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The Life of Ge-Baek



Little is known of the life of Ge-Baek, including the year and location of his birth, apart from the fact that he was a great general in the Paekche dynasty in the early to mid-7th century AD.

The Paekche dynasty flourished for six centuries from 18 BC until it was defeated by Silla in 660. Paekche was established by refugees from Koguryo in the southwest corner of the Korean peninsula, close to the site of present-day Seoul. It expanded southward and set up a trading relationship with China. A major Paekche expedition to Kyushu, Japan, led to the creation of the Yamato Kingdom and the beginnings of a new cultural legacy.

In 655, Paekche and Koguryo joined forces to attack Silla, although they were eventually driven back when Silla received aid from Tang Dynasty China. In 660, when a huge united army of Silla and the Chinese invaded Paekche, General Ge-Baek organised 5,000 soldiers of the highest morale and courage to meet them in battle. He knew before he set out that his army was outnumbered and that his efforts would be futile, but nonetheless he did not hesitate to try to defend his country, reportedly stating

"I would rather die than be a slave of the enemy."

He then killed his wife and family to prevent them from falling into the hands of opposing forces, and to prevent the thought of them to influence his actions or cause him to falter in battle.

His forces won four small initial battles, but then he was forced to move his forces to block the advance of General Kim, Yoo-Sin on the Paekche capital, Puyo. The two generals met on the plains of Hwangsan Field, in present day Hamyang, near Chiri Mountain. Ge-Baek's forces fought bravely but they were outnumbered ten to one and, in the end, he and his men were completely defeated.

The Paekche dynasty was destroyed after 678 years of rule, but the name of Ge-Baek is still recognised for his bravery and his fierce loyalty to his country.
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