Sukjong of Joseon

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Sukjong of Joseon
Sukjong of Joseon.png
King of Joseon
PredecessorHyeonjong of Joseon
SuccessorGyeongjong of Joseon
Born7 October 1661
Gyeonghui Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
DiedJuly 12, 1720(1720-07-12) (aged 58)
Gyeonghui Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
Myeongreung, Goyang
SpouseQueen Ingyeong
Queen Inhyeon
Queen Inwon
IssueGyeongjong of Joseon
Yeongjo of Joseon
HouseHouse of Yi
FatherHyeonjong of Joseon
MotherQueen Myeongseong
Sukjong of Joseon
Revised RomanizationSukjong
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI Sun
McCune–ReischauerYi Sun

Sukjong of Joseon (7 October 1661 – 12 July 1720) was the 19th king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea from 1674 to 1720. A skilled politician, he caused multiple changes of political alliance throughout his reign, switching among the Southerner, Westerner, Soron, and Noron political factions.


King Sukjong was born on October 7, 1661 to King Hyeonjong and Queen Myeongseong at Gyeonghui Palace. His given name was Yi Sun. He became the Crown Prince Myeongbo in 1667 at age 6, and in 1674, at age 13, he became the 19th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty.

King Sukjong was a brilliant politician, but his reign was marked by some of the most intense factional fights in the Joseon dynasty. Sukjong frequently replaced faction in power with another one to strengthen the royal authority. With each change of government, which was called hwanguk (Korean환국; Hanja換局), literally turn of the state, the losing faction was completely driven out of politics with executions and exiles. Nevertheless, the chaotic changes of government did not affect the general populace significantly, and his reign is considered one of more prosperous times.

Factional Fightings[edit]

In the early years of Sukjong's reign, the Southern faction and Western faction clashed over the Royal Funeral Dispute, a seemingly minor issue regarding the mourning period for Queen Insun. The Southern faction claimed that the mourning period should last one year while the Western faction argued for a nine-month mourning period. A one-year mourning period meant that Hyojong of Joseon was considered the eldest son while 9-month period would suggest that Hyojong was considered not the eldest son, following the rules that governed the yangban class. In other words, the Western faction viewed the royal family as the first of the yangban class rather than a separate class for which different rules applied. The two factions were also in conflict over the issue of fighting the Qing Dynasty, which was considered barbaric country (as opposed to Ming Dynasty) that threatened Joseon's national security. The Southern faction, led by Heo Jeok and Yun Hyu, supported war against Qing while Western factions wanted to focus first on improving domestic conditions.

Sukjong at first sided with the Southern faction, but in 1680, Heo Jeok was accused of treason by Western faction, which led to the execution of Heo Jeok and Yun Hyu and purging of the Southern faction. This incident is called Gyeongsin hwanguk (경신환국). Now in power, the Western faction split into the Noron (Old Learning) faction, led by Song Siyeol, and the Soron (New Learning) faction, led by Yun Jeung. After nine years in power, the Noron collapsed when Sukjong deposed Queen Inhyeon, who was supported by the Western faction, and named Consort Hui of Jang clan (also called Consort Jang or Jang Hui-bin) as the new queen. She is widely thought to be one of the most beautiful women in Joseon Dynasty, and her beauty was mentioned in the Annals. The Western faction angered Sukjong when it opposed the naming of Consort Jang's son as crown prince. The Southern faction, who supported Consort Jang and her son, regained power and drove out Western faction, executing Song Siyeol in revenge. This is called Gisa hwanguk (기사환국).

Five years later in 1694, the Southern faction was planning another purge of the Western faction, accusing them of conspiracy to reinstate the deposed Queen Inhyeon, when Sukjong began to regret deposing Queen Inhyeon and favor Consort Suk of Choe clan (Consort Choe), an ally of Queen Inhyeon and the Noron faction. Angry with the Southern faction's attempt to purge Westerners, Sukjong abruptly turned around to purge Southerners and brought the Western faction back in power. The Southern faction would never recover from this blow, also called Gapsul hwanguk (갑술환국). Sukjong demoted "Queen Jang" to Consort "Jang Hui-bin" and reinstated "Queen Inhyeon". Consort Jang was eventually executed (with poison) for cursing Queen Inhyeon to her death. The Soron faction supported Crown Prince Hwiso (Yi-Yun), Consort Jang's son, while the Noron faction supported Consort Choe's son, Prince Yeonying (Yi-Geum), later to become Yeongjo of Joseon. Late "Queen Inhyeon" and newly installed "Queen Inwon" were childless.

In 1718, Sukjong allowed the crown prince, soon to be Gyeongjong of Joseon, to rule the country as regent. Sukjong died in 1720 supposedly after telling Yi Yi-myoung to name Yeoning-geum as Gyeongjong's heir, but in absence of a histriographer or recorder. This will would lead to yet another purge which led to the execution of four Noron leaders in 1721, followed by another purge with the executions of eight Noron people in 1722.

Sukjong made tax system reform (大同法), promoted the use of coinage (Korean mun) and allowed the middle class and children of concubines to advance to higher governmental positions in provinces. In 1712, Sukjong's government worked with the Qing Dynasty in China to define the national borders between the two countries at the Yalu and Tumen Rivers. The Japanese government recognized Ulleung Island as Joseon's territory in 1696 (Korean Government insists that Liancourt Rocks was also recognized.[1] But Japanese Government insists that Liancourt Rocks was not recognized as Joseon's territory[2]).

Sukjong's reign also saw agricultural development of far provinces and increased cultural activities including publications. He died after reigning for 46 years in 1720 at age 60. He was buried in Myeongreung (명릉) in Gyeonggi province, Goyang City inside Western Five Royal Graves (西五陵 서오릉 seooreung).


  1. Queen Ingyeong of the Gwangsan Kim clan (25 October 1661 – 16 December 1680) (인경왕후 김씨)
    1. Unnamed daughter (27 April 1677 – 13 March 1678)
    2. Unnamed daughter (23 October 1679 – 1679)
  2. Queen Inhyeon of the Yeoheung Min clan (15 May 1667 – 16 September 1701) (인현왕후 민씨) – No issue.
  3. Queen Inwon of the Gyeongju Kim clan (3 November 1687 – 13 May 1757) (인원왕후 김씨) – No issue.
  4. Royal Noble Consort Hui of the Indong Jang clan (Queen Bu-ok - May 1688 - 1694 - deposed) (3 November 1659 – 9 November 1701) (희빈 장씨)
    1. Yi Yun, Crown Prince Hwiso (20 November 1688 – 11 October 1724) (이윤 휘서왕세자)
    2. Prince Seongsu (1690 – 1690) (성수) – disputed
  1. Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Haeju Choi clan (17 December 1670 – 9 April 1718) (숙빈 최씨)
    1. Prince Yeongsu (1693 – 1693) (영수)
    2. Yi Geum, Prince Yeoning (31 October 1694 – 22 April 1776) (이금 연잉군)
    3. Unnamed son (1698–1698)
    4. Unnamed daughter (1707 – ?) – disputed
  2. Royal Noble Consort Myeong of the Miryang Park clan (? – 15 July 1703) (명빈 박씨)
    1. Yi Hwon, Prince Yeonryeong (13 June 1699 – 2 October 1719) (이훤 연령군)
  3. Royal Noble Consort Yeong of the Andong Kim clan (1669 – 12 January 1735) (영빈 김씨) – No issue.
  4. Consort Gwi-in of the Gyeongju Kim clan (1690 – 1735) (귀인 김씨) – No issue.
  5. Consort So-ui of the Gangreung Yu clan (? – 8 April 1707) (소의 유씨) – No issue.


His full posthumous name[edit]

  • King Sukjong Hyeoneui Gwangyun Yeseong Yeongryeol Yumo Yeongun Hongin Jundeok Baecheon Habdo Gyehyu Dokgyung Jeongjung Hyeopgeuk Sineui Daehun Jangmun Heonmu Gyungmyung Wonhyo the Great of Korea
  • 숙종현의광윤예성영렬유모영운홍인준덕배천합도계휴독경정중협극신의대훈장문헌무경명원효대왕

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Q&A on Dokdo(Q05) , Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Korea
  2. ^ Historically, Takeshima belongs to Japan Archived 2014-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Shimane Prefectural Government
  3. ^ "KOREA6".
  4. ^ "Lady Jang (Janghuibin) (1961)". Korean Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  5. ^ "Femme Fatale, Jang Hee-bin (Yohwa, Jang Hee-bin) (1968)". Korean Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  6. ^ a b c '죽지 않는' 장희빈 벌써 9명, 김태희가 뒤 이을까. OhmyNews (in Korean). 22 September 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  7. ^ Kim, Jessica (9 June 2010). "Interview: Dong Yi director says Ji Jin-hee "mischievous"". 10Asia. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  8. ^ Do, Je-hae (17 June 2013). "New face of Korean drama". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2014-11-12.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kim, Jinwung. A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict (2002)
  • Liu, Lihong. "Ethnography and Empire through an Envoy’s Eye: The Manchu Official Akedun’s (1685-1756) Diplomatic Journeys to Chosǒn Korea." Journal of early modern history 20.1 (2016): 111-139.
Sukjong of Joseon
Born: 7 October 1661 Died: 12 July 1720
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Joseon
with Gyeongjong (1718–1720)
Succeeded by