What would King Sejong say to the old adage, “Honesty is the best policy”?

You can find out in the following entry. If you want to skip legal jargon and cut to the chase, please scroll down and search for “Earlier,” which is a Sillok scribe’s cue that he is going to describe the events that had happened before the King issued his final decision, which the scribe records at the beginning of the entry.

Upon concluding the investigation of a Fourth Inspector, the King issues the royal order regarding those implicated

The Veritable Records of King Sejong, Volume 27, Year 7 (1425), Month 3, Day 2, Entry 2



The State Tribunal 義禁府 reported to the King as follows:


“持平成念祖以掌務, 晩差祭監監察罪; 監察沈涓不齋戒而監祭, 且本府劾問時, 反歸咎本府罪; 大司憲李明德、執義宋仁山、掌令宋箕ㆍ梁活、持平金自怡不卽劾念祖稽緩罪。”

The crime of Fourth Inspector 持平 Seong Yeomjo 成念祖 is that as the official in charge of the matter, he belatedly dispatched relevant inspectors to the offering rites.[1] The crimes of Fifth Inspector 監察 Sim Yeon 沈涓 are that he performed inspection at the offering rite without requisite ritual purification and that he then imputed guilt to the Office [of the Inspector General] when questioned by the Office. The crime of Inspector General 大司憲 Yi Myeongdeok 李明德, Second Inspector 執義 Song Insan 宋仁山, Third Inspectors 掌令 Song Gi 宋箕 and Yang Hwal 梁活, and Fourth Inspector Kim Jai 金自怡 is that they failed to immediately charge Seong Yeomjo with offense.”


命念祖、涓照律, 仁山勿論, 明德、箕、活、自怡旣已罷職, 幷勿論.

The King ordered, “Seong Yeomjo and Sim Yeon shall be punished according to the penal code. Song Insan shall not be punished. Yi Myeongdeok, Song Gi, Yang Hwal, Kim Jai have already been dismissed from office and thus shall not be punished any further.”


律該涓以佐職罵長官, 杖八十, 命減二等, 念祖祭祀日時, 不先告示, 笞四十, 以勳孫免。

According to the penal code regarding “associate officials cursing head officials” 以佐職罵長官, Sim Yeon is punishable by eighty strokes of beating with the heavy stick.[2] The King ordered that his punishment be reduced by two degrees.

The penal code regarding “the failure to announce in advance the dates of offering rites” dictates that Seong Yeomjo be punished by forty strokes of beating with the light stick.[3] The King exempted him from punishment on the grounds that he is a grandson of a merit subject.


初, 上命臺長就職, 箕、自怡仕, 活持兩端, 或仕或否以待變, 仁山稱疾不出, 念祖告服在暇, 明德亦有故。

Earlier, [a scandal erupted inside the Office of the Inspector General. Those implicated voluntarily withdrew to their residences and awaited the King’s decision regarding their culpability. Considering them blameless,] the King ordered the fourth inspectors and above in the Office of the Inspector General to resume office.

Song Gi and Kim Jai reported to work. Yang Hwal vacillated—sometimes reporting to work and sometimes not—to see what would happen. Song Insan did not report to work, pleading illness. Seong Yeomjo was on a leave of absence for the mourning of his family member. Yi Myeongdeok also had reason to be absent.


箕、自怡潛往念祖家, 問其所向, 念祖曰: “服盡, 吾常辭職。”

Song Gi and Kim Jai stealthily visited the house of Seong Yeomjo and asked what he would do next. Yeomjo said, “I am inclined to resign upon the completion of mourning.”


自怡等慙懼, 追劾念祖旣往之失, 念祖答曰: “厭我欲辭而劾之耳。 晩定祭監, 非獨吾罪也。”

Ashamed and fearful, Kim Jai and Song Gi accused Seong Yeomjo of his past errors and questioned him. Yeomjo replied, “You are accusing me only because you abhor my intention to resign. As for the belated assignment of the inspector for the offering rite, I am not the only one to blame.”


又劾沈涓, 涓又揚箕、自怡等過失. 箕、自怡佯不知而仍仕, 朝論鄙之。

Song Gi and Kim Jai also confronted Sim Yeon with accusations. Sim Yeon in his turn brought to light the errors of Song Gi and Kim Jai. [Despite this], Gi and Jai continued reporting to work while pretending ignorance. Among the court officials, they became the object of scorn.


仁山、活到本府欲共呈辭, 箕、自怡不肯, 强之而後從之。

Song Insan and Yang Hwal proceeded to the Office, intending to submit their resignations together. Song Gi and Kim Jai were reluctant to follow their suggestion, but relented only after being adamantly urged to do so.


上初不許辭職, 仁山切言己過, 詳陳監察等致辱, 上遂下義禁府辨之。

At first, the King refused to accept their resignation. [But] Song Insan earnestly spoke of his fault and stated in detail how he and others were insulted by Fifth Inspector [Sim Yeon] and others. The King thereupon sent them to the State Tribunal for the clarification of the issue.


唯仁山伏罪, 其他相毁詆, 無異庸人, 上惡之, 故原仁山左遷, 其餘皆罷。

There only Song Insan admitted his guilt. All the others vilified one another just as any mediocre man would. The King detested this. For this reason, the King showed leniency to Insan and merely demoted him. The rest were all dismissed from office.

[1] All the inspectors mentioned in this entry were the officials of the Office of the Inspector General.

[2] This regulation is similar to and derived from Article 333 of the Great Ming Code regarding “associate or other subordinate officials cursing head officials” 以佐職統屬罵長官.

[3] This regulation is similar to and derived from Article 176 of the Great Ming Code regarding “the failure to announce in advance the dates of offering rites.” However, it should be noted that the wording is different from the Great Ming Code and that the number of strokes prescribed above also differ from what is stated in the Great Ming Code. According to the Great Ming Code, the officials who “fail to announce in advance the dates of Great sacrifices [Dasi] or of imperial ancestor worship ceremonies [miaoxiang] to each yamen”…“shall be punished by fifty strokes of beating with the light stick [笞五十].” See Great Ming Code, trans. Yonglin Jiang, (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2012), 110, and also


Translated with annotations by Hacksun Cha from the original Sillok text. Copyright © 2016 & 2018. All rights reserved.