Joseon was founded in 1392. Among the founding contributors that established the JoseanDyansty, we cannot exclude Jeong Do-jeon (1342 ~ 1398). The life of Jeong Do-jeon, the chief contributor to the founding of the Joseon Dynasty, can be seen splendidly when seen by others. However, he was born at the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, and underwent many ups and downs in the construction of Joseon.
At the end of the Goryeo Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty in China was about to collapse and the Ming Dynasty started to dominate. In the Royal Court, there was a lot of arguing between the courtiers about whether to stand in line with the Yuan Dynasty or the Ming Dynasty. At the time, one was exiled if he/she chose the wrong line.
Jeong Do-jeon spent three years in exile in Jeolla-do, Naju, in 1375 when he was 34. His life was harsh due to his extreme poverty. The following message is from Jeong Do-jeon’s couple when they were living in exile, and it is titled “Poverty”.
Ever since I was taken to the southern periphery of the country for my crime, there has been a flurry of abuse and rumors that make it difficult for me to asses my anger.
Then my wife was afraid and sent a message to me.
“You read diligently on weekdays and didn’t care whether the rice was boiling in the morning or whether the porridge was boiling in the evening. Consequently, the children cried that they were cold and hungry in their rooms, even though there was no food in the house, as if you had put a lock in our house. As I served the meals and worked hard as much as I could, I expected that through your sincere study, you achieve fame and prestige, that your family and children would look up to you and see your door be honored. But his name was disgraced and his achievements cut-off for going against the law; the body was exiled to the southern periphery and drank a bitter drink, and the brothers fall down and became the laughing stock of the world. Is that what a wise or noble man is like?”
I wrote the following reply.
“What you tell me is reasonable. I had companions who were better than my brothers, but when they saw my defeat, they scattered like clouds. They do not grieve me because they have been bound by power, not by gratitude. A couple’s relationship is one thing that does not conclude once it is bound. You reprove me not because you hate me, but because you love me. And the wives that serve their husbands are like servants serving their kings. How can there be a difference between you caring about our home and I caring about my country. Each person is just doing his/her own job. Success and failure, goodness and harm, honor and disgrace, gain and loss are all set by heaven, not by man. What can I worry about?” <Sambong house, Volume 4, 1377>
Although Jeong Do-jeon was considered a founding contributor, he was removed by King Taejo Lee Bang-won when King Taejo Lee Seong-gye died in 1398. Jeong Do-jeon died at the age of 57.
This writing still makes us think about a lot of things.