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Cheoljong of Joseon

Cheoljong of Joseon (25 July 1831 – 16 January 1864) was the 25th king of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. He was a distant relative of King Yeongjo.[1]

Yi Byeon
King of Joseon
PredecessorHeonjong of Joseon
SuccessorGojong of Joseon
Born25 July 1831
Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
Died16 January 1864 (1864-01-17) (aged 32)
Changdeok Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
SpouseQueen Cheonin
FatherGrand Internal Prince Jeongye
MotherGrand Internal Princess Consort Yongseong
Cheoljong of Joseon
Revised RomanizationCheoljong


Early lifeEdit

He was born the illegitimate son of Yi Gwang, Prince Jeongye of the Joseon dynasty and his concubine Lady Yeom of Yongseong, in Ganghwa. His first name was Yi Won-beom. though some years later he was changed his name to Yi Byeon.

In August 1841, Min Jin-yong and Lee Won-deok were plotting a coup d'etat to crown Yi Won-gyeong as king, primogeniture and legitimate child of Jeongye Daewongun. Yi Won-gyeong was the second cousin of King Heonjong of Joseon and the great-great grandson of 21st King Yeongjo of Joseon. However, Min Jin-yong and Lee Won-deok's coup d'etat was detected and they were executed along with Yi Won-gyeong. His only descendants the and sole survivors were two Illegitimate sons, Yi Kyung-eung and Yi Won-beom, who were deported to Ganghwa-do.

He was part of the royal family of the Joseon dynasty but he was illegitimate. During his childhood times, all the legitimate children of the Joseon dynasty died.[clarification needed]


At the beginning of the 19th century, the Andong Kim clan, who had provided the Joseon state with several queens, had seized power almost everywhere in Korea. The social stagnation that resulted was a breeding ground for unrest. Corruption and embezzlement from the treasury and its inevitable exploitation were taken to extreme levels, and reached staggering proportions. One rebellion after another was accompanied by natural disasters. Indeed, it was one of the most gloomy periods in the country’s history.[2]

The only aim of the Andong Kim clan was the preservation of their influence. Their fierce campaign to dominate the royal house had led to a situation in which almost all of the representatives of the royal family fled from Seoul. When the royal family produced intelligent and appropriate candidates for the accession, they were either accused of treason and executed or sent into exile, so when Heonjong died, leaving no son, no acceptable candidate could be found to succeed to the throne.[2]


Cheoljong ascended to the throne in 1849 at the age of 19 after King Heonjong died without an heir. As a distant relative of King Yeongjo, the 21st king of Joseon, Cheoljong was selected for adoption by the Dowager Queen at the time and to allow him to ascend to the throne. The future Cheoljong was found on Ganghwa Island where his family had fled to hide from oppression.

When the envoys (dispatched in order to seek for the future king) arrived on Ganghwa Island, they found the remaining clan of the Yi's barely surviving in wretched poverty.[3] In 1849, at the age of 18, Yi Byeon/Seong[4] (the future Cheoljong), the 3rd son of Prince Jeon-gye (great-grandson of King Yeongjo), was proclaimed King, amidst obvious degradation and poverty. Though from the start of the Joseon Dynasty Korean kings had given top priority to the education of their sons, Cheoljong could not even read a single word on the notice delivering congratulations to him on his elevation to the royal throne.[2]

For the Andong Kims, Cheoljong was an excellent choice. His illiteracy made him manipulable and vulnerable to their control. Proof of this was that even though Cheoljong ruled the country for 13 years, until his very last days he had not yet learned how to move with dignity or how to wear royal clothes, so that in even the most luxurious of robes he still looked like a fisherman.[2]

As part of the Andong Kim's manipulation of Cheoljong, in 1851, the clan married Cheoljong to Kim Mun-geun, daughter of a member of the clan, known posthumously as Queen Cheorin.[2]


Cheoljong died at the age of 32 in January 1864 (by suspected foul play by the Andong Kim clan, the same clan which made him king), without a male heir qualified for the throne, as his only son was born to a lower ranked consort, and not to Queen Cheolin. Once again, it became necessary to search far back in the Yi lineage to find a candidate for the throne.[citation needed]


  • Father : Yi Gwang, Grand Internal Prince Jeongye (29 April 1785 – 14 December 1841) (이광 전계대원군)
    • Grandfather : Yi In, Prince Euneon (29 May 1754 – 30 June 1801) (이인 은언군)
    • Grandmother : Princess Consort Jeonsan of the Jeonju Yi clan (19 December 1764 – 4 June 1819) (전산군부인 이씨)
  • Mother : Grand Internal Princess Consort Yongseong of the Yongdam Yeom clan (20 July 1793 – March 1863) (용성부대부인 염씨)
    • Grandfather : Yeom Seong-Hwa (염성화)
    • Grandmother : Lady Ji of the Sangju Ji clan (상주 지씨)
  • Consorts and their Respective Issue(s):
  1. Queen Cheorin of the Andong Kim clan (27 April 1837 – 12 June 1878) (철인왕후 김씨)[5]
    1. Unnamed son (22 November 1858 – 25 May 1859)
  2. Royal Consort Gwi-in of the Miryang Park clan (1827 – 10 April 1889) (귀인 박씨)
    1. Unnamed son (3 August 1854 – ?)
  3. Royal Consort Gwi-in of the Pyeongyang Jo clan (1842 – 1865) (귀인 조씨)
    1. Unnamed son (7 November 1859 – ?)
    2. Unnamed son (15 January 1861 – ?)
  4. Royal Lady Na-in of the Lee clan (나인 이씨)
    1. Unnamed son (1 October 1862 – ?)
    2. Unnamed daughter
  5. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Onyang Bang clan (? – 1878) (숙의 방씨)
    1. Unnamed daughter (1850 – ?)
    2. Unnamed daughter (1853 – ?)
  6. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Geumseong Beom clan (1838 – 26 December 1883) (숙의 범씨)
    1. Princess Yeonghye (1859 – 4 July 1872) (영혜옹주)[6]
  7. Royal Consort Suk-ui of the Gimhae Kim clan (1833 – ?) (숙의 김씨)
    1. Unnamed daughter (1856 – ?)


His full posthumous nameEdit

  • King Cheoljong Huiyun Jeonggeuk Sudeok Sunseong Heummyung Gwangdo Donwon Changhwa Munhyeon Museong Heonin Yeonghyo the Great of Korea
  • 철종희윤정극수덕순성흠명광도돈원창화문현무성헌인영효대왕
  • 哲宗熙倫正極粹德純聖欽命光道敦元彰化文顯武成獻仁英孝大王


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Neff, Robert (4 January 2013). "Child kings". Korea Times. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-02-17. Retrieved 2007-02-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ Since he was found at Ganghwa Island in poverty, he was also known as "The Woodcutter Prince of Ganghwa Island".
  4. ^ Cheoljong of Joseon#Hanja name
  5. ^ Daughter of Kim Mun-geun (김문근) and Lady Min
  6. ^ She married Marquis Park Yŏng-hyo and was the grandmother of Lady Park Chan-ju, who later married her fifth cousin Wu, Prince of Korea
  7. ^ Prince Jeongye was the son of Prince Euneon, who was the son of Prince Sado, who was the son of King Yeongjo)(r. 1724–1776)

Further readingEdit

  • Byeon Tae-seop (변태섭) (1999). 韓國史通論 (Hanguksa tongnon) (Outline of Korean history), 4th ed. ISBN 89-445-9101-6.
  • Cummings, Bruce. (1997). Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York. ISBN 0-393-04011-9
Cheoljong of Joseon
Born: 1831 Died: 1864
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Joseon
with Queen Sunwon (1849–1852)
Succeeded by