King Jinpyeong of Silla (Hangul/Hanja: 진평왕/眞平王; Born: 565? - Died: 632, Reigned: 579-632), whose born as Kim Baek-jeong (김백정/金伯淨) was the 26th king of the Silla Dynasty, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. King Jinpyeong followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, King Jinji, by reorganizing the central ruling system of Silla. Upon the onset of a multitude of conflicts between Baekje and Goguryeo, He sent emissaries to improve relations and strengthen ties between Silla and the Chinese dynasties Sui and Tang. He is also known for his promotion of Buddhism as a spiritual guide for the kingdom and encouraging Buddhist teachings.
His father, Crown Prince Dongryun, is the first son of King Jinheung and his mother Lady Mano, the daughter of Galmunwang Kim Reepjong. According to the 12th Century history book Samguk Sagi, he was big in stature with a notable face, possessed great determination and sharp intelligence as a youth. He ascended to the throne when King Jinji died in 579. He married queen Maya, the daughter of Galmunwang Bokseung. King Jinpyeong was succeeded by his daughter, Kim Deok-man a.k.a Queen Seondeok. Another daughter, Princess Cheonmyeong of Silla, was the mother of King Taejong-Muyeol the Great. According to records in Samguk Yusa, a third daughter Princess Seonhwa of Silla, married King Mu of Baekje (historians consider it unlikely to be true, given the hostilities between the rival kingdoms). King Jinpyeong also had other sons and daughters through different wives and concubines.
King Jinpyeong succeeded his uncle King Jinji in 579 when King Jinji was dethroned by opposing nobles (especially Lady Mishil) in the fourth year of his reign. As King Jinpyeong ascended to the throne at the age of 13, the state affairs were mainly managed by powerful ministers (members of the Hwabaek) led by the Sangdaedeung. In the political turmoil, the Hwabaek set on reorganizing the government and administration bodies, measures continued by the adult king, who also supported the rearrangement of the state from an expansion-oriented system to a bureaucratic political system. Buddhism was embraced during this era, as King Jinpyeong actively sent envoys and monks to China to study and help in diplomatic relations. Buddhism in Silla developed as a strong nation-protecting religion.
King Jinpyeong appointed competent new people in important offices as he began his rule and carried out reformations. He placed government official Ichan Noribu (이찬 수을부/伊飡 首乙夫) at the highest rank of Sangdaedeung to look after state affairs and in 580, the second year of his reign, appointed Ichan Hujik (후직/后稷) as head of the military. King Jinpyeong relied heavily on these two heads of office and was able to solidify his kingdom on both internal affairs and international relations. He also gave the rank of Galmunwang to his two brothers, solidifying power and support in his court.
King Jinpyeong continued to restructure and reorganize during his reign; in 581 he set up Wihwabu (위화부/位和府), an administration department to manage government officials and personnel, and in 583 Seonbuseo (선부서/船府署), a department for the management of the country's ships. He established an independent era reign name in 584, the department Jobu (조부/調府) to overlook taxes and obligatory labor, and Seungbu (승부/乘府) to manage wagons and coaches. Three officials were appointed to manage the major three palaces in 585, and in 586 the department Yebu (예부/禮部) was established to overlook rituals and ceremonies. In 588, he placed Ichan Sueulbu (이찬 수을부/伊飡 首乙夫) as the highest government official of Sangdaedeung, and a special department that looked after foreign diplomats, Yeonggaekbu (영객부/領客府) was set up in 591.
The King also made reforms in the regional counties and prefecture system. New district Bukhansanju (북한산주/北漢山州) was set up in preparation of attacks from Goguryeo in 604, and in 614 Ilseonju (일선주/一善州) was set up in preparation against Baekje.
In 622, King Jinji's son Kim Yong-chun was appointed as the first Naeseongsasin (내성사신/內省私臣), an official who looks after the management of the three major palaces. The reformations continued with the department of the palace guards Siwibu (시위부/侍衛府); the department Sangsaseo (상사서/賞賜署), which looks after national heroes and their families; and Daedoseo (대도서/大道署) which looked after affairs regarding Buddhism.
King Jinpyeong was a fervent advocate for Buddhism and many monks made travels to China during his rule while serving diplomatic roles. The monk Jimyeong (지명/智明) who went to China's Chen Dynasty in 585 to study Buddhism returned in 602 with emissaries, and the monk Wonkwang (원광/圓光), who had gone to study in China in 589, also returned with emissaries in 600. The monk Damyuk (담육/曇育) also went to study at the Sui Dynasty in 596, with emissaries and gifts sent from King Jinpyeong.
Emissaries to China including Buddhist monks were continuously sent during King Jinpyeong's reign, and the two countries remained on amicable terms. In 608, when Silla was under attack from Baekje and Goguryeo, King Jinpyeong asked for Sui's aid, with requests written by the monk Wonkwang. Sui complied and joined forces with Silla in their attacks of Goguryeo, and in 613 Emperor Yang of Sui sent emissaries to Silla who participated in Buddhist ceremonies held by monk Wonkwang at Hwangnyong Temple.
Diplomatic relations with China continued throughout the Sui Dynasty and the following Tang Dynasty. Gifts were sent with emissaries to Tang in 621 and the Emperor Gaozu sent silks, folding screens of art with an official statement in return. These diplomatic relations continued in the following years and Silla used this relation to help their defense against Goguryeo by asking for Tang's assistance. Emperor Gaozu of Tang sent governors to both Silla and Goguryeo in 626 to bring about truce in the two countries, albeit briefly.
Although King Jinpyeong focused on reinforcing defense by building forts and fortresses, and strengthening the military system, Silla was in constant conflict with its two neighbors, Baekje and Goguryeo. In 602, Baekje troops attacked the fortress Amak (아막성/阿莫城) but were turned back, and in 603 Gogguryeo attacked the fortress at Bukhansan (북한산성/北漢山城) but were defeated when King Jinpyeong himself joined the battle.
Baekje continued with their attacks in 605, with continuous attacks from Goguryeo as well. King Jinpyeong sent the monk Wonkwang to Sui with request for aid against these attacks in 608. The aid from Sui came after Silla had lost many people and fortresses, and ultimately the joined forces failed in deterring Goguryeo's attacks.
Conflicts with Baekje escalated in 611, when they attacked the fortress of Gajam (가잠성/椵岑城) and claimed it after a brutal battle of 100 days. Baekje continued with their attacks, including the fortress of Mosan (모산성/母山城) in 616, Neungnohyeon (늑노현/勒弩縣) in 623, and the three fortresses of Sokham (속함성/速含城), Gijam (기잠성/歧暫城), and Hyeolchaek (혈책성/穴柵城)in 624.
In 626 Baekje attacked the fortress of Jujae (주재성/主在城), and two additional fortresses were taken with many people taken hostage in 627. In 628, Silla defeated Baekje at the fortress of Gajam and in 629 generals Kim Yong Chun (김용춘), Kim Seo Hyeon (김서현), and Kim Yushin (김유신) - great grandson of ex-King Guhyeong-Guhae of Geumgwan Gaya conquered Goguryeo's fortress of Nangbi (낭비성/娘臂城).
The continuous battles with Baekje and Goguryeo took its toll on Silla and its people. Drought, famine and disquiet took over the land. Different political views within the ruling nobility were frequent; when King Jinpyeong decided his daughter Princess Deokman as his heir the division grew even deeper, as many nobles were opposed to the idea of having a queen.
Political dissension reached its peak in May 631, when Ichan Chilsuk (이찬 칠숙) and Achan Seokpum (아찬 석품) plotted an uprising. The revolt was discovered in advance and both were executed; Chilsuk was beheaded in public and his relatives executed, while Seokpum was captured and executed by soldiers after running away. With the rebellion appeased, the power was left mainly in the hands of the King's supporters (the most important of them was Kim Yushin, commander in chief of the royal army from 629), and it was in this political atmosphere that Princess Deokman was able to become Queen. King Jinpyeong died in January 632, in the 54th year of his reign. He is buried in Bomun-dong 608-beonji, Gyeongju, Northern Gyeongsang Province. His tomb was designated as 180th historical landmark by the Korean government in 1969.
There is a story of King Jinpyeong's jade belt in the book Samguk Yusa, where the belt is said to be given from the heavens. In 579, when King Jinpyeong ascended to the throne, angels landed on the palace gardens and gave King Jinpyeong a gift from the Jade Emperor. King Jinpyeong always wore this belt in rituals and ceremonies to the heavens. Along with the 9 story pagoda and statue of Buddha at Hwangnyong Temple, the jade belt is considered as one of the three main treasures of Silla. After the fall of Silla in 935, King Gyeongsun gave the belt to the Founder of Goryeo Dynasty, King Taejo Wanggeon.
The first record of coal in Korea is said to be the mention in Samguk Sagi, where there is a description of a "fire burning under the ground of Mojiak (모지악/毛只嶽) for 9 months during the reign of King Jinpyeong in the year 609". It is assumed that Mojiak is the present region of Yeongil (present-day Pohang City), Northern Gyeongsang, where brown coal is excavated.