Jeong Mong-ju (Hangul/Hanja: 정몽주/鄭夢周; Born: January 13th 1337 – Died: April 26th 1392), often known by his pen name Po-eun (포은/圃隱), was a Korean civil minister and scholar during the late period of the Goryeo dynasty.
He was born in Yeongcheon, Northern Gyeongsang province to a family from the Yeongil Jeong clan. At the age of 23, he took three different civil service literary examinations (Gwageo) and received the highest marks possible on each of them. In 1367, he became an instructor in Neo-Confucianism at the Gukjagam, then called "Seonggyungwan," whilst simultaneously holding a government position, and was a faithful public servant to King U. The king had great confidence in his wide knowledge and good judgement, and so he participated in various national projects and his scholarly works earned him great respect in the Goryeo court.
Jeong Mongju visited China in 1372 as a diplomatic envoy. Around the time, as waegu (Japanese pirate)'s invasions to the Korean peninsula were extreme, Jong was dispatched as a delegate to Kyūshū in 1377. His negotiations led to promises of Japanese aid in defeating the pirates. He traveled to the Chinese capital city in 1384; and negotiations with the Ming dynasty led to peace with China in 1385. He also founded an institute devoted to the theories of Confucianism.
Jeong was murdered in 1392 by five men on the Seonjukgyo Bridge in Gaeseong following a banquet held for him by Yi Bang-won (later Taejong of Joseon), the fifth son of Yi Seong-gye, who overthrew the Goryeo dynasty in order to found the Joseon Dynasty. Jeong was murdered because he refused to betray his loyalty to the Goryeo Dynasty. Yi Bang-won recited a poem to dissuade Jeong from remaining loyal to the Goryeo court, but Jeong answered with another poem that affirmed his loyalty. Yi Seong-gye is said to have lamented Jeong's death and rebuked his son because Jeong was a highly regarded politician by the courts of China and Japan. The bridge where Jeong was murdered, now in North Korea, has now become a national monument of that country. A brown spot on one of the stones is said to be Jeong's bloodstain, and is said to become red whenever it rains. Currently, his direct surviving descendants are his 21st and 22nd generation, all of whom reside in South Korea and the United States.
The 474-year-old Goryeo Dynasty symbolically ended with Jeong's death, and was followed by the Joseon Dynasty. Jeong's noble death symbolises his faithful allegiance to the king, and he was later venerated even by Joseon monarchs. In 1517, 125 years after his death, he was canonised into the National Academy alongside other Korean sages such as Yi I (Yulgok) and Yi Hwang (Toegye).
The 11th pattern of ITF Taekwon-Do is named after Po Eun. The pattern is performed as part of the testing syllabus for the level of 1st Degree black belt. Poeun Art Hall which is located at 499 Poeun Boulevard/Poeun-daero, Jukjeon-dong 1003-237 beonji, Yongin Suji-gu, Gyeonggi Province is bestowed from Jeong Mong-ju's pen name.
Poeun Jeong Mong-ju's Final Sijo against King Taejong Yi Bang-won of Joseon Dynasty
Hanja (Classical Korean):
Hangul (Modern Korean):
이런들 어떠하리 저런들 어떠하리
만수산 드렁칡이 얽어진들 어떠하리
우리도 이같이 얽어져 백년까지 누리리라
이몸이 죽고 죽어 일백 번 고쳐 죽어
백골이 진토되어 넋이라도 있고 없고
임 향한 일편 단심이야 가실 줄이 있으랴
Does it matter, whether you go this way or that?
The Mansu arrowroots are tangled together, this way:
Tangled likewise, let us prosper a hundred years.
Though I die and die again a hundred times,
That my bones turn to dust, whether my soul remains or not,
Ever loyal to my Lord, how can this red heart ever fade away?