Story by Kieu Thoan Thu

June 09, 2024



Ly Xuong Can, whose Korean name is Lee Chang Kun, born in 1958 in Seoul, the Republic of Korea, is the 31st descendant of King Ly Thai To (974-1028) – the founder of the Ly Dynasty (1009-1225) – who chose the city of Dai La as his capital and renamed it Thang Long (Rising Dragon, today’s Hanoi).

Ly Xuong Can is also the 26th descendant of Prince Ly Long Tuong (Lee Yong Sang), who is a son of King Ly Anh Tong and the 6th descendant of Ly Thai To. In 1224-1226, Prince Ly Long Tuong and his family arrived in the Goryeo Kingdom (which ruled the Korean Peninsula from 918 to 1392) while fleeing from the court coup that overthrew the last ruler of the Ly Dynasty.

After arriving in Hwasan, Hwanghae Island of the Goryeo (고려) Kingdom, Ly Long Tuong saved the people of Ongjin County from pirates. Later, he allied with King Gojong of Goryeo to defeat Mongol troops. These exploits earned him the respect and trust of King Gojong (1213-1259). Ly Long Tuong was given the title of Hwasangun or Korean general in Hwasan and was rewarded with a vast area of land to settle. The details of the Vietnamese prince are told in Park Gi-hyun’s book “The Naturalized Family Name that Changed Our History.”


The story goes that the prince had an undying love for his motherland during his lifetime. Ly Long Tuong’s lifelong desire to come back to his homeland was not fulfilled until the return of Ly Xuong Can in 1994, two years after Vietnam and South Korea established diplomatic relations.

It took nearly eight centuries for Prince Ly Long Tuong’s wish to be fulfilled. The journey back symbolizes the deep yearning of those of Vietnamese descent who always seek ways to return to their mother country.

Throughout the past three decades, Ly Xuong Can, one of the Ly Dynasty’s descendants, has made a substantial contribution to the development of their motherland, Vietnam, and to the strengthening of the friendship between Vietnam and South Korea. Especially, Ly Xuong Can chose to live in Vietnam six years after returning to the country in 1994 – the Year of Dog, which coincided with the birth year of King Ly Thai To. He became a naturalized Vietnamese citizen in 2010 and has been appointed Vietnamese Tourism Ambassador to the Republic of Korea for two consecutive terms 2017-2020 and 2021-2024.


He commits to spend the remainder of his days advancing Vietnam’s development and improving ties between the two nations.


The Hanoi Times is honored to have him share his journey back to Vietnam and Prince Ly Long Tuong’s story, which will go down in the history of both countries.


It was in 1967 when I was 10. It was the first time that news of the lineage of the Ly Dynasty living in South Korea was made public and it made headlines soon after.

I was too young to know exactly what the news was about but when I was a little older, my dad and his older brother told me. It was too big to get me excited about being a Vietnamese royal descendant.


Then, as I grew up, it was as if my destiny and mission to Vietnam began to sprout and grow in my heart.


When I heard that South Korea and Vietnam had established diplomatic relations in December 1992, my heart leapt. With the desire to return to Vietnam, the land of my ancestors, I decided to quit my job after some consideration, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to visit my ancestral land often if I was bound by work.

When I met Ambassador Nguyen Phu Binh, the first Vietnamese ambassador to South Korea who was fluent in Korean, I brought my family genealogy, news from the South Korean press, and photos of my uncle's work.

The Ambassador was ecstatic to see a descendant of the Ly Dynasty and gave me a hearty greeting as he had been tasked by Vietnamese leaders and intellectuals to trace the Ly family lineage once he arrived in South Korea.

He then helped me go back to Hanoi and unearth the truth about the Ly Dynasty with a period of history that had been lost to oblivion for many years. There I met with senior government officials and the prominent Vietnamese history professor Phan Huy Le.


I visited Do Temple in Bac Ninh, the birthplace of the Ly Dynasty, for the first time on May 18, 1994. Surprised beyond belief, the temple keeper invited the royal family’s elders to come. They gave me a hug, clasped my hand, and told me tales about the history of the Ly Dynasty.

The oracle that predicts “when the trees in Bang forest run out, the water in Tao Khe river dries up, Ly descendants will return” is what makes it interesting. The fact that the prophecy had finally come true surprised and delighted everyone. I was moved to tears as the first descendant to enter the Temple of the Ly kings.


When news of the existence of the Ly Dynasty’s descendants spread throughout Korea in 1967, my uncle traveled to Saigon to highlight the family’s significance. However, he was unable to visit the Ly kings’ temple in Bac Ninh because of the war and he died in 1975.

The feelings and excitement I was experiencing at the time as a descendant profoundly filled my heart. Being a Vietnamese child has undoubtedly marked a significant turning point in my life.

I informed the Hwasan Ly family that there are historical records of the Ly Dynasty in Vietnam, where eight Ly kings are revered and their death anniversary is commemorated annually on the 15th day of the third lunar month.

Eventually, the majority of Korean viewers were introduced to this well-known and enchanting tale through an hour-long documentary produced by the Korean television network KBS.


While living abroad, Prince Ly Long Tuong hoped that “my descendants will find my homeland, Vietnam, in my name”. His wish was granted in 1994 by a descendant. After 769 years, I believe his soul is finally returning to his ancestral home.


Personally, I have no conflicts about returning to live in Vietnam, except for some concerns about the challenges my family may encounter due to linguistic and cultural differences. My father and most of my relatives in South Korea opposed my decision for fear of hardships.

When I left South Korea, I decided to be buried in the homeland of my ancestors after my death. I was deeply moved by the kind reception, concern, and affection I received from the leaders and people of Vietnam. All the Vietnamese media covered the news in detail. Following our move to Hanoi, my family led a typical life. We were granted Vietnamese citizenship in June 2010, the nationality makes me proud. Now that all three of my children, a girl and two boys, have grown up well, I feel happy and grateful.

My second life in Vietnam may be largely attributed to my awareness of my ancestry and my desire to repay the Vietnamese government and people for their love and respect.

So I still firmly believe that I should devote the rest of my life to contributing to Vietnam’s development. And the thought remains unaltered.


We can gain an understanding of the Prince through five historical interpretations, the activities and lives of his descendants, and things not documented in history.


I think the series catch viewers’ attention because it conveys strong traditional Vietnamese values and helps younger generations learn about the prince and Vietnam’s history.

Witnessing the deterioration of moral values in South Korea following the spectacular economic growth, I expect to help Vietnamese young people to be aware of their centuries-old traditions and proud of Vietnam’s origin, especially Hanoi which has thousands of years of values that are unique in the world. Through the channel, I wish to inspire more than five million overseas Vietnamese to be proud of their home country and connect Vietnam to the world.


The Korean War in 1950-1953 forced Ly Long Tuong’s descendants to leave Ongjin, today's Hwanghae-do (formerly Goryeo), and move southwards. The war has made the prince’s descendants to be scattered, with some in North Korea and the majority in South Korea. So far, no information about those living in the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) while the community in South Korea (Hwasan Ly) reached about 2,000.

Nevertheless, the Ly family in South Korea is good at keeping family records and maintaining traditions that have been passed down for generations.

After the Korean War, the descendants in South Korea built in Seoul a temple called Manguk to commemorate the land they had lost in the North. We used to go there to perform rituals every year.

The establishment of Vietnam-South Korea diplomatic relations in 1992 has allowed us to visit Vietnam frequently. It helps the connection between the two countries tighter and brings a better understanding of Vietnam for the Hwasan Ly family.

Since 1992, the leaders of both countries have highlighted the common historical bond represented by the Ly Dynasty’s descendants during their respective state visits.

It’s necessary to disseminate information about Vietnam and boost bilateral relations. I myself have made the world know that Vietnam and South Korea have a special long-lasting bond. Through the media I have been working with over the past time, the Ly Dynasty’s descendants in South Korea are aware of their roots and contribute to the development of their homeland. As a result, Vietnam is a close and reliable destination for many South Korean investors and tourists.

I would like to express my gratitude and pride to the Vietnamese leaders who respect and recognize the historical values of the Ly Dynasty and care for its descendants living in South Korea. It’s believed to be the Vietnamese typical national spirit. “A country that honors its past will thrive!”


As a tourism ambassador of Vietnam, I have proposed diversifying tourist products and focusing on digital tourism, a necessary move to make tourists more comfortable and improve tax collection for Vietnam. I will work with agencies in both countries to contribute to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the next 30 years.

In addition, I’m preparing for a movie to be produced in partnership between Vietnam and South Korea, which will greatly contribute to the promotion of culture and tourism in the two countries. The movie on Prince Ly Long Tuong, entitled “Legend of A Forgotten Prince” is expected to be a historical and cultural treasure of both nations, opening up a new chapter for mutual understanding and cooperation.

I have worked hard to contribute as much as I can to the development of my homeland, Vietnam, and hope that our children and the next generations would follow my path.


My elder son benefits from both the Vietnamese and South Korean cultures. He completed his primary, secondary, high school, and tertiary education in Vietnam and his military service in South Korea. Now he lives and works in Vietnam and continues exploring both cultures. He understands what I’ve done over the past time.


On his return to Vietnam in 1994, Ly Xuong Can wrote in the souvenir booklet at the Ly Bat De Temple (temple worshiping the eight Ly kings): “We, the offspring, vow not to do anything to hurt the noble spirit of our ancestors with both spirit and special mission.”

Does Ly Xuong Can’s “special mission” have the spiritual meaning his ancestors gave it? It’s been nearly 1,000 years (984 years) since King Ly Thai To inaugurated the Ly Dynasty, descendants came back to the country in the same year (the Year of Dog).

The return of those having Vietnamese blood is regarded as an expression of origin consciousness, a testament to the Vietnamese wisdom of “drink the water, remember the source.”



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