Korea and the Mongol Empire
|From: Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongol Empire.|
After decades of desultory invasions, Korea became an important Mongol client state in 1260. At the time of the Mongol conquest, Korea was ruled by the Koryo dynasty (918–1392). Occupying all the peninsula south of roughly the 40th parallel, the dynasty paid tribute to the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) while closely imitating the forms and ranks of a Chinese dynasty. In 1170 the military caste had overthrown civil rule, and from 1196 the military Ch'oe family maintained control over the king. The Ch'oe family overawed the armed Buddhist monks and built up its own armed retinue that replaced the traditional military. Policy making and civil appointments occurred in the Ch'oe household only.
In 1216 a massive body of Kitan freebooters, pressed by the Mongols, crossed into Korea from Manchuria. In January 1219 a Mongol detachment appeared, demanding an alliance with the Koreans against these Kitans. The Koreans submitted, and the Kitans were hunted down. In 1224 a Mongol envoy was killed in obscure circumstances, and Korea stopped paying tribute. In September 1231 Ögedei Khan (1229–41) dispatched Sartaq to subdue Korea and avenge the dead envoy. After the Mongols ravaged the peninsula, Korea agreed to accept Mongol overseers (Darughachi). When Sartaq withdrew for the summer, however, Ch'oe U (r. 1219–49) ordered all the darughachis murdered and moved the court from Kaegyong (modern Kaeong) to Kanghwa Island, safe from the Mongols who lacked a navy