Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
History of Korea
Archaeological evidence shows that people were living in Korea during the Palaeolithic period. The physical culture found in these relics is largely identical with that in finds in Manchuria and Mongolia.
According to a classic legend, Korea's first large social civilization, Go-Joseon (고조선; 古朝鮮), was founded by the man-god Dangun (Tangun) in 2333 BC. Go-Joseon is considered the first Korean kingdom. The name originally used was Joseon, but later historians started calling it Go-Joseon, or "old Joseon", to distinguish it from the later Wiman Joseon and Gija Joseon (see below). The legend claims that the kingdom was founded by Dangun in southern Manchuria in the basins of the Liao and Daedong Rivers.
In 1122 BC, a kingdom called Gija Joseon was established when a Chinese exile Jizi (Gija) led 5,000 followers to the mountainous peninsula and founded the kingdom by merging with existent populations. Go-Joseon was later revived as Wiman Joseon, which lasted until 108 BC. It has become common to refer to Wiman Joseon, Gija Joseon and the initial Go-Joseon as parts of a longer Go-Joseon period, this time to distinguish them from the later Joseon Dynasty.
After the fall of Go-Joseon, many different minor chiefdoms arose in Manchuria and the Korean peninsula. Okjeo and Dongye were located on the eastern coast of modern-day North Korea, and Buyeo was in Manchuria. Okjeo, Dongye, and Buyeo were later conquered by Goguryeo.
In the southern part of the peninsula, three different confederate of chiefdoms existed: Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. According to Later Book of Han, Mahan contained 54 states, Jinhan and Byeonhan contained 14 each.
Among those chiefdoms, Baekje arose in Mahan and Silla in Jinhan. Mahan and Jinhan were gradually conquered/absorbed by Baekje and Silla. Byeonhan became Gaya.
After Emperor Han Wudi of China's victory over Wiman Joseon (108 BC), the Chinese established four commanderies: Lelang (樂浪)(Korean: Nangnang), Xuantu (玄菟) (Korean: Hyeonto), Zhenfan (真番) (Korean: Jinbeon), and Lintun (臨屯) (Korean: Imdun). Some sources such as  indicate that a fifth commandery named Bohai (渤海) (Korean: Balhae) was also established, not connected with the later Bohai kingdom. These commanderies held military control over much of Manchuria and part of northern Korea.
The Mahan and Jinhan confederations reconquered three of the commanderies shortly after they were established. They took the Zhenfan commandery and the Lintun commandery in 82 BC. The Xuantu commandery fell in 75 BC (Yang, 1999, p. 41). However, the Lelang commandery survived.
After the Han dynasty perished, the Gongsun clan still ruled some of the commandery area and parts of Southern Manchuria, yet soon their territories were conquered by the kingdom of Wei. Under the Jin Dynasty, the Chinese rule still was present, but since it was a weak dynasty, the Xianbei, Tungus or proto-Mongol nomads took advantage of the situation, creating their own Yan kingdom (not the Yan of the Warring States era).
The commanderies were known for their strong cultural influence on Korea. The Chinese occupation of Northern Korea influenced the Southern "Han" tribes and even the Three Kingdoms era. In particular, the Chinese presence is often credited with bringing Confucian scholarship and Chinese script to Korea. Goguryeo set up the first Korean school of Confucian learning in the 4th century AD.
Three Kingdoms (三國時代/삼국시대)
Main article: Three Kingdoms of Korea
Goguryeo first founded a kingdom in Southern Manchuria in 37 BC, and expanded into North Korea by occupying the Chinese commandery at Pyongyang in the fourth century. The kingdom was at its zenith in the fifth century when occupying the Liaodong Plains in Manchuria and today's Seoul area. The Goguryeo kings controlled not only Koreans but also Chinese and other Tsungusic tribes in Manchuria and North Korea. Since the establishment of the Sui Dynasty in China, the kingdom continued to suffer from Chinese invasion until conquered by the allied Silla-Tang forces in 668.
The origin of Baekje is still controversial, but the kingdoms of Goguryeo and Baekje had similar ethnic and linguistic backgrounds and the kingdom was firmly established in the southwest of the Korean Peninsula with its capital at Seoul by the fourth century. Driven by Goguryeo, the kingdom moved its capital southwards to Gongju, and then to Buyeo. Culturally Baekje introduced Chinese civilization through its relationship with the Southern Dynasties in China. Baekje was fundamental in implanting high civilization, including Chinese characters and Buddhism, into ancient Japan with which the kingdom sustained friendly relations all the time. The kingdom of Baekje was conquered by the Silla-Tang forces in 660.
The remaining material culture from the kingdom of Silla including unique gold metalwork shows influence from the northern nomadic steppes, differentiating it from the culture of Goguryeo and Baekje where Chinese influence was more pronounced. Silla expanded rapidly by occupying Seoul and annexing Gaya in the sixth century. Goguryeo and Baekje responded by forming an alliance. To cope with invasions from Goguryeo and Baekje, Silla deepened its relations with the Tang Dynasty, with her newly-gained access to the Yellow Sea making direct contact with the Tang possible. After the conquering of Goguryeo and Baekje with her Tang allies, the Silla kingdom drove the Tang forces out of the peninsula and occupied the lands south of Pyongyang.
Balhae (발해) Period
The state of Balhae (also written Bohai or Pohai in Roman text) was founded in the former lands of Goguryeo by Dae Joyeong. Balhae controlled the northernmost areas of the Korean Peninsula, parts of Manchuria (but not the Liaodong Peninsula), and expanded into the region which is today's Russian Maritime Province. Balhae styled itself as Goguryeo's successor state. It also modelled itself on the Tang Empire, for example in the layout of its capitals.
In a time of relative peace and stability in the region, Balhae culture flourished, especially during the long reign of the third king, Mun Wang (r. 737-793). Like Silla culture, the culture of Balhae was strongly influenced by Buddhism. However, Balhae was severely weakened (many presume in-fighting) by the tenth century, and the Khitan Liao Dynasty conquered Balhae in 926.
No historical records from Balhae have survived, and the Liao left no histories of Balhae. Goryeo (see below) absorbed some Balhae territory and received Balhae refugees, including the royal family, but compiled no known histories of Balhae either. The Samguk Sagi, for instance, includes passages on Balhae, but does not include a dynastic history of Balhae (as it does of the Three Kingdoms). The eighteenth century Joseon historian Yu Deukgong was probably the first to advocate the proper study of Balhae as part of Korean history, and it was he who coined the term "North-South Period" to refer to the era when Silla and Balhae existed side by side.
Goryeo (高儷/고려) Period
The kingdom of Goryeo was founded in 918 and replaced Silla as the dominant power in Korea in the years 935-936. ("Goryeo" is a short form of "Goguryeo" and the source of the English name "Korea.") The kingdom lasted until 1392. During this period laws were codified, and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished, and spread throughout the peninsula. In 1231 the Mongols invaded Korea and after 25 years of struggle the royal family surrendered by signing a treaty with the Mongols. For the following 100 years the Goryeo ruled, but under the interference of the Mongols. In the 1340s, the Mongol Empire declined rapidly due to internal struggles. King Kongmin was free at last to reform a Goryeo government. King Kongmin had various problems that needed to be dealt with, which included the removal of pro-Mongul aristocrats and military officials, the question of land holding, and quelling the growing animosity between the Buddhists and Confucian scholars. Another problem was that Japanese pirates were no longer hit-and-run bandits, but organized military marauders raiding deep into the country. It was at that time that General Yi Seonggye distinguished himself by repelling the pirates in a series of successful engagements. The Goryeo kingdom would last until 1392.
Joseon (朝鮮/조선) Period
Main article: Joseon Dynasty
In 1392 a Korean general, Yi Seonggye, was sent to China to campaign against the Ming Dynasty, but instead he allied himself with the Chinese, and returned to overthrow the Goryeo king and establish a new dynasty. The Joseon Dynasty moved the capital to Hanseong (formerly Hanyang; modern-day Seoul) in 1394 and adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the Buddhists. During this period, the Hangul alphabet was introduced by King Sejong in 1443.
Joseon (as Korea was called during the Joseon Dynasty) dealt with invasions by Japan from 1592 to 1598 (see Seven-Year War). Korea's most famous military figure, Admiral Yi Sun-sin was instrumental in defeating the Japanese. After the invasions from Manchuria in 1627 and 1636, the dynasty submitted herself to the Qing Empire. On the other hand, Korea permitted the Japanese to trade at Pusan and sent missions to the capital of Edo in Japan from time to time. Europeans were never permitted to trade at Korean ports until the 1880s.
Domestic politics was plagued by internal power struggles among Confucian bureaucrats. In spite of some efforts to introduce Western technology through the Jesuit missions at Beijing, the Korean economy remained backward due to weak currency circulation. Peasants, suffering from famine and exploitation, often fled the country into Manchuria.
During the 19th century, Korea tried to prevent the opening of the country to foreign trade by closing the borders to all nations but China, resulting in it being called the Hermit Kingdom by many. In 1853 the USS South America, an American gunboat, visited Pusan for 10 days and had amiable contact with local Korean officials there. Several Americans who were shipwrecked on Korea in 1855 and 1865 were also treated well and sent to China for repatriation. The Chosun court which ruled Korea, was well aware of the colonization of China as well as the Opium Wars there, and still followed a strict policy of isolationism however. In 1866 the General Sherman Incident put Korea and the United States on a collision course.
In 1871, the United States met Korea militarily, in what the Koreans call the Shinmiyangyo and in America is also called the 1871 US Korea Campaign. A rapidly modernizing Japan forced Korea to open its ports and successfully challenged the Qing Empire, which claimed sovereignty over Korea, in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). The Japanese assassinated Queen Min, who resisted their exploitation by seeking Russian help, but they were forced to retreat from Korea for a while. In 1897, Joseon was renamed Daehan Jeguk (Korean Empire), and King Gojong became Emperor Gojong. A period of Russian influence followed, until Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Korea could not effectively resist Japanese aggression except random guerrilla attacks in the mountains. It became a protectorate of Japan on 25 July 1907, the 1905 Protectorate Treaty having been promulgated without Emperor Gojong's required seal. In 1910 the country was officially annexed by Japan establishing the Japanese Colonial Period in Korea.
Period of Japanese Rule
Main article: Period of Japanese Rule
European based transport and communication networks were established across the nation. This facilitated Japanese commerce. The Japanese removed the Joseon hierarchy, its nobles and its taxation system.
After the former Korean emperor Gojong had died, with a rumor of poisoning, anti-Japanese rallies took place nationwide on 1 March 1919 (the March 1st (Samil) Movement). This was also inspired by United States president Woodrow Wilson's speech of 1919, declaring support for right of self determination and an end to colonial rule. A declaration of independence was read in Seoul and, according to Korean record, an estimated 2 million people took part in peaceful, pro-independence rallies. (The Japanese record claims less than half million.) This protest in the countryside was suppressed by Japanese government. An estimated 7,000 were arrested, 553 killed and 1409 wounded.
Continued anti-Japanese rallies, such as the nationwide uprising of students in November 1929, led to the strengthening of military rule in 1931. After the outbreaks of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and World War II Japan attempted to wipe out Korea as a nation. Worship at Japanese Shinto shrines was made compulsory. The school curriculum was radically modified to reflect the changed policies. The celebration of Korean culture was suppressed. Newspapers were prohibited from publishing in Korean and the study of Korean history was banned at university.
Some Koreans left the Korean peninsula to Gando (part of Manchuria) and Yeonhaeju (part of eastern Russia)). Koreans in Gando formed resistance groups known as Dongnibgun (Independence Army) which would travel in and out of the Korean-Chinese boundary, fighting guerilla warfare with the Japanese forces.
During the Period of Japanese Rule, a self-professed Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established in Shanghai. On December 11, 1941 this "provisional government" declared war again and fought with its Korean Restoration Army alongside the Allied Forces. Seven days after the sundering of the friendship Pact, Soviet tanks invaded Korea from Siberia, meeting little to no resistance. Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces on 15 August 1945, ending 35 years of Japanese rule. US forces under General Hodge , would not arrive to southern part of Korea until September 8th. Colonel Dean Rusk proposed splitting Korea at the 38th parallel at an emergency US meeting to determine spheres of influence during this time.
The Period of Japanese Rule began the industrialization and development of Korea (e.g. the introduction of a western style educational system, transportation networks, public health infrastructure, etc.) to Koreans. This is often used as a defense of Japanese policies, while opponents point out that Japanese commercial interests were always put first and that native economic development was much hindered.
See also: List of Japanese War Atrocities
The division of Korea
Main article: Division of Korea
The unconditional surrender of Japan, the earlier collapse of Nazi Germany, combined with fundamental shifts in global politics and ideology, led to the division of Korea into two occupation zones effectively starting on September 8, 1945, with the United States administering the southern half of the peninsula and the Soviet Union taking over the area north of the 38th parallel. This division was meant to be temporary and was first intended to return a unified Korea back to its people until the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China could arrange a trusteeship administration.
At the Cairo Conference on 22 November 1943, it was agreed that Korea would be free "in due course as one unified country”; at a later meeting in Yalta in February 1945, it was agreed to establish a four-power trusteeship over Korea. In December 1945, a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. A 5-year trusteeship was discussed, and a joint Soviet-American commission was established. The commission met intermittently in Seoul but deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the UN General Assembly.
Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea quickly evaporated as the politics of the Cold War and opposition to the trusteeship plan from Korean anti-communists resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate nations with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems. In June 1950 the Korean War broke out, ending any hope of a peaceful reunification for the time being. See History of North Korea and History of South Korea for the post-war period.
The United States established a capitalist, pro-American government in the south named the Republic of Korea (대한민국 / 大韓民國) while the Soviet Union enabled Kim Il-sung to take power and establish a communist, pro Soviet government in the northern half of the Korean Peninsula called the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (조선민주주의인민공화국 / 朝鮮民主主義人民共和國).
- Yang, S.C. (1999). The North and South Korean political systems: A comparative analysis. (Rev. Ed.). Seoul: Hollym. ISBN 1-56591-105-9
- http://www.scottshaw.com/history/ The History of the Korean Martial Arts
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