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155 Disturbances in Koryŏ Society The Revolts of Yi Cha-gyŏm and Myoch’ŏng In the twelfth century, some 200 years after Koryŏ’s founding, conditions in the kingdom began rapidly to deteriorate, an apparent outcome of the dynastic cycle. The cycle was an inevitable result of the periodic weakening of royalauthority,thecorruptionof officials,rivalrybetweencourtfactions,the growth of tax-exempt aristocratic landholdings, and indifference to the problems of the masses. Beginning in the mid-twelfth century several rebellions erupted, and Koryŏ society entered a period of rebellions that spanned more than 150 years. As a small minority of renowned aristocratic lineages in the capital monopolized wealth and power, Koryŏ’s officialdom began to split and develop internal power struggles, starting with the reign of King Injong (1122–1146). The long period of domestic tranquility was first broken by the treason of Yi Chagy ŏm. In the period of Injong, the Inju Yi clan emerged as the most powerful aristocratic family. Meanwhile, the Koryŏ kings frequently married their own close relatives to consolidate the ruling family. At the time they increased the number of intermarriages with the Inju Yi clan, increasing the number of inlaw connections to gain power. Yi Cha-yŏn had already married off his three 5 THE SECOND HALF OF THE KORYŎ PERIOD (1170–1392) 156 A History of Korea daughters to King Munjong (1046–1083). Then Yi Cha-gyŏm, a grandson of Yi Cha-yŏn, elevated his Inju Yi family to the pinnacle of its power. He had given a daughter as queen to King Yejong (1105–1122), and the son of that union ascendedthethroneasKingInjongin1122 .HegavetwodaughterstoInjongashis consorts and, through this duplicated in-law connection, monopolized power completely. At 14 years of age Injong acceded to the throne, and thus, as both the king’s father-in-law and grandfather-in-law, Yi Cha-gyŏm held real political power. Supported by the military officer Ch’ŏk Chun-gyŏng, Yi also assumed military power and wielded more authority than the king himself. It is said that he trafficked in government positions, and that meat, amounting to tens of thousands of pounds, which was offered as bribes, grew rotten at his house. Yi and his faction enlarged their personal landholdings and property by seizing real estate from others, thereby also achieving a dominant economic position. As the kingdom was by now exhausted, a popular prophecy among the populace was that a man of the sipp’al cha, or eighteen child, an anagram on the character for the surname Yi, would become king and the transfer of the capital to Namgyŏng (Seoul) would lead to the nation’s prosperity. Because his family name was Yi and the place of his family origin was Inch’ŏn, close to Seoul, Yi Cha-gyŏm believed that the prophecy was accurate, and he hoped to usurpthethrone.ScentingYi’splot,Injonglaidplanswithofficialsclosetohim, such as Kim Ch’an and An Po-rin, to oust Yi from power. The king’s scheme was foiled, however, by the prompt military response of Yi’s henchman, Ch’ŏk Chun-gyŏng. In 1126 Yi Cha-gyŏm burned down the palace, scorching tens of thousands of books in the royal library and the national academy, and confined Injong at his house while those close to the king were all put to death. Yi then attempted to poison the monarch, but at this point he himself was driven outbytheopportunisticCh’ŏkChun-gyŏng,whonowsidedwiththeking,and was banished to what is present-day Yŏnggwang, South Chŏlla province. To remove Yi Cha-gyŏm from power, Injong won support from officials of Pyongyang origin, such as Chŏng Chi-sang. The power of the Inju Yi clan that had spannedmorethan80yearsfellapart.LaterYiCha-gyŏmwasputtodeath,and Ch’ŏk Chun-gyŏng, who was accused of a misdemeanor by Chŏng Chi-sang, was purged. Landholdings and property that Yi Cha-gyŏm and his faction had seized from others were restored to their former owners. Yi Cha-gyŏm’s treason revealed the weakness of royal authority and the power potential of the high aristocracy. Thus, in 1127, after the grave crisis had been overcome, Injong initiated political reform that would restore kingly au- The Second Half of the Koryŏ Period 157 thoritybyissuinga15-pointdecree.Thiswasalsoatimeof tribulationinforeign relations. In 1126 the Nuzhen Jin empire sent an envoy, demanding that Koryŏ acknowledge Jin’s suzerainty. At this point, some officials of Pyongyang origin, including Paek Su-han, Chŏng Chi...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253000781
Related ISBN
9780253000248
MARC Record
OCLC
826449509
Pages
720
Launched on MUSE
2012-11-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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