I can understand North Korea not wanting to restore the Korean monarchy to its country, as I assume they are officially opposed to feudalism, but I don't understand South Korea not doing so.

Korea lost its monarchy because of its annexation by Japan, which I suspect is viewed as lacking in legitimacy by South Koreans. I also doubt that South Koreans have a strong ideological opposition to the institution of monarchy, akin to what exists in Australia. I also assume South Korea would like to restore Korea to its former greatness as much as possible.

Why hasn't South Korea re-instated (or instated, if you regard South Korea as separate from the Korean Empire) the monarchy?

  • 3
    Are you interested in why they haven't adopted a modern-style monarchy (with a figurehead/head of state such as many European countries have), why they haven't adopted a pre-Japan-style monarchy (with king as head of government), or both?
    – Bobson
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 12:58
  • 4
    Considering how much Brits pay for theirs, why would they bother to?
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 13:03
  • 5
    @user4012 The British monarchy is actually a great source of income for the UK (however, a new Korean monarch would not have crown lands to lend to the Korean government and how much tourism income he or she would generate is also debatable, so this doesn't apply).
    – Philipp
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 13:14
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    @Philipp - +1 for CGP Grey. -1 for assuming that granting lands to the crown instead of to anyone else is a net income benefit for Britain (IOW, that if the crown lands were nationalized, the income from the new owners and overall economic activity wouldn't surpass status quo)
    – user4012
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 13:16
  • 18
    Why hasn't Germany restored its monarchy? Why hasn't Russia? Why do you think Korea would have wanted to restore its monarchy? I also assume South Korea would like to restore Korea to its former greatness as much as possible. Your question is flawed and doesn't make sense at all. And how is this question related with Politics? I think your question is better suited on History SE.
    – Rathony
    Commented Sep 6, 2016 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


The last monarch of the short lived Korean Empire (preceded by the Kingdom of Korea) abdicated under occupying Japanese pressure in 1910.

Now, 107 years later, one of the key issues would be how to decide who to make the king of a reinstated constitutional monarchy. Reinstating a descendant of the last monarch of Korea's great, great grandchild or something like that is an idea with not nearly as much appeal as the idea of taking someone who have founded the nation or otherwise earned the respect of the people by leading the country for a long time and formally calling that person the King.

This problem is a general one which causes most Republics to establish the elected office of President to do what a monarch in a constitutional monarchy would do, rather than establishing a monarchy.

North Korea, whose third generation leader Kim Jong Un is a de facto absolute monarch, is much more typical of how monarchy has emerged historically. Some powerful figure managed to gain control of the state somehow or other, and has enough control of the state to pass it on to his descendants until this is viewed as legitimate and normal, as opposed to a corrupt circumvention of some other political system or dynasty of monarchs.

A fictional treatment in graphic novel and television series form called Goong imagines what Korea might be like if the monarchy had not been abolished, in a mostly pro-monarchy treatment.

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    To add to the issue of the 107-year gap (Now even longer), even if reinstating a descendant of the monarchy to a monarchy would be a thing that South Korea would decide to do, it would be likely fraught with a succession crisis. If they were to go that route, they'd probably wait until North and South Korea were united in the first place before potentially destabilizing it again. Commented May 22, 2022 at 21:29

Not only that there is no perceived need by the people of South Korea to restore its monarchy, but also there is really no one that is a good potential monarch out there.

After the Japanese annexation of Korea, the Korean imperial House of Yi became members of the Japanese imperial house (House of Yamato), and the deposed Korean Emperor were accorded the status equivalent to Japanese imperial princes. After World War II, most Japanese imperials lost their status - so did the Korean imperial family.

The last Korean Emperor, Emperor Sunjong, was infertile, so the cognatic line of the House of Yi has died away. There were brothers and nephews of Emperor Sunjong, but there is a problem - many of them have joined the Imperial Japanese Army during wartime (as did most Japanese imperial family members), and this certainly would be more or less unwelcome in Korea. In fact, Yi Un, the Crown Prince Euimin, was not even allowed to return to South Korea (presumably for his association with the Japanese military).

So there definitely wasn't a positive image associated with the House of Yi in Korea - but who else could be a good potential monarch of Korea? The Goreyo kingdom is a distant past, and descendants of the Kingdom of Goreyo's House of Wang are almost impossible to find. In addition, unlike Europe, there wasn't a hereditary nobility in Korea, so there are no high nobles who could become a potential monarch. A new royal house could certainly be proclaimed - but this wouldn't be too legitimate of a new regime.

In conclusion, even if the Koreans wanted their monarchy back, they would have a hard time finding a good candidate for the throne. And Koreans didn't want a monarchy as well (why fixed something that's not wrong) - so almost no one wants the restoration of the Korean monarchy.


The current form of government is a democratic republic. Since "Korea" is not some kind of monolithic, independently sentient being, the question is really, "Why don't the PEOPLE of South Korea restore a monarchy?"

Since democratic forms of government have greater control and power residing with the people through the electoral process, this would mean the people ceding power to an autocrat.

While there are many instances of power being moved from autocrats to the people, I can't think there are many, if any, instances of the people willingly choosing to move the other way.

Other than "it once was that way," I really can't see any arguments for why a society would want to do that.

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    This is a very old-fashioned view of monarchy. I'd hardly describe Queen Elizabeth of the UK as an autocrat, for example. Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 0:00
  • @DavidRicherby Queen Elizabeth is more autocratic than (hypothetical) President Elizabeth
    – Caleth
    Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 12:21
  • @Caleth "Autocratic" simply isn't a useful word to use. All you're saying is that the word is more applicable to her than to a hypothetical person to whom it would be even less applicable. So what? Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 12:47
  • @DavidRicherby - Do you really think OP is asking why South Korea doesn't create a completely powerless and ceremonial figurehead in as a step with the intent to "restore greatness"? He specifically used the word "restore," - the last Korean monarch was one that wielded autocratic powers. Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 14:17
  • @PoloHoleSet When the UK restored its monarchy after the civil war, the new monarch had considerably reduced power. So why not in South Korea? Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 15:10

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