Injo of Joseon

Injo of Joseon
Hangul 인조
Hanja 仁祖
Revised Romanization Injo
McCune–Reischauer Injo
Birth name
Hangul 이종
Hanja 李倧
Revised Romanization I Jong
McCune–Reischauer I Chong

Injo of Joseon (17 December 1595 – 17 June 1649, r. 1623–1649) was the sixteenth king of the Joseon dynasty in Korea. He was the grandson of Seonjo and son of Grandprince Jeongwon (정원군). King Injo was king during both the first and second Manchu invasions, which ended with the surrender of Joseon to the Qing dynasty in 1636.


Birth and background

King Injo was born in 1595 as a son of Grandprince Jeongwon,[1] whose father was the ruling monarch King Seonjo. In 1607, Grandprince Jeongwon's son was given the title, Prince Neungyang (綾陽都正, 능양도정) and later Grand Prince Neungyang (綾陽君, 능양군); and lived as a royal family member, unsupported by any political factions that were in control of Korean politics at the time.

In 1608, King Seonjo fell sick and died, and his son, Gwanghaegun, succeeded him to the throne. At the time, the government was divided by various political factions; and the liberal Eastern political faction came out strong after the Seven Year War, which most actively fought against Japanese. The Eastern faction split during the last days of King Seonjo in the Northern and Southern political factions. The Northern faction wanted radical reform, while the Southern faction supported moderate reform. At the time of Seonjo's death, the Northern faction, who gained control of the government at the time, was divided into left-wing Greater Northerners and less radical Lesser Northerners. As Gwanghaegun inherited the throne, the Greater Northern political faction, which supported him as heir to the crown, became the major political faction in the royal court. Meanwhile, conservative Western political faction remained a minor faction, far from gaining power; however many members of the Western faction continued to look for opportunities to return to politics as the ruling faction.

The coup of 1623

Although King Gwanghaegun (光海君, 광해군) was an outstanding administrator and great diplomat, he was largely unsupported by many politicians, scholars, and aristocrats because he was not the first-born and he was born of a concubine. Greater Northerners tried to stomp out those opinions, suppressing Lesser Northerners and killing Prince Imhae (臨海君, 임해군), the oldest son of Seonjo, and Grand Prince Yeongchang (永昌大君, 영창대군), the queen's son. It was not Gwanghaegun's plan to keep his throne; and in fact, he actually tried to bring minor factions into the government, but was blocked by opposition from members of the Greater Northerners, such as Jeong In-hong and Yi Icheom. The actions made Gwanghaegun even more unpopular among wealthy aristocrats, and they finally began plotting against him.

In 1623, members of the ultra-conservative Westerners faction, Kim Ja-jeom, Kim Ryu, Yi Gwi and Yi Gwal, launched a coup that resulted in the dethroning of Gwanghaegun, who was sent into exile on Jeju Island. Jeong In-hong and Yi Yicheom were killed, and followed suddenly by the Westerners replacing the Greater Northerners as the ruling political faction. The Westerners brought Injo to the palace and crowned him as the new King of Joseon. Although Injo was king, he did not have any authority since almost all of the power was held by the Western faction that dethroned Gwanghaegun.

Yi Gwal Rebellion

Yi Gwal thought he was treated unfairly and received too small reward for his role in the coup. In 1624, he rebelled against Injo after being sent to the Northern front as military commander of Pyongyang to fight against the expanding Manchus, while other major leaders of the coup were rewarded with positions in the King's court. Yi Gwal led 12,000 troops, including 100 Japanese (who defected to Joseon during Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598)), to the capital, Hanseong, where Yi Gwal defeated a regular army under the command of General Jang Man and surrounded Hanseong in what is known as the Battle of Jeotan. Injo fled to Gongju, and Hanseong fell into the hands of the rebels.

On February 11, 1624, Yi Gwal enthroned Prince Heungan (興安君, 흥안군) as the new king; however, General Jang Man soon came back with another regiment and defeated Yi Gwal's forces. The Korean army recaptured the capital soon after, and Yi Gwal was murdered by his bodyguard, which resulted in the end of the rebellion. Even though Injo was able to keep his throne, the rebellion displayed the weaknesses of royal authority, while asserting the superiority of the aristocrats, who had gained even more power by the fighting against the rebellion. The economy, which was experiencing a slight recovery from Gwanghaegun's reconstruction, was once again ruined and Korea would remain in a poor economic state for a few centuries.

War with Manchus

King Gwanghaegun, who was considered a wise diplomat, kept his neutral policy between the Chinese Ming Dynasty, which was Joseon's traditional ally, and the growing Manchus. However, following the fall of Gwanghaegun, conservative Westerners took hard-line policy toward the Manchus, keeping their alliance with Ming Dynasty. The Manchus, who had up until that time remained mostly friendly to Joseon, began to regard Joseon as an enemy. Han Yun, who participated in the rebellion of Yi Gwal, fled to Manchuria and urged the Manchu leader Nurhaci to attack Joseon; thus the friendly relationship between Manchu and Korea ended.

In 1627, 30,000 Manchu cavalry under General Amin (阿敏) and former Korean General Gang Hong-rip invaded Joseon, calling for restoration of Gwanghaegun and execution of Westerners leaders, including Kim Ja-jeom. General Jang Man again fought against the Manchus, but was unable to repel the invasion. Once again, Injo fled to Ganghwa Island. Meanwhile, the Manchus had no reason to attack Korea and decided to go back to prepare for war against China, and peace soon settled. Later, Qing and Joseon were declared brother nations and the Manchus withdrew from Korea. The war is called first Manchu invasion of Korea.

However, most Westerners kept their hard-line policy despite the war. Nurhaci, who had generally good opinion toward Korea, did not invade Korea again; however, when Nurhaci died and Hong Taiji succeeded him as ruler of the Manchus, the Manchus again began to seek for chance for another war. King Injo provided refuge to Ming General Mao Wenrong and with his unit, after they fled from the Manchus and came to Korea; this action caused the Manchus to invade Korea once again.

In 1636, Hong Taiji officially called his nation the Qing dynasty, and proceeded to invade Joseon personally. The Manchu purposely avoided battle with General Im Gyeong Eop, a prominent Joseon army commander who was guarding the Uiju Fortress at the time. A Manchurian army of 128,000 men marched directly into Hanseong before Injo could escape to Ganghwa Island, driving Injo to Namhansanseong instead. Running out of food and supplies after the Manchu managed to cut all supply lines, Injo finally surrendered to the Qing dynasty ceremoniously bowing to the Hong Taiji nine times as Hong Taiji's servant, and agreeing to the Treaty of Samjeondo, which required Injo's first and second son to be taken to China as captives. Joseon then became a tributary state to the Qing Dynasty, and the Qing went on to conquer the Ming Dynasty in 1644. This war is called Second Manchu invasion of Korea.

Death of the Crown Prince

After Qing conquered Beijing in 1644,[2] the two princes returned to Korea. Injo's first son, Crown Prince Sohyeon, brought many new products from the western world, including Christianity, and urged Injo for reform. However, the conservative Injo would not accept the opinion; and persecuted the Crown Prince for attempting to modernize Korea by bringing in Catholicism and Western science.

The Crown Prince was mysteriously found dead in the King's room, bleeding severely from the head. Legends say that Injo killed his own son with an ink slab that the Sohyeon brought from China; however, some historians suggest he was poisoned by the fact that he had black spots all over his body after his death and that his body decomposed rapidly. Many, including his wife, tried to uncover what happened, but Injo ordered immediate burial and greatly reduced the grandeur of the practice of Crown Prince's funeral

King Injo appointed Grand Prince Bongrim as new Crown Prince (who later became King Hyojong) rather than Prince Sohyeon's oldest son, Prince Gyeongseon. Soon after, Injo ordered the exile of Prince Sohyeon's three sons to Jeju Island (from which only the youngest son, Prince Gyeongan, returned to the mainland alive), and the execution of Sohyeon's wife' Crown Princess Minhoe, for treason.


Today, Injo is mostly regarded as a weak, indecisive and unstable ruler; for he caused the Yi Gwal Rebellion, two wars with the Manchus, and a devastation of the economy. He is often compared to his predecessor, Gwanghaegun, who accomplished many things and was dethroned, while Injo had almost no achievements during his reign and was still given a temple name. Blamed for not taking care of his kingdom, many people regard King Injo as the model for politicians not to follow; yet, he is credited for reforming the military and expanding the defense of the nation to prepare for war, since the nation had several military conflicts from 1592 to 1636. Injo died in 1649. His tomb is located in Paju, Gyeonggi-do.


  1. Queen Inryeol of the Cheongju Han clan (16 August 1594 – 16 January 1636) (인렬왕후 한씨)
    1. Yi Wangm Crown Prince Sohyeon (5 February 1612 – 21 May 1645) (이왕 소현세자)
    2. Yi Ho, Grand Prince Bongrim (3 July 1619 - 23 June 1659) (이호 봉림대군)
    3. Yi Yo, Grand Prince Inpyeong (10 December 1622 - 13 May 1658) (이요 인평대군)
    4. Yi Gon, Grand Prince Yongseong (24 October 1624 - 22 December 1629) (이곤 용성대군)
    5. Unnamed daughter (1626 - 1626)
    6. Unnamed son
  2. Queen Jangryeol of the Yangju Jo clan (16 December 1624 - 20 September 1688) (장렬왕후 조씨) - No issue.
  3. Consort Gwi-in of the Okcheon Jo clan (? - 24 January 1652) (귀인 조씨)[5]
    1. Princess Hyomyeong (1637 - 1700) (효명옹주)
    2. Yi Jing, Prince Sungseon (17 October 1639 - 6 January 1690) (이징 숭선군)
    3. Yi Suk, Prince Nakseon (9 December 1641 - 26 April 1695) (이숙 낙선군)
  4. Consort Gwi-in of the Haepung Jang clan (? - 1671) (귀인 장씨) - No issue.
  5. Consort Suk-ui of the Na clan (숙의 나씨)
  6. Consort Suk-ui of the Park clan (숙의 박씨)
  7. Consort Suk-won of the Jang clan (숙원 장씨)
  8. Court Lady Lee (? - 1643) (상궁 이씨)

His full posthumous name

Modern depictions

See also


  1. Illegitimate son of 14th King Seonjo.
  2. Palais, James B. (1995). Confucian statecraft and Korean institutions : Yu Hyŏngwŏn and the late Chosŏn dynasty. Seattle [u.a.]: Univ. of Washington Press. p. 103. ISBN 0295974559.
  3. As the sixth illegitimate son of King Seonjo, he became Prince Jeongwon. In 1623, he was given the posthusmous title Daewongun as the birth father of King Injo. After considerable opposition, he was posthusmously honoured as King Wonjong in 1632.
  4. In 1623, she was given the title Gyeoungung as the birth mother of King Injo. Daughter of Gu Sa-maeng (구사맹).
  5. Executed by King Hyojong on 24 January 1652
Injo of Joseon
Born: 1595 Died: 1649
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Joseon
Succeeded by
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