Koryo (고려) : Rulers or Ruthless?

POST AUTHORS: JAMIE TANG AND PAY HEE RUEY

The reason why today’s people need to learn history is because communication with the past can be a guiding light in the darkness of present times.
— M. S. Seol

Brief lesson on the history of Silla (신라) - one of the Later Three Kingdoms preceding Goryeo (고려).

Brief lesson on the history of Goryeo (고려), as well as the preservation of the Goryeo history record.


BACKGROUND

    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.

Short clip taken from a drama episode to show Gwangjong's release of slaves, as well as the despair of the last Princess of Hubaekje (후백제) preceding Koryo (고려).

Note: Not 100% based on historical facts.


SIMPLE START

   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.

 

인스타그램

(INSTAGRAM)

Aigars. March 20, 2016. What is the size of the Instagram picture in pixels?[Updated]. Colorlib. Retrieved from https://colorlib.com/wp/size-of-the-instagram-picture/

Aigars. March 20, 2016. What is the size of the Instagram picture in pixels?[Updated]. Colorlib. Retrieved from https://colorlib.com/wp/size-of-the-instagram-picture/

 

   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

EXPECTATION

"Taejo" Wang Geon, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

"Taejo" Wang Geon, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

REALITY

Portrait of Taejo Wang Geon, 877-943.

Portrait of Taejo Wang Geon, 877-943.

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

EXPECTATION

"Hyejong" Wang Mu, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

"Hyejong" Wang Mu, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

REALITY

Portrait of Hyejong Wang Mu, 912-945.

Portrait of Hyejong Wang Mu, 912-945.

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

EXPECTATION

"Jeongjong" Wang Yo, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

"Jeongjong" Wang Yo, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

REALITY

Portrait of Jeongjong Wang Yo, 923-949.

Portrait of Jeongjong Wang Yo, 923-949.

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

EXPECTATION

"Gwangjong" Wang So, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

"Gwangjong" Wang So, character from TV series "Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (2016)".

REALITY

Portrait of Gwangjong Wang So, 925-975.

Portrait of Gwangjong Wang So, 925-975.

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

EXPECTATION

"Gyeongjong" Wang Ju, character from TV series "Jackpot (2016)".

"Gyeongjong" Wang Ju, character from TV series "Jackpot (2016)".

REALITY

Portrait of Gyeongjong Wangju, 955-981.

Portrait of Gyeongjong Wangju, 955-981.

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

EXPECTATION

"Seongjong" Wang Chi, character from TV series "Empress Cheonchu (2009)".

"Seongjong" Wang Chi, character from TV series "Empress Cheonchu (2009)".

REALITY

Portrait of Seongjong Wang Chi, 961-997.

Portrait of Seongjong Wang Chi, 961-997.

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

EXPECTATION

"Mokjong" Wang Song, character from TV series "Empress Cheonchu (2009)".

"Mokjong" Wang Song, character from TV series "Empress Cheonchu (2009)".

REALITY

Portrait of Mokjong Wang Song, 980-1009.

Portrait of Mokjong Wang Song, 980-1009.

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

EXPECTATION

"Hyeonjong" Wang Sun, character from TV series "Empress Cheonchu (2009).

"Hyeonjong" Wang Sun, character from TV series "Empress Cheonchu (2009).

REALITY

Portrait of Hyeonjong Wang Sun, 992-1031

Portrait of Hyeonjong Wang Sun, 992-1031

The introduction to Tripitaka Koreana (팔만 대장경), the beginning in hopes to drive out the Khitans and its preservation, can be found in the second video above, at 1:00 mark.


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.

History is an unending dialogue between the present and the past.
— E. H. Carr

   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?

The reason behind the names of Joseon Kings with one syllabus.

Short lesson on the history of hangul (Korean alphabet).

References

*Note for image citations: Click on the images for their respective sources.*

Goryeo. (December 21, 2013). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Goryeo&oldid=977286

Goryeo. (n.d.). Gateway to Korea. Retrieved from www.korea.net/AboutKorea/History/Goryeo

Goryeo dynasty. (June 2, 2009). About Korea. Retrieved from http://www.koreaaward.com/kor/123

Gyeongjong of Goryeo. (2016). World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/gyeongjong_of_goryeo

Hyejong of Goryeo. (2016). World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.ebooklibrary.org/article/whebn0003893506/hyejong%20of%20goryeo

Hyeonjong of Goryeo. April 6, 2016. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyeonjong_of_Goryeo

Jeongjong, 3rd Monarch of Goryeo. (2016). World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.ebooklibrary.org/articles/Jeongjong,_3rd_Monarch_of_Goryeo

Kim, T. & Cawley, K. N. (April 4, 2012). Goryeo: the dynasty that offered Korea its name. The Korea Times. Retrieved from http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2015/10/367_108344.html

King Gwangjong of Goryeo: tyrant of reformer? (October 29, 2016). Sageuk: Korean Historical Dramas. Retrieved from http://koreanhistoricaldramas.com/king-gwangjong-of-goryeo/

Korea dynasty. (April 19, 2009). Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://global.britannica.com/topic/Koryo-dynasty

Mokjong of Korea. (2016). World Heritage Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.worldlibrary.org/articles/mokjong_of_goryeo

Szczepanski, K. (n.d.). The Koryo or Goryeo kingdom of Korea. About Education. Retrieved from http://asianhistory.about.com/od/glossaryko/g/Koryo-or-Goryeo-Kingdom-of-Korea.htm

고려태조어진. (October 26, 2011). Doopedia. Retrieved from http://www.doopedia.co.kr/doopedia/master/master.do?_method=view&MAS_IDX=101013000863387