Jeongjo of Joseon

"Yi San" redirects here. For the 2007 TV series, see Yi San (TV series).
King of Joseon Dynasty

Portrait of Jeongjo of Joseon
Reign 27 April 1776 – 18 August 1800
Predecessor Yeongjo of Joseon
Successor Sunjo of Joseon
Born (1752-10-28)28 October 1752
Changgyeong Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
Died 18 August 1800(1800-08-18) (aged 47)
Changgyeong Palace, Kingdom of Joseon
Burial Geolleung, Hwaseong, Gyeonggi
Spouse Queen Hyoui,
Royal Noble Consort Won, concubine
Royal Noble Consort Hwa, concubine
Royal Noble Consort Ui, concubine
Royal Noble Consort Su, concubine
Issue Crown Prince Munhyo (1782)
unnamed daughter (1784)
unborn child (1786)
Sunjo of Joseon (1790)
Princess Suk Seon (1793)
House House of Yi
Father Crown Prince Sado
Mother Lady Hyegyeong
Jeongjo of Joseon
Hangul 정조
Hanja 正祖
Revised Romanization Jeongjo
McCune–Reischauer Chŏngjo
Birth name
Hangul 이산
Hanja 李祘
Revised Romanization I San
McCune–Reischauer Yi San

King Jeongjo (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).

Some say Jeongjo is one of the most successful and visionary rulers of the Joseon Dynasty. But it is also pointed out that he was overestimated .

Early life

Born as Yi San, 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). 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).

When he was the Crown Prince, King Jeongjo met Hong Guk-yeong[1] (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.

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..." This was a bold statement that sent shivers down the spines of all the politicians who were complicit in his father's death.

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.[1]


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.

Jeongjo had the support of the many Silhak scholars who supported Jeongjo's regal power, including Scholars Jeong Yak-yong, Yu Deuk-gong, Pak Ji-won, Pak Je-ga and Yu Deuk-gong. His reign also saw the further growth and development of Joseon's popular culture.


King Jeongjo was known as an innovative person despite his high political status in Joseon. In 1800, he died suddenly under mysterious circumstances at the age of 48, without seeing his lifelong wishes that were later realized by his son, Sunjo.[2] There are many books regarding the mysterious death of Jeongjo, 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.


  1. Queen Consort Hyoui of the Cheongpung Gim clan (효의왕후 김씨, 1753–1821)[5]
  2. Royal Noble Consort Won Bin of the Pyeongsan Hong clan (원빈 홍씨, 1766–1779)[6]
  3. Royal Noble Consort Hwa Bin of the Yun clan (화빈 윤씨, 1765–1824)[7]
  4. Royal Noble Consort Ui of the Seong clan (의빈 성씨, 1753–1786)[8]
    1. Crown Prince Successor Mun Hyo (문효세자, 1782–1786; Westernized name also spelled as Moon Hyo); birth name, Prince Yi Hyang
    2. Unnamed Princess (1784)[9]
    3. Unborn child (1786); died in utero as a result of mother's death
  5. Royal Noble Consort Su of the Bannam Park clan (수빈 박씨, 1770–1822)[10]
    1. Prince Yi Gong, and later Sunjo the Royal Prince Successor (왕세자,1790–1834)
    2. Princess Suk Seon (숙선옹주, 1793–1836)-who created Kkakdugi alongside the wife of Hong Hyeon-ju

Full posthumous name

Portrayal in works of media

Jeongjo portrayed in modern films and TV dramas:



  1. 1 2 Digital Korean studies (Korean site) Archived 23 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. National Heritage – Hwaseong
  3. Daughter of Hong Bong-han (홍봉한) and Lady Yi of the Hansun Yi clan
  4. Queen Heongyeong is also called "Lady Hyegyeong" (혜경궁)
  5. Daughter of Kim Si-muk (김시묵) and Lady Hong of the Namyang Hong clan
  6. 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.
  7. Daughter of Yun Chang-yun (윤창윤). She became Noble Royal Consort in 1781; conceived, but the child was stillborn.
  8. 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.
  9. Died after birth (1784)
  10. Daughter of Park Jun-won (박준원) and Lady Won. Also called Royal Noble Consort Hyeon(현빈). She became Noble Royal Consort in 1787.
  11. 1 2 3 Chung, Ah-young (13 November 2007). "Renaissance of Joseon King Jeongjo". The Korea Times. Retrieved 2013-04-02.
  12. Sungkyunkwan Scandal

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeongjo of Joseon.

*Official site of Hwaseong Fortress

Jeongjo of Joseon
Born: 22 September 1752 Died: 28 June 1800
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Joseon
Succeeded by
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