Jang Bogo

Jang Bogo

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Jang Bogo

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Jang Bogo (787-846, alternately 841), also known as Gungbok, rose to prominence in Korea in the late Unified Silla period as a powerful maritime figure who for several decades effectively controlled the West Sea (Yellow Sea) and Korean coast between southwestern Korea and China's Shandong peninsula. His impressive fleet of ships was centered around the island of Wando off Korea's southwestern tip. So influential a figure did Jang become in late Silla politics that he was granted official office as Maritime Commissioner of the Cheonghaejin garrison (on Wando) and came near to marrying his daughter into the Silla royal house before his assassination in 846.

Early years

Though he was a man of Silla, Jang's origins are unknown. One of the few sources on his life is the 12th century Samguk Sagi (A History of the Three Kingdoms), which contains a brief biography of Jang compiled three centuries after his death. The biography relates that Jang Bogo was adept in martial arts and that Jang's companion Jeong Yeon (정년, 鄭年) could swim five li (about 2.5 km) underwater without taking a breath. The history further records that as young men the two companions traveled to Tang China and their skills in horsemanship and the handling of spears soon won them military office. They were both named Junior Generals of Wuning district (武寧軍小將) (in what is today Jiangsu province).

Rise to power

By the ninth century thousands of Silla subjects were living in Tang,...
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