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Jang Geum
Born 15th century CE
Joseon (Korea)
Died 16th century CE
Joseon (Korea)
Nationality Joseon (Korean)
Other names Dae Jang Geum (Great Jang Geum)
Occupation Physician
Known for Being the first personal female doctor of a Korean king (Jungjong of Joseon)
Hangul 장금
Hanja 長今
Revised Romanization Jang-geum
McCune–Reischauer Changgeum
Note that "Jang-geum" is only a given name

Jang-geum (fl. early 16th century) was reputedly the first female Royal Physician in Korean history. She was mentioned 10 times in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty. It is known that King Jungjong was pleased with Jang-geum's medical knowledge and trusted her with taking care of the royal family. Henceforth, Jang-geum became the third highest-ranking officer in the Court, and was granted the use of Dae (Hangul; Hanja; RRDae; MRTae) (which means "great" in Korean) before her first name.

Some sources attest to Jang-geum as a real person[1][2][3] and it is still a topic of debate among scholars.

Mentions in Annals of the Joseon Dynasty[edit]

Mentions of "Jang-geum (長今)", sometimes alongside the title "female doctor" (uinyeo; 醫女), were noted on 10 occasions:

  1. 04 April 1515: Some court officers sent petitions to King Jungjong to severely punish all the uinyeo that had attended to the recently deceased Queen (Queen Janggyeong), including Jang-geum.[4] Queen Janggyeong (Jungjong's 2nd wife) died past midnight on 16 March[5] due to post-partum complications[6] resulting from the birth of the legitimate heir (the future King Injong; 10 March).[7] This was the first recorded entry as well as mention of Jang-geum's name in the Annals.
  2. 05 April 1515: In reply to the above petition, King Jungjong refused: "Jang-geum deserved a big credit for her role in the safe childbirth (of the Queen), but I have never rewarded her for her actions until now, because of other affairs. Now you (the court officers) are telling me to punish her because the Queen is dead, but I won't do that as well as I won't reward her."[8]
  3. 24 September 1522: Jungjong was recorded to have rewarded the staff of the medical department after the Queen Mother (Queen Jeonghyeon) recovered from an illness.[9] Jang-geum (as well as a fellow uinyeo) was rewarded 10 sacks of rice & 10 sacks of beans.
  4. 08 January 1525: Jungjong commented, after an illness: "[...] However, Dae Jang-geum (大長今) was better than any other uinyeo. As a result, she was permitted to look after the King".[10] This was the first recorded instance of the title "dae" (大 "great") attached to Jang-geum's name in the Annals.
  5. 06 March 1533: Jungjong commented on his state of health: "I have recovered from a sickness of several months. The royal physicians deserve praise and reward. [...] Uinyeo Dae Jang-geum and Kye-geum will each be rewarded 15 sacks of rice, 15 sacks of beans, and 10 bolts of cloth."[11]
  6. 21 February 1544: Jungjong commented on an order: "I haven't been able to execute my duties for a long time since I caught a cold. A few days ago, I attended an academic seminar (to discuss philosophies), but the cold weather made my condition worse. I already told the royal physicians Park Se-geo and Hong Chim, as well as uinyeo Dae Jang-geum, Eun-bi, and the rest to discuss about the prescription with the medical officer-in-charge. [...]"[12]
  7. 02 March 1544: In relation to above, Jungjong later recovered from his cold, and was recorded to have rewarded the royal physicians and their staff.[13] Dae Jang-geum was rewarded 5 sacks of rice and beans. This was the last record where the title "dae" was affixed to Jang-geum's name in the Annals.
  8. 09 November 1544: The Annals recorded a conversation between the high-ranking ministers of the court and of Jang-geum, regarding on their enquiry on Jungjong's health. Wherein afterwards the physicians Park Se-geo and Hong Chim examined Jungjong's pulse and prescribed medications. Jang-geum was quoted: "His Majesty slept around midnight yesterday, and has also slept for a short time at dawn. He just passed his urine, but has been constipated for around 3 days."[14]
  9. 10 November 1544: Jungjong commented (in relation to some relatives sending their written regards for his well-being): "I'm still constipated. What prescription should be made is under discussion. The female physician knows all about my condition," referring to the previous entry, where Jang-geum's reply was inserted as a complimentary side-note.[15]
  10. 13 November 1544: The Annals reported that Jungjong has recovered, which was transmitted to ministers who came by in greeting. Afterwards Jungjong granted all of the medical officers in attendance a holiday. Jungjong particularly mentioned that Jang-geum visited him in the morning, and told her that he had passed his stool and that he had felt immense relief.[16] This was the last recorded entry as well as direct mention of Jang-geum's name in the Annals. 16 days later (29 November), Jungjong passed away.[17]

Mention in other medical annals[edit]

Jang-geum was also mentioned in a book title "Yi dynasty Medical Officer's Journal". The following was a text regarding Jang-geum's origins and achievements, as recorded in the medical journal.

"Medical Lady Jang-geum, whose origins cannot be traced, received the right to be called "Dae Jang-geum" under an edict issued by the 11th King of Korea, Jungjong, in the 18th year of his reign [1524-1525]. At that time, there was no precedent of a Medical Lady treating a King, but the King trusted in Jang-geum's method of treating illness with food. Jang-geum, with the granting of the right to use "Dae" in her name, is certainly an epic lady whose name will be recorded in the history books."

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Daejanggeum (Jewel in the Palace)". Korea Tourism Organization. Retrieved 21 February 2012. ...only woman to serve as head physician to the King in the rigidly hierarchical and male-dominated social structure of the Joseon Dynasty. 
  2. ^ "Daejanggeum spurs continuing interest in royal court cuisine". Hancinema. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2012. Janggeum was a real person, mentioned in Joseon Dynasty annals who lived in Korea some 500 years ago. 
  3. ^ Shin, Myung-Ho (2008). "Annals of Joseon History Brought To Life by the Digital Era" (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2012. When the producer Lee Byung Hoon was working on the historical drama “Heo Jun,” he came across a noteworthy passage while searching the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty for information about Heo Jun (1539-1615), a Joseon court physician who attended the royal family. It was a statement by King Jungjong (r. 1506-1544) who declared: “No one knows my illnesses as well as Jang Geum.” 
  4. ^ 조선왕조실록 (Annals of the Joseon Dynasty) 중종실록 (Annals of King Jungjong) 21권 (volume 21), 1515년 음력 3월 21일 (3rd lunar month 21st day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  5. ^ Ibid. 21권 (volume 21), 1515년 음력 3월 2일 (3rd lunar month 2nd day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  6. ^ Ibid. 21권 (volume 21), 1515년 음력 3월 1일 (3rd lunar month 1st day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  7. ^ Ibid. 21권 (volume 21), 1515년 음력 2월 25일 (2nd lunar month 25th day) 6번째기사 (6th entry)
  8. ^ Ibid. 21권 (volume 21), 1515년 음력 3월 22일 (3rd lunar month 22nd day) 2번째기사 (2nd entry)
  9. ^ Ibid. 46권 (volume 46), 1522년 음력 9월 5일 (9th lunar month 5th day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  10. ^ Ibid. 52권 (volume 52), 1525년 음력 12월 15일 (12th lunar month 15th day) 2번째기사 (2nd entry)
  11. ^ Ibid. 73권 (volume 73), 1533년 음력 2월 11일 (2nd lunar month 11th day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  12. ^ Ibid. 101권 (volume 101), 1544년 음력 1월 29일 (1st lunar month 29th day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  13. ^ Ibid. 102권 (volume 102), 1544년 음력 2월 9일 (2nd lunar month 9th day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  14. ^ Ibid. 105권 (volume 105), 1544년 음력 10월 25일 (10th lunar month 25th day) 3번째기사 (3rd entry)
  15. ^ Ibid. 105권 (volume 105), 1544년 음력 10월 26일 (10th lunar month 26th day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  16. ^ Ibid. 105권 (volume 105), 1544년 음력 10월 29일 (10th lunar month 29th day) 1번째기사 (1st entry)
  17. ^ Ibid. 105권 (volume 105), 1544년 음력 11월 15일 (11th lunar month 15h day) 12번째기사 (12th entry)