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Jeongjo of Joseon (28 October 1752 – 18 August 1800) was the 22nd ruler of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (r. 1776–1800). He made various attempts to reform and improve the nation of Korea. He was preceded by his grandfather King Yeongjo (r. 1724–1776) and succeeded by his son King Sunjo (r. 1800–1834).

Jeongjo of Joseon
King JeongJo of Joseon.jpg
King of Joseon Dynasty
Reign27 April 1776 – 18 August 1800
PredecessorYeongjo of Joseon
SuccessorSunjo of Joseon
Born(1752-10-28)28 October 1752
Changgyeong Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
Died18 August 1800(1800-08-18) (aged 47)
Changgyeong Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
SpouseQueen Hyoui
IssueSunjo of Joseon
HouseHouse of Yi
FatherCrown Prince Sado
MotherPrincess Consort Hyegyeong
Jeongjo of Joseon
Revised RomanizationJeongjo
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI San
McCune–ReischauerYi San

Some say Jeongjo is one of the most successful and visionary rulers of the Joseon Dynasty ushering it into a Golden Age.



Early lifeEdit

Born as Yi San (李祘), he was the son of Crown Prince Sado (who was put to death by his own father, King Yeongjo) and Lady Hyegyeong (who wrote an autobiography, The Memoirs of Lady Hyegyeong detailing her life as the ill-fated Crown Princess of Korea). His only elder brother Crown Prince Uiso died in childhood, he was secure of throne successions. His mother Lady Hyegyeong's collection of memoirs serves as a significant source of historical information on the political happenings during the reigns of King Yeongjo (her father-in-law), King Jeongjo (her son), and King Sunjo (her grandson).

In 1762, his father, Crown Prince Sado, was publicly executed by King Yeongjo, Sado's father and Yi San's grandfather, after long time conflicts and Sado's years of mental illness. Crown Prince Sado opposed the ruling party Noron party. Eight years later Yi San asked to visit Sado's living quarter but his Grandfather King Yeongjo refused. So he refused to attend Crown Prince Sado's funeral. In February 21, 1764, Yi San became the adoptive son of Crown Prince Hyojang and Princess Consort Hyosun by the order of King Yeongjo.[1] Crown Prince Hyojang was the elder half-brother of his father, Crown Prince Sado. Crown Prince Hyojang though, had died during his childhood. King Yeongjo made Yi San a part of Hyojang's family because he was concerned that Yi San, who was Sado's son and successor. would be opposed. Noron would pose a problem, and say that Yi San was the Son of a prisoner or Son of a psycho and thus would become ineligible to succeed the throne, and rendered King Yeongjo worried for an extended period.

After 1762 to 1777, some members of Noron attempted to deport Jeongjo for his relation to Crown Prince Sado's title, thus succeeding the thrones, there was access to Prince Eunjeon and Prince Euneon, Prince Eunshin. They were his half-brothers. His grand uncle Hong In-han and Chung Hu-kyom, adopted son of Princess Hwa wan was one of them. When he was the Crown Prince, King Jeongjo met Hong Guk-yeong[2] (홍국영, 洪國榮), a controversial politician who first strongly supported Jeongjo's accession and toiled to improve the king's power, but ended up being expelled because of his desire for power. Another helper was Kim Jong-su(김종수, 金鍾秀), he was one member of Noron but he was principled.

In 1775, one year before King Yeongjo's death, King Yeongjo was appointed regent for him, also Yeongjo gave o military power for him.

Jeongjo spent much of his reign trying to clear his father's name. He also moved the court to the city of Suwon to be closer to his father's grave. He built Hwaseong Fortress to guard the tomb. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The era before his rule was in disorder as his father was killed by royal decree of his own father, King Jeongjo's grandfather. King Yeongjo's ultimate decision to execute Crown Prince Sado was greatly influenced by other politicians who were against the Crown Prince. After King Yeongjo's death and on the day that Jeongjo became the King of Joseon, he sat on his throne in the throne room and looked at everyone and said, "I am the son of the late Crown Prince Sado..."[3] This was a bold statement that sent shivers down the spines of all the politicians who were complicit in his father's death.[citation needed]

During his accession, he also issued a royal decree that his mother, Lady Hyegyeong, be a Dowager Queen since his father, her husband, was supposed to be the King before him. Thus, she became the Queen Dowager, the widow of Crown Prince Sado. From then on, King Jeongjo experienced many turbulent periods, but overcame them with the aid of Hong Guk-yeong[2], Kim Chong-su.

In 1776, Hong Sang-beom, Hong Kye-neung and other some member of Noron was attempted of a military coup d'etat and kill him, but their plans was exposed early. Some assassins were secretly in royal palace but Jeongjo repulsed assassins and personally arrested a suspect. Jeongjo executed Hong Sang-beom, Hong Kye-neung, other some member of Norons, but put to death Prince Eunjeon, Hong In-han, and Chung Hu-kyom.

In 1785 he erected Changyongyeong (장용영, 壯勇營), this is the King's royal bodyguards. Before In 1782, Jeongjo selected by competitive examination some officers, who were then organized into the unit of Changyongyeong. Before this time was the Naekeunwe, royal bodyguards of Joseon dynasties created by Taejong of Joseon in 1407. But Jeongjo mistrusted the Naekeumwi, so he personally created Changyonegyeong.


King Jeongjo led the new renaissance of the Joseon Dynasty, but was initially stopped by continuing the policy of Yeongjo's Tangpyeong rule. He tried to control the politics of the whole nation to advance and further national progress.

He made various reforms throughout his reign, notably establishing Kyujanggak (규장각), a royal library. The primary purpose of Kyujanggak was to improve the cultural and political stance of Joseon and to recruit gifted officers to help run the nation. Jeongjo also spearheaded bold new social initiatives, including opening government positions to those who were previously barred because of their social status.

He had some knowledge of humanities and philosophy, Neo-Confucianism. One of the King's gentlemen, Kim Jong-su, imprinted onto the king and in tandem became a great father and a great teacher for him. He studied for a long time and read various books. Jeongjo had the support of the many Silhak scholars who supported Jeongjo's regal power, including Scholars Jeong Yak-yong, Pak Ji-won, Pak Je-ga and Yu Deuk-gong. His reign also saw the further growth and development of Joseon's popular culture.

Jeongjo was resolutely selected for member of Soron and Namin party, reason selection background was checks and balances, strengthening of royal authority.

He was opposed to new fashions in the composition style of Korean writing and personally taught composition to some intellectuals and bureaucrats called Munchebanjong(문체반정 文體反正).


In his final years, Jeongjo arranged for the marriage of his second son and successor Sunjo of Joseon to Lady Kim of the Andong clan, daughter of Kim Cho-sun, but did not live to see his son's marriage. In 1800, Jeongjo died suddenly under uncertain circumstances at the age of 47, without seeing much of his life's work come to fruition under his son, Sunjo.[4] There are many books regarding the mystery behind his death, and speculation as to the cause of his death continues even today.

He is buried with his wife, Queen Hyoui, at the royal tomb of Geolleung (건릉, 健陵) in the city of Hwaseong.


  • Father: King Jangjo of Joseon (13 February 1735 – 12 July 1762) (조선 장조)[5]
    • Grandfather : King Yeongjo of Joseon (31 October 1694 – 22 April 1776) (조선 영조)
    • Grandmother : Royal Noble Consort Yeong of the Jeonui Lee clan (15 August 1696 – 23 August 1764) (영빈 이씨)
  • Mother: Queen Heongyeong of the Pungsan Hong clan (6 August 1735 – 13 January 1816) (헌경왕후 홍씨)[6][7]
    • Grandfather : Hong Bong-Han (1713 – 1778) (홍봉한)
    • Grandmother : Lady Lee of the Hansan Lee clan (1713 – 1755) (한산 이씨)
  • Consorts and their Respective Issue(s):
  1. Queen Hyoui of the Cheongpung Kim clan (5 January 1754 – 10 April 1821) (효의왕후 김씨)[8]
  2. Royal Noble Consort Ui of the Changnyeong Seong clan (6 August 1753 – 4 November 1786) (의빈 성씨)[9]
    1. Yi Sun, Crown Prince Munhyo (13 October 1782 – 6 June 1786) (이순 문효세자)
    2. Unnamed Princess (1784)[10]
    3. Unborn child (1786)[11]
  3. Royal Noble Consort Su of the Bannam Park clan (8 May 1770 – 26 December 1822) (수빈 박씨)[12]
    1. Crown Prince Yi Gong (29 July 1790 – 13 December 1834) (이공 왕세자)
    2. Princess Sukseon (1 March 1793 – 7 June 1836) (숙선옹주) [13]
  4. Royal Noble Consort Won of the Pungsan Hong clan (27 May 1766 – 7 May 1779) (원빈 홍씨)[14]
  5. Royal Noble Consort Hwa of the Namwon Yun clan (1765 – 1824) (화빈 윤씨)[15]

Full posthumous nameEdit


  • King Jeongjo Gyeongcheon Myeongdo Hongdeok Hyeonmo Munseong Muryeol Seongin Janghyo the Great of Korea
  • 정종경천명도홍덕현모문성무렬성인장효대왕
  • 正宗敬天明道洪德顯謨文成武烈聖仁莊孝大王


  • King Jeongjo Gyeongcheon Myeongdo Hongdeok Hyeonmo Munseong Muryeol Seongin Janghyo the Great of Korea
  • 정조경천명도홍덕현모문성무렬성인장효대왕
  • 正祖敬天明道洪德顯謨文成武烈聖仁莊孝大王

Portrayal in works of mediaEdit



  1. ^ 인정전 월대에서 친히 향을 전하다. 육상궁에 배알하고 창의궁에 들르다
  2. ^ a b Digital Korean studies (Korean site) Archived 23 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "과인은 사도세자의 아들이다" Ohmynews 2006.10.13. (in Korean)
  4. ^ National Heritage – Hwaseong Archived 30 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ He is given the posthumous title, "Jangjo" (장조)
  6. ^ Daughter of Hong Bong-han (홍봉한) and Lady Yi of the Hansun Yi clan
  7. ^ Queen Heongyeong is also called "Lady Hyegyeong" (혜경궁)
  8. ^ Daughter of Kim Si-muk (김시묵) and Lady Hong of the Namyang Hong clan
  9. ^ Daughter of Seong Yun-u (성윤우) and Lady Im. She did not receive the title Noble Royal Consort until her son became Grand Prince in 1782. She died suddenly in 1786, just months after the death of her son.
  10. ^ Died after birth (1784)
  11. ^ Died in utero as a result of mother's death
  12. ^ Daughter of Park Jun-won (박준원) and Lady Won. Also called Royal Noble Consort Hyeon(현빈). She became Noble Royal Consort in 1787.
  13. ^ Who created Kkakdugi alongside the wife of Hong Hyeon-ju.
  14. ^ Daughter of Hong Nak-chun (홍낙춘) and younger sister of Hong Guk-yeong (홍국영). She became Noble Royal Consort 1778, but she died suddenly a year after receiving the title.
  15. ^ Daughter of Yun Chang-yun (윤창윤). She became Noble Royal Consort in 1781; conceived, but Her pregnancy was an imaginary one.
  16. ^ a b c Chung, Ah-young (13 November 2007). "Renaissance of Joseon King Jeongjo". The Korea Times. Archived from the original on 24 February 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)

External linksEdit