Saturday, December 8, 2012

Goryeo Military Ranks

author: azzurri

From the beginning I have been really confused regarding Choi Young's actual post. Some recappers and English subtitles used General, and others including WithS2 subbers, use Captain as translation for Daejang. This is fine initially, but as the drama progresses, CY is promoted several times and then it starts to get confusing.

So as I am doing translations of English subtitles into Malay which I have completed, I started to reedit, I also rewatched certain scenes, I had time to actually listen to the Korean dialogue being spoken, and managed to 'decipher' more regarding CY's rank.

Before I can elaborate further, I need to ask you all to refer to Episode 9, at the beginning when Gongmin asks the Wudalchi to enter, and CY comes in and presents himself and the Wudalchi. The other noisy minister who is in cahoots with GC throws himself to the ground to protest that CY is a criminal who needs to be punished. At this point, Gongmin turns the table on him cleverly. 

If you listen carefully at this point, Gongmin refers to him as 'Chungnangjang Choi Young.' The dialogue is "Did Chungnangjang Choi Young ally himself with the former king and stand against me?"

Then in the next sentence he says "All that the Wudalchi Daejang has done, each and every one of his deeds were done under my orders."

So here, clearly Choi Young has two very distinct titles ie Chungnangjang and Wudalchi Daejang. 

Okay back to Episode 9. After King Gongmin talks a little more to the entire Court, he addresses Choi Young again. This time in his full official rank: "Fifth rank, Chungnangjang Choi Young. I elevate you to the Fourth Rank and grant the Wudalchi a special privilege."

(Since there is no video of this scene that I could find on youtube, I'm attaching here the BTS video where at 1:59 LMH introduces himself as Wudalchi Chungnangjang, and then RDH repeats it subsequently.)

So what actually is Chungnangjang? And what is 5th rank and 4th rank? 

Google brought me back to Darksmurfsubs where a fellow forumer actually did an amazing post titled Goryeo Military Official Posts which I paste below: 

General Posts
Sang-changgun (上将军)– Supreme General, Senior Grade 3
Tae-changgun (大将军)– Great General, Junior Grade 3
Changgun (将军)– General, Grade 4
Chung nangjang (中郎将)– Colonel, Grade 5 (there you go!)
Nangjang (郎将)– Lt. Colonel, Grade 6

So this tells us that, CY's actual rank was Colonel and he had just been promoted to Rank 4 and is now a General (Changgun). So what does Daejang mean?

Before I elaborate on Daejang and the Ranking stuff.. want to move forward a little. I'm very glad that you guys recapped Ep 17, because here King Gongmin promotes CY again. (and I'm glad Anomalous screencapped this scene in so much detail...  so awesome! So I can quote it here. Hehe.) So the subtitles say CY has been promoted from Rank 4 to 3. And now he is a General. 
But if you listen to what King Gongmin says, he actually says "Hogun". (And if you look at Viki's subs, Gongmin says "And I promoted you  from 4B ranking to 4A. And now you are Hogun (general)).

Refer to the list I posted in my previous post, this title Hogun is not there. And Rank 3 is Tae-changgun. Hmmm.Ok are you all confused? I was, anyway so had to google some more. Will post again (because explanation is also long here).

But before that... there is something I need help for. Can't find the info anywhere. Maybe @sia3 can help, since she speaks chinese. In Episode 19, King Gongmin promotes Hogun Ahn Jae to the post that enables him to command-march all the armies. Several translations are made of this position. Dramafever translates as Dosun Eui Sa (a position that controls guards during an emergency). Viki translates it as Dosun General. I can't find this term anywhere. There is a written explanation in Korean which has not been translated in the subs, and I don't read Korean. @sia3 is there something close to this in Mandarin?

Whilst looking around for information on military ranks, I found this explanation below. Basically it is on early Joseon military ranks, but I suspect early Joseon cannot be far different from late Goryeo.. so hopefully this applies:

The rank system of Chosun army was complex to begin with. The central army, and the provincial army had differnt ranking system. Furthermore, many temporary command such as Sunbynsa, Sunchalsa, Chobanjang, Banguhsa was added in times of war.

Therefore from the above explanation, I'm assuming that Do sun Eui Sa (post given to Ahn Jae in Ep 19) is a temporary post given in times of war/emergency as explained by Dramafever subs. Hope @sia3 can clarify if this is so, if there is an equivalent post in Chinese. 

Then he gives the entire list of Military posts and provincial army posts that I will post in my final installment. In this post I wanted to quote this forumer in his final comment where he says:

These are the ordinary military postion name for central and provincial army. 

But when they are actually on the field, temporary tactical ranks were assigned to each officers that I listed above

Tactical command ranks are

DaeJang (Army general): Commands 10,000~30,000 men 
WeJang (Bragadier General): Commands 2,500~7,500
BuJang (Regiment commander): Usually commands 500~1,500 men
TongJang (Battalion commander): Usually commands between 125~375 men
Yeosu (company commander): commands 125 men
DaeJung (Platoon commander): commands 25 men

So from here, we can see that the Wudalchi has a separate command rank (although definitely it is not temporary as they are the royal bodyguard to the King) but perhaps it is a tactical command rank, as CY is at the same time Chungnangjang and Wudalchi Daejang. So here we can see that Daejang is Army General that commands 10,000 to 30 000 men, and BuJang ie Choong Seok is Regiment Commander (or as we call him Assistant General) that commands 500-1500 men. 

Incidentally modern day military ranking for North and South Korea also include Daejang. Refer :

So in the military context at least, there is a specific post for Daejang.

Here we have to refer to the Final Episode, at almost the end when ES ends up at the inn, orders food and then asks questions from an unknown Wudalchi soldier (who happens to be the assistant director in a cameo role!)

After the question and answers are over, and we now know that it is the 5th year of Gongmin's reign, the soldier is called over to the other side and along with ES, we see him talking to a mustachiod Deok Man who is obviously now his superior. And then our favorite puppy Dae Man now sporting a pony tail, and also obviously also a superior joins him. (Sorry I'm taking the time to watch this scene again and relate it, but I'm getting there. Hehe)

(Credit to Dramabeans)
ES's eyes are watery seeing her puppies again. And then another familiar face emerges, and it's Choong Suk. He looks around and asks, "Where is Daehogun?" (Daehogun is translated as commanding general)

Deokman says "He has gone to the place where the tree is."
Dae Man cuts in and says, "We should get him some food. When Daehogun goes to that place with the tree, he stays there for four days."

So finally we know, that at least at the end of Faith, CY's post is now Daehogun. But if we look at the original list I posted, this post is not there again. So back to the military ranks from early Joseon that I posted above:

Anyway, here is the basic rank of central and provincial army in early Chosun.

Central Army

Grade: Position Name 
2A Dochongguan (Supreme commander) Theoratical heads of army and navy. Usually held by royal princes
2B Buchongguan (Vice-supreme commander) 
2B Ohwejang (Guard General) Generals who were actually responsible for army. 5 of them had overall command of their respective army.
3A Sanghogun (High general)
3B Daehogun (Grand general)
4A Hogun (General)
4B Buhogun (Vice-general)
5A Sajik (Virtuous officer)
5B Busajik (Virtuohs officer, JG)
6A Sakua (Brave officer)
6B Busakua (Brafe officer, JG)
7A Sajung (Just officer)
7B Busajung (Just officer, JG)
8A Sameng (First officer)
8B Busameng (First officer, JG)
9A Sayong (Rising officer)
9B Busayong (Rising officer, JG)

Roughly, Sanghogun~Buhogun (Grade 3A~4B) was brigade or army level generals
Sajik~Busakua (Grade 5A~6B) was regiment level officers roughly equivalent to modern colonel or lt. colnel.
Sajung~Busajung (Grade 7A~7B) was battalion level officers)
And the rest (Grade 8A~9B) were company level officers rouhly equivalent to modern captains or lieutenant. Also Grade 8A~9B was given to men at arms (Gapsa) units to act as lower ranking officers in times of war. 

Choi Young went from being Hogun (General) to the next level which is Daehogun (Grand General), ie from Rank 4A (0r senior) to 3B (or junior). He was still not at the pinnacle of his carreer, and from history we know that he progresses higher until he reaches the highest command/head of the military. Not sure what that's called in Goryeo period.

Also, if we go back to Episode 3, when mr whiny tells CY to attack GC's house, CY answers and says that (I'm quoting Viki's translation here), "The 1000 soldiers that are guarding Hwangong Palace, and Yongwoo's 2000 soldiers, are under the direction of Sang-changgun." Sangchanggun is translated as Supreme Commander, and if we refer back to linntann's list of Goryeo military posts. Sang-changgun is Supreme General, senior grade 3 (3A) - which then should be CY's next post after Daehogun. So in Faith there is a mix of both these military ranking systems that I found. The central army consists of 5 different army troops ie Eungyang (hawks on wing), Yongho (dragons and tigers) and 3 other groups , so Sang-changgun is probably the supreme commander of the 5 central armies... but this is just my assumption. Because in the early Joseon ranking there are 3 higher posts, including Supreme commander (who is usually a prince) but not sure it is the same for Goryeo.

@mattie2012, just wanted to mention... as you talked about how ES called him Changgun/Janggun while teaching him how to do "Aja" and High Five. I think she didn't really know his exact post, but he is generally called Choi Young Janggun now.. which can mean simply General Choi Young.  :)

Ok what is the significance of the ranking system.. each level there is a junior and senior rank. I don't know what it is overall, but I did find mention of how each grade will be 'paid.' For example Chungnangjang which is at Rank 5, receives an annual stipend of 120 bushels of rice, an allotment of 70 kyol of paddy fields, and 27 kyol of forest land, the rank of Major or Sanwon at Rank 8 receives an annual stipend of 33 bushels of rice, an allotment of 30 kyol of paddy fields and 10 kyol of forest land.  Note 1 kyol is believed to be 45.496 sq meters. They were also paid in silver and gold, but the amount is not mentioned. (Ref: Korea: The Mongol Invasion by William E. Henthorn.) 

So... yeah, Daejang was rolling in wealth since he never claimed his pay all this time (Chungnangjang pay x 7 years), so just imagine what all that would have come to in terms of cash he never claimed. ES must have had a ball shopping! And we missed that scene! *STAB*

I think that's all folks, for now. Phew! I think I fried my brain!


  1. Thanks for all your hard work! I've been trying to decipher his ranks and had to watch this way too many times! Now I have to rewatch it again and pay closer attention to everything you pointed out. Maybe, I'll try other source so I could get other interpretation. Again, thanks for people like you that are willing to fry your brain for us.