A B O U T   K O R E A


Korean Myths and Tales :
Koguryo's First King - Gojoomong



After Ancient Chosun Kingdom(as you know, Tangun found this country) , many nations rose in the Korean peninsula. Of course, many small nations were absorbed by larger nations many times and then a few nations began to rule the peninsula. In BC 100 the three kingdoms of Koguryo, Paekjae and Shilla were founded, marking the end of the tribal era and the start of history in Korea. Following the tale of the formation of Ancient Chosun, here in CLICKASIA we want to talk about the tales of the foundation of these Three Kingdoms.

Koguryo's Taejo(1st King) Gojoomong

Long long ago lived a woman all by herself at the south of the Taebek Mts. in a place called Ubalsu. This woman had a very beautiful name, Yoohwa (Willow Flower). Then one day Kumwa (Golden Frog), the king of Tongbuyo, found her while passing this place.

Kumwa: What is your name?
Yuhwa:It is Yuhwa.
Kumwa: How is it that you came to live alone in such an isolated place.
Yuhwa: I am the daughter of Habaek, the king of the neighbouring nation, but he has driven me away.
Kumwa: Is that true? What is it that you have done that has driven you away from home?
Yuhwa: Not long ago I took my friends and my younger siblings to a picnic. But all of a sudden a man began to follow me. He said he was Haemoso, the son of the heavenly king, and enticed me. After been persuaded into staying with him for a few days, I went home. My father then scolded me for staying with a stranger without the approval of my parents.
Kumwa: What a coincidence! Haemosu is my grandfather.

That's correct. Haeburu, Kumwa's father was Haemosu's son. Haebur is the man who founded Dongpuyo which is the nation who broke away from Pukpuyo, his father's land Kumwa decided to go inside the palace to find out whether Yuhwa was telling the truth. That is how Yuhwa came to be in the palace of Dongpuyo.

One day, Yuhwa, who was trapped inside a hidden room of the palace, had a strange experience. The sunray that was coming through the window followed her no matter how hard she tried to avoid it. In a little while, Yuhwa laid a giant egg. King Kumwa thought that the egg was strange so he casted the egg to the dogs and swines and threw it on the road. But horses, cattle and all the animals would not tread on it and even the birds protected it with their wings. The king even tried to crack it open but couldn't, so he gave the egg back to Yuhwa. Not long after that, a handsome and intelligent boy broke the egg shell and sprang out. As this boy grew older he grew stronger and braver. He was especially a good archer. He made the bows and arrows himself, and had such good markmanship that people called him Chumong, the good bowman (archer)

Chumong was liked among the people because he was handsome and capable. That is why Kumwa's seven sons envied Chumong. Finally, the seven princes and some courtiers resolved to conjure a conspiracy to kill Chumong.

Chumong's mother Yuhwa, aware of this conspiracy, quietly summoned her son and gave him a pocketful of seeds and sent him to her hometown. But the seven princes decided not to let Chumong go alive and persecuted him. To make matters worse, Chumong could not cross the river Ohmhosu which was flowing right in front of his eyes because there was no bridge.

Chumong: I am the son of the Heavenly prince Haemosu and the sole grandson of Habaek. But there is not brige in front of me, so I cannot cross this river and still the soldiers are following me, what should I do?

As soon as Chumong said this, guess what happened? A school of fish and a host of turtles suddenly came to the surface and built a bridge for him! That is how Chumong left Dongpuyo unhurt.

Later on, Chumong accidentally met three men wearing hemp clothes, dark clothes, and patterned clothes. They agreed to join under his command and so their nation grew stronger. At last, Chumong founded the nation of Koguryo and made his last name 'Go' which means high as the sky, to emphasize the fact that he was the son of the King of the Heavens and that he was conceived by the rays of the sun.

In the ancient history book on the Three Kingdoms (Sam-Kook Yoo-Sa), Chumong is said to have been 12 years old when he founded the nation of Koguryo. In another history book of the three kingdoms (Sam-Kook Sa-ki) he is said to have been 22 years old on its founding. But it doesn't matter. It is still unbelievable the fact that he founded a nation at such an early age, isn't it?

After its foundation, Koguryo grew to become the strongest and largest nation in the Korean peninsula. In the IV Century AC, King Kwangaeto-wconquered the Yodo Peninsula completely in the west, to the northwest he conquered Mongolian land until the river known now as the »ēSaramuren river, crossing the Sam Yang, to the north he conquered the area reaching the Harbin border crossing the Songhwa river valley, to the northeast he conquered the areas under Vladivostok, building an enormous empire. In other words, Koguryo seems to have had twice the land area of our peninsula (North and South Korea together).

Reinterpretation of the legends and historical background

-The meeting of Yuhwa and Haemosu
Haemosu is known as the man who came down from heaven and founded Pukpuyo. The part of the legend where he 'comes down from heaven' is said to have been copied from the Tangun legend. By telling the people he was the son of the Heavens, Haemosu tried to conquer the surrounding nations. Yuhwa's father Habaek was included in one of these surrounding nations. However, as Habaek's resistance grew stronger Haemosu married Habaek's daughter and tried to make Habaek's land his own. Of course, Habaek did not approve of their union and banished Yuhwa to a place near Ubalsu. This is the place where many tribal nations staged their power struggles.

-The meeting of Yuhwa and Kumwa
Ubalsu, the place where Yuhwa and Kumwa met (now believed to be Tokro river, located near Mt. Paekdu) is the place where Kumwa's Dongpuyo and Habaek's nation staged all their fights over territorry. Some modern historians think that Chumong was Habaek's son. Since Chumong was persecuted by the seven princes in Dongpuyo, they infer that that is the reason why they described him as the son of the Sun (the son of the Heavens, Haemosu).

-Chumong, born from an egg
Hatched eggs turn into birds who fly the sky. Our ancestors believed that birds were messengers from the heavens. In other words, this means that they believed that it was the birth of a big leader that went according to the desire of the heavens. Even though Chumong was born from an egg, this egg came from a human body, Yuhwa. This meant that Puyo was not a tribe nation that worshipped animals (animism). In addition, the fact that this egg was protected by dogs, pigs, horses, cows and other livestock meant that raising livestock was popular in those days and that our nation was entering the agricultural society period of our history. Besides this, Chumong's great archery skills show us that he was fit to be a ruler since he was skillful at using the most important weapon in those days, the bow and arrow.

-Chumong escapes to Yuhwa's hometown
Yuhwa tells Chumong to go to Habaek's land towards the Aprok river where her in-laws live. This shows the cooperation between the in-laws. The seeds that Yuhwa took out shows that agricultural production played a pivotal role in the maintenance of a nation in those days. The school of fish and host of turtles that Chumong met on Ohmhosu (Now believed to be located in the upper stream of the Dongga river, a tributary of the Aprok river) symbolize the tribes within the nation. These tribes helped Chumong and mowed down the Dongpuyo's soldiers that were running after him.

-The three men wearing hemp clothes, dark clothes, and patterned clothes
They symbolize various types of native groups (original settlers). One example is written in Sam-Kook Yoo-Sa, a king of Cholbon Puyo had no sons, but only three daughters, and seeing that Chumong was a great man, gave off his second daughter to Chumong and made her his wife. It is also written that soon after that Cholbon Puyo's king died and Chumong rose to be the king. So Chumong formed the basis for the foundation of Koguryo through marriages with natives.

Unlike the story of Tangun, in this tale, humans play the principal role. This is because, except for the part where Chumong is conceived with the warmth of the sunrays and hatches from an egg, he experienced many difficulties in founding Koguryo and making it stronger. By cooperating with his in-laws, a blood related community, and conquering tribes and local groups he grew to become a humane hero. And the fact that his founding a nation was based on historical background and not on a supernatural ability such as the one seen in the tale of Tangun is seen as a progress in history.

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