Injong of Goryeo

Injong of Goryeo (29 October 1109 – 10 April 1146) (r. 1122–1146) was the 17th monarch of the Korean Goryeo dynasty. He was the eldest son of King Yejong and Queen Sundeok, the daughter of Yi Ja-gyeom. His reign saw two major internal crises that nearly ended the House of Wang, the collapse of the Northern Song dynasty, and the establishment of the Jin dynasty as the dominant power in the East Asia.

Injong of Goryeo
고려 인종
高麗 仁宗
Wang Hae (왕해)
Crown Prince of Goryeo
PredecessorCrown Prince Wang U
SuccessorCrown Prince Wang Hyeon
King of Goryeo
Junggwang Hall, Gaegyeong
PredecessorYejong of Goryeo
SuccessorUijong of Goryeo
BornWang Hae
29 October 1109
Kingdom of Goryeo
Died10 April 1146 (aged 36)
Kingdom of Goryeo
Jangneung tomb
(m. 1124; deposed 1126)

(m. 1125; deposed 1126)

(m. 1126⁠–⁠1146)

(m. 1127⁠–⁠1146)
  1. Uijong of Goryeo (Wang Hyeon)
  2. Prince Daeryeong (Wang Gyeong)
  3. Myeongjong of Goryeo (Wang Ho)
  4. Wongyeong-guksa
  5. Sinjong of Goryeo (Wang Tak)
  6. Princess Seunggyeong
  7. Princess Deoknyeong
  8. Princess Changrak
  9. Princess Yeonghwa
Posthumous name
King Geukan Gonghyo the Great
Temple name
Injong (인종, 仁宗)
HouseHouse of Wang
FatherYejong of Goryeo
MotherQueen Sundeok
Injong of Goryeo
Revised RomanizationInjong
Birth name
Revised RomanizationWang Hae
McCune–ReischauerWang Hae
Courtesy name
Revised RomanizationInpyo



Injong ascended the throne in accordance with the third of the Ten Injunctions of Taejo, as “the eldest legitimate royal issue."[1] Despite the reverend status of this document,[2] its succession rules were often disregarded. As recent as in 1095 Injong's grandfather King Sukjong came to power after abdication of his nephew. At the age of twelve and a half Injong's succession became possible largely due to the influence of his maternal grandfather Yi Cha-gyeom, while according to the report of the Song envoy Xu Jing, Injong's uncle Prince Po, supported by the Han An-in faction, "had designs on [the throne]" [3]


By the early 1122 the Khitan state of Liao was effectively destroyed by the armies of Taizu of Jin. Large number of Khitans fled to Goryeo.[4] Operations of Song against Khitan were unsuccessful, and the lost Song territories south of the Great Wall were recovered only after the Jurchen victory over Liao. The 1123 treaty formalized the superior status of Jin: the annual tribute of Song was set to 200,000 taels of silver and 200,000 bolts of silk.[5] Despite the weak performance against Khitan, the Song government overestimated both the importance of the recovery of Yanjing (a modern-day Beijing) and its own military capabilities.[6]

1122–1126: Yi Cha-gyeom yearsEdit


The early years of Injong's reign were dominated by Yi Cha-gyeom.[7][8] As the Supreme Chancellor (munha sijung, junior first rank) at the head of combined Secretariat-Chancellery (chungseo munha-seong) Yi Cha-gyeom was the highest-ranking government official.[9] His dominance was challenged during the last years of Yejong, but with the beginning of his grandson's reign Yi Cha-gyeom took decisive steps to buttress it. By the end of 1122 Princes Po and Hye were exiled, Han An-in assassinated, and several hundred of his followers,[10] including a dozen core members of Tanju Han and Cheongan Im clans, were either banished or demoted.[3]

During this period officers of the Royal Army began to play an important role in the domestic politics. Through his career Yi Cha-gyeom cultivated muban military officials, that after 960 had a lower status and enjoyed less perquisites than their civilian munban counterparts. Two of his most important allies were Choe Hong-jae, a high civilian official of a military background, and a military commander Cheok Chun-gyeong.[3][8][10]

With this power base Yi Cha-gyeom emerged as the most influential figure in the Goryeo politics. He became the Chief-Minister-Extraordinary in charge of all three chancelleries (samseong), while keeping the position of the head (superintendent, pansa) of the Ministry of Personnel (Yi-bu). He was also created a Duke (kong).[10] Nevertheless, his authority never became absolute: he had to take heed of other factions both in execution of policies he favored and in rooting out the opposition.

In foreign relations he was aligned with the Kyeongju Kim faction led by Kim Bu-sik and his brothers, advocating a submission to the newly established Jin. In 1123 the renewed Song offer of formal investiture was rejected.[11] Jin stepped up the pressure on Goryeo by occupying Uiju (Poju) area along the Yalu river; from their point of view it was a repair of the frontier defenses. After a suppression of unrest in Balhae a secure North-Eastern frontier allowed Jin to focus on the Song.[12]


In early 1124 Choe Hong-jae and military officers associated with him plotted to overthrow Yi Cha-gyeom, but were unsuccessful.[3] Choe and the associates were purged from their positions and exiled. Following the purge Yi married one of his daughters to Injong,[10] and increasingly filled the mid- and high-ranking government positions with his loyalists, including his five sons.[9] He and his faction profited from seized property of the purged officials.[8]

The idea that Goryeo has to submit to Jin was still encountering resistance. The embassy dispatched in 1125 to Emperor Taizong of Jin was rejected by his officials because the correspondence it carried addressed the emperor improperly and did not use the term ‘servant' when referring to Goryeo. The question whether to accept that the mandate of the northern dynasty passed to Jin was debated through 1126. Eventually Kim and Yi convinced Injong and the reluctant officials to submit to Jin.[13][14] By that time the Song were collapsing under Jin attack, Emperor Huizong abdicated, while a Goryeo embassy (that included Kim Bu-sik ) had to return without being able to reach Kaifeng. The embassy to Jin sent in 1126 presented the submission of Goryeo in proper terms and brought up the matter of Uiju. Taizong transferred the disputed area to Goryeo.[15]

It was reported that Yi Cha-gyeom intended to usurp the throne and eventually planned to poison the king.[8] According to this report, there was a popular prophecy that a man of the sippal cha, or eighteen child, an anagram on the character for the surname Yi, would become king and the transfer his court to the Southern Capital (Seoul), leading Goryeo to a renewed prosperity. Yi Cha-gyeom is alleged to believe in this prophecy, based on his family name and a location of the family seat in Incheon, close to Seoul.[8] Attempts of Yi to further aggrandize his station are a matter of the public record. He planned performance of ritual music at the tombs of his forefathers and celebration of his birthday as the anniversary of a king (insujeol). Both moves were opposed by Kim Bu-sik and his supporters.[16]

A more serious challenge to the paramount position of Yi Cha-gyeom was a rising organized by two courtiers, Kim Chan and An Po-rin. Beyond the involvement of some twenty-five young courtiers, the plot had a confidence of Injong and a support of three senior military officers, including one commander and one deputy commander of two (out of six) regular army divisions. Several senior statesmen, such as Yi Kon-su, approved the plot in principle but advised caution. The group struck “one night in 1126". The plan involved gaining control of the palace and king's person as the first stage of the coup, followed by a strike against other key targets. The conspirators captured the palace and killed several of Yi Cha-gyeom loyalists, including the Minister of War (a brother of Cheok Chun-gyeong). However, the palace was surrounded by the troops of Cheok Chun-gyeong and armed monks led by Yi Cha-gyeom's son. The rest of Kaesong remained in the control of the Yi faction. To finish the stand-off Cheok Chun-gyeong ordered torching the palace (Yi Cha-gyeom's disapproval was on the record as sent to him). Most of the palace, including libraries and the Academy, burned down. “Countless" conspirators were killed. Injong offered to abdicate in favor of Yi Cha-gyeom, but the latter refused.[10]

In the following government reshuffling Yi Cha-gyeom rewarded his loyalists. However, Yi Kon-su kept his senior position in the Secretariat-Chancellery, and two Kim brothers were actually promoted, with Kim Bu-sik becoming the Chief Censor. King Injong was living in Cha-gyeom's house and had married another of his daughters.[10]

This triumph was, however, short-lived. Other aristocratic factions joined forces to bring Yi Cha-gyeom down. They fostered a disunity between Cheok and Yi, using the question of responsibility for violation of the sacred palace grounds as a bait. Involvement of Injong, Yi Kon-su and Kim Bu-il left traces in the official records.[10] In the fifth month of 1126 Yi Cha-gyeom, his family and followers were arrested by the soldiers of Cheok Chun-gyeong.[3] Yi was banished to Jeolla province and later beheaded.[8] Banished officials — Choe Hong-jae, members of Tanju Han and Cheongan Im clans and their associates — were recalled and reinstated in their positions. In the sixth month of 1126 King Injong married a daughter of Im Weonae. Cheok Chun-gyeong was demoted and banished in 1127.[3]

1127–1136: Reforms and Myo Cheong's rebellionEdit

After the fall of Yi Cha-gyeom the government was dominated by Kyeongju Kim and Han An-in/ Cheongan Im clans. Provincial clans, particularly from the Western Capital (Seogeong, modern Pyongyang) area were important in toppling Yi Cha-gyeom and contended for a larger share in the decision-making. Paek Su-han, Cheong Chi-sang, a famous poet and Confucian scholar, and Myo Cheong, a Buddhist monk and geomancer were prominent representatives of this faction. Myo Cheong appeared at the court in 1127 [17] and officially became political adviser to Injong in 1128.[9] It is possible that the Pyongyang group was used by the king to balance influence of the established aristocracy.

Already in 1127 Myo Cheong instigated [9] a fifteen-point restoration rescript (yusin chigyo) of Injong.[8] It included political reforms, called for austerity, and urged measures to restrict official exploitation of the peasantry.[9] Educational reforms were part of the package and intended to strengthen the royal authority. Injong ordered that each chu (large districts) and hyeon (district) establish a school (to prepare to the civil service examinations), thus facilitating the access of local elites to positions in the central administration.[18] Injong completed the reconstruction of the government school system by instituting the “six colleges" at the National Academy.[19]

Myo Cheong had a reputation for sanctity and was a speaker “easily dazzled his listeners".[3] His teachings were enjoying a growing popularity with the people and some members of the elite, including the king. Politically the Pyongyang faction was opposed by the Kyeongju Kim and Han An-in/Cheongan Im groups. Its supporters included Choe Hong-jae, an old foe of Han An-in faction, now a senior member of the Censorate, and Yun Oni, son of the famous general Yun Gwan, influential Confucian scholar and a close ally of Cheong Chi-sang.[3][17] Indeed, out of six senior censorial officials in 1133, two were supporters of Myo Cheong and only two steadfastly opposed him.[3]

Myo Cheong provided a geomantic explanation of the recent disturbances in Kaesong and offered to cure the problem: since the geomantic forces around the Eastern Capital were waning, the court should move to the Western Capital, where the same forces were strong and “filled with vigour".[20] This ideas, while somewhat extreme in their forcefulness, were in line with the prevailing thinking at the time. Ten Injunctions of Taejo accepted geomantic considerations as an important factor influencing government policies and ascribed a particular significance to the Western Capital. Injong's edict of 1129 commanded construction of a palace (Great Flowering Palace, Taehwa-gung), in Pyongyang to “revitalize our politics and [...] forever bestow felicity upon the following generations". The palace was completed in 1132 and Injong began to spend extended periods of time there.[17]

In foreign relations Injong's government, while admitting the superiority of Jin, aimed to preserve independence and trade interests of Goryeo. By 1127 Song collapsed.[5][6] The Jurchen armies conquered Kaifeng, and both Huizong, now retired, and the reigning emperor Qinzong were captured and exiled to Manchuria. Not long afterwards Song envoys tried to convince Goryeo officials to give them a direct overland access to the Jin and negotiate the release of the captured emperors. The request was denied at the insistence of Kim Bu-sik and his elder brother Kim Bu-il, while different sources record Choe Hong-jae as to be in favor of assisting the Song or as opposed to it. The relations with the Song were practically broken for the next few years: a request by Injong in 1129 to send an embassy was denied, while the embassy dispatched in 1132 was shipwrecked.[21]

Goryeo traditionally provided a refuge for Jurchens that were at odds with the powers at home. During the first twenty years of the 11th century 6,846 Jurchen refugees were registered at Kaesong, compared with the average of 526 over two-decade periods of the previous one hundred years (and only 17 during 1081-1100).[22] This policy continued under Injong, even if twice (in 1127 and 1130) the Jin used presence of the Jurchen refugees in Goryeo to pressure it into formal submission.[23]

Pyongyang faction represented a more nativist and anti-Jurchen approach. Myo Cheong claimed that moving a capital to Seogeong (Pyongyang) would reinvigorate Goryeo to the extent that thirty-six states, including Jin, would pay homage to it. He urged Injong to declare himself emperor, institute his own era name, and attack the "arrogant Jin".[20] A memorandum to this effect was also submitted to Injong by Cheong Chi-sang and Yun Oni.[24] Aided by the indecision of Injong an uneasy equilibrium between the factions continued for several years.

Disappointed by the rate of reforms, insufficiently decisive stance against Jin, and alarmed by purges of some of it supporters, Myo Cheong rebelled in 1135. At the Western Capital the rebels declared a new state of Taewi (Great Accomplishment). The rebels were enthusiastically supported in the northwest,[20] but most of Myo Cheong's supporters in Kaesong deserted him. It is still debated weather Myo Cheong was actually the principal driving force of the rebellion or just its figurehead.[17]

Im Weonae, the king's father-in-law, on the news of the revolt, mobilized armies to protect Kaesong.[3] Officials associated with Myo Cheong were prosecuted: some, like Cheong Chi-sang were executed, and many banished during 1135-1136. Several attempts were made to negotiate with the rebels. The situation became particularly threatening when the offers of military assistance came both from the Jin and Southern Song. Eventually Kim Bu-sik led a successful military campaign against the rebels. Myo Cheong was assassinated by his own army, and in early 1136 Pyongyang fell to the government forces.[17][20] Yun Oni distinguished himself in action against the rebels, but was still banished by Kim Bu-sik as an associate of Cheong Chi-sang.


From the suppression of the Myo Cheong rebellion until his official retirement in 1142 Kim Bu-sik was an unchallenged leader of the Goryeo government. From 1140 onwards the banished supporters of Myo Cheong began to be recalled. By the early eleven forties the conflict of the Southern Song and the Jin reached an equilibrium that was formalized during the negotiates of 1141-1142. The Southern Song emperor recognized the suzerainty of Emperor Xizong of Jin, paying an annual tribute of 250,000 bolts of silk and taels of silver.[5] Goryo exchanges several embassies with the Jin, and in 1142 Injong was formally invested as its vassal.[25]

In 1143 Injong appointed fourteen local magistrates, making another step in bringing local administration under the central control. As a result of the reforms of Yejong and Injong about one third of Goryeo's 450 or so prefectures and counties were under a direct control of the central government.[9]

In 1142, Injong ordered the compilation of the Samguk Sagi, a chronicle of events in the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla. Using Chinese histories (particularly Shiji by Sima Qian), Kim Bu-sik at the head of the fourteen-author team compiled the oldest extant source on Korean history. It was submitted to Injong in late 1145 or early 1146.[26]


Both Injong and Lady Im (Queen Gongye) are recorded as having misgivings about their oldest son Prince Hyeon. Both doubted his ability to rule and Queen Gongye preferred the second son Prince Kyeong as the next king.[27] Nevertheless, on Injong's death Prince Hyeon succeeded him as the 18th monarch of Goryeo.


  1. Deposed Princess Yeondeok of the Incheon Yi clan (폐비 연덕궁주 이씨; d. 1139) – No issue.
  2. Deposed Princess Bokchang of the Incheon Yi clan (폐비 복창원주 이씨; d. 1195) – No issue.
  3. Queen Gongye of the Jangheung Im clan (공예왕후 임씨; 1109–1183)
    1. Crown Prince Wang Hyeon (태자 왕현)
    2. Wang Gyeong, Marquess Daeryeong (왕경 대령후)
    3. Wang Ho, Duke Ikyang (왕호 익양공)
    4. Wang Chung-hui (왕충희)
    5. Wang Tak, Duke Pyeongnyang (왕탁 평량공)
    6. Princess Seunggyeong (승경궁주)
    7. Princess Deoknyeong (덕녕궁주)
    8. Princess Changrak (창락궁주)
    9. Princess Yeonghwa (영화궁주)
  4. Queen Seonpyeong of the Gangneung Gim clan (선평왕후 김씨; d. 1179) – No issue.

Popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ M. J. Seth, A history of Korea: from antiquity to the present, (Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham MA, 2011), p. 99-101. ISBN 978-0-7425-6715-3
  2. ^ R. E. Breuker, Establishing a Pluralist Society in Medieval Korea, 918–1170: History, Ideology and Identity in the Koryŏ Dynasty, (Brill, Leiden, 2010), Ch. 10. ISBN 978-90-04-18325-4
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j E. J. Shultz, Twelfth-Century Koryŏ Politics: The Rise of Han Anin and His Partisans, The Journal of Korean Studies 6, 3 (1988-89); available from
  4. ^ D. Twitchet and K.-P. Tietze, The Liao, in D. Twitchet and J. K. Fairbank (eds.), The Cambridge History of China, vol. 6, Alien Regimes and Border States, 907—1368 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994), Ch. 1. ISBN 978-0-521-24331-5
  5. ^ a b c H. Franke, The Chin Dynasty, in D. Twitchet and J. K. Fairbank, Ch. 3
  6. ^ a b A. D. Levine, The Reigns of Hui-tsung (1100–1126) and Ch'in-tsung (1126–1127) and the Fall of the Northern Sung, in P. J. Smith (ed.), The Cambridge History of China, vol. 5, Part One: The Sung Dynasty and Its Precursors, 907–1279, (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994), Ch. 7. ISBN 978-0-521-81248-1
  7. ^ Seth, p. 89.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g J. Kim, A history of Korea: from “Land of the Morning Calm" to states in conflict, (Indiana University Press, Bloomington IN, 2012), pp. 155-157. ISBN 978-0-253-00024-8
  9. ^ a b c d e f J. B. Duncan, The Formation of the Central Aristocracy in Early Koryŏ, Korean Studies 12, 39 (1988); available at
  10. ^ a b c d e f g H.-w. Kang, The development of the Korean ruling class from late Silla to early Koryo, (PhD Thesis, University of Washington, 1964), pp. 280-289; available at
  11. ^ P. Yun, Balance of Power in the 11th-12th Century East Asian Interstate Relations, Journal of Political Criticism 9, 139 (2011.11)
  12. ^ Franke, p. 226
  13. ^ Breuker, p. 229
  14. ^ K. Pratt, Everlasting flower: a history of Korea, (Reaktion Books, London, 2006), p. 96. ISBN 978-1-86189-273-7
  15. ^ Breuker, pp. 66, 207
  16. ^ Breuker, p. 238
  17. ^ a b c d e Breuker, Ch. 11, pp. 407-447
  18. ^ Seth, p. 84
  19. ^ Kim 147
  20. ^ a b c d Kim, p. 157
  21. ^ Breuker, p. 249
  22. ^ J. S. Ho, Monetary authority independence and stability in medieval Korea: the Koryŏ monetary system through four centuries of East Asian transformations, 918-1392, Financial History Review 21, 259 (2014) DOI: 10.1017/S0968565014000213.
  23. ^ Breuker, p. 223
  24. ^ Breuker, p. 275
  25. ^ R. E. Breuker, Koryo as an Independent Realm: The Emperor's Clothes? Korean Studies 27, 48 (2003) DOI: 10.1353/ks.2005.0001
  26. ^ E. J. Shultz, An Introduction to the Samsuk Sagi, Korean Studies 28, 1 (2004); DOI: 10.1353/ks.2005.0026
  27. ^ E. J. Shultz, Military Revolt in Koryŏ: The 1170 Coup d'État, Korean Studies 3, 19 (1979); available at
Injong of Goryeo
Born: 29 October 1109 Died: 10 April 1146
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Goryeo
Succeeded by