All about ideas…

Yi In-Jwa – Villain and Rebel

with 4 comments

In the opening scenes of Daebak, The Royal Gambler, we meet the drama’s primary antagonist: Yi In-jwa. When I first encountered Yi In-jwa while watching the teasers and trailers, I thought he was a character straight out of the screenwriter’s imagination. But then I began to wonder when episode one began.

In a dramatic precursor to the drama’s penultimate conflict, Yi In-jwa opens the gates to show us swords flying and men dying: the scene of a rebellion underway. The onscreen text refers to Yi In-jwa’s Revolt of 1728.

I wondered, could he, too, be an actual historical figure? The quick answer is yes.

Although I’ve not found much information on his life or his heritage, he does show up in the historical record of Joseon Dynasty in what became known as Yi In-Jwa’s Revolt of 1728.

There is no denying that factionalism between the Norons and Sorons during Sukjon’s reign caused many court nobles to hate Sukjong. He moved from alliance with one Faction to another as his whims chose. From Norons aligned with his father and Queen Inhyon to Sorons aligned with Consort Jang Ok Jung who went from Royal consort to Queen and back to consort again. With each rise or demotion in the Royal household, political factions also rose or fell. Many on the losing side each time lost their lives or were exiled. As both sides jockeyed for political power and the spoils that came with it, hatred of Sukjong existed on both sides of the political aisle. He continually played one side against the other throughout his reign, depending upon what he wanted to achieve and what would pull power away from the nobles and, thus, into the hands of the Crown.

But what led to the actual revolt of 1728?

It all started after the purge of 1721 – 1722, early in King Gyeongjong’s reign. Known as the Sinim-schwa, the purge was caused by a dispute over the investiture of Prince Yeoning (Yeonjo) as heir to the throne. The Noron Faction leaders claimed that Prince Yonging should act as regent for his ailing half-brother, King Gyeongjong. The Soron Faction disputed that claim and accused the Norons of a treasonous plot to replace King Gyeonjong with Yeongjo. The result was that four leaders of the Norons – First State Minister Kim Chang-jip, Second State Minister Yi Geon-myeong, and Yi I-myeong and Jo Tae-chae – were sacked and banished. It’s important to remember that Gyeonjong was aligned with the Sorons.

The Noron purge, however, failed to end the factional enmity. When King Gyeongjong died, probably of food poisoning as a result of eating tainted shrimp, the Soron Faction, then in power, claimed Yeongjo had poisoned the King. The accusation was never proved and many Soron leaders were either banished or executed.

Yeongjo becomes King and revolt ensues.

Regardless, in the fourth year of Yeongjo’s reign, the Sorons launched an uprising to revolt against him, also known as Musin Revolt. Although organized by several Soron leaders, they elected Yi In Jwa as one of two main military leaders. The group received support mainly from the southern provinces, namely Chungcheong, Jeolla, and Gyeongsang. The troops even took over the fort in Cheongju, insisting that they wanted to overthrow the current government administration. While the second revolting Soron army was quickly dispatched, Yi’s army advanced towards Hanyang (Seoul). Their stated goal was to overthrow the current government and replace Yeongjo with Prince Mil-wha. [Edit note: At this point, I can find no record or indication of who Prince Mil-wha was or his line of descent.]

Nevertheless, as Yi’s army advanced towards Hanyang, word of he rebellion and the army’s potential route were quickly dispatched to Hanyang. Yeongjo’s army not only blocked the further advance of Yi’s army but also destroyed them. Yi In-jwa was executed along with the other Soron leaders of the rebellion.

Since Sorons were the ones behind the revolt, it would have been natural for the king to turn even more towards the Noron Faction. However, Yeongjo was different; he entrusted the duty to suppress the rebellion to the moderate members of Soron. This came out as a surprise for the rebellion troops and became the reason for the Soron members to fall apart, leading to the success of quelling the revolt.

The event not only benefited the Norons, which was looking for a chance to strike, but also marked the beginning of Soron’s support for Yeongjo. Besides suppressing the rebellion army, Yeongjo’s victory made it possible for his policy of impartiality to find a stable ground because of his decision. That policy of impartiality accorded equal favor in official appointments to men of all factions, but the Yi In-jwa rebellion led to the further lessening of Soron Faction and their aligned remaining sub-factions throughout the 18 Century.




Written by Valerie Curl

March 30, 2016 at 7:19 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. does history have baek de gil as one of therole players? or is that a fictional character?


    June 23, 2016 at 3:54 PM

    • I don’t know

      Princess Tgotchi

      July 5, 2016 at 9:15 AM

    • Baek De Gil is a fictional character, he was (I think) inspired by the first son the king had with Lady Choi (Baek De Gil’s mother in the drama) who died shortly after he was born and was never named.


      January 4, 2017 at 1:46 PM

  2. Thanks for sharing the outline of this historical drama. I enjoyed watching the movies. I esteem your deep knowledge.


    September 9, 2016 at 9:50 PM

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