Wang Kon: Ten Injunctions

(943)

In 918 Wang Kon, also known as T’aejo (meaning “Great Founder”), established the Koryo Dynasty, which ruled over Korea until 1392. Traditionally it has been held that while he was on his deathbed, Wang Kon dictated his advice for his successors, recorded in a document now known as the Ten Injunctions. These injunctions reflect his concern for maintaining a peaceful kingdom in which the people would be ruled benevolently by a virtuous monarch under the guidance of Confucian teaching with the help of the power of the Buddha. The document is important because it not only shows how T’aejo thought but also offers a window into the worldview of the early Koryo Dynasty.

Recently, however, the scholar Remco Breuker has called this received wisdom into question. He argues persuasively that the Ten Injunctions were actually written during the reign of King Hyonjong, who ruled from 1009 to 1031. If this theory is correct, then the Ten Injunctions are still important but possess a...