The Love Story of Seodong and Princess Seonhwa
Last weekend, we went out-of-town and drove to the town of Buyeo. It is located in Chungcheongnam-do and it was the capital of the Baekje Kingdom. The kingdom was founded by Onjo, a son of Jumong and So Seo-No.
It was our second trip to Buyeo. The first was just last November and we instantly like the place. It isn’t as crowded as Gangwondo and it has its own charms. Too bad that we only stayed there for a day and a half, about ten hours of which we spent on the road.
One of the places we visited last November and again last weekend is “Seodong Park” where Gungnamji, a pond, is located. The pond is special not only for its serene beauty but also because of the story behind it: the love story of Seodong and Princess Seonhwa (the third daughter of King Jinpyeong of Shilla, who was the father of Queen Seondok).
The love story of Seodong and Princess Seonhwa was made into a television drama. It was produced by SBS and stars Lee Bo Young as Princess Seonhwa. Anyway, I didn’t catch the drama…
Here’s their love story as written on sign near the footbridge to the pavilion.
Once upon a time during the Baekje era, there was a pond called “Gungnam-ji” also known as “igungteo” meaning “the King’s second residence” because of its location. This site is famous as the origin of the legend of “Seodong”, the childhood nickname of King Mu, the 30th King of Baekje. “In the Sabi era, there was a woman who moved out of the main palace and lived alone near this pond south of the palace. She had relations with the dragon living in the pond and gave birth to a son. (In old Korean stories like these, “having relations with a dragon” indicates his father was a king or a crown prince). The son was named Jang, and later became King Mu. He and his mother were so poor that they lived by selling hemp. That is why he was called “Seodong” (a boy who sells hemp) in his childhood. In spite of this poverty, she raised her son with her whole heart and he grew up to be a good and strong man.
One day, a royal retainer came to him with a secret order from the king, to sneak into and spy on Seorabeol, the capital of the rival Silla Kingdom. Seodong willingly accepted the task, and disguised himself as a traveling hemp merchant. He slipped into Silla and faithfully spied on the affairs of that nation. But then by chance he met Princess Seonhwa, the third daugher of King Jinpyeong, Silla’s 26th king. After that, they met frequently and fell in love with each other. But they were from different social classes and nationalities. So they decided to make a song named “Seodongyo” and spread it among the common people. Seodong gave free hemp to children and taught them a simple song: “Princess Seonhwa got married with Seodong in secret, and is having a love affair with him every night.”
The song spread throughout the kingdom and Princess Seonhwa was banished from the palace in disgrace. On her way into exile, she met up with Seodong again. He took her to the Baekje Kingdom and they settled down together. He became King Mu, she was his queen, and they lived happily ever after.