Prince Yangnyeong

Grand Prince Yangnyeong (Hangul: 양녕대군, Hanja: 讓寧大君, 1394–1462) was a Joseon dynasty politician and prince. He was the first-born son of King Taejong of the Joseon dynasty and his consort Queen Wongyeong, elder brother of Sejong the Great, and ancestor of Syngman Rhee, Korean independence activist and first President of South Korea.

Grand Prince Yang Nyeong
Grand Prince of Joseon
Died1462 (aged 68)
HouseHouse of Yi
FatherTaejong of Joseon
MotherQueen Wongyeong
Korean name
Revised RomanizationYang Nyeong Daegun
McCune–ReischauerYang Nyŏng Taekun
Pen name
Revised RomanizationGangjeong
Birth name
Revised RomanizationYi Je
McCune–ReischauerYi Che
Courtesy name
Revised RomanizationHubaek


He was born as Yi Je (李禔 in Hanja, 이제 in Hangul) in 1394. Originally his father appointed him as the Crown Prince but in the 18th year of his reign replaced prince Yangnyeong with his third son prince Chungnyeong as his successor.[1]

He has been described as a handsome, intelligent man with great political and martial skills.

He was the commander of the city guards for almost three years, and because of his interest in harsh punishments, Seoul became one of the safest cities in the country, a success that even the king himself couldn't achieve. When one of the judges confessed to taking bribes and executing innocent people, the prince skinned him alive, made a robe of his skin, and gave it to the new judge as a gift, so that the judge would never forget what will happen to him if he ever uses his power in the wrong way.

The grand prince had no desire to rule and eventually got bored of being a guard, so he purposely acted extremely rude in the court and married his favorite peasant to be able to get rid of his titles. He was officially banished from Seoul in June 1418. The night before his leaving, the king called him "the black sheep of the yi flock" during an argument. Yangnyeong pointed out that their sigil was a dragon, which made him a black dragon instead of a black sheep. Yangyeong took for his personal sigil the yi emblem, but with a black dragon roaring, instead of a yellow one, and he became known as the "Black Dragon".

After leaving the capital, almost all of the city guards voluntarily went into exile with him, And thus he became the leader of the largest and richest mercenary army in the country known as the dark brothers. The severe shortage of guards forced the king to order the return of the men, but none of them returned and remained loyal to their commander.

Prince Hyoryeong, Yangnyeong's second brother, had similar feelings about being king, and so became a poor monk in a Buddhist temple. This plot ultimately brought Sejong to the throne.[2]

Sejong loved his older and favorite brother and spent most of his time with him. Ever since he learned how to walk, he followed him everywhere, so much so that Yangnyeong usually called him "my shadow".

Historians know little about his sexuality, but most of them agree that despite people's hatred of same-sex relationships, he was openly bisexual and had no fear of taking both men and women as a lover.

Also because of his wild and adventurous nature, he became quite famous as the "Untamed One". In his day, no man was as popular and fearsome as he was.

Yangnyeong died in 1462, living for 68 years. His death broke the hearts of the peasants and nobles alike. King Sejong said of his brother: "He was free, admirable and fearless until the last moment of his life. Joseon will never see a man like him again."[3]


  1. Lady Sooseong, Princess Consort, of the Gwangsan Kim clan (수성군부인 김씨)
    1. Yi Gae, the Prince Soonseong (이개 순성군), 1st Son
    2. Yi Po, the Prince Hamyang (이포 함양군), 2nd Son
    3. Yi Hye, the Prince Seosan (이혜 서산군), 3rd Son
    4. Princess Jeon-ui (전의군주), 1st Daughter; later married Lee Ja (이자), created Jidonnyeong (지돈녕)
    5. Unnamed 2nd Daughter; later married Lee Beon (이번), created Jungchubusa (중추부사)
    6. Princess Yeongpyeong (영평군주), 3rd Daughter; later married Kim Cheol-goo (김철구)
    7. Unnamed 4th Daughter, later married Park Soo-jong (박수종)
  2. Unknown woman
    1. Yi Gyeom (이겸)
    2. Yi Heun, Duck of Jangpyung (이흔)
    3. Yi Seong (이성)
    4. Yi Soon (이순)
    5. Yi Shim (이심)
    6. Yi Gwang-seok (이광석)
    7. Yi Gwang-geun (이광근)
  3. Unknown woman
    1. Unnamed Daughter, later married Lee Jong-gyeong (이종경)
  4. Unknown woman
    1. Unnamed 1st Daughter, later married Kim Am (김암)
    2. Unnamed 2nd Daughter, later married Kim Seung-gan (김승간)
    3. Unnamed 3rd Daughter, later married Kim Oh (김오)
    4. Unnamed 4th Daughter, later married Kim Won (김원)
    5. Unnamed 5th Daughter, later married Han Chi-yeong (한치형)[4][5]
  5. Unknown slave
    1. Unnamed 1st Daughter, later married Kwon Chi-jung (권치중)
    2. Princess Yi Goo-ji (현주 이구지), 2nd Daughter; later married Kwon Deok-yeong (권덕영)
  6. Unknown woman
    1. Unnamed 1st Daughter, later married Seok-beon (석번), clan unknown
    2. Unnamed 2nd Daughter, later married Kim Ui (김의)
    3. Unnamed 3rd Daughter, later married Im Jun (임중)
    4. Princess Yi Geon-yi (현주 이건이), 4th Daughter

Popular cultureEdit


Today, his descendants form one of the biggest clans of the House of Yi. In addition, it is believed that the plaque on the Namdaemun was personally written by him.[6]

He was an ancestor of Syngman Rhee, Korean independence activist and the first South Korean president.


External linksEdit


  • Kim Haboush, JaHyun and Martina Deuchler (1999). Culture and the State in Late Chosŏn Korea. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674179820; OCLC 40926015
  • Lee, Peter H. (1993). Sourcebook of Korean Civilization, Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 9780231079129; ISBN 9780231079143; ISBN 9780231104449; OCLC 26353271
  • Lee Bae-yong (2008). Women in Korean History. Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press. ISBN 9788973007721