Yi Ui-min (Hangul: 이의민, Hanja: 李義旼, (died 7 May 1196) was
a military general who dominated the
Goryeo government prior to the
Mongol Invasions. When his rival, Commander Gyeong Dae-seung, died, Yi
Ui-min rose to power in the supreme military council, Jungbang. His
tyranny came to and end in 1196 on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month
when he was assassinated by General Choe Chung-heon.
1.4 Death and family's downfall
3 In Popular culture
Yi Ui-min was born of slave status, and his father Yi Seon (이선,
李善) was a salt trader and his mother a temple servant. According
to the History of Goryeo, he was as tall as 1m 90 cm and
possessed remarkable physical strength.
Yi entered the capital defense command (경군, 京軍), where his
Subak technique was noticed by the King Uijong and he was
promoted to the byeoljang (별장, 別將). In 1170, He got a position
of the jungrangjang (중랑장, 中郎將) by the reward of joining
Goryeo warrior rebellion (무신정변).
In 1173, Kim Bo-dang had attempted to reinstate Uijong who had been
dethroned against the grasping political power of Jeong Jung-bu. As a
result, Yi had been ordered to return Uijong from his place of exile,
Geoje, by rebel forces, only to kill him on his way back in Kyungju.
Yi killed Uijong by snapping off his spine with his bare hands. He was
said to have burst into a big laughter upon hearing the sound of
Uijong's spine breaking. He then rolled up the dead body of Uijong in
a blanket and dumped it in a lake. Afterwards,
Yi Ui-min was promoted
to general (장군, 將軍) in recognition for killing
He then made it to the top post, chief captain (상장군, 上將軍),
for the credit of putting down the Revolt of Jo Wi-chong, Governor of
Pyongyang in 1174.
At 1179, when Gyeong Dae-seung, who had an opposite political position
Jeong Jung-bu took the government and pushed away Jeong's
people, Yi's power in the government significantly decreased, and his
past murder of Uijong became the pretext that Gyeong would use to
eliminate him.
Yi had been in fear of an assassination attempt by Gyeong, thus he had
placed guards everywhere in around his house. One day, he heard a
pleasing rumor that Gyeong was killed. This rumor proved to be wrong
though as in fact it had been Heo Seung, a close friend of Gyeong, who
had died, not Gyeong himself. As a result of aware of it, Gyeong gave
warning of Yi still more, Yi who was seized with fear, run away to
Gyeongju on the pretext of illness.
When Gyeong died by disease in 1183, King Myeongjong called Yi in to
the Gaegyeong. Not believing the death of Gyeong, Yi refused the
king's request several times, but finally came to the
realizing Gyeong's death.
Yi who was commissioned as a susagongjwabokya (수사공좌복야,
守司空左僕射) by Myeongjong had gotten a position of a
dongjungseomunhapyeongjangsa panbyeongbusa (동중서문하평장사
판병부사, 同中書門下平章事判兵部事) in 1190
Yi who seized the political power, not only took bribes but also
extorted private houses and lands. His family also committed many evil
deeds. Especially his two sons, Yi Ji-young and Yi Ji-gwang who were
called as "ssangdoja" (쌍도자, 雙刀子; meaning 'twin
swordsmans') by repute.
Yi Jiyoung committed all sorts of brutality, killing whomever
displaying contumacy to his authority and raping the pretty women,
regardless of their marital statues. He even kidnapped and raped a
royal concubine. Similarly, Mrs. Choe, Yi's wife, also had a
tremendous sexual appetite, which eventually led to her demise after
getting kicked out by Yi who had caught her red handed carrying on an
adultery with one of their house servants. Yi's daughter was equally
as infamously arrogant and lecherous as to disregard her husband, take
up a separate residency and fool around with countless men.
Death and family's downfall
In 1196, having his pigeon snatched away by Ji-young, Yi's son, Choe
Chung-soo went to his brother
Choe Chung-heon to seek help. The Choe
Chung-soo persuaded the
Choe Chung-heon to carry out a plot to kill Yi
together, to which he agreed after a momentary hesitation.
Yi turns down King Myeongjong's request to accompany him to a Bojesa
temple (보제사, 普濟寺) by making an excuse about his ill
physical condition and sneaks out to a Mita Mountain cottage. Hearing
it, the Choe brothers make their way to the cottage and stakes out the
place. They eventually kill Yi, ambushing him when he comes out of the
cottage and is about to climb on a horse.
Having successfully carried out the assassination, the Choe brothers
immediately head to the Gaegyeong, where they decapitated and exposed
head of Yi on the street and call up troops with help from general
Baek Jon-yoo. Hearing the news, the Myeongjong at the Bojesa temple
hurries his way back to the Gaegyeong.
Yi's sons Ji-sun and Ji-gwang battle against the Choe brothers only to
run away in the end after having struggled on the defensive.
As they flee, the Choe brothers lead their troops to the palace to ask
the Myeongjong to allow them to put down the remaining insurgents
loyal to Yi. With their authority granted by the Myeongjong, the choe
brothers close up the castle gates to deter fleeing and went on to
detain Yi's followers one by one. Meanwhile, they have general Han Hu
capture and kill Yi Ji-young amid his frolick with Kisaengs.
Hearing the news that Yi Ji-yeong had died, many people were said to
be comforted and cheered. After then, Choe Chungheon killed all
families and relatives of Yi Ui-min, and even sent people to every
regions of the nation, wiping out all followers and slaves of Yi's.
The survived two sons of Yi Ui-min, Yi Ji-sun and Yi Ji-Gwang,
Choe Chung-heon to beg for mercy and their pardon, but
Choe heedlessly killed both of them, eradicating the last of Yi's
Father: Yi Seon (이선)
Mother: Lady Seong (성씨)
Wife: Lady Choi (최씨)
Son: Yi Ji-Yeong (? - 1196) (이지영)
Son: Yi Ji-Sun (? - 1196) (이지순)
Son: Yi Ji-Gwang (? - 1196) (이지광)
2 unnamed daughter
In Popular culture
Lee Deok-hwa in the 2003-2004
KBS1 TV series Age of
^ Lee, Ki-baek. "A New History of Korea", Ilchokak, Seoul, 1984.
^ Lee, pg.141
^ A temple servant.
Military Leader of Goryeo