The purpose of this article is to examine the background for sudden emergence of kesig, a system of Mongol Empire in Goryeo Korea and to find its meaning. The Goryeo situation in the late 13th century before and after the emergence of kesig was very complex. Internally, the Goryeo military regime sustained for a long period of 100 years led politics and the king’s authority was gravely eroded and the king was virtually excluded from the political power structure. Externally, Goryeo had a war with Mongol for almost 3 decades and finally surrendered and returned to the capital of Gaegyeong from Gangwha-island. Goryeo was in a critical situation to maintain the nation against the Mongol Empire.
The dethronement of Wonjong(r.1259～1274) by Im Yeon in 1269 made Chungryol(r.1274～1308) then the crown prince feel all the more the need for the strengthening of the royal authority. Chungryol also had a perception that the Mongol Empire which had accommodated his request and aided the reinstatement of Wonjong was a friendly nation that Goryeo was able to receive help from.
King Chungryol who had had a favorable impression about Mongolsince he was a crown prince stayed at the capital of the empire as a hostage under the empire’s traditional dominance method for its conquered land. During this period, he married Princess Qutluk Khelmish, daughter of Qubilai Khan, Mongol’s 5th Great Khan and Yuan dynasty’s founder, and experienced the kesig system, a close associate organization, operated by royal family as like prince, princess,and the son-in-law of emperor while staying as a hostage. He learned how royal family of Mongol utilized close associates politically and was aware that he was the son-in-law of the Mongol khan.
King Chungryol ascended the throne after Wonjong and he actively accommodated Mongol customs. Goryeo’s political system was reorganized partly by the demand of the Mongol Empire, and regardless of the empire’s demand, Qorchi(royal guard, 1274), Sibauci(falconry unit;Korean Eungbang, 1274), and Bitikchi(scribe for official documents,1278) were established one after another over 4 years from his enthronement. They were sub-units of Mongol kesig, which had a private relationship with the king, forming relationship between master and servant and through which the king was able to dominate the public national organizations.
King Chungryol attempted to deal with important matters and keep a tight reins on the government through them; Bitikchi was even called ‘another Chancellors outside government building’(別廳宰樞, byeol cheong jae chu). Through Qorchi, he secured protection and safety from danger and further sought for direct control of the military power by expanding the escort organization. Eungbang that took charge of capture and dedication of falcons was utilized as a negotiation window with Mongol and as a means to secure economic power; for example,obtaining capital for overseas trade. Under this process, King Chungryol appointed his close associates and had them operate these organizations and they often committed illegal wrong-doings while running the kesig.
Therefore conflicts between the bureaucracy and the kesig were severe but King Chungryol actively advocated the kesig organization. As Yun Su, a key close associate who operated Eungbang, died(1283) and other close associates took high positions and dominated the right to implement personnel management, the usefulness of the kesig to King Chungryol decreased. Therefore, Eungbang was changed into a temporary government office for falconry(Eungbang-dogam) and Bitikchi was absorbed into Jeongbang; the kesig was transformed into a public organization (institution).
King Chungryol attempted to strengthen his royal authority by having close associates dominate the political, military, and economic (financial) cores. To this end, he introduced the kesig of the Mongol Empire that may be dominantly run by him with much political usefulness.