Many years ago - before the Empire of Buya, the Kingdom of Koguryo, or the Land of Nagnang were formed - there was another kingdom. It was small in comparison to our current kingdoms, but powerful. This kingdom was called Gojoseon, and at the time of our story it was ruled by King Ugeo.
To the south was a loosely-organized state named Jin. This land was not governed by the people, but rather by wealthy lords who owned land or excelled at a certain trade. One of these lords was a man named Gim-Yi.
Our story involves the intertwined fate of these two men: King Ugeo and Gim-Yi. Like many stories throughout history, the thing that brought them together and altered their destinies was none other than a beautiful woman. Her name was Byung-soon.
Byung-soon was originally from Gojoseon, and her beauty was famous throughout the kingdom. It was said that one look could bring a man to his knees. There wasn't a man who didn't desire her for her soft, flawless features or her long, silky-smooth ebony hair. Though no matter how wealthy the suitor was, she turned him down.
Her father was a wealthy merchant, so he often went to Jin to do trade with the skilled craftsmen. On one such occasion, Byung-soon accompanied her father on one of these trips. As eager as he was at the prospect of his daughter finding a suitor among the craftsmen of Jin, he was more excited for something else.
Rumor spread far and wide of a young craftsman named Gim-Yi. The new metal he had discovered, iron, had become legend among the people of Jin and Gojoseon. Even the Han Dynasty had sent many men to obtain this sturdy metal. Gim-Yi, though he was young, had been the only person to perfect the use of this new metal. He became extremely wealthy from both selling the iron and teaching others to work it. He quickly became the wealthiest man in Jin.
Upon their meeting, Gim-Yi and Byung-soon fell madly in love. They spent many days with each other and soon announced their engagement. Word spread quickly and soon everyone was talking about the young couple. Many men were disappointed, but one more than any other.
King Ugeo had pined for Byung-soon for many years, and for many years she had denied him. He became enraged at the thought of her marrying another, and vowed that no other man would have her. On the night before the wedding he sent his men to capture Byung-soon and her father.
He had many of his men, in secret, build a labyrinth out of green stone. In this labyrinth he would keep her for all time. It was vast so that she could not escape, but ornate as to befit a queen. King Ugeo told her to write to Gim-Yi and tell him how unimpressed she was by him. He threatened that if she did not comply that he would have her father executed. She did as he asked.
Gim-Yi, still madly in love with Byung-soon, vowed to impress her. He sent to the labyrinth several chests filled with ore and fine metal. Byung-soon was again told to write that it did not impress her and that Gim-Yi should give up.
Refusing to give up, Gim-Yi painstakingly crafted hundreds of bears and tigers worked from the finest iron. He had them brought to the labyrinth on several large karts. Again, poor Byung-soon was forced to write another refusal.
The heartbroken Gim-Yi endeavored to try one last thing. He would go to the labyrinth himself and present his last gifts. He crafted an ornate tiger mask, which he would wear to show his fearlessness. Finally, he crafted a small statue from iron. This he had a local Shaman bless and infuse with great magical energies.
Guided by his love for Byung-soon, Gim-Yi braved the many twists and turns of the labyrinth. Finally he found where his beloved Byung-soon was being kept. Byung-soon wept tears of joy - for she had longed to see her love once more. But alas, the joyous reunion was cut short.