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Kim Wonsul (김원술, 金元述, ?-?) was a second son of the Silla General Kim Yushin, and served under Silla's 30th ruler, King Munmu, and played a major role in defending the kingdom against Tang China's invaders after the conquest of both Goguryeo and Baekje by the year 668.
Kim Wonsul was the second son of General Kim Yushin, and direct descendant of King Suro, the founder of Geumgwan Gaya. Kim Wonsul was a member of the Silla's Jinggol class, and rose to the rank of Low-level general by the time of Goguryeo's fall to the Silla-Tang Alliance.
In 660, the kingdom of Baekje fell to the armies of the Silla-Tang Alliance. Baekje was then followed by the kingdom of Goguryeo, which fell in 668 to the Silla-Tang Alliance as well. General Kim Yushin's reputation as the greatest general of Silla rose during these Unification Wars.
General Wonsul was near Baeksu Castle in August of the year 672, fighting Tang Dynasty troops. Silla troops seemed to be winning the battle at the beginning. However, they chased the retreating Chinese troops and fell into a trap that killed seven generals and countless soldiers. As Wonsul realized that defeat was unavoidable, he prepared to die by jumping into the enemy lines. His staff, however, blocked him and said, “It is not difficult for a brave man to die. What’s more difficult is to choose when to die. Dying worthless is worse than revenging later." Wonsul answered, “A man never lives a humiliating life" and then whipped his horse to make a dash. His staff, however, held the horse by the bridle and did not let go. Wonsul could not die at the battle and returned to Gyeongju.
Abandonment and Redemption
Outraged, Yushin asked King Munmu to execute his shameful son. He was extremely serious about the execution, because Silla lost as many as seven generals in the battle. King Munmu, however, refused to punish Wonsul. Being ashamed of himself and afraid of facing his father, Wonsul hid in a secluded area.
In June 673, people witnessed several dozen crying soldiers in armour with weapons in their hands walking out of Yushin’s home. Then, they vanished without a trace. Hearing about the strange incident, Yushin said, “They were the heavenly guardian soldiers who protected me. Now, my luck ran out. I shall die very soon." On July 1, 673, General Kim Yushin died at the age of 79.
Wonsul returned home to attend his father's funeral. However, his mother, Lady Jiso, rejected him, although he was wrongfully accused of being a coward. She said, “How can I be the mother of a son who was not a son to his father." Wonsul cried and returned to his hiding place.
In September 675, Wonsul returned to fight the Invading Tang. He fought as if anxious to die on the battle field. As a result, he achieved a great victory over the Tang troops. When the war was over, he was scheduled to be highly awarded in Gyeongju. He, however, never returned to Gyeongju and went deep into the mountains regretting his impiety to his parents.
Kim Wonsul spent the rest of his days, starving in the mountains, and died in an unknown year at an early age.