In 2006, South Korea’s then-president Roh Moo-hyun reportedly raised the research personally with Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), China’s premier at the time.
Tensions may have eased since, but South Korea still keeps a close eye on “new cases of historical distortion,” according to the foreign ministry.
Adam Cathcart, a lecturer in Chinese history at Britain’s University of Leeds said: “When you look at North Korean relations with China, when you look at South Korean relations with China, it’s an impediment, it’s an irritant, it’s something that all sides are watching.”
Kwanggaet’o, who reigned from 391 to 413 and whose name is often translated as “broad expander of territory,” is known in China as “Haotaiwang.” South Korea spells his name “Gwanggaeto” — and uses it for a class of its warships.
For its part, North Korea — whose government proclaims a “military first” principle — also has numerous sites related to Koguryo and sometimes invokes the dynasty in its propaganda.
“Koguryo martial valor is something that is seen as very desirable from an historical exemplary point of view... for the North Korean leaders,” said Cathcart, an expert in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang.
North Korea’s young leader — who recently had his uncle executed — would undoubtedly want to visit the ancient tombs in Jian, he added.
“That’s a photo op to die for, for Kim Jong-un,” he said.