Jeong Mongju 정몽주 鄭夢周 (also known by his pen name Poeun (포은)
Born: January 13, 1333
Died: April 26, 1392 (56 Years Old)
As Seen On TV: Poeun was a court official, scholar and loyal servant up to the end of Goryeo in dramas such as Jeong Dojeon and Six Flying Dragons. (Full list at the bottom of the page).
Jeong Mongju, The Long Lasting Symbol Of Loyalty
Loyalty Unshaken by Turmoil
One of the characteristics that defines a dependable subject is loyalty to the throne. Throughout Korean history many scholars and court officials have demonstrated what steadfast loyalty is, but none more so than Jeong Mongju, who epitomized devout allegiance at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty. Why is Jeong still remembered as the ultimate example of fidelity some 600 years after his death?
Pioneer of NeoConfucianism in Goryeo
Born on November 22th, 1337, Jeong’s brilliance stunned Goryeo when at age 24 he passed with the highest scores all three rounds of the national exam for recruiting government officials. From then, he studied under the most esteemed scholar Lee Saek and went into public service in 1362. He also promoted Confucian studies by teaching the writings of Confucius at Sungkyunkwan, the highest and most acclaimed learning institution at the time. He was known for his fluent and accurate interpretations of Confucian writings, for which he came to be applauded as the pioneer of Goryeo’s Neo-Confucianism.
Adhering to Principles
Jeong followed the teachings of Confucius to the tee, never wavering from time honored principles. Fulfilling his duty as the king’s vassal, he put his life on line by carrying out diplomatic missions to the Ming court six times and Japan once. In particular, he used his knowledge and integrity to defuse a very volatile situation following the tragic assassination of pro-Ming King Gongmin and the subsequent killing of Ming envoys by the court officials close to the waning Yuan Dynasty, causing grave diplomatic problems with the Ming Dynasty.
In 1377 he was sent to Japan on a diplomatic mission and used his long admired character and knowledge to convince the Japanese rulers to release hundreds of Goryeo prisoners.
At the end of the Goryeo Dynasty the court was divided into two factions – General Choi Yeong’s camp that sought to go to war with the Ming Dynasty for its exorbitant demands and General Yi Seonggye’s party that looked to resolve the problem through diplomatic means. When it became apparent that General Yi aimed to usurp the king and found a new dynasty, Jeong once again stepped up to defend the Goryeo Dynasty.
Unwavering Loyalty Lives On
When Yi’s life was threatened by a fall from a horse in 1392, Jeong led a movement among court officials to denounce Yi and his followers and banish them into exile in order to protect the Goryeo Dynasty. But then, Yi’s son, Yi Bangwon, composed the following poem to convince Jeong to change sides.
This won’t matter, that won’t matter.
It won’t matter if the vines at Mt. Mansu get interlaced.
Let us mingle together like this and enjoy it for a hundred years.
The younger Yi’s poem was meant to convince Jeong to take part in the foundation of a new nation instead of the falling Goryeo Dynasty. But Jeong’s answering poem was very direct and resolute.
This body may die a hundred deaths
And my white bones may turn to dust and my soul may cease to exist
But my steadfast heart for my beloved will never die.
Jeong’s poem, “Danshimga (The Song of Steadfast Heart),” told of his undying loyalty to Goryeo even after death. Realizing the futility of trying to persuade Jeong, Yi Bangwon killed him on the Seonjuk Bridge on April 4th, 1392. Three months later Yi Seonggye proclaimed himself the founding king of Joseon.
Jeong may have died on the Seonjuk Bridge, but the spirit of loyalty is said to have lingered on at the assassination site. The spot where he fell remained bloody and bamboo trees sprouted up spontaneously around the bridge, testifying to the Jeong’s long-lasting and death defying loyalty for all posterity.
The above article was written by KBS World in article published on June 6, 2011. It is no longer there. Fortunately I printed it out several articles while I had the chance. I would like to ensure that articles written in English, especially on more obscure historical figures, have a place to reside.
List of Dramas Featuring Jong Mongju:
- Gyegook (개국) KBS, 1983년~1983년, Actor:Song Jae Ho 송재호)
- Tears of the Dragon (용의 눈물) (KBS, 1996년~1998년, Actor:Jung Seung Hyun 정승현)
- The Great Seer (대풍수) (SBS, 2012년~2013년, Actor: Park Joon Hyuk 박준혁)
- Jung Dojeon (정도전) (KBS, 2014년~2014년, Actor): Im Ho 임호 )
- Six Flying Dragons (육룡이 나르샤) (SBS,2015년~2016년, Actor:Kim Eui Sung 김의성)