The legend of Prince Hodong and Princess Nangnang (호동왕자와 낙랑공주) is a 2000 year old story about the tragic love between Prince Hodong(? – 32 AD) of Gorguryeo and Princess Nangnang (? – 32 AD) of Kingdom of Nangnang (낙랑 樂浪). The legend was found in the book Samguk Sagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), which was completed in 1145 during the Goryeo Dynasty. While this story tells of the conflict between Goguryeo and the Han Dynasty, it is also a story about loyalty to one’s own country and filial piety.
Prince Hodong was the handsome and intelligent first son of King Daemusin (4 AD – 44 AD) , the third king of the Goguryeo Kingdom, one of the ancient Three Kingdoms of Korea. Prince Hodong was very handsome and popular among his people due to his vibrant, enthusiastic and cheerful personality.
While visiting the state of Okjeo, the prince competed in a hunting contest and caught a white deer, which symbolized a godly creature. While there, he met King Choe Ri of Nangnang, a kingdom which was allied with China’s Han Dynasty. The king decided to introduce him to his daughter, Princess Nangnang. They immediately fell in love and married.
The Nangnang Kingdom possessed a magical drum called “Ja Myong Go,” which played on its own whenever danger approached. The purpose of this drum was to automatically beat when enemies approached. Up until this time, Goguryeo had been unable to attack the kingdom of Nangnang because of Ja Myong Go.
Upon returning to Goguryeo, Prince Hodong told his father, King Daemusin about his marriage to the Princess.King Daemusin accepted the marriage, but wanted his son to prioritize the restoration of his kindgom’s territory and to use the marriage as an opportunity to conquer Nangnang. King Daemusin ordered the prince to ask his new bride to help Goguryeo by tearing down Ja Myong Go.
Prince Hodong could not disobey his father, so he sent a secret letter to his wife asking her to destroy Ja Myong for the purposes of bringing peace to both kingdoms. The prince warned that if she was unwilling to destroy the drum, he would leave her and they would never be together ever again.
Because the Princess was so in love with Prince Hodong, she took a sword and destroyed the drum. The drum remained silent which allowed the Goguryeo troops to successfully reach the fortress and invade Nangnang. Upon learning what had happened, King Choe Ri killed the princess and then surrendered his kingdom to Goguryeo.
And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse….
Prince Hodong was the son of King Daemusin’s second wife. She was very beautiful and loved greatly by the king. After the fall of Nangnang, the first queen became jealous of Prince Hodong. The queen worried that the king might ignore her son and make Prince Hodong the crown prince and heir to the throne. In a plot to bring him down, she falsely accused Prince Hodong of sexual harassment and misconduct towards her.
The prince knew that any attempts to clear himself of these false accusations would basically mean calling the queen a liar and thereby disgracing her. Rather than disgracing the queen and causing his father even further anguish, he professed his innocence by throwing his body on to his sword and killing himself.