Author of the Oldest Extant Korean History, Kim Bu-sik

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Kim Bu-sik (1075-1151) was a civil official and scholar during the middle period of the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392). He is most well-known for his suppression of the revolt of Buddhist monk, Myocheong, and for having compiled the History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi), the oldest extant history of Korea. Kim was the descendant of the royal family of Silla (57 BCE-935 CE), and his grandfather, having supported Wang Geon, the founder of Goryeo, was given charge of administrating the former Silla capital, Gyeongju.

After the revolt of [[King Injong (Goryeo)|King Injong]'s grandfather-in-law in 1126, Goryeo experienced various unfortunate circumstances, including the destruction of the palace from fire, a lack of political discipline, and diplomatic pressure from the Jurchens. Buddhist monk and geomancer of the royal court, Myocheong, suggested the location of the capital, Gaegyeong (present-day Gaeseong, North Korea), was inauspicious and that it should be moved to Seogyeong (present-day Pyeongyang, North Korea). He also argued that Goryeo should become its own empire to have more autonomy over business and diplomatic relations. Though Injong supported these suggestions, the moving of the capital was vehemently opposed by the pro-Confucian establishment of Gaegyeong – namely Kim Bu-sik – and Injong gave up on moving the capital. However, in 1135, Myocheong led a revolt in Seogyeong. Kim was ordered in charge of the suppression of the revolt and Myocheong was almost immediately killed. However, it took a year to fully suppress the revolt he had led. Later historians, such as Shin Chae-ho (1880-1936), viewed Myocheong’s uprising as representative of the conflict between Buddhism and Confucianism, Seogyeong and Gaegyeong, and self-reliance faction and subservience faction.

A decade later, Kim Bu-sik led the compilation the History of the Three Kingdoms and presented its 50 volumes to the king in 1145. Today, this document is the oldest extant history of Korea. The book follows the general structure of Chinese history texts at the time, containing annals (chronological histories of Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla), tables, monographs, as well as biographies of key historical figures. It was compiled by referencing numerous extant historical texts of the time. Kim’s motivation for compiling the History of the Three Kingdoms was that while Goryeo officials were proficient in Chinese history and classical texts – having to study them for the civil service examination – they were ignorant of the history of their own country. He also wanted to reinforce the legitimacy and historical legacy of Goryeo and promote Confucian ideals to the officials and commoners. Today, the History of the Three Kingdoms, along with the Gwanggaeto Stele and the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, serves as one of the most vital historical resources for those studying ancient Korean history.

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