Seongjong of Goryeo

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Korean name
Hangul 성종
Revised Romanization Seongjong
McCune–Reischauer Sŏngjong
Birth name
Hangul 왕치
Revised Romanization Wang Chi
McCune–Reischauer Wang Chi
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 1259–1274
  25. Chungnyeol 1274–1308
  26. Chungseon 1308–1313
  27. Chungsuk 1313–1330
  28. Chunghye 1330–1332
  29. Chungmok 1344–1348
  30. Chungjeong 1348–1351
  31. Gongmin 1351–1374
  32. U 1374–1388
  33. Chang 1388–1389
  34. Gongyang 1389–1392

Seongjong of Goryeo (15 January 961 - 29 November 997) (r. 981–997) was the sixth ruler of the medieval Korean kingdom of Goryeo.


Seongjong was born on 15 January 961, the second son of Daejong, and a grandson of King Taejo (the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty). He ascended the throne after his cousin and also his brother-in-law King Gyeongjong died in 981. After he ascended the throne, Seongjong was at first content not to interfere with the provincial lords, and to appease the Silla aristocracy. Seongjong married a woman of the Silla royal clan.

In 982, Seongjong adopted the suggestions in a memorial written by Confucian scholar Choe Seung-ro (최승로; 崔承老) and began to create a Confucian-style government. Choe Seung-ro suggested that Seongjong would be able to complete the reforms of King Gwangjong, the fourth King of Goryeo, which he had inherited from Taejo of Goryeo. Taejo had emphasized the Confucian “Classic of History (書經),” which stated that the ideal Emperor should understand the suffering of farmers and directly experience their toil. Seongjong followed this principle and established a policy by which district officials were appointed by the central government, and all privately owned weapons were collected to be recast into agricultural tools.

Seongjong set out to establish the Goryeo state as a centralized Confucian monarchy. In 983, he established the system of twelve mok, the administrative divisions which prevailed for most of the rest of the Goryeo period, and sent learned men to each of the mok to oversee local education, as a means of integrating the country aristocracy into the new bureaucratic system. Talented sons of the country aristocrats were educated so that they could pass the civil service examinations and be appointed to official government posts in the capital.

In September, 995 (the 14th year of Seongjong‘s reign), the nation was divided into ten provinces for the first time.

The First Goryeo-Khitan War[edit]

In late August 993, Goryeo intelligence sources along the frontier learned of an impending Khitan invasion. Seongjong quickly mobilized the military and divided his forces into three army groups to take up defensive positions in the northwest. Advanced units of the Goryeo army marched northwestward from their headquarters near modern Anju on the south bank of the Cheongcheon River. The seriousness of the situation compelled Seongjong to travel from the capital to Pyongyang to personally direct operations.

That October, a massive Khitan army said to number nearly 800,000 men (in fact 60,000 men) under the command of General Xiao Sunning swarmed out of Liao from the Naewon-song Fortress and surged across the Yalu River into Goryeo. Waves of Khitan warriors swept across the river and fanned out over the countryside.

In bloody back-and-forth warfare, the fierce resistance of Goryeo soldiers at first slowed, then considerably hampered the Khitan advance at the city of Pongsan-gun. But Goryeo's army never surrendered. It stood firm against frontal attacks, broke to retreat and lay ambushes, and launched flanking attacks against the Khitan. Goryeo warriors finally halted Xiao Sunning's army at the Cheongcheon River. In the face of such quick and determined resistance, the Khitan decided that further attempts to conquer the entire peninsula would be far too costly, and sought instead to negotiate a settlement with Goryeo.

Without a hint of contrition or humility, the Khitan General Xiao Sunning demanded the surrender of the former territory of Balhae to Emperor Shengzong. He asked that Goryeo sever its relations with Song dynasty and, in the boldest demand of all, that Seongjong accept vassal status under the Liao emperor and pay a set annual tribute to the Liao state. Instead of and rejecting General Xiao's demands outright, the royal court at Kaesong began a heated debate about the Khitan ultimatum. Government officials believed that acceding to General Xiao would prevent further Khitan incursions and urged the court to appease the Liao emperor. Many of the senior military commanders who had recently faced the Khitan army on the battlefield opposed accepting General Xiao’s terms, including General Seo Hui, commander of an army group north of Anju. While the bureaucrats argued in Kaesong, General Xiao launched a sudden attack across the Cheongcheon River, directly on the Goryeo army headquarters in Anju. The Khitan assault was quickly repulsed, but it agitated the royal court to a state of near panic.

In an effort to calm the court nobility, minister Seo Hui volunteered to negotiate directly with General Xiao. Both parties knew that a key factor influencing the negotiations was the heavy pressure being exerted on the Liao state by Song dynasty. In face-to-face talks with his Khitan counterpart, minister Seo bluntly told General Xiao that the Khitan had no basis for claims to former Balhae territory. Since the Goryeo dynasty was, without question, successor to the former Goguryeo kingdom, that land rightfully belonged under Goryeo's domain. In a cleverly veiled threat, Seo Hui reminded General Xiao that the Liaodong Peninsula had also once been under the dominion of Goguryeo and that the Manchurian territories, including the Khitan capital at Liaoyang, should properly belong to Goryeo. In a remarkable conclusion, minister Seo obtained Khitan consent to allow the region up to the Yalu River to be incorporated into Goryeo territory. General Xiao and the Khitan army not only returned to Liao without having achieved their goals, but the invasion ended with the Khitan giving up territory along the southern Yalu River to Seongjong. Seo Hui's brilliant diplomatic maneuver underscored his correct understanding of both the contemporary international situation and Goryeo's position in the region.

The Khitan withdrew and ceded territory to the east of the Yalu River when Goryeo agreed to end its alliance with Song Dynasty. However, Goryeo continued to communicate with Song, having strengthened its position by building fortress in the newly gained northern territories.

The Goryeo-Khitan Wars continued with the second and third campaigns until 1018.


He died of disease in November 997, and he was succeeded by his nephew Mokjong.


  • Paternal grandfather
  • Paternal grandmother
    • Queen Sinjeong (Hangul: 신정왕후, Hanja: 神靜王后) Hwangju Hwangbo clan (Hangul: 황주군 황보씨, Hanja: 黃州郡 皇甫氏), daughter of Hwangbo Jegong(Hangul: 황보제공, Hanja: 皇甫悌恭), King Taejo's fourth wife
  • Maternal grandfather
  • Maternal grandmother
    • Queen Jeongdeok (Hangul: 정덕왕후, Hanja: 貞德王后), of the Jeongju Yu clan (Hangul: 정주유씨, Hanja: 貞州柳氏), daughter of Yu Deokyeong (Hangul: 유덕영, Hanja: 柳德英), King Taejo's fifth wife
  • Father
    • Wang Uk (Hangul: 왕욱, Hanja: 王旭) Prince of Hwangju (Hangul: 황주원군, Hanja: 黃州院君), posthumously honored as King Daezong (Hangul: 대종, Hanja: 戴宗), King Taejo's fifth (probably) son
  • Mother
    • Queen Seonui (posthumously honored) (Hangul: 선의왕후, Hanja: 宣義王后), carried her mother's surname Yu (Hangul: 유, Hanja: 柳)
  • Siblings
  • Consorts
    • Queen Moondeok (문덕왕후) daughter of King Gwangjong
    • Queen Moonhwa (문화왕후) daughter of Kim Won-soong
    • Lady Yeonchanggung (연창궁부인) daughter of Choe Haeng-un
  • Children
    • Queen Wonjeong (원정왕후) daughter of Queen Moonhwa, first Queen consort of King Hyeonjong
    • Queen Wonhwa (원화왕후) daughter of Lady Yeonchanggung, second Queen consort of King Hyeonjong

See also[edit]


  • Lee, K.-b. (1984). A new history of Korea. Tr. by E.W. Wagner & E.J. Schulz, based on the Korean rev. ed. of 1979. Seoul: Ilchogak. ISBN 89-337-0204-0
Seongjong of Goryeo
Born: 15 January 961 Died: 29 November 997
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Korea
Succeeded by