THE LAST PRINCESS DEOKHYE OF KOREA
ART PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTIONS
Dr Iwan Suwandy,MHA
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THE LAST KOREA ‘S EMPEROR
Gojong and the Korean Empire
26th king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Gojong,
moved into the palace in 1897,
where he proclaimed the Great Korean Empire in an effort to assert the nation’s independence from China, Japan, and Russia. However, rather than actually strengthening the nation’s military, Emperor Gojong (1852-1919) would instead spend much of his time and energy renovating and expanding this palace.
He resided here until abdication to his son, Emperor Sunjong, in 1907, when the palace was renamed Doeksugung. When the Japanese occupation began in 1910, Emperor Gojong was placed under house arrest in Doeksugung, where he eventually died in 1919.
We go back four generations because the demise of Korea’s royal family arguably starts in 1907. While Korea officially disappeared in 1910, in practicality Korea lost is sovereignty in 1905, when the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905 was entered into. Under the treaty, Korea became Japan’s “protectorate,” and lost the ability to conduct its own foreign affairs. A governor from Japan was sent to Korea to conduct Korea’s foreign affairs instead. It goes without saying that the treaty was not entered into in a fair manner — dozens of armed Japanese soldiers were staring down the emperor and the officials when the treaty was signed.
Emperor Gwangmu (also known as Gojong) of Korea could plainly see where this was going. Although the 1905 Treaty stripped his ability to conduct foreign affairs, the emperor sent secret envoys to 17 major powers, including United Kingdom, France and Germany, to protest the forcible signing of the 1905 Treaty. The highlight of this effort was in 1907, when three Korean envoys were sent to the Second International Peace Convention at the Hague. Although Japan froze out the envoys from attending the convention, Yi Wi-Jong, one of the three envoys, managed to give a speech imploring for help in a separate conference. (The speech fell on deaf ears.)
Although the emperor’s efforts did not create any result, Imperial Japan did not take kindly to Emperor Gwangmu’s extracurricular activity, and demanded that he abdicate his throne. The emperor acquiesced, giving way to his son, Emperor Yunghui (also known as Soonjong) — who would become the last emperor of Korean Empire. Former Emperor Gwangmu died in 1919. Although this is not certain, there are ample indications that he was poisoned.
More after the jump.
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Emperor Gwangmu had 13 children, but only four survived into adulthood — three sons and a daughter. And they were survivors in the truest sense. Even as the empire was in precipitous decline, the palace intrigue did not stop. Emperor Gwangmu’s oldest son, born from his third wife, is rumored to have been poisoned by Empress Myeongseong, the emperor’s main wife. The second son, born from Empress Myeongseong, died young. The Emperor’s father may have poisoned him. The crown prince — the third son who would become Emperor Yunghui– was also poisoned in his youth, but barely survived. It was rumored that because of the lingering effects of the poisoning, the crown prince did not have full mental capacity.
In 1910, Emperor Yunghui signed over his empire to Imperial Japan, ending the 600-year dynasty headed by his family. Emperor Yunghui was demoted to a king, subordinate to the Japanese emperor. Korea’s royal family as a whole became Japanese nobility. The policy of Imperial Japan toward Korea’s royal family was clear: the royal family will be either assimilated or killed. The first to go was the Emperor Gwangmu, as described above. Emperor Yunghui did not last much longer — he died in 1926, at age 53.
Perhaps the most interesting figure in this drama is Yi Gang (also known as King Euichin,) second surviving son of Gwangmu. Yi Gang studied in Roanoke College in Virginia and was an officer of Korean imperial military when his older brother signed over the empire. Yi Gang silently assisted Korea’s independence movement, signing petitions and sending funds to support Korean independence fighters and schools. He attempted to flee Korea and join the provisional government in Shanghai, but was arrested in the process and lost his nobility status. Since then, he evaded Imperial Japan’s surveillance by engaging in profuse boozing and whoring while continuing to support the independence movement. During the course of his independence movement, he expressed that he would abdicate his royal status and submit to the rule of the democratic government. He led a quiet life after the independence, and died in 1955 at age 79.
Emperor Yunghui died without a son, and King Euichin was not favored by the Japanese because of his involvement in Korea’s independence movement. Therefore, Gwangmu’s youngest surviving son, King Yeongchin, succeeded the throne. Yi Eun, also known as King Yeongchin, was born in 1897. At age ten, he was taken to Japan to “study” under the patronage of the Japanese governor of Korea — essentially being held as a hostage. As the contemporary Japanese nobility did, Yi Eun was forced to attend the military academy. He became an officer of the Japanese military, and was forced to married Nashimotonomiya Masako, a member of the Japanese royal family. He became the king of Korea after his father died in 1926, but only visited Korea briefly to accept the crown. He became a general of the Japanese army in 1938. He would see the end of World War II in Japan.
Princess Deokhye, Gwangmu’s youngest daughter who was born in 1912, is probably the most tragic figure. She was forcibly moved to Japan and attended a university, where she developed schizophrenia. In 1931, she married a Japanese nobleman in an arranged marriage, and had a daughter. She survived the war, but lost her only daughter in the process. She was abandoned by her husband in 1953 as her schizophrenia worsened. For the next nine years, she would go from mental hospital to mental hospital in Japan. Korean government heard about her in 1962. and President Park Chung-Hee passed the law providing for pension for the former royal family in response. Princess Deokhye returned to Korea, and lived in Changdeok Palace until 1989 when she passed away.
Third and Fourth Generations: Yi Gu and King Euichin’s 21 Children
Yi Eun and Masako had two sons, but the older son died at less than one year old. The last official crown prince of Korean royal family is Yi Gu, born in 1931. He had spent his entire life in Japan, and he worked as a clerk for a company in Tokyo after World War II. In 1953, he moved abroad to study in MIT, and met his future wife — a white American woman named Julia Murlock. Yi Gu married Murlock in 1959 in New York, and he worked for the architectural company of I.M. Pei.
He was also allowed to return to Korea in 1963, and lectured architecture in universities. But he could not adjust to the life in Korea. Although Korea was no longer a monarchy, the Jeonju Yi (Lee) lineage society took (and still takes) its royal family line very, very seriously. Yi Gu received pressure as a crown prince within his family, and that he married a white woman who could not get pregnant only intensified the pressure. Yi Gu separated from Murlock in 1977, and returned to Japan in 1979. He would visit Korea from time to time, but refused to settle down in Korea. He died alone in 2005 in a hotel in Tokyo; apparently Yi Gu favored the hotel because it overlooked his old birthplace. He was buried in a royal garb; his funeral was attended by the prime minister of Korea (equivalent to American vice president) and 1,000 people.
This means that the only surviving royal family in Korea are the descendants of King Euichin, the rebel prince. Remarkably, he had 12 sons and 9 daughters from 13 different women — as far as we know. Fate was not kind to them either. For example, Yi Geon, the oldest son of King Euichin, became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1947 and severed his ties with Korea completely. Reportedly, before he naturalized, he brought all of his (step-)brothers and sisters together and asked them all to forget about the fact that they belong to the royal family. He died in 1991. Yi Wu, the second son, died in Hiroshima as the officer of the Japanese military when the city was hit by the nuclear bomb. The rest scattered into Korea and America, and led more or less unremarkable lives. Out of the 21 children of King Euichin, ten (four sons, six daughters) are still alive. They live in Korea, New York, Los Angeles and San Jose. After Yi Gu passed away, the Jeonju Yi lineage society established the son of King Euichin’s ninth son to be the crown prince — a man named Yi Sang-Hyup, 50 years old.
|Junghwajeon, the throne hall of Deoksugung Palace. The building burned during the great fire of 1904, and was completely rebuilt in 1906.|
|.||The royal throne inside Junghwajeon. Behind the throne is a screen painting that features five mountain peaks, the sun, and the moon. The painting reinforces the idea that the king is central to the connections between the heaven and the earth and creating a balanced universe.||Gilt dragons in the roof above the throne in Junghwajeon.||Screens on the windows of Junghwajeon.||The back side of Junghwajeon.||Junmyeongdang on the left and Jeukjodang on the right. Junmyeongdang was used as a kindergarten for Princess Deokhye (1912-1989). Both buildings were destroyed in a fire in 1904 and rebuilt by Emperor Gojong.||Seogeodang was the only two story building in Doeksugung Palace until the construction of Seokjojeon. The original Seogeodang building was used as the residence of King Seonjo (1552-1608, reigned 1567-1608) for 16 years following the Japanese invasion of 1592. It is one of the least decorated building in any Korean royal palace, and was intentionally kept that way to remind the kings of the sacrifices suffered by King Seonjo.||Deokhongjeon was used as a reception hall for guests of the royal household. Like many other buildings, it burned in 1904 and was only rebuilt in 1911.||A gate in one of the interior walls inside Deoksugung Palace.||Details on ceiling tiles and support beams above a gate inside the palace.||A gnarled old tree.||Chimneys that vent the underfloor ondol house heating systems in the palace buildings.||Hamnyeongjeon, the building where Emperor Gojong lived until his death in 1919. Unlike most traditional Korean buildings, Hamnyeongjeon was L-shaped. Like most of the other palace buildings, it was burned in the 1904 fire and rebuilt soon after.||Seokjojeon is a large, three-story stone building built in a western style by Emperor Gojong and used to receive foreign envoys. Construction on the building began in 1900 and was completed in 1909.||Following liberation from the Japanese in 1945, Seokjojeon was used by the US-USSR Joint Commission before the country’s partition into two separate governments. The building was later was used to house both the National Museum and then the Royal Museum before they were moved to other locations. Today, it houses government records offices and is not open to the public.||These are the remnants of Borugak Jagyeongnu, one of the world’s oldest water clocks. Water flowed from basin to basin in such a precise way as to be able to strike a bell on the hour. It was built in 1434 during the reign of King Sejong (1397-1450, reigned 1418-1450), and was fine-tuned in 1536 during the reign of King Jungjong (1488-1544, reigned 1506-1544). The water clock was used at night, when sundials were not available.||This large bell was originally in the Heungcheonsa Temple in Seoul, one of the temples favored by Joseon Dynasty royalty, and was used in Buddhist religious ceremonies. The bell was cast in 1462.||The Singijeon carriage is the world’s oldest multi-rocket launcher for which original schematics remain intact. Each tube in the carriage could launch a rocket, and all the rockets were launched at the same time. The first Singijeon was made by Choe Museon in 1377, who independently invented gunpowder from indigenous materials after being frustrated by efforts of the Chinese to keep it a secret.||At noon, the palace has a changing of the guards ceremony at Daehanmun Gate.||Ceremonial palace guards just inside Daehanmun, the main gate into Doeksugung Palace.||The weapons these guards are carrying are probably not very dangerous.||A traditional martial band is marching across the wide sidewalk in front of the gate. Across the street is Seoul Plaza, and in the background are some of the modern office buildings of downtown Seoul.||The band, marching by a Dunkin’ Donuts store.|
- Korea’s First Electic Lamp
Korea’s first electric lamp was lighted in the Geoncheonggung, Gyeongbokgung palace in 1887.
|Korea’s first electric lamp by Edison Electric Light Company (Mar., 1887)|
|A newspaper advertisement for Rohan Bank (Mar., 15th, 1898. The Independent)|
|Prince Yi Woo (1912-1945)||Princess Deokhye|
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Joined: 01 Jul 2008
Location: In the Pacific ocean
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Reliving Korea’s Last Royalty at Nakseonjae
|Seoul 1938 (in Color), and Korea 1899|
|Pictures by Elizabeth Keith (1887-1956)|
! These works by Elizabeth Keith are under public domain in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) because its term of copyright has expired there.
Quoted from wikipedia:
According to Articles 39 to 44 of the Copyright Act of the Republic of Korea, under the jurisdiction of the Government of the Republic of Korea all copyrighted works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of the creator (there being multiple creators, the creator who dies last) or 50 years after publication when made public in the name of an organization.
Late Joseon Princess Deokhye’s life revealed
|Young Deokhye, the last Princess of the Joseon Dynasty, poses in a Kimono. She was forced to leave Joseon for Japan at age 12.
the life of Najin
and the expansion of oppression of the Koreans
at the same time. Christianity was growing popular in Korea, so Najin was able to go to one of the mission schools and received an education that was rare in her time. She avoided an early marriage, upon which her father had decided without her permission, by finding a place in the royal palace
as a companion to Princess Deokhye
and by continuing her education at the same time. The princess had a melancholy personality and Najin brightened up her coddled and sheltered life. Deokhye’s brother, Crown Prince Yi Eun (Euimin) had been sent to Japan when he was only 10 years old, allegedly for his studies.
According to Donald Keene in The Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World 1952-1912,
“Although he never was so described, the prince served as a hostage [for Japan], as the Korean Emperor realized.”
Princess Deokhye was also sent to Japan against her wishes to marry a Japanese, after the Korean emperor died mysteriously.
A ceremonial top (dangui) worn by Princess Deokhye as a child and recently discovered at the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum in Japan /Courtesy of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage
After the princess left the palace, Najin returned home .
At this point the oppression towards the Koreans was heightened when imprisonment and taxes were increased and the Korean newspapers were stopped. All Korean citizens had to speak Japanese.
the Japanese military government sent hundreds of thousands of Koreans to Japan as army recruits or as laborers in mines and companies, plus thousands of young women were taken to the growing to war front in Asia to follow the troops as “comfort women.” As historian Andrew C Nahm relates, “Korea changed much during this period, but Korean nationalism did not diminish and the desire to be free from Japanese colonialism persisted.”
|Princess Deokhye’s infant hanbok jeogori (bottom) and dressing stand are currently owned by Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum in Japan.|
|The inside of Seokjojeon can be seen above left, with Crown Prince Yeongchin, Sunjong, Gojong, Eombi (one of Gojong’s wives) and Princess Deokhye, seated from left to right. Provided by Myongji University-LG Yeonam Library|
|Nakseonjae in Changdeokgung|
Princess dukhye and takeyuki so, 1931.JPG
Coronation of Korea’s new empress leads to royal family controversy
[IHT] 입력 2006.10.22 20:23 / 수정 2006.10.23 20:09
|▶ Yi Hae-won, who was recently restored as the new empress of Korea. By Choi Jae-young|
The crowning of Korea’s “new empress” on Sept. 29 was presented by her backers as a means to unite royal descendants spread across the country and “speak as one voice.” What it did instead was to set family members against each other as they dispute not only the line of descent but also the legitimacy of the private organization that named Yi Hae-won as empress of South Korea.
Meeting Ms. Yi was itself quite an exercise. The day of the meeting, a spokesman from the Imperial Family Association of Daehanjeguk (the Empire of Korea) postponed the interview for two hours, at a venue the JoongAng Daily was asked not to reveal “for reasons of security,” and the reporter had to wait another two hours until the empress arrived. The 88-year-old is only about 1.3 meters tall (4 foot, 3 inches) and a little stooped, but the small woman in a jade green hanbok looked composed and tenacious.
Once Ms. Yi arrived and settled herself for the interview, organization spokesman Lee Seong-joo asked the reporter and a handful of men who accompanied her to bow to her four times, bending from the waist to make almost a right angle. “That’s the right way to greet an empress in the royal custom,” he said. The other men in the room all claimed to be of the Lee clan, as was the first emperor of the Joseon dynasty. (Yi and Lee are different spellings of the same family name.) The men stayed throughout the short interview, interrupting and answering questions addressed to Ms. Yi, as did the spokesman.
“I am legitimate, no matter who says what,” the empress declared, referring to opposition to her claim, particularly from the Jeonju Lee Royal Family Members Foundation.
|▶ Yi Won, front, and Yi Seok, back, at the funeral of Yi Ku on July 24, 2005. By Choi Jae-young|
She said is the oldest surviving child of Prince Uichin (1877-1955), the fifth son of Emperor Gojong (1852-1919). Official records show that Prince Uichin fathered 12 sons and nine daughters.
“I was born to the approved wife of Prince Uichin,” Ms. Yi continued, “I will restore the imperial culture.”
The 10th of those sons, Ms. Yi’s younger brother Yi Seok, thinks his sister was persuaded to take the title by a group of Lee family members because of her difficult life.
After Korea’s liberation from Japan, the new government nationalized the royal fortune and ousted the family from its palaces. Ms. Yi raised three sons and a daughter by herself after her husband was kidnapped and taken to the North during the Korean War. She said she doesn’t know if her husband is still alive, and her daughter died at the age of 47. Two of her sons live in the United States, where she also lived for 10 years until 2002. Since then, Ms. Yi, who spent her first 15 years in a palace, has lived in a 13.2-square-meter (142 square-foot) room in Hanam, Gyeonggi province, with her second son.
|▶ Empress Yi Hae-won’s wedding at 19 to Lee Seung-gyu. Provided by the Imperial Family Association of Daehanjeguk|
“I don’t mind if my sister [Yi Hae-won] takes the empress seat or not,” Yi Seok said. “However, the family members in direct line didn’t approve such a ceremony. I was invited to the coronation, but I didn’t attend because I didn’t know who [the association members are].”
What he does mind, and what aroused some controversy in Korean society, is the way Ms. Yi was named empress. There was no prior public discussion on the status of an empire or the imperial family within Korea, although an August poll by Realmeter, a research company, did ask what Koreans thought about having a symbolic royal family. Of the 460 Koreans aged 19 or older who were polled, just under 55 percent supported the idea.
“There should have first been enough discussion to get public approval,” said Yi Seok. “When I give lectures on the history of the Korean royal family, I see a lot of people who miss the empire.” He added, “I plan to collect signatures from people and if more than 1 million want to restore the empire, even though it’s just symbolic, I will present that list to the president and ask him to restore the imperial culture and allow some descendants to live in Gyeongbok or Changdeok palaces.”
Members of the Jeonju Lee Royal Family Members Foundation said the family had already selected who should succeed the late Yi Ku, the last direct heir to the throne and the son of Crown Prince Yeongchin, the seventh son of Emperor Gojong.
“[Having an empress] doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Lee Jeong-jae, an official of the foundation, with obvious anger. “When Yi Ku passed away in July of last year, we selected Yi Won as his successor,” he said. Yi Won is a son of Yi Chung-gil, the surviving ninth son of Prince Uichin. “Such [a restoration] ceremony will only confuse the Korean people,” added Lee Yong-kyu, the vice chairman of the foundation. “Korea is not a constitutional monarchy, the royal descendant’s role is limited to that of an officiating priest and his ruling role was removed a long time ago,” he said. In Confucian custom, a woman cannot lead a ritual to honor ancestors.
“The direct descendants of the empire had a family meeting right after the news that Yi Ku passed away, and decided to have Yi Won entered in the family register of Yi Ku as a son,” said the vice chairman. “We just followed their decision.”
That family meeting is in itself controversial. The vice chairman said that both Ms. Yi and her younger brother, as imperial family members, attended the meeting. Yi Seok and Yi Hae-won, however, told the JoongAng Daily that not only were they not at the meeting, they were not even aware of it. “Adopting a son after death doesn’t make any sense,” Yi Seok said angrily by phone.
“I heard that Crown Princess Yi Bang-ja [the wife of Crown Prince Yeongchin] wrote a will before she died, and in it she named me as first successor,” he added. He said Kim Sang-ryeol, who was close to the Crown Princess, is in possession of that will. Mr. Kim, however, refused to confirm what the will contained, but said he plans to reveal its contents to the public someday.
Added to all the infighting, the legitimacy of those calling themselves the Imperial Family Association of Daehanjeguk is unclear. Although its members say that they are close relatives of the royal family, they are not listed in the direct imperial family records.
The association is now preparing a residence and office for Ms. Yi in a building near Seoul Station, using two floors with a total area of about 396 square meters. The spokesman said that the building owner is also a member of the organization, and supports the Empire of Korea.
“We’re not asking the government to financially support us. We’ll raise funds from supporters of the royal family,” Mr. Lee said. “But as the empress is old, we don’t have much time to restore the royal tradition and legitimacy, which will contribute to the development of Korea’s history and culture,” he added.
The last words the empress spoke during the interview only added to the questions one might have about the association. “They treat me like a puppet,” she said as she took her leave.
The root of the current family feud goes back to the time of Emperor Gojong, who was deprived of diplomatic power in 1905 by Japan before it colonized Korea in 1910. Emperor Gojong had nine sons and four daughters, but only four lived long enough to marry: Emperor Sunjong, Prince Uichin, Crown Prince Yeongchin and Princess Deokhye. Prince Uichin as the second-eldest son, was next in line, but as he participated in Korea’s independence movement, the Japanese government forced Emperor Sunjong, who had no children, to leave the title to Prince Yeongchin.
Hirobumi Ito, the resident general during the Joseon dynasty, took the crown prince to Japan at the age of 11 to be educated there, where he was married to Masako Nashimotonomiya, better known as Crown Princess Yi Bang-ja, who was a member of Japan’s royal family. The crown princess, who was a candidate to become Japan’s empress, recalled in her autobiography that she was chosen as Prince Yeongchin’s wife in an attempt to end the Joseon royal line, as Japanese doctors had diagnosed her as infertile. However, she gave birth to two sons, Jin and Ku. Jin died at the age of eight months, leaving Ku, as the only surviving son of the last crown prince, in the main line of descent.
Yi Ku, who graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and married an American Julia Mullock, had no children. He died last year in a hotel room in Japan, leaving no clear successor.
VINTAGE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
Eight of Prince Uichin’s children , his first wife, Kim Deok-soo, center front, and two court ladies behind her. Second from the right is Yi Hae-won. Provided by the Imperial Family Association of Daehanjeguk
Prince Uichin. Provided by the Imperial Family Association of Daehanjeguk
MODERN FILM SCENE ART PHOTOGRAPHY
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