Did Dong Yi and King Sukjong really have a long romance?

Did Dong Yi and King Sukjong really have a long romance?

Well, the answer is – we don’t know.  Because there’s very little information to be found about Dong Yi in the history books. All that’s known about her is that she came from the cheonin, servant class, then was noticed by the king, became a concubine, and eventually received the title Bin – the top rank for a royal concubine – when she gave birth to King Sukjong’s son. She was given the name Sukbin and her son became King Yeongjo who reined for 52 years and was the longest reigning king in Joseon history.

Dong Yi and King Sukjong blend in with the crowd, Dong Yi, MBC

One of the reasons there is so little information about her in the history books is that she came from the servant class. In the introduction to the novel Dong Yi, I read that in general, there is not very much information available about the royal concubines, as record keeping in the Joseon period focused on the king. But if the concubines came from the upper classes, the names and positions of their family members were more likely to be recorded. As Dong Yi came from the servant class, it would have been awkward to write anything about her, so information about her background was purposely avoided. That seems to be why there is less information available about her than other concubines. In fact, Dong Yi was not even her real name and there is no record of what her real name was; she is just known as Sukbin. (Choi was her real family name though.)

So, the drama is fiction, as nobody knows what really happened. Perhaps they really did have a romance. But some of the scenes are definitely unrealistic – for example, the scenes when King Sukjong (disguised as a yangban) and Dong Yi  go outside the palace and spend time together drinking and eating at the hostelry. Because of the strict Confucian society rules about relationships between men and women at that time, they would probably not have been able to sit so casually together without attracting attention. But King Yeongjo, Dong Yi’s son, was known to go out of the palace secretly to find out how the ordinary people lived. So perhaps this is where the idea for those scenes in the drama came from. King Yeongjo (probably since his mother came from the servant class) changed some of the laws about marriage between the lower and upper classes which led to the servant class eventually dying out.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Did Dong Yi and King Sukjong really have a long romance?

  1. diy

    nice post.
    thanks for sharing.

  2. That seems to have been a worldwide practice in the 17th century. I mean about royal family members and other princes hiding their identity and travelling through Europe (not only in metropolitan areas) in incognito.

  3. Sorry, 1700s, so 18th century.
    By the way: this is the age of enlightenment in Europe.

  4. Elena

    On these days at our national television we are able to watch DONG YI. I am a curious person and, on the internet, I was able to see the whole episodes.
    All the actors and actresses are acting so nice, I like the costumes from all cast. Well done, very nice. I don’t know so much about the history of Korea, but I read on the internet now.
    Also, I have a question: how died : Dong Yi (Suk bin) , the King Sukjong, and also his lover for years,( the friend of his father), were they ill ?? From the last episode I wasn’t able to understand it. All was so quickly done .
    If I don’t ask to much, please be so kind and send me some words about my question.
    Thanks in advance
    Yours,
    Mrs. Elena Ene, Bucharest, Romania

    • Elizebeth

      Dpng Yi’s death isnt confirmed, though rumours say that she died from epitaxis. Sukjong died of old age and i am nt sure who are r u refering next. At the start of episode 60, it showed Dong yi walking in a meadow or sth. It was actually heaven. She had died from something unknown. At the end of the episode, it showed Sukjong walking with Dong yi. It meant that he had died too. The reason he hadnt showed up at the start was because he hadnt died yet. 1 day in heaven was equal to a year on earth, so Dong Yi did not wait long for Sukjong. Throughout the episode they only showed how Dong Yi made her son the crown prince by allowing the Queen Inhon to adopt her son. They also showed what Dong yi and Sukjong did (which im quite confused too)

  5. I love watching korean historical fiction drama. I also have interest in history even though I do physicsT.T..thank you for having a nice blog..the only blog that write about the korea history in english based on the drama…keep your good work!!

  6. Veena

    I just finished watching Dong Yi . In the final episode (60), Dong Yi’s son went to visit her tomb with Chun Soo, I am wondering did DY died at an early age even before Chun Soo. How did she died, I can’t find details on this especially her death and from what causes. I am dead curious about her early death. Any information.

    • Elizebeth

      At the last episode, Dong Yi suffered nosebleeds aka epitaxis. *spelling unsure* Epitaxis is rarely fatal, but perhaps Dong yi was one of the unfortunate victim. When you get nosebleeds, you’re not supposed to tilt ur head backward as the blood will travel back, but then during Dong yi’s time, they hadnt known that. So yeah, maybe she died that way.

  7. joey

    dong yi i very preety

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