Korea under Yuan rule

Korea under Yuan rule
Zhengdong province
Vassal of the Yuan dynasty

The client state Goryeo in modern Korea within the Yuan dynasty, circa 1294.
Capital Kaesong
Government monarchy, vassal to the Yuan monarchy
  Mongol invasions of Korea 1231–1259
  Established 1270
  Mongol invasions of Japan 1274, 1281
  Disestablished 1356

Korea under Yuan rule refers to the domination of the Yuan dynasty over the Korean Peninsula from approximately 1270 to 1356.[1] In the history of Korea, following the Mongol invasions of Korea and the capitulation of the Goryeo dynasty of Korea in the 13th century, Goryeo became a semi-autonomous vassal state and compulsory ally of the Yuan dynasty for approximately 80 years. The ruling line of Goryeo was permitted to rule Korea as a vassal of the Yuan, but members of the royal family were taken to Mongolia, raised there, and typically married to spouses from the Yuan imperial house. As a result, princes who became monarchs of Goryeo during this period were effectively imperial sons in-law (khuregen). Yuan overlordship ended in the 1350s when the Yuan dynasty itself started to crumble and King Gongmin of Goryeo began to push the Mongolian garrisons back.


The Mongol Empire launched several invasions against Korea under Goryeo from 1231 to 1259. There were six major campaigns: 1231, 1232, 1235, 1238, 1247, 1253; between 1253 and 1258, the Mongols under Möngke Khan's general Jalairtai Qorchi launched four devastating invasions in the final successful campaign against Korea, at tremendous cost to civilian lives throughout the Korean Peninsula. The Mongols annexed the northern areas of Korean Peninsula after the invasions and incorporated them into their empire as Ssangseong Prefecture (雙城摠管府) and Dongnyeong Prefecture (東寧府).[2] In March 1258, the dictator Choe Ui of the Goryeo military regime was assassinated by Kim Jun, ending the Choe military dictatorship of Korea; after this, scholars who had insisted on peace with Mongolia gained power. This party sent an envoy to the Mongols, and a peace treaty was contracted between the Mongol Empire and Goryeo, part of which stipulated that Korea was to accept vassaldom to the Mongol Empire. Some military officials who refused to surrender formed the Sambyeolcho Rebellion and resisted in the islands off the southern shore of the Korean Peninsula.[3]

Once the treaty was concluded and vassaldom established, intermarriage between the Koreans and Mongols was encouraged by the Mongol Empire.[4] After the death of Wonjong in 1274, his successor Chungnyeol of Goryeo received Kublai's daughter Qutlugh-Kelmish as a wife, and his reign began a wholesale Mongolization of the Korean court that continued until the middle of the 14th century. On paper, official protocol for Korea was that of a subordinate principality, and Korean rulers made lengthy stays at the Mongol Yuan court, both before and after their coronation.[5] The Mongols and the Kingdom of Goryeo became linked via marriage and Goryeo became a quda (marriage alliance) state of the Yuan dynasty; monarchs of Goryeo during this period were effectively imperial sons in-law (khuregen). The effects of intermarriage on Mongol-Goryeo relations worked both ways: during the reign of Kublai Khan, King Chungnyeol of Goryeo married one of Kublai's daughters; later, a Korean princess called the Empress Gi became an empress through her marriage with Ukhaantu Khan, and her son, Biligtü Khan of the Northern Yuan dynasty, became a Mongol Khan. Furthermore, the kings of Goryeo held an important status within the Mongol imperial hierarchy, much like other important families of conquered or client states of the Mongol Empire (e.g. the Uyghurs, the (Oirats, and Khongirad).[6][7] Some Mongolian sources claim that at least one Goryeo monarch who was raised at the Yuan court was the most beloved grandson of Kublai Khan.[8]

Militarily, following the 1259 peace treaty, Mongol ambitions on Japan resulted in two invasions of Japan. In both efforts, the Mongols directed Korean shipbuilding and militarization towards the amphibious assault of the Japanese coasts and pressed a large proportion of Korean naval and infantry forces into the service of Mongol military objectives. Korea supplied 770 fully manned ships and 5,000 soldiers in 1274 and 900 ships and 10,000 soldiers in 1281.[5] For a variety of reasons, both invasions failed. During the periods leading up to and during the invasions, Korea was effectively forced to serve as a Mongol military base.

Another aspect of Mongol interference with Korean affairs were the darughachi, who were Mongolian resident commissioners sent to the Goryeo court. These commissioners, while nominally subordinate to the Goryeo king, were routinely supplied with provisions and were actively involved in the affairs of the Goryeo court.[9][10][11] Part of Jeju Island converted to a grazing area for the Mongol cavalry stationed there.[12] Mongol emperors dethroned Goryeo kings who were of no benefit to them in 1298, 1313, 1321, 1330, 1332, 1343, and 1351.[13] Under the Mongol Yuan domination, Goryeo was required to contribute a vast amount of tribute, including such goods as gold, silver, grains, and large numbers of women and falcons, which further increased the burden on the Goryeo populace.[14]

King Gongmin (1330–1374) and Queen Noguk assisted in the peaceful succession of Gegeen Khan.

The Goryeo dynasty survived under the Yuan until King Gongmin began to push the Mongolian garrisons of the Yuan back in the 1350s, when the Yuan dynasty faced the Red Turban Rebellion in China. By 1356 Goryeo under King Gongmin regained its lost northern territories such as the Ssangseong Prefecture placed under the Liaoyang province by the Yuan. He also repulsed the Red Turban invasions of Goryeo in 1360. However, even after the eventual fall of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, some Goryeo kings such as U still favored the Yuan over the Ming dynasty established by Han Chinese. This changed with the overthrow of Goryeo in 1392 by Yi Seong-gye, founder of Joseon dynasty.

See also


  1. "A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present, by Michael J. Seth", p112
  2. Hatada, Smith Jr & Hazard 1969, p.53.
  3. 국방부 군사편찬연구소, 고려시대 군사 전략 (2006) (The Ministry of National Defense, Military Strategies in Goryeo)
  4. Djun Kil Kim, 《The History of Korea: 2nd edition》, ABC-CLIO, 2014. ISBN 1610695828, p.78
  5. 1 2 Korea and the Mongol Empire
  6. Ed. Morris Rossabi - China among equals: the Middle Kingdom and its neighbors, 10th-14th centuries, p.244
  7. The Mongols Co-opt the Turks to Rule All under Heaven: Crippled the Dual-System and Expelled by Chinese Rebellion by Wontack Hong
  8. Baasanjavyin Lkhagvaa-Solongos, Mongol-Solongosyin harilstaanii ulamjlalaas, p.172
  9. Hatada, Smith Jr & Hazard 1969, p. 54: "Yüan officials not only used the Koryŏ government, to make demands on the people, but even entered the farm villages themselves to exact tribute. ... The Koryŏ royal house and officials were completely subservient to the Yüan; ... At frequent intervals, the Koryŏ king would leave Kaesŏng and live at the Yüan capital, directing the officials of Koryŏ from there. Thus even the most superficial pretense of independent rule of Koryŏ disappeared."
  10. Rossabi 1994, p.437: "... Mongolian resident commissioners who were sent to the Korean court ...".
  11. Henthorn, William E. (1963). Korea: the Mongol invasions (PDF). E.J. Brill. p. 127.
  12. Henthorn, William E. (1963). Korea: the Mongol invasions (PDF). E.J. Brill. p. 190.
  13. Ebrey & Walthall 2014, , p. 179, at Google Books. "The Mongols made sure the Korean kings knew who was in charge. Mongol emperors deposed Goryeo kings who failed to serve their interests in 1298, 1313, 1321, 1330, 1332, 1343, and 1351. Some kings were held in detention in Dadu (Beijing) to issue decrees in absentia. Insult was added to injury in 1343 when Mongol envoys arrested the Korean king for initiating reforms detrimental to Mongol interests. They kicked him around, tied him up, and exiled him to China, but he died on the way".
  14. Nahm 1988, pp.84, 91.
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