The following is the second in a series of articles on China’s distortion of Korean history.
The second part deals with the Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) that occupied the northern part of the Korean Peninsula and northeastern region of China. _ ED.
Travel boycott to China: Demonstrators march down Chongno street, central Seoul, Wednesday, to protest China’s ‘Northeast Project,” which claims ancient Korean kingdoms were under Chinese rule.
The demonstrators urged China to be historically accurate and called on Koreans not to travel to China as long as the project continues.
I went there to look around Korean history but it felt like I was just seeing China’s sightseeing spots under the supervision of the Chinese authorities,” Kim Seon-ju, a 24-year-old college student, said.
She visited China last week to observe the remains of Koguryo, an ancient Korean kingdom, as a participant of a sponsored trip by a Seoul company. When she and other companions were about to put out the Korean flag to take a picture in front of the remains, Chinese guards came and cautioned them not to do it.
The situation was similar when they arrived at the Stele of Great King Kwanggaeto (375-413), who expanded Koguryo’s territory to its largest during his reign in the fifth century. They couldn’t even put out placards to promote the trip as Chinese officials warned tour guides.
“I heard from the guides that it is a taboo to ask in China to which nations Koguryo belonged. That means Koguryo-related issues are on thin ice,” Kim said.
Discord over ancient history between South Korea and China erupted in 2002 when China unveiled a research program on Northeast Asia which claims sovereignty over Korea’s ancient kingdoms.
On the Web site (http:chinaborderland.cass.cn) of the so-called “Northeast Project,” the Chinese insisted, “Koguryo was a part of ancient China, which lasted 700 years. It was a provincial government of ancient China.”
Mentioning the project, many teaching materials of universities and history textbooks carry the same insistence, the Dong-a Ilbo, a vernacular newspaper in South Korea, reported on Monday. Even guidelines at a museum in Jian, northeastern China, with the remains of Koguryo echoed the argument, saying that Chinese ethnic minorities founded Koguryo.
Ahn Byung-woo, a professor of Korean history at Hanshin University in Osan, Kyonggi Province, refutes Chinese scholars’ argument, by examining the relationship between Koguryo and the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).
Koryo is an archetype of the current name of Korea.
Chinese scholars have insisted that successive relationship didn’t exist between the two kingdoms. In other words, the Chinese say Koryo was a state constructed by current Koreans’ ancestors whereas Koguryo is part of China’s history founded by the forefathers of today’s Chinese, Ahn said.
“They argue that people have called both of them Koryo from ancient times but that is a misnomer which caused confusion,” the professor said.
Koguryo was founded in 37 B.C. and collapsed in 668, while Koryo started in 918 and fell in 1392.
“Even though it had a 250-year gap, Koryo was the successor kingdom of Koguryo,” Ahn continued.
The evidence is found in the conversation on the succession issue between General So Son-nyoung of the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) and Seo Hi, a Koryo diplomat, Ahn said.
The history dates back to 993 when troops of the Liao Dynasty invaded Koryo whose capital was located in Kaesong, now in North Korea. Kaesong was called Kaegyong at that time.
Saying Liao was occupying the territory of Koguryo, the general argued that Koryo had to return its land to Liao because Koryo originated from Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-935 A.D.) which was established below the Han River, now in Seoul. Then, Seo told the Chinese general that “Koryo succeeded Koguryo as its state name showed. So Liao had to hand over the territory of Koguryo to Koryo.”
Seo’s argument represents the general belief of the Koryo people at that time that they were the legitimate successor to Koguryo,” the professor went on.
The belief was completely reflected in the “Samguk Sagi,” a historical record of three kingdoms _ Paekje (18 B.C.-A.D. 660), Silla and Koguryo, he said.
The book was written by Kim Bu-sik (1075-1151), a famous scholar of Koryo. Lee Kyu-bo (1168-1241), another Koryo scholar, also dealt with the belief in his epic, titled “King Tongmyong.”
The work, written in 1193, describes the achievements of the king who founded Koguryo. On the other hand, history books written during the Chinese Song and Yuan dynasties classified Koguryo as well as Koryo into a category of foreign countries and admitted Koryo’s legitimacy, Ahn said.
Seo Kung, an envoy of the Song Dynasty mentioned that Koryo inherited Koguryo in his book “Koryo Tokyong,” a report on his visit to Koryo in 1123,” the professor said.
A history book, titled “Songsa,” of the Song Dynasty also begins with a chapter on Koryo, saying “Koryo originally was Koguryo,” and portrays its founding process.
The name “Koryo” is one of the most distinctive factors to testify it is the successor kingdom of Koguryo, he added. Wang Kon (877-943), the founding king of Koryo, decided his kingdom’s name was Koryo to signify that his new kingdom succeeded that of Koguryo, which had perished some 250 years earlier, historians said.
The founder of Koryo also drove a “Northward Policy” to recover the old territory of King Tongmyong and set Pyongyang, the old capital of Koguryo, as another capital of his kingdom. The capital was called “Sogyong” or western capital, according to historic records.
All of his efforts should be understood as public moves to declare the fact of his succession to Koguryo, Ahn said.
Some Chinese scholars have insisted that Wang Kon came from Silla but a range of records such as “Koryo Segye,” a lineage of the Koryo royal family written during the Koryo period, show that his ancestors were from the north, either Koguryo or the Palhae Kingdom (698-926) founded by the Koguryo people, Ahn argued.
With regard to China’s attempt to distort Korea’s ancient history, Kang Sun, a lecturer at the department of humanities of Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul, said it was to meet the possible collapse of the North Korean regime or unification of the Korean Peninsula.
“By including Koguryo into China’s history, China can demand ownership of the North’s territory as well as Koguryo’s after unification on the Korean Peninsula,” Kang said.