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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Kings of Joseon Dynasty, Part VIII: King Yejong (Yi Hwang) - Younger Brother of Crown Prince Uigyeong Yi Jang

King Yejong of Joseon, previously known as Grand Prince Haeyang (Hanja: 睿宗王 [海陽大君]; Born: February 12th 1450 – Died: December 31st 1469; Reigned: September 22nd 1468 - December 31st 1469), born Yi Hwang (이황/李晄) was the 8th king of Joseon Dynasty. He succeeded his father, King Sejo in 1468 at 18 years of age, but was too physically ill to govern, and died a year later.

One of the most prominent incidents during Yejong's reign was the trial and death of General Nami (남이 장군/南怡). Nami was famous for having suppressed Yi Si-ae rebellion along with General Gang-Sun and others. At age 28, he was appointed to Minister of War. However, when Yejong became king, a minister named Yu Ja-gwang (유자광, 柳子光) who was jealous of Nami accused him of treason when he found out that Yejong himself was not fond of Nami. Yu also involved the Minister Gang Sun (강순, 康純) and initiated a trial witnessed by the King himself. They were found guilty and executed while Yu Ja-gwang was promoted to a high office and given a title of prince. After this incident, there were many cases of Yu accusing ministers who were apparently more prestigious than himself.

He was born in 1450 as the second son of Sejo of Joseon. His formal name was Prince Haeyang, but he was promoted to crown prince at the age of 8, after the sudden death of his elder brother, Crown Prince Uigyeong Yi Jang.

In 1468, when he was 19, his father Sejo turned over the throne, but since he was not yet 20 years old and had been physically weak since his childhood, Queen Jeonghui of Papyeong Yoon Clan, who was Yejong's mother, came to rule the nation instead. According to records of this era, political decisions were taken by the Queen and three subjects nominated by King Sejo.

Although his total residency was just 14 months, several incidents had occurred. In 1468, the treason of Nami greatly influenced Joseon politics. Just before his death in 1469, Joseon started to prohibit all trade with Japan. During his residency, he granted common farmers the right to cultivate fields which originally belonged to the military.

He died when he was only 20 years old. He was buried at the Royal Tomb of Changneung (昌陵), Part of SeoOreung Royal Tomb Cluster (西五陵) in 334-92 SeoOreung Avenue/SeoOreungno, Dongsan-dong san 55-3 beonji, Goyang DeogYang-gu, Gyeonggi Province. After his death, the throne was not turned over to Yejong's son, but to his brother's son, Grand Prince Jalsan Yi Hyeol who became King Seongjong of Joseon. He was posthumously known as King Yejong Yangdo Heummun Seongmu Ui-in Sohyo the Great (예종양도흠문성무의인소효대왕/睿宗襄悼欽文聖武懿仁昭孝大王). His tomb is accessible by using SMRT Line 6 to Station 615: Gusan Station which is located at Gusan-dong, Seoul Eunpyeong-gu, approximately 3km distance from SeoOreung Royal Tomb Cluster.