Bone Rank System (골품제도 (GolPumJaeDo)/骨品制度) or the GolPum System was the rigid hereditary caste system used to determine aristocratic rank in Ancient Shilla. For those of you who saw or are currently watching, The Great King’s Dream, the Bone Rank System played a key role and explains why the Queen Regent was so adamant on keeping the royal line pure with “Sunggol” blood, which also plays out in the drama Queen Seon Duk. It was this strong adherence to the Bone Rank System which ultimately led to why Queen Seon Duk was selected to rule Silla despite being a woman.
Although the GolPum system was technically abolished with the fall of Unified Silla in 935, the foundation of pure bloodlines continued through the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. The notion of pure bloodlines was still deeply rooted in Korean society up through the 20th century.
Here’s a quick overview of the different levels:
Sunggol 성골 also known as “Sacred Bone” or “Hallowed Bone” refers to someone who had “pure” royal blood. They were directly related to royalty on BOTH sides of their parents. Up until King Muyeol 태종무열왕, only a Sunggol could ascend to the throne. It was lack of an adequate male Sunggol which made it possible for both Queen Seon Duk 선덕왕and Queen Jindeok 진덕왕 to ascend to the throne. They were the last of the Sunggols.
Jingol 진골 also known as “True Bone” refers to someone who was directly related to royalty, but only on ONE side of their parents.