Gwangjong of Goryeo

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Gwangjong of Goryeo
고려 광종
高麗 光宗
Wang So(왕소)
King of Goryeo
Reign 13 April 949 - 4 July 975
Predecessor Jeongjong of Goryeo
Successor Gyeongjong of Goryeo
Born 925
Kingdom of Goryeo
Died 4 July 975 (aged 49-50)
Gaegyeong, Kingdom of Goryeo
Spouse Queen Daemok
Posthumous name
House House of Wang
Father Taejo of Goryeo
Mother Queen Shinmyeongsunseong
Korean name
Hangul 광종
Revised Romanization Gwangjong
McCune–Reischauer Kwangjong
Birth name
Hangul 왕소
Revised Romanization Wang So
McCune–Reischauer Wang So
Posthumous name
Hangul 홍도선열평세대성대왕
Revised Romanization Hongdoseonyeolpyeongsedaeseongdaewang
McCune–Reischauer hongdosŏnyŏlp‘yŏngse taesŏng taewang

Gwangjong (925 – 4 July 975), personal name Wang So was the fourth king of Goryeo.[1][2]


Monarchs of Korea
  1. Taejo 918–943
  2. Hyejong 943–945
  3. Jeongjong 945–949
  4. Gwangjong 949–975
  5. Gyeongjong 975–981
  6. Seongjong 981–997
  7. Mokjong 997–1009
  8. Hyeonjong 1009–1031
  9. Deokjong 1031–1034
  10. Jeongjong II 1034–1046
  11. Munjong 1046–1083
  12. Sunjong 1083
  13. Seonjong 1083–1094
  14. Heonjong 1094–1095
  15. Sukjong 1095–1105
  16. Yejong 1105–1122
  17. Injong 1122–1146
  18. Uijong 1146–1170
  19. Myeongjong 1170–1197
  20. Sinjong 1197–1204
  21. Huijong 1204–1211
  22. Gangjong 1211–1213
  23. Gojong 1213–1259
  24. Wonjong 1259–1269
  25. Yeongjong1269
  26. Wonjong 1269–1274
  27. Chungnyeol 1274–1308
  28. Chungseon 1308–1313
  29. Chungsuk 1313–1330
  30. Chunghye 1330–1332
  31. Chungmok 1344–1348
  32. Chungjeong 1348–1351
  33. Gongmin 1351–1374
  34. U 1374–1388
  35. Chang 1388–1389
  36. Gongyang 1389–1392

When Gwangjong ascended the throne in 949 at the age of 25,[2] the kingdom of Goryeo was unstable: to unify the Later Three Kingdoms, his father Taejo made alliances with powerful families, and, as a consequence, those clans were vying for control of the government.[3] As he witnessed the struggle between his brothers for the throne, he felt the need to consolidate the power of the king and rewarded all those who contributed to the progress of Goryeo, also making much effort to maintain good diplomatic relations with neighboring countries.[2] He studied Taizong of Tang's book Difan to better understand what to do, as he found many similarities between his situation and that of Taizong. After a regularization of tax rates in 949, he launched a series of reforms to promote a stable and royal-centered political system, and to expand economy and military.[3]

His first reform was in 956, when he weakened wealthy families by confiscating private slaves through the law of emancipation of slaves (노비안검법, 奴婢按檢法, Nobiangeombeop):[4][5] this reform won his government the support of the people, as freed slaves were commoners taken as prisoners of war, and also helped the economy because former slaves now had to pay taxes to the state like ordinary citizens through services provided on the land or premises of feudal lords.[2][3] He then reorganized and expanded military to face the Khitan and Jurchen, building twelve garrisons along the northeast and northwest borders, and replaced lords in the capital and in the provinces with officials appointed by the crown.[5] In 963 he set up relief centers in the capital.

With the institution of the national civil service examination in 958 (과거, Gwageo), Gwangjong was able to expel from the court people from powerful clans and replace them with civil officials recruited by merit, giving everyone, not only the rich and powerful people, the opportunity to work for the state. The civil service examination was suggested to the king by former Chinese envoy Ssanggi, and was based on the Tang civil service exam and the Confucian classics.[5] In 960, he introduced different colours for court robes to distinguish officials of different ranks.[6] Other actions undertaken to reinforce the royal authority were naming Goryeo an empire and himself Emperor, thus ending tributary relationships with China; calling Kaesong the Imperial Capital and Pyongyang the Western Capital, and adopting the era name "Gwangdeok" (光德, 광덕).[6]

Gwangjong's reforms were badly accepted by the nobles, especially by high military and civil officials who helped in the foundation of Goryeo; the king reacted by imprisoning those who dared to rebel against him and sentencing them to death.[2][6]

During his life, Gwangjong supported Buddhism, took capable monks as advisers, and promoted the construction of temples: he built the Yongjusa Temple in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, in 962,[7] and a temple in Cheongpyeong in 973.[8] He also created an exam for Buddhist priests, called Seonggwa, to link the government and the church, and tried to unify various Buddhist orders under a single one, but this latter attempt failed.[9]

Death and legacy[edit]

Gwangjong developed a serious disease in July 975 and died just after few days at the age of 50.[2] The reform policies to curb the power of the capital aristocracy were passed down to his successors, but they weren't able to pursue them; as a result, the bureaucracy turned from a meritorious aristocracy to a hereditary class.[5] Historian Choi Seungno, who served as Prime Minister to the first six Goryeo kings, condemned Gwangjong for his obsession with Buddhism and public projects, which, according to him, drove the kingdom into debt, and declared him a tyrant for his cruelty.[10]


  • Father: King Taejo (고려 태조; 31 January 877 – 4 July 943)
  • Mother: Queen Sinmyeongsunseong of the Chungju Yu clan (신명순성왕후 유씨; 900 - 951)
  • Consorts:
  1. Queen Daemok of the Hwangju Hwangbo clan (대목왕후 황보씨), half sibling
    1. Wang Ju (왕주, 9 November 955-13 August 981), 1st son - Gyeongjong of Goryeo
    2. Crown Prince Hyohwa (효화태자), died prematurely
    3. Lady Cheonchujeon (천추전부인)
    4. Lady Bohwagung (보화궁부인)
    5. Queen Mundeok (문덕왕후)
  2. Princess Gyeonghwagung (경화궁부인), daughter of Hyejong of Goryeo and Queen Uihye (의화왕후)
  3. Royal Noble Consort Hyeon of the Kim clan (현비 김씨)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Choi Seung-ro, the Architect of Goryeo Political Structure". May 3, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Gwangjong, el monarca que otorga libertad a los esclavos" [Gwangjong, the monarch who granted freedom to slaves] (in Spanish). KBS World. May 30, 2014. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Lee, Carol (October 19, 2015). "A reforma política do reino de Goryeo" [The political reform of the kingdom of Goryeo] (in Portuguese). Korea Post. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Goryeo Dinasty". June 2, 2009. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c d Kim, Djul Kil (30 May 2014). The History of Korea, 2nd Edition. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-61069-581-7. 
  6. ^ a b c Yi, Ki-baek (1988). A New History of Korea. ISBN 978-0-67461-576-2. 
  7. ^ "Iron Banner Pole of Yongjusa Temple". September 16, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  8. ^ "Cheongpyeongsa Temple (Chuncheon) (청평사 (춘천))". Retrieved September 18, 2016. 
  9. ^ Grayson, James Huntley (2002). Korea - A Religious History. ISBN 978-0-70071-605-0. 
  10. ^ Lee, Peter H. (21 November 1996). "Sources of Korean Tradition: Volume One: From Early Times Through the Sixteenth Century". ISBN 978-0-23110-567-5. 
Gwangjong of Goryeo
Born: 925 Died: 4 July 975
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Goryeo
Succeeded by