The instrument originated circa the fourth century (see Anak Tomb No.3 infra) through the 7th century from the kingdom of Goguryeo, which comprises the northern part of modern-day southern Manchuria and the northern and central parts of the Korean peninsula, although the instrument can be traced back to the 4th century.
According to the Samguk Sagi (Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms), written in 1145, the geomungo was invented by prime minister Wang San-ak by using the form of the ancient Chinese instrument guqin (also called chilhyeongeum, literally "seven-string zither"). After his death, the instrument was passed down to Ok Bogo, Son Myeong-deuk, Gwi Geum, An Jang, Cheong Jang, and Geuk Jong, while being widely spread over the kingdom.
The geomungo is approximately 162 cm long and 23 cm wide (63.75 inches long, 9 inches wide), and has movable bridges called Anjok and 16 convex frets. It has a hollow body where the front plate of the instrument is made of paulownia wood and the back plate is made of hard chestnut wood. Its six strings, which are made of twisted silk passed through its back plate. The pick is made from bamboo sticks in the size of regular household pencil.
Due to its characteristically percussive sound and vigorous playing technique it is thought of as a more "masculine" instrument than the 12-string gayageum (another Korean zither); both instruments, however, are played by both male and female performers.