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Korea (한국, or 조선, ) is a in . Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel, with (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and (Republic of Korea) comprising its southern half. Korea consists of the Korean Peninsula, , and several minor islands near the peninsula. The peninsula is bordered by to the northwest and to the northeast. It is separated from to the east by the and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

During the first half of the 1st millennium, Korea was divided between three states, , , and , together known as the Three Kingdoms of Korea. In the second half of the 1st millennium, Silla defeated and conquered Baekje and Goguryeo, leading to the "" period. Meanwhile, formed in the north, superseding former Goguryeo. Unified Silla eventually collapsed into three separate states due to , ushering in the Later Three Kingdoms. Toward the end of the 1st millennium, was resurrected as , which defeated the two other states and unified the Korean Peninsula as a single sovereign state. Around the same time, Balhae collapsed and its last crown prince fled south to Goryeo. Goryeo (also spelled as Koryŏ), whose name developed into the modern "Korea", was a highly cultured state that created the world's first metal in 1234.

(2013). 9781285528670, Cengage Learning. .
However, multiple incursions by the during the 13th century greatly weakened the nation, which eventually agreed to become a vassal state after decades of fighting. Following military resistance under that ended Mongol political influence in Goryeo, severe political strife followed, and Goryeo eventually fell to a coup led by General , who established on 17 July 1392.

The first 200 years of the Joseon era were marked by relative peace. During this period, the was created by Sejong the Great in the 15th century and there was increasing influence of . During the later part of the dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the Western nickname of the "". Korea was removed from Chinese following the 's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War, and Gojong of Korea subsequently proclaimed the in 1897. The unexpected victory of Japan in the Russo-Japanese War spelled the end of Russian imperial ambitions in Korea, and Japan was left with no other rivals in the region. The Korean Empire subsequently became a protectorate of Japan on 17 November 1905, and was later annexed by Japan on 22 August 1910.

Japan relinquished control over Korea after formally surrendering to the Allies on 2 September 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. The and the had agreed to partition Korea along the 38th parallel, with the Soviets occupying the north and the Americans occupying the south. These circumstances became the basis for the division of Korea by the two with two different , exacerbated by their inability to agree on the terms of Korean independence. The Communist-inspired government in the North received backing from the Soviet Union in opposition to the pro-Western government in the South, leading to Korea's division into two in 1948: North Korea, and South Korea. Tensions between the two resulted in the outbreak of the in 1950. With involvement by foreign troops, the war ended in a stalemate in 1953, but without a formalised . This status contributes to the high tensions that continue to divide the peninsula. Both governments of the two Koreas continue to claim to be the sole legitimate government of the region.

"Korea" is the modern spelling of "Corea", a name attested in English as early as 1614. Korea was transliterated as Cauli in The Travels of Marco Polo,
(2022). 9781134275427, Routledge. .
of the 高麗 (: Kawlej,Baxter, William & al. " Baxter–Sagart Old Chinese Reconstruction ", pp. 43, 58 & 80. 20 February 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2013. mod. Gāolì). This was the for the Korean kingdom of (), which ruled most of the Korean peninsula during Marco Polo's time. Korea's introduction to the West resulted from trade and contact with merchants from Arabic lands,
(2022). 9781136627248, Routledge. .
with some records dating back as far as the 9th century.
(1996). 9781565910843, Hollym. .
Goryeo's name was a continuation of (Koguryŏ) the northernmost of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which was officially known as Goryeo beginning in the 5th century. The original name was a combination of the adjective go ("high, lofty") with the name of a local tribe, whose original name is thought to have been either * Guru (溝樓, "walled city," inferred from some toponyms in Chinese historical documents) or Gauri (가우리, "center"). With expanding British and American trade following the opening of Korea in the late 19th century, the spelling "Korea" appeared and gradually grew in popularity; its use in transcribing East Asian languages avoids the issues caused by the separate hard and soft Cs existing in English vocabulary derived from the Romance languages. The name Korea is now commonly used in English contexts by both North and South Korea.

In , Korea as a whole is referred to as (한국, , ). The name references , referring to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, not the ancient confederacies in the southern Korean Peninsula. Although written in Hanja as 韓, 幹, or 刊, this Han has no relation to the Chinese place names or peoples who used those characters but was a phonetic transcription (: * Gar, : Han or Gan) of a native Korean word that seems to have had the meaning "big" or "great", particularly in reference to leaders. It has been tentatively linked with the title khan used by the nomads of and .

In , Korea as a whole is referred to as (조선, , ). is the modern Korean pronunciation of the Hanja 朝鮮, which is also the basis of the word for Korea as a whole in (朝鮮, ), (朝鲜, Cháoxiǎn), and (Triều Tiên). "Great " was the name of the kingdom ruled by the Joseon dynasty from 1393 until their declaration of the short-lived Great Korean Empire in 1897. King Taejo had named them for the earlier (고조선), who ruled northern Korea from its legendary prehistory until their conquest in 108 BCE by China's . The Go- in Gojoseon is the Hanja 古 and simply means "ancient" or "old"; it is a modern usage to distinguish the ancient Joseon from the later dynasty. It is unclear whether was a transcription of a native Korean name ( * Trawser, Trjewsjen) or a partial translation into Chinese of the Korean capital (아사달), whose meaning has been reconstructed as "Morning Land" or "Mountain".


Prehistory and Gojoseon
The Korean Academy claimed ancient hominid fossils originating from about 100,000 BCE in the lava at a stone city site in Korea. Fluorescent and high-magnetic analyses indicate the volcanic fossils may be from as early as 300,000 BCE. The best preserved Korean pottery goes back to the times around 10,000 BCE and the period begins around 6000 BCE.

Beginning around 300 BC, the -speaking from the Korean Peninsula entered the Japanese islands and displaced or intermingled with the original Jōmon inhabitants.

(2022). 9780199384655, Oxford University Press.
The linguistic homeland of Proto- is located somewhere in Southern Siberia/Manchuria, such the area or the Amur region. Proto-Koreans arrived in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula at around 300 BC, replacing and assimilating Japonic-speakers and likely causing the migration.

According to legend, , a descendant of , established in 2333 BCE. In 108 BCE, the defeated Gojoseon and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula. Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades, but the Lelang Commandery remained as a center of cultural and economic exchange with successive Chinese dynasties for four centuries. By 313, annexed all of the Chinese commanderies.

Proto–Three Kingdoms
The Proto–Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Multiple States Period, is the earlier part of what is commonly called the Three Kingdoms Period, following the fall of but before , , and fully developed into kingdoms.

This time period saw numerous states spring up from the former territories of Gojoseon, which encompassed northern Korea and southern . With the fall of Gojoseon, southern Korea entered the period.

Located in the southern part of Korea, Samhan referred to the three confederacies of Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. Mahan was the largest and consisted of 54 states. and both consisted of twelve states, bringing a total of 78 states within the . These three confederacies eventually developed into , , and .

Three Kingdoms
The Three Kingdoms of Korea consisted of , , and . Silla and Baekje controlled the southern half of the , maintaining the former territories, while Goguryeo controlled the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria and the Liaodong Peninsula, uniting , , , and other states in the former territories.

was a highly militaristic state;

(1984). 9780674615762, Harvard University Press. .
(2022). 9781477265161, AuthorHouse. .
it was a powerful empire and one of the great powers in East Asia,
(2022). 9780199936762, Oxford University Press. .
(2007). 9780230608733, Palgrave Macmillan. .
(1994). 9789231028137, UNESCO. .
(2012). 9781477265178, AuthorHouse. .
reaching its zenith in the 5th century when its territories expanded to encompass most of Manchuria to the north, parts of to the west,
(2012). 9781462910229, Tuttle Publishing. .
parts of Russia to the east,
(2015). 9781317461296, Routledge. .
and the Seoul region to the south.
(2022). 9780253000781, Indiana University Press. .
Goguryeo experienced a golden age under Gwanggaeto the Great and his son Jangsu,
(2022). 9788988095850, Jimoondang. .
"He launched a military expedition to expand his territory, opening the golden age of Goguryeo."
(1988). 9780521223522, Cambridge University Press. .
(1988). 9780684188997, Scribner. .
(2000). 9780231502511, Columbia University Press. .
who both subdued Baekje and Silla during their times, achieving a brief unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and becoming the most dominant power on the Korean Peninsula.
(2012). 9780253000781, Indiana University Press. .
In addition to contesting for control of the Korean Peninsula, Goguryeo had many military conflicts with various Chinese dynasties,
(2012). 9781477265178, AuthorHouse. .
most notably the Goguryeo–Sui War, in which Goguryeo defeated a huge force said to number over a million men.
(2011). 9780393081923, W. W. Norton & Company. .
(2022). 9780789322333, Universe Pub.. .
(2007). 9781134125975, Routledge. .
(1984). 9780674615762, Harvard University Press. .
"Koguryŏ was the first to open hostilities, with a bold assault across the Liao River against Liao-hsi, in 598. The Sui emperor, Wen Ti, launched a retaliatory attack on Koguryŏ but met with reverses and turned back in mid-course. Yang Ti, the next Sui emperor, proceeded in 612 to mount an invasion of unprecedented magnitude, marshalling a huge force said to number over a million men. And when his armies failed to take Liao-tung Fortress (modern Liao-yang), the anchor of Koguryŏ's first line of defense, he had a nearly a third of his forces, some 300,000 strong, break off the battle there and strike directly at the Koguryŏ capital of P'yŏngyang. But the Sui army was lured into a trap by the famed Koguryŏ commander Ŭlchi Mundŏk, and suffered a calamitous defeat at the Salsu (Ch'ŏngch'ŏn) River. It is said that only 2,700 of the 300,000 Sui soldiers who had crossed the Yalu survived to find their way back, and the Sui emperor now lifted the siege of Liao-tung Fortress and withdrew his forces to China proper. Yang Ti continued to send his armies against Koguryŏ but again without success, and before long his war-weakened empire crumbled."
(2022). 9780930878689, Hollym International Corporation. .
"China, which had been split into many states since the early 3rd century, was reunified by the Sui dynasty at the end of the 6th century. Soon afterward, Sui China mobilized its army and invaded Koguryŏ. However, the people of Koguryŏ were united and able to repel the Chinese invasion. In 612, Sui troops invaded Korea again, but Koguryŏ forces fought bravely and destroyed Sui troops everywhere. General Ŭlchi Mundŏk of Koguryŏ completely wiped out some 300,000 Sui troops which came across the Yalu River in the battles near the Salsu River (now Ch'ŏngch'ŏn River) with his ingenious military tactics. Only 2,700 Sui troops were able to flee from Korea. The Sui dynasty, which wasted so much energy and manpower in aggressive wars against Koguryŏ, fell in 618."
In 642, the powerful general led a coup and gained complete control over Goguryeo. In response, Emperor of China led a campaign against Goguryeo, but was defeated and retreated.
(2009). 9781851096725, ABC-CLIO. .
(2012). 9781477265178, AuthorHouse. .
After the death of Tang Taizong, his son Emperor allied with the Korean kingdom of Silla and invaded Goguryeo again, but was unable to overcome Goguryeo's stalwart defences and was defeated in 662.
(2012). 9781136639791, Routledge. .
(2014). 9781107098466, Cambridge University Press. .
However, Yeon Gaesomun died of a natural cause in 666 and Goguryeo was thrown into chaos and weakened by a succession struggle among his sons and younger brother, with his eldest son defecting to and his younger brother defecting to Silla.
(1984). 9780674615762, Harvard University Press. .
(2014). 9781610695824, ABC-CLIO. .
The Tang-Silla alliance finally conquered Goguryeo in 668. After the collapse of Goguryeo, Tang and Silla ended their alliance and fought over control of the Korean Peninsula. Silla succeeded in gaining control over most of the Korean Peninsula, while Tang gained control over Goguryeo's northern territories. However, 30 years after the fall of Goguryeo, a Goguryeo general by the name of founded the Korean-Mohe state of and successfully expelled the Tang presence from much of the former Goguryeo territories.

The southwestern Korean kingdom of was founded around modern-day by a Goguryeo prince, a son of the founder of Goguryeo.

(2013). 9781136793936, Routledge. .
(2022). 9781462055593, iUniverse. .
(2012). 9780253000781, Indiana University Press. .
Baekje absorbed all of the Mahan states and subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the modern provinces of , , and , as well as parts of and Gangwon) to a centralised government; during the expansion of its territory, Baekje acquired Chinese culture and technology through maritime contacts with the Southern Dynasties. Baekje was a great maritime power;
(2022). 9780618133840, Houghton Mifflin. .
its nautical skill, which made it the of East Asia, was instrumental in the dissemination of Buddhism throughout East Asia and continental culture to Japan.
(2013). 9781136875908, Routledge. .
(2022). 9781111808150, Cengage Learning. .
Historic evidence suggests that Japanese culture, art, and language were influenced by the kingdom of Baekje and Korea itself; "The pottery of the Yayoi culture ( BCE – CE ), made by a Mongol people who came from Korea to Kyūshū, has been found throughout Japan. "
(2022). 9784770029782, Kodansha International. .
Baekje also played an important role in transmitting advanced Chinese culture to the Japanese archipelago. Baekje was once a great military power on the Korean Peninsula, most notably in the 4th century during the rule of Geunchogo when its influence extended across the sea to and in China, taking advantage of the weakened state of , and in the Japanese archipelago;
(2005). 9788973006199, Ewha Womans University Press. .
however, Baekje was critically defeated by Gwanggaeto the Great and declined.

Although later records claim that was the oldest of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, it is now believed to have been the last kingdom to develop. By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a large state in the southeast, occupying and influencing its neighbouring city-states. In 562, Silla annexed the , which was located between Baekje and Silla. The Three Kingdoms of Korea often warred with each other and Silla was often dominated by Baekje and Goguryeo. Silla was the smallest and weakest of the three, but it used cunning diplomatic means to make opportunistic pacts and alliances with the more powerful Korean kingdoms, and eventually Tang China, to its great advantage.

(2022). 9780253000248, Indiana University Press. .
(2015). 9789004300057, BRILL. .
In 660, King Muyeol ordered his armies to attack . General , aided by forces, conquered Baekje after defeating General at the Battle of Hwangsanbeol. In 661, Silla and Tang attacked Goguryeo but were repelled. King Munmu, son of Muyeol and nephew of General Kim Yu-shin, launched another campaign in 667 and Goguryeo fell in the following year.

North–South States Period
Beginning in the 6th century, 's power gradually extended across the Korean Peninsula. Silla first annexed the adjacent in 562. By the 640s, Silla formed an alliance with the of China to conquer and later . After conquering Baekje and Goguryeo, Silla repulsed Tang China from the Korean peninsula in 676. Even though Silla unified most of the Korean Peninsula, most of the Goguryeo territories to the north of the Korean Peninsula were ruled by . Former Goguryeo general Old records of Silla 新羅古記(): ...高麗舊將祚榮 Rhymed Chronicles of Sovereigns 帝王韻紀(): ...前麗舊將大祚榮 or chief of Sumo Mohe Solitary Cloud 孤雲集(Gounjib): ...渤海之源流也句驪未滅之時本爲疣贅部落靺羯之屬寔繁有徒是名栗末小蕃甞逐句驪, 內徙其首領乞四羽及大祚榮等至武后臨朝之際自營州作孼而逃輒據荒丘始稱振國時有句驪遺燼勿吉雜流梟音則嘯聚白山鴟義則喧張黑姶與契丹濟惡旋於突厥通謀萬里耨苗累拒渡遼之轍十年食葚晚陳降漢之旗. Solitary Cloud 孤雲集(Gounjip): ...其酋長大祚榮, 始受臣藩第五品大阿餐之秩 Comprehensive Institutions 通典(): ...渤海夲栗末靺鞨至其酋祚榮立國自號震旦, 先天中 玄宗王子始去靺鞨號專稱渤海 led a group of Goguryeo and refugees to the and founded the kingdom of , 30 years after the collapse of Goguryeo, as the successor to Goguryeo. At its height, Balhae's territories extended from southern down to the northern Korean peninsula. Balhae was called the "Prosperous Country in the East".
(2014). 9781107098466, Cambridge University Press. .

carried on the maritime prowess of , which acted like the of medieval ,

(2013). 9781136875908, Routledge. .
and during the 8th and 9th centuries dominated the seas of East Asia and the trade between China, Korea and Japan, most notably during the time of ; in addition, Silla people made overseas communities in China on the Shandong Peninsula and the mouth of the .
(1996). 9780521497817, Cambridge University Press. .
(2022). 9780471070535, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Limited. .
"From what Ennin tells us, it seems that commerce between East China, Korea and Japan was, for the most part, in the hands of men from Silla. Here in the relatively dangerous waters on the eastern fringes of the world, they performed the same functions as did the traders of the placid Mediterranean on the western fringes. This is a historical fact of considerable significance but one which has received virtually no attention in the standard historical compilations of that period or in the modern books based on these sources. . . . While there were limits to the influence of the Koreans along the eastern coast of China, there can be no doubt of their dominance over the waters off these shores. . . . The days of Korean maritime dominance in the Far East actually were numbered, but in Ennin's time the men of Silla were still the masters of the seas in their part of the world."
(2014). 9781610695824, ABC-CLIO. .
(2022). 9780742540057, Rowman & Littlefield. .
Later Silla was a prosperous and wealthy country,
(2022). 9780141966830, Penguin UK. .
and its metropolitan capital of
(1998). 9780870998508, Metropolitan Museum of Art. .
was the fourth largest city in the world.
(2013). 9780571299355, Faber & Faber. .
(1990). 9788985113069, Seoul International Pub. House. .
Later Silla experienced a golden age of art and culture,
(2022). 9780761417866, Marshall Cavendish. .
(2003). 9780674011632, Harvard University Press. .
(2013). 9781612386324, Avalon Travel. .
(2005). 9780313038532, ABC-CLIO. .
as evidenced by the , , and . Buddhism flourished during this time, and many Korean Buddhists gained great fame among Chinese Buddhists
(2022). 9780977755301, Blue Pine Books. .
and contributed to Chinese Buddhism,
(2010). 9781438126807, Infobase Publishing. .
including: , , , ,
(2013). 9781400848058, Princeton University Press. .
(2007). 9780198043201, Oxford University Press. .
(2015). 9780231540193, Columbia University Press. .
(2004). 9780199882182, Oxford University Press. .
and , a Silla prince whose influence made one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Chinese Buddhism.
(2016). 9781624120763, Seoul Selection. .
(2015). 9783847004851, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. .
(2022). 9781843530190, Rough Guides. .
(2014). 9780241010372, Penguin. .
(2016). 9781465455673, Penguin. .

Later Silla fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to the tumultuous Later Three Kingdoms period (892–935), and Balhae was destroyed by the in 926. unified the Later Three Kingdoms and received the and much of the ruling class of Balhae, thus bringing about a unification of the two successor nations of .

(1984). 9780674615762, Harvard University Press.

Goryeo dynasty
was founded in 918 and replaced Silla as the ruling dynasty of Korea. Goryeo's land was at first what is now South Korea and about 1/3 of North Korea, but later on managed to recover most of the Korean peninsula. Momentarily, Goryeo advanced to parts of while conquering the , but returned the territories due to the harsh climate and difficulties in defending them. The name "Goryeo" (高麗) is a short form of "" (高句麗) and was first used during the time of King Jangsu. Goryeo regarded itself as the successor of Goguryeo, hence its name and efforts to recover the former territories of Goguryeo.
(1983). 9780520045620, University of California Press. .
(1984). 9780674615762, Harvard University Press. .
(2005). 9780313038532, ABC-CLIO. .
(2013). 9781136869259, Routledge. .
, the founder of Goryeo, was of Goguryeo descent and traced his ancestry to a noble Goguryeo clan.
(2015). 9788958629023, 휴머니스트. .
He made , his hometown, the capital.

During this period, laws were codified and a civil service system was introduced. flourished and spread throughout the peninsula. The development of industries flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The publication of the Tripitaka Koreana onto more than 80,000 wooden blocks and the invention of the world's first metal in the 13th century attest to Goryeo's cultural achievements.

Goryeo had to defend frequently against attacks by nomadic empires, especially the and the . Goryeo had a hostile relationship with the Khitans, because the had destroyed , also a successor state of Goguryeo. In 993, the Khitans, who had established the in 907, invaded Goryeo, demanding that it make amity with them. Goryeo sent the diplomat to negotiate, who successfully persuaded the Khitans to let Goryeo expand to the banks of the , citing that in the past the land belonged to Goguryeo, the predecessor of Goryeo.

(2014). 9781610695824, ABC-CLIO. .
During the Goryeo–Khitan War, the Khitan Empire invaded Korea twice more in 1009 and 1018, but was defeated.

After defeating the Khitan Empire, which was the most powerful empire of its time,

(2014). 9781285445519, Cengage Learning. .
(2000). 9780231502511, Columbia University Press. .
Goryeo experienced a golden age that lasted a century, during which the Tripitaka Koreana was completed, and there were great developments in printing and publishing, promoting learning and dispersing knowledge on philosophy, literature, religion, and science; by 1100, there were 12 universities that produced famous scholars and scientists.
(1997). 9780275958237, Greenwood Publishing Group. .
(2000). 9780231500043, Columbia University Press. .

Goryeo was invaded by the Mongols in seven major campaigns from the 1230s until the 1270s, but was never conquered.

(1997). 9780275958237, Greenwood Publishing Group. .
Exhausted after decades of fighting, Goryeo sent its crown prince to the capital to swear allegiance to the Mongols; accepted, and married one of his daughters to the Korean crown prince, and the dynastic line of Goryeo continued to survive under the overlordship of the Mongol Yuan dynasty as a semi-autonomous vassal state and compulsory ally. The two nations became intertwined for 80 years as all subsequent Korean kings married Mongol princesses, and the of the Yuan dynasty was a Korean princess.

In the 1350s, King Gongmin was free at last to reform the Goryeo government when the Yuan dynasty began to crumble. Gongmin had various problems that needed to be dealt with, which included the removal of pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officials, the question of land holding, and quelling the growing animosity between the Buddhists and scholars. During this tumultuous period, Goryeo momentarily conquered in 1356, repulsed two large invasions by the Red Turbans in 1359 and 1360, and defeated the final attempt by the Yuan to dominate Goryeo when General defeated a Mongol tumen in 1364. During the 1380s, Goryeo turned its attention to the threat and used naval artillery created by to annihilate hundreds of pirate ships.

Joseon dynasty
In 1392, the general Yi Seong-gye overthrew the dynasty after he staged a coup and defeated General . Yi Seong-gye named his new dynasty and moved the capital from to (formerly Hanyang; modern-day ) and built the palace.
(1984). 9780674615762, Harvard University Press. .
In 1394, he adopted as the country's official ideology, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the . The prevailing philosophy of the Joseon dynasty was Neo-Confucianism, which was epitomised by the class, scholars who passed up positions of wealth and power to lead lives of study and integrity.

Joseon was a nominal tributary state of but exercised full sovereignty,

(2013). 9780822353720, Duke University Press. .
(2016). 9789004315754, BRILL. .
and maintained the highest position among China's tributary states,
(2010). 9780231522403, Columbia University Press. .
(2010). 9780742567177, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. .
which also included countries such as the , Vietnam, Burma, Brunei, Laos, Thailand,
(2022). 9783825843861, LIT Verlag Münster. .
(1992). 9781349124305, Springer. .
(1984). 9780674948556, Harvard Univ Asia Center. .
and the Philippines, among others.
(1996). 9780791426876, SUNY Press. .
(2015). 9781317282945, Routledge. .
In addition, Joseon received tribute from Jurchens and Japanese until the 17th century,
(2005). 9781135795986, Routledge. .
"Tribute trade was the oldest and most important component of the trade structure, not for its volume or content, but for its symbolism. Japanese brought items to "offer" to Korea and received in exchange "gifts" of higher value, since Korea was a greater land receiving supplicants. Koreans viewed tribute trade as a "burden" and a favor extended to needy islanders; the significance was diplomatic not economic."
(2022). 9780231153195, Columbia University Press. .
(2022). 9789814311779, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. .
and had a small enclave in the Ryukyu Kingdom that engaged in trade with Siam and Java.
(2022). 9780313332968, Greenwood Publishing Group. .

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Joseon enjoyed many benevolent rulers who promoted education and science.

(1997). 9780275958237, Greenwood Publishing Group. .
Most notable among them was Sejong the Great (r. 1418–50), who personally created and promulgated , the Korean alphabet. This golden age saw great cultural and scientific advancements,
(2007). 9780596102425, "O'Reilly Media, Inc.". .
including in printing, , astronomy, calendar science, ceramics, military technology, geography, cartography, medicine, and agricultural technology, some of which were unrivaled elsewhere.
(2013). 9789401714167, Springer Science & Business Media. .
Joseon implemented a class system that consisted of the noble class, jungin the middle class, yangin the common class, and cheonin the lowest class, which included occupations such as butchers, tanners, shamans, entertainers, and , the equivalent of slaves, bondservants, or .
(2014). 9781610695824, ABC-CLIO. .
(2004). 9781135759179, Routledge. .

In 1592 and again in 1597, the ; the Korean military at the time was unprepared and untrained, due to two centuries of peace on the .

(2022). 9780231153195, Columbia University Press. .
Toyotomi Hideyoshi intended to conquer China and India
(2011). 9780230345515, Palgrave Macmillan. .
through the Korean Peninsula, but was defeated by strong resistance from the , the naval superiority of Admiral and his , and assistance from of . However, Joseon experienced great destruction, including a tremendous loss of cultural sites such as temples and palaces to Japanese pillaging, and the Japanese brought back to Japan an estimated 100,000–200,000 cut from Korean victims.
(2022). 9780300100983, Yale University Press. .
Less than 30 years after the Japanese invasions, the took advantage of Joseon's war-weakened state and invaded in 1627 and 1637, and then went on to conquer the destabilised Ming dynasty.

After normalising relations with the new , Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. Kings Yeongjo and Jeongjo led a new renaissance of the Joseon dynasty during the 18th century.

(2005). 9788973006199, Ewha Womans University Press. .
(2016). 9781317047490, Routledge. .

In the 19th century, the royal in-law families gained control of the government, leading to mass corruption and weakening of the state, with severe poverty and peasant rebellions spreading throughout the country. Furthermore, the Joseon government adopted a strict isolationist policy, earning the nickname "the ", but ultimately failed to protect itself against and was forced to open its borders, beginning an era leading into Japanese imperial rule.

Korean Empire
Beginning in 1871, Japan began to exert more influence in Korea, forcing it out of China's traditional sphere of influence. As a result of the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), the had to give up such a position according to Article 1 of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which was concluded between China and Japan in 1895. That same year, Empress Myeongseong of Korea was assassinated by Japanese agents.

In 1897, the proclaimed the (1897–1910). King Gojong became emperor. During this brief period, Korea had some success in modernising the military, economy, real property laws, education system, and various industries. , Japan, France, and the United States all invested in the country and sought to influence it politically.

The Russians were pushed out of the fight for Korea following the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Korea became a of Japan shortly afterwards. In on 26 October 1909, assassinated the former Resident-General of Korea, Itō Hirobumi, for his role in trying to force Korea into occupation.

Japanese annexation and occupation of Korea
In 1910, an already militarily occupied Korea was a forced party to the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty. The treaty was signed by , who was given the General Power of Attorney by the Emperor. However, the Emperor is said to have not actually ratified the treaty according to Yi Tae-jin. There is a long dispute whether this treaty was legal or illegal due to its signing under duress, threat of force and bribes.

Korean resistance to the brutal Japanese occupation was manifested in the nonviolent March 1st Movement of 1919, during which 7,000 demonstrators were killed by Japanese police and military. The Korean liberation movement also spread to neighbouring and .

Over five million Koreans were conscripted for labour beginning in 1939, and tens of thousands of men were forced into Japan's military. Nearly 400,000 Korean labourers died.

(2022). 9781412809269, Transaction Publishers. .
Approximately 200,000 girls and women, mostly from China and Korea, were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military. In 1993, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary acknowledged the terrible injustices faced by these euphemistically named "".

During the Japanese annexation, the Korean language was suppressed in an effort to eradicate Korean national identity. Koreans were forced to take Japanese surnames, known as Sōshi-kaimei. Traditional suffered heavy losses, as numerous Korean cultural artefacts were destroyed or taken to Japan. To this day, valuable Korean artefacts can often be found in Japanese museums or among private collections. One investigation by the South Korean government identified 75,311 cultural assets that were taken from Korea, 34,369 in Japan and 17,803 in the United States. However, experts estimate that over 100,000 artefacts actually remain in Japan. Japanese officials considered returning Korean cultural properties, but to date this has not occurred. Korea and Japan still dispute the ownership of the islets, located east of the Korean Peninsula.

There was significant emigration to the overseas territories of the Empire of Japan during the Japanese occupation period, including Korea. By the end of World War II, there were over 850,000 Japanese settlers in Korea. After World War II, most of these overseas Japanese repatriated to Japan. Migrants who remained squatted in informal settlements.

In 1945, with the surrender of Japan, the developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the . The politics of the resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments, North Korea and South Korea.

The aftermath of World War II left Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel on 2 September 1945, with the north under Soviet occupation and the south under US occupation supported by other allied states. Consequently, North Korea, a Soviet-style socialist republic was established in the north, and South Korea, a Western-style regime, was established in the south.

North Korea is a , now centred on 's ideology, with a industrial economy. South Korea is a multi-party state with a , alongside membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Group of Twenty. The two states have greatly diverged both culturally and economically since their partition, though they still share a common traditional culture and pre-Cold War history.

Since the 1960s, the South Korean economy has grown enormously and the economic structure was radically transformed. In 1957, South Korea had a lower per capita GDP than , and by 2008 it was 17 times as high as Ghana's.

According to R. J. Rummel, , executions, and concentration camps were responsible for over one million deaths in North Korea from 1948 to 1987; others have estimated 400,000 deaths in concentration camps alone.Omestad, Thomas, "Gulag Nation" , U.S. News & World Report, 23 June 2003. Estimates based on the most recent North Korean census suggest that 240,000 to 420,000 people died as a result of the 1990s famine and that there were 600,000 to 850,000 unnatural deaths in North Korea from 1993 to 2008. In South Korea, as guerrilla activities expanded, the South Korean government used strong measures against peasants, such as forcefully moving their families from guerrilla areas. According to one estimate, these measures resulted in 36,000 people killed, 11,000 people wounded, and 432,000 people displaced.

Korean War and peace
The Korean War broke out when Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea, though neither side gained much territory as a result. The Korean Peninsula remained divided, the Korean Demilitarized Zone being the de facto border between the two states.

In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South, using Soviet tanks and weaponry. During the (1950–53) more than 1.2 million people died and the three years of fighting throughout the nation effectively destroyed most cities. The war ended in an at approximately the Military Demarcation Line, but the two governments are officially at war. In 2018, the leaders of North Korea and South Korea officially signed the Panmunjom Declaration, announcing that they will work to end the conflict.

In November 2020, South Korea and China agreed to work together to mend South Korea's relationship with North Korea. During a meeting between President Moon and China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, Moon expressed his gratitude to China for its role in helping to foster peace in the Korean Peninsula. Moon was quoted telling Wang during their meeting that “the government will not stop efforts to put an end (formally) to war on the Korean Peninsula and achieve complete denuclearization and permanent peace together with the international community, including China.”

Korea consists of a and nearby islands located in . The peninsula extends southwards for about from continental into the and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east and the (West Sea) to the west, the connecting the two bodies of water. Korean Map , The People's Korea, 1998. To the northwest, the separates Korea from China and to the northeast, the separates it from China and Russia.
(2011). 9781157065555 .
Notable islands include , , .

The southern and western parts of the peninsula have well-developed plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous. The highest mountain in Korea is (2,744 m), through which runs the border with China. The southern extension of Mount Paektu is a highland called . This highland was mainly raised during the and partly covered by volcanic matter. To the south of Gaema Gowon, successive high mountains are located along the eastern coast of the peninsula. This mountain range is named . Some significant mountains include or Sobaeksan (1,439 m), (1,638 m), (1,708 m), (1,567 m), and (1,915 m). There are several lower, secondary mountain series whose direction is almost perpendicular to that of Baekdudaegan. They are developed along the tectonic line of orogeny and their directions are basically northwest.

Unlike most ancient mountains on the mainland, many important islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the Cenozoic orogeny. Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast, is a large volcanic island whose main mountain, or Hallasan (1,950 m), is the highest in South Korea. Ulleung Island is a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan, the composition of which is more than Jeju. The volcanic islands tend to be younger, the more westward.

Because the mountainous region is mostly on the eastern part of the peninsula, the main rivers tend to flow westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing and . Important rivers running westward include the Amnok River, the Chongchon River, the , the Han River, the , and the . These rivers have vast flood plains and provide an ideal environment for cultivation.

The southern and southwestern coastlines of the peninsula form a well-developed coastline, known as Dadohae-jin in Korean. This convoluted coastline provides mild seas, and the resulting calm environment allows for safe navigation, fishing, and . In addition to the complex coastline, the western coast of the Korean Peninsula has an extremely high (at , around the middle of the western coast, the tide can get as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats have been developing on the south and west coastlines.

Korea has a temperate climate with comparatively fewer than other countries in East Asia. Due to the peninsula's position, it has a unique climate influenced by Siberia in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the east and the rest of Eurasia in the west. The peninsula has four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.

As influence from Siberia weakens, temperatures begin to increase while the high pressure begins to move away. If the weather is abnormally dry, Siberia will have more influence on the peninsula leading to wintry weather such as snow.

During June at the start of the summer, there tends to be a lot of rain due to the cold and wet air from the Sea of Okhotsk and the hot and humid air from the Pacific Ocean combining. When these fronts combine, it leads to a so-called rainy season with often cloudy days with rain, which is sometimes very heavy. The hot and humid winds from the south west blow causing an increasing amount of humidity and this leads to the fronts moving towards in China and thus there is less rain and this is known as midsummer; temperatures can exceed daily at this time of year.

Usually, high pressure is heavily dominant during autumn leading to clear conditions. Furthermore, temperatures remain high but the humidity becomes relatively low.

The weather becomes increasingly dominated by Siberia during winter and the jet stream moves further south causing a drop in temperature. This season is relatively dry with some snow falling at times.

Animal life of the Korean Peninsula includes a considerable number of bird species and native . Native or species of the Korean Peninsula include , , Korean field mouse, Korean brown frog, and . The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with its forest and natural is a unique biodiversity spot, which harbours eighty-two endangered species. Korea once hosted many , but as the number of people affected by the tigers increased, the tigers were killed in the Joseon Dynasty and the Siberian tigers in the South Korea became extinct during the Japanese colonial era period. It has been confirmed that Siberian tigers are only on the side of now.

There are also approximately 3,034 species of throughout the peninsula.

The combined population of the Koreas is about 76 million (North Korea: 25 million, South Korea: 51 million). Korea is chiefly populated by a highly group, the , who speak the . The number of foreigners living in Korea has also steadily increased since the late 20th century, particularly in South Korea, where more than 1 million foreigners reside. It was estimated in 2006 that only 26,700 of the old Chinese community now remain in South Korea. However, in recent years, immigration from mainland China has increased; 624,994 persons of Chinese nationality have immigrated to South Korea, including 443,566 of ethnic Korean descent. Small communities of ethnic Chinese and Japanese are also found in North Korea.

is the official language of both North and South Korea, and (along with Mandarin) of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in , . Worldwide, there are up to 80 million speakers of the Korean language. South Korea has around 50 million speakers while North Korea around 25 million. Other large groups of Korean speakers through are found in China, the , , former and elsewhere.

Modern Korean is written almost exclusively in the script of the (known as Hangul in South Korea and Chosungul in China and North Korea), which was invented in the 15th century. Korean is sometimes written with the addition of some Chinese characters called Hanja; however, this is only occasionally seen nowadays.

The modern South Korean school system consists of six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and three years in high school. Students are required to go to elementary and middle school, and do not have to pay for their education, except for a small fee called a "School Operation Support Fee" that differs from school to school. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the , ranks South Korea's science education as the third best in the world and being significantly higher than the OECD average.

South Korea ranks second on math and literature and first in Although South Korean students often rank high on international comparative assessments, the education system is criticised for emphasising too much upon passive learning and memorisation. The South Korean education system is rather notably strict and structured as compared to its counterparts in most Western societies.

The North Korean education system consists primarily of schooling by the government. The national literacy rate for citizens 15 years of age and above is over 99 per cent. Library of Congress country study, see p. 7 for Education and Literacy () Children go through one year of kindergarten, four years of primary education, six years of secondary education, and then on to . The most prestigious university in the DPRK is Kim Il-sung University. Other notable universities include Kim Chaek University of Technology, which focuses on computer science, Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, which trains working level diplomats and trade officials, and Kim Hyong Jik University of Education, which trains teachers.

Science and technology
One of the best known artefacts of Korea's history of science and technology is the (첨성대, ), a 9.4-meter high astronomical observatory built in 634.

The earliest known surviving Korean example of woodblock printing is The Great Dharani Sutra. It is believed to have been printed in Korea in 750–51, which if correct, would make it older than the .

During the , metal movable type printing was invented by in 1234. This invention made printing easier, more efficient and also increased literacy, which observed by Chinese visitors was seen to be so important where it was considered to be shameful to not be able to read.Baek Sauk Gi (1987). Woong-Jin-Wee-In-Jun-Gi #11 Jang Young Sil, page 61. Woongjin Publishing. The later adopted Korea's movable type printing and spread as far as Central Asia. There is conjecture as to whether or not Choe's invention had any influence on later printing inventions such as Gutenberg's . When the invaded Europe they inadvertently introduced different kinds of Asian technology.

During the Joseon period, the was invented, which were covered by a wooden deck and iron with thorns,

(2022). 9788995442425, The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch.
(2022). 9780304359486, Cassell & Co. .
as well as other weapons such as the (비격진천뢰, ) and the .

The Korean alphabet was also invented during this time by King Sejong the Great.

In ancient Chinese texts, Korea is referred to as "Rivers and Mountains Embroidered on Silk" (금수강산, ) and "Eastern Nation of Decorum" (동방예의지국, ). Individuals are regarded as one year old when they are born, as Koreans reckon the pregnancy period as one year of life for infants, and age increments increase on New Year's Day rather than on the anniversary of birthdays. Thus, one born immediately before New Year's Day may only be a few days old in western reckoning, but two years old in Korea. Accordingly, a Korean person's stated age (at least among fellow Koreans) will be one or two years more than their age according to western reckoning. However, western reckoning is sometimes applied with regard to the concept of ; for example, the legal age for purchasing alcohol or in the Republic of Korea is 19, which is measured according to western reckoning.

Korean literature written before the end of the Joseon Dynasty is called "Classical" or "Traditional." Literature, written in Chinese characters (), was established at the same time as the Chinese script arrived on the peninsula. Korean scholars were writing poetry in the classical Korean style as early as the 2nd century BCE, reflecting Korean thoughts and experiences of that time. Classical Korean literature has its roots in traditional folk beliefs and folk tales of the peninsula, strongly influenced by , and .

Modern literature is often linked with the development of , which helped spread literacy from the aristocracy to the common people. Hangul, however, only reached a dominant position in Korean literature in the second half of the 19th century, resulting in a major growth in Korean literature. Sinsoseol, for instance, are novels written in hangul.

The led to the development of literature centered on the wounds and chaos of . Much of the post-war literature in South Korea deals with the daily lives of ordinary people, and their struggles with national pain. The collapse of the traditional Korean value system is another common theme of the time.

Traditional Korean music includes combinations of the folk, vocal, religious and ritual music styles of the . Korean music has been practised since prehistoric times. Korean music falls into two broad categories. The first, , literally means The local music or Music native to Korea, a famous example of which is Sujechon, a piece of instrumental music often claimed to be at least 1,300 years old.
(1983). 9780520047785, University of California Press. .
The second, yangak, represents a more Western style.

tradition has dominated Korean thought, along with contributions by , , and . Since the middle of the 20th century, however, has competed with Buddhism in South Korea, while religious practice has been suppressed in North Korea. Throughout Korean history and culture, regardless of separation; the influence of traditional beliefs of Korean Shamanism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have remained an underlying religion of the Korean people as well as a vital aspect of their culture; all these traditions have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years up to today despite strong Westernisation from Christian missionary conversions in the South or the pressure from the government in the North.

According to 2005 statistics compiled by the South Korean government, about 46% of citizens profess to follow no particular religion. Christians account for 29.2% of the population (of which are Protestants 18.3% and Catholics 10.9%) and 22.8%. In North Korea, around 71.3% claim to be non-religious or atheists, 12.9% follow and 12.3% , while Christians count for 2% of the population, and Buddhists as 1.5%.

Islam in South Korea is practised by about 45,000 natives (about 0.09% of the population) in addition to some 100,000 foreign workers from Muslim countries. While in North Korea it's estimated to be around 3000 Muslims, which is around 0,01% of the popultation. The Ar-Rahman Mosque is the only mosque in DPRK, and it is located at the Iranian Embassy grounds in Pyongyyang.

Koreans traditionally believe that the taste and quality of food depend on its spices and sauces, the essential ingredients to making a delicious meal. Therefore, , , or red pepper paste and are some of the most important staples in a Korean household.

Korean cuisine was greatly influenced by the geography and climate of the Korean Peninsula, which is known for its cold autumns and winters, therefore there are many fermented dishes and hot soups and stews.

Korean cuisine is probably best known for , a side dish which uses a distinctive fermentation process of preserving vegetables, most commonly cabbage. Kimchi is said to relieve the pores on the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles and providing nutrients to the skin naturally. It is also healthy, as it provides necessary vitamins and nutrients. Gochujang, a traditional Korean sauce made of red pepper is also commonly used, often as pepper (chilli) paste, earning the cuisine a reputation for spiciness.

(roasted marinated meat, usually beef), (marinated grilled short ribs), and (pork belly) are popular meat entrees. Fish is also a popular commodity, as it is the traditional meat that Koreans eat. Meals are usually accompanied by a soup or stew, such as (stewed ribs) or (fermented bean paste soup). The center of the table is filled with a shared collection of sidedishes called .

Other popular dishes include , which literally means "mixed rice" (rice mixed with meat, vegetables, and red pepper paste), and (cold noodles).

Instant noodles, or , is a popular snack food. Koreans also enjoy food from (street vendors), which serve , rice cake and fish cake with a spicy gochujang sauce; , made of steamed white rice wrapped in dried laver seaweed; fried squid; and glazed sweet potato. Soondae, a sausage made of cellophane noodles and pork blood, is widely eaten.

Additionally, some other common snacks include "", shrimp crackers, "bbeongtwigi" (puffed rice grains), and "nurungji" (slightly burnt rice). Nurungji can be eaten as it is or boiled with water to make a soup. Nurungji can also be eaten as a snack or a dessert.

Korea is unique among Asian countries in its use of metal chopsticks. Metal chopsticks have been discovered in archaeological sites belonging to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla.

North Korea and South Korea usually compete as two separate nations in international events. There are, however, a few examples of them having , under the name Korea.

While association football remains one of the most popular sports in South Korea, the martial art of is considered to be the national sport. and are also popular. The board game Go, known in Korea as baduk, has also been popular for over a millennium, first arriving from China in the 5th century CE; baduk is played both casually and competitively.

Martial arts

Taekwon-Do is Korea's most famous martial art and sport. It combines combat techniques, self-defence, sport and exercise. Taekwon-Do has become an official Olympic sport, starting as a demonstration event in 1988 (when South Korea hosted the Games in Seoul) and becoming an official medal event in 2000. The two major Taekwon-Do federations were founded in Korea. The two are the International Taekwon-Do Federation and the World Taekwondo Federation.

Hapkido is a modern Korean martial art with a grappling focus that employs joint locks, throws, kicks, punches and other striking attacks like attacks against pressure points. Hapkido emphasises circular motion, non-resisting movements and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain advantage through footwork and body positioning to employ leverage, avoiding the pure use of strength against strength.

Ssireum is a traditional form of wrestling that has been practised in Korea for thousands of years, with evidence discovered from Goguryeo of Korea's Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE to 688). Ssireum is the traditional national sport of Korea. During a match, opponents grip each other by sash belts wrapped around the waist and the thigh, attempting to throw their competitor to the sandy ground of the ring. The first opponent to touch the ground with any body part above the knee or to lose hold of their opponent loses the round.

Ssireum competitions are traditionally held twice a year, during the Dano Festival (the 5th day of the fifth lunar month) and (the 15th day of the 8th lunar month). Competitions are also held throughout the year as a part of festivals and other events.

Taekkyon is a traditional martial art, considered the oldest form of fighting technique of Korea. Practiced for centuries and especially popular during the , two forms co-existed: one for practical use, the other for sport. This form was usually practised alongside during festivals and competitions between villages. Nonetheless, Taekkyon almost disappeared during the Japanese Occupation and the .

Though lost in North Korea, Taekkyon has enjoyed a spectacular revival from the 1980s in South Korea. It is the only martial art in the world (with Ssireum) recognised as a National Treasure of South Korea and a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Comparison of the two countries of Korea
+ ! Indicator !! !!

Presidential system
President of South Korea
15 August 1948
100,210 km2
$1.755 trillion
Korean Republic won (₩, KRW)
$30 billion

See also
  • Inter-Korean summits
  • Korean natural farming
  • List of Korean inventions and discoveries
  • List of people of Korean descent
  • National Treasures of North Korea
  • National Treasures of South Korea
  • North Korea–South Korea relations



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Further reading
  • Chun, Tuk Chu. "Korea in the Pacific Community". Social Education 52 (March 1988), 182. EJ 368 177.
  • . The Two Koreas. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1984.
  • (2022). 9780465051625, Basic Books.
  • Focus on Asian Studies. Special Issue: "Korea: A Teacher's Guide". No. 1, Fall 1986.
  • .
  • Hart, Dennis. From Tradition to Consumption: Construction of a Capitalist Culture in South Korea. Seoul: Jimoondang, 2003.
  • (2022). 9781846680670, Profile Books.
  • Joe, W.J. & Choe, H.A. Traditional Korea: A Cultural History, Seoul: Hollym, 1997.
  • Joungwon, A.K. Divided Korea: The Politics of Development, Harvard University Press, 1975.
  • Lee Ki-baik. A New History of Korea. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1984.
  • Lee Sang-sup. "The Arts and Literature of Korea". The Social Studies 79 (July–August 1988): 153–60. EJ 376 894.
  • (2022). 9781861892737, Reaktion.
  • Tae-Jin, Y. "The Illegality of the Forced Treaties Leading to Japan's Annexation of the Great Han Empire", In the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, Vol. 36, No. 4, 1996.
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External links

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