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Yi Pangja
Empress of Korea
Pretend 24 April 1926 – 1 May 1970
Predecessor Empress Sunjeong
Successor Julia Mullock
Spouse Crown Prince Euimin
(28 April 1920 – 1 May 1970)
Yi Jin
Yi Gu
Father Nashimoto Morimasa
Mother Nabeshima Itsuko
Born 4 November 1901(1901-11-04)
Died 30 April 1989 (aged 87)
Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace
Bangja, Crown Princess Euimin of Korea
Korean name
Hangul 이방자
Hanja 李方子
Revised Romanization I Bangja
McCune-Reischauer Yi Pangja
Japanese name
Kanji 梨本宮方子
Rōmaji Nashimoto-no-miya Masako
Wedding Photo

Yi Bangja, Crown Princess Uimin of Korea (also Euimin, Japanese: 李方子 Ri Masako) ( 4 November 1901 – 30 April 1989) was the consort of Crown Prince Euimin of Korea.[1] She and her husband would have been the emperor and empress of the Korea if Korea had not been annexed to the Empire of Japan in 1910.



Born Princess Masako of Nashimoto of Japan, she was the first daughter of Prince Nashimoto Morimasa, the seventh son of Prince Kuni Asahiko, and his wife, Princess Itsuko, a daughter of Marquis Naohiro Nabeshima. She was a first cousin of Empress Kōjun of Japan, the wife of Emperor Shōwa and the mother of Emperor Akihito, and of Princess Yoshiko, the wife of Prince Yi Geon. On her mother's side, she was also a first cousin of Princess Setsuko, the wife of Prince Chichibu, Emperor Hirohito's younger brother.


Princess Masako was a leading candidate to wed the crown prince of Japan, the future Emperor Hirohito. Other candidates included Princess Kuni Nagako (who became the future Empress Kōjun), and Tokiko Ichijō, a peeress. The possibility of infertility and the feeble political influence of her family were among the reasons she was removed from the list of candidates. However, Princess Masako was selected instead to wed Crown Prince Euimin of Korea who had been held by Japanese government under the name of studying abroad in 1916. The wedding was held on 28 April 1920, at Korean King's Palace in Tokyo. Princess Masako was still a student at the Girls' Department of the Gakushuin Peers' School at the time, and her new title became Her Royal Highness Bangja, Crown Princess Euimin . Despite the unfavorable diagnosis prior to her marriage, she gave birth to a son, Prince Jin on 18 August 1921. However, Prince Jin died under suspicious circumstances when she visited Korea with her husband on 11 May 1922.

On 24 April 1926, Crown Princess Bangja received the formal title Her Majesty Queen Lee when the Emperor Sunjong, the elder brother of Crown Prince Euimin, died. Under the terms of the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty, the Korean royal title was demoted from that of "Emperor" to "King", and Crown Prince Euimin was never formally crowned as king; therefore Princess Masako continued to be styled "Bangja, Crown Princess Euimin". On 29 December 1931, she gave birth to a second son, Prince Gu.

Life as last Crown Princess of Korea

After the end of World War II, all former royal and peerage titles were abolished by the American occupation authorities. Republic of Korea President Rhee Syng-man's fear of Crown Prince Euimin's popularity prevented the family's homecoming and they lived in destitution as Korean residents in Japan. In November 1963, Crown Princess Bangja and her family came back to Korea at the invitation of President Park Chung-hee and were allowed to live in Changdeok Palace in downtown Seoul.[2] However, by this time, Crown Prince Euimin was already unconscious from cerebral thrombosis and was rushed to Seoul Sungmo Hospital where he remained bedridden for the rest of his life.

Thereafter, Princess Bangja devoted herself to the education of mentally and physically handicapped people. She successively became the chairman of various committees including the Commemorative Committee of Crown Prince Euimin, and the Myeonghwi-won, an asylum for deaf-and-dumb persons or patients suffering from infantile paralysis and she founded the Jahye School and the Myeonghye School, which helps handicapped people become socially adapted. She was adored as the "mother of the handicapped in Korea" and despite lingering anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea she was a widely respected Japanese woman in Korea.[3][4]

Styles of
Bangja, Crown Princess of Korea
Reference style Her Imperial Highness
Spoken style Your Imperial Highness
Alternative style Ma'am

Some members of the Nashimoto family, her relatives, visited Seoul in October 2008 to pay their respects. The Nashimotos have continued supporting her charity foundations for helping Korean physically-challenged people even after the Princess died in 1989.[5]


Crown Princess Bangja died on 30 April 1989, aged 87, at the Nakseon Hall, Changdeok Palace from cancer. Her funeral was held as a semi-state funeral which Prince Mikasa and Princess Mikasa of Japan attended and she was buried beside her husband, Crown Prince Euimin, at the Hongyureung, Namyangju near Seoul.

Her autobiography The World is One: Princess Yi Pangja's Autobiography, now out of print, documents the events covered in this article in greater detail.


  1. Prince Yi Jin (Hangul: 이진; Hanja: 李晋; RR: I Jin) ( 18 August 1921 – 11 May 1922). He was poisoned during a visit to Korea with his parents. His funeral was held on 17 May 1922 and he was buried in Korea.
  2. Prince Yi Gu (Hangul: 이구; Hanja: 李玖; RR: I Gu) ( 29 December 1931 – 16 July 2005). Prince Gu became the 29th Head of the Korean Imperial Household upon the death of his father.

Titles from birth

  • Her Imperial Highness Princess Nashimotonomiya Masako of Japan (1901 - 1920)
  • Her Imperial Highness Crown Princess Bangja of Korea (1920 - 1989)
    • Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Lee (1920 - 1926)
    • Her Majesty Queen Lee (1926 - 1945)


  1. ^ (Korean)김희애 조선 마지막 황태자비 이방자 역 캐스팅
  2. ^ Naver dictionary
  3. ^ Interview with principal of Jahye school in South Korea(우리 모두는 남이 아닌 한 이웃)
  4. ^ According to testimony of her student who was once taken care of by Princess Lee and volunteer workers."이방자 여사는 장애인을 이끌어준 등불" (Princess Lee, the Lighthouse for the physically challenged) , Yonhap News
  5. ^ (Korean)영친왕비 이방자 여사 종친 방한

See also

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