King Jeongjo

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  • Born: 1752
  • Died: 1800
  • Reign: 1776-1800
  • Other Names: Yi San
  • Korean: 正祖 (Jeongjo / Chŏngjo)

King Jeongjo was a king of Joseon Dynasty Korea. He was the grandson of King Yeongjo, who he succeeded in 1776. His reign saw a flowering of culture known as the "Korean Renaissance," which began during his grandfather's reign, and continued into his own.

Jeongjo, known as Yi San before his accession, was named Crown Prince in 1759. His father, Crown Prince Sado, was killed three years later in a court conflict, the details of which remain unclear. Following the death of his grandfather, King Yeongjo, in 1776, Yi San succeeded him as King Jeongjo. Among his first acts as king was to take steps to restore the reputation of his father, including having him posthumously and honorarily elevated to the title of King. In 1789, he moved his father's tomb to Hwaseong (modern-day Suwon), and from then on regularly visited the tomb, accompanied by grand royal processions. These processions also brought considerable construction & maintenance of infrastructure (e.g. the roads leading from the capital to the tomb, 19 miles away), and would be accompanied by special extra opportunities for aspiring bureaucrats to sit the civil examinations. Hwaseong, built under Jeongjo's reign, was a planned city which combined Western and traditional techniques in its defensive structures.[1]

In 1795, in order to mark the 60th birthday of his mother, Lady Hyegyeong, he expanded the visit to his father's tomb into an eight-day celebration, including a grand banquet for his mother, and the construction of new roads. A bridge was thrown over the Han River for the first time. The festivities involved over 6,000 officials, and featured a procession of 1,779 people and 779 horses.

Preceded by:
King Yeongjo
King of Joseon
Succeeded by:
King Sunjo


  • Hyeonjeong Kim Han, In Grand Style, San Francisco: Asian Art Museum (2013), 57-64.
  1. Gallery labels, National Museum of Korea.[1]