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General Survey

The dissolution of the early Gaya Confederation had a significant impact on the ancient history of the entire Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Islands.


Effects of the Early Gaya Confederation's Dissolution

In the fourth century A.D., the Gaya Confederation played an active role in the international trade connecting the Southern Chinese Dynasty, Baekje, and Wa in Japan, eventually rivaling Silla. Silla, in turn, requested the support of Goguryeo, and Goguryeo's Great King Gwanggaeto dispatched 50,000 soldiers to assist Silla in 400 A.D. Imna-gara (Gimhae City at present), the most influential state in the Gaya Confederation, too weak to oppose this large-scale army, eventually succumbed to its defeat and downfall.

Gaya's downfall was not only an unfortunate event in the history of Gaya, as this event had significant after effects on the ancient history of the Korean Peninsula as well as throughout Northeast Asia.

First, the most obvious negative effect was of course the dissolution of the early Gaya Confederation. While it is true that not all the small states of the Gaya confederation had been destroyed, the small states at the eastern basin of the Nakdong River such as Seongju, Changnyeong, Busan, and others were incorporated into Silla's domain, and the main influential states at the mouth of Nakdong River were burnt to the ground.

Second, as a result of this dissolution, Baekje came to experience difficulties trading with Wa by sea. In the fifth century, Baekje managed to keep its trade with Wa by supporting political allies clustered around the Yeongsan River. Silla, although it had escaped from the threat of Gaya and Wa, was nonetheless forced to endure the political interference of Goguryeo.

Third, with the dissolution of Gaya, the inland regions of Gyeongsang-nam bukdo (the least developed areas in the Gaya Confederation to that point in time) and Wa experienced development. In effect, the inhabitants at the mouth of Nakdong River, the cultural center of the Gaya Confederation, dispersed and moved into the inland area of Gyeongsang-nam bukdo, the Japanese Islands and elsewhere, taking their iron-making and pottery technology to those areas.

The dispersion of Gaya's advanced technology greatly contributed both to the founding of the late Gaya confederation led by Goryeong's Gaya-guk in the fifth century and the formation of the Denno governmental system in the Japanese islands. In this context, the Japanese Cheonson-gangrim myth that a grandson of a heavenly god had descended to Gusihuru-dake at Gyusyu (a.k.a. Guji-bong) should be re-examined in light of the far-reaching influence of Gimhae's Garak-guk.