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#25   April, 2002 

Kakara-shima, The Island of Camellia

The Legend of King Munyeong of Baekje

On January 14, 2002, Kakara-shima, a small island of Chinzei Town near Karatsu, was crowded with amateur historians.
My husband and I are not historians at all, but my husband is much interested in Korea and I like mysteries of the ancient days of my district. So we jumped on the chance to join the excursion.

The excursion was guided by Korean professor Moon. He had published his thesis about the birth place of King Munyeong (Muryeong), the 25th King of Baekje*.
Professor Moon thinks the King was born in this small island of North-western Kyushu of Japan.

People in this town prepared a symposium with Professor Moon and some other scholars of Korea and Japan. v were so excited. A king of Baekje about 1500 years ago was born in a very small island here!
But how comes?

King Munyeong, the 25th king of Baekje and his queen were laid to rest in the tomb in Geumseong-dong, Gongju, Chungcheongnam-do Province of Korea. His tomb was excavated in 1971, and they found almost 3000 objects including gold ornaments for crowns, bronze mirrors with designs, copper bowls, etc.
Among them found were two stone plates engraved with a contract from the King of Land to purchase the tomb site, and they showed when the tomb was made and who were buried in there.
So, we can tell that King Munyeong was born in 462A. D. and died in 523A.D. Then does the stone tell us where he was born? No. On the side of Korean history, his birth place had been never mentioned.

It is "Nihon-shoki", the first history book of Japan, edited in 720 A. D. by the Imperial order, that tells us about that.
*Baekje Kingdom (18 B.C.- A.D. 660)
One of the three kingdoms in the ancient times of Korea, the Baekje Kingdom was founded by King Onjo in 18 B.C. with its first capital set at Hanam Wiryeseong on the north side of the Hangang River. Around the middle of the 4th century, assuming a commercial power over the sea routes of East Asia, connecting the area of current Japan, Liaoxi and Shandong Peninsula areas of current China, and other regions, it led the development of the ancient Japanese culture. The Kingdom was destroyed by the invasion of the allied forces of the Silla Kingdom and the Tang Dynasty in China.
The chapter about the birth of the prince says as follows:
Konikishi, a younger brother of the The 21st King Koeru of Baekje, was sent to Japan, and when he left for Japan, Konikishi asked the King to give him one of the King's wives to go with him as his wife. Konikishi wanted a woman who was expecting a King's baby, and on their way, the woman had a birth-pain, and she had a boy on the Island of Kakara in Kyushu.The prince was sent back to his Father King and later he became the 25th King of Baekje.

I am kind of afraid that this might offend Korean people. But at the same time, I wish that this might dispel the long historical antagonism and unite the two nations into a true brotherhood. Anyway, the missing links of the history should be found to make it clear how and why we are here.

So I would like to invite you to the excursion to this island of King Munyeong's birth place.
We call this beautiful island "The island of Camellia".

People here are very proud of this legend of the King's birth-place.
School children welcomed us at the port.
The sign showing us the place of the birth.
Obiya-ura Bay

This place is located in the ancient route between Korea and Japan.
Korean things come floating.
Professor Moon Gyeung Hyung explaining at the site where local people hand on the story of the Prince's birth.
Inside the cave in Obiya-ura
A gigantic rock covers the cave.
The fresh-water well so close to the sea.
Islanders have kept this well as a sacred water for centuries.
The new-born prince was bathed here.

Small and beautiful pebbles washed by the waves for thousands of years.They might have been the bed for the urgent delivery. Pebbles might have heard the first cry of the later great King of Baekje.

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi
Proprietress of Ryokan Yoyokaku

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