Myeongjong of Joseon

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Yi Hwan
King of Joseon
Reign 1545–1567
Predecessor Injong of Joseon
Successor Seonjo of Joseon
Regent Queen Munjeong
(1545–1565)
Born 3 July 1534
Died 3 August 1567 (1567-08-04) (aged 33)
Consort Queen Insun
Issue Crown Prince Sunhoe
Posthumous name
King Myeongjong Gongheon Heoneui Somun Gwangsuk Gyeonghyo the Great of Korea
명종공헌헌의소문광숙경효대왕
明宗恭憲獻毅昭文光肅敬孝大王
Temple name
Myeongjeong
House Jeonju Yi
Father Jungjong of Joseon
Mother Queen Munjeong
Myeongjong of Joseon
Hangul 명종
Hanja 明宗
Revised Romanization Myeongjong
McCune–Reischauer Myŏng-jong
Birth name
Hangul 이환
Hanja 李峘
Revised Romanization I Hwan
McCune–Reischauer I Hwan

Myeongjong of Joseon (3 July 1534 – 3 August 1567, r. 1545–1567) was the 13th king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea. He was the second son of Jungjong, and his mother was Queen Munjeong, who was Jungjong's third queen.

He became king in 1545 at the age of 12 following the death of his half-brother, Injong. Since he was too young to rule the kingdom, Queen Munjeong governed the nation in his name.

Biography[edit]

Political factions[edit]

There were two political factions at the time Myeongjong came to power; Greater Yoon, headed by Yoon Im, Injong's maternal uncle,[1] and Lesser Yoon, headed by Myeongjong's maternal uncles, Yoon Won-hyeong and Yoon Wonro.[2] (Yoon Im and Yoon Brothers were close relatives by that period's standards - Yoon Im's great-grandfather was older brother of Yoon Brothers' great-great-grandfather.) Greater Yoon took power in 1544, when Injong succeeded Jungjong; but they failed to wipe out their opposition, since Queen Munjeong protected the Lesser Yoon faction and other opposition officials.

After the death of Injong in 1545, Lesser Yoon replaced Greater Yoon as the majority in the royal court and brutally ousted their adversaries in the Fourth Literati Purge of 1545. Yoon Im was executed, as were many of his followers.

Rise of Yun Won-hyeong[edit]

The Lesser Yun faction continued to attack their opposition. In 1546, Yun Won-hyeong impeached his older brother, Yun Won-ro, who was executed a few days later along with his followers. Facing no opposition from the government, Yun Won-hyeong became Minister of the Interior in 1548, Vice Premier in 1551 and ultimately Prime Minister in 1563.

Despite Yun Won-hyeong's violent rule, Queen Munjeong was an effective administrator, distributing to the common people land formerly owned by the nobility. However, she held on to rule even after the king reached his majority at the age of 20.

Death of Queen Munjeong[edit]

After the death of Queen Munjeong in 1565, the king decided to rule the kingdom by himself and had his uncle Yun Won-hyeong put to death, along with his second wife[3] Jeong Nan-jeong, who also rose to power due to her close friendship and being second sister-in-law to Queen Munjeong.[4][5] Yun Won-hyeong allowed corruption to flourish in the government; while the kingdom was unstable, Jurchens, Japanese, and rebellious troops rampaged at will and threatened the government itself. Rebel leader Im Kkeok-jeong was arrested and executed in 1552, but outside invasion continued; the Joseon Dynasty had to re-mobilize its army and navy along to protect its borders.

Death and succession[edit]

Myeongjong tried to reform the government after taking power into his own hands by recalling and reinstating Sarim scholars who were exiled in the purge, but died only two years later without any male issue.[6] King Seonjo, his half-nephew, succeeded to the throne in 1567.

Family[edit]

  1. Queen Insun of the Cheongsong Shim clan (27 June 1532 – 12 February 1575) (인순왕후 심씨)
    1. Yi Bu, Crown Prince Sunhoe (1 July 1551 - 6 October 1563) (이부 순회세자)
  2. Royal Noble Consort Gyeong of the Jeonui Lee clan (1541 - June 1595) (경빈 이씨)
  3. Royal Noble Consort Sun of the Jeong clan (? - 1592) (순빈 정씨)
  4. Royal Consort Gwi-in of the Shin clan (귀인 신씨)
  5. Royal Consort So-ui of the Shin clan (1533 - 1565) (소의 신씨)
  6. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Han clan (숙의 한씨)
  7. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Jeong clan (숙의 정씨)
  8. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Jeong clan (숙의 정씨)

His full posthumous name[edit]

  • King Myeongjong Gongheon Heoneui Somun Gwangsuk Gyeonghyo the Great of Korea
  • 명종공헌헌의소문광숙경효대왕
  • 明宗恭憲獻毅昭文光肅敬孝大王

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Yoon Im is the older brother of Queen Janggyeong (Injong's mother).
  2. ^ They were Queen Munjeong's older brother.
  3. ^ Originally his concubine, Chung Nanjung had the first wife, Lady Kim, poisoned to death.
  4. ^ She became a dictator; the real power behind the veil of Queen Munjeong's regency.
  5. ^ Actually, Jeong Nan-jeong committed suicide as a domino effect of misfortunes: Queen Munjeong's death, and her loss of control of the government.
  6. ^ His only son, the Crown Prince, died 4 years before his own death.

External links[edit]

Myeongjong of Joseon
Born: 1534 Died: 1567
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Injong
King of Joseon
1545–1567
with Queen Munjeong (1545–1565)
Succeeded by
Seonjo