Great Korean Kings Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Culture

There are only a few Korean kings that have the title “Great” in their name. What does it take to be known as “Great”? Let’s find out!

Probably the most well known Korean king that has the title of being called a great king is King Sejong the Great (세종대왕). King Sejong is best known for the creation of Hangul (한글), which is the Korean writing system. He also encouraged the growth of art and literature. In addition, he patronized inventors, and his era became known for an era of innovation and technological progress. On top of that, he had a strong military policy, which safeguarded the Korean capital from foreign invasions.

Another monarch with the title “Great” in his name is King Gwanggaeto the Great (광개토태왕).  He was the leader of Goguryeo (고구려). Under King Gwanggaeto’s rule, Goguryeo’s territory consisted of two thirds of modern Korea, Manchuria and parts of Mongolia. This expansion of territory was unprecedented and made Goguryeo a leading power in East Asia. We know a lot about his achievements because they were engraved on a stele that is called the Gwanggaeto Stele (광개토대왕비).

The next monarch with the title “Great” in his name is King Jinheung the Great (진흥태왕). King Jinheung was the king over Silla (신라). He allied himself with a neighboring nation called Baekje (백제) and attacked Goguryeo. Then he made an alliance with Goguryeo and attacked Baekje. His military conquests and diplomatic alliances allowed King Jinheung to expand Silla territory.

King Seongdeok the Great (성덕대왕) was the leader of Silla. By this time Silla had conquered Baekje and Goguryeo, leaving the southern part of modern day Korea unified under Silla control. King Seongdeok’s reign is known for being a period of relative prosperity and peace. Up until King Seongdeok’s reign there was constant warfare and the kingdom faced an instability of power. When King Seongdeok took the throne, the power of the Silla was firmly rested in his hands.

So what does it take to be called a great Korean king? Like King Sejong, providing a Golden Age of literature and science definitely creates a positive legacy for a king. Expanding territory like King Gwanggaeto and King Jinheung also helps in getting a king a noteworthy mention in history. Lastly, consolidating power and creating an era of peace like King Seongdeok will also help a king in getting the title “great” in his name.


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  1. Giuseppina Gillen:

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