The ultimate sacrifice of General Shin Sung-gyeom

Going back more than a thousand years, the Korean peninsula was split into 3 kingdoms that dominated both Koreas and parts of Manchuria: Silla, Baekjae, and Goryeo. (By the way, both Baekjae and Goreyo had their names changed respectively to Hu-Baekjae and Goguryeo at some point in time). As one of the founders of the Goryeo Kingdom, General Shin Sung-gyeom played a pivotal role in dethroning King Goong-yae of Taebong and establishing the Goryeo Kingdom in 918 with King Wang-geun. With three different kingdoms all bunched together in a small area, turmoil and discordance were the norm.

In 918, Sung-gyeom and Wang-geun were part of the troops working in Taebong under the absolute ruler Goong-yae. Goong-yae was once a beloved, charismatic leader who displayed great amounts of leadership. He had a lifelong hatred for the Shilla Kingdom due to his parents dumping him while he was just a child. Over the course of the years as the ruler, he became extremely tyrant; sending him into a severe mental state thus forcing his loyal soldiers to revolt against him. One of those soldiers being Sung-gyeom. He started a revolution against Goong-yae which eventually threw him out of the throne and crowned Wang-geon to take power. This marked the beginning of the Goryeo Dynasty (notice that Goryeo sounds a lot like Korea).
Now let’s jump ahead 8 years. In a battle against the Hu-Baekjae forces, General Shin Sung-gyeom would do something so honorable that it would alter the future of his kingdom. King Wang-geun and the General stood head tall as Hu-Baekjae invaded Shilla in 927. By orders of Hu-Baekjae’s King Gyun-hwon, troops were sent to invade Shilla, kill its king, and ransack the country. Despite leading an army of 5,000 troops, King Wang-geun and the General would find themselves staring death in the face as they were besieged by Hu-Baekjae forces.

In order for the King to escape unscathed, General Shin Sung-gyeom disguised himself as the King. He wore the his robe and rode in his carriage all the while knowing that he would be ultimately exterminated. His plan worked as the enemy troops were fooled into thinking that they had killed the real King (who escaped unharmed). Later, he discovered the General’s headless corpse and grieved for his fallen companion. During the funeral in Chuncheon, the King created a fake head for the General to give him a complete burial. This place in Daegu (above photos) is where General Shin Sung-gyeom sacrificed himself to save the King and the Kingdom. If he hadn’t done this, who knows what would’ve happened to the peninsula.
General of the red robe who descended from Heaven
The gigantic Buddhist statue towering over Donghwasa Temple

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