Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sparkling Korea

I have always disliked the tourism logo for Korea--Sparkling Korea. I suppose it's better than something to do with kimchi; but I have seen it as a harnessing of Korea's obsession with all things cute. And as you can see from the image to the left, the government apparently thinks Russian models are better suited to sell the trademark than regular Koreans. There is a rank consumerism in urban Korea that I will write about some other time.

To the point: Sparkling Korea is actually not some cutie creation.

Now I find out that it comes from Koryo--where the modern term "Korea" originates--and Koryo comes from Wang Kon, who viewed himself as the successor to Koguryo. You can see that Koryo is a shortened form of Koguryo. Koryo means "high mountains and sparkling waters." Seoul is anything but sparkling, let me tell you. But there is undeniable beauty outside the city. And Koreans love their land and all of its nature. So, now I get It.

Short history lesson about Koryon and Wang Kon: this all happened in the late ninth century when Wang Kon helped Kyonhwon, the estranged founder of Later Paekche, take back Later Koguryo from his first son who had usurped power when Kyonhwon attempted to have his fourth son succeed him. This kind of made the first born angry.

Wang Kon was the son of Kungye who founded Later Koguryo at Kaesong, in central Korea. (Wan Kon believed that he was the proper successor to what was left of the Koguryo legacy, so he was more than happy to help estranged father take on estranged son while at the same time helping finish off the third, ailing kingdom, Silla.) I do believe it is Wang Kon who fought relentlessly against Later Paekche and who got Silla to surrender. To make a really long story too short: Wang Kon unified Korea. His Koryo dynasty ruled for almost half a millenium. He is viewed by Koreans as being one of the great, magnanimous rulers from the past.


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