between political factions that weakened the country and large-scale invasions by Japan and Manchu that nearly toppled the dynasty.
The Sarim faction, which suffered a series of political defeats during the reign of Yeonsangun, Jungjong, and Myeongjong gained control of the government in Seonjo's reign, but soon split into Western and Eastern factions, the Eastern faction in turn splitting into Northern and Southern factions. The Western faction also eventually split into Old Learning and New Learning factions. The alternations in power among these factions were often accompanied by charges of treason and bloody purges, initiating a cycle of revenge with each change of regime.
One example is Gichuk Treason Case of 1589 (기축옥사), in which Easterner Jeong Yeo-rip was accused of conspiracy to start rebellion. Jeong Yeo-rip had formed a society with group of supporters that also received military training to fight against the Japanese marauders. There is still a dispute about the nature and purpose of his group, which reflected desire for classless society and spread throughout Honam region. Jeong Cheol, head of the Western faction, was in charge of investigating the case and used this event to effect widespread purge of Easterners who had slightest connection with Jeong Yeo-rip. Eventually 1,000 Easterners were killed or exiled in the aftermath.
Early Japanese invasions
Throughout Korean history, there were frequent pirates attacks on both the sea and land. The only purpose for the Koreans running a navy was to secure the maritime trade against the Wokou pirates. The Korean navy repelled the pirates by using an advanced form of gunpowder technologies (i.e. cannons, fire arrows in form of Singijeon deployed by Hwacha, etc.).
During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, plotting the conquest of Ming China with Portuguese guns, invaded Korea with his daimyō and their troops in 1592 and 1597, intending to use Korea as a stepping stone. Factional division in the Joseon court, inability to assess Japanese military capability, and failed attempts at diplomacy led to poor preparation on Joseon's part. The use of European firearms by the Japanese left most of the southern part of the Korean Peninsula occupied within months, with both Hanseong (present-day Seoul) and Pyongyang captured.
However, the invasion was slowed down due to Admiral Yi Sun-shin destroying the Japanese invasion fleet. The guerrilla resistance that eventually formed also helped. Local resistance slowed down the Japanese advance and decisive naval victories by Admiral Yi Sun-shin left control over sea routes in Korean hands, severely hampering Japanese supply lines. Furthermore, Ming China intervened on the side of the Koreans, sending a large force in 1593 which pushed back the Japanese together with the Koreans.
During the war, Koreans developed powerful firearms and the Turtle ships (right before the war started, however). The Joseon and Ming forces defeated the Japanese at a deep price. Following the war, relations between Korea and Japan had been completely suspended until 1609.
After the war, Korean peninsula was seriously devastated. Meanwhile Nurhaci (r. 1583–1626), the chieftain of the Jianzhou Jurchens, was unifying the Jurchen tribes of Manchuria into a strong coalition that his son Hung Taiji (r. 1626-–1643) would eventually rename the "Manchus." After he declared Seven Grievances against the Ming dynasty in 1618, Nurhaci and the Ming engaged in several military conflicts. On such occasions, Nurhaci required help from King Gwanghaegun (r.1608–1623), putting Joseon in a difficult position because the Ming court was also requesting assistance. The Joseon king tried to maintain neutrality, but most of his officials opposed him for not supporting the Ming, which had saved Joseon during Hideyoshi's invasions.
In 1623 King Gwanghaegun was deposed and replaced by King Injo (r. 1623–1649), who banished Gwanghaejun's supporters. Reverting his predecessor's foreign policy, the new king decided to support the Ming openly, but a rebellion led by military commander Yi Gwal erupted in 1624 and wrecked Joseon's military defenses in the north. Even after the rebellion had been suppressed, King Injo had to devote military forces to ensure the stability of the capital, leaving fewer soldiers to defend the northern borders.
In 1627, a Jurchen army of 30,000 led by Nurhaci's nephew Amin overran Joseon's defense. After a quick campaign that was assisted by northern yangban who had supported King Gwanghaegun, the Jurchens imposed a treaty that forced Joseon to accept "brotherly relations" with the Jurchen state. Because King Injo persisted in his anti-Manchu policies, Qing emperor Hong Taiji sent a punitive expedition of 120,000 men to Joseon in 1636. Defeated, King Injo was forced to end his relations with the Ming and recognize the Qing as suzerain instead. Injo's successor King Hyojong (r. 1649–1659) tried to form an army to chase the enemy away and save China from the Manchus, but could never act on his designs.
Despite becoming a tributary state of the Qing dynasty, Joseon leaders and intellectuals remained resentful for conquest by the Manchus, whom they regarded as barbarians. Long after submitting to the Qing, the Joseon court and many Korean intellectuals kept using Ming reign periods, as when a scholar marked 1861 as "the 234th year of Chongzhen."
Korea became increasingly isolationist. Its rulers sought to limit contact with foreign countries.
Late Joseon period
After invasions from Japan and Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. Joseon witnessed the emergence of Silhak (Practical Learning). The early group of Silhak scholars advocated comprehensive reform of civil service examination, taxation, natural sciences and the improvement in agromanagerial and agricultural techniques. It aimed to rebuild Joseon society after it had been devastated by the two invasions. Under the leadership of Kim Yuk, the chief minister of King Hyeonjong, the implementation of reforms proved highly advantageous both to state revenues and to the lot of the peasants.
Under the reigns of King Sukjong and his son King Yeongjo, aiming to solve the problems caused by the dominating party or its faction eagerly trying to monopolize power, the kings pursued a strict policy of equality, favoring no faction over another, under which individuals were selected for government office regardless of their party affiliation.
King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a renaissance of the Joseon dynasty. Yeongjo's grandson, the enlightened King Jeongjo enacted various reforms throughout his reign, notably establishing Kyujanggak, a royal library in order to improve the cultural and political position of Joseon and to recruit gifted officers to run the nation. King Jeongjo also spearheaded bold social initiatives, opening government positions to those who would previously have been barred because of their social status. King Jeongjo had the support of the many Silhak scholars, who supported his regal power. King Jeongjo's reign also saw the further growth and development of Joseon's popular culture. At that time, the group of Silhak scholars encouraged the individual to reflect on state traditions and lifestyle, initiating the studies of Korea that addressed its history, geography, epigraphy and language.
In 1863 King Gojong took the throne. His father, Regent Heungseon Daewongun, ruled for him until Gojong reached adulthood. During the mid-1860s the Regent was the main proponent of isolationism and the instrument of the persecution of native and foreign Catholics, a policy that led directly to the French Campaign against Korea, 1866. The early years of his rule also witnessed a large effort to restore the largely dilapidated Gyeongbok Palace, the seat of royal authority. During Heungseon Daewongun's reign, factional politics and power wielded by the Andong Kim clan completely disappeared. In 1871, U.S. and Korean forces clashed in a U.S. attempt at "gunboat diplomacy" following on the General Sherman incident of 1866.
In 1873, King Gojong announced his assumption of royal rule. With the subsequent retirement of Heungseon Daewongun, the future Queen Min (later called Empress Myeongseong) gained complete control over her court, placing her family in high court positions. Japan, after the Meiji Restoration, acquired Western military technology, and forced Joseon to sign the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1876, opening three ports to trade and granting the Japanese extraterritoriality. Port Hamilton was occupied by the British Navy in 1885.
Many Koreans despised Japanese and foreign influences over their land and the corrupt oppressive rule of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1894, the Donghak Peasant Revolution saw farmers rise up in a mass rebellion, with peasant leader Jeon Bong-jun defeating the forces of local ruler Jo Byong-gap at the battle of Go-bu on January 11, 1894; after the battle, Jo's properties were handed out to the peasants. By May, the peasant army had reached Jeonju, and the Joseon government asked the Qing Dynasty government for assistance in ending the revolt. The Qing sent 3,000 troops and the rebels negotiated a truce, but the Japanese considered the Qing presence a threat and sent in 8,000 troops of their own, seizing the Royal Palace in Seoul and installing a pro-Japanese government on 8 June 1894. This soon escalated into the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) between Japan and Qing China, fought largely in Korea.
Empress Myeongseong (referred to as "Queen Min") had attempted to counter Japanese interference in Korea and was considering turning to the Russian Empire or to China for support. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong was assassinated by Japanese agents. The Japanese minister to Korea, Lieutenant-General Viscount Miura, almost certainly orchestrated the plot against her. A group of Japanese agents entered the Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace in Seoul, which was under Japanese control, and Queen Min was killed and her body desecrated in the North wing of the palace.
The Qing acknowledged defeat in the Treaty of Shimonoseki (17 April 1895), which officially guaranteed Korea's independence from China. It was a step toward Japan gaining regional hegemony in Korea. The Joseon court, pressured by encroachment from larger powers, felt the need to reinforce national integrity and declared the Korean Empire, along with the Gwangmu Reform in 1897. King Gojong assumed the title of Emperor in order to assert Korea's independence. In addition, other foreign powers were sought for military technology, especially Russia, to fend off the Japanese. Technically, 1897 marks the end of the Joseon period, as the official name of the empire was changed; however the Joseon Dynasty would still reign, albeit perturbed by Japan and Russia.
In a complicated series of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers, Japan pushed back the Russian fleet at the Battle of Port Arthur in 1905. With the conclusion of the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth, the way was open for Japan to take control of Korea. After the signing of the Protectorate Treaty in 1905, Korea became a protectorate of Japan. Prince Itō was the first Resident-General of Korea, although he was assassinated by Korean independence activist An Jung-geun in 1909 at the train station at Harbin. In 1910, although many Koreans opposed the annexation, the Japanese Empire annexed Korea by force.
Joseon dynasty was a highly centralized monarchy and neo-Confucian bureaucracy as codified by Gyeongguk daejeon, a sort of Joseon constitution.
The king had absolute authority, but his actual power varied with political circumstances. He was bound by tradition, precedents set by earlier kings, Gyeongguk daejeon, and Confucian teachings. The king commanded absolute loyalty from his officials and subjects, but the officials were also expected to persuade the king to the right path if the latter was thought to be mistaken. The natural disasters were thought to be due to the king's failings, and therefore, Joseon kings were very sensitive to their occurrences. When there was severe drought or a series of disasters, the king often formally sought criticism from both the officials and citizenry, and whatever they said or wrote were protected from prosecution in such cases (although there were few exceptions).
The government officials were ranked in 18 levels, ranging from first senior rank (정1품, 正一品) down to ninth junior rank (종9품, 從九品) based on seniority and promotion, which was achieved through the royal decree based on examination or recommendation. The officials from 1st senior rank to 3rd senior rank wore red robes while those from 3rd junior rank to 6th junior rank wore blue and those below wore green robes.
Here a government official refers to one who occupied a type of office that gave its holder a yangban status - semi-hereditary nobility that was effective for three generations. In order to become such an official, one had to pass a series of gwageo examinations. There were three kinds of gwageo exams - literary, military, and miscellaneous, among which literary route was the most prestigious. (Many of key posts including all Censorate posts were open only to officials who advanced through literary exam.) In case of literary route, there was a series of four tests, all of which one had to pass in order to qualify to become an official. 33 candidates who were chosen in this manner took the final exam before the king for placement. The candidate with the highest score was appointed to a position of 6th junior rank (a jump of six ranks). Two candidates with the next two highest scores were appointed to a position of 7th junior rank. Seven candidates with next highest scores were assigned to 8th junior rank while the remaining 23 candidates were given 9th junior rank, the lowest of 18 ranks.
The officials of 1st senior rank, 1st junior rank, and 2nd senior rank were addressed with honorific "dae-gam" (대감, 大監) while those of 2nd junior rank and 3rd senior rank were addressed with honorific "yeong-gam" (영감, 令監). These red-robed officials, collectively called "dangsanggwan" (당상관, 堂上官), took part in deciding government policies by attending cabinet meetings. The rest of ranked officials were called "danghagwan" (당하관, 堂下官).
State Council (Uijeongbu, 의정부, 議政府) was the highest deliberative body, whose power however declined over the course of dynasty. The Chief State Councillor (Yeonguijeong, 영의정, 領議政), Left State Councillor (Jwauijeong, 좌의정, 左議政), and Right State Councillor (Uuijeong, 우의정, 右議政) were the highest-ranking officials in the government (All three were of 1st senior rank). They were assisted by Left Minister (Jwachanseong, 좌찬성, 左贊成) and Right Minister (Uichangseong, 우찬성, 右贊成), both of 1st junior rank, and seven lower ranking officials. The power of State Council was inversely proportional to the king's power. There were periods when it directly controlled Six Ministires, the chief executive body of Joseon government, but it primarily served in advisory role under stronger kings. State councillors served in several other positions concurrently.
Six Ministries (Yukjo, 육조, 六曹) make up the chief executive body. Each minister (Panseo, 판서, 判書) was of 2nd senior rank and was assisted by deputy minister (Champan, 참판, 參判), who was of 2nd junior rank. Ministry of Personnel was the most senior office of six ministries. As the influence of State Council waned over time, Minister of Personnel was often de facto head of ministers. Six ministries include in the order of seniority.
- Ministry of Personnel (Ijo, 이조, 吏曹) - was primarily concerned with appointment of officials
- Ministry of Taxation (Hojo, 호조, 戶曹) - taxation, finances, census, agriculture, and land policies
- Ministry of Rites (Yejo, 예조, 禮曺) - rituals, culture, diplomacy, gwageo exam
- Ministry of Defence (Byeongjo, 병조, 兵曺) - military affairs
- Ministry of Justice (Hyeongjo, 형조, 刑曺) - administration of law, slavery, punishments
- Ministry of Works (Gongjo, 공조, 工曹) - industry, public works, manufacturing, mining
Three Offices, or Samsa (삼사), is a collective name for three offices that functioned as major organ of press and provided checks and balance on the king and the officials. While modeled after Chinese system, they played much more prominent roles in Joseon government than their Chinese counterparts. In their role as organ of press, they did not have actual authority to decide or implement policies, but had influential voice in the ensuing debate. The officials who served in these offices tended to be younger and of lower rank compared to other offices but had strong academic reputation and enjoyed special privileges and great prestige (For instance, censors were permitted to drink during working hours because of their function of criticizing the king). To be appointed, they went through more thorough review of character and family background. Three Offices provided the fastest route of promotion to high posts and was almost a requirement to becoming a State Councillor.
- Office of Inspector General (Saheonbu·사헌부) - It monitored government administration and officials at each level in both central and local governments for corruption, malfeasance, or inefficiency. It was also in charge of advancing public morals and Confucian customs and redressing grievances of the populace. It was headed by Inspector General (Daesaheon·대사헌), a position of 2nd junior rank, who oversaw 30 largely independent officials.
- Office of Censors (Saganwon·사간원) - Its chief function was to remonstrate with the king if there was wrong or improper action or policy. Important decrees of the king were first reviewed by censors, who could ask to withdraw them if judged improper. It also issued opinions about the general state of affairs. It was composed of five officials, led by Chief Censor (Daesagan·대사간), of 3rd senior rank.
While the primary focus for Office of Inspector General is the government officials and Office of Censors is focused on the king, two offices often performed each other's functions, and there was much overlap. Together they were called "Yangsa," (양사) which literally means "Both Offices," and often worked jointly especially when they sought to reverse the king's decision.
- Office of Special Advisors (Hongmungwan·홍문관 弘文館) - It oversaw the royal library and served as research institute to study Confucian philosophy and answer the king's questions. Its officials took part in the daily lessons called gyeongyeon (경연), in which they discussed history and Confucian philosophy with the king. Since these discussions often led to commentary on current political issues, its officials had significant influence as advisors. It was headed by Chief Scholar (Daejehak·대제학), a part-time post of 2nd senior rank that served concurrently in another high post (such as in State Council), and Deputy Chief Scholar (Bujehak·부제학), a full-time post of 3rd senior rank that actually ran the office. There was great prestige attached to being Chief Scholar in this deeply Confucian society. (The office was established to replace Hall of Worthies (Jiphyeonjeon·집현전) after the latter was abolished by King Sejo in the aftermath of Six martyred ministers.)
The major offices include the following:
- Royal Secretariat (Seungjeongwon·승정원) served as a liaison between the king and Six Ministries. There were six royal secretaries (승지), one for each ministry, and all were of 3rd senior rank. Their primary role was to pass down royal decree to the ministries and submit petitions from the officials and the populace to the king, but they also advised the king and served in other key positions close to the king. In particular Chief Royale Secretary (도승지), a liaison to Ministry of Personnel, served the king in the closest proximity of all government official and often enjoyed great power that was derived from the king's favor. Hong Guk-yeong (during Jeongjo's reign) and Han Myeong-hwe (during Sejo) are some examples of chief royal secretaries who were the most powerful official of their time.
- Capital Bureau (Hanseungbu·한성부) was in charge of running the capital, Hanyang or present-day Seoul. It was led by Paanyoon(판윤), of 2nd senior second rank equivalent to today's mayor of Seoul.
- Royal Investigation Bureau (Uigeumbu·의금부) was an investigative and enforcement organ under direct control of the king. It chiefly dealt with treason and other serious cases that concerned the king and royal family and served to arrest, investigate, imprison, and carry out sentences against the suspected offenders, who were often government officials.
- Office of Records (Chunchugwan·춘추관) - Its officials wrote, compiled, and maintained the government and historical records. It was headed by State Councillors, and many posts were held by officials serving in other offices concurrently. There were eight historiographers whose sole function was to record the meetings for history.
- Seonggyungwan or Royal Academy (성균관) - Royal university served to prepare the future government officials. Those who passed first two stages of gwageo examinations (literary exam) were admitted to Seonggyungwan. The class size was usually 200 students, who lived in the residential hall and followed strict routine and school rules. (The tuition, room and board were provided by the government.) It also served as the state shrine for Confucian and Korean Confucian sages. The students' opinions on government policies, especially collective statements and demonstrations, could be influential as they represented fresh and uncorrupted consensus of young scholars. The official in charge was Daesaseong (대사성), of 3rd senior rank, and 36 other officials including those from other offices were involved in running the academy.
The officials of high rank were sent from the central government. Sometimes a secret royal inspector (Amhaeng-eosa·암행어사) was appointed by the king to travel incognito and monitor the provincial officials. These undercover inspectors were generally young officials of lower rank but was invested with the royal authority to dismiss corrupt officials.
- Provinces (Do·도) - There were eight province, each of which was governed by Governor (Gwanchalsa·관찰사), a position of 2nd junior rank.
- Bu(부) - administrative offices in charge of major cities in provinces. Each bu was led by Buyoon (부윤), which was equivalent to Governor in rank.
- Mok (목) - There were twenty moks, which governed large counties named 'ju'(주). They were run by Moksa (목사), of 3rd senior rank.
- County (Gun·군) - There were eighty counties in Joseon, each governed by Gunsu (군수), a 4th junior rank.
- Hyeon (현) - Large hyeons were governed by Hyeongryeong (현령) of 5th junior rank while smaller hyeons were governed by Hyeonggam (현감) of 6th junior rank.
During most of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea was divided into eight provinces (do; 도; 道). The eight provinces' boundaries remained unchanged for almost five centuries from 1413 to 1895, and formed a geographic paradigm that is still reflected today in the Korean Peninsula's administrative divisions, dialects, and regional distinctions. The names of all eight provinces are still preserved today, in one form or another.
Social and population structure
The population of Joseon Korea is controversial. Government records of households are considered unreliable in this period. One recent estimate[by whom?] gives 6 million at the start of the dynasty in 1392, growing irregularly to a peak of near 19 million by about 1750. Between 1810 and 1850, the population declined approximately 10% and remained stable. Before the introduction of modern medicine by the Korean Empire government in the early 20th century, the average life expectancy for Korean males was 24 and for females 26 years.
Joseon Korea installed a centralised administrative system[when?] controlled by Confucian scholars and warriors who were called Yangban. By the end of the 18th century, the yangban had acquired most of the traits of a hereditary nobility except that the status was based on a unique mixture of family position, gwageo examinations for Confucian learning, and a civil service system. The family of a yangban who did not succeed to become a government official for the third generation lost their yangban status and became commoners. For most part, the only way to become a government official was to pass a series of gwageo exams (One had to pass "lesser gwageo" exam (소과) in both of two stages to qualify for greater gwageo exam, which again one had to pass in both of two stages to become a government official.) The yangban and the king, in an uneasy balance, controlled the central government and military institutions. The proportion of yangban may have reached as high as 30% by 1800, although there was considerable local variation. As the government was small, a great many yangban were local gentry of high social status, but not always of high income.
Another 40-50% of the population were slaves (nobi), "low borns" (cheonmin) or untouchable outcastes (baekjeong). Slavery was hereditary, as well as a form of legal punishment. There was a slave class with both government- and privately owned slaves, and the government occasionally gave slaves to citizens of higher rank. Privately owned slaves could be inherited as personal property. During poor harvests, many sangmin people would voluntarily become slaves in order to survive. During the Joseon Dynasty about 30% to 40% of the Korean population consisted of slaves. However, Joseon slaves could, and often did, own property. Private slaves could buy their freedom.
Many of the remaining 40-50% of the population were surely farmers, but recent work has raised important issues about the size of other groups: merchants and traders, local government or quasi-governmental clerks (Chungin), craftsmen and laborers, textile workers, etc. Given the size of the population, it may be that a typical person had more than one role. Most farming was, at any rate, commercial, not subsistence. In addition to generating additional income, a certain amount of occupational dexterity may have been required to avoid the worst effects of an often heavy and corrupt tax system.
During the Late Joseon, the Confucian ideals of propriety and "filial piety" gradually came to be equated with a strict observance to a complex social hierarchy, with many fine gradations. By the early 18th century the social critic Yi Junghwan (1690–1756) sarcastically complained that "[W]ith so many different ranks and grades separating people from one another, people tend not to have a very large circle of friends." But, even as Yi wrote, the informal social distinctions of the Early Joseon were being reinforced by legal discrimination, such as Sumptuary law regulating the dress of different social groups, and laws restricting inheritance and property ownership by women.
Yet, these laws may have been announced precisely because social mobility was increasing, particularly during the prosperous century beginning about 1710. The original social hierarchy of the Joseon Dynasty was developed based on the social hierarchy of the Goryeo era. In the 14th–16th centuries, this hierarchy was strict and stable. Since economic opportunities to change status were limited, no law was needed.
In the late 17–19th centuries, however, new commercial groups emerged, and the old class system was extremely weakened. Especially, the population of Daegu region's Yangban class was expected to reach nearly 70 percent in 1858.
In 1801, Government-owned slaves were all emancipated, and the institution gradually died out over the next century. The institution was completely abolished as part of a social plan in the Gabo Reform of 1894.
The Joseon Dynasty presided over two periods of great cultural growth, during which Joseon culture created the first Korean tea ceremony, Korean gardens, and extensive historic works. The royal dynasty also built several fortresses, palaces.
In Joseon Dynasty, jeogori of women's hanbok became gradually tightened and shortened. In the 16th century, jeogori was baggy and reached below the waist, but by the end of Joseon Dynasty in the 19th century, jeogori was shortened to the point that it did not cover the breasts, so another piece of cloth (heoritti) was used to cover them. At the end of 19th century, Daewon-gun introduced Magoja, a Manchu-style jacket, to Korea, which is often worn with hanbok to this day.
Chima was full-skirted and jeogori was short and tight in the late Joseon period. Fullness in the skirt was emphasized round the hips. Many undergarments were worn underneath chima such as darisokgot, soksokgot, dansokgot, and gojengi to achieve a desired silhouette. Because jeogori was so short it became natural to expose heoritti or heorimari which functioned like a corset. The white linen cloth exposed under jeogori in the picture is heoritti.
The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to cotton at best. The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though bright colors were generally worn by children and girls and subdued colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by law to everyday clothes of white, but for special occasions they wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray, and charcoal. Formally, when Korean men went outdoors, they were required to wear overcoats known as durumagi which reach the knees.
The Mid-Joseon dynasty painting styles moved towards increased realism. A national painting style of landscapes called "true view" began - moving from the traditional Chinese style of idealized general landscapes to particular locations exactly rendered. While not photographic, the style was academic enough to become established and supported as a standardized style in Korean painting.
The mid-to-late Joseon dynasty is considered the golden age of Korean painting. It coincides with the shock of the collapse of Ming dynasty links with the Manchu emperors accession in China, and the forcing of Korean artists to build new artistic models based on an inner search for particular Korean subjects. At this time China ceased to have pre-eminent influence, Korean art took its own course, and became increasingly distinctive to the traditional Chinese painting.
Ceramics are a form of popular art during the Joseon Dynasty. Examples of ceramics include white porcelain or white porcelain decorated with cobalt, copper red underglaze, blue underglaze and iron underglaze. Ceramics from the Joseon period differ from other periods because artists felt that each piece of art deserved its own uniquely cultivated personality.
Beginning in the 10th century, white porcelain has been crafted in Korea. Historically overshadowed by the popularity of celadon, it was not until the 15th and 16th centuries that white porcelain was recognized for its own artistic value. Among the most prized of Korean ceramics are large white jars. Their shape is symbolic of the moon and their color is associated with the ideals of purity and modesty of Confucianism. During this period, the bureau that oversaw the meals and court banquets of the royal family strictly controlled the production of white porcelain.
Blue and white porcelain artifacts decorating white porcelain with paintings and designs in underglaze by using natural cobalt pigment are another example of popular wares of the Joseon period. Many of these items were created by court painters employed by the royal family. During this period, the popular style of landscape paintings is mirrored in the decoration of ceramics. Initially developed by the Chinese at the Jingdezhen kilns in the mid-14th century, Joseon began to produce this type of porcelain from the 15th century under Chinese influence. The first cobalt imported from China was used by Korean artists. In 1463 when sources of cobalt were discovered in Korea, artists and their buyers found the material was inferior in quality and preferred the more expensive imported cobalt. Korean porcelain with imported cobalt decoration contradict the emphasis of an orderly, frugal and moderate life in Neo-Confucianism.
Strikingly different from cobalt, porcelain items with a copper-red underglaze are the most difficult to successfully craft. During production, these items require great skill and attention or will turn gray during the process of firing. While the birthplace of ceramics with copper red underglaze is widely disputed, these items originated during 12th century in Korea and became increasingly popular during the second half of the Joseon period. Some experts have pointed to the kilns of Bunwon-ri in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, a city that played a significant role in the production of ceramics during the Joseon period, as a possible birthplace.
Porcelain was also decorated with iron. These items commonly consisted of jars or other utilitarian pieces.
- Media related to Architecture of the Joseon Dynasty at Wikimedia Commons
- See also: Joseon—Chosŏn Dynasty (1392-1910) architecture; and Five Grand Palaces
The history of Joseon architecture (1392-1910) is described in three periods of: the early, the middle, and the late period, in accordance with cultural and arts development. In the early period, the architecture developed as a succession from the cultural inheritance of the previous dynasty with the new political guiding principles of Confucianism that took the place of Buddhism.
Through the influence of Confucianism, a refined aristocratic taste of the previous era was replaced by the characteristics of simple and humble beauty with the qualities of commonness and steadiness. In the period of the Joseon dynasty, Korean architecture developed further with a unique will to manifest the expression of the ideas and values of the period.
Bracket systems — The intercolumnar bracket set system was used in building the most important edifice on the premises. The columnar bracket set system and the eclectic bracket system, which consists of architectural elements from both columnar and intercolumnar systems, were also used for temples and other important buildings. The bracket cluster system, structurally and visually important elements of the buildings, were developed to follow structural function and to express the unique formal beauty of Korean architecture.
Architectural ornaments and their symbolic connotation had more variety and richness. Architects of the period intended to express a strong will to form an indigenous style in architecture, and tried to use decorative elements of all kinds. This achieved a kind of symphonic quality with the methods of architectural organization by strong contrast of light and dark, of simplicity and complexity, and then finally reached the definite climax of architectural ingenuity. This tendency of architectural expression of the later period might remind us somewhat similar impressions of the Western Baroque and Rococo style.
- Dancheong — a traditional Korean decorative coloring painted on secular and religious wooden buildings, often in vibrant hues in complex combinations on coffered ceilings and tympanum, and/or elaborately layered roof cornices and eaves.
The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (also known as The True Record of the Joseon Dynasty) are the annual records of the Joseon Dynasty, which were kept from 1413 to 1865. The annals, or sillok, comprise 1,893 volumes and are thought to cover the longest continual period of a single dynasty in the world. With the exception of two sillok compiled during the colonial era, the Annals are the 151st national treasure of Korea and listed in UNESCO's Memory of the World registry.
Uigwe is a collection of royal protocols of the Joseon Dynasty, which records and prescribes through text and stylized illustration the important ceremonies and rites of the royal family.
Science and technology
The Joseon Dynasty under the reign of Sejong the Great was Korea's greatest period of scientific advancement. Under Sejong's new policy Cheonmin (low-status) people such as Jang Yeong-sil were allowed to work for the government. At a young age, Jang displayed talent as an inventor and engineer, creating machines to facilitate agricultural work. These included supervising the building of aqueducts and canals. Jang eventually was allowed to live at the royal palace, where he led a group of scientists to work on advancing Korea's science.
Some of his inventions were an automated (self-striking) water clock (the Jagyeokru) which worked by activating motions of wooden figures to indicate time visually (invented in 1434 by Jang), a subsequent more complicated water-clock with additional astronomical devices, and an improved model of the previous metal movable printing type created in the Goryeo Dynasty. The new model was of even higher quality and was twice as fast. Other inventions were the sight glass, and the udometer.
The highpoint of Korean astronomy was during the Joseon period, where men such as Jang created devices such as celestial globes which indicated the positions of the sun, moon, and the stars. Later celestial globes (Gyupyo, 규표) were attuned to the seasonal variations.
The apex of astronomical and calendarial advances under King Sejong was the Chiljeongsan, which compiled computations of the courses of the seven heavenly objects (five visible planets, the sun, and moon), developed in 1442. This work made it possible for scientists to calculate and accurately predict all the major heavenly phenomena, such as solar eclipses and other stellar movements. Honcheonsigye is an astronomical clock created by Song I-yeong in 1669. The clock has an armillary sphere with a diameter of 40 cm. The sphere is activated by a working clock mechanism, showing the position of celestial objects at any given time.
Kangnido, a Korean-made map of the world was created in 1402 by Kim Sa-hyeong (김사형, 金士衡), Yi Mu (이무, 李茂) and Yi Hoe (이회, 李撓). The map was created in the second year of the reign of Taejong of Joseon. The map was made by combining Chinese, Korean and Japanese maps.
The scientific and technological advance in the late Joseon Dynasty was less progressed than the early Joseon period.
16th-century court physician, Heo Jun wrote a number of medical texts, his most significant achievement being Dongeui Bogam, which is often noted as the defining text of Traditional Korean medicine. The work spread to China and Japan, where it is still regarded as one of the classics of Oriental medicine today.
The first soft ballistic vest, Myunjebaegab, was invented in Joseon Korea in the 1860s shortly after the French Campaign against Korea (1866). Heungseon Daewongun ordered development of bullet-proof armor because of increasing threats from Western armies. Kim Gi-du and Gang Yun found that cotton could protect against bullets if thick enough, and devised bullet-proof vests made of 30 layers of cotton. The vests were used in battle during the United States expedition to Korea (1871), when the US Navy attacked Ganghwa Island in 1871. The US Army captured one of the vests and took it to the US, where it was stored at the Smithsonian Museum until 2007. The vest has since been sent back to Korea and is currently on display to the public.
During the Goryeo Dynasty, Korea had a healthy trade relationship with the Arabians, Japanese, Chinese, and Manchurians. An example of prosperous, international trade port is Pyongnam. Koreans offered brocades, jewelries, ginseng, silk, and porcelain, renowned famous worldwide. But, during the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism was adopted as the national philosophy, and, in process of eliminating certain Buddhist beliefs, Goryeo Cheongja porcelains were replaced by white Baekja, which lost favour of the Chinese and the Arabians. Also, commerce became more restricted during this time in order to promote agriculture. In addition to this, constant Chinese request for tribute pushed the Korean policy of ceasing to produce various luxury item elements (i.e. gold, silver), and importing only the necessary amounts from Japan. Because silver was used as currency in China, it played an important role in Korea-China trade.
Titles and Styles during Joseon Kingdom
Titles and Styles used inside the royal family were stratified along the generations and relative to the current King.
One generation before the current King
- Great Predecessor King (seondaewang, 선대왕, 先大王) or Great King (daewang, 대왕, 大王) used to reference a late monarch.
- Queen Dowager (daebi, 대비, 大妃), the consort of the deceased King (perhaps the mother of the current king), with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Queens dowager often exercised a great deal of influence on the king's influence through their regencies, which took place when the king was too young to rule in his own name, or simply through their role as the mother or even a senior female relative of the monarch.
- Royal Queen Dowager (wangdaebi, 왕대비, 王大妃), a former consort preceding a least senior queen dowager or current king's aunt or grandmother, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽).
- Grand Royal Queen Dowager (daewangdaebi, 대왕대비, 大王大妃), a former consort senior to two other queen dowagers or the current king's great-grandmother, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽).
- Grand Internal Prince (daewongun, 대원군, 大院君), the father of a king who was unable to take the throne himself as he was not part of the generation following that of the last incumbent of the throne (kings who are honored at the royal Jongmyo Shrine must be senior generation-wise to the current incumbent of the throne). There have been cases when Grand Internal Prince acted as regent for his son, the last person to do so having been the Regent Heungseon.
- Grand Internal Princess Consort (budaebuin, 부대부인, 府大夫人), the mother of a king whose father himself never reigned.
- Internal Prince (buwongun, 부원군, 府院君), the queen consort's father.
- Internal Princess Consort (bubuin, 부부인, 府夫人), the queen consort's mother.
Half a generation before the current King
- King Former (sangwang, 상왕, 上王), a yet living king who has voluntarily abdicated to the current king. They usually remained influential or even powerful through the remaining years of their lives. The style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, less frequently but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used.
- Grand King Former (taesangwang, 태상왕, 太上王), an abdicated king whose relinquishment of power precedes that of another former king. The style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, less frequently but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used.
- King (wang, 왕, 王), the king, with the style of His Majesty (jeonha, 전하, 殿下) or, not as correct but yet still quite common, His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Before the style of "jeonha" were used a variety of titles for the king. Native names such as "naratnim" (나랏님) and "imgeum" (임금) were also used colloquially. For foreign envoys the title used was State King (gugwang, 국왕, 國王); and for those in the court who needed to mention the king outside his presence, and thus more formality was required in addressing the monarch, the title was Current King (geum-sang, 금상, 今上),Sovereign (jusang, 주상, 主上 or sanggam, 상감, 上監), or Grand Palace (daejeon, 대전, 大殿). The style remained the same for all titles with the exception of queens dowager and the relatively few kings who abdicated, who simply addressed or mentioned the king without using his style.
- Queen consort (wangbi, 왕비, 王妃), the queen consort, with the style of Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). The title used in the court language was Center Palace (junggungjeon, 중궁전, 中宮殿 or jungjeon, 중전, 中殿). Queens consort that remained married to the king until their death were generally given a title consisting of two Hanja in the front and the customary suffix Queen (wanghu, 왕후, 王后) in the back.
Half a generation after the current King
- Royal Prince Successor Brother (wangseje, 왕세제, 王世弟), the younger brother of the king who has been formally invested as heir apparent when the king has no offspring.
One generation after the current King
- Prince Royal (wonja, 원자, 元子), the firstborn son of the king before being formally invested as heir apparent, with the style of His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽). Generally, princes royal were the son who was born first between the king and his official wife, but there were exceptions when the title of Prince Royal was given to the firstborn son of the king through a concubine, the most notable case having occurred in the reign of King Sukjong.
- Grand Prince (daegun, 대군, 大君), a prince born to the official match between the king and queen with the style of His Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and the style His Excellency (daegam, 대감, 大監) afterward. The title of a grand prince is not inherited and his sons are generally referred to as mere princes.
- Grand Princess Consort (bubuin, 부부인, 府夫人), the consort of a grand prince.
- Princess (gongju, 공주, 公主), the daughter of the official match between the king and his official wife, with the style of Her Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and Her Excellency (jaga, 자가) afterward.
- Prince (gun, 군, 君), a son born to the match between the king and a concubine or a descendant of a grand prince. The style used is His Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and the style His Excellency (daegam, 대감, 大監) afterward.
- Princess Consort (gunbuin, 군부인, 郡夫人), the consort of a prince.
- Princess (ongju, 옹주, 翁主), the daughter of the king and one of his concubines, with the style of Her Young Highness (agissi, 아기씨) before marriage and Her Excellency (jaga, 자가) afterward.
- Royal Prince Successor (wangseja, 왕세자, 王世子) the invested heir apparent to the throne, with the simplified title Prince Successor (seja, 세자, 世子) being frequently used instead of the full name with the style of His Royal Highness (jeoha, 저하, 邸下). Most of the time, he was the eldest son of the current king. In less formal but still official court language, the title Eastern Palace (donggung, 동궁, 東宮) or Spring Palace (chungung, 춘궁, 春宮) and the style His Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) was used intermittently with "Prince Successor," although the style was frequently dropped by more senior members of the royal family.
- Royal Princess Successor Consort (wangsaejabin, 왕세자빈, 王世子嬪), the consort of the heir apparent, or simply Princess Successor Consort (saejabin, 세자빈, 世子嬪), with the style of Her Royal Consort Highness (manora, 마노라 or manura, 마누라).
Later, as the distinction between "Her Royal Highness" and "Her Royal Consort Highness" became unclear due to the influence of the Andong Kim clan, the style Her Royal Highness (mama, 마마, 媽媽) also came to apply to the consort of the heir apparent. The style ~ Royal Highness also came to apply to grand princes, princes, and princess as well for the same reason.
Two generations after the current King
- Royal Prince Successor Descendant (wangseson, 왕세손, 王世孫), the son of the prince successor and the princess successor consort, and the grandson of the king, with the style of His Highness (hap-a, 합하, 閤下).
House of Yi
- Emperor Gojong (1852–1919) – 26th head of the Korean Imperial Household, adoptive great-great-great-grandson of King Yeongjo of Joseon
- Emperor Sunjong (1874–1926) – 27th head of the Korean Imperial Household
- Prince Gang (1877–1955)
- Prince Geon (1909–1991) – renounced the Imperial title and heritage by becoming a Japanese citizen in 1947
- Prince Wu (1912–1945)
- Yi Chung (1936–) – de jure genealogical heir of Emperor Gojong
- Prince Gap (1938–)
- Haewon, Princess of Korea (1919–) – claims to be the 30th head of the Korean Imperial Household
- 1st son
- 2nd son
- 3rd son
- 1st daughter
- Prince Seok (1941–)
- Crown Prince Uimin (1897–1970) – 28th head of the Korean Imperial Household
- Prince Jin (1921–1922)
- Hereditary Prince Hoeun (1931–2005) — 29th head of the Korean Imperial Household
- Princess Deokhye (1912–1989)
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