Goryeo was a society ruled by civil officials. Although the civil officials enjoyed all kinds of privileges, the military officers were discriminated against. Even in the civil service examination, there was no exam recruiting military officers. In the government grants of land, the military officials received petty allotments. The post of commander-in-chief during wartime was also held by a civil official. The military officials were required to serve as escorts for civil officials and were often looked down upon by them. While the king enjoyed banquets with the civil officials, the military officials were relegated to guard the king, often without partaking in the food. In particular, lower ranking military officers, handling all kinds of miscellaneous duties, suffered greatly.
Military officials became disgruntled for the indignities and discrimination they were forced to suffer in the political framework that favored the civil officials. Such discontent finally exploded during the reign of King Euijong, who continuously engaged in a life of pleasure, along with the aristocrats.
In the autumn of 1170, King Euijong made a royal progression to Boyeonwon Temple in the company of civil officials. On their way, the civil officials made the military officials hold martial arts contests for their enjoyment. One civil official struck an old general in the face and humiliated him. The rage of the military officials, who were watching, burst, igniting a military revolt. The military officials led by Chung Jung-bu killed the civil officials, then seized power and enthroned a new king. This marked the advent of a new order dominated by military officials.
However, instead of looking after state affairs, the military regime engaged in fierce power struggles. Chung Jung-bu was assassinated by Gyeong Dae-seung. When Gyeong Dae-seung died of illness, Yi Euimin, originally of slave status, seized power. Choi Chung-heon then killed Yi Eui-min, established a strong system of monopoly, and the military regime of the Choi family continued for the following 60 years, during four generations.
On the eve of the New Year in 1144, there was a ceremony called “Narye”which was dedicated to driving away the evil spirits. Joyous entertainment was held with the king in attendance. Because of a sudden wind, the candlelights were blown out and the place went dark. At this point, Kim Don-jung burned the beard of Chung Jung-bu, a general, with a candlelight. Outraged, Chung Jung-bu struck Kim Don-jung in the face. but it was Chung who had to go into hiding to avoid harm. Kim Don-jung was the son of Kim Bu-shik, who was the highest ranking official of the time. This incident shows how the civil officials looked down on military officials.