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Korean Name
Revised Romanization Goryeo
McCune-Reischauer Koryŏ
Hangul 고려
Hanja 高麗

Goryeo was the name of Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty, which lasted from the fall of Silla in 935 until the founding of the Joseon Dynasty in 1394. The name "Goryeo" is a shortened form of "Goguryeo," the name of a kingdom in northern Korea which was conquered by Silla in AD 668. The English name "Korea" comes from "Goryeo."

The Goryeo period was a culturally rich one in Korea's history. Two of the period's most notable products are Goryeo pottery — the famous Korean celadon pottery — and the Tripitaka Koreana — the Buddhist scriptures (Tripitaka) carved onto roughly 80,000 woodblocks.

It is now known as a kingdom, but it was de facto an empire. All terminologies used in the court of Goryeo was that of an empire, not of a kingdom. Capital Gaeseong was called "Imperial Capital (皇都)" and palace as "Imperial Palace (皇城)." Other terms like Your Majesty (陛下), Prince (太子), Empress (太后), Imperial Ordiance (詔 or 勅) also suggest Goryeo was an empire itself. After Mongol invasion, Mongols forced Goryeo to give up on its status as an empire and it became a kingdom under Mongolian imperial sphere.


As Unified Silla weakened and lost control over local lords, the country went civil war against Silla and the rebellions. Major rebellion forces are led by Gung Ye (궁예弓裔, ?~918), Gi Hwin (기휜), Yang Gil (양길) and Gyon Hwon (견훤). Soon Silla armies were defeated and two kingdoms were established: Hugoguryeo (후고구려, Later Goguryeo, later renamed Taebong (태봉)) by Gung Ye and Hubaekje (후백제, later Baekje) by Gyon Hwon. It was beginning of Later Three Kingdoms era .

Wanggeon (왕건), who was a lord of Songak (present-day Kaesong), joined Taebong but overthrew Gung Ye and established Goryeo in 918. Later Three Kingdoms era ended as Goryeo annexed Silla and defeated Hubaekje in 936.

In order to strengthen power of central government, Gwangjong , the 4th King, made a series of laws including that freeing slaves in 958, and the one creating the exam for hiring civil officials. Gwangjong also claimed himself Emperor, independent from any other countries.

5th King Gyeongjong (경종, 景宗) launched land-ownership reformation called Jeonshigwa (전시과田柴科) and the 6th King Sungjong (성종, 成宗) appointed officials to local areas, which were previously succeeded by the lords. By the time of 11th King Munjong (문종, 文宗) the central government of Goryeo gained complete authority and power over local lords.

Munjong and later kings emphasized the importance of culture over military. The House Lee of Inju (인주이씨, 仁州李氏) married the kings from Munjong to 17th King Injong ; and eventually Lees gained more power than King himself and it led to Coup of Lee Jagyeom in 1126. The coup failed but the power of monarch was weakened; Goryeo went civil war of nobilities.

In 1135, Myo Chung argued to move capital to Seogyeong (present day P'yŏngyang) and it divided the nobilities of Goryeo to half; one, led by Myo Chung, believed in moving capital to Pyongyang and expand to Manchuria and the other one led by Kim Busik (author of the Samguk Sagi), who believed in status quo. Myo Chung, failed to persuade the King, rebelled against central government but failed.

In 1170, a group of army officers led by Jeong Jungbu (정중부, 鄭仲夫) and Lee Uibang (이의방, 李義方), launched a coup d'état and succeeded; Injong went into exile and made Myeongjong (명종,明宗) king. Military rule of Goryeo began.

In 1231, Mongolians invaded Goryeo and the throne moved to Ganghwado , an island in Bay of Gyonggi , in 1232. The military ruler of the time Choi Chungheon (최충헌, 崔忠獻) insisted to fight back; Goryeo resisted for decades but finally surrendered in 1259. Still, some military officials who refused to surrender formed Sambyeolcho and resisted in the archepalago of southern shore of Korean peninsula. Goryeo dynasty survived but it was under control of Mongolian control until King Gongmin began to repel Mongolian forces back.

In 1388, King U planned a campaign to invade Yodong (present day Laoning of China). King U put general Yi Seonggye (later Taejo) in charge, but he stopped at the border and rebelled.

Goryeo fell in 1392.

Today, Korea and related forms such as Corea and Corée that derive from Goryeo are used as names for the country in most languages around the world. Korea is also sometimes used as a politically neutral name in the Korean language for the whole of Korea. For more information, see Names of Korea.

See also

Last updated: 10-24-2004 05:10:45