The Korean statesman, historian, and general Kim Pusik (1075-1151) was a minister in the Koryó dynasty government and wrote the earliest official Korean history.

The literary appelation of Kim Pusik was Noech'ón (Thunder River), and his style was lpji (Establisher). He was the son of Kim Kún, a public official. In 1097, together with his brothers, Kim Pusik qualified in the government entrance examination on the Book of Documents.

In 1115 Kim was appointed to a junior position in the Office of Remonstrance. He held positions of gradually increasing responsibility until 1124, when he was made fourth secretary of the Board of Rites. Two years later he rose to the position of assistant inspector general.

Late in 1126 Kim was dispatched as an envoy to Sung China, which was under great pressure from the Jürchen troops of Wu-ch'i-mai, the second ruler of the newly founded state of Chin in Manchuria. The Chin had superseded the Khitan Liao as the power in Manchuria and were succeeding in devasting the northern areas of Sung when envoys from Sung arrived to request Koryó aid in dealing with the usurpers. Kim was entrusted with the task of evaluating the true situation before Koryó would make a firm commitment; however, when Kim's mission reached Ming-chou, they were forced to turn back by the Jürchen. Eventually Koryó was forced to accept nominal Chin suzerainty instead of the normal tributary relationship with Sung.

Upon his return Kim was made third minister of finance and then chancellor of the National Academy in 1128. In 1134 Kim was made field marshal and put in charge of the nation's armies to put down a rebellion in P'yóngyang led by the monk Myo Ch'ong, who had declared himself emperor. After putting down the rebels and restoring the Koryó authority, Kim was rewarded for his service with grandiose titles and lands. Late in 1136 his younger brother Puch'ól, who had fought with him against the rebels, died.

In 1145 Kim finished the work on his History of the Three Kingdoms (Samguk sagi), which was the earliest Korean official history. In 1148 he was enfeoffed as "Marquis-Who-Established-Loyang" (Nangnang), and he retired from public service a short time later. Kim died, 3 years after his retirement, at the age of 76. He was given the posthumous title of Munyól (Grand Word).

Sógyóng Rebellion

The monk Myo Ch'ong, who is invariably given the epithet "vicious monk" in the Korean records, came from Sógyóng (Western Capital), modern P'yóngyang. Representing P'yóngyang interests, he tried to persuade King Injong to move the capital from Songdo (Kaesóng) to P'yóngyang. He argued that the geomantic considerations involved were so propitious that the King would surely be enabled to become the ruler over all Manchuria and perhaps China as well from his new capital. Kim and his brothers were in the forefront of those who vehemently opposed Myo Ch'ong's power play.

When it became evident that he would not gain his concessions, Myo Ch'ong returned to P'yóngyang and, together with Cho Kwang and others, he rebelled against Injong and declared himself emperor of Tawi. Kim Pusik and his brother Puch'ól, a general, were dispatched to punish the rebels. The armies under Kim made quick progress north to P'yóngyang, and Cho Kwang, in an effort to save himself, beheaded Myo Ch'ong and offered surrender for pardon. Cho's offer was refused, and it was nearly a year before P'yóngyang again came under the royal standard.

"History of the Three Kingdoms"

Kim's monumental work, History of the Three Kingdoms, was published in 1145 in 50 chapters. It is the earliest officially sanctioned Korean history. The title and the history itself were modeled upon the Shih-chi of Ssu-ma Ch'ien, which became the model for later Chinese official histories. The Shih-chi, in 130 chapters, was completed before 90 B.C. and was divided into sections—annals, chronologies, treatises, and biographies; this is the form that Kim Pusik utilized.

The first 12 chapters of Kim's work record the annals of the kingdom of Silla. The next 10 chapters cover the kingdom of Koguryó. The final 6 chapters of the section of annals are devoted to the kingdom of Paekje. The section of chronologies is contained in volumes 29 to 31, and treatises on subjects such as music, geography, and officials are included in chapters 32 to 40. The final 10 chapters constitute the section of biographies. According to Kim Pusik's own writings, the history, which was culled from earlier Chinese official and unofficial histories and included fragmentary Korean accounts, was intended as a "bequest to the myriad successive generations, a history to gleam like the sun and stars."

Comparison of Kim's work with earlier Chinese records indicates that much of the material included under the earlier periods of each of the three kingdoms was worked into the chronology to fill it out. In this sense, it is a very unscholarly piece of historical writing. There was probably much greater coverage of the later periods in the records available to Kim, and this material is more reliable. The work as a whole, however, remains an interesting piece of literature. Kim was also one of the historians charged with compiling the Veritable Records of King Injong (Injong Sillok).

Further Reading on Kim Pusik

There are no books on Kim Pusik's life in Western languages. For general background on Korean history see Takashi Hatada, A History of Korea (1951; trans. 1969), and Han Woo-Keun, The History of Korea (trans. 1970).