Third conflict in the Goryeo–Khitan War

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Third Goryeo–Khitan War
Part of Goryeo-Khitan Wars
Date 1018-1019
Location Northern Korean Peninsula
Result Goryeo's reaffirmation of its vassal status to Liao[1][2][3]
Goryeo Dynasty Liao Dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Gang Gam-chan
Gang Min-cheom
Kim Jong-hyeon
Xiao Baiya
208,000 [4] 100,000 [4]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 90,000+ [4]

The Third Goryeo–Khitan War was an 11th-century conflict between the kingdom of Goryeo and Khitan forces near what is now the border between China and North Korea. The Goryeo-Khitan Wars began in 993 with the first campaign and continued with the second campaign.


Main article: Goryeo-Khitan Wars

In 993, Khitans under General Xiao Sunning invaded Korea, but retreated after truce negotiations with minister Seo Hui of Goryeo, establishing friendly relations between the two nations. In 1004, Khitans invaded China. Chinese forces were terribly defeated, and the Chinese were forced to pay tribute to the Liao emperor.

However, the tension between Goryeo and Liao created another war. In 1009, General Gang Jo of Goryeo led a coup against King Mokjong, killing the king and establishing military rule. In 1010, the alliance was broken and Liao attacked Korea for General Gang's treason. Also, Khitans claimed six garrison settlements east of the Yalu River, which Goryeo claimed as its territory in truce negotiations during 993. The Koreans fought fiercely but were defeated. However, the Goryeo king managed to retain his claim on the six garrison settlements. The Khitans retreated from the peninsula, with no great prize for the war, but they did not give up their hope of gaining the six garrison settlements and making Goryeo pay tribute.

However, beginning in the summer of 1018, the Khitans constructed a bridge across the Yalu River.

The Invasion and Battle of Kwiju[edit]

In December of 1018, 100,000 Khitan soldiers under the command of General Xiao Baiya crossed the bridge into Goryeo territory, but were met by an ambush of Goryeo soldiers. King Hyeonjong had heard the news of invasion, and ordered his troops into battle against the Khitan invaders. General Gang Gam-chan, who did not have any military experience since he was a government official, became a commander of the Goryeo army of about 208,000 men (the Khitans still had advantages, even outnumbered 2 to 1, since Khitan troops were mostly mounted while the Koreans were not), and marched toward Yalu River.

Near the Garrison Settlement of Heunghwajin, there was a small stream. General Gang ordered the stream blocked until the Khitans began to cross it, and when the Khitans were mid-way across, he ordered that the dam be destroyed so that the water would drown much of the Khitan army. The damage was great, but the Khitans did not abandon their campaign in spite of the challenges represented by defenders and by winter conditions in the northwest. They pushed through to approach Kaesong, the capital, but were defeated by a force led by General Gang Gam Chan.

The Goryeo forces led a massive attack that all but annihilated the Khitan army. Barely a few thousand of the Liao troops survived the bitter defeat at Kusong. Many more were captured after surrendering along the river banks. By the next year, however, the Liao assembled another large army. In 1022, Goryeo and the Liao dynasty reached a negotiated peace agreement which reaffirmed Goryeo's tributary relationship with the Liao.[1][2][3] The Khitan never again invaded Goryeo.

The surrendered Khitan troops were divided up among the provinces of Goryeo and settled in isolated and guarded communities. These prisoners were valued for their skill in hunting, butchering, skinning, and leather tanning. Over the next few centuries, they evolved into the Baekjeong class, who came to form the lowest caste of the Korean people.


This was the last invasion of Goryeo by the Khitan, as the two reached a peace agreement four years thereafter. Both the Liao Dynasty and Goryeo enjoyed a time of peace, and their cultures were at their height. However, as the balance of power on the Liao-Goryeo border shifted, the Jurchens, who lived around the border between the two nations, began to expand their power. Finally, in 1115, Jurchen chief Wányán Āgǔdǎ founded the Jin Dynasty in Manchuria, and began to attack the Khitans. In 1125, Jurchen troops captured the Liao king with help from the Chinese, who encouraged the Jurchens in the hope of gaining territories they lost to the Khitans before. Most Khitans fled to Turkestan, where they established the Kingdom of Western Liao (Kara-Khitai). Many of them were forced to surrender to the Jurchens.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ebrey & Walthall 2014, [1], p. 171, at Google Books: "Liao forces invaded Goryeo territory in 993. Instead of pushing for total victory, the Khitans negotiated a peace that forced Goryeo to adopt the Liao calendar and end tributary relations with Song .... In 1010, on the pretext that the rightful king had been deposed without the approval of the Liao court, the Khitan emperor personally led an attack that culminated in the burning of the Goryeo capital. Several other confrontations followed until Goryeo reaffirmed its tributary relationship with Liao in 1020."
  2. ^ a b Twitchett & Tietze 1994, pp.111-112.
  3. ^ a b Hyun 2013, p. 10: "in 1022, ... Goryeo Hyojong reluctantly accepted investiture from the Liao emperor."
  4. ^ a b c (Korean)귀주대첩


  • Ebrey, Patricia Buckley; Walthall, Anne (2014), Pre-Modern East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History to 1800, Third Edition, Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, ISBN 978-1-133-60651-2 .
  • Hyun, Jeongwon (2013), Gift Exchange among States in East Asia during the Eleventh Century (Thesis (Ph.D.)), University of Washington .
  • Twitchett, Denis; Tietze, Klaus-Peter (1994), "The Liao", in Franke, Herbert; Twitchett, Denis (eds.), The Cambridge History of China, Volume 6, Alien Regime and Border States, 907-1368, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 43–153, ISBN 0-521-24331-9 .