Princess Deokhye

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Princess Deokhye
Princess dukhye around 1923.JPG
Born (1912-05-25)25 May 1912
Changdeok Palace, Keijo, Japanese Korea
(now Seoul, South Korea)
Died 21 April 1989(1989-04-21) (aged 76)
Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, Seoul, South Korea
Burial Hongryureung, Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea
Spouse Count Sō Takeyuki
(m. 1930; div. 1953)
Issue Countess Sō Masae
Father Gojong of Korea
Mother Lady Bongnyeong
Princess Deokhye
Hangul 덕혜옹주
Hanja 德惠翁主
Revised Romanization Deokhye Ongju
McCune–Reischauer Tŏkhye Ongju

Princess Deokhye of Korea (25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989) was the last princess of Korea.

She was born on 25 May 1912 at Changdeok Palace in Seoul. She was the youngest daughter of Emperor Gwangmu and his concubine, Lady Bongnyeong.[1] In 1917, her name was formally entered into the Imperial Family's registry. Her father, Emperor Gwangmu, loved her greatly, and established the Deoksu Palace Kindergarten for her in Jeukjodang, Hamnyeong hall. Girls her age from noble families attended the kindergarten. In 1919, she was secretly engaged to Kim Jang-han, a nephew of Kim Hwangjin, a court chamberlain.

Birth and early life[edit]

Born in 25 May 1912, she was born to her late father Emperor Gwangmu. Upon having no given name, she was ignored and was treated like she did not exist. She was then nicknamed "BoknyeongDang". In 1917, Emperor Gojong finally persuaded Terauchi Masatake, the then-ruling Governor General of Korea.

Arranged marriage[edit]

In 1925, she was taken to Japan under the pretense of continuing her studies. Like her brothers, she attended the Gakushuin. She was described as silent and insular. Upon the news of her mother's death in 1929, she isolated herself in her rooms and was eventually given permission to visit Korea temporarily to attend her mother's funeral in 1930. In the Spring of 1930, upon the onset of mental illness (manifested by sleepwalking), she moved to King Lee's Palace, her brother Crown Prince Eun's house in Tokyo. During this period, she often forgot to eat and drink. Her physician diagnosed her illness as precocious dementia, but by the following year, her condition seemed to have improved.

In May 1931, after "matchmaking" by Empress Teimei, the consort of Emperor Taishō of Japan, she married Count Sō Takeyuki (武志; 1923-1985), a Japanese nobleman.[2] The marriage had in fact been decided in 1930; her brother had protested against it, and it had been postponed because of her condition, but when she recovered, she was immediately given instructions that the marriage was to take place. She gave birth to a daughter, Masae (正惠), or Jeonghye (정혜) in Korean, on 14 August 1932. In 1933, Deokhye was again afflicted with mental illness, and after this, she spent many years in various mental clinics.

She finally divorced her husband in 1953. Suffering an unhappy marriage, her grief was compounded by the loss of her only daughter who committed suicide by drowning in 1955. After this, her condition deteriorated.

Return to court[edit]

She returned to Korea at the invitation of the South Korean government on 26 January 1962.[3] She cried while approaching her motherland, and despite her mental state, accurately remembered the court manners. She lived in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace, with Crown Prince and Princess Eun, their son Prince Gu, his wife Julia Mullock, and Mrs Byeon Bokdong, her lady-in-waiting. She died on 21 April 1989 at Sugang Hall, Changdeok Palace, and was buried at Hongryureung in Namyangju, near Seoul.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In 1995 a play based upon Princess Deokhye was held at the Seoul Art Center.
  • A biography for Princess Deokhye was published by Japanese author Yasuko Honma (本馬恭子) and was subsequently translated into Korean by Hoon Lee and published in 1996.
  • A 2009 book by Kwon Bi-young was published in Korea.
  • Singer Ho Shim Nam created a 1963 song based upon the life of Princess Deokhye.
  • Korean singer Heo Jinsul's 2010 song The Rose of Tears (Hangul눈물꽃; RRNeun Meul Kot) is based upon the life of Princess Deokhye, and was recorded in both English and Korean.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iwansuwandy. "Kisah Princess Korea Terakhir Deokhye". Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Chung, Ah-young. "Life of Joseons Last Princess Revisited". Korean Times. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Late Joseon Princess Deokhye's life revealed". Retrieved 19 November 2012.