[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.4] The 1,100th Anniversary of The Founding of Goryeo and GyeongGi Millennium

The year 2018 marks the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo (918-1392). The same year also marks the 1,000th anniversary of naming the province GyeongGi in 1018 (9th year of King Hyeonjong). That is why the year is meaningful. Goreyo was the second Korean dynasty to unify the Korean Peninsula after Silla. Goryeo’s unification of the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea led to the Korean Peninsula’s unification of about 1,000 years, until it was divided 70 years ago. The Goryeo dynasty’s unification of the Later Three Kingdoms is very meaningful. That is because Korea’s current difficulties, which are characterized by North Korea’s nuclear armament and South Korea’s attempt to prevent war in the Korean Peninsula, have been generated since Korea’s failure to become a unified nation after its liberation from Japanese colonization. In 1018 (9th year of King Hyeonjong) or the 100th anniversary of Goryeo, the war between Goryeo and the Khitan, Goryeo’s biggest crisis which had lasted for about 30 years, finally ended, thus serving as a new turning point for the kingdom of Goryeo. It was in that year Goryeo combined its capital Gaegyeong and its surrounding area to designated it as a special administrative area called GyeongGi. It is thus very important to celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo and the 1,000th anniversary of the province’s name GyeongGi and to reflect on this occasion’s historical meaningfulness next year.


Meaningfulness of the 1,100th Anniversary of the Founding of Goryeo The Korean Peninsula’s first unified kingdom was Silla which unified the Three Kingdoms in 668. However, as Gyeon Hwon and Gung Ye founded kingdoms in 892 and 901 respectively, the Peninsula’s first unified kingdom had to face its de facto collapse in about 220 years. The Peninsula then ushered in the period of the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea. Silla, the Peninsula’s first unified kingdom, formed a government focused on the aristocracy and ignored the abundant human and cultural resources of Goguryeo and Baekje. As a result, Silla began to suffer from serious division and conflict among its people in less than 100years after its unification of the Peninsula. Silla then had to pay the great cost of its failure to maintain its unified kingdom through a 50-year war intended to unify the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea after the founding of Later Baekje.


On the other hand, Goryeo unified the Korean Peninsula in a process different from that of Silla and after unification, the former was run in a way different from that of the latter. What was the secret behind Goryeo’s victory over the war among the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea? What was Goryeo’s driving force behind its maintaining the dynasty for 500 years? Goryeo’s tradition characterized by open-mindedness, dynamism, integration and tolerance served as the driving force behind the Korean Peninsula’s 1,000-year-old unified kingdom that lasted until the fall of Joseon. This tradition has been passed on to today’s Republic of Korea and it needs to be developed further so that Korea’s future generations can also enjoy it.


What was the origin of such a powerful tradition formed by the Goryeo dynasty? Taejo Wang Geon acknowledged the autonomy of small kingdoms’ monarchs and collaborated with them to found a new kingdom. Such a tolerance policy of harmony, compromise and coexistence with local clans helped Goryeo overcome the aftereffects of the war. Goryeo adopted such a policy of tolerance and integration based on compromise and coexistence after reflecting on the failure of Unified Silla which was a “winner-takes-all” kingdom dominated by the aristocracy. Silla’s failure also gives a lesson to today’s Korea. The kingdom of Goryeo was also characterized by the harmonious coexistence of different beliefs including Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and feng shui. On the cultural front, Goryeo enjoyed splendid cultural blossoms thanks to its capital’s sophisticated culture (e.g. celadon and metal movable type) and its dynamic local culture (e.g. iron and stone statues of Buddha). In short, Goryeo embraced and integrated the ancient Three Kingdom’s diverse beliefs and cultures and as a result, it was able to maintain the kingdom for a thousand years. Goryeo also opened its market actively by encouraging the kingdom’s international trade, thus letting the West know the country’s name “Korea” for the first time. Goryeo also recruited as its civil servants any talents necessary for the kingdom, regardless of their nationality or clan. Among the Korean Peninsula’s ancient kingdoms, Goryeo was theonly one to recruit a foreigner as its prime minister. In other words, Goryeo believed that an open-minded attitude would bring powerful and positive effects. Indeed, Goryeo’s society was so dynamic that during the Goryeo period, those from lower classes raised their status and engaged in political activities more actively than during any other historical period in Korea.


To summarize, Goryeo’s protoplasm or DNA was composed of open-mindedness, dynamism, integration and tolerance which constituted its pluralist society. Such a tradition of Goryeo also serves and will serve as the great assets of the Republic of Korea. Because today’s Korea still treasures Goryeo’s tradition of open-mindedness and dynamism, Korea is successfully ushering in human history’s great turning point called the fourth Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, Goryeo’s policy of tolerance and integration, which consisted in overcoming the division and conflict generated by the war of the Later Three Kingdoms of Korea and in achieving social integration, will serve as a great model for the future reunification of the Korean Peninsula.


A Thousand Years after Naming GyeongGi The year 2018 marks the Millennium of naming GyeongGi-do Province. Korea cancelled the former administrative unit called Gaeseong-bu with its 13 prefectures. It then dispatched a governor to each of Gaeseong and Jangdan which came to be directly managed by the central government. Afterward, the country added ten prefectures in the vicinity to these areas. It then called these areas and Songak County, where the king and royal family lived, GyeongGi. The name GyeongGi was given for the first time in 1018 (9th year of King Hyeonjong).


The year 1018 marked the centennial anniversary of the founding of Goryeo. That year saw quite a few events to be remembered in Goryeo’s history. For example, with his 200,000 troops, Goryeo’s military commander Gang Gam-chan defeated the Khitan’s 100,000 troops led by So Son-nyeong, thus putting an end to the war between the two kingdoms that had lasted for about 30 years after the first invasion of the Khitan in 993 (12th year of King Seongjong). It was the moment when Goryeo’s greatest crisis finally ended.


That year, the area around Gaegyeong, where the king and his royal family lived, was integrated into GyeongGi-do Province. In addition, the kingdom reorganized its entire local administrative system. To be more specific, the kingdom ran a local administrative institution called Doho-bu in each of its four major strategic points. It also designated its eight large cities as moks. It also added subordinate administrative units such as counties and prefectures as well as military units. Afterward, the kingdom came to have five circuits in the south of Gaegyeong (Seohae, Gyoju, Yanggwang, Jeolla and Gyeongsang) as well as two boundary regions in the north and east. Such a system composed of GyeongGi-do Province, five additional circuits and two boundary regions continued to be the Goryeo’s local administrative framework until it adopted a system of eight provinces during the early Joseon period.


Goryeo’s capital region ‘GyeongGi’, which was designated during the Goryeo period, used to serve as a strategic point defending the royal family and the entire dynasty. On the economic front, GyeongGi-do Province was under the direct control of the central government so the Province’s production and labor formed an economic basis maintaining the ruling class. Moreover, the Province played the role of the royal family’s arms and legs, thus connecting the kingdom’s local areas, royal family and central government. Since Joseon dynasty GyeongGi-do province was differentiated from the capital Hanseong-bu and also was one of 8 provinces as a local administration unit. In other words, GyeongGi-do Province during the Goryeo period was different in nature from the one in Joseon.


Meaningfulness of GyeongGi Millennium What is then the meaningfulness of GyeongGi Millennium? First, Goryeo was invaded by the Khitan and its capital Gaegyeong fell to the enemy. The damage was so great that King Hyeonjong (Reign: 1009-1031) had to take refuge in Gongju, Jeonju and Naju. After the battle with the Khitan, Goryeo needed to take military and economic measures to defend and protect the capital Gaegyeong accommodating the ruling class including the king, royal family and government officials. It was under these circumstances that GyeongGi-do Province was designated as the refuge of the royal family and Court. In 1020 (11th year of King Hyeonjong), the kingdom started building an outer fortification system around the capital Gaegyeong and completed it in 1029 (20th year of King Hyeon jong). The crisis of war led to changes in the capital Gaegyeong and to the designation of capital region ‘GyeongGi’ as a special administrative unit to function as the refuge of the royal family and the Court.


Choe Chung, the greatest scholar of the early Goryeo period, led the founding of private schools in Goryeo and revived the rule of letters at the government. Consequently, he was acclaimed and called “Confucius of Korea.” Choe had a firsthand experience of the peaceful times led by King Hyeonjong. As the king learned a lesson from the battle with the Khitan and put an end to the kingdom’s crisis, Choe expressed his esteem for the king, calling him a “Monarch of renaissance.” The designation of GyeongGi-do Province as the capital area in 1018 (9th year of King Hyeonjong) symbolizes the kingdom’s process of overcoming its greatest crisis in 100 years after its founding and bringing a renaissance to the dynasty.


Second, GyeongGi was also a home to political leaders of the early Goryeo period. The area surrounding the capital and GyeongGi-do Province is called geunggi which means an area close to the capital and capital region. It could also refer to a wider area. Classifying those of the ruling class during the early Goryeo period into their ancestors’ hometowns, about 60% of them were from the geunggi area. It is true that during the late Goryeo period, those from Gyeongsang, Chungcheong and Jeolla circuits accounted for 70 or 80% of those selected as civil servants, thus resulting in great changes in the ruling class. However, before the late Goryeo period, those from the geunggi area dominated the government.


After the battle with Khitan, those from the geunggi area emerged as political leaders. During the early Goryeo period, the kingdom was led by those who rearranged the kingdom’s framework by adopting China’s advanced systems including the test selecting civil servants and the system of government officials. Such political leaders included Choi Seungno, Choi Ryang, Yi Mongyu, Kim Simeon and Choi Jimong. They were high ranking Confucian government officials from Silla and Later Baekje. As the kingdom didn’t change its political direction even after the Khitan’s invasion, the government lost popularity. Those from the geunggi area then emerged as new political leaders: Park Yangyu, Seo Hui, Yi Jibaek and Han Eongong. Meanwhile, some of the government officials suggested that Goryeo give the Khitan part of the kingdom’s land to surrender itself. Despite their suggestion, those from the geunggi area won popularity by reviving traditional events such as Palgwanhwe(Festival of Eight Vows) to secure the area linked to the Yalu River. In this way, they led the battle with the Khitan and the kingdom’s renaissance. The kingdom designated GyeongGi-do Province as the capital region around that time. The officials from the geunggi area would have taken the lead in the designation of the province.


In the middle of the Goryeo period, these officials from the capital region formed the noble class and they led the cultural blossom during the early Goryeo period. In particular, Kim Eun-bu, who belongs to the Ansan Kim clan, sent his two daughters to the royal family as both of them became King Hyeonjong’s wives. It was the kingdom’s first case of having those who have a different family name as the royal family’s relatives. The two queens gave birth to Deokjong, Jeongjong and Munjong who served as kings in the heyday of Goryeo. Munjong married three daughters of Yi Ja-yeon from the Inju Lee clan. His first daughter Inye-wanghu gave birth to three kings (Sunjong, Seonjong and Sukjong) and Buddhist monk Uicheon. The Inju Lee clan maintained their status as the greatest noble family of the early Goryeo period, giving birth to seven kings through three generations reaching Lee Ja-kyum.


Third, what is the meaning of the fact that those from the geunggi area dominated the political scene? It is true that there emergence didn’t mean Confucian government officials’ retreat. That was because Confucianism was still an important belief that accelerated the adoption of China’s advanced systems, empowering royal authority and bringing new systems to the dynasty. As those from the geunggi area emerged as political leaders, national or local customs came to draw attention again. Such customs were mainly about traditional beliefs that were popular just before and after the founding of Goryeo: Buddhism, Taoism, emphasis of one’s mother’s side and feng shui. In other words, the appearance of officials from the geunggi area resulted in the diversification of the kingdom’s beliefs and cultures; they didn’t allow one single belief or culture to dominate the kingdom so they contributed to widening the spectrum of Goryeo’s cultures and beliefs.


In particular, celadon, lacquerware inlaid with mother-of-pearl, the Buddhist Tripitaka, printing techniques and paper, which represent the culture of the early Goryeo period, were produced to fulfill the cultural desire and demand of Goryeo’s noble class. These products are comparable to today’s products made of cutting-edge new materials; they were acclaimed even by other East Asian countries including the Song dynasty, the Khitan and the Jurchen. GyeongGi-do Province was a center of different production sites not only for the Buddhist Tripitaka and lacquerware but also for earlier forms of celadon and paper. In particular, the Buddhist Tripitaka is cultural heritage combining knowledge and technology; it couldn’t have been produced without in-depth knowledge of Buddhism and printing techniques. High-quality cultural products cannot be made without the taste and demand of those who enjoy them. In that sense, the culture of the early Goryeo period couldn’t have been formed without the support of powerful families from the geunggi area who later formed the kingdom’s noble class. In short, the status of GyeongGi-do Province during the Goryeo period was very high.


Challenges of GyeongGi Millennium Celebrating the Millennium of GyeongGi-do Province, how should we reflect on the present and future of the Province? What should be the Province’s vision? I would like to suggest some answers to these questions. The vision of GyeongGi Millennium needs to be set in relation to the Province’s status during the Goryeo period. Just as Goryeo’s GyeongGi-do Province played a role of recruiting the ruling elite and serving as a cultural, military and economic center, today’s GyeongGi-do Province needs a vision of securing its status as a new center in the Republic of Korea.


First, the 2015 Report of the Round Table on the Future Vision provides the results of a survey on the image of GyeongGi-do Province. The survey’s respondents were residents of GyeongGi-do Province. According to the survey, GyeongGi-do Province mainly reminds them of the “Seoul Capital Area”, “diversity” and “satellite city.” Asked about the characteristics and strengths of the Province, they answered “location in the Seoul Capital Area” (37%), “large area” (13%), “both urban and rural areas” (11%), “location in the vicinity of North Korea and China” (6%), “abundant human resources and infrastructure” (6%) and “diversity” (6%). The largest number of them mentioned the “Seoul Capital Area” (satellite city) as the image or characteristics of GyeongGi-do Province. The 31 cities and counties that currently belong to GyeongGi-do Province are inseparable from the capital Seoul which has been saturated in diverse aspects including economy, transport, medical service and industrial production. Under these circumstances, GyeongGi-do Province is at risk of being reduced to Seoul’s satellite city or bed town rather than ensuring a complementary relationship characterized by symbiotic coexistence. Therefore, GyeongGi-do Province needs to come up with a new vision and status that could differentiate itself from the capital Seoul. the survey mentioned above shows that when asked about the image and characteristics of GyeongGi-do Province, the respondents’ second most frequent answer after the “Seoul Capital Area” was “Diversity” The content of the survey leads to inferring that “Diversity” could also include the following concepts: 1. Complex city which is the capital Seoul’s suburban area and which is a both urban and rural area. 2. Abundant industrial and tourism infrastructure. 3. Location sharing the border with North Korea. In this context, another challenge to be met by GyeongGi Millennium is to embrace all these different concepts of diversity to clarify the province’s identity and vision.


Second, a thousand years ago, GyeongGi-do Province was a center of culture and technology during the early Goryeo period. In the province was developed cutting-edge technology acclaimed by East Asian countries for the production of celadon, printed materials, paper and lacquerware. The website of GyeongGi-do Province (http://www.gg.go.kr/ggsymbol-brand) says that GyeongGi-do Province’s slogan is “Global Inspiration.” In addition, the province’s core strategies are “cutting-edge knowledge and technology” and “creative ideas and acts.” The province needs to further develop such strategies. Indeed, GyeongGi-do Province is a center of cutting-edge convergence technology, accommodating industrial facilities forming a basis of the fourth Industrial Revolution: Pangyo Techno Valley in Seongnam, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics in Suwon and Paju and semiconductor production site in Icheon. The area around GyeongGi-do Province is equipped with a logistic system including airports and ports that bring cutting-edge products all around the world. GyeongGi-do Province is a core area that builds the future of the Republic of Korea. Such characteristics are GyeongGi-do Province’s strengths that differentiate it from other local areas in Korea. The future vision of Gyeonggi Millennium is to come up with comprehensive and systematic strategies to develop cutting-edge convergence technology which is at the level of the one that was developed in Goryeo a thousand years ago.


Third, one of the notable points mentioned in the survey is the fact that most of GyeongGi-do Province’s territory shares the border with North Korea. The tensions and conflict between the two Koreas pose a great threat to GyeongGi-do Province. Thus, inter-Korean reconciliation and peace also constitute GyeongGi-do Province’s challenge. In fact, the province has made great efforts to meet this challenge and it needs to continue to play a crucial role in this matter. We now have an occasion to reflect on the history of Goryeo, which founded the Korean Peninsula’s de facto unified kingdom, and on the history of GyeongGi Millennium. Such reflection is very meaningful in that it also helps us seek reconciliation and peace between the two Koreas. From this perspective, another challenge of GyeongGi Millennium would be to set future strategies to take the initiative in contributing to inter-Korean reconciliation and peace with a more forward-looking attitude.


The Korean government has recently adopted a new item to its agenda: a project of rewriting the history of the Gaya confederacy whose territory existed in part of today’s Yeongnam and Honam areas. This is to ensure reconciliation between Korea’s eastern and western areas. It is great to add a historical item to the government’s policy agenda. However, reconciliation between the east and the west is a national issue which consists in healing the wounds of the Republic of Korea that were generated in its modern history after the division of the Korean Peninsula.


On the other hand, inter-Korean reconciliation, peace and integration constitute an international issue which involves the interests of world powers such as the US, China, Russia and Japan due to other relevant issues such as nuclear armaments. It is also an issue on which Koreans’ survival depends. This issue is all the more crucial because it is linked not only to GyeongGi-do Province’s future vision but also to the national interest of the Republic of Korea. In particular, reflection on the history of Goryeo, which founded a 1,000-year-old unified kingdom in the Korean Peninsula, is the most basic work necessary for inter-Korean reconciliation, peace and integration. Nevertheless, research on the history of Goryeo is still mediocre because it accounted only for 7% of the entire research on Korean history in 2015. Research on the Goryeo dynasty is as important as research on the history of Gaya. It is thus necessary to train new researchers who will study this field and to carry out in-depth research.


Promotion of the study on the history of Goryeo The Goryeo dynasty formed a tradition of pluralist society characterized by open-mindedness, integration and tolerance. Our historical challenge is thus to continue to enjoy this tradition and to pass it on to future generations. Not only researchers studying the history of Goryeo but also all Koreans need to care about reflecting on the historical meaning of the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo and GyeongGi Millennium. Meanwhile, powerful families from the geunggi area who later became Goryeo’s noblemen formed a real basis for the tradition of pluralist society. Their political, social and cultural capacity is GyeongGi Millennium’s heritage that it is proud of. GyeongGi-do Province’s challenge is thus to reflect on this heritage from a historical perspective in order to determine GyeongGi Millennium’s new vision and identity. The Korean government and GyeongGi-do Province need to actively support next year’s project celebrating the founding of Goryeo and GyeongGi Millennium.


Korean scholars specializing in historical studies are carrying out a five-year project of publishing a comprehensive sourcebook that includes centennial research on the history of Goryeo and new translations of metal epigraphs and documents dating from the Goryeo period. The sourcebook is scheduled to be published next year. They are also preparing a collaborative exhibition displaying the cultural heritage of the Goryeo dynasty housed by the two Koreas and an inter-Korean symposium shedding new light on Goryeo’s arts and culture from an academic point of view. Finally, they are planning a variety of academic events including nationwide lectures intended to help the public understand the true meaning of the founding of Goryeo.

#Bulletin #Bulletin Vol.4 #Cultural Policy #interview #GyeongGi Millennium #Goryeo

    • Writer/ Park Jong-ki, Emeritus Professor of Kookmin University

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    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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