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Gang Jo [강조(康兆)](974 - 1010) was a Goryeo general who served under Emperor Mokjong of Goryeo and Emperor Hyeonjong of Goryeo. General Gang Jo was a general in charge of the Northern border army.


Rise to power

When scholar-official Kim Chi-Yang burned the royal palace to the ground, threatening to kill the emperor and take over, Emperor Mokjong called General Gang Jo to the capital city of Kaesong. General Gang Jo immediately executed Kim Chi-Yang and his supporters. Then, the scholar officials, enemies of Gang Jo, spread rumors and lies that the general was planning to take over the government for himself. These rumors reached the Emperor, and he planned to kill Gang Jo. Gang Jo heard of the conspiracy and doubts of the Emperor, and ordered his army to attack and kill all of his enemies, including the emperor. After assassinating Emperor Mokjong, General Gang placed Emperor Hyeonjong of Goryeo on the throne.

War with the Liao and death of the general

Soon after this, Emperor Shengzong of Liao attacked Goryeo during the fall of 1010 CE in an attempt to kill Gang Jo for killing the Goryeo Emperor. The 400,000-man Liao Grand Army came invading into Goryeo territory. The Liao first attacked and lost at the city of Ui-Ju, whose castle lord was General Yang Gyu. Next, the Liao finally headed to the city of Tong-Ju, which is where General Gang Jo and 30,000 Goryeo troops were waiting. General Gang Jo set up an ambush on a narrow pass that the Liao army was inevitably going to have to pass. There, he directly led his troops in a three-pronged attack when the Liao came. The Liao soldiers were forced to retreat and 10,000 died during this ambush. The enemy troops issued another attack on Tong-Ju city but faced a humiliating defeats with indescribable casualties. The Liao commander lead the remnants of his heavily-damaged army and led yet another attack on the city, with Gang Jo as his main target. The Liao were defeated a third time, and were forced to retreat once more. In one last ditch effort, the Liao army came attacking once more, but this time, General Gang Jo did not directly orchestrate the attack and played Badok with one of his lieutenants instead, thinking that victory was a given. General Gang's conceitedness and underestimation would eventually lead to his downfall and death. Liao soldiers pierced through the city's defenses and captured General Gang. General Gang refused to surrender to the Liao Emperor, who in turn, executed General Gang.

Place in History and comparison to Yeon Gaesommun

Gang Jo is seen both as a hero and a ruthless dictator. Though because his period of reign was a time of war against the invading Liao, not many deaths were ordered by the general with the exception of Emperor Mokjong and the conspiring scholar-officials. Gang Jo can be compared with his predecessor Yeon Gaesomun of Goguryeo, who had also killed an Emperor of Goguryeo for conspiring against him. Gang Jo, however, was not as brilliant as Yeon Gaesommun, as he was not able to keep control for very long. Gang Jo did bring great victories to Goryeo over the Liao dynasty, but his death brought about another period of trouble for Goryeo, just as Yeon Gaesommun's death had done to Goguryeo. Gang Jo can be seen as a smaller-scale version of Yeon Gaesommun.

See also



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