History of Korea

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1231 Jan 1 - 1270

Mongol Invasions of Korea

Korean Peninsula

Between 1231 and 1270, the Mongol Empire conducted a series of seven major campaigns against the Goryeo dynasty in Korea. These campaigns had a devastating impact on civilian lives and resulted in Goryeo becoming a vassal state of the Yuan dynasty for approximately 80 years. The Mongols initially invaded in 1231 under Ögedei Khan's orders, leading to the surrender of Goryeo's capital, Gaesong, and demanding significant tributes and resources, including otter skins, horses, silk, clothing, and even children and craftsmen as slaves. Goryeo was forced to sue for peace, and the Mongols withdrew but stationed officials in northwestern Goryeo to enforce their terms.

The second invasion in 1232 saw Goryeo move its capital to Ganghwado and build strong defenses, exploiting the Mongols' fear of the sea. Although the Mongols occupied parts of northern Korea, they failed to capture Ganghwa Island and were repelled in Gwangju. The third invasion, lasting from 1235 to 1239, involved Mongol campaigns that ravaged parts of Gyeongsang and Jeolla Provinces. Goryeo resisted fiercely, but the Mongols resorted to burning farmland to starve the populace. Eventually, Goryeo sued for peace again, sending hostages and agreeing to the Mongols' terms. Subsequent campaigns followed, but the ninth invasion in 1257 marked the beginning of negotiations and a peace treaty.

In the aftermath, much of Goryeo was devastated, with cultural destruction and significant losses. Goryeo remained a vassal state and compulsory ally of the Yuan dynasty for about 80 years, with internal struggles continuing within the royal court. The Mongol domination facilitated cultural exchange, including the transmission of Korean ideas and technology. Goryeo gradually regained some northern territories in the 1350s as the Yuan dynasty weakened due to rebellions in China.