Chong Chung-bu

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Chong Chung-bu

Chong Chung-bu (1106-1179) was a general in the Korean kingdom of Kory; after a massacre of civil officials in 1170 he instituted military rule in Kory.

From the beginning of the 12th century, factious nobles struggled for political supremacy, creating a period of unrest and unstability. The fall of the Yi clan of Inju in 1126 was followed by rivalry among the nobility and a revolt at the Western Capital in 1135, led by the monk Myoch'ong. It was suppressed by a capital-based power group headed by the famous historian Kim Pu-sik.

Kim's appointment as a commander of government forces had precedents in early Kory, where a civilian was made a leader of expeditionary forces, symbolizing the supremacy of the civilian branch over the military. However, the military chafed under civilian suppression and abuse. In one instance, simply to abuse a general at a court gathering, a young scholar, Kim Pu-sik's son, lifted a candle and managed to burn the mustache of Chong Chung-bu. Chong beat him down and swore to avenge the civilian affront.

With the enthronement of the 18th ruler Ŭijong in 1127, a less than ideal monarch given to wine, women, and song, the situation worsened. Surrounded by sycophants, the frivolous and dissolute monarch enraged the military. On Oct. 11, 1170, when the royal pleasure party was on its way to Pohynwn in Changdan, Chong, then a member of the palace guard, and his associates initiated a coup and massacred all civil officials accompanying the King. Chong then sent troops to the capital to massacre the remaining officials. Following this, he banished Ŭijong and the heir apparent, killed the royal grandson, and set up the King's younger brother as Myngjong. Three years later, on Nov. 7, 1173, Ŭijong was murdered in Kyngju.

Thus the military achieved administrative control and filled all the chief positions at court and in the provinces. Soon, however, Chong and his principal associates began to fight among themselves, expanding their estates and increasing their private armies. Several unsuccessful revolts ensued—in 1173 by a commander of the northeast province and in 1174 by a commissioner of the Western Capital—but they could not topple Chong. On the night of Oct. 18, 1179, Chong was killed by a young rival general, Kyng Tae-súng.

The local peasant and slave uprisings which had broken out under Chong continued through the turn of the century. They were finally quelled by the general Ch'oe Ch'ung-hn, who seized control of the government in 1196.

Further Reading

Three works useful for a study of Chong are Homer B. Hulbert, The History of Korea (4 vols., 1901-1903; rev. ed., 2 vols., 1962); Takashi Hatada, A History of Korea (1951; trans. 1969); and the South Korean government's publication, Korea: Its Land, People and Culture of All Ages (1960; 2d ed. 1963). □