The Great King Taejo 태조 고려국 (KimNamGil김남길 Dream series&flim)December 19, 2010
Taejo of Goryeo Background
Taejo Wang Geon (왕건 태조) was born in 877 and was a descendant of a merchant family at Songdo (present-day Kaesŏng), who controlled trade on the Yeseong River. His father, Wang Ryung (왕륭, 王隆), gained much wealth from trade with China. His ancestors were known to have lived within ancient Goguryeo boundaries, thus making Wang Geon a man of Goguryeo by descent.
Taejo began his career in the turbulent Later Three Kingdoms period (후삼국 시대; 後三國時代). In the later years of Silla, many local leaders and bandits rebelled against the rule of Queen Jinsung, who did not have strong leadership or policy to improve the condition of the people. Among those rebels, Gung Ye (궁예; 弓裔) of northwestern region and Gyeon Hwon (견훤; 甄萱) of southwest gained more power. They defeated and absorbed much of the other rebellion group as their troops marched against local Silla officials and bandits. In 895, Gung Ye led his forces into the far northwestern part of Silla, where Songdo was located. Wang Yung, along with many other local clans, quickly surrendered to Gung Ye. Wang Geon followed his father into service under Gung Ye, the future leader of Taebong, and he began his service under Gungye’s command.
Wang Geon’s ability as a military commander was soon recognized by Gung Ye, who promoted him to general and even regarded him as his brother. In 900, he led a successful campaign against local clans and army of Later Baekje in Chungju area, gaining more fame and recognition from the king. In 903, he led a famous naval campaign against the southwestern coastline of Hubaekje, while Gyeon Hwon was at war against Silla. He led several more military campaigns, and also helped conquered people who lived in poverty under Silla rule. Public favored him due to his leadership and generosity.
In 913, he was appointed as prime minister of the newly renamed Taebong. Its king, Gung Ye, whose leadership helped foundation of the kingdom but began to refer himself as the Buddha, began to persecute people who expressed their opposition against his religious arguments. He executed many monks, then later even his own wife and two sons, and the public began to turn away from him. His costly rituals and harsh rule caused even more opposition.
In 918, four top-ranked generals of Taebong — Hong Yu (홍유; 洪儒), Bae Hyeongyeong (배현경; 裵玄慶), Shin Sung-gyeom (신숭겸; 申崇謙) and Bok Jigyeom (복지겸; 卜智謙)—met secretly and agreed to overthrow Gungye’s rule and crown Wang Kon as their new king. Wang first opposed the idea but later agreed to their plan. At the same year Gung Ye was overthrown and killed near his capital, Cheorwon. When Gung Ye was assassinated in 918, the generals selected him to be the new king of this short-lived state. Wang was crowned king and renamed the kingdom Koryo, thus beginning Koryo Dynasty. The next year he moved the capital back to his hometown, Gaegyeong.
He promoted Buddhism as national religion, and called for the reconquest of northern part of Korea and Manchuria, which was controlled by Balhae. Balhae’s rule over vast region of Manchuria and parts of Siberia was overthrowned by Khitan invasion in 926, and the majority of its people came to Goryeo as refugees led by Balhae’s last Crown Prince Dae Gwang-hyeon. Taejo accepted them as his citizens, since Balhae and Goryeo came from common ancestry of Goguryeo, and captured the old, then abandoned capital city of Goguryeo, P’yŏngyang. He also sought for alliance and cooperation with local clans rather than trying to conquer and bring them under his direct control. The Goryeo Dynasty or Koryŏ (Officially the Kingdom of Goryeo) (918-1392) was a Korean sovereign state established in 918 by Emperor Taejo. Korea gets its name from this kingdom which became to be pronounced Korea. It united the Later Three Kingdoms in 936 and ruled most of the Korean peninsula until it was removed by the Joseon dynasty in 1392. Goryeo expanded its borders to present-day Wonsan in the north-east (936~943) and the Amnok River (993) and finally almost the whole of the Korean peninsula (1374).
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