Goryeo was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korean Peninsula until 1392. Goryeo achieved what has been called a "true national unification" by Korean historians as it not only unified the Later Three Kingdoms but also incorporated much of the ruling class of the northern kingdom of Balhae, who had origins in Goguryeo of the earlier Three Kingdoms of Korea. The name "Korea" is derived from the name of Goryeo, also spelled Koryŏ, which was first used in the early 5th century by Goguryeo.
In the late 7th century, the kingdom of Silla unified the Three Kingdoms of Korea and entered a period known in historiography as "Later Silla" or "Unified Silla". Later Silla implemented a national policy of integrating Baekje and Goguryeo refugees called the "Unification of the Samhan", referring to the Three Kingdoms of Korea. However, the Baekje and Goguryeo refugees retained their respective collective consciousnesses and maintained a deep-seated resentment and hostility toward Silla. Later Silla was initially a period of peace, without a single foreign invasion for 200 years, and commerce, as it engaged in international trade from as distant as the Middle East and maintained maritime leadership in East Asia. Beginning in the late 8th century, Later Silla was undermined by instability because of political turbulence in the capital and class rigidity in the bone-rank system, leading to the weakening of the central government and the rise of the "hojok" (호족; 豪族) regional lords. The military officer Gyeon Hwon revived Baekje in 892 with the descendants of the Baekje refugees, and the Buddhist monk Gung Ye revived Goguryeo in 901 with the descendants of the Goguryeo refugees; these states are called "Later Baekje" and "Later Goguryeo" in historiography, and together with Later Silla form the "Later Three Kingdoms".
Among the Goguryeo refugee descendants was Wang Geon, a member of a prominent maritime hojok based in Kaesong, who traced his ancestry to a great clan of Goguryeo. Wang Geon entered military service under Gung Ye at the age of 19 in 896, before Later Goguryeo had been established, and over the years accumulated a series of victories over Later Baekje and gained the public's confidence. In particular, using his maritime abilities, he persistently attacked the coast of Later Baekje and occupied key points, including modern-day Naju.Gung Ye was unstable and cruel.
In 918, Gung Ye was deposed by his own generals, and Wang Geon was raised to the throne. Wang Geon, who would posthumously be known by his temple name of Taejo or "Grand Progenitor", changed the name of his kingdom back to "Goryeo", adopted the era name of "Heaven's Mandate", and moved the capital back to his home of Kaesong. Goryeo regarded itself as the successor to Goguryeo and laid claim to Manchuria as its rightful legacy. One of Taejo's first decrees was to repopulate and defend the ancient Goguryeo capital of Pyongyang, which had been in ruins for a long time; afterward, he renamed it the "Western Capital", and before he died, he placed great importance on it in his Ten Injunctions to his descendants.
Following the destruction of Balhae by the Khitan Liao dynasty in 927, the last crown prince of Balhae and much of the ruling class sought refuge in Goryeo, where they were warmly welcomed and given land by Taejo. In addition, Taejo included the Balhae crown prince in the Goryeo royal family, unifying the two successor states of Goguryeo and, according to Korean historians, achieving a "true national unification" of Korea. According to the Goryeosa jeolyo, the Balhae refugees who accompanied the crown prince numbered in the tens of thousands of households. An additional 3,000 Balhae households came to Goryeo in 938. The Balhae refugees contributed 10 percent of the population of Goryeo. As descendants of Goguryeo, the Balhae people and the Goryeo dynasts were related. Taejo felt a strong familial kinship with Balhae, calling it his "relative country" and "married country", and protected the Balhae refugees.
Taejo displayed strong animosity toward the Khitans who had destroyed Balhae. The Liao dynasty sent 30 envoys with 50 camels as a gift in 942, but Taejo exiled the envoys to an island and starved the camels under a bridge, in what is known as the "Manbu Bridge Incident".
The last Silla king, Gyeongsun, surrenders to Wang Geon ruler of Goryeo. Taejo graciously accepted the capitulation of the last king of Silla and incorporated the ruling class of Later Silla. In 935, Gyeon Hwon was removed from his throne by his eldest son over a succession dispute and imprisoned at Geumsansa Temple, but he escaped to Goryeo three months later and was deferentially received by his former archrival. In the following Year, upon Gyeon Hwon's request, Taejo and Gyeon Hwon conquered Later Baekje with an army of 87,500 soldiers, bringing an end to the Later Three Kingdoms period.
Tamna briefly reclaimed its independence after the fall of Silla in 935. However, it was subjugated by the Goryeo Dynasty in 938, and officially annexed in 1105. However, the kingdom maintained local autonomy until 1404, when Taejong of Joseon placed it under firm central control and brought the Tamna kingdom to an end.
Following the "Manbu Bridge Incident" of 942, Goryeo prepared itself for a conflict with the Khitan Empire: Jeongjong established a military reserve force of 300,000 soldiers called the "Resplendent Army" in 947, and Gwangjong built fortresses north of the Chongchon River, expanding toward the Yalu River.
The 946 eruption of Paektu Mountain in Korea and China, also known as the Millennium Eruption or Tianchi eruption, was one of the most powerful volcanic eruptions in recorded history and is classified as a VEI 7 event. The eruption resulted in a brief period of significant climate change in Manchuria. The Year of the eruption has not been precisely determined, but a possible Year is A.D. 946.
Gwangjong ascended the throne on April 13, 949. His first reform was the law of emancipation of slaves in 956. The noble families had many slaves, mainly prisoners of war, who served as private soldiers; they numbered more than commoners and didn't pay taxes to the crown, but to the clan they worked for. By emancipating them, Gwangjong turned them into commoners, weakening the noble families' power, and gaining people who paid taxes to the king and could become part of his army. This reform won his government the support of the people, while nobles were against it; even queen Daemok tried to stop the king as the law affected her family, but to no avail.
A Korean acupuncturist inserting a needle into the leg of a male patient.
Gwangjong established Daebi-won and Jewibo
958 Jan 1 -
Pyongyang, North Korea
During Gwangjong's reign, medical centres known as Daebi-won, which provided free medicines to poor patients, were set up in Kaesong and Pyongyang, later expanding in the provinces as the Hyeminguk(public health department). Taejo had established regional granaries to face the times of drought, and Gwangjong added jewibo, stores which charged interests on grain loans, which were then used for poor relief. These measures, even if in modified forms, kept on working for the next 900 years, parallel to better cultivation methods to keep up with the growth of population.
In 957, scholar Shuang Ji was sent to Goryeo as an envoy, and, with his advice, Gwangjong instituted the national civil service examination in 958, with the goal to expel officials who gained court positions due to family influence or reputation rather than by merit. The examination, based on the Tang's civil service exam and the Confucian classics, was open to all male free-borns to give everyone, not only the rich and powerful people, the opportunity to work for the state, but in practice only sons of the gentry could gain the necessary education to take the exam; royal relatives of the five highest ranks were, instead, left out on purpose. In 960, the king introduced different colours for court robes to distinguish officials of different ranks. The major examinations were literary, and came in two forms: a composition test (jesul eop), and a test of classical knowledge (myeonggyeong eop). These tests were officially to be held every three years, but in practice it was common for them to be held at other times as well. The composition test came to be viewed as more prestigious, and its successful applicants were divided into three grades. On the other hand, successful candidates on the classical examination were not ranked. In the course of the dynasty, some 6000 men passed the composition examination, while only about 450 passed the classics examination.
In 982, Seongjong adopted the suggestions in a memorial written by Confucian scholar Choe Seung-ro and began to create a Confucian-style government. Choe Seung-ro suggested that Seongjong would be able to complete the reforms of King Gwangjong, the fourth King of Goryeo, which he had inherited from Taejo of Goryeo. Taejo had emphasized the Confucian “Classic of History which stated that the ideal Emperor should understand the suffering of farmers and directly experience their toil. Seongjong followed this principle and established a policy by which district officials were appointed by the central government, and all privately owned weapons were collected to be recast into agricultural tools.
Seongjong set out to establish the Goryeo state as a centralized Confucian monarchy. In 983, he established the system of twelve mok, the administrative divisions which prevailed for most of the rest of the Goryeo period, and sent learned men to each of the mok to oversee local education, as a means of integrating the country aristocracy into the new bureaucratic system. Talented sons of the country aristocrats were educated so that they could pass the civil service examinations and be appointed to official government posts in the capital.
The First Goryeo-Khitan War was a 10th-century conflict between the Goryeo dynasty of Korea and the Khitan-led Liao dynasty of China near what is now the border between China and North Korea.
In 993, the Liao dynasty invaded Goryeo's northwest border with an army that the Liao commander claimed to number 800,000. They forced Goryeo to end its tributary relations with the Song dynasty, to become a Liao tributary state and to adopt Liao's calendar. With Goryeo's agreement of these requirements, Liao forces withdrew. The Liao dynasty gave Goryeo permission to incorporate the land along the border of the two states, which was occupied by Jurchen tribes that were troublesome to Liao, up to the Yalu River. In spite of the settlement, Goryeo continued to communicate with the Song dynasty, having strengthened its defenses by building fortresses in the newly gained northern territories.
Goryeo was the first Korean state to mint its own coins. Among the coins issued by Goryeo, such as the Dongguk Tongbo, Samhan Tongbo, and Haedong Tongbo, about a hundred variants are known. Coins failed to gain widespread use, whereas silver currencies were used until the end of Goryeo.
In 996, Seongjong of Goryeo minted iron coins to trade with the Khitans, who used iron coins. The coins may have been issued to promote centralization. As far as can be established, the iron coins were not inscribed. The government made many efforts to promote the use of coins instead of commodity money.
When King Seongjong died in 997, the Liao dynasty invested his successor Wang Song as king of Goryeo (King Mokjong, r. 997-1009). In 1009, he was assassinated by the forces of the general Gang Jo. Using it as a pretext, the Liao attacked Goryeo in the next Year. They lost the first battle but won the second one, and Gang Jo was captured and killed. The Liao occupied and burnt the Goryeo capital Kaesong, but the Goryeo king had already escaped to Naju. The Liao troops withdrew then afterward Goryeo promised to reaffirm its tributary relationship with the Liao dynasty. Unable to establish a foothold and to avoid a counterattack by the regrouped Groyeo armies, the Liao forces withdrew. Afterward, the Goryeo king sued for peace, but the Liao emperor demanded that he come in person and also cede key border areas; the Goryeo court refused the demands, resulting in a decade of hostility between the two nations, during which both sides fortified their borders in preparation of war. Liao attacked Goryeo in 1015, 1016, and 1017, but the results were indecisive.
Beginning in the summer of 1018, the Liao dynasty constructed a bridge across the Yalu River.
In December 1018, 100,000 Liao soldiers under the command of General Xiao Baiya crossed the bridge into Goryeo territory, but were met by an ambush of Goryeo soldiers. King Hyeonjong had heard the news of invasion, and ordered his troops into battle against the Liao invaders. General Gang Gam-chan, who did not have any military experience since he was a government official, became a commander of the Goryeo army of about 208,000 men (the Liao still had advantages, even outnumbered 2 to 1, since Liao troops were mostly mounted while the Koreans were not), and marched toward Yalu River.
The Liao troops pushed through to approach Kaesong, the capital, but were defeated by a force led by General Gang Gam Chan.
During their campaign, general Gang Gam-chan cut the supplies of the Liao troops and harassed them relentlessly. Exhausted, the Liao troops decided to retreat hastily northward. Monitoring the movement of their troops, general Gang Gam-chan attacked them in the vicinity of Gwiju, ending in a complete victory for the Goryeo dynasty.
The surrendered Liao troops were divided up among the provinces of Goryeo and settled in isolated and guarded communities. These prisoners were valued for their skill in hunting, butchering, skinning, and leather tanning. Over the next few centuries, they evolved into the Baekjeong class, who came to form the lowest caste of the Korean people.
After the battle, peace negotiations followed and the Liao dynasty did not invade Korea again. Korea entered in a long and peaceful period with its foreign neighbours across the Yalu River. The victory at the Battle of Kuju is regarded as one of the three greatest military victories (other victories are Battle of Salsu and Battle of Hansando) in Korean history.
Following the Goryeo–Khitan War, a balance of power was established in East Asia between Goryeo, Liao, and Song. With its victory over Liao, Goryeo was confident in its military ability and no longer worried about a Khitan military threat.
Goryeo's golden age lasted about 100 years into the early 12th century and was a period of commercial, intellectual, and artistic achievement. The capital was a center of trade and industry, and its merchants developed one of the earliest systems of double-entry bookkeeping in the world, called the sagae chibubeop, that was used until 1920.
The Goryeosa records the arrival of merchants from Arabia in 1024, 1025, and 1040, and hundreds of merchants from Song each Year, beginning in the 1030s. There were developments in printing and publishing, spreading the knowledge of philosophy, literature, religion, and science. Goryeo prolifically published and imported books, and by the late 11th century, exported books to China; the Song dynasty transcribed thousands of Korean books.
The reign of Munjong, from 1046 to 1083, was called a "Reign of Peace" and is considered the most prosperous and peaceful period in Goryeo history. Munjong was highly praised and described as "benevolent" and "holy" in the Goryeosa. In addition, he achieved the epitome of cultural blossoming in Goryeo.
Cheolli Jangseong also refers to the stone wall built from 1033 to 1044, during the Goryeo dynasty, in the northern Korean peninsula. Sometimes called Goryeo Jangseong ("Great Wall of Goryeo"), it is roughly 1000 li in length, and about 24 feet in both height and width. It connected the fortresses built during the reign of Emperor Hyeonjong.
King Deokjong ordered Yuso to build the defenses in response to incursions by the Khitan of the northwest and the Jurchen of the northeast. It was completed during the reign of Emperor Jeongjong.
It ran from the mouth of the Yalu River to around Hamheung of present-day North Korea. Remnants are still extant, including in Ŭiju and Chŏngp'yŏng.
The Jurchens north of Goryeo had traditionally rendered tribute to the Goryeo monarchs and called Goryeo their "parent country", but thanks to the defeat of Liao in 1018, the Wanyan tribe of the Heishui Mohe unified the Jurchen tribes and gained in might. In 1102, the Jurchen threatened and another crisis emerged. In 1107, General Yun Gwan led a newly formed army, a force of approximately 17,000 men called the Byeolmuban, and attacked the Jurchen. Though the war lasted for several years, the Jurchen were ultimately defeated, and surrendered to Yun Gwan. To mark the victory, General Yun built nine fortresses to the northeast of the border. In 1108, however, General Yun was given orders to withdraw his troops by the new ruler, King Yejong. Due to manipulation and court intrigue from opposing factions, he was discharged from his post. Opposition factions fought to ensure the new fortresses were turned over to the Jurchen.
The Jurchens in the Yalu River region were tributaries of Goryeo since the reign of Wang Geon, who called upon them during the wars of the Later Three Kingdoms period, but the Jurchens switched allegiance between Liao and Goryeo multiple times, taking advantage of the tension between the two nations.
As the balance of power on the Liao-Goryeo border shifted, the Jurchens, who lived around the border between the two states, began to expand their power.
Finally, in 1115, the Jurchen chieftain Wányán Āgǔdǎ founded the Jin dynasty in Manchuria, and began to attack the Liao dynasty. In 1125, Jin troops captured the Emperor Tianzuo of Liao with help from the Song dynasty, who encouraged the Jin dynasty in the hope of gaining territories they lost to the Liao before. Remnants of the Liao imperial clan fled to Central Asia, where they established the Western Liao dynasty. Many of them were forced to surrender to the Jin dynasty.
The House Yi of Inju married women to the kings from the time of Munjong to the 17th King, Injong. Eventually the House of Yi gained more power than the monarch himself. This led to the coup of Yi Ja-gyeom in 1126. It failed, but the power of the monarch was weakened; Goryeo underwent a civil war among the nobility.
Goryeo becomes a vassal state to the Jurchen Jin Dynasty
1126 Jan 1 -
Kaesong, North Korea
in 1125 Jin annihilated Liao, which was Goryeo's suzerain, and started invasion of Song. In response to the circumstantial changes, Goryeo declared itself to be a tributary state of Jin in 1126. After that, peace was maintained and Jin never actually did invade Goryeo.
1135 Jan 1 -
Pyongyang, North Korea
During the reign of king Injong of Goryeo, Myo Cheong argued that Korea had become weakened by Confucian ideals. His views directly conflicted with Kim Bu-sik, a China-oriented Confucian scholar. On a broader scale, this represented the ongoing struggle between the Confucian and Buddhist elements in Korean society.
It was during this period an organized Jurchen state was putting pressure on Goryeo. The trouble with the Jurchens was partly due to Goryeo's underestimation of the newly established state and the ill treatment of its envoys (i.e. killing them and humiliating their corpse). Taking advantage of the situation, Myo Cheong purposed to attack the Jurchens and that moving the capital to Pyongyang would assure success.
Eventually, Myo Cheong led a rebellion against the government. He moved to Pyongyang, which at the time was called Seo-gyeong (西京, “Western Capital”), and declared the establishment his new state of Daewi. According to Myo Cheong, Kaesong was "depleted of virtue." This made Pyongyang the ideal location for the supposed dynastic revival.
In the end, the rebellion was crushed by the scholar-general Kim Bu-sik.
Samguk sagi is a historical record of the Three Kingdoms of Korea: Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla. The Samguk sagi is written in Classical Chinese, the written language of the literati of ancient Korea, and its compilation was ordered by King Injong of Goryeo and undertaken by the government official and historian Kim Busik (金富軾) and a team of junior scholars. Completed in 1145, it is well known in Korea as the oldest surviving chronicle of Korean history.
In 1170, a group of army officers led by Jeong Jung-bu, Yi Ui-bang and Yi Go launched a coup d'état and succeeded. King Uijong went into exile and King Myeongjong was placed on the throne. Effective power, however, lay with a succession of generals who used an elite guard unit known as the Tobang to control the throne: military rule of Goryeo had begun. In 1179, the young general Gyeong Dae-seung rose to power and began an attempt to restore the full power of the monarch and purge the corruption of the state.
Choe entered the military, like his father, and was a colonel until he reached age 35, when he became a general. He joined the War Council at age 40. Choe served under the military dictators during the reign of King Myeongjong. When the last of these dictators, Yi Ui-min, was ruling, Choe and his brother Choe Chung-su (최충수) led their private armies and defeated Yi and the War Council. Choe then replaced the weak Myeongjong with King Sinjong, Myeongjong's younger brother.
For the next 61 years, the Choe house ruled as military dictators, maintaining the Kings as puppet monarchs; Choe Chung-heon was succeeded in turn by his son Choe U, his grandson Choe Hang and his great-grandson Choe Ui.
In 1231, Ögedei Khan ordered the invasion of Korea. The experienced Mongol army was placed under the command of General Saritai. The Mongol army crossed the Yalu river and quickly secured the surrender of the border town of Uiju. The Mongols were joined by Hong Bok-won, a traitor Goryeo general. Choe Woo mobilized as many soldiers as possible into an army consisting largely of infantry, where it fought the Mongols at both Anju and Kuju (modern-day Kusong). The Mongols took Anju; however, they were forced to retreat after the Siege of Kuju. Elements of the Mongol army reached as far as Chungju in the central Korean peninsula; however, their advance was halted by a slave army led by Ji Gwang-su where his army fought to the death. Realizing that with the fall of the capital Goryeo was unable to resist the Mongol invaders, Goryeo sued for peace.
There were six major campaigns: 1231, 1232, 1235, 1238, 1247, 1253; between 1253 and 1258, the Mongols under Möngke Khan's general Jalairtai Qorchi launched four devastating invasions against Korea at tremendous cost to civilian lives throughout the Korean peninsula.
The origin of soju dates back to the 13th century Goryeo, when the Levantine distilling technique was introduced to the Korean Peninsula during the Mongol invasions of Korea (1231–1259), by the Yuan Mongols who had acquired the technique of distilling arak from the Persians during their invasions of the Levant, Anatolia, and Persia. The distilleries were set up around the city of Gaegyeong, the then capital (current Kaesong). In the surrounding areas of Kaesong, soju is still called arak-ju (아락주). Andong soju, the direct root of modern South Korean soju varieties, started as the home-brewed liquor developed in the city of Andong, where the Yuan Mongol's logistics base was located during this era.
In 1232, Choe Woo, the then military dictator of Goryeo, against the pleas of both King Gojong and many of his senior civil officials, ordered the Royal Court and most of Gaesong's population to be moved from Songdo to Ganghwa Island in the Bay of Gyeonggi, and started the construction of significant defenses to prepare for the Mongol threat. Choe Woo exploited the Mongols' primary weakness, fear of the sea. The government commandeered every available ship and barge to transport supplies and soldiers to Ganghwa Island. The evacuation was so sudden that King Kojong himself had to sleep in a local inn on the island. The government further ordered the common people to flee the countryside and take shelter in major cities, mountain citadels, or nearby offshore islands. Ganghwa Island itself was a strong defensive fortress. Smaller fortresses were built on the mainland side of the island and a double wall was also built across the ridges of Mt. Munsusan.
The Mongols protested the move and immediately launched a second attack. The Mongol army was led by a traitor from Pyongyang called Hong Bok-won and the Mongols occupied much of northern Korea. Although they reached parts of the southern peninsula as well, the Mongols failed to capture Ganghwa Island, which was only a few miles from shore, and were repelled in Gwangju. The Mongol general there, Saritai (撒禮塔), was killed by the monk Kim Yun-hu (김윤후) amidst strong civilian resistance at the Battle of Cheoin near Yongin, forcing the Mongols to withdraw again.
Sangjeong yemun was published with movable metal type between 1234 and 1241. Yi Gyu-bo wrote postscript on behalf of Choi Yi which show how this book was published with movable metal type. Goryeo kingdom records indicate that a major printing effort, the 50 volume Sangjeong Gogeum Yemun (Prescribed Ritual Text of the Past and Present) was printed with cast metal around the 21st Year of reign of King Gojong of the Goryeo dynasty (around 1234 AD). Another major publication, Nammyongcheonhwasang - Songjungdoga (Sermons of Song period Buddhist Priest Nammyongvhon) was printed with cast metal type in the 26th Year of the reign of king Gojong (1239 AD).
The Tripiṭaka Koreana is a Korean collection of the Tripiṭaka (Buddhist scriptures, and the Sanskrit word for "three baskets"), carved onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks in the 13th century. It is the world's most comprehensive and oldest intact version of Buddhist canon in Hanja script, with no known errors or errata in the 52,330,152 characters which are organized in over 1496 titles and 6568 volumes. Each wood block measures 24 centimeters in height and 70 centimeters in length. The thickness of the blocks ranges from 2.6 to 4 centimeters and each weighs about three to four kilograms. The woodblocks would be almost as tall as Mount Baekdu at 2.74 km if stacked and would measure 60 km long if lined up, and weigh 280 tons in total. The woodblocks are in pristine condition without warping or deformation despite being created more than 750 years ago.
The Mongols later learned that top Goryeo officials remained on Ganghwa Island, and had punished those who negotiated with the Mongols. Between 1253 and 1258, the Mongols under Jalairtai launched four devastating invasions in the final successful campaign against Korea.
Möngke realized that the hostage was not the blood prince of the Goryeo Dynasty. So Möngke blamed the Goryeo court for deceiving him and killing the family of Lee Hyeong, who was a pro-Mongol Korean general. Möngke' commander Jalairtai devastated much of Goryeo and took 206,800 captives in 1254. Famine and despair forced peasants to surrender to the Mongols.
in September 1255, Mongke Khan once again sent a large army along with Prince Yeongnyeong and Hong Bok-won, who had been taken hostage by Jalaltai as the captain, and gathered at Gapgot Daedan (甲串岸) and showed momentum to attack Ganghwa Island. However, Kim Sugang (金守剛), who had just gone to Mongolia, succeeded in persuading Mongke Khan, and the Mongols withdrew from Goryeo.
In March 1258, the dictator Choe Ui was assassinated by Kim Jun. Thus, dictatorship by his military group was ended, and the scholars who had insisted on peace with Mongolia gained power. Goryeo was never conquered by the Mongols, but exhausted after decades of fighting, Goryeo sent Crown Prince Wonjong to the Yuan capital to swear allegiance to the Mongols; Kublai Khan accepted, and married one of his daughters to the Korean crown prince. Khubilai, who became khan of the Mongols and emperor of China in 1260, did not impose direct rule over most of Goryeo. Goryeo Korea, in contrast to Song China, was treated more like an Inner Asian power. The dynasty was allowed to survive, and intermarriage with Mongols was encouraged.
The Sambyeolcho Rebellion (1270–1273) was a Korean rebellion against the Goryeo dynasty that happened at the last stage of the Mongol invasions of Korea. It was suppressed by Goryeo and the Yuan dynasty. After the rebellion, Goryeo became a vassal state of the Yuan dynasty.
After 1270 Goryeo became a semi-autonomous client state of the Yuan dynasty. The Mongols and the Kingdom of Goryeo tied with marriages and Goryeo became quda (marriage alliance) vassal of the Yuan dynasty for about 80 years and monarchs of Goryeo were mainly imperial sons in-law (khuregen). The two nations became intertwined for 80 years as all subsequent Korean kings married Mongol princesses.
In 1266, Kublai Khan dispatched emissaries to Japan demanding for Japan to become a vassal and send tribute under a threat of conflict. However, the emissaries returned empty-handed. The second set of emissaries were sent in 1268 and returned empty-handed like the first.
The Yuan invasion force set off from Korea on 2 November 1274. Two days later they began landing on Tsushima Island. The Yuan fleet crossed the sea and landed in Hakata Bay on 19 November. By morning, most of the Yuan ships had disappeared. According to a Japanese courtier in his diary entry for 6 November 1274, a sudden reverse wind from the east blew back the Yuan fleet. A few ships were beached and some 50 Yuan soldiers and sailors were captured and executed. According to the History of Yuan, "a great storm arose and many warships were dashed on the rocks and destroyed." It is not certain whether the storm occurred at Hakata or if the fleet had already set sail for Korea and encountered it on their way back. Some accounts offer casualty reports that suggest 200 ships were lost. Of the 30,000 strong invasion force, 13,500 did not return.
Orders for the second invasion came in the first lunar month of 1281. Two fleets were prepared, a force of 900 ships in Korea and 3,500 ships in Southern China with a combined force of 142,000 soldiers and sailors.
On 15 August, a great typhoon, known in Japanese as kamikaze, struck the fleet at anchor from the west and devastated it. Sensing the oncoming typhoon, Korean and south Chinese mariners retreated and unsuccessfully docked in Imari Bay, where they were destroyed by the storm. Thousands of soldiers were left drifting on pieces of wood or washed ashore. The Japanese defenders killed all those they found except for the Southern Chinese, who they felt had been coerced into joining the attack on Japan.
According to a Korean source, of the 26,989 Koreans who set out with the Eastern Route fleet, 7,592 did not return. Chinese and Mongol sources indicate a casualty rate of 60 to 90 percent.
Korea, which was in charge of shipbuilding for the invasion, also lost its ability to build ships and its ability to defend the sea since a large amount of lumber was cut down. Later, taking advantage of the situation, the number of Japanese joining the wokou began to increase, and attacks on the coasts of China and Korea intensified.
Samguk yusa or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms is a collection of legends, folktales and historical accounts relating to the Three Kingdoms of Korea (Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla), as well as to other periods and states before, during and after the Three Kingdoms period. It is the earliest extant record of the Dangun legend, which records the founding of Gojoseon as the first Korean nation.
Empress Gi was born in Haengju, Goryeo to a lower-ranked aristocratic family of bureaucrats. In 1333, the teenage Lady Gi was among the concubines sent to Yuan by the Goryeo kings, who had to provide a certain number of beautiful teenage girls to serve as concubines of the Mongol Emperors once every three years. It was considered prestigious to marry Goryeo women. Extremely beautiful and skilled at dancing, conversation, singing, poetry, and calligraphy, Lady Gi quickly became the favorite concubine of Toghon Temür.
In 1339, when Lady Gi gave birth to a son, whom Toghon Temür decided would be his successor, he was finally able to have Lady Gi named as his secondary wife in 1340. Toghon Temür increasingly lost interest in governing as his reign went on. During this time power was increasingly exercised by a politically and economically talented Lady Gi. Lady Gi's older brother Gi Cheol was appointed the commander of the Mongol Eastern Field Headquarters—making him in effect the real ruler of Goryeo—owing to her influence. and she closely monitored Goryeo affairs.
Depending on Lady Gi's position in the imperial capital, her elder brother Gi Cheol came to threaten the position of the king of Goryeo, which was a client state of the Mongols. King Gongmin of Goryeo exterminated the Gi family in a coup in 1356 and became independent of the Yuan. Lady Gi responded by selecting Tash Temür as the new king of Goryeo and dispatched troops to Goryeo. However, the Mongol troops were defeated by the army of Goryeo while attempting to cross the Yalu River.
The Goryeo dynasty survived under the Yuan until King Gongmin began to push the Mongolian garrisons of the Yuan back in the 1350s. By 1356 Goryeo regained its lost northern territories.
When King Gongmin ascended to the throne, Goryeo was under the influence of the Mongol Yuan China. When King Gongmin ascended to the throne, Goryeo was under the influence of the Mongol Yuan China. His first act was to remove all pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officers from their positions. Mongols had annexed the northern provinces of Goryeo after the invasions and incorporated them into their empire as the Ssangseong and Dongnyeong Prefectures. The Goryeo army retook these provinces partly thanks to defection from Yi Jachun, a minor Korean official in service of Mongols in Ssangseong, and his son Yi Seonggye.
During this tumultuous period, Goryeo momentarily conquered Liaoyang in 1356, repulsed two large invasions by the Red Turbans in 1359 and 1360, and defeated the final attempt by the Yuan to dominate Goryeo when General Choe Yeong defeated an invading Mongol tumen in 1364.
In December 1359, part of the Red Turban army moved their base to the Liaodong Peninsula. However, they were experiencing a shortage of war materials and lost their withdrawal route to Chinese mainland. The Red Turban army led by Mao Ju-jing invaded Goryeo and took the city of Pyongyang. In January 1360, the Goryeo army led by An U and Yi Bang-sil retook Pyongyang and the northern region which had been captured by the enemy. Of the Red Turban army that had crossed the Yalu River, only 300 troops returned to Liaoning after the war.
In November 1360, the Red Turban troops invaded again Goryeo's northwest border with 200,000 troops and they occupied Gaegyeong, the capital of Goryeo, for a short period, King Gongmin escaped to Andong. However, Generals Choe Yeong, Yi Seonggye (later Taejo of Joseon), Jeong Seun and Yi Bang-sil repulsed the Red Turban army. Sha Liu and Guan Xiansheng, who were Red Turban generals, were killed in the battles. The Goryeo army continually chased their enemy and cleared them from the Korean Peninsula.
The Wokou were also a problem encountered during King Gongmin's reign. The Wokou had been troubling the peninsula for some time and had become well-organized military marauders raiding deep into the country, rather than the "hit-and-run" bandits they started as. Generals Choi Young and Yi Seong-gye were called upon by King Gongmin to combat them.
According to Korean records, wako pirates were particularly rampant roughly from 1350. After almost annual invasions of the southern provinces of Jeolla and Gyeongsang, they migrated northwards to the Chungcheong and Gyeonggi areas. The History of Goryeo has a record of sea battles in 1380 whereby one hundred warships were sent to Jinpo to rout Japanese pirates there, releasing 334 captives, Japanese sorties decreasing then after. The wako pirates were effectively expelled through the use of gunpowder technology, which the wako then lacked, after Goryeo founded the Office of Gunpowder Weapons in 1377 (but abolished twelve years later).
In 1388, King U (son of King Gongmin and a concubine) and general Choe Yeong planned a campaign to invade present-day Liaoning of China. King U put the general Yi Seong-gye (later Taejo) in charge, but he stopped at the border and rebelled.
Goryeo fell to General Yi Seong-gye, a son of Yi Ja-chun, who put to death the last three Goryeo kings, usurped the throne and established in 1392 the Joseon dynasty.
- The kingdom oversaw an unprecedented flourishing in culture and arts with developments in architecture, ceramics, printing, and papermaking.
- The kingdom was repeatedly invaded by the Mongols in the 13th century and thereafter became less independent and more culturally influenced by their northern neighbours.
- Koryo is the origin of modern Korea's English name.
- Buddhism was directly responsible for the development of printing for it was to spread Buddhist literature that woodblock printing improved and then movable metal type was invented in 1234.
General / Joseon Founder
Taejo of Goryeo
Kim, Jinwung (2012), A History of Korea: From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict, Indiana University Press, ISBN 9780253000248
Lee, Kang Hahn (2017), "Koryŏ's Trade with the Outer World", Korean Studies, 41 (1): 52–74, doi:10.1353/ks.2017.0018, S2CID 164898987
Lee, Peter H. (2010), Sourcebook of Korean Civilization: Volume One: From Early Times to the 16th Century, Columbia University Press, ISBN 9780231515290
Seth, Michael J. (2010), A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 9780742567177
Yuk, Jungim (2011), "The Thirty Year War between Goryeo and the Khitans and the International Order in East Asia", Dongbuga Yeoksa Nonchong (in Korean) (34): 11–52, ISSN 1975-7840
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