Was there really a Court Lady Investigation Bureau in the Joseon Palace?

So I found this interesting site comparing the events in the drama, Dong Yi, to actual Joseon historical records. In episode 12 Dong Yi enters the 궁관 kung-gwan (court) and joins the Court lady Investigation Bureau. But according to records from the Joseon period, officially, there was no Court lady Investigation Bureau in the palace. And so, no official title of Court Lady Investigator.

Organization of court ladies

The ladies working in the court would be assigned to the King, Queen, Queen Mother, Crown Prince or Crown Prince’s concubine. The number of ladies in court probably varied throughout the period but according to records from King Gojong’s reign (1863-1907), 100 ladies would serve the King, 100 the Queen Mother, 100  the Queen, 60 the Crown Prince, and 40 the Crown Prince’s concubine. Then they would be assigned to work in various areas of court – bedrooms, washrooms, private rooms etc. Generally speaking, the court ladies that were ranked from 5 to 8 had duties concerned with day to day living in the palace. The lowest ranked court ladies (rank 9) were the female musicians. Then within each area of the palace, court ladies were assigned as inspectors  to check up on the other court ladies and make sure they were behaving themselves. There was one inspector assigned to the Crown Prince, and two for the King or Queen Mother. If moral issues or indiscretions amongst the court ladies were discovered then the inspector would report these to the head court lady,제조 상궁 che cho sang gung 提調尙宮 who would then report to the lady’s master or mistress – the King, Queen etc. So, although there was no actual police bureau, unofficially there were female inspectors chosen within the various departments amongst the court ladies and they were known as 감찰 시녀 kam chal shi nyo 監察侍女, which in English we could call ‘lady inspectors’?

As I wrote about in my last post the court ladies were given ranks from 9 to 1. Their male counterparts, the yangban officials in the sa-dae-bu, were also ranked from 9 to 1.

Joseon Court Organizational Chart

2 thoughts on “Was there really a Court Lady Investigation Bureau in the Joseon Palace?

  1. I appreciate your blog so much I’m also glued to my computer watching Dong yi. I just found your blog by accident and I learn a lot from it. I’m a teacher by profession in the Philippines. I teach English in a secondary school. I wish to learn Korean so I can understand K-dramas. I really appreciate the subbers who are doing this job without getting paid. Thanks so much.

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