written by Devon Furbush
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 Goryeo 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 Silla 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; this sent him into a severe mental state 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 (Korea is an exonym of Goryeo).
In the year 927 in a battle against the Hu-Baekjae forces, Sung-gyeom did something so honorable that it altered the future of his kingdom forever. He and Wang-geun stood head tall as Hu-Baekjae invaded Silla. By orders from the king of Hu-Baekjae, the troops were sent to invade Silla, kill the king, and ransack the country. Despite leading an army of 5,000 troops, King Wang-geun and Sung-gyeom found themselves staring death in the face as they were besieged by enemy forces.
In order for the Wang-geun to escape unscathed, Sung-gyeom disguised himself as the king. He wore 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. 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 is where 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.
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