Bak Hyeokgeose

by Charles La Shure

The first king of Silla. The area where Silla was later to emerge was first called Ch'inhan, and it was occupied by six towns (most probably city-states). According to the mythology, the leaders of the towns gathered and decided that they needed a king to rule over them, primarily because there was no fixed rule or law and thus the people acted without virtue. They ascended to a high place and to the south they saw something like lightning flash from heaven. Then they saw a great white horse bowing down to the ground. When they neared the place they saw that the horse was bowing to a shining egg that lay on the ground. When the horse saw the men approaching, it whinnied loudly and flew up to heaven.

When the egg was opened, a shining boy emerged. All the birds and animals danced for joy, the heavens shook, and the sun and moon grew brighter. Because he was born from an egg, he was given the surname Bak ("gourd," in Korean). The boy was taken to a temple in the south where he was raised. When he reached the age of thirteen, he married Alyeong and became king of the land. He ruled for sixty-one years and then ascended to heaven.

Bak Hyeokgeose was most probably an early chieftain who succeeded in uniting the six main city-states of the area into one nation which was at first called Kyerim but later became Silla.

He is known as the originator of the family name Bak or Park (박).