The Last Prince of Chosôn

The son of the last crown prince of the Chosôn Dynasty has died. The Korea Times reports:

Yi Ku [李玖, 이구, I Gu], the only surviving son of Choson Kingdom’s last crown prince Yongchin, died of a heart attack at a hotel in Tokyo on Saturday. He was 73….

Yi led a single life in Japan after having divorced his American wife, Julia Mullock, in 1982. Having left no offspring, Lee’s passing signifies the end of the main lineage of the Choson’s royal descent.

Yi was born in Japan in 1931 to Prince Yongchin and Masako Nashimoto, a member of Japan’s imperial family. Yongchin was the younger brother of Choson’s last monarch Sunjong and the seventh son of King Kojong. The marriage was part of Japan’s imperial ambition to merge Korea.

Yi was the second son in the marriage, but he became the sole surviving member of the royal family’s main lineage after his elder brother Chin died at the eighth month….

Yi could not come back to Korea for a while after then as President Syngman Rhee was weary of the influence of royal family members. It was 1963 when he returned to Seoul with his wife and parents and began to reside in Naksonjae residence, a small housing quarter located within Changdokkung Palace.

Wikipedia has already turned his biography into an obituary.

Gu attended the Gakushin Peers’ School (学習院 gakushuin), Tokyo, Japan. He later attended Centre College, Danville, Kentucky and studied architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology both in the US. He was employed as an architect with I.M. Pei & Assocs, Manhattan, New York on 1960 to 1964. Made stateless by Japan in 1947, Gu acquired U.S. citizenship in 1959, and Korean citizenship in 1964. He married Julia Mullock (b. 1928) on 25 October 1959 in New York, and and they adopted a daughter, Eugenia.

After the fall of Syngman Rhee, he returned to Korea in 1963 with the help of the new president Park Chung-hee, moving into the new building in Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace with his mother and wife. He lectured on architecture at Seoul National University and Yonsei University and also ran a business. When that went bankrupt in 1979, he went to Japan to earn money. In 1982 his wife divorced him; his mother died in 1989. He started living with a Japanese astrologer, Mrs Arita.

In November 1996, he made what he hoped would be his permanent return to Korea but, showing signs of a nervous breakdown, he was unable to adjust to life in the motherland. Restlessly going back and forth between Japan and Korea, he eventually died of a heart attack at the age of seventy-four, at the Akasaka Prince Hotel, the former residence of his parents in Tokyo, Japan.

The Korea Times has a follow-up story on the fate of the last Korean royal family.

via The Marmot’s Hole

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