Gwanghaegun of Joseon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
King of Joseon
PredecessorSeonjo of Joseon
SuccessorInjo of Joseon
Regent of Joseon
MonarchSeonjo of Joseon
Born4 June 1575
Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
Died7 August 1641 (1641-08-08) (aged 66)
Jeju Island, Kingdom of Joseon
ConsortDeposed Queen Yu
HouseJeonju Yi
FatherSeonjo of Joseon
MotherRoyal Noble Consort Gong
Gwanghaegun of Joseon
Revised RomanizationGwanghae
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI Hon
McCune–ReischauerI Hon

Gwanghae-gun or Prince Gwanghae (4 June 1575 – 7 August 1641; reigned 1608–1623) was the fifteenth king of the Joseon dynasty. His personal name was Yi Hon. As he was deposed in a coup d'état, later official historians did not give him a temple name like Taejo or Sejong.


Birth and background[edit]

Gwanghaegun was the second son of King Seonjo, born to Lady Kim (Gongbin), a concubine. When Japan invaded Korea to attack the Ming Empire, he was installed as Crown Prince. When the king fled north to the border of Ming, he set up a branch court and fought defensive battles. During and after the Seven Year War (1592–1598), he acted as the de facto ruler of the Joseon Dynasty, commanding battles and taking care of the reconstruction of the nation after the devastating wars, in the place of old and weak King Seonjo.

Although it brought prestige to him, his position was still unstable. He had an elder but incompetent brother Prince Imhae (Imhaegun, 임해군, 臨海君) and a younger but legitimate brother Grand Prince Yeong-chang (Yeong-chang Daegun, 영창대군, 永昌大君), who was supported by the Lesser Northerners faction. Fortunately for Gwang-hae, King Seonjo's abrupt death made it impossible for his most favorite son Yeong-chang Daegun to succeed to the throne.

Violence of Greater Northerner faction[edit]

Before King Seonjo died, he named Prince Gwang-hae as his official successor to the throne and ordered his advisers to make a royal document. However, Lyu Young-gyong of the Lesser Northerners faction hid the document and plotted to install Prince Yeong-chang as king, only to be found out by the head of the Great Northerners faction (대북; 大北), Chung In-hong. Lyu was executed immediately and Prince Yeong-chang was arrested and died the next year.

After the incident, Gwang-hae tried to bring officials from various political and regional background to his court, but his plan was interrupted by Greater Northerners including Lee Icheom and Chung In-hong. Then, Greater Northerners began to take members of other political factions out of the government, especially Lesser Northerners. In 1613, the Greater Northerners moved against Prince Yeong-chang; his grandfather Kim Jenam was found guilty of treason and executed, while Yeong-chang was sent into exile, where he too was executed. At the same time, Greater Northerners suppressed the Lesser Northerners; in 1618, Yeong-chang's mother, Queen In-mok, was stripped of her title and imprisoned. Gwang-hae had no power to stop this even though he was the official head of the government.[citation needed]


Despite his poor reputation after his death, he was a talented and pragmatic politician. He endeavored to restore the country and sponsored the restoration of documents. As a part of reconstruction, he revised land ordinance and redistributed land to the people; he also ordered the rebuilding of Changdeok Palace along with several other palaces. Additionally, he was responsible for the reintroduction of the hopae identification system after a long period of disuse.[1]

In foreign affairs he sought a balance between the Ming Empire and the Manchus. Since he realized Joseon was unable to compete with Manchu military power, he tried to maintain friendly relationship with the Manchus while the kingdom was still under the suzerainty of Ming, which angered the Ming and dogmatic Confucian Koreans. The critically worsened Manchu-Ming relationship forced him to send ten thousand soldiers to aid Ming in 1619. However, the Battle of Sarhū ended in Manchu's overwhelming victory. The Korean General Gang Hong-rip lost two-thirds of his troops and surrendered to Nurhaci. Gwanghaegun negotiated independently for peace with the Manchus and managed to avoid another war. He also restored diplomatic relationship with Japan in 1609 when he reopened trade with Japan through Treaty of Giyu, and sent his ambassadors to Japan in 1617.

In the domestic sphere, Gwanghaegun implemented the Daedong law, which let his subjects pay their taxes more easily. However, this law was activated only in Gyeonggi Province, which was the largest granary zone at that time, and it took a century for the law to be extended across the whole kingdom. He encouraged publishing in order to accelerate reconstruction and to restore the kingdom's former prosperity. Many books were written during his reign, including the famous medical book Donguibogam, and several historical records were rewritten in this period. In 1616, tobacco was first introduced to Korea and it soon became popular amongst the Korean aristocracy.

Dethronement and later life[edit]

On April 6, 1623 Gwanghaegun was deposed in a coup by the Westerners faction. The coup directed by Kim Yu took place at night, Gwanghaegun fled but was captured later.[2] He was confined first on Ganghwa Island and then on Jeju Island, where he died in 1641. He does not have a royal mausoleum like the other Joseon rulers. His and Lady Ryu's remains were buried at a comparatively humble site in Namyangju in Gyeonggi Province. The Westerners faction installed Neungyanggun as the sixteenth king Injo who promulgated pro-Ming and anti-Manchu policies, which resulted in two subsequent Manchu invasions.


Gwanghaegun's tomb

Although Gwanghaegun is one of only two deposed kings who were not restored and given the temple name (the other one being Yeonsangun), many people[who?] consider him a victim of feuds between political factions.[citation needed] However he did a better job of caring for his country than his predecessor King Seonjo, or his successor King Injo.[citation needed] They both contributed to invasions—the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), the Seven Year War; and the Manchu Invasion.

In modern South Korea, Gwanghaegun is considered one of the wiser kings rather than a despot.[citation needed]


  • Father: King Seonjo of Joseon (26 November 1552 – 16 March 1608) (조선 선조)
    • Grandfather: Yi Cho, Grand Prince Deokheung (2 April 1530 – 14 June 1559) (이초 덕흥대원군)
    • Grandmother: Grand Princess Consort Hadong of the Hadong Jeong clan (23 September 1522 – 24 June 1567) (하동부대부인 정씨)
  • Mother: Royal Noble Consort Gong of the Gimhae Kim clan (16 November 1553 – 13 June 1577) (공빈 김씨)
    • Grandfather: Kim Hee-Cheol (1519 – 1 August 1592) (김희철)
    • Grandmother: Lady Kwon of the Andong Kwon clan (안동 권씨)
  • Consorts and their Respective Issue(s):
  1. Deposed Queen Yu of the Munhwa Yu clan (15 August 1576 – 31 October 1623) (폐비 유씨)[3][4]
    1. Yi Ji, Deposed Crown Prince (31 December 1598 – 22 July 1623) (이지 폐세자)
  2. Royal Consort So-ui of the Papyeong Yun clan (? – 14 March 1623) (소의 윤씨)[5]
    1. Unnamed daughter (1619–1664) (옹주)
  3. Royal Consort So-ui of the Hong clan (? – 1623) (소의 홍씨)[6]
  4. Royal Consort So-ui of the Kwon clan (숙의 권씨)[7]
  5. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Yangcheon Heo clan (숙의 허씨)[8]
  6. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Wonju Won clan (숙의 원씨)[9]
  7. Royal Consort So-yong of the Dongnae Jeong clan (? – 13 March 1623) (소용 정씨)
  8. Royal Consort So-yong of the Pungcheon Im clan (1598 – 1628) (소용 임씨)[10]
  9. Royal Consort So-won of the Shin clan (소원 신씨)[11]
  10. Royal Consort Suk-won of the Han clan (숙원 한씨)
  11. Court Lady Kim Gae-Si (1584 – 1623) (상궁 김씨, 김개시)[12]
  12. Court Lady Lee (상궁 이씨)
  13. Court Lady Choi (상궁 최씨)
  14. Court Lady Jo (궁인 조씨)
  15. Court Lady Byeon (궁인 변씨)

His eulogistic name[edit]

  • The Great King Checheon Heung'un Jundeok Honggong Sinseong Yeongsuk Heummun Inmu Seoryun Ipgi Myeongseong Gwangryeol Yungbong Hyeonbo Mujeong Junghui Yecheol Jang'ui Jangheon Sunjeong Geon'ui Sujeong Changdo Sung'eop of Korea
  • 체천흥운준덕홍공신성영숙흠문인무서륜입기명성광렬융봉현보무정중희예철장의장헌순정건의수정창도숭업대왕

In popular culture[edit]

Film and television[edit]


  • Gwanghae's Lover, a 2013 novel written by Euodia. Originally posted on web portal Naver, it is a love story about Gwanghae and a time traveling high school girl.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rutt, Richard; Pratt, Keith L.; Hoare, James (1999). Korea: A Historical and Cultural Dictionary. United Kingdom: Routledge. ISBN 0-7007-0463-9. (p252)
  2. ^ "승정원일기 1책(탈초본 1책) 인조 1년 3월 12일 임인". 승정원일기. Retrieved 12 December 2017.
  3. ^ After her husband's deposition, she was known as "Deposed Queen Yu" (폐비 유씨).
  4. ^ Her posthumous name refers her as "Queen Hyejang" (혜장왕후).
  5. ^ Daughter of Yoon Hong-eop
  6. ^ Daughter of Hong Mae
  7. ^ Daughter of Kwon Yeo-gyeong
  8. ^ Daughter of Heo Gyeong
  9. ^ Daughter of Won Soo-sin
  10. ^ Daughter of Im Mong-jeong
  11. ^ Daughter of Sin Geum-gyeong
  12. ^ She is said to be his father's concubine.
  13. ^ Baek, Byung-yeul (31 May 2013). "Recent Book: Gwanghae's Lover". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
Gwanghaegun of Joseon
Born: 1575 Died: 1641
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Joseon
Succeeded by