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About: The Macheon Yarok is a private collection of court gossip put down by Hwang Hyeon, pen name Macheon, a famous Confucian scholar, poet, and patriot of modern, pre-Japanese occupation Korea. He was one of the Four Great Authors of the Late Joseon Period. His historical writings provide a valuable look at the contemporary politics and society at the end of the Joseon Dynasty.

Warnings: I am not an expert in old literary Chinese, nor am I an expert at pronouncing Korean hanja. I also lack geographic knowledge of Korea, especially when it comes to archaic names. Therefore, it is possible that this translation contains mistakes. I only hope I have translated the main idea of the work correctly.

Copyright: This work is an amateur translation that I'm doing because I'm bored. Any attempts to pass it off as an work of actual literary merit that you can make money from will probably get you laughed off of whatever site you're using. In other words, copy and sell at your own discretion.



Before First Sino-Japanese War

Unhyeon Palace
Our current king's civilian residence occupies the former address of The Royal Calendar and Meteorology Institute, the Kwansanggam, also called the Seounhyeon. Thus, it is called the Unhyeon Palace. At the start of King Cheoljong's reign, there were rumors of a holy personage coming out of the Kwansaggam, and that a kingly aura covered the Unhyeon hills. Indeed, His Majesty was born in that residence. Upon his ascension, the Daewongun Ha-eung expanded and renovated the palace, so that its perimeters covered several li, and four doors were constructed in the four directions, closely resembling the structure of the Royal Palace.

Park Yu-bung's Prophesy about Gojong
Park Yu-bung of Chungcheong Province was an expert at physiognomy. Examining his own face, he exclaimed, "If I were to be blind in one eye, then I would be destined for fame and fortune!" Thus, he stabbed himself in the eye and blinded himself. In his youth, His Majesty visited the seer, who secretly told him, "I see in your face the sun and the heavens, take care not to divulge this to anyone else." After the Jiazi year (First Year of Gojong, 1863), Park Yu-bung was promoted from Military Governor of Namyang to Naval Admiral.

Gojong's Ambition
His Majesty was crowned king at 13 years of age. As he was still a youth, he often attended Royal Lectures taught by court scholars. One day, during a lecture on Mencius, at the line "Shang Tang was satisfied with seventy li, while King Wen of Zhou was satisfied with a hundred li," he exclaimed in righteous indignation "Just seventy or a hundred li is enough to serve as a base for ruling the world, yet what of our nation spanning 3000 li? How shall we prepare our troop, lay siege to Beijing, and avenge the shame of our ancestors?"
None of the attendees at the lecture could respond except for Shin Jong-hui, at the time an army officer candidate assigned to wait on the king as a scribe, who spoke out of turn, saying, "That would be very easy."
The King asked, "What strategy do you propose?"
Jong-hui replied, "Your Majesty needs simply to cultivate Your merit and become a good king."

Prince Wanhwa
Palace maid Miss Lee gave birth to Prince Wanhwa and was awarded the surname of Gye. His Majesty, seventeen years old at the time, was delighted and sought to establish him as Crown Prince. The Daewongun cautioned against being hasty, citing, "What would happen should the Queen become pregnant?"
The King often consulted the matter with Park Yu-bung. Pausing to think it over, Yu-bung advised, "Wait a while." His Majesty was incensed, believing that Yu-bung was acting on the order of the Unhyeon Daewongun. Not long after that, Yu-bung died.
Ryu Je-gwan of Gurye was an army officer candidate who lived in the capital and an acquaintance of Yu-bung's. One day he paid a visit to Yu-bung's house, only to find his friend writhing on the ground with blood spewing from his orifices, begging Je-gwan to kill him. Shocked and horrified, Je-gwan pushed him away and waved his hands in refusal. In a short time, Yu-bung was dead. Some say he was poisoned on command from the King. That is what Je-gwan has told me.

Jang Kim
Kim Jo-sun's old residence was in Jahadong neighborhood. The neighborhood was located north of Gyeongbok Palace, under the Changui Gate, between Mount Pugak and Mount Inwang. The backdrop mountain crevasses, streams, and forests provide a tranquil isolation, unlike urban climes. The regional accents of the residents when referring to the name of their community either drop vowels to render the name "Jadong", or elongate vowels to result in "Jangdong". Kim Jo-sun, as Royal Father-in-Law, seized power, moving his residence from Jangdong to Gyodong neighborhood. Because he acted as Royal regent, securing power by making three royal marriages within his clan, elevating the power of Royal in-laws beyond any precedents, the Andong Kim clan was hereafter referred to as the Jang Kim. After Jo-sun's death, his sons Yu-geun and Jwa-geun, along with his grandson Byeong-Ki, continued to live in Gyodong. When Jo sun's clansman Kim Mun-geun became father-in-law to King Cheoljong, his son Byeong-Pil was too young to be involved in politics, but his nephews Byeong-hak and Byeong-guk aided him. They settled in Jeondong neighborhood, and their power was shared with Byeong-Ki, so those in the capital referred to them as Jeongdong and Gyodong. Even now, locals will speak of something being in the time of Jeongdong or Gyodong.

Royal In-laws Blighting the Nation
The ancestors of the Jang Kim clan, such as Seonwon (pen name of Kim Sang-yong), Chengeum (pen name of Kim Sang-heon), Mungok (pen name of Kim Soo-hang), and Mongwa (pen name of Kim Jang-jip) were renowned for their virtue and achievements. They carried the hopes of the nation. Jo-sun himself was an erudite scholar and capable administrator, who earned a reputation for great integrity. As for their descendants, they have become greedy and arrogant. They are a blight upon the nation. However, they have dominated the nation for so long, the world only knows of the Jang Kim and not the nation itself. They would say that "the Jang Kim are the bedrock of the nation." Is that really so?

Kim Heung-geun
Of the Jang Kim, only Kim Heung-geun was often reprimanded for his passionate petitions during the time of King Heonjong. Once, having been discharged from his post, he took up residence in a mansion at Yanghwado (west of the Capital), where the King summoned him to act as Minister of Personnel. However, he ignored seven consecutive summons. For a while, his name was highly renowned. Not long after, he returned to the Royal Court and was no longer in danger of demotion. He served several terms as Prime Minister, yet had no significant achievements.

The Coming of the Queen
King Cheoljong died with no heirs. He had always favored our current King, so most of the Kim clan supported placing His Majesty on the throne.
Kim Heung-geun objected with, "So long as the Prince Heungseon lives, the nation will have two rulers. Can we as subjects serve two rulers? If not, you would be better with simply placing Prince Heungseon on the throne."
Kim Byeong-hak made a deal with Prince Heungseon. If his daughter became the new queen, then he would guarantee the Kim clan's support for Heungseon's son.
Once His Majesty successfully ascended, Heungseon reneged on his agreement with Byeong-hak and instead arranged to marry His Majesty to the orphaned daughter of Min Chi-rok, later known as Empress Myeongseong. Kim Byeong-hak's daughter later married Cho Shin-hui.

Daewongun Confiscates Kim Heung-geun's property
At the beginning of Jiazi year (First Year of Gojong, 1863), the Daewongun subtly tried to exercise his influence. Seeing this, Kim Heung-geun gossiped with others of the court, saying, "From time immemorial, relatives with no official positions should not interfere in government. If the Daewongun has the good sense to immediately stop and return to his private estate, then he will live out his life in wealth and security." Not long after, power over both Inner and Exterior Affairs belonged to the Daewongun. For the previous comments, he hated Heung-geun most out of any of the Jang Kims. He confiscated several tens of acres of Heung-geun's estate. In addition, Heung-geun had a vacation home in Samgyedong neighborhood outside the North Gate. The Daewongun made an offer to purchase it, but was turned down by Heung-geun. The Daewongun again made a request, this time to have a day to tour the gardens. It was an ancient custom of the capital that any who owned had a garden estate could not deny entry to guests who requested to tour the property. Heung-geun was forced to comply. The Daewongun then persuaded his son, His Majesty the King, to come on the tour with him. Heung-geun never entered the Samgyedong estate again, on the grounds that it was against the ethics of a subject to reside in a house that had been graced by His Majesty's jade feet. It later fell into the Daewongun's possession.

Sedo Nicknames
Ever since Hong Guk-yeong held power, those Royal In-laws dominating the court were called Sedo. Those designated as Sedo would mention their place of origin, much like famed ministers of an earlier, more enlightened time would title themselves after their birthplace, such as Changsha, Fenyi, Jiangling, Guixi. That is why the Kim are called Jeongdong and Gyodong and the Cho are called Jeondong. Since the Daewongun resided in the Unhyeon Palace, he was nicknamed Unhyeon. Not only Sedo, but normal government officials all scrambled to imitate him, attaching the word "villa" to the names of their neighborhoods for "Something-or-other Villa." If they were born in Hoedong neighborhood, then it would be Hoegak Villa, or if they were born in Seungdong neighborhood, it would be Seunghak villa.

"The Daewongun instructs..."
During the Daewongun's regency, from Jiazi (First Year of Gojong, 1863) to the tenth year Guiyou (1873), the people of the nation lived in a state of constant terror. People tutted their tongues and cautioned each other against discussing the government, always acting like demons were listening outside the door and ready to spring at a moment's notice. In past times, teachers began their instruction with "The King seems to have said...", yet during those ten years, they began with the five characters of "the Daewongun instructs..." This practice spread throughout the Palace and the nation. Only when the King began personally governing in the year Jiawu did people resume the old practice.

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