In the Nogeoldae, a manual for learning spoken Chinese published in the late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), the term seongjutang (Chinese: 醒酒湯) appears. It means "soup to get sober" and is assumed to be the origin of haejangguk. According to the record, the soup consists of thinly sliced meat, noodles, scallions, and powder of cheoncho (Korean: 천초) in a broth. The composition is same as the basic recipe of a present-day haejangguk.
Although haejangguk is not mentioned in cookbooks written during the Joseon (1392–1910), relevant contents can be seen in genre paintings and documents of the late Joseon. In Shin Yun-bok (b. 1758)'s painting titled Jumakdo (Korean: 주막도 "Painting of the Tavern"), a scene regarding haejangguk is well depicted. A group of unemployed children of the rich gather to eat haejangguk while a jumo (a female owner of a jumak) ladles boiling soup out of a cauldron.
This dish seemed to be eaten not only by commoners. According to Haedong jukji (海東竹枝), poetry collection written by Choe Yeong-nyeon (崔永年 1856∼1935), haejangguk is referred to as hyojonggaeng (曉鍾羹), which literally means a "dawn bell soup". The book states that the area within Namhansanseong is known for making the soup well. The ingredients for the soup are inner parts of Napa cabbage, and kongnamul (soybean sprouts), mushrooms, galbi, sea cucumber, and abalone. They are mixed together with tojang (fermented bean paste) and are simmered thoroughly for a day. The cooked soup is then put into a hangari or earthen crock covered with a pad of cotton and sent to Seoul at night. When the dawn bell rings the time, the soup is delivered to a house of high-ranking officials. The hangari is still warm and the soup is very good for relieving hangovers. The record suggests that hyojonggaeng is either the first delivery food to cure a hangover after a banquet held by jaesang was ended or was used as a bribe.