In Korea, one love story that has withstood the test of time is the legend of Seodong. This ancient love story is about King Mu of Baekje, and Seonhwa, a princess of Silla. The couple was madly in love, and eventually got married. King Mu built an artificial pond for the princess, symbolizing his love for her. This symbol of their love has lasted more than 1,300 years. You can still visit the pond today. Gungnamji pond is a beautiful body of water surrounded by willow trees and lotus flowers. The pond is just as beautiful as the ancient love story behind it.
Love Story of Seodong and Seonhwa
There was a woman who lived alone near a pond located south of the palace where the royal family of the Baekje Kingdom lived. The women then met a dragon who lived in the pond and they had an intimate relationship.
The relationship between this woman and the royal pond dragon led to the birth of a boy named Jang. Jang grew up poor. He and his mother made a living selling yams at the street market. Because of this, Jang became known as Seodong which means “a boy who sells yams”. Despite their poverty, Jang (Seodong)’s mother raised him well and he became a kind and strong man.
Meeting His Love
One day, Seodong was ordered by the king to spy on the rival Kingdom of Silla. Seodong eagerly accepted the job and sneaked into Silla’s capital, Seorabeol. He disguised himself as a traveling yam merchant while monitoring the affairs of Silla.
While on his secret spying mission, he met princess Seonhwa, third daughter of Silla’s King Jinpyeong, by chance. Regardless of their different social casts and nationality, they fell in love.
Princess Seonhwa married Seodong in secret and they continued to meet every night and make love. However, their affair didn’t stay a secret for long. There was a song called Seodongyo that emerged outlining the details of their secret marriage and affair. The couple embraced it, and Seodong gave free yams to children in exchange for spreading the song. Soon, their love story spread all throughout their two kingdoms and beyond.
However, not everyone found delight in their love story. Once princess Seonhwa’s father learned of their affair, he banished his daughter from Silla. Seodong brought her to Baekje Kingdom where they were officially married.
Rise of a King
Remember how Seodong’s father was a dragon? Well, that is symbolism for a crowned prince or the king. Seodang was a secret heir to the Baekje Kingdom. His marriage to a Silla princess solidified his place on the throne. Seodong became King Mu, the 30th king of Baekje. In the 35th year of his reign, King Mu commissioned the construction of a pond to celebrate the love of his queen. Together King Mu and Queen Seonhwa ruled side by side, living out the rest of their days happily ever after.
This is the basic story, but of course, as with all legends, there are slight variations. Plus, historians agree that there are quite a few inconsistencies in this tale. However, it does make quite a beautiful love story.
Gungnamji Pond was the first manmade pond in Korea. It was built during the reign of King Mu of Baekje Kingdom in 634 AD. The pond is situated in the center of Seodong Park in Buyeo.
In spring and summer, Gungnamji Pond overflows with lotus flowers. In fall, gentle breezes blow through golden leaves along the water’s edge. And, in winter, it becomes an icy wonderland. Visitors are sure to enjoy their visit any time of year.
Cat Garden Address: 52 Gungnam-ro, Buyeo-eup, Buyeo-gun, Chungcheongnam-do Directions: Take a bus from Seoul Nambu Bus Terminal to Buyeo Intercity Bus Terminal. From there, take bus no. 8, 9, 13, 100,101, 104, 108, 120, 129, 302, 313, 341, 502-1, 604 and alight at Buyeo Middle School bus stop. Walk towards Gungnamji Pond (Seodong Park). Or, you can walk from Buyeo Bus Terminal to Seodong Park which is only about a kilometer away. It would take around 20 minutes.
For more things to do in Buyeo, Beakje’s ancient capital, Click Here!