The Punishments of the 1728 Musin Rebellion Leaders

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The 1728 Musin Rebellion, an attempt to overthrow King Yŏngjo, erupted out of intense court factionalism. Over 1000 rebels were investigated and punished by Yŏngjo’s special tribunal. This article examines a hitherto neglected area: the punishments meted out to four of the most prominent leaders of the 1728 Musin Rebellion. Historians have focused on the causes of the rebellion rather than in its suppression, seeing rebellion as a thermometer of social problems. However, the diversity of rebel punishments requires some analysis: one was granted an “honorable” death, while another had his liver cut out and eaten, two received no trial and officials attempted to build a swamp to replace one rebel’s home. An analysis of official trial records as well as private, legal, and cultural histories show that the court’s punishments were initially motivated by strategic needs to destroy the rebel challenge. In addition, officials saw punishment as an extension of factional conflict, a course Yŏngjo was keen to discourage and he used punishments as a tool to solidify his political domination and pacify the post-rebellion court.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-144
Number of pages25
JournalKorean Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • 1728 Musin Rebellion,
  • factionalism
  • King Yŏngjo
  • Chosŏn dynasty

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