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Tragic Grandson of Joseon Royal Family, Rest in Peace

Posted July. 25, 2005 03:04,   


The last descendant of the Joseon Dynasty has perished into history.

The funeral ceremony for Yi Ku, grandson of King Gojong (26th King of Joseon Dynasty), and the second son of King Yeongchin (Yi Eun) and his wife Lee Bang-ja, was held at 10:00 a.m. on July 24 in front of the Changdeok Palace Heejeong Hall. The funeral was led by the Royal Descendant Funerary Committee and Yi Won (44, General Manager of Hyundai Home Shopping), who was assigned as the adoptive son of the deceased on July 22, and became the chief mourner.

About 1,000 people, including Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, the Jeonju Yi Family Association chairman and also the joint chairman of the funeral committee Lee Hwan-eui, Cultural Heritage Administration head Yoo Hong-joon, Millennium Democratic Party Lawmaker Lee Nak-yeon, GNP Lawmaker Park Jin, acting Japanese Ambassador to Korea Urabe Toshinao, Representative of the Japanese Royal Family Takano Nashimoto, members of the Jeonju Yi Family, and civilians attended the service.

Flowers sent by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura were also present. However, Yi’s former wife Julia Mullock (82), who wanted to attend the ceremony, could not be seen. The Yi Family Association stated, “We did not invite Ms Mullock because she is not part of the family.”

After the ceremony, the coffin was carried by 11 soldiers representing the honor guards of the three services, to a hearse used for state funerals. A great Chwuita Band composed of the Seoul Girl`s Commercial High School Chwuita (Joseon-era military music) Band, and the Ministry of National Defense Korean Classic Band headed the funeral parade, and 25 funeral streamers followed. The palanquin carrying the memorial tablet and the hearse followed them and 600 members of the Association to Preserve Jongmyo and Funerary Rituals wearing mourning hats and robes, as well as Jeonju Yi Family association members wearing black suits and white hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) followed behind the car carrying the coffin.

The funerary procession reached Jongmyo Park around 11:50 a.m. and proceeded with another funerary rite, Noje, in front of the burial place.

Despite scorching temperatures reaching up to 33 degrees Celsius, a crowd of 3,000 (according to police estimates) gathered at the street between the three-way junction in front of Donhwamun and Jongmyo Park to take pictures of the funeral procession.

After the 20 minute Noje, the coffin was moved to a black hearse decorated as an Eoga (a royal carriage) and transported to King Yeongchin’s graveyard, which is behind Hongreung (the graves of Gojong and his wife Myeongseonghwanghu) in Namyangju, Gyeonggi-do. The lowering of the coffin began around 2:30 p.m. and took about 45 minutes.

The Jeonju Yi Family Association bestowed the title of Hoieun to Yi Ku and decided to name the grave afterwards in the future. Usually, the name of a prince’s grave has the word “won” (mount) in it. The association also decided to mourn for three years, holding the second mourning rite on July 26, the third on July 27, and arranging a mourning place at the Changdeok palace Nakseonjae for the three-year mourning period.

Kwawg-Pyo Lee kplee@donga.com mindy@donga.com