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.

Sources: “Study of Balhae” 渤海考 (1784) – Bak Jega’s Preface

Bak Je-ga (朴齊家 1750-1815) was author of Bukhak-ui (北學議 Discussions of Northern Learning, 1778) and a close friend to Yu Deukgong.  This is an attempted  translation of his preface to Yu’s Balhae-go (渤海考 Study of Balhae, 1784).  See also Yu’s own preface.

Bak Jega’s Preface to Balhae-go 渤海考序

Early on I crossed west of the Amnok (鴨綠) [river] and, taking the Aiyang road (靉陽, in present day Fengcheng city, Liaoning Province), arrived at Liaoyang (遼陽, in central east Liaoning). Throughout the journey of some five or six hundred li (里), it was nearly all [a landscape of] tall mountains and deep valleys. [Only after] emerging from Langzi-shan mountain (狼子山) (present day Liangjia 亮甲), could [we] see an infinitely expansive plain where the sun, moon and flying birds would rise and sink in the prairie mist (野氣). But turning to view the mountains of the northeast, [the mountains] formed a ring around heaven, blocking the earth, just like a single straight brushstroke; [these] tall mountains and deep valleys that faced [us] were all beyond the thousand li perimeter of Liaodong. We sighed and marvelled, “This is the edge of heaven!”

Liaodong is [but] one corner of the world. However, nowhere has given rise to more heroes and kings (帝王) than here. The land bordered with Yan (燕, present day northeast Hebei province) and Qi (齊 present Shandong province) and thus the circumstances (勢) of China could easily be watched. Consequently the Dae clan (大氏) of Balhae, [took] the scattered remnant [folk] and, [even though they] abandoned the land outside the mountains, it was still sufficient to valiantly watch a single direction and vie (抗衝) with [the rest of] the world (天下). The Wang clan (王氏) unified the three Han (三韓, refers to the Later Three Kingdoms) but in the end they (其世) did not dare to [venture] a single step beyond the Amnok [river] and so [we] can see the traces of division and occupation, of gain and loss of the mountains and rivers.

A woman cannot see [the world] beyond the eaves of the roof; a child’s wanderings barely extend beyond the threshold: [they] certainly are insufficient to speak of anything beyond the [outer] wall [of their house]! Scholars [today] are [all] born inside the nine provinces of [Unified] Silla; their eyes are shut and ears blocked. They do not even know about the rise and fall, nor wars and battles of the Han, Tang, Song and Ming [dynasties]: less still of Balhae’s past events.

My friend, Mr Yu Hye-pung (楡惠風君, one of Yu Deukgong’s style names), is both erudite and skillful at poetry. He is expert at history (掌故) and has already compiled the Poems and Annotations of the Twenty-One Capitals (廿一都詩註) which looks in detail at internal [Korean history] (域內). [He has now] extended it writing [this] single volume Balhae-go. He has finely woven together the threads of personages, administrative divisions, a list of kings (世次) and basic chronology (沿革). That these have been brought together is a great happiness. But he says it is lamentable that the Wang clan [of Goryeo] was unable to restore the former [Go]guryeo territory. The Wang clan did not restore the old territory and so the places of Gyerim (鷄林 aka Silla) and Nangnang (樂浪 aka Goguryeo) eventually became vague (貿貿) and severed from the rest of the world (天下).

This corresponds with what I know and have previously seen, and I marvel at Mr Yu’s talent to be able to fathom the circumstances of the world and investigate the methods of good and bad kings. Further, how could this work be specially prepared [simply as] the writings of a single country; only the length could [be negatively compared with] the books of Huhui (胡恢) and Maling (馬令) [who both wrote histories of the Southern Tang]. Thus [I write this] preface and argue like this.

Autumn, 9th year [of King Jeongjo] (1785)

Sources: “Study of Balhae” 渤海考 (1784) – Author’s Preface 自序

P1030114c720 cropped
This is the famous preface to Yu Deukgong‘s Balhae-go ( 渤海考 Study of Balhae 1784).  See also, his friend, Bak Jega’s preface.

Author’s Preface

Goryeo did not compile (修) a history of Balhae and so [we] know that Goryeo was not fully vibrant (不振). In the past, the Go clan (高氏) resided in the north and [their land was] called Goguryeo; the Buyeo clan (夫餘氏) resided in the southwest and were called Baekje; and the Bak (朴), Seok (昔) and Kim (金) clans were in the southeast and called Silla. These were the Three Kingdoms. Appropriately there was a history of the Three Kingdoms which Goryeo had [duly] compiled. This was right.

Subsequently the Buyeo and Go clans came to an end; the Kim clan occupied the south whilst the Dae clan (大氏) occupied the north and [its country] was called Balhae. These were the Southern and Northern Kingdoms and there should have befittingly been a history of the Southern and Northern Kingdoms, but Goryeo did not compile one. This was wrong.

Who were the Dae clan? They were Goguryeo people. What land was it they occupied? It was Goguryeo land. They drove [others] out (斥) to the east, west and north and enlarged [the territory].

Subsequently [both] the Kim and Dae came to an end; the Wang clan (王氏) came to power (統) and, occupying [the former territories, their country] was called Goryeo. In the south they occupied all of the Kim clan’s [former] territory but in the north they could not occupy all of the Dae’s. Some of it went to the Jurchen (女眞) and some to the Khitan (契丹). At that time those who devised plans (計) for Goryeo should have quickly compiled a history of Balhae. They [should have] taken this to the Jurchen and remonstrated them saying, “Why don’t you return our Balhae territory? Balhae’s territory was Goguryeo territory!” Then [they should have] sent a military general to go and take [the territory] and that way they could have occupied to the north of the Tomun (土門 present day Tumen) [river]. Then [similarly they should have] taken [the history] to the Khitan and remonstrated them saying, “Why don’t you return our Balhae territory? Balhae’s territory was Goguryeo territory!” Then [they should have] sent a military general to go and take [the territory] and that way they could have occupied to the west of the Amnok (鴨綠 present day Yalu) [river]. [However], in the end no [such] history of Balhae was compiled and so no one knew which clan’s land they were, either to the north of the Tomun or to the west of the Amnok. [Even if] they wanted to remonstrate the Jurchen there was nothing they could say. [Even if] they wanted to remonstrate the Khitan, there was nothing they could say.

Goryeo in the end became a weak country because it was unable to reclaim (得) the Balhae territory. How lamentable! Perhaps [Goryeo people even] said, “Balhae was overthrown by the [Khitan] Liao how could its history be compiled?” This is not so. Balhae had a system of government (憲) resembling China’s and it would certainly have had a history bureau (史官). Its capital, Holhan-seong (忽汗城), was destroyed [but] those who fled to Goryeo with the crown prince [numbered] in the hundreds of thousands. [So even if] there were no official historians [amongst them] there would definitely have been books; [even] if there were no historians or books, [they could have] asked the crown prince and been able to learn the court [history] (世). They could have asked the Eun Gyejong (隱繼宗) and learnt [about Balhae’s] ritual behaviour (禮). If they asked the [remaining] hundreds of thousands, there is nothing that they could not have found out.

Zhang Jianzhang (張建章 806-866, see note below) was from Tang [China], yet he authored the Bohaiguo-ji (渤海國記 Record of Bohai/Balhae); [how is it, there were] Goryeo people but they were unable to compile a history of Balhae themselves?

Ah! It is [now] centuries after the literature [pertaining to Balhae] has been scattered and lost. Even if one attempts to compile [a history, the sources] cannot be obtained! Whilst [working] as an official at the Naegak (內閣, refers to Gyujanggak royal library) I extensively read royal/rare books (秘書 lit. ‘secret books’) and selectively compiled (撰次) the matters [concerning] Balhae as nine go short studies (考) on [the following]: rulers (君), subjects/officials (臣), geography, ranks and titles, ceremonial texts (儀章), produce (産物), language, literature and successor states. That they cannot be termed [under the orthodox categories of] important houses (世), biographies (傳) and treatises (志) but [only] go [means] this is not a complete history. [I] would not dare pretend this is an [official] history [史].

15th day, 3rd [lunar] leap month of Gabjin (甲辰 1784)

Zhang Jianzhang (張建章 806-866) served as a Tang emissary to Barhae, his tomb was discovered in Beijing in 1956. In 832 a Balhae emissary visited Youzhou (幽州, modern Beijing) and the following year Zhang was sent to Balhae. He arrived in the capital of Balhae in the 9th lunar month of 834 and returned Youzhou in the 8th month of 835. Based on this visit he authored the three volume Bohai-ji (渤海記 Record of Bohai); it has not survived but is thought to have been a primary reference for the ‘Bohai-zhuan’ (渤海傳) section of the Xin-Tangshu (新唐書 New Book of Tang).  (See Song 2012:41)

Song Gi-ho 송기호 (translator). 2012: 발해고 (Study of Balhae). Seoul: (주)홍익출판사

Sources: “History of the Balhae Empire” – Forward, Contents and Afterword

Balhae Empire c720

Seo Byeong-guk 서병국. 2010: 발해제국사: 발해가 고구려의 계승국인 34가지 증거 (History of the Balhae Empire: 34 pieces of evidence that Balhae was the successor state to Goguryeo). Gyeonggi-do Paju: 한국학술정보(주)

General warning: this is a good example of Korean subjectivity in the history dispute with China.  I do not particularly agree with the arguments presented.

Translation notes: the verb ggeul’eodeul’ida 끌어들이다 has been directly translated throughout as “to pull in” to maintain its clear nuance, although in the context it would sound more natural as “to incorporate”.  The loaded terms minjok 민족 and jongjok 종족 are both translated here as “people” or “ethnic group”.


Following the collapse of the great empire of Goguryeo in northeast Asia, what could be called ‘the great exodus of a people (민족)’ continued for more than thirty years where the remnants (유민) of the Goguryeo people and the Malgal, who had been under Goguryeo’s rule, left their beloved homeland and [moved] to an unfamiliar foreign country, or else had to move their livelihoods to alien land (i.e. exactly the same thing.) Through this exodus of a people, the territory of our [Korean] people (우리 민족) received a mortal wound. Silla unified the peninsula but because they were unable to occupy the former Goguryeo territory north of Pyeongyang, an expansive area was expelled from our (i.e. Koreans’) historical interest.

Time passed, and the country of Balhae established itself (들어서다) in the land of the Songmal-malgal (粟末靺鞨 Ch. Sumo-mohe) which had been formerly governed by Goguryeo and so the ethnic chaos which had been stirred up by the great exodus of a people entered into a stage of calm. However, the lack of interest in the territory north of Pyeongyang remained the same.

So, how did Balhae come to be established? Tang caused the downfall of Goguryeo, but had been unable to advance into its former land north of the Yalu River (압록강) and so [the territory there] was in a state of empty vacuum. This vacuum was a prime requirement for founding a country and it was Balhae that was established here. Because Balhae was established outside of the region of Tang control, the only ethnic group (종족) who could have established it were either the remnants of Goguryeo or the Malgal.

Both during the Goguryeo period and after its collapse, the Goguryeo and Malgal people successfully maintained a relationship of mutual reliance. The founding of Balhae was achieved through this cooperative relationship. Goguryeo had originally been a multiethnic state and Balhae too, established on former Goguryeo land, was a country with a similar personality. Demonstrating in particularly that Balhae was a multiethnic state [is the fact that] Balhae was established immediately following the Khitan led rebellion against the Tang in Yingzhou (營州, modern Chaoyang 朝陽 west of the Liao River), in which the Goguryeo remnant people and Malgal had participated as a joint force.

But even in multiethnic states, it is inevitable that there will be [one] ethnic group (종족) which controls the whole territory. Just as in the multiethnic state of Tang, the principle power was the [Chinese] Han (漢), so in Balhae must there have been a dominant power (주체 세력). If so, was it of Goguryeo or Malgal lineage? The ethnic lineage (종족 계열) of the dominant power can be distinguished both by looking collectively at the relationship between the two during the Goguryeo period and [also] which ethnic group ruled the Balhae after its establishment.

However, this issue has not yet been properly resolved. Although the history of Balhae has largely been elucidated through written records (문헌), there is a need for further research. Even whilst research on this problem is so urgent, there are people who [would] deny this. They are the Chinese. This is because they blindly follow only the record in the ‘Bohai-zhuan’ (渤海傳 ‘Account of Balhae’) chapter in the Xin-Tangshu (新唐書 New Book of Tang) which says, “The Songmal-malgal (粟末靺鞨 속갈말갈 Ch. Sumo-mohe) established Balhae.”

However, to the same extent that the ‘Bohai-Mohe-zhuan’ (渤海靺鞨傳 ‘Account of the Balhae Malgal’) section of the Jiu-Tangshu (舊唐書 Old Book of Tang) provides an antithesis [to this], detailed historical examination is required into the issue of the dominant ethnic group. Unless this problem is solved, even if Balhae history is pulled onto the stage of our [Korean] history, it will not be acknowledge [as Korean] by the rest of the world. The Chinese have managed to separate the history of Balhae from us and pulled it into their own history. This is all because the problem of who the dominant ethnic group of Balhae was has not been researched.

Until now both Korea and China have relied only on fragmentary records. China has consciously avoided approaching the problem whilst Koreans have failed to deeply investigate from more than one angle. China avoids the issue because of a selfish judgement that [to do so] is beneficial to their national interests.

In the spring of 1990, this author participated in ‘The First International Conference on Balhae History’ sponsored by Yanbian University, established in China’s Korean Autonomous Prefecture; he was able to directly observe live what kinds of opinions Chinese scholars of Balhae history had regarding the history of Balhae [nice tautology!] The concluding report (합의문) presented during the closing ceremony suggested leaving the problem of [what] the dominant ethnic group of Balhae [was] for future research. Since then twenty years have passed but absolutely nothing has changed concerning this issue.

As noted above, the Chinese have completely ignored researching (or ‘research on’) this matter. Consequently it cannot but be our responsibility (몫). Concerning the problem of ethnicity, neither us [Korea] nor China will retreat an inch, but if we research this problem with a sense of historical mission (사명감), the assertions of the Chinese can be changed. This author heard a potentially shocking hint from ethnic Korean [Chinese] scholars who participated in the international conference on Balhae history. They themselves acknowledged that Balhae had been established with the remnants of Goguryeo as the central [people], but they were under pressure by Chinese authorities not to express this in words or writing.

Everyone has the hope that at sometime, even in China, academic freedom will be realized such that the history of Balhae, too, could be researched in a rational manner, but this may be an unrealizable fantasy. Since time immemorial the Chinese have regarded, as if [a matter] of ethnic pride, the complacent comfort [안주하는] [found in their] Hua-Yi historical perspective (華夷史觀 lit. ‘Chinese civilization [vs] barbarians’) which always views the history of the surrounding ethnic groups through a Sinocentric [outlook] (lit. ‘with their own country as the centre) and as a consequence even if in the future academic freedom is achieved, it is difficult to expect that the previous distortions of Balhae’s history will be correctly addressed (정립하다 lit. ‘to establish a [correct] thesis’).

That the sources on the Chinese side concerning the dominant (주체) [ethnic group of] Balhae are false has its very origin in the Hua-Yi historical perspective. Tang was absorbed in this historical outlook and so treated Balhae as a yidi barbarian (夷狄 Korean: ijeok) [entity]; whereupon Balhae became transformed into a country established by the Malgal (靺鞨 Chinese: Mohe) who for a long time had been the representative yidi people of Northeast Asian.

Tang [Chinese] viewed Balhae as a yidi [entity] and so would have been satisfied with [their] particular spiritual self-importance (자존), but what do Chinese people feel today? Different to their ancestors they point out the territorial satisfaction they feel. The Tang regarded the northeastern region of Goguryeo as useless land and so relinquished [thoughts of conquering] it but, through a sense of moral duty that the region is exclusive territory which must on no account be conceded to non-Han (漢) peoples, Chinese today are wiping away any remaining trace of the Goguryeo lineage. This is the byproduct of a modern version of the Hua-Yi historiographic perspective.

That Chinese scholars today pull Balhae into the history of their own country is a concrete expression of behaviour of this. On the question of which ethnic group the dominant power of Balhae emerged from, to say whether it was Goguryeo or Malgal based on a conclusion arrived at through pure research would be the academic approach. However, ignoring research and speaking from the dimension of national interest is not an academic approach. Here Chinese scholars’ research on Balhae history cannot be said to be free.

However it may be, recently there are people amongst ourselves, too, who are under the illusion (착각) that understanding Chinese people’s historical view of Balhae is [simply] a new research trend in [the study of] Balhae history. This is irresponsible behaviour, abandoning oneself in the distorted Hua-Yi historiographic perspective. If the results of research carried out with a serious attitude said that it were so, an understanding [for the Chinese perspective] could be found, but if they are words issued in a shallow manner without [having done that research] they then will be rejected.

When participating in the conference on Balhae history and directly coming into contact with the actual Chinese [scholars’] exclusionary historical view of Balhae, this author could not contain his indignation. But at the same time it gave him a new sense of mission. The result is this book.

Japanese sources on Balhae, too, unanimously say that the dominant power of Balhae was Goguryeo. But that Chinese people, in spite of this, inevitably insist it was Malgal is because the Hua-Yi historiographic perspective which refuses change continues to exist. Only when the Hua-Yi perspective changes will their view of Balhae history [start to] change. Unfortunately it is difficult to expect of Chinese people that [their] Hua-Yi perspective, viewing all nearby peoples as yidi barbarians, will change. But if we [Koreans] correctly establish a historical view of Balhae history, then the day will come when the twisted Hua-Yi perspective of the Chinese will change too.

This author’s comprehensive (종합적) research into the dominant power of Balhae is with the sole aim of trying to rectify the distorted view of Balhae history which is [itself] the dark side (이면) of the biased Hua-Yi perspective. As much as it is now the 21st century in which a new millenium has begun, we must no longer accept twisted views of history. Only rational views of history acknowledged by all, will guarantee peace and equality between countries.

In order to demonstrate the historical fact that the dominant power of Balhae was of Goguryeo lineage, this author will devote his whole energies (심혈 lit. ‘heart and blood’) to finding relations between the two. In concrete terms he will try to form connections between whether facts and events appearing in each topic [related to] Balhae also appear in Goguryeo. That is to say, he will focus on proving that the roots of historical facts which can be seen in Balhae, [can be traced to] Goguryeo. Because resolving this problem is the emphasis of this book, criticism and refutations of the twisted assertions and opinions of Chinese [scholars] cannot be neglected.

The uniqueness of this book is in its new method of research which has not until now been attempted. That is to divide the connections between Balhae and Goguryeo into thirty-four categories such as politics, diplomacy and culture and to take pains that the reader has no difficult in understanding [the discourse]. [The author] believes that anyone who knows [no more than] the name Balhae, should have no problems in understanding [this book].

August 2010
Seo Byeong-guk


1 Dae Joyeong (大祚榮), establishing Balhae
2 The name of the country established by Dae Joyeong was Balhae
3 Balhae was an empire
4 Balhae and Jin-guk (振國/震國) were different
5 The majority of Balhae’s inhabitants were of Goguryeo lineage
6 Criticizing sources which write Balhae as Malgal
7 Examining the meaning of the expansion of anti-Balhae power in Tang
8 Silla acknowledged Balhae as the successor to Goguryeo
9 Goryeo acknowledged Balhae as the successor to Goguryeo
10 Japan viewed Balhae as the same as Goguryeo
11 Examining Gung’ye’s (弓裔) view of Balhae
12 Finding out the world view of Balhae’s people
13 Goguryeo and Malgal lineages coexisted in Balhae
14 Balhae was the successor to Goguryeo
15 Balhae inherited Goguryeo’s policy [towards the] Tujue (突厥 돌궐) people
16 Balhae utilized Goguryeo’s knowledge of foreign countries
17 Balhae customs were Goguryeo type
18 The culture level of Balhae was the same as Goguryeo’s
19 The artist technology of Balhae was the same as Goguryeo’s
20 Balhae developed Goguryeo music
21 Balhae developed Goguryeo literature
22 On the front of [archaeological] remains and relics, Balhae was the successor to Goguryeo
23 The roots of Balhae polo (擊毬 격구) was Goguryeo
24 The roots of Balhae’s agriculture was Goguryeo
25 The roots of Balhae falconry was Goguryeo
26 The remnants of Balhae were acknowledged as the same ethnicity as Goryeo
27 The remnants of Balhae participated in the governments of the Khitan and Jurchen
28 The Liaoyang (遼陽) remnants of Goguryeo were the ancestors of Balhae people
29 The Khitans Balhae imperial guard (儀仗) were of Goguryeo lineage
30 Liaoyang is the homeland of both Goguryeo and Balhae people
31 Balhae and the Jurchen were not the same people
32 The Balhae of the Five Dynasties means Goguryeo lineage
33 Hwang Uidon (黃義敦 1890-1964) regarded Balhae as the same ethnic identity as Silla
34 Correct understanding of the Southern and Northern states (南北國 aka Silla and Balhae) period



Even though we [Koreans] are the protagonists of Balhae’s history, the Chinese do not acknowledge this. Much of the cause is due to us. It is because we have not made it clear through scholarly research that we are the masters (주인) of Balhae history. Until now we have only said in words that Balhae history belongs to us without any academic evidence (뒷받침). As a result who [do we expect] Chinese would consider Balhae history to belong to? Currently they insist that Balhae history belongs to them, but previously they asserted that it belonged to the Malgal people. That the [perceived] ownership of Balhae history has changed from the Malgal to the Chinese [themselves] is set against the context of an exclusionary Chinese view of history that pulls in the histories of all the ethnic groups that were [previously] inside the territory of present day China.

The Chinese are going to great lengths to make Balhae history Chinese history based on the fact that the former rulers of Manchuria – the Goguryeo, Balhae and Manchs (descendants of the Malgal) – have since been assimilated as Chinese. There are twenty-five official Chinese histories (正史); they include the histories of northern ethnic groups, namely the Liao, Jin, Yuan and Qing. These states voluntarily entered into the Chinese mainland and governed the Chinese people for extended periods of time and so it is natural that their histories should be included (편입) as Chinese history.

However, should that make it okay to, in this way, [also] artificially pull the histories of Goguryeo and Balhae into Chinese history when they had [previously] existed with solemn dignity (엄연히) outside of Chinese history?! Chinese would say that it is okay but they would not find it easy to gain acceptance [for this idea] from people of other countries. But in spite of that we cannot afford to stand idly by. The Chinese claims shake up rational recognition (인식) of Balhae history face on and so we, as Koreans, must establish a counter logic (대응논리).

This author believes that he established a counter logic with his Goguryeo-jeguksa (고구려제국사 History of the Goguryeo Empire), published in 1997. And in his Balhae Balhae’in (발해 발해인 Balhae, Balhae People), published in 1990, he brought into clear relief [the idea] that Balhae history is the history of the remnants of Goguryeo through [examining] the way of life of the remnants of the Balhae people.

The accounts (열전) of the remnant people of Balhae recorded in the Liaoshi (遼史) and Jinshi (金史) are valuable written sources clearly showing the real identity (정체) of Balhae. In spite of that, Chinese do not take notice of these sections and pretend not to know about them. This is because they well know that there are no other written sources showing the identity of Balhae as accurately as these.

When discussing the identity of Balhae, the history of the remnants of Balhae recorded in the Liaoshi and Jinshi must not be ignored. As has been pointed out, it is regrettable that Chinese [scholars] ignore these sections and only make obstinate claims running counter to reason. They only talk about the identity of Balhae in a manner convenient [to themselves].

Although the [former] territory of Balhae is now inside the present day territory of China, it [can only be considered] appropriate and reasonable to say that the dominant (주체적) ethnic group (종족) of Balhae was of Goguryeo lineage. Anyone with even a modicum of basic common sense about history would be able to think like this, so why do only the Chinese think differently? The cause [of this] is filled up with the Chinese people’s traditional Hua-Yi historical perspective and so it is here that the answer must be found.

What forms the basis of this Hua-Yi historical perspective is the Chinese people’s traditional sense of history. Their sense and view of history is self-righteous, exclusionary and uncompromising. But it was the northern peoples who opposed this Hua-Yi historical perspective. In order to render it impotent they established a Yi-Hua historical perspective (夷華史觀) [in its place]. It was not an absolutely stubborn (무조건) opposing [view], but a rational one. The central content of the Yi-Hua historical perspective is to say that the Chinese mainland cannot only be governed always by Chinese Han, but that it can be governed also by non-Han (northern) peoples. That is to say, non-Han ethnic groups can also be the owners of the Chinese mainland.

The fate of this Yi-Hua historical perspective followed that of the northern peoples’ states. Whereupon the Hua-Yi historical perspective which had been suppressed by the Yi-Hua perspective, was revived and [since then we have been in a situation where the Chinese] have been asserting with free abandon that Goguryeo and Balhae history are all [a part of] Chinese history. In the past, the Chinese did not say that Goguryeo and Balhae history are Chinese. That presently the Chinese government is even saying that Balhae history is Chinese shows that the Hua-Yi view of history has become still more exclusionary [than before].

In this maelstrom of [confused] historic awareness, the [only] thing we can do is to discover multi-angled approaches which can prove the fact that Balhae history is the history of the remnant people of Goguryeo, and to secure rational evidence. Owing to our overly devoted confrontation [inherited from Silla against Goguryeo/Balhae; or simply against modern Chinese historiography], we have forgotten the true value of Goguryeo and Balhae history, but the Chinese who, with their uncompromising Hua-Yi perspective, are familiar with debasing the history of neighbouring countries, have been silently progressing in their government supported project to pull Goguryeo and Balhae history into Chinese history.

If the history of Goguryeo and Balhae becomes that of China, we will receive an indescribable wound. That is to say, we will become a people without history and so lose [our] ethnic dignity and experience the fate of the disappearance of the Korean people’s existence. Therefore we must absolutely defend Goguryeo and Balhae history with our own strength. With what method shall we protect it?

The defence of Goguryeo and Balhae history is a matter of the survival of a people which cannot be relaxed. Consequently we must search for the method through history. The most certain method is to disarm (무력화시키다) the forced logic of the Chinese. In Goguryeo history [we must] demonstrate that Goguryeo was not a minority regional government (정권) of China but that it was an empire; in Balhae history, [we must] prove from many angles that Balhae was the successor empire to Goguryeo.

The case of the latter was the objective in writing this book. The accounts in Chinese written sources concerning Balhae which mention Balhae being the successor to Goguryeo are fragmentary, but they are not few. Based on these sources, this author has minutely examined the nature of inheritance (계승성) as thirty-four [separate] items. The conclusion reached from this is the fact that Balhae was jointly established by [people of] Goguryeo and Malgal lineage but those who led its development were clearly of Goguryeo lineage.

There has been a limit to the methods previously employed [to develop] the [most] certain counter logic which can turn around the forced logic of the Chinese and so [this author] introduced a new research method which has never been tested until now. This is a method to demonstrate the correlations focusing on the records related to Goguryeo from amongst the fragmentary records concerning Balhae in Chinese and our own Korean historical literature.

Up until now, concerning the question of [which] ethnic group was dominant in the foundation and development of Balhae, opinions and assertions have in actuality been at loggerheads according to the national interests of the involved parties [Korea and China], saying it was either of Goguryeo or Malgal lineage. As long as this kind of research continues, the explication of this problem cannot but remain unresolved. But China suddenly came out from its previous approach (태도) and forcibly pulled Balhae history into Chinese history. A part of Balhae’s [former] territory is inside present day Russian Primorsky Krai but Russia does not claim Balhae as Russian history. They simply say it was the history of the Malgal.

When looked at from this position, it cannot be that the Chinese claims [of Malgal over Goguryeo lineage] are not convincing. As a result we must not let go [of the matter]. [This author] has tried to make clear the connections between Goguryeo and Balhae [working] from the conviction that we must deeply investigate through scholarly [research] the unreasonable Chinese claims and create a perfect counter logic [to them]. In the final evaluation, [he] confidently believes that he has obtained the effect of [showing] the dominant ethnic group [involved] in Balhae’s foundation and development was of Goguryeo lineage. He hopes for nothing more than if a better research method than this emerges hereafter.