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Sources of Cohesion and Fragmentation in the Silla Kingdom by Chong Sun Kim The political and economic development of Korea has historically been arrested by factional struggles which decimated the aristocracy and undermined internal national unity. These factional struggles were waged with an unusual virulence and remained for centuries a basic feature of Korean politics. Although the Yi Dynasty period has received most attention from historians, the social and economic roots of this phenomenon are of great antiquity and predate even the unification of Korea in 676. It is therefore necessary that historians consider the initial stages of this development in the Silla Kingdom. It was during the Silla period that Korean civilization took its essential shape and this imprint continued into the twentieth century . Thus, in the politics of this kingdom, we find the latent forces which unleashed the factionalism of later times. These very forces, although responsible for the consolidation of the Silla state and the unification of the peninsula, later set the stage for political disintegration and fragmentation. In analyzing the emergence of factionalism, therefore, this paper deals, of necessity, with the period of unification. A significant part of early Korean history is characterized by the expansion of the Chinese Empire into the Korean peninsula in the late second century B.C. For four centuries Korea remained a dependency, ruled from Lo-lang, the Chinese colonial center in the northwest. The Koreans were considered 'barbarians' and their national culture was derided by China, yet they retained their identity and did not succumb to complete assimilation . With the decline of her empire in the early fourth century, China lost her internal unity and her ability to rule Korea effectively. The Three Kingdoms period of Korean history begins with the incursions of the northeastern Koguryö tribes who attacked and destroyed the Chinese colonial 42\Kim center to establish the Koguryö Kingdom in the early fourth century. Chinese colonial rule in the south also ended when, in the mid-fourth century , Paekche, one of the fifty small 'states' of the Mahan, unified all Mahan and destroyed the Chinese colonial prefecture of Tai-fang to establish the Paekche Kingdom. Simultaneously, Shiro, one of the twelve small 'states' of the Chrnhan, unified the Chinhan people and established the Silla Kingdom. Following this expulsion of Chinese power, the three kingdoms—Silla, Paekche and Koguryö—contended for hegemony over the peninsula until the seventh century when Siila, in alliance with T'ang China, conquered its rivals. This, the unification of Korea, was the greatest achievement of the Silla Kingdom. Her accomplishment, however, raises a serious historical question because Silla was the smallest and most backward of the three kingdoms and the most remote from the centers of Chinese civilization.2 Why did Silla, rather than Koguryö or Paekche, become the vehicle of this unification? Some historians have been content to attribute its triumphs to the brilliant military leadership of Kim Yu-sin, to the diplomatic genius of Kim Ch'un-ch'u and to the military support of T'ang forces. This view, however, is inadequate as it fails to consider the more basic social, economic , political and military forces operating in Silla and contributing to the unification. The source of Silla's success is, rather, to be found in the efficiency of her indigenous institutions in conjunction with the charismatic nature of its kingship. The legends surrounding the figure of Pak Hyökköse, the first ruler of Silla, reflect the divine origin of the monarchy and the unified state.3 Hyökköse was found, as an unborn infant, by Soböl, the elder of Koho (one of the six villages of Shiro). Soböl, glancing one day towards the slope of Mt. Yangsan, saw a horse kneeling and crying in the midst of a forest. Approaching the forest, he found the horse had disappeared, leaving behind only a large egg. This egg when cracked open was found to contain a small child. As the egg resembled a pumpkin, the child was given the family name Pak, from the Chinhan term for gourd. He was raised by Soböl and early showed unusual intelligence. In recognition of Cohesion and Fragmentation/43 this...