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King Anjang


King Anjang
King Anjang was the 22nd ruler of the Goguryeo kingdom. He inherited his predecessor’s policy of maintaining good relations with Chinese states, especially the Liang Dynasty and Northern Wei. It was Goguryeo’s traditional foreign policy of seeking stability by using divisions among Chinese dynasties and therefore counterbalancing its relations with southern Korean kingdoms of Baekje and Silla. The king is assumed to have been assassinated in 531. There are very few historical records about domestic politics in Goguryeo at the time, but the king’s assassination shows that the internal situation was rather unstable during his 12-year reign.

Interestingly, King Anjang married a woman from the southern rival kingdom of Baekje. The love story of the Goguryeo King and the Baekje woman has been passed down for generations. While he was still a crown prince, Anjang was sent to Baekje on a secret spy mission. There, he happened to meet a beautiful woman named Hanju and the two fell in love with each other. The prince had to return to his home country alone, but he promised Hanju that he would come back.

Time passed, and the prince came to the throne. As king he attempted several times to attack Baekje to bring his beloved woman, only to fail. He heard the rumor that Hanju had been sent to prison on charges of helping the enemy and refusing to serve the local governor, who was captivated by her beauty. The king became increasingly impatient. He told his officials and generals that he would grant a large amount of gold and a high-ranking post to anyone who would take the Baekje town where Hanju lived and save her. Nobody dared to take on the challenging task, but a general named Eulmil bravely volunteered for the job. In fact, he had a crush on the king’s younger sister, Princess Anhak. He asked the king to allow him to marry the princess if he fulfilled his mission successfully. The king agreed, and the general left for Baekje.

In Baekje, the local governor was throwing his birthday party. The Goguryeo general and his soldiers disguised themselves as clowns, hiding weapons under their clothing, to attend the banquet. In the middle of the party, Eulmil and his men suddenly took out their weapons and killed the guests. In cooperation with other Goguryeo forces, which attacked the town from outside, they were easily able to occupy the enemy territory. Of course, they also rescued Hanju. Upon hearing the news, King Anjang came down to the town and had an emotional reunion with his woman, whom he had missed for years. As he promised, he came back to her and made her his queen. Also as promised, the king allowed General Eulmil to marry his sister.

Some say the famous 18th-century love story, Chunhyang, was actually inspired by this romantic tale of the Goguryeo king and the Baekje woman.

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