POST AUTHORS: JAMIE TANG AND PAY HEE RUEY
Between about 50 BCE and 935 CE, the Later Three Kingdoms existed. They were Baekje (18 BCE to 660 CE), in the southwest of the peninsula; Goguryeo (37 BCE to 668 CE), in the north and central part of the peninsula in addition to parts of Manchuria; and Silla (57 BCE to 935 CE), in the southeast. In 918 CE, the Later Three Kingdoms was overthrown by Koryo that emerged in the north under Taejo, who took the name from the earlier Goguryeo kingdom, albeit he was not a member of the earlier royal family. By 936 CE, the Koryo kings had defeated the last Silla and Hubaekje rulers, unifying majority of the peninsula. However, it was only until 1374 that Koryo managed to unify almost all of what is now North and South Korea under its rule.
During the Koryo period (918-1392), 34 in total from King Taejo to King Gongyang, 23 of them were the "jong-jongs". Unsurprisingly, the successions of thrones frequently involved bloodshed struggles within the royal family. Here we shall follow the trail of some prominent Koryo (고려) kings.
In the years between 1231 to 1273, there was a lot of political unrest as the Mongols invaded Koryo seven times and despite the agreed terms for peace between the two nations, a group of Koryo troops continue to fight them in an effort to resist against "the world's strongest power at that time."
태조 왕건 (Taejo Wang Geon), 918-943
Even until today, Taejo have been portrayed as a role model for being the first ruler to unite majority of the Korean peninsular under one state in 1374.
혜종 왕무 (Hyejong Wang Mu), 943-945
Many sources suggested he died of disease during the second year of his reign. However, some historians believed he died at the hands of his half-brothers, Wang Yo and Wang So, due to a power struggle at the time.
정종 왕요 (Jeongjong Wang Yo), 945-949
Jeongjong was portrayed in drama series to have reluctantly given up his throne due to death from accumulated paranoia. Nonetheless, sources explained that he abdicated his throne to Wang So willingly and spent the rest of his life away in peace after suffering from long-term illness.
Quite impossible for king Jeongjong to be so "fashionable" during the Koryo dynasty, but who knows? Certainly a trendsetter then.
광종 왕소 (Gwangjong Wang So), 949-975
Despite the popular belief to be a brutal king, Gwangjong was one of the fairest king who in particularly granted freedom for mistreated slaves and introduced meritocracy.
경종 왕주 (Gyeongjong Wang Ju), 975-981
Food for thought: Was Gyeongjong just fooling around outside palace or actually attempting to empathize with the commoners?
성종 왕치 (Seongjong Wang Chi), 981-997
In late August 993, Seongjong was involved in the first Goryeo-Khitan War. Summary of the legendary war can be found in the second video above.
목종 왕송 (Mokjong Wang Song), 997-1009
In the midst of the turbulent events surrounding the conspiracy, Mokjong was ousted by Gang Jo and dispatched to exile in Chungju. However, he was slain before the destination.
현종 왕순 (Hyeonjong Wang Sun), 1009-1031
SIGNIFICANCE BEHIND KORYO
The Seon schools of the "nine mountain" monasteries became the sole branch of Buddhism that possess the most power and influence over other rival forms of Buddhism involved in the conflict. Seon's influence was so vast that it extended over the court and society, producing scholars and saints. During the Koryo period, Seon completely became "religion of the state," all thanks to the considerate support and privileges they received through connections with the ruling family and powerful members of the court.
The most formidable war hero from Koryo was general Gang Gam-chan (강감찬), who ordered the destruction of a makeshift dam in order to deter the Khitans who were midway across the river. He is highly regarded and well-respected by Koreans up till this day that in 2006, the Korean Navy named a destroyer after him, in recognition of his feats.
Today, according to The Korea Times, Koryo is referred to as "the dynasty that offered Korea its name (Kim and Cawley, 2012)." It was written in the article that "the current national name of Korea was known to the West thanks to Koryo's openness." It seems that Koryo's efforts to make itself known globally is much credited for by Koreans today. It is interesting to note that "through their (the West) pronunciation of Koryo as 'Korea' that this relatively small peninsula of East Asia became known to the world.
INTERESTING TO KNOW (JOSEON DYNASTY)
Hangul (한글) was officially created in the dynasty of Joseon, one of the most prominent dynasties following Koryo. The detailed history of hangul has been neglected by today's people, except the well-known creator of this significant culture of Korea, Sejong the Great (세종대왕).
Fun fact: Have you ever wondered about the reason behind the names of Joseon kings?
*Note for image citations: Click on the images for their respective sources.*
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