Sunjong of Korea

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Sunjong of Korea
대한제국 순종
Sunjong (c. 1910)
Emperor of Korea
Reign19 July 1907 – 29 August 1910
PredecessorGojong of Korea
SuccessorMonarchy abolished
(Korea annexed by Japan)
Born25 March 1874
Changdeok Palace, Hanseong, Joseon
Died24 April 1926(1926-04-24) (aged 52)
Changdeok Palace, Keijō, Keiki Province, Chōsen, Empire of Japan
(m. 1882; died 1904)
(m. 1907)
Yi Cheok (정헌; 正軒)
Era name and dates
Yunghui (융희; 隆熙): 1907–1910
Posthumous name
Emperor Munon Mulyeong Donin Seonggyeong Hyo (문온무령돈인성경효황제; 文溫武寧敦仁誠敬孝皇帝)
Temple name
Sunjong (순종; 純宗)
ClanJeonju Yi
FatherGojong of Korea
MotherEmpress Myeongseong
ReligionKorean Confucianism (Neo-Confucianism)
Korean name
순종 융희제
Revised RomanizationSunjong Yunghuije
McCune–ReischauerSunjong Yunghije
Art name
Revised RomanizationJeongheon
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI Cheok
McCune–ReischauerYi Ch'ŏk
Courtesy name
Revised RomanizationGunbang

Sunjong (Korean순종; Hanja純宗; 25 March 1874 – 24 April 1926),[1][2] personal name Yi Cheok (정헌; 正軒), also known as the Yunghui Emperor (융희제; 隆熙帝), was the last Korean monarch. He ruled from 1907 to 1910 as the second and last emperor of the Korean Empire. Sunjong was elevated to the throne after his predecessor and father, Gojong, was forced to abdicate by the Empire of Japan. Hence, Sunjong has been characterized by historians as being a powerless puppet ruler of the Japanese, reigning for just three years before Korea was officially annexed in 1910.


Crown Prince of Korea[edit]

Sunjong was the second son of Emperor Gojong and Empress Myeongseong. When he turned two years old in 1876, Sunjong was proclaimed the Crown Prince of Joseon. In 1882, he married a woman of the Yeoheung Min clan (later Empress Sunmyeonghyo). She died at the age of 31 on 5 November 1904 due to a severe depression, after trying to protect her mother-in-law (Empress Myeongseong, also a member of the Yeoheung Min clan) from her assassination on 8 October 1895 by the Japanese military.

When his father proclaimed Korea as an Empire in 1897, Sunjong was appointed as the Crown Prince of Imperial Korea on 12 October 1897.[3] On 29 June 1898, he was appointed as the Field Marshal of the Imperial Korean Army.[4] Sunjong remarried again 3 years later to the daughter of Yoon Taek-young, Yun Jeung-sun of the Haepyeong Yun clan, who was 20 years younger than him, on 11 December 1906,[5] and she became Crown Princess Consort Yun (later Empress Sunjeong).

Emperor of Korea[edit]

On 19 July 1907, Gojong was deposed as a result of Japanese coercion, and Sunjong was made the Emperor of Korea. His coronation was proceeded in Don-doek-jeon.[6] He was proclaimed heir to the throne of Prince Imperial Yeong, the younger half-brother of Sunjong, and moved from Deoksugung Palace to the imperial residence at Changdeokgung Palace.[7]

Sunjong's reign was limited by the gradually increasing armed intervention of the Japanese government in Korea. In July 1907, he was proclaimed emperor of Korea but was immediately forced to enter into the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1907. This treaty allowed the Japanese government to supervise and intervene in the administration and governance of Korea, which also allowed for the appointment of Japanese ministers within the government.[8]

While under Japanese supervision, the Korean army was dismissed on the pretext of a lack of public finance regulations. In 1909, Japan implemented the Japan–Korea Protocol [ko] which effectively removed Korea's judicial power. Meanwhile, Japan dispatched Itō Hirobumi, Japanese Resident-General of Korea, to negotiate with Russia over problems involving Korea and Manchuria. However, Itō was assassinated by Ahn Jung-geun at Harbin, which led to the Japanese annexation of Korea in 1910. Pro-Japanese politicians, such as Song Byung-jun and Lee Wan-yong, defected, merging Korea with Japan by fabricating Korea's willingness and establishing the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty on 29 August 1910.[9][10]

Although still existent de jure, the intervention by the Japanese government effectively ended Sunjong's reign over the Korean Empire de facto and he became essentially powerless within three years of ruling. Japan, in effect, officially abolished the Korean Empire on 29 August 1910, ending 519 years of the Joseon dynasty.[11]

After abdication[edit]

Emperor, Queen and Yi On, the Crown Prince but not the child of the Emperor. The Emperor and his second wife. Image collected in the United States.

After the annexation treaty, the former Emperor Sunjong and his wife, Empress Sunjeong, lived the rest of their lives virtually imprisoned in Changdeokgung Palace (in present-day Seoul).[12] Sunjong could not exercise any power as emperor because there were only pro-Japanese politicians in the government. After the Korean Empire collapsed, Sunjong was demoted from emperor to king. Japan allowed him the title of King Yi of Changdeok Palace (창덕궁 이왕; 昌德宮 李王) and allowed for the title to be inherited.[7]

Sunjong died on 24 April 1926, in Changdeokgung and is buried with his two wives at the imperial tomb of Yureung (유릉; 裕陵) in the city of Namyangju. His state funeral on 10 June 1926, was a catalyst for the June 10th Movement against Japanese rule. He had no children.[13]



  • Elder half-brother: Yi Seon, Prince Wanhwa (완화군 이선; 16 April 1868 – 12 January 1880)
  • Unnamed elder half-sister (1871–1872)
  • Unnamed elder brother (4 November 1871 – 8 November 1871)
  • Unnamed elder sister (13 February 1873 – 28 September 1873)
  • Unnamed younger brother (born 5 April 1875 – 18 April 1875)
  • Unnamed younger brother (born 18 February 1878 – 5 June 1878)
  • Younger half-brother: Yi Kang, Prince Imperial Ui (의친왕 이강; 30 March 1877 – August 1955)
  • Unnamed younger half-sister (1879–1880)
  • Younger half-brother: Yi Un, Crown Prince Uimin (의민태자 이은; 20 October 1897 – 1 May 1970)
  • Younger half-sister: Princess Deokhye (덕혜옹주; 25 May 1912 – 21 April 1989)
  • Younger half-brother: Yi Yuk (이육; 3 July 1914 – 22 January 1915)
  • Younger half-brother: Yi U (이우; 20 August 1915 – 25 July 1916)

Consorts and their respective issue:

  1. Empress Sunmyeong of the Yeoheung Min clan (순명황후 민씨; 20 November 1872 – 5 November 1904)
  2. Yun Jeung-sun (윤증순), Empress Sunjeong of the Haepyeong Yun clan (순정황후 윤씨; 19 September 1894 – 3 February 1966)
    1. Yi Jin (이진; 18 August 1921 – 11 May 1922), adopted son[note 1]




In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The order was established by the emperor's orders in 1907.


  1. ^ "건원절(乾元節)". Encyclopedia of Korean Culture.
  2. ^ "순종(純宗)". Encyclopedia of Korean Culture.
  3. ^ 사료 고종시대사. "고종, 황태자를 책봉한 뒤 신하들에게 문안 인사를 받음". Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  4. ^ 사료 고종시대사. "광무 황제, 직접 대원수가 되어 육해군을 통솔하고 황태자를 원수로 삼겠다는 조령을 내림". Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  5. ^ Veritable Records of Joseon Dynasty. "총서". Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty. Retrieved 27 July 2022.
  6. ^ Veritable Records of Joseon Dynasty. "황제 즉위식 장소와 규례에 관하여 조서를 내리다". Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty. Retrieved 26 July 2022.
  7. ^ a b "순종". Academy of Korean Studies.
  8. ^ 『고종시대사 6』(History of Gojong's Period 6) : 국사편찬위원회(National History Compilation Committee), 1969, 635p.
  9. ^ 『고종시대사 6』(History of Gojong's Period 6) : 국사편찬위원회(National History Compilation Committee), 1969, 641p.
  10. ^ Rhee, Song Nai. Beautiful as the Rainbow: Nashimoto Masako, a Japanese Princess against All ... p. 100.
  11. ^ "Cultural Heritage, the source for Koreans' Strength and Dream". Cultural Heritage Administration. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  12. ^ "Emperor Sunjong of Korea". Asian History. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  13. ^ Yunghui Yi Cheok, Emperor Sunjong. Korea's Last Emperor's Goodbye: Korea Annexed by Japan. 1915.
  14. ^ "서봉장(瑞鳳章)". Encyclopedia of Korean Culture.
  15. ^ 刑部芳則 (2017). 明治時代の勲章外交儀礼 (PDF) (in Japanese). 明治聖徳記念学会紀要. pp. 149, 150.
  16. ^ "자료일람 | 한국사데이터베이스". Retrieved 4 July 2022.

External links[edit]

Sunjong of Korea
Born: 25 March 1874 Died: 24 April 1926
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of Korea
19 July 1907 – 29 August 1910
Empire dissolved
Royal titles
New title
King Yi

29 August 1910 – 24 April 1926
Succeeded by
Titles in pretence
Loss of title — TITULAR —
Emperor of Korea
29 August 1910 – 24 April 1926
Reason for succession failure:
Empire abolished in 1910
Succeeded by