Yi Kang

Yi Kang, Prince Imperial Ui (also known as Prince Uihwa, born 30 March 1877-15 August 1955), was the fifth son of Emperor Gojong of Korea and his concubine, Lady Jang, who was a court lady-in-waiting.

Yi Kang
Prince Imperial Ui.jpg
Born(1877-03-30)30 March 1877
Hanseong-bu, Joseon
Died15 August 1955(1955-08-15) (aged 78)
Seongrak Manor, Seongbuk-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Hongyu-reung, Namyang-ju
SpouseKim Sudeok, Princess Imperial Ui

(m. 1892; died 1955)

  • Lady Jeong of Sugwandang
  • Kim Heung-in, Lady Suindang
  • Jeong Un-seok, Lady Suhyundang
  • Cho Byung-suk
  • Yi Hui-chun, Lady Sudeokdang
  • Kim Jeong-wan, Lady Suwandang
  • Park Yeong-hui, Lady Sugildang
  • Lady Song
  • Kim Chang-hui, Lady Sokyungdang
  • Ham Kae-bong
  • Kim Hye-su
  • Hong Jeong-sun
Prince Yi Geon (Kenichi Momoyama)
Prince Yi U
Yi Bang
Yi Hae-wan
Yi Chang
Yi Ju (Yi Su-gil)
Yi Hae-won
Yi Gon
Yi Hae-chun
Yi Hae-suk
Yi Gwang
Yi Hyun
Yi Haegyeong
Yi Gap
Yi Seok
Yi Hoe-ja
Yi Hwan
Yi Hae-ran
Yi Jung
Yi Hae-ryeon
Yi Chang-hui
FatherEmperor Gojong of Korea
MotherLady Jang of the Deoksu Jang clan
Yi Kang
의친왕 이강
or 의화군
Revised RomanizationUichinwang I Gang or Uihwagun
McCune–ReischauerŬich'inwang I Kang or Ŭihwagun

It was not until 1892 when he was recognized as a legitimate prince with the name of Yi Kang, and was titled Prince Uihwa with the style of Royal Highness, following a decree issued by his father. He married Lady Kim Sudeok, a daughter of an official in court, Kim Sajun. Prince Yi Kang was not the Crown Prince, even though he was older than his half-brother Prince Imperial Yeong, due to various reasons including the status of his mother.


Education and early lifeEdit

There is no much official records about his early life, which may be caused by being born by Lady Jang, a court lady-in-waiting of King Gojong but not the king's official consort or concubine during her lifetime. Lady Jang came from the Deoksu Jang clan, and Queen Inseon (Hyojong of Joseon's queen consort) was her distant relative.[i] According to the tradition, the half-brothers of the crown prince, in this case, Yi Cheok (future Sunjong of Korea), needed to move out from the palace until the latter reached the age 10; as the result, there were some years that Yi Kang lives with Pak Yung-hio, the son-in-law of King Cheoljong.[2] During the Gapsin Coup in 1884, Yi Kang and his mother were taken by Pak Yung-hio to the palace; contemporary rumors claimed that the coup d'état tried to replace the king with Yi Kang;[3] but after the coup ended, Yi left the palace again. During his young age, Yi Kang grew up with a bad reputation because of his behavior.[2]

Later, Queen Min, Gojong's wife, asked her husband to grant Yi Kang a title, so Yi Kang became Prince Uihwa (의화군) in 1892.[4] After three rounds of choosing in 1893,[5] the daughter of an official Kim Sa-jun, Lady Kim (Kim Sudeok), was chosen to be the spouse of Yi Kang, which was arranged by Queen Min.[6] Lady Kim, also known as "Lady Kim of Deokindang", was a distant relative to Queen Inmok, the queen consort of Seonjo of Joseon in early 17th century;[ii] Yi Kang never had an issue with his wife. Even after getting married, Yi Kang got involved into deft and lawsuit problems.[6]

Prince Yi Kang was appointed special ambassador to the Empire of Japan for the celebration ceremonies for Japan's victory in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. The next year, he visited six European countries as an ambassador extraordinary: the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Italy and Austria-Hungary. In 1899, he studied for a year at Keio University in Tokyo. While he was not in Korea, Yi Kang was promoted to the rank of Prince Imperial Ui, and styled His Imperial Highness in 1900;[8] his late mother was also posthumously recognized as a concubine of the Emperor. By the same year, he went to the United States and began studies at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia from March 1901, where he majored in mathematics. After graduation, he spent a brief period at the Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, and then traveled to San Francisco and Hawaii, returning to Korea in 1905. While in the United States, he scandalized the Korean government with his profligate spending and playboy lifestyle. As the result, as well as the help from the Japanese, when childless Sunjong of Korea ascended to the throne in 1907, Yi Un, their younger half-brother, became the crown prince almost without any obstacles.[9]

Prince Yi Kang served as the president of the Korean Red Cross from 1906 to 1910.

Under Japanese ruleEdit

Following the abdication of King Gojong in 1907, and the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910 by which Korea was annexed to the Empire of Japan, Prince Yi Kang grew increasingly dissatisfied with his status, even though the Japanese provided him with a huge annual allowance. At the same time, the title "Prince Imperial Ui" was abolished and he was known as the "Duke Yi Kang", a title given by Japanese.[10]

In 1919, he collaborated with Choe Ik-hwan, a member of Daedongdan, who attempted to support him as the new leader of Korea. Prince Yi Kang then tried to escape to the Provisional Government of Korea based in Shanghai, only to be discovered in Dandong from Manchuria and returned to his home country. After this, the Japanese government claimed that Yi Kang was "abducted" and "wanted to escape to live profligately again".[11] Later, Yi Kang asked to deprive his title multiple times but he wasn't approved. As of November 10, 1925, a law for defining the status of the former Korean imperial family was made; on June 12, 1930, Yi Kang officially retired and his eldest son Yi Geon succeeded him as duke, but Yi Kang's styles and allowances still remained until the end of World War II.[12][13]

Throughout the Japanese rule, there were only few members of Yi Kang family recognized by Japan: Yi Kang himself, his wife Kim Sudeok (Duchess Consort of Yi Kang), his eldest son Duke Yi Geon with his family, and his second son Duke Yi U (adopted as the heir to Duke Yi Jun-yong in 1917) with his family;[14] for the rest of his children, they could either be adopted by various Korean nobles to retain fundamental rights including education,[15] or be illegitimate children, living with their mothers without any titles or noble privileges.[16]

After the independence of Korea, he continued to live in Seoul, but in increasing poverty.[17] On 9 August 1955 he was baptized a Roman Catholic, given the Christian name "Pius"; Lady Kim was also baptized and had a name "Maria".[18] Yi Kang passed way a week later on August 15, 1955, at the age of 78, in his mansion "Seongrakwon" Manor (now Seongnagwon Garden, in Seongbuk District, Seoul); he was buried in Hongneung and Yureung,[19] where his father and brothers were buried in Namyangju near Seoul.


Prince Yi Gang married Kim Sudeok (22 December 188014 January 1964) in 1892; however, the couple had no children. Therefore, all children Yi Gang had, 12 sons and 9 daughters, were born by 13 of his various concubines.[17]


Name Hanja and Korean Birth Death Bon-gwan Parents Issue
Kim Suk
22 December 1880 14 January 1964 Yeonan Kim clan Baron Kim Sa-jun
Lady Hwang of the Changwon Hwang clan
No issue


Courtesy Title Name Issue(s)
Lady Jeong of Sugwandang (수관당 정씨) Lady Jeong (정씨)
Lady Kim of Suindang (수인당 김씨) Kim Heung-in (김흥인)
  • 2nd son: Yi U (b. 1912)
  • 5th son: Yi Ju (b. 1917)
  • 6th son: Yi Gon (b. 1919)
Lady Jeong of Suhyundang (수현당 정씨) Jeong Un-seok (정운석)
  • 3rd son: Yi Bang (b. 1914)
Cho Byeong-suk (조병숙)
  • 4th son: Yi Chang (b. 1915)
Lady Yi of Sudeokdang (수덕당 이씨) Yi Hui-chun (이희춘)
  • 1st daughter: Yi Hae-wan (b. 1918)
  • 2nd daughter: Yi Hae-won (b. 1919)
Lady Kim of Suwandang (수완당 김씨) Kim Jeong-wan (김정완)
  • 3rd daughter: Yi Hae-chun (b. 1920)
Lady Park of Sugildang (수길당 박씨) Park Yeong-hui (박영희)
  • 4th daughter: Yi Hae-suk (b. 1920)
Lady Song (송씨)
  • 7th son: Yi Kwang (b. 1920)
Lady Kim of Sugyungdang (수경당 김씨) Kim Chang-hui (김창희)
  • 8th son: Yi Hyun (b. 1922)
Kim Geum-deok (김금덕)
Ham Gae-bong (함개봉)
  • 9th son: Yi Gap (b. 1938)
Kim Hye-su (김혜수)
  • 6th daughter: Yi Hoe-ja (b. 1940)
  • 11th son: Yi Hwan (b. 1944)
  • 9th daughter: Yi Chang-hui (b. 1953)
Hong Jeong-sun (홍정순)
  • 10th son: Yi Seok (b. 1941)
  • 7th daughter: Yi Hae-ran (b. 1944)
  • 12th son: Yi Jeong (b. 1947)
  • 8th daughter: Yi Haeryeon (b. 1950)


Name Hanja Birth Name Registered Name Birth Death Notes Family
1 Yi Geon
李鍵 Yi Yong-gil
1909 1990
  • Acquired the duke title in 1930 after his father
  • Naturalized as a Japanese citizen in 1947 and changed the name to "Momoyama Kenichi" (桃山虔一)
  • Wife: Matsudaira Yoshiko (松平誠子), daughter of Captain Matsudaira Yutaka and a first cousin of Yi Bangja. They had two sons and a daughter; divorced in 1951
  • Wife: Maeda Yoshiko (前田美子), daughter of Maeda Fujiyoshi. They had a son and two daughters[23]
2 Yi U
李鍝 Yi Seong-gil
1912 1945
  • Adopted as the heir to Duke Yi Jun in 1917
3 Yi Bang
李鎊 Yi Heung-gil
Yi Hae-jin
1914 1951
4 Yi Chang
李鎗 Yi Chang-gil
Yi Hae-jik
1915 ?
  • Adopted as the heir to Yi Heon-yong [ko] (1886-1921), a 4th cousin of Yi Kang
  • He died in the United States
  • Wife: Cho Ui-hye (조의혜); they had two sons and two daughters[25]
5 Yi Ju
李鑄 Yi Su-gil
Yi Hae-il
1917 1982
  • Wife: Cheongija (천기자/千枝子), a Japanese; they had two sons and two daughters
  • Wife: Kim Sin-deok (김신덕);[29] they had a son
6 Yi Gon
李錕 Yi Myung-gil
1919 1984
  • The heir to his father upon the death of Yi Kang
  • Wife: Hwang Gyung-saeng (황경생);[30] they had two sons
7 Yi Gwang
李鑛 Yi Hyung-gil
Yi Hae-cheong
1920 1952
  • Adopted as the heir to Viscount Yi Ki-yong [ko] (1889-1961), a second cousin of Yi Kang
  • Passed away of a heart attack when swimming in 1952[25]
8 Yi Hyun
李鉉 Yi Gyung-gil
1922 1996
9 Yi Gap
李鉀 Yi Chung-gil
Yi Hae-ryung
1938 2014
  • Wife: Yi Gyung-suk (이경숙);[34] they had two sons and a daughter
10 Yi Seok
李錫 Yi Yung-gil
Yi Hae-seok
  • Self-claimed pretender to the imperial throne upon the death of Yi Ku since 2005[35][36]
  • Wife: Dokko Jeong-hui (독고정희); they had a daughter (Yi Hong) and divorced in 1970s[37]
  • Wife: Kim Jin-ok (김진옥); they had a daughter and later divorced[38]
11 Yi Hwan
李鐶 Yi Mun-gil
Yi Hae-seon
12 Yi Jeong
李鉦 Yi Jeong-gil
Yi Hae-jun


Name Birth Name Registered Name Hanja Birth Death Notes
1 Yi Yung
Yi Gil-sun
Yi Hae-wan
李海琬 1918 1981 Adopted by Viscount Yi Ki-yong[15]
2 Yi Jin
Yi Gil-un
Yi Hae-won
李海瑗 1919 2020
  • Husband: Yi Seung-gyu (이승규); they had three sons and a daughter[39]
  • Self-claimed "Empress of Korea" in 2006-2020[35][40]
3 Yi Chan
Yi Gil-yun
Yi Hae-chun
李海珺 1920 2009
  • Husband: Marquess Park Chan-beom (박찬범), grandson of Pak Yung-hio and his successor; they had a son but later divorced[24]
4 Yi Suk
Yi Gil-yung
Yi Hae-suk
李海璛 1920 ?
  • Husband: Yi Hak-jin (이학진); they had a daughter[41][42][43]
5 Yi Gong
Yi Gil-sang
Yi Haegyeong
李海瓊 1930
  • Also known as "Amy Hai Kyung Lee"[44]
  • Moved to Texas in 1956 and worked as a Korean Studies Librarian in Columbia University since 1960s; she retired in 1996[45]
6 Yi Jang
Yi Hoe-ja
李惠子 1940 2015
  • Became a nun and went by the name, either Catalina (카타리나) or Paulina (바울리나), in the Society of Saint Paul until her death[46]
7 Yi Yong
Yi Suk-gi
Yi Hae-ran
李海珃 1944
8 Yi Hyun
Yi Suk-hyang
Yi Hae-ryun
李海瑢 1950
9 Yi Min
Yi Chang-hoe
李昌惠 1953


Ancestors of Yi Kang[1][47][48][49]
Yi Byeong-won (1752-1822)
Prince Namyeon (1788-1836)
Lady Jeong of the Yeonil Jeong clan (1753-1792)
Heungseon Daewongun (1820-1898)
Min Gyeong-hyeok (1746-1815)
Lady Min of the Yeoheung Min clan (1788-1831)
Lady Han of the Cheongju Han clan (1744-1822)
Emperor Gojong of Korea (1852-1919)
Min Dan-hyon (1768-1858)
Min Chi-Ku (1795-1874)
Lady Park of the Miryang Park clan (1769-1843)
Grand Internal Princess Consort Sunmok (1818-1898)
Yi Ok (1773-1820) [iv]
Lady Yi of the Jeonju Yi clan (1797-1873)
Lady Kim of the Gyeongju Kim clan (1770-1832)
Yi Kang, Prince Imperial Ui
Jang Seok-Jeong (1736-1796)
Jang Un (1792-1827)
Jang Jwa-geun (b. 1819)
Lady Choe of the Gyeongju Choe clan (1793-1876)
Lady Jang of the Deoksu Jang clan
Yi Buk-eung
Lady Yi of the Jeonju Yi clan (b. 1821)


  1. ^ According to the Jang family genealogy book published in 1974, Lady Jang was recorded as daughter of Jang Seok-Jeong (장석정, 1736-1796) but the time didn't match; it's also conjectured that her father could be Jang Jwa-geun (장좌근, b. 1819), a grandson of Jang Seok-Jeong, and Lady Yi of the Jeonju Yi clan (b. 1821).[1]
  2. ^ Through her father, Kim Sudeok was a 8-great-grandniece of Queen Inmok.[7]
  3. ^ "Kim Suk" was her official name, while "Kim Sudeok" was her original name by birth, whereas the more known one.[22]
  4. ^ A 9-great-grandson of Deokheung Daewongun, the 7th son of Jungjong of Joseon.[50]


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