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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Kings of Joseon Dynasty, Part II: King Jeongjong Yi Bang-gwa (Yi Gyeong)

In this column, the picture of the Royal Tomb of King Jeongjong a.k.a Hureung (후릉/厚陵) is not available because this tomb is located in Heunggyo-myeon, Gaepung County, present-day North Korea a.k.a DPRK. 

King Jeongjong of Joseon, previously known as Grand Prince Yeong-an (Hangul/Hanja: 정종왕/定宗王 [영안대군/永安大君]; Born: July 18th 1357 – Died: October 15th 1419; Reigned: October 14th 1398 - November 28th 1400), born Yi Bang-gwa (이방과/李芳果), whose changed name is Yi Gyeong (이경/李曔), was the second king of Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). He was the second son of the founder and first king of the dynasty, King Taejo Yi Seong-gye and Queen Sinui of Anbyeon Han Clan.

He was a prudent, generous, brave, and able military officer. During the latter days of the declining Goryeo Dynasty, Jeongjong followed his father, Yi Seong-gye, to various battlefronts and fought at his side. As his father became king in 1392, he became prince.

King Taejo had two wives—the first one (Queen Sinui of Anbyeon Han Clan), who gave birth to six of the king's sons including Jeongjong, died before King Taejo was crowned. Taejo had second wife (Queen Sindeok of Koksan Kang Clan), who had 2 sons from him. The king favored his youngest son, whose mother was Taejo's second wife. Prime Minister Jeong Do-jeon also backed him as the successor to the throne, causing much disappointment from other princes. 

In 1398, King Taejo's fifth son, Yi Bang-won, who later would be King Taejong of Joseon, led a coup along with many military officers and killed his two brothers, Prime Minister Jeong, and many of his faction. Yi Bang-won first tried to show that he was not intended to take the throne, so he gave a push to his older brother Jeongjong (who was also the oldest then), to be a crown prince. King Taejo was upset and abdicated in disgust, and Jeongjong became king in the following year, 1399. The same year he moved the capital back to Gaegyeong, the old Goryeo capital.

In 1400, a conflict broke out between Yi Bang-won and his older brother, Yi Bang-gan. Yi Bang-won's force attacked and defeated Bang-gan's army, and Bang-gan was sent into exile along with his family. General Park Bo, who persuaded Bang-gan to fight against Bangwon, was executed. King Jeongjong, knowing the acting king of the kingdom was his younger brother Bangwon, appointed him as a crown prince, and abdicated a few days later.

He was an able, wise administrator even though his short reign was marked by bloodshed within the royal family. He banned all kinds of private troops on the advice of Crown Prince Jeong-an Yi Bang-won. He died in 1419, and was buried near Gaeseong. He was posthumously known as King Jeongjong Uimun Jangmu On-in Sunhyo the Great (정종공정의문장무온인순효대왕/定宗恭靖懿文莊武溫仁順孝大王).