The Last Princess of the Joseon Dynasty
The Last Princess of the Joseon Dynasty
  • Choi Ga-yeong (Culture Editor)
  • 승인 2016.09.04 00:10
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The Last Princess of the Joseon Dynasty
ST introduces the life of princess Deok-hye, who is widely known as ‘the last princess of Joseon Dynasty’ .....Ed
<Princess Deok-hye’s birth and her childhood>
On May 1912, King Gojong had a daughter in his later years. It was about two years after the start of Japan’s colonization of Korea. Gojong loved the princess so much so that he even broke the royal taboos. He held a party to celebrate her birth. When the princess became 5 years old, he founded a kindergarten near his bedroom. He always let her ride in a palanquin even for a short distance. On the surface, Deok-hye’s life appeared very comfortable. In reality, however, the royal family was under constant surveillance. In addition, Deok-hye was not put on her family register until the age of 5.
<Unfortunate life of Deok-hye>
Deok-hye lived with her father for a very short period of time. When she was 8, Gojong passed away. Two years later, she entered an elementary school at Chungmuro. It was the school for Japanese children, and she had to learn Japanese education. On 1925, she was forced to study abroad in Japan at the age of 14. According to the memoirs of Yi Bang-ja, wife of King Young-chin, Deok-hye was not responsive to people around her and never smiled when she first met Deok-hye in Japan. The amiable vitality that Yi Bang-ja had known before disappeared for the princess’s face.    
Two months later, Deok-hye was reported to lead a happy life. Was her school life in Japan really good? It was not true. According to a testimony of Deok-hye’s friend from Women’s Learning Center, Deok-hye was always carrying a thermos bottle. Asked the reason, she said that she was afraid of being poisoned.
Deok-hye’s unhappiness continued. When her mother passed away, she was prohibited from wearing mourning dress. Since then, her behavior gradually became strange. Eventually, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. On 1930, she married a Japanese count. It was a convenience marriage. However, she was put into a mental hospital after Japan’s imperialist ambition was sealed in 1945. 
Deok-hye had to live behind in the hospital until 38 years later as the Rhee Seunng-man government rejected Deok-hye’s return to Korea. Her belated return was possible only thanks to a reporter, Gim Eul-han. But in the meantime her mental condition got worse, she could not recover her sanity.

It was 23 years after Deok-hye’s death that her tragic life story began to receive public attention in Korea in the form of musical, fiction, and movie. However, those recast stories of Deok-hye can never show her real tragedy. Probably the last paper she wrote when she came to herself temporarily may best deliver her agonizing life.


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