Sukjong of Joseon

Sukjong of Joseon (7 October 1661 – 12 July 1720[1]) was the 19th King of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, ruling from 1674 until 1720. A skilled legislator, he caused multiple changes in political power throughout his reign, by switching among the Namin (Southerners), Seoin (Westerners), Soron and Noron political factions.

Sukjong of Joseon
조선 숙종
Sukjong of Joseon.png
King of Joseon
PredecessorHyeonjong of Joseon
SuccessorGyeongjong of Joseon
Born7 October 1661
Hoesangjeon Hall, Gyeonghui Palace, Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
DiedJuly 12, 1720(1720-07-12) (aged 58)
Yongbokjeon Hall, Gyeonghui Palace, Hanseong, Kingdom of Joseon
SpouseQueen Ingyeong (m.1670–d.1680)
Queen Inhyeon (m.1681–div.1688, m.1694–d.1701)
Queen Inwon (m.1702–1720)
IssueYi Yun, Gyeongjong of Joseon
Yi Geum, Yeongjo of Joseon
Posthumous name
King Hyeonui Gwangyun Yeseong Yeongryeol Yumo Yeongun Hongin Jundeok Baecheon Habdo Gyehyu Dokgyeong Jeongjung Hyeopgeuk Sinui Daehun Jangmun Heonmu Gyeongmyeong Wonhyo the Great
Temple name
Sukjong (숙종, 肅宗)
HouseHouse of Jeonju Yi
FatherHyeonjong of Joseon
MotherQueen Myeongseong of the Cheongpung Kim clan
Korean name
Revised RomanizationSukjong
Birth name
Revised RomanizationI Sun
McCune–ReischauerYi Sun


Heavily damaged portrait of Sukjong of Joseon, damaged in a fire.

King Sukjong was born on October 7, 1661, to King Hyeonjong and Queen Myeongseong at Gyeonghui Palace. His given name was Yi Sun. He became the Crown Prince Myeongbo in 1667 at age 6, and in 1674, at age 13, he became the 19th ruler of the Joseon Dynasty.

King Sukjong was a brilliant politician, but his reign was marked by some of the most intense factional fights in the Joseon dynasty. Sukjong frequently replaced faction in power with another one to strengthen the royal authority. With each change of government, which was called hwanguk (Korean환국; Hanja換局), literally change/switching of the state, the losing faction was completely driven out of politics with executions and exiles. Nevertheless, the chaotic changes of government did not affect the general populace significantly, and his reign is considered one of more prosperous times.

Factional FightingEdit

In the early years of Sukjong's reign, the Southern faction and Western faction clashed over the Royal Funeral Dispute, a seemingly minor issue regarding the mourning period for Queen Insun. The Southern faction claimed that the mourning period should last one year while the Western faction argued for a nine-month mourning period. A one-year mourning period meant that Hyojong of Joseon was considered the eldest son while 9-month period would suggest that Hyojong was considered not the eldest son, following the rules that governed the yangban class. In other words, the Western faction viewed the royal family as the first of the yangban class rather than a separate class for which different rules applied. The two factions were also in conflict over the issue of fighting the Qing Dynasty, which was considered barbaric country (as opposed to Ming Dynasty) that threatened Joseon's national security. The Southern faction, led by Heo Jeok and Yun Hyu, supported war against Qing while Western factions wanted to focus first on improving domestic conditions.

Sukjong at first sided with the Southern faction, but in 1680, Heo Jeok was accused of treason by Western faction, which led to the execution of Heo Jeok and Yun Hyu and purging of the Southern faction. This incident is called Gyeongsin hwanguk (경신환국). Once in power, the Western faction split into the Noron (Old Learning) faction, led by Song Si-yeol, and the Soron (New Learning) faction, led by Yun Jeung. After nine years in power, the Noron collapsed when Sukjong deposed Queen Min (posthumously called Queen Inhyeon), who was supported by the Western faction, and named Consort Hui of the Jang clan (also called Consort Jang or Jang Hui-bin) as the new queen. She is widely thought to be one of the most beautiful women of Joseon, her beauty mentioned in the Annals. The Western faction angered Sukjong when it opposed the naming of Consort Jang's son as crown prince. The Southern faction, who supported Consort Jang and her son, regained power and drove out Western faction, executing Song Si-yeol in revenge. This is called Gisa Hwanguk (기사환국).

Five years later in 1694, as the Southern faction planned another purge of the Western faction, accusing them of conspiracy to reinstate the deposed Queen, Sukjong began to regret deposing Queen Min and favored Consort Suk of the Choe clan, an ally of the Queen and the Noron faction. Angry with the Southern faction's attempt to purge Westerners, Sukjong abruptly turned around to purge Southerners and brought the Western faction back to power. The Southern faction would never recover from this blow, also called Gapsul Hwanguk (갑술환국). Sukjong demoted Queen Jang to her previous title (Jang Hui-bin) and reinstated Queen Min. Consort Jang was eventually executed by poison for cursing the Queen. The Soron faction supported Crown Prince Yi Yun, Consort Jang's son, while the Noron faction supported Consort Choe's son, Prince Yeoning (Yi Geum), later to become Yeongjo of Joseon. The late Queen Inhyeon and the newly installed Queen Kim (posthumously known as Queen Inwon) were both childless.

In 1718, Sukjong allowed the crown prince, soon to be Gyeongjong of Joseon, to rule as regent. Sukjong died in 1720 supposedly after telling Yi Yi-myoung to name Prince Yeoning as Gyeongjong's heir - in absence of a historiographer or recorder. This would lead to yet another purge in which four Noron leaders were executed in 1721, followed by another purge with the executions of eight Noron members in 1722.

Sukjong's accomplishments include tax reform (大同法), the creation of a new monetary system and currency (Korean mun), and the liberalization of civil service rules promoting the middle class and children of concubines into higher-ranking regional government positions.

In 1712, Sukjong's government worked with the Qing Dynasty in China to define national borders between the two countries at the Yalu and Tumen Rivers. The Japanese government recognized Ulleung Island as Joseon's territory in 1696 (the South Korean government insists that Liancourt Rocks was also recognized,[2] while the Japanese government disagrees).[3]

Sukjong's reign also saw agricultural development in remote provinces and increased cultural activity including publishing. He died after reigning for 46 years in 1720 at age 60. He was buried in Myeongneung (명릉) in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, inside the Five Western Royal Graves (서오릉, 西五陵; Seooneung).


  1. Queen Ingyeong of the Gwangsan Kim clan (25 October 1661 – 16 December 1680) (인경왕후 김씨)
    1. First daughter (27 April 1677 – 13 March 1678)
    2. Second daughter (23 October 1679 – 24 October 1679)
    3. Unnamed child (22 July 1680); miscarriage
  2. Queen Inhyeon of the Yeoheung Min clan (15 May 1667 – 16 September 1701) (인현왕후 민씨) – No issue.
  3. Queen Inwon of the Gyeongju Kim clan (3 November 1687 – 13 May 1757) (인원왕후 김씨) – No issue.
  4. Royal Noble Consort Hui of the Indong Jang clan (Queen Bu-ok — between May 1688 – 1694, deposed) (3 November 1659 – 9 November 1701) (희빈 장씨)
    1. Crown Prince Yi Yun (20 November 1688 – 11 October 1724) (이윤), first son
    2. Prince Seongsu (1690 – 1690) (성수), second son
  5. Royal Noble Consort Suk of the Haeju Choe clan (17 December 1670 – 9 April 1718) (숙빈 최씨)
    1. Prince Yeongsu (1693 – 1693) (영수군), third son
    2. Yi Geum, Prince Yeoning (31 October 1694 – 22 April 1776) (이금 연잉군), fourth son
    3. Fifth son (1698 – 1698)
  6. Royal Noble Consort Myeong of the Miryang Park clan (? – 1703) (명빈 박씨)[6]
    1. Yi Hwon, Prince Yeollyeong (13 June 1699 – 2 October 1719) (이훤 연령군), sixth son[7]
  7. Royal Noble Consort Yeong of the Andong Kim clan (1669–1735) (영빈 김씨)[8][9][10][11] – No issue.
  8. Royal Consort Gwi-in of the Gyeongju Kim clan (1690–1735) (귀인 김씨)[12] – No issue.
  9. Royal Consort So-ui of the Gangneung Yu clan (? – 1707) (소의 유씨) – No issue.


In popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ In Lunar Calendar, the king was born on 15 August 1661 and died in 8 June 1720
  2. ^ Q&A on Dokdo(Q05) , Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Korea
  3. ^ Historically, Takeshima belongs to Japan Archived 2014-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Shimane Prefectural Government
  4. ^ Her mother is a second cousin of Royal Noble Consort Yeong of the Andong Kim clan’s grandfather, Kim Su-jeung (김수증, 金壽增) (1624–1701)
  5. ^ His older brother, Kim Jwa-myeong (김좌명, 金佐明) (1616–1671), married Lady Shin of the Pyeongsan Shin clan (a daughter of Princess Jeongsuk and granddaughter of King Seonjo)
  6. ^ Was known before as Royal Consort Gwi-in (귀인 박씨, 貴人 朴氏), Royal Consort Suk-ui (숙의 박씨, 淑儀 朴氏), and Royal Consort Suk-won (숙원 박씨, 淑媛 朴氏).
  7. ^ Married Princess Consort Sangsan of the Sangsan Kim clan (상산군부인 상산 김씨, 商山郡夫人 商山 金氏) (26 June 1698–1725), and had an adoptive son, Yi Eun, Prince Nakcheon (낙천군 이온, 洛川君 李縕) (son of Yi Chae; 이채, 李埰).
  8. ^ Her grandfather’s second cousin, Lady Yeongga of the Andong Kim clan (영가부부인 안동 김씨, 永嘉府夫人 安東 金氏) (? - 19 January 1654), became the mother of Queen Inseon.
  9. ^ Her grandfather’s older brother, Kim Sang-gwan (김상관, 金尙觀), eventually became the 6th great-grandfather of Queen Sunwon and Kim Jwa-geun. His older half-brother, Kim Jang-saeng (김장생, 金長生) (8 August 1548 – 3 August 1631), became the father of Kim Jib and the maternal great-great grandfather of Queen Ingyeong.
  10. ^ Her grandfather’s half-nephew, Kim Su-in (김수인, 金壽仁), became the father-in-law to Queen Jangnyeol’s older brother, Jo Yun-seok (조윤석, 趙胤錫) (1615–1664).
  11. ^ Daughter of Kim Chang-guk (김창국, 金昌國) (1644–1717) and Lady Yi of the Jeonju Yi clan (전주 이씨, 全州 李氏) (1648–1714). Granddaughter of Kim Su-jeung (김수증, 金壽增) (1624–1701).
  12. ^ Daughter of Kim Si-gu (김시구, 金時龜).
  13. ^ "Lady Jang (Janghuibin) (1961)". Korean Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  14. ^ "Femme Fatale, Jang Hee-bin (Yohwa, Jang Hee-bin) (1968)". Korean Movie Database. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  15. ^ a b c '죽지 않는' 장희빈 벌써 9명, 김태희가 뒤 이을까. OhmyNews (in Korean). 22 September 2012. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  16. ^ Kim, Jessica (9 June 2010). "Interview: Dong Yi director says Ji Jin-hee "mischievous"". 10Asia. Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  17. ^ Do, Je-hae (17 June 2013). "New face of Korean drama". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2014-11-12.

Further readingEdit

  • Kim, Jinwung. A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict (2002)
  • Liu, Lihong. "Ethnography and Empire through an Envoy’s Eye: The Manchu Official Akedun’s (1685–1756) Diplomatic Journeys to Chosǒn Korea." Journal of early modern history 20.1 (2016): 111–139.
Sukjong of Joseon
Born: 7 October 1661 Died: 12 July 1720
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Joseon
with Gyeongjong (1718–1720)
Succeeded by