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Regal Power in Joseon and Dochechalsabu(都體察使府) in the Early Reign of Sukjong(肅宗)

Kim Jong Soo 1

1군산대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Kings in Joseon Dynasty seized the absolute power. Kings could have that absolute power because they monopolized the military power. Kings’ monopolization of military power in Joseon was the result of making restless efforts to reform sabyeongje(私兵制) and then abolish private relationship between generals and soldiers in the reign of Taejong(太宗). But only with the reformation of sabyeongje, kings could not be sure of their monopoly of military power. Like Taejo(太祖) Lee Seong-gye, someone could command the forces mobilized in wartime and withdraw to topple the current government. Therefore, Joseon government divided the forces into a peace footing and a war footing, and as the commander of a war footing, the mungwan(文官) trusted the most by the king was appointed. The commander of a war footing is called ‘chechalsa(體察使)’. Normally, only one dochechalsa was appointed as a chief military commander, but during Imjinwaeran (壬辰倭亂: Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592), four were appointed all at the same time. The military ruling system during Imjinwaeran was characterized by multi-layered, dispersive, and interregulatory aspects centering around munsin(文臣), and this seems to have been attributed to regal power supremacism that even in wartime, military power should never be taken over to somebody else other than the king. In the early reign of Sukjong(肅宗), Revolt of the Three Feudatories broke out in China, and it altered the political situations in East Asia. Saying that it was the right moment to conduct northern expedition, Yun-hyu(尹鑴) established Dochechalsa-bu and insisted them to put the country into a war footing. After that, Dochechalsabu repeated installment and dismantlement according to the change of political conditions in China. In December, 1675(Sukjong 1), as the envoys reported that Qing was being defeated severely by the forces of Wu Sangui(吳三桂), and Dochechalsabu was installed. And in May, 1677(Sukjong 3), when Qing overcame the forces of Wu Sangui and warned Joseon not to act rashly, they dismantled Dochechalsabu. Later, in December, 1678(Sukjong 4), as the envoys reported that Qing was continuously losing in the war against Wu Sangui, they again installed Dochechalsabu, and in March, 1680(Sukjong 6), Dochechalsabu was again dismantled due to Gyeongsinhwanguk(庚申換局). After that, Dochechalsabu never came to be installed again. Gyeongsinhwanguk was an event that took place after the maternal relatives of seoin(西人) falsely accused that namin(南人) intended to seize the military power through Dochechalsabu. Namin attempted to actualize northern expedition by installing Dochechalsabu within the change of political situations in China but got expelled by Sukjong and the conspiracy of maternal relatives. With this event, however, we can reconfirm the absoluteness of kings in Joseon and it was natural truth that in Joseon, no one other than the king could seize the military power.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.