[King Injo's disease and burnt needle therapy]

Uisahak. 2004 Dec;13(2):198-218.
[Article in Ko]


This paper investigates an interrelationship between burnt needle therapy and King Injo's disease. From 1633 (Year 11 in King Injo's reign) to May 5, 1649 (Year 27 in King Injo's reign), right before his death, King Injo was treated with burnt needles by Yi Hyeongik, an acupuncturist when the king had health problems. This study arises from two questions: why was King Injo often treated with burnt needles? and what effect did burnt needles have?Burnt needle therapy is a combined form of acupuncture and moxibustion. Yi Hyeongik was famous for eradicating pathogenic factors. He was appointed as a doctor in the Royal Hospital. The medical definition for pathogenic factors is that they are disease-causing factors. Understanding the pathogenic factor for King Injo's disease could make it possible to find the interrelationship between burnt needles and the king's disease. In the Joseon ear, the prevalent belief about diseases was that diseases could be caused by homeopathic magic. Some people thought homeopathic magic caused King Injo's disease. The actual reasons for King Injo's disease were the participation in the excessive rites of Queen Mother Inmok's funeral and the constant oppression from the Ching Dynasty after disgraceful defeat in the war. When King Injo started to be sick, homeopathic magic cases were found in the royal palace. The king's incurable disease was believed to have happened as a result of homeopathic magic. King Injo's suspicion toward Princess Jeongmyeong derived from her mother, Queen Mother Inmok. Moral justification for King Injo's coup was Gwanghaegun or Prince Gwanghae's immoral conduct toward Queen Mothe Inmok. After he was installed, King Injo obeyed the Queen Mother and showed her every attention. Meanwhile, he treated Princess Jeongmyeong with respect, maximized the moral justification for the coup, and solidified the royal authority. However, constant rebellions and treasons threatened King Injo. The king suspected that Queen Mother Inmok and Princess Jeongmyeong were involved in homeopathic magic cases because both figures could affect major rebellions and treasons. Homeopathic magic is a kind of ideological belief and psychological suspicion. Accordingly, burnt needle therapy could have an actual effect on treating the diseases of the body. It could have a psychological effect in treating pathogenic factors as well. As burnt needles were often used for the king's disease, remarkable development of acupuncture and moxibustion during the King Injo's era was a characteristic in the history of medical science in the Joseon Dynasty.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture / history*
  • Disease*
  • History, 17th Century
  • Homeopathy / history*
  • Korea
  • Magic / history*
  • Magic / psychology*

Personal name as subject

  • None King Injo