Abstract

Confucian historians presented the first succession struggle (in 945) of the Koryŏ Dynasty as simply an abortive usurpation attempt by Wang Kyu (the influential father-in-law of King Hyejong [r. 943–945]), thwarted by the timely intervention of the king's two half-brothers, Princes Yo and So, with military backing from Wang Singnyom of the P'yongyang Regional Military Command (Tae-doho Pu). The traditional account depicted the princes as archetypal protectors who safeguarded the legitimacy of royal succession, thereby placing the responsibility for the bloody struggle solely on the alleged villain, Wang Kyu. Such a treatment was apparently derived from a politically motivated moralistic interpretation intended to impart a lesson to posterity in the tradition of Confucian historiography. In the traditional account, therefore, the issues typically advanced were those best fitted to orthodox Confucian themes: legitimacy in royal succession, and loyalty to the throne. Factors incompatible with these themes were suppressed or perforce left unexplained, resulting in an account containing inconsistencies and gaps, which—surprisingly—went unchallenged until modern times.

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