Open main menu

Goryeo under Mongol rule refers to the rule of the Mongol Empire, specifically the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty over the Korean Peninsula from about 1270 to 1356.[1] After the Mongol invasions of Korea and the capitulation of Korea's Goryeo dynasty in the 13th century, Goryeo became a semi-autonomous vassal state and compulsory ally of the Yuan dynasty for about 80 years. The ruling line of Goryeo was permitted to rule Korea as a vassal of the Yuan, which established Zhengdong Province (literally "Conquering the East") in Korea. Members of the Goryeo royal family were taken to Dadu, and typically married to spouses from the Yuan imperial house. As a result, princes who became monarchs of Goryeo during this period were effectively imperial sons in-law (khuregen). Yuan overlordship ended in the 1350s when the Yuan dynasty itself started to crumble and King Gongmin of Goryeo began to push the Mongol garrisons back.

Goryeo under Mongol rule
Zhengdong province
Vassal of the Mongol Yuan dynasty

Location of Goryeo under Mongol rule
The client state Goryeo in modern Korea within the Yuan dynasty, circa 1294.
Capital Kaesong
Government Monarchy, vassal to the Yuan monarchy
 •  1270–1294 Kublai Khan
 •  1294–1307 Chengzong
 •  1311–1320 Renzong
 •  1333–1356 Huizong
 •  1270–1274 Wonjong
 •  1274–1308 Chungnyeol
 •  1308–1313 Chungseon
 •  1313–1330; 1332–1339 Chungsuk
 •  1330–1332; 1339–1344 Chunghye
 •  1351–1356 Gongmin
 •  Mongol invasions of Korea 1231–1259
 •  Established 1270
 •  Mongol invasions of Japan 1274, 1281
 •  Disestablished 1356
Today part of  North Korea
 South Korea


The Mongol Empire launched several invasions against Korea under Goryeo from 1231 to 1259. There were six major campaigns: 1231, 1232, 1235, 1238, 1247, 1253; between 1253 and 1258, the Mongols under Möngke Khan's general Jalairtai Qorchi launched four devastating invasions in the final successful campaign against Korea, at tremendous cost to civilian lives throughout the Korean Peninsula. The Mongols annexed the northern areas of Korean Peninsula after the invasions and incorporated them into their empire as Ssangseong Prefectures and Dongnyeong Prefectures.[2] In March 1258, the dictator Choe Ui of the Goryeo military regime was assassinated by Kim Jun, ending the Choe military dictatorship of Korea; after this, scholars who had insisted on peace with Mongolia gained power. This party sent an envoy to the Mongols, and a peace treaty was contracted between the Mongol Empire and Goryeo, part of which stipulated that Korea was to accept vassaldom to the Mongol Empire. Some military officials who refused to surrender formed the Sambyeolcho Rebellion and resisted in the islands off the southern shore of the Korean Peninsula.[3]

Once the treaty was concluded and vassaldom established, intermarriage between the Koreans and Mongols was encouraged by the Mongol Empire.[4] After the death of Wonjong in 1274, his successor Chungnyeol of Goryeo received Kublai's daughter Qutlugh-Kelmish as a wife, and his reign began a wholesale Mongolization of the Korean court that continued until the middle of the 14th century. On paper, the official protocol for Korea was that of a subordinate principality, and Korean rulers made lengthy stays at the Mongol Yuan court, both before and after their coronation.[5] In addition, their Mongol wives, and even concubines, exerted great influence over Goryeo politics. For instance, Bayankhutag, Princess Gyeonghwa selected officials for posts within the Goryeo government.[6] The Mongols and the Kingdom of Goryeo became linked via marriage and Goryeo became a quda (marriage alliance) state of the Yuan dynasty; monarchs of Goryeo during this period were effectively imperial sons in-law (khuregen). The effects of intermarriage on Mongol-Goryeo relations worked both ways: during the reign of Kublai Khan, King Chungnyeol of Goryeo married one of Kublai's daughters; later, a court lady from Korea called the Empress Gi became an empress through her marriage with Ukhaantu Khan, and her son, Biligtü Khan of the Northern Yuan dynasty, became a Mongol Khan. Furthermore, the kings of Goryeo held an important status within the Mongol imperial hierarchy, much like other important families of conquered or client states of the Mongol Empire (e.g. the Uyghurs, the Oirats, and Khongirad).[7][8] Some Mongolian sources claim that at least one Goryeo monarch who was raised at the Yuan court was the most beloved grandson of Kublai Khan.[9]

Militarily, following the 1259 peace treaty, Mongol ambitions on Japan resulted in two invasions of Japan. In both efforts, the Mongols directed Korean shipbuilding and militarization towards the amphibious assault of the Japanese coasts and pressed a large proportion of Korean naval and infantry forces into the service of Mongol military objectives. Korea supplied 770 fully manned ships and 5,000 soldiers in 1274 and 900 ships and 10,000 soldiers in 1281.[5] Yuan officials and envoys took concubines and wives in Korea while they were stationed in Korea for the invasion of Japan.[10] For a variety of reasons, both invasions failed. During the periods leading up to and during the invasions, Korea was effectively forced to serve as a Mongol military base.

Another aspect of Mongol interference with Korean affairs were the darughachi, who were Mongolian resident commissioners sent to the Goryeo court. These commissioners, while nominally subordinate to the Goryeo king, were routinely supplied with provisions and were actively involved in the affairs of the Goryeo court.[11][12][13] Part of Jeju Island converted to a grazing area for the Mongol cavalry stationed there.[14] Mongol emperors dethroned Goryeo kings who were of no benefit to them in 1298, 1313, 1321, 1330, 1332, 1343, and 1351.[15]

King Gongmin (1330–1374) and Queen Noguk assisted in the peaceful succession of Gegeen Khan.

When the Mongols placed the Uighurs of the Kingdom of Qocho over the Koreans at the court the Korean King objected, then the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan rebuked the Korean King, saying that the Uighur King of Qocho was ranked higher than the Karluk Kara-Khanid ruler, who in turn was ranked higher than the Korean King, who was ranked last, because the Uighurs surrendered to the Mongols first, the Karluks surrendered after the Uighurs, and the Koreans surrendered last, and that the Uighurs surrendered peacefully without violently resisting.[16][17] Koreans were classified along with northern Han Chinese of northern China as "Han", in the third class.[18][19][20]

Eunuchs, concubines, falcons, ginseng, grain, cloth, silver, and gold were sent as tribute to the Mongol Yuan dynasty.[21][22][23][24] such as the eunuch Bak Bulhwa and Empress Gi. Goryeo incurred negative consequences as a result of the eunuch Bak Bulhwa's actions.[25] The tribute payment was a burden on Korea.[22] It was considered prestigious to marry Korean women.[26]

The entry of Korean women into the palace affected relations between Korea and the Yuan.[27] If anything negative happened to their families, Korea itself was blackmailed by the Yuan Mongol's Korean concubines.[28] Great power was attained by some of the Korean women who entered the Mongol Yuan court.[29] One example is Empress Gi and her eunuch Bak Bulhwa when they attempted a major coup of Northern China and Koryo.[25]

Just as Korean women entered the Yuan Mongolian court, the Korean Koryo kingdom also saw the entry of Mongolian women.[30] King Ch'ungson (1309-1313.) married two Mongol women, Princess Botasirin and a non-royal woman named Yesujin. She gave birth to a son and had a posthumous title of "virtuous concubine". In addition 1324, the Yuan court sent a Mongol princess of Wei named Jintong to the Koryo King Ch'ungsug.[31] Thus, the entry of Korean women into the Mongol court was reciprocated by the entry of Mongolian princesses into the Korean Koryo court, and this affected relations between Korea and the Yuan. Imperial marriages between the royal family of Mongol Yuan existed between certain states. These included the Onggirat tribe, Idug-qut's Uighur tribe, the Oirat tribe, and the Koryo (Korean) royal family. This intermarriage between royal families did not occur between the deposed Chinese and Mongols.[32][33]

The Goryeo dynasty survived under the Yuan until King Gongmin began to push the Mongolian garrisons of the Yuan back in the 1350s, when the Yuan dynasty faced the Red Turban Rebellion in China. By 1356 Goryeo under King Gongmin regained its lost northern territories such as the Ssangseong Prefecture placed under the Liaoyang province by the Yuan. He also repulsed the Red Turban invasions of Goryeo in 1360. However, even after the eventual expulsion of the Yuan dynasty from China in 1368, some Goryeo kings such as U still favored the Yuan, still a formidable power in Mongolia as the Northern Yuan, over the Ming dynasty established by Han Chinese. This changed with the overthrow of Goryeo in 1392 by Yi Seong-gye, founder of Joseon dynasty.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present, by Michael J. Seth", p112
  2. ^ Hatada, Smith Jr & Hazard 1969, p.53.
  3. ^ 국방부 군사편찬연구소, 고려시대 군사 전략 (2006) (The Ministry of National Defense, Military Strategies in Goryeo)
  4. ^ Djun Kil Kim, 《The History of Korea: 2nd edition》, ABC-CLIO, 2014. ISBN 1610695828, p.78
  5. ^ a b Korea and the Mongol Empire
  6. ^ Jeong In-ji (1451). 高麗史 [History of Goryeo] (in Chinese). 36.
  7. ^ Ed. Morris Rossabi - China among equals: the Middle Kingdom and its neighbors, 10th-14th centuries, p.244
  8. ^ The Mongols Co-opt the Turks to Rule All under Heaven: Crippled the Dual-System and Expelled by Chinese Rebellion by Wontack Hong
  9. ^ Baasanjavyin Lkhagvaa-Solongos, Mongol-Solongosyin harilstaanii ulamjlalaas, p.172
  10. ^ Peter Lee, ed. (2010). Sourcebook of Korean Civilization: Volume One: From Early Times to the 16th Century. Columbia University Press. p. 361. ISBN 0231515294.
  11. ^ Hatada, Smith Jr & Hazard 1969, p. 54: "Yüan officials not only used the Koryŏ government, to make demands on the people, but even entered the farm villages themselves to exact tribute. ... The Koryŏ royal house and officials were completely subservient to the Yüan; ... At frequent intervals, the Koryŏ king would leave Kaesŏng and live at the Yüan capital, directing the officials of Koryŏ from there. Thus even the most superficial pretense of independent rule of Koryŏ disappeared."
  12. ^ Rossabi 1994, p.437: "... Mongolian resident commissioners who were sent to the Korean court ...".
  13. ^ Henthorn, William E. (1963). Korea: the Mongol invasions. E.J. Brill. p. 127.
  14. ^ Henthorn, William E. (1963). Korea: the Mongol invasions. E.J. Brill. p. 190.
  15. ^ Ebrey & Walthall 2014, [1], p. 179, at Google Books. "The Mongols made sure the Korean kings knew who was in charge. Mongol emperors deposed Goryeo kings who failed to serve their interests in 1298, 1313, 1321, 1330, 1332, 1343, and 1351. Some kings were held in detention in Dadu (Beijing) to issue decrees in absentia. Insult was added to injury in 1343 when Mongol envoys arrested the Korean king for initiating reforms detrimental to Mongol interests. They kicked him around, tied him up, and exiled him to China, but he died on the way".
  16. ^ Morris Rossabi (1983). China Among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries. University of California Press. pp. 247–. ISBN 978-0-520-04562-0.
  17. ^ Haw, Stephen G. "The Semu ren 色目人色目人色目人色目人 in the Yuan Empire – who were they? - June 29-July 4, 2014". Mobility and Transformations: New Directions in the Study of the Mongol Empire. Jerusalem: Joint Research Conference of the Institute for Advanced Studies and the Israel Science Foundation: 4.
  18. ^ Frederick W. Mote (2003). Imperial China 900-1800. Harvard University Press. pp. 490–. ISBN 978-0-674-01212-7.
  19. ^ Harold Miles Tanner (12 March 2010). China: A History: Volume 1: From Neolithic cultures through the Great Qing Empire 10,000 BCE–1799 CE. Hackett Publishing Company. pp. 257–. ISBN 978-1-60384-564-9.
  20. ^ Harold Miles Tanner (13 March 2009). China: A History. Hackett Publishing. pp. 257–. ISBN 0-87220-915-6.
  21. ^ Katharine Hyung-Sun Moon (January 1997). Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations. Columbia University Press. pp. 40–. ISBN 978-0-231-10642-9.
  22. ^ a b Boudewijn Walraven; Remco E. Breuker (2007). Korea in the Middle: Korean Studies and Area Studies : Essays in Honour of Boudewijn Walraven. Amsterdam University Press. pp. 57–. ISBN 978-90-5789-153-3.
  23. ^ Gwyn Campbell; Suzanne Miers; Joseph C. Miller (8 September 2009). Children in Slavery through the Ages. Ohio University Press. pp. 136–. ISBN 978-0-8214-4339-2.
  24. ^ Nahm 1988, pp.84, 91.
  25. ^ a b Peter H. Lee (13 August 2013). Sourcebook of Korean Civilization: Volume One: From Early Times to the 16th Century. Columbia University Press. pp. 681–. ISBN 978-0-231-51529-0.
  26. ^ Lorge, Peter. China Review International 17, no. 3 (2010): 377-79. JSTOR 23733178.
  27. ^ Lan, Yang (兰阳) (2007). 论元丽联姻及其对高丽的政治影响. 延边大学.
  28. ^ Cui, Xianxiang (崔鲜香) (2010). 高丽女性在高丽与蒙元关系中的作用. PKU CSSCI. Tianjin: Tianjin Normal University Sex and Societal Development Research Center.
  29. ^ Li, Peng (李鹏) (2006). 元代入华高丽女子探析. Guangxi Normal University.
  30. ^ Cui, Xianxiang (崔鲜香) (2010). 高丽女性在高丽与蒙元关系中的作用. PKU CSSCI. Tianjin: Tianjin Normal University Sex and Societal Development Research Center (1).
  31. ^ George Qingzhi Zhao (2008). Marriage as Political Strategy and Cultural Expression: Mongolian Royal Marriages from World Empire to Yuan Dynasty. 60 of Asian thought and culture (illustrated ed.). Peter Lang. p. 182. ISBN 1433102757. ISSN 0893-6870.
  32. ^ Lan, Yang (兰阳) (2007). 论元丽联姻及其对高丽的政治影响. Yanbian University.
  33. ^ George Qingzhi Zhao. Marriage as Political Strategy and Cultural Expression: Mongolian Royal Marriages from World Empire to Yuan Dynasty.