A Glance at the Korean History: Historical Significance of Buyeo State
A Glance at the Korean History: Historical Significance of Buyeo State
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2007.04.02 00:00
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For Koreans, the Ancient Kingdom of Goguryeo is more than a historical relic. Korean people consider it one of their grandest ancestral kingdoms. It was the first and the largest of Korea’s three kingdoms and so became a pillar of Korean identity. Goguryeo has come into the spotlight in the middle of the ongoing historical dispute between Korea and China which started when China claimed Goguryeo was part of Chinese history. The founder of Goguryeo was Jumong. King Jumong is nowadays the most famous historical figure among Korean people thanks to a recently broadcasted popular TV drama on his story. Furthermore the drama informed people that Jumong was born and grew up in Buyeo. Accordingly, it broadened Korean people’s interest far into Buyeo as origin of Goguryeo.


Buyeo emerged in the flatlands of the Sungari river basin in Manchuria. The first clear reference to Buyeo concerns events of about the fourth century B.C., and from the beginning of the first century A.D. the name appears frequently in the historical records. By this time Buyeo had grown in power to the point as a potential menace to Wang Mang’s brief dynasty (8-23 A.D.) This indicates that by now Buyeo had succeeded in forming a confederated kingdom. On the whole the relationship between Buyeo and China remained close. But when the Chinese Chin Kingdom was driven south by the nomadic tribes to its north in 316, Buyeo found itself isolated and exposed. Within little more than a half century Buyeo had passed under the protection of Goguryeo. Subsequently, with the rise of the Malgal people in northeastern Manchuria, the Buyeo royal house was driven from its ancient territory and surrendered itself to Goguryeo.


Buyeo failed to develop into the stage of Ancient Kingdom and disappeared in history. However, Buyeo holds special significance in Korean history. Two of the Three Ancient Kingdoms had a connection with Buyeo. Legend has it that Goguryeo was founded in 37 B.C. by Jumong and a band of his followers from Buyeo, in a region thought to be centered on the middle Yalu and T’ung-chia river basin. King Jumong came from Buyeo and at the same time, started the nation inside the territory of Buyeo. This proves that Goguryeo, the strongest Korean Ancient Kingdom was the product of the joint efforts of the Buyeo people. The Chinese history book, “Samgukji” wrote that Goguryeo was another part of Buyeo and so had points in common with it culturally. This means Goguryeo was a branch of Buyeo.


Baekje was another member of the three kingdoms which was located in the Han River basin. There is proof that Baekje succeeded Buyeo. Baekje was established by King Onjo, the son of Jumong who came from Goguryeo. Baekje’s royal house adopted “Buyeo” as their royal surname. In the sixth century, Baekje was renamed “South Buyeo.” This means that Baekje royal court thought they were descendents of Buyeo.


Buyeo existed as a national entity for a long time, but was finally annexed as a part of Goguryeo. However we must pay attention to the history of Buyeo since two major Korean Ancient Kingdoms, Baekje and Goguryeo had their origins in Buyeo. In short, Buyeo was the source of Korean Ancient Kingdoms and so its history is special to Korean people. 


By Sohn Jung-sook, lecturer on Korean History at Ewha

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