U of Goryeo (25 July 1365 – 31 December 1389) ruled Goryeo (Korea) as the 32nd king from 1374 until 1388. He was the only son of King Gongmin.

U of Goryeo
고려 우
高麗 禑
Grand Prince of the Gangnyeong Mansion
(강녕부원대군, 江寧府院大君)
King of Goryeo
PredecessorGongmin of Goryeo
SuccessorChang of Goryeo
BornWang U (Monino)
(1365-07-25)25 July 1365
Gaegyeong-bu, Goryeo
Died31 December 1389(1389-12-31) (aged 24)
Gangneung-bu, Gyojugangneung-do, Goryeo
(m. 1379)
IssueChang of Goryeo
Sin U / Shin Woo (신우, 辛禑)[citation needed]
Regnal name
King Yeo of Heung (여흥왕, 驪興王)
King of Before Deposed (전폐왕, 前廢王)
FatherGongmin of Goryeo
MotherBanya (birth mother)[1]
Queen Sunjeong (legal)
U of Goryeo
Revised RomanizationU-wang
Childhood name
Revised RomanizationMonino

Cultural background


In the thirteenth century, Mongol forces had invaded China and established the Yuan dynasty in 1271. After a series of Mongol invasions, Goryeo eventually capitulated and entered into a peace treaty with the Yuan dynasty, in which Goryeo was subordinate tributary state to Mongol Empire. The Ming dynasty in China had grown extremely powerful during the 14th century, however, and it began to beat back the Yuan forces, so that by the 1350s Goryeo had managed to regain its northern territories and took back the Liaodong region.



According to the records, U was reportedly born to slave girl Banya, a maid of the monk Shin Don, and King Gongmin. Because Gongmin initially denied the child as his son and refused to name him, Shin Don took it upon himself and named the boy Monino (meaning "servant of Buddha"). As a result of the King's refusal to recognize the child, intense debate and speculation surrounding the lineage of the boy ensued and Monino was not permitted to enter or live inside the palace.

Soon after the death of Shin Don in 1371, King Gongmin summoned Monino to the palace to formally recognize and proclaim the boy as his son and sole heir to the throne. Gongmin officially pronounced Monino to the Royal Court as Crown Prince and renamed him "U", recording his mother to be a deceased palace maid of the Han clan.[1]

Accession to the throne


In 1374, a high official named Yi In-im led a small but powerful, anti-Ming faction that assassinated King Gongmin.[2]

The anti-Ming group enthroned the eleven-year-old boy, as King Gongmin's successor.[3][2] Suspicious about Gongmin's sudden and unexplained death, the Chinese doubted the legitimacy of the adolescent King U.

A few years after his enthronement in 1376, King U's birth mother Banya snuck into the residence of Queen Mother Myeongdeok to protest the fact that she was not acknowledged as the king's mother. Banya was sentenced to imprisonment and later thrown into the Imjin River where she drowned.[1]

Diplomatic tensions with China


King U's reign was characterised by the political fallout of the demise of the Yuan dynasty and rise of the Ming, with his court divided into pro- and anti-Ming groups. King U was put on the throne by the pro-Yuan official Yi In-Im, and the influence of the latter caused substantial conflict over whether to restore relations with the Yuan or strengthen existing relations with the Ming.[3]

Tensions over this crucial foreign policy protocol had not been resolved when the Ming Dynasty proclaimed its intention to establish a command post headquartered in the Ch'ollyŏng pass at the southern end of the Hamgyŏng Plain in 1388.

Pro-Yuan officials apparently succeeding in persuading the king to take action against the Ming, as he ordered General Yi Seonggye to conquer Yodong in Ming territory.[3] Goryeo's senior military commander, General Ch'oe Yŏng, consulted with General Yi Seong-gye, and determined that removal of the anti-Ming faction from power in Kaesŏng was essential to reducing the perceived threat from Ming China. Supported by Seong-gye, Choi removed Yi In-Im and his group accordingly in a coup d'état and took personal control of the government.

Fall and death


There was a growing feeling in Kaesŏng that Goryeo needed to take some kind of preemptive action against China, and advisors to King U eventually goaded him into attacking the powerful Ming armies. Against universal opposition, and in violation of the long-standing Goryeo practice of not invading its neighbors, King U went one step further and insisted on attacking China proper.

In 1388, General Yi Seong-gye was ordered to use his armies to push the Ming armies out of the Korean peninsula.[4] Upon reaching the Amrok River and realizing that the strength of the Ming forces surmounted the forces of Goryeo, he decided to return to the capital and take control of Goryeo's government instead of destroying his army by attacking the Ming.[5]

Returning to Kaesŏng and, after overpowering the royal court's defenders and removing (then killing) General Ch'oe Yŏng, Yi Seong-gye usurped the throne from Goryeo's Dynasty and took control of the government.[5][4] King U was deposed and replaced with his son, King Chang; together they were assassinated with poison one year later and replaced with Prince Gongyang on the grounds that he was of true royal descent.

King U is the only king in Korea's long history to never receive a posthumous title for his reign.


  1. Royal Consort Geun of the Goseong Yi clan (근비 이씨)
    1. Wang Chang, King Chang of Goryeo (왕창; 6 September 1380 – 31 December 1389)
  2. Royal Consort Yeong of the Dongju Ch'oe clan (영비 최씨) – No issue.
  3. Royal Consort Ui of the Jangyeon No clan (의비 노씨) – No issue.
  4. Royal Consort Suk of the Ch'oe clan (숙비 최씨) – No issue.
  5. Royal Consort An of the Gang clan (안비 강씨) – No issue.
  6. Royal Consort Jeong of the Pyeongsan Sin clan (정비 신씨) – No issue.
  7. Royal Consort Deok of the Jo clan (덕비 조씨) – No issue.
  8. Royal Consort Seon of the Gaeseong Wang clan (선비 왕씨) – No issue.
  9. Royal Consort Hyeon of the Juksan An clan (현비 안씨) – No issue.
  10. Princess Hwasun (화순옹주) – No issue.
  11. Princess Myeongsun (명순옹주) – No issue.
  12. Princess Yeongseon (영선옹주; d. 1420) – No issue.

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Biographies, vol. 46". Goryeosa. Vol. 133. 1451. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
  2. ^ a b "King Gongmin, one of the most underrated kings of Goryeo". KBS World. September 1, 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2024.
  3. ^ a b c Cho Min 조민 (2007). "고려말(高麗末)-조선초(朝鮮初) 국내정치지배세력(國內政治支配勢力)의 대중인식(對中認識)" [Diplomatic Relations with China in the Period of Late Goryeo and Early Chosun Dynasty]. The Journal of Northeast Asia Research (in Korean). 22 (2): 55–76.
  4. ^ a b "Choe Yeong, the Victorious General of Goryeo Dynasty". KBS World. February 4, 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2024.
  5. ^ a b Hwang, Kwang Moon (2017). A History of Korea. Palgrave Essential Histories (2 ed.). London: Palgrave. p. 52.
  6. ^ '대풍수' 우왕 이민호, 첫등장부터 조민기와 대립 '긴장감 조성' (in Korean). Xportsnews. Archived from the original on 15 October 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
U of Goryeo
Born: 25 July 1365 Died: 31 December 1389
Regnal titles
Preceded by King of Goryeo
Succeeded by