Ganghwado Island Storytelling


Yongheungung, House, Where a Woodcutter Became a King

Sunja seeing her mother weaving fabrics 【 Ganghwa Haengnyeoldo (painting of the royal procession escorting Wonbeom to the royal palace), owned by Joseon Art Museum in Pyeongyang. 149 cm x 434cm, a 12-fold silk folding screen. Wonbeom looking down at the royal procession 】

One day in August of 1849, Wonbeom, a 19-year old woodcutter living on Ganghwado Island was resting on a hillside with his jige (Korean A-frame) laid next to him. He saw people moving around together and speaking loudly. They were saying that a huge number of people came from Hanyang, the capital of the Joseon Dynasty. Then he saw a long line of people standing down in the village and he guessed that they must have been the ones from Hanyang. Approximately 500 people including civil and military officers, civil servants from the royal palace, and the military arrived at Ganghwado Island by ship. They passed the Jinhaeru Fortress Gate near Gapgot Naru Wharf and then the South Gate of Ganghwasanseong Fortress.

Sunja checking the completed sochang cotton cloth 【 Wonbeom leaving his house while boarding a royal palanquin 】

People on the island had never seen such a grand sight like this before, so everyone was standing on the street to watch the procession. Led by the geumgunbyeoljang (the leader of the royal bodyguard), the procession included the yeongdojang (who led the guard of honor), honor guard flags, the gyoryong-gi flag signaling a royal procession, followed by a royal palanquin. Does this mean the king has arrived on Ganghwado Island? "No, it can’t be," thought Wonbeom. He had heard that the previous king, King Heonjong, had passed away without a son so there was no king in the country. Wonbeom left his spot and wondered what happened.

But then, Wonbeom heard that the people from Hanyang was looking for him. He got scared and tried to run away to the mountains, without knowing why he is being sought after. But he couldn’t run fast enough with his shaky hands and trembling legs. Then suddenly, a person wearing a nice uniform knelt down politely in front of Wonbeom and told him that he was the grandson of Euneongun, the half-brother of King Jeongjo (the 22nd King of the Joseon Dynasty). Does this mean that Wombeom is of royal blood? Euneongun was involved in a conspiracy, and his family had fallen apart since then. Wonbeom’s father, Jeongyedaewongun, fled to Ganghwdo Island living under a different name and died when Wonbeom was 11. Wonbeom and his elder brother earned a living by cutting and selling trees. The family lived in hiding so he never even learn how to read. But now it turns out that Wombeon would be the next king! At last, he stepped onto the royal palanquin. The 47-km procession that took Wonbeom to Hanyang was such a grandeur that all the people lined up near the path to see it. Wonbeom (1831-1863, reigned 1849-1863) later became King Cheoljong (the 25th King of the Joseon Dynasty). The thatched house he used to live in was remodeled into a tiled roof house and was named Yongheunggung, meaning a house where a dragon prospered. In the past, the dragon was the symbol of a king, so the Yongheunggung House meant a house where a king was born.

More Info
  • Address: 16-1, Dongmunan-gil 21beon-gil Ganghwa-eup, Ganghwa-gun, Incheon
  • Phone: 032-930-3626
  • Directions: Find Dongmunan-gil 21((isip-il) beon-gil near Ganghwa Anglican Church.
  • Travel Writer Recommended Restaurant: Pork rib soup seasoned with salted shrimp at Ireokjo Sikdang (032-934-3985) is popular.
  • Nearby Tourist Sites: Ganghwa Anglican Church, Goryeo Palace Site, Memorial Stone for Kim Sang-yong, Simdojikmul chimney
  • the main building of Yongheunggung House【 the main building of Yongheunggung House 】
  • Yongheunggung House【 Yongheunggung House 】
  • A detached house of Yongheunggung House【 A detached house of
    Yongheunggung House 】
  • A view of Goryeo Palace Site from Myeongwiheon 【 Cheoljongjojamjeogugi,
    a stone monument with
    a sign that says the house used to
    be resided by King Cheoljong
    before he became a king. 】
  • Seomun Gimbap【 Seomun Gimbap 】
  • Entrance to Yongheunggung House【 Entrance to
    Yongheunggung House 】