Ilseongnok: Records of Daily Reflections

From the beginning of the Joseon (Choson) Dynasty (1392–1910), a great deal of importance was placed on the meticulous recording of state events. A daily official record was kept, later to be used to draw up the official history of the reign. These official daily records, however, were kept in the Royal Secretariat and were not convenient for the Kings to consult. King Jeongjo (1776–1800) decided to keep a diary so that he could record what he did, and then read it over to himself to ensure that his actions and decisions were in line with Confucian ethics. This practice was continued by all his successors until the end of Korean Independence in 1910. The Records of Daily Reflections were written in Chinese by officials of the Royal Library in the King's name in a simple, clear and concise format. These diaries include details of state ceremonial rites, reports by provincial officials and the action taken on them, judicial decisions, petitions from the common people and the action taken on them, censorate reports and diplomatic actions. They were a day-by-day compilation, with items entered as they were received, and recorded action at the moment when it was agreed on.

The Records of Daily Reflections, comprising 2,329 volumes in total, are priceless documentary heritage, and when read together with other official records, give a more comprehensive view of Korean politics and life than any available sources in any other country. They are especially interesting for the later 19th century when Korea was facing change from modernisation and Japanese aggression as they show not only how the Kings trying to deal with these challenges but also provide detailed descriptions of political and cultural exchanges between Korea and other countries from 18th to 20th centuries. The Records of Daily Reflections were inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2011.

International Register



The collection is housed in the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies at Seoul National University. ~ Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, Seoul National University