Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – How was our minjok’s advancement into outside [regions] in the ancient period?

The following is a translation of the fourth chapter of part IV from Yun Naehyeon’s Our Ancient History.

4. How was our minjok‘s penetration/advancement into outside [regions] (대외진출) in the ancient period?

History textbooks and general surveys (개설서) have focused on our minjok’s internal (국내) activities and so they have neglected external/foreign (대외활동) activities. As a result it has become assumed (인식되다) that from ancient times we were a minjok living (영위하다) passive lives. However the facts are not so.

It can be observed from our ancient history that Old Joseon was a large country encompassing (아우르다) both the Korean peninsula and the whole of Manchuria, and the countries which succeeded it were all extremely active in foreign affairs (대외활동). A part of the Suksin people (肅愼族 Ch. Sushen) who themselves constitute a part of our minjok, migrated to Primorsky Krai (연해주) [region] and established a country called Eumnu (挹婁 Ch. Yilou) whilst a part of the Buyeo people (夫餘族) migrated to a region of Siberia north of Primorsky Krai and established a country called Dumangnu (豆莫婁 Ch. Doumolou). [In this manner] the active territory of our minjok was expanded towards the northeast [all the way] up to Primorsky Krai and Siberia.

Founded in today’s Liaodong (遼東), Goguryeo once invaded [all the way] to Taiyuan (太原) of [China’s] Shanxi province (山西省); it reclaimed the western part of present day [sic because it no longer exists] Liaoxi (遼西) which had been former land of Old Joseon, and sought to restore the ‘order under heaven’ (천하질서) of Old Joseon with its territory extending to the vicinity of Beijing. Generally it is said that the territory of Goguryeo extended [only] up to the Liao river (遼河) but this is a mistake.

There are often people who speak as though our minjok [displayed only] a passive stance having only ever defended [itself] against invasions of other minjok, but this is not at all the case. In wars against the Eastern Han, Goguryeo was often victorious and it won nearly all of the major wars. These facts are clearly recorded in the “Dongyi Accounts” (東夷列傳) of the Houhanshu and the “Goguryeo Basic Annals” of the Samguk-sagi.

In later times the war in which [Goguryeo] General Eulji Mundeok was victorious against Sui Emperor Yang (隋煬帝) pushed the Sui country [dynasty] towards collapse. At the time, Goguryeo was a powerful eastern country whose enormous territory included today’s [sic] Liaoxi region; Sui country was extremely afraid of Goguryeo and so they thought their own country would not be safe if Goguryeo were left alone.

This is why Sui emperor Yang thought that he must attack (치다) Goguryeo even if it meant risking the fate of the country. At the time the standing army of Sui was 1,130,000 [men] but this figure was exaggerated to two million, [however Yang’s army] enlisted four million men. In order to attack Goguryeo, Sui mobilized close to some 5,130,000 men.

If he mobilized 5,130,000 able men, no matter how large a population they had, it was a war that inevitably risked the [wider] fate of the country. In this manner of war Sui emperor Yang suffered a crushing defeat against the small Goguryeo military led by Eulji Mundeok.

Internally, able men were regularly being mobilized for corvée duty on construction works such as the Grand Canal and so the agricultural economy became impoverished; with dissatisfaction rising over this; when [Sui] suffered a crushing defeat against Goguryeo, an uprising occurred in Sui against the imperial house (황실). As a result Sui collapsed.

Consequently General Eulji Mundeok’s victory did not stop simply at having defended against the Sui invasion but [it] pushed Sui all the way to collapse. Goguryeo led a large victory that ‘left a path in history’ {or the history of war} [through the] war in which with a small military strength, it repelled Sui who had mobilized the largest number of people [for an army] in world history.

Before the establishing of Sui country, at the time when Goguryeo restored the present day [sic] region of Liaoxi which was the former land of Old Joseon and made it its own territory, Baekje [people] were crossing the ocean and occupying the east coastland region of China. In 246 during the period of the Chinese Three Kingdoms (Wei 魏, Shu 蜀 and Wu 吳), the governor of You province (幽州刺史) Guanqiu Jian (毌丘儉) of Wei country invaded Goguryeo and reached the capital of Hwando-seong (丸都城). At this time, taking advantage of the empty You province, Baekje had jwajang ‘general of the left’ Jin Chung (左將 眞忠) attack it and establish the Baekje commandery (百濟郡) in the region of Beijing and Tianjin (天津). Subsequently Baekje widened its power southwards advancing not only into the regions of Shandong (山東星), Gansu (江蘇省) and Zhejiang (浙江省) provinces, but also the region of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Prefecture (廣西壯族自治區).

Baekje’s rule over the east coast region of China continued for more than 340 years lasting until just before Sui unified China. Rule over the east coast region of China continued even while the Baekje capital moved [first] from Hanseong (modern Seoul) to Ungjin (modern Gongju), and then to Sabi (modern Buyeo). There is the possibility that rather than wasting the country’s strength confronting Goguryeo in the Han-gang river basin [of Seoul] Baekje perhaps judged it to be more advantageous to abandon (포기) that place and [instead] expand [its control over] the ‘rice bowel’ region (곡창지대) of China’s eastern coast. These facts tell us that Baekje was a powerful thalassocracy (해양국가 lit. ‘maritime state’).

As Sui country unified China, Baekje was pushed out of the east coast region of China, but subsequently during the Tang (唐) period descendants of our minjok established an independent regime (정권) there. This was the Chicheong-beonjin (淄靑藩鎭 Ch. Ziqing-fanzhen) of General Yi Jeonggi (李正己). With its territory [covering] the present day Shandong province (山東省) [of China], Chicheong-beonjin was ruled for 55 years by a single house with General Yi Jeonggi’s son, Yi Nap (李納), succeeding him, and then continuing with Yi Nab’s son, Yi Sa-go (李師古) and Yi Sa-go’s younger brother Yi Sado (李師道).

After Tang country overthrew Goguryeo and Baekje in alliance with Silla, more than 200,000 Goguryeo people were dispersed and moved to regions of China; General Yi Jeonggi’s clan seems to have moved to Shandong province at that time. General Yi Jeonggi achieved military recognition and made a name for himself at the time of the An Lushan (安祿山) rebellion [c.755-63]; later he gained the trust of people around him and became the jiedushi provincial military commander (節度使) of the Chicheong-beonjin. Although he became jiedushi through the power of Tang, in Chicheong-beonjin he implemented unique laws and systems and behaved independently whilst opposing the Tang country imperial house (황실). It was an independent regime established in China by remnant people of Goguryeo.

Even whilst having hostile relations with the Tang country imperial house, the Chicheong-beonjin formed friendly relations with Balhae; [both] political exchanges and economic trade were frequent. [Both] Chicheong-beonjin and Balhae were established by remnant [survivors] (유민) of Goguryeo, Yi Jeonggi and Dae Joyeong; if they had maintained friendly relations with one another whilst opposing the Tang imperial house, what thoughts must they have had? Perhaps they intended to combine their strength and restore the great climate (?? 기상) and philosophy (사상) of Goguryeo. Chicheong-beonjin existed for 55 years before being destroyed by a Tang attack that mobilized the entirety of [Tang’s] national strength during the reign of Tang [emperor] Xianzong (憲宗 [r.805-20]).

19 years later, Commander (大使 daesa) Jang Bo-go (張保皐) of Silla advanced once more into this [same] region. Commander Jang Bogo had originally crossed to China from his home on present day Wan-do island and risen to the rank of xiaojang [in the] Wuning army (武寧軍의 軍中小將), however seeing that Silla people were being caught and sold by Chinese pirates, in 828 he established the Cheonghaejin [base] (淸海鎭) on Wan-do island in order to stop this.

Making Cheonghaejin his main base, Commander Jang Bogo controlled the southern Japanese archipelago and the east coast region of China; he established a thalassocracy (해상왕국 lit. ‘kingdom on the sea’) centered on our country [aka Korea] connecting the Japanese archipelago and China. Not only did Commander Jang Bogo rule this region, he utilized it as a route for international trade. Using this [infrastructure] trade was conducted even with faraway Arab regions. Activities [constituting] world trade (종합무역) were begun.

The east coast region of China that Commander Jang Bogo controlled extended from Shandong province in the north to Zhejiang (浙江省) province in the south, but the central region was Shandong and so it was the [same] place that had been General Yi Jeonggi’s Chicheong-beonjin and, previous to that, the region ruled by Baekje. That General Yi Jeonggi had been able to cultivate the Chicheong-beonjin as an independent force opposing Tang, and that subsequently Commander Jang Bogo had been able to control this region was [only] possible because of the historical background that it had [previously] been ruled by Baekje.

The advancing of our minjok into the Wae [aka Japanese] archipelago also began at an extremely early period. Many elements of our neolithic culture have been discovered in the Jōmon culture (縄文文化), the neolithic culture of Japan, and so it tells us that at the period of the Jōmon culture, our neolithic culture had already been transmitted to Japan. In particular, the Yayoi culture (彌生文化) that continued from C3rd BCE to C3rd CE was formed [as a result of] the transmission of our bronze age culture, iron age culture and rice farming [technology].

In any region of the world which undergoes a normal process of development, it is common for there to first be a bronze [age] culture and [only] after a quite long time has passed does the iron [age] culture appear. In our country and Manchuria bronze age culture appeared around 2500~2600 BCE, and advanced (진입) into iron age culture around 800 BCE. However, in the Wae archipelago, bronze age culture and iron age culture appeared simultaneously with the Yayoi culture.

This is because, due to our country and the Wae archipelago being divided by the sea, our culture was not transmitted to the Wae archipelago regularly, [instead] during one period the culture which had been attained up until then was transmitted all in one go. The result was the occurrence of the phenomenon of bronze age culture, iron age culture and rice agriculture, which had [all] been attained by our minjok up until that time, being transmitted all in one ago [to Japan from] around 300 BCE.

The fact that their culture was transmitted from our country can be understood from the point [of fact] that bronze and iron implements/vessels of the early Yayoi culture being unearthed on the Wae archipelago are the same as those unearthed in our [own] country. These were not made on the Wae archipelago but imported from the Korean peninsula. Japanese term these artefacts as ‘shipped bronze items’ (舶載銅器) and ‘shipped iron items’ (舶載鐵器). [Both] dolmen, and stone implements and clay vessels unearthed at dolmen sites which [all constitute] important elements of Yayoi culture are the same as those unearthed in Korea. This tells us that the Yayoi culture of the Wae archipelago was realized through transmission of our bronze age and iron age cultures.

In our [own] history [the period] from 300 BCE to 300 CE [corresponds] to the late Old Joseon, its collapse and the formation of the Multiple States period (열국시대), and so was an era of political turmoil. Consequently it is thought that people from our country advanced into (진출) the Wae archipelago in order to avoid the political turmoil of this period and open up (개척) a new region. The region of early penetration was Kyūshuū (九州) in the southern region, and in the later era they gradually expanded northwards. Recently a Japanese research team has discovered (밝혀내다) that people of the Yayoi culture had the same genes as people from our country.

Until that time there had been no state (국가) on the Wae archipelago. However, in our country Old Joseon had already been founded in 2333 BCE and so the people who advanced into Japan from our country already had the knowledge about states because they had lived for a long time in a structure called a state. Based on their own political experience, these people formed groups in each region [of Japan] and established countries [there]. In this way small states (소국) [began] appearing here and there [throughout] the Wae archipelago. Using the names of their motherlands (모국) they named their own countries [established in Japan] Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla and Imna (Gaya).

Subsequently around the C4th CE, a new [wave] of migrants entered [Japan coming] from our country and created the Kofun culture (古墳文化); through a process of unification (통합) between the small [Yayoi] states that had previously existed and the newly arrived groups, the state called Japan emerged around the C7th CE. Thus it can be said that the appearance of political powers (세력) and emergence of states on the Wae archipelago was the result of our minjok migrating [there].

As has been examined here, the foreign activities of our minjok in the ancient period was extremely energetic (활발). The territory [of these activities] reached the [Russian] Maritime Provinces and Siberia in the northeast, beyond Beijing to Taiyuan (太原) in the northwest; crossing the Yellow Sea in the west [they] ruled over the east coast region and southern part of China, and to the southeast, they advanced into the Wae archipelago and established sub-countries (분국) there. Whilst politically ruling these regions, our minjok simultaneously developed the cultures there. [Thus] our ocean and marine industries and international trade [today] possess this historical tradition. (Yun 2003:130-37)

Yun Naehyeon 윤내현. 2003 (2014 5th reprint). 우리 고대사: 상상에서 현실로 (Our Ancient History: from imagination to reality). Paju, Gyeonggi province: 지식산업사. 231 pages.

3 thoughts on “Sources: Yun Naehyeon “Our Ancient History” – How was our minjok’s advancement into outside [regions] in the ancient period?

  1. Pingback: Sources: “Our Ancient History” Yun Naehyeon | Koreanology

  2. It is quite amazing how a professor of Korean historian at a major university, and an influential one at that, is capable of having such a distorted pseudo-historical view. Baekje advanced all the way to Zhejiang, Guangxi, and Gansu? Is Yun Nae-hyon utterly ignorant of basic historical and archaeological cross-checking?

  3. Pingback: Sources: Sin Chaeho – ‘History of Ancient Joseon Culture’ (on the Sam’rang 三郞 > Jo’ui 皂衣 / hwarang lineage) | Koreanology

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