Injo of Joseon

From New World Encyclopedia
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 (1595-1649, r. 1623-1649) was the sixteenth king of the Korean Joseon Dynasty. He was the grandson of Seonjo ( 선조; 宣祖, the fourteenth king). King Injo was placed on the throne by a coup in 1623, as a result of conflict among the various political factions which sought to dominate the Joseon government. Although Injo was nominally King, almost all power was in the hands of the “Westerners” faction.

Injo was king during both the first and second Manchu invasions In 1624, a discontented general, Yi Gwal, led a rebellion against King Injo and temporarily took the throne. The rebellion was crushed and Yi Gwal was killed, but an accomplice’s son fled to the Manchu, and convinced Nurhaci to mount an attack on Joseon. The Manchu soon withdrew; however, Nurhaci’s successor Hong Taiji invaded Joseon himself in 1636. The Manchus avoided the border fortress, went straight to the capital, Hanseong and drove King Injong to the fortress at Namhansanseong. After a siege of 45 days, food supplies ran out and King Injo surrendered to the Qing Dynasty. Joseon became a vassal state of Qing, and the king sent his two eldest sons to China as political hostages.

Birth and Background

King Injo was born in 1595 as a son of Jeonwongun (Prince Jeongwon), whose father was the ruling monarch King Seonjo. In 1607 he was given the title Prince Neungyang (綾陽君) and lived as a simple member of the royal family member, unsupported by any of the political factions which dominated Korean politics at the time.

In 1608, King Seonjo fell ill and died, and his son Gwanghaegun (광해군; 光海君; the fifteenth king) succeeded him on the throne. At the time, the government was divided into various contentious political factions. The liberal Easterners faction (東人) had dominated after the Seven Year War, in which most of Easterners fought actively against the Japanese. During the last days of King Seonjo, the Easterners split into two factions; the Northerner faction (北人) wanted radical reform, while the Southerner faction (南人) supported moderate reform. At the time of Seonjo's death, the Northerners, who gained control of the government at that time, was further divided into left-wing Greater Northerners (大北) and less radical Lesser Northerners (小北). As Gwanghaegun inherited the throne, the Greater Northerners, who supported him as heir to the crown, became the major political faction in the royal court. The conservative Westerners faction (西人) remained a powerless minor faction, but many of its members still sought an opportunity to return to politics as the ruling faction.

Injobanjeong (The Coup of 1623)

Although Gwanghaegun was an outstanding administrator and a great diplomat, he was largely unsupported by many politicians, scholars and aristocrats because he was not the previous king’s firstborn son and his mother was a concubine. Greater Northerners tried to crush this opposition, suppressing the Lesser Northerners and killing Imhaegun, the oldest son of Seonjo, and Yeongchangdaegun, the son of his queen (Queen Inmok). It was not Gwanghaegun's plan to keep his throne; he actually tried to bring the minor factions into government, but was blocked by Greater Northerners such as Jeong In-hong and Yi Yicheom. These actions made Gwanghaegun even more unpopular among wealthy aristocrats, who eventually began to plot against the king.

In 1623, ultra-conservative Westerners Kim Ja-jeom, Kim Ryu, Yi Gwi, and Yi Gwal ( 이괄 李适) launched a coup and dethroned Gwanghaegun, who was sent into exile on Jeju Island ( 제주 濟州). Jeong In-hong and Yi Yicheom was killed, and suddenly the Westerners replaced the Greater Northerners as the ruling faction. The Westerners brought Injo to the palace and crowned him as the new King Injo. Although Injo was nominally King, he did not have any authority; almost all power was held by the Westerners who dethroned Gwanghaegun.

Yi Gwal Rebellion

Almost every major leader of the coup was called to the court, while Yi Gwal (이괄; 李适), was sent to the northern front as the military commander of Pyongyang, to defend the Joseon against the expanding Manchus. In 1624, thinking he was being treated unfairly and had received too small a reward for his role in the coup, Yi Gwal rebelled against Injo and led 12,000 troops including one hundred Japanese (who had defected to Joseon during Seven Year War) to the capital, Hanseong (Seoul). At the Battle of Jeotan, Yi Gwal defeated a regular army under the command of General Jang Man, and surrounded Hanseong. Injo fled to Gongju (공주시; 公州市) and Hanseong fell to the rebels.

On February 11, 1624, Yi Gwal enthroned Prince Heungan as the new king; however, General Jang Man soon came back with another regiment and defeated Yi Gwal's forces. Soon the Korean army recaptured the capital and Yi Gwal was murdered by his bodyguard, ending the rebellion. Though Injo was able to keep his throne, the rebellion showed how the royal authority had been weakened and proved the dominance of the aristocrats, who gained even more power by the fighting against the rebellion. The economy, which had just begun a slight recovery through Gwanghaegun's reconstruction, was ruined again and Korea remained poor for several centuries afterwards.

Gang Hong-rip (강홍립; 姜弘立)

Gang Hong-rip, a Korean commander-in-chief during the Joseon Dynasty, was sent in 1619 by King Gwanghaegun to assist the Ming forces, who had repeatedly requested support against the Manchus. The Ming armies were crushed in the Battle of Sarhū, and the Korean army under command of Liu Ting lost two-thirds of its troops at Fuca and surrendered to Nurhaci, leader of the Manchu. Official Korean records say that Gwanghaegun had ordered a betrayal of Nurhaci, but this is suspected by later historians to be a defamation by the Westerners faction who deposed the king. In 1620 almost all the Korean captives were released by the Manchu, except for Gang Hong-rip, who had a good command of the Manchu language.

Frustrated with unsatisfactory reward for the coup which deposed Gwanghaegun, Yi Gwal (李适) rebelled against King Injo in 1624, when Yi Gwal’s rebellion against King Injo was crushed, his accomplice Han Myeongnyeong (韓明璉), was also killed. Han Myeongnyeong’s son, Han Yun (韓潤), fled to the Manchus, where he gave Gang Hong-rip the false report that his entire family had been executed by the Joseon government. To get his revenge for their deaths, Gang Hong-rip urged the Manchus to defeat the Joseon dynasty. In 1627, he guided the Manchu army led by Amin to Hanseong, and as a Manchu delegate he negotiated for a truce with Joseon. There he discovered that he had been deceived and that his family had not been killed, and suffered a broken heart. He was branded as a traitor and deprived of his official rank. Gang Hong-rip was rehabilitated after his death.

War with Manchus

Gwanghaegun, who was the wise diplomat, maintained a policy of neutrality towards both the expanding Manchus and the Chinese Ming Dynasty, Joseon's traditional ally. However, after the fall of Gwanghaegun, conservative Westerners took a hard-line policy toward the Manchus, honoring their alliance with Ming Dynasty. The Manchus, who had mostly remained friendly to Joseon, began to regard Joseon as an enemy. The friendly relationship between Manchu and Korea ended when Han Yun, who had participated in the rebellion of Yi Gwal, fled to Manchuria and together with Gang Hong-rip, urged the Manchu leader Nurhaci to attack Joseon.

In 1627, 30,000 Manchu cavalry under Ah Min and former General Gang Hong-rip (강홍립; 姜弘立) invaded Joseon, calling for restoration of Gwanghaegun and the execution of leading Westerners, including Kim Ja-jeom. General Jang Man again fought against the Manchus, but was unable to repel the invasion. Once again, Injo fled to Ganghwado (강화도; 江華島). The Manchus, who had no real reason to attack Korea, decided to go back and prepare for war against the Chinese Ming dynasty. The Later Jin (後金), a state founded in Manchuria in 1616 by Nurhaci and later renamed Qing, and Joseon were declared brother nations, and the Manchus withdrew from Korea. The war is called Jeongmyo-Horan

Despite the peace, most Westerners kept their hard-line policy towards the Manchu. Nurhaci, who generally held a good opinion of Joseon, did not invade again. However, when Nurhaci died and was succeeded by Hong Taiji, the Manchus again began to seek a pretext for war with Joseon. When Ming General Mao Wenrong fled to Korea from the Manchus along with his military unit, King Injo gave them refuge, which then caused the Manchus to invade Korea again.

In 1636, Hong Taiji officially named his state the Qing Dynasty, and invaded Joseon himself. The Manchus avoided battle with General Im Gyeong Eop ( 임경업; 林慶業), a famous army commander who guarded the border fortress. A unit of 20,000 Manchu cavalry went straight to Hanseong before Injo could escape to Ganghwado, drove him to Namhansanseong (남한산성; 南漢山城), and cut all of his supply lines. Injo, who was running out of food supplies, at last surrendered to the Qing Dynasty, and agreed to the Treaty of Samjeondo, according to which Injo bowed to the Qing Emperor nine times as his servant, and sent his first and second sons, Crown Prince Sohyeon, and Prince Hyojong, to China as hostages. Joseon became a vassal kingdom to Qing, which went on to conquer Ming in 1644. The war is called Byeongja-Horan.

Death of the Crown Prince

In 1644, after Qing conquered all of China, the two princes returned to Korea. Injo's first son, Crown Prince Sohyeon, brought with him many new products from the western world, including Christianity, and urged Injo to reform and modernize Joseon. The conservative Injo would not accept his advice; suddenly the Crown Prince was found dead in the king's room, bleeding severely from the head. Many people, including Sohyeon’s wife, tried to find out what happened to the prince, but Injo ordered a rapid burial. Later, he accused Sohyeon's wife of treason and executed her. According to tradition, Injo killed Sohyeon with a heavy inkstone that he had brought back with him from China. Prince Bongrim, who also returned from China, was appointed as new Crown Prince and later became King Hyojong (효종 孝宗, the seventeenth king of Joseon).

In 1628 a Dutchman named Weltevree was shipwrecked in Korea and introduced European culture to Korea.


Today, Injo is generally regarded as a weak, indecisive and unstable ruler. During his reign, the Yi Gwal Rebellion occurred, two wars were fought with the Manchus, and the economy was devastated. Injo is often compared to his predecessor, Gwanghaegun, who accomplished many things and was dethroned, while Injo made almost no achievements during his reign and was still given a temple name. Many people regard him as a model for politicians not to follow, and he is also blamed for not taking care of his kingdom. However, he reformed the military and expanded the defense of the nation to prepare for war, since the nation had several military conflicts from 1592 to 1636. He died in 1649.


Namhansanseong (literally "South Han Mountain Fortress") is a park at an elevation of 480m above sea level on Namhansan ("South Han Mountain"), immediately to the southeast of Seoul. It is located It contains fortifications that date to the seventeenth century, and a number of temples. Tradition connects the site of Namhansanseong with Onjo, founder of Baekje. In 672, a fortress called Chujangseong (書長城) was built on the western edge of Namhansan to protect Silla from Tang China. Later the fortress was renamed Iljangseong (日長城). Goryeo kings kept the fortress in repair as a defensive outpost for Gwangju, the nearby provincial capital.

Most of the fortress that still stands today dates from the Joseon period. The construction was planned beginning in 1624, when the Manchus were threatening Ming China. In 1636, the Manchus invaded and King Injo fled with his court and 13,800 soldiers to Namhansanseong. Here they were well defended and the king enjoyed the protection of a bodyguard comprised of 3,000 fighting monks. At the time, Henggung, the king’s residence, was a sanctum that symbolized the spirit of the nation. Some 14,000 grain sacks were stored for emergency there in 227 rooms during the Manchu War. Of the nine temples in Namhan-sanseong, eight were built when the fortress was renovated during the second year of King Injo's reign, to reinforce the fortress and prepare for possible combat. In the temples, Buddhist monks trained warriors and held martial arts competitions, as well as selecting and educating prominent warriors to serve during difficult times.

The walls of the fortress are strong enough to endure bombardment. They were built using architectural techniques of the middle of the Joseon Dynasty, by cutting rocks and piling myriads of small stones in multiple layers. The majority of Namhan-sanseong's strongholds were built during the reign of King Injo. The shrine of Chonggyedang dates from the same period, and was constructed in honor of Yi Hoe, who was wrongfully executed for his role in the construction of the southern part of Namhansanseong. Yi spent a long time building the strong east wall, and some people were even entrapped due to the slow construction. Yi was eventually executed for this, but his true intentions were later recognized and praised by the King Injo.

The Manchus were not able to take the fortress by storm, but after 45 days of siege the food supply inside ran out, and the king was forced to surrender, giving up his sons as hostages and shifting Joseon allegiance from the Ming. More than 500,000 women and girls were also taken captive, most of whom never returned. [1] The Samjeondo Monument (三田渡碑) was erected on the southern route from Seoul to Namhansanseong to mark this event.

After the Manchus withdrew, Namhanseong remained untouched until the reign of Sukchong, who enlarged it and added Pongamseong on the northeast corner of the fortress area in 1686. Another annex, Hanbongseong, was built along the ridge east of the fortress in 1693. More work was done in the reign of Yeongjo (1724-76). The gray brick parapets date from 1778, during the reign of Cheongjo. The unused fortress slowly crumbled until 1954, when it was designated a national park and a good deal of repair work was done. The fortress area once accommodated nine temples, as well as various command posts and watch towers. Today a single command post, Seojangdae (西將台), and a single temple, Changgyeongsa, remain. There are other more recent temples on the path up to the south gate and fortress walls. The north, south and east gates have been restored.

Seojangdae is where Injo stayed during the Manchu siege of 1636. The building's second story was added in 1751, at which time the pavilion received another name, Mumangnu (無忘樓), meaning "Unforgotten Tower." This name apparently refers to the unforgettable shame of the surrender to the Manchus.

Burnt Needle Therapy

From 1633 (the eleventh year of his reign) to May 5, 1649, just before his death, King Injo was frequently treated with burnt needles by Yi Hyeongik, an acupuncturist who was appointed as a doctor in the Royal Hospital. Burnt needle therapy is a combined form of acupuncture and moxibustion. In the Joseon era, it was a prevalent belief that diseases could be caused by homeopathic magic, and it was believed that the king’s incurable disease was the result of magic performed by someone in the palace. King Injo suspected the Queen Mother Inmok and her daughter, Princess Jeongmyeong. However, the justification for the coup that put King Injo on the throne had been the immoral conduct toward Queen Mother Inmok by King Gwanghaegun, her stepson by one of her husband’s concubines. After he was installed, King Injo obeyed the Queen Mother and showed her every attention, and treated her daughter Princess Jeongmyeong with respect, maximizing the moral justification for the coup, and solidifying his royal authority. However, he suspected that the two women might be involved in the constant rebellions and betrayals that threatened his position on the throne, and that they might wish him o become ill and die.

The real cause of King Injo's disease was probably stress and mental anguish brought on by participation in the excessive rites of Queen Mother Inmok's funeral and the constant oppression from the Qing Dynasty after Joseon’s disgraceful and humiliating defeat. The treatment with burned needles could have had a psychological effect as well as a physical effect on the King. The remarkable advancement of acupuncture and moxibustion during King Injo's reign was a significant development in the history of medical science during the Joseon Dynasty.[2]

Seungjeongwon Ilgi

The Seungjeongwon, Royal Secretariat of the Joseon Dynasty, was responsible for keeping Seungjeongwon Ilgi, the Diaries of the Royal Secretariat, a detailed record of the daily events and official schedules of the court, from the reign of the Joseon Dynasty's first king, Taejo, through the reign of its 27th and last, Sunjong. Only 3,243 of these diaries are extant, containing detailed information on 288 years of the Joseon Dynasty, from March 12, 1623, the first year of King Injo’s reign, to August 29, 1910, the fourth year of the twenty-seventh king, Sunjong.

Seungjeongwon Ilgi contains a large amount of authentic historical information on events and state secrets of the Joseon Dynasty, and served as the primary source for the Annals of Joseon Dynasty. It was designated as National Treasure No. 303 in April, 1999 and registered as a Memory of the World in September 2001.

The Seungjeongwon Ilgi gives a vivid picture of the work of the Seungjeongwon, a central administrative office in a royal court, taking care of simple routine matters as well as important national events. In the preface to a monthly diary, it lists the king’s appointments, including gyeongyeon, or discussions with scholars on the Confucian and other Chinese classics, and meetings with court functionaries; details of administrative acts; and affairs in the queen's inner palace. The names of the royal secretaries and of the scribes are recorded in every daily entry. Under this list are attendance records for the daily deputy officials. [3]

Full Posthumous Name

  • King Injo Gaecheon Joun Jeonggi Seondeok Heonmun Yeolmu Myeongsuk Sunhyo the Great of Korea
  • 인조개천조운정기선덕헌문열무명숙순효대왕
  • 仁祖開天肇運正紀宣德憲文烈武明肅純孝大王

See also


  1. KBS online([1] Namhan-sanseong: The Fortress Where Bitter Moments of the Nation’s History are Still Alive. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
  2. KBS online([2] Namhan-sanseong: The Fortress Where Bitter Moments of the Nation’s History are Still Alive. Retrieved November 17, 2007.
  3. World Cultural Heritage Seungjeongwon Ilgi, National Heritage: Seungjeongwon Ilgi. Retrieved November 17, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Kang, Jae-eun, and Suzanne Lee. 2006. The land of scholars: two thousand years of Korean Confucianism. Paramus, NJ: Homa & Sekey Books. ISBN 1931907307
  • Lee, Gil-sang. 2006. Exploring Korean history through world heritage. Seongnam-si: Academy of Korean Studies. ISBN 9788971055519
  • Pratt, Keith L. 2006. Everlasting flower: a history of Korea. London: Reaktion. ISBN 186189273X
  • Yi, Ki-baek. 1984. A new history of Korea. Cambridge, Mass: Published for the Harvard-Yenching Institute by Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674615751

Preceded by:
Emperor of Korea
(Joseon Dynasty)
Succeeded by:
Monarchs of Joseon and The Korean Empire
Joseon: Emperor Taejo | King Jeongjong | King Taejong | King Sejong the Great | King Munjong | King Danjong
King Sejo | King Yejong | King Seongjong | Yeonsangun | King Jungjong | King Injong | King Myeongjong
King Seonjo | Gwanghaegun | King Injo | King Hyojong | King Hyeonjong | King Sukjong
King Gyeongjong | King Yeongjo | King Jeongjo | King Sunjo | King Heonjong | King Cheoljong

Korean Empire: Emperor Gojong | Emperor Sunjong


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