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Korea unified vertical.svgHistory of Korea

 Jeulmun period
 Mumun period
Gojoseon 2333–108 BC
 Jin state
Proto-Three Kingdoms: 108–57 BC
 Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye
 Samhan: Ma, Byeon, Jin
Three Kingdoms: 57 BC – 668 AD
 Goguryeo 37 BC – 668 AD
 Baekje 18 BC – 660 AD
 Silla 57 BC – 935 AD
 Gaya 42–562
North-South States: 698–935
 Unified Silla 668–935
 Balhae 698–926
 Later Three Kingdoms 892–935
  Later Goguryeo, Later Baekje, Silla
Goryeo Dynasty 918–1392
Joseon Dynasty 1392–1897
Korean Empire 1897–1910
Japanese rule 1910–1945
 Provisional Gov't 1919–1948
Division of Korea 1945–1948
North, South Korea 1948–present
 Korean War 1950–1953

Korea Portal

The history of Korea stretches from Lower Paleolithic times to the present.[1] The earliest known Korean pottery dates to around 8000 BC, and the Neolithic period began before 6000 BC, followed by the Bronze Age around 2500 BC. According to the Samguk Yusa and other Korean medieval-era records, the Gojoseon (Old Joseon) kingdom was said to be founded in 2333 BC, eventually stretching from the peninsula to much of Manchuria.[2] By the 1st Century BC, it disintegrated into many successor states.

In the early Common Era, the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje) conquered other successor states of Gojoseon and came to dominate the peninsula and much of Manchuria. The three kingdoms competed with each other both economically and militarily. Goguryeo and Baekje were more powerful for much of the era, especially Goguryeo, which defeated large scale Chinese invasions. Silla's power gradually extended across Korea and it eventually established the first unified state to cover most of the Korean peninsula by 676, while the former Goguryeo general Dae Jo-yeong founded Balhae as the successor to Goguryeo.

Unified Silla itself fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to the tumultuous Later Three Kingdoms period (892-936), which ended with the establishment of the Goryeo Dynasty. After the fall of Balhae in 926 to Khitan, many of its people were absorbed into Goryeo.

During the Goryeo period, laws were codified, a civil service system was introduced, and Buddhism flourished. In 993-1019, Khitan invaded Goryeo and were repelled. In 1238, the Mongols invaded and after nearly thirty years of war, the two sides signed a peace treaty.

In 1392, general Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) after a coup. King Sejong the Great (1418-1450) promulgated hangul, the Korean alphabet.

Between 1592 and 1598, Japan invaded Korea, but was eventually repelled due to the efforts of the Navy led by Admiral Yi Sun-sin, and other forces of resistance. In the 1627 and 1636, Joseon was suffered invasions by the Manchu Qing Dynasty.

Beginning in the 1870s, Japan began to force Korea out of China's sphere of influence into its own. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong was assassinated by Japanese agents.[3] In 1897, Joseon was renamed the Korean Empire (1897-1910), and King Gojong became Emperor Gojong.

Nevertheless, In 1905, Japanese forced Korea to sign the Eulsa Treaty making Korea a protectorate, and in 1910 annexed Korea, although neither treaty was considered to be legally valid.[4] Korean resistance to the Japanese occupation was manifested in the widespread nonviolent March 1st Movement of 1919. Thereafter the Korean liberation movement, coordinated by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea in exile, was largely active in neighboring Manchuria, China and Siberia.

With the defeat of Japan in 1945, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration by the Soviet Union and the United States, but the plan was soon abandoned. In 1948, new governments were established, the nominally democratic South Korea and Communist North Korea divided at the 38th parallel. The unresolved tensions of the division surfaced in the Korean war of 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea.



The earliest known Korean pottery dates back to around 8000 BC. or before, and evidence of Mesolithic Pit-Comb Ware culture or Yungimun Pottery is found throughout the peninsula. An example of a Yungimun-era site is the Gosan-ni in Jeju-do. Jeulmun or Comb-pattern Pottery is found after 7000 BC, and pottery with comb-patterns over the whole vessel is found concentrated at sites in West-central Korea between 0000-000 BC, a time when a number of settlements such as Amsa-dong(암사동) existed. Jeulmun pottery bears basic design and form similarities to the Jōmon culture in Japan and to that of the Russian Maritime Province, Mongolia, and the Amur River and Sungari River basins of Manchuria.[5][6]

Mumun Pottery Period

Archaeological evidence demonstrates that agricultural societies and the earliest forms of social-political complexity emerged in the Mumun Pottery Period (c. 1500-300 BC). People in southern Korea adopted intensive dry-field and paddy-field agriculture with a multitude of crops in the Early Mumun Period (1500-850 BC). The first societies led by big-men or chiefs emerged in the Middle Mumun (850-550 BC), and the first ostentatious elite burials can be traced to the Late Mumun (c. 550-300 BC). Bronze production began in the Middle Mumun and became increasingly important in Mumun ceremonial and political society after 700 BC. The Mumun is the first time that villages rose, became large, and then fell: some important examples include Songguk-ri, Daepyeong, and Igeum-dong. The increasing presence of long-distance trade, an increase in local conflicts, and the introduction of bronze and iron metallurgy are trends denoting the end of the Mumun around 300 BC.


Korea in 108 BCE.

Gojoseon was the first Korean kingdom. According to the Samguk Yusa and other Korean medieval-era records,[7] Gojoseon was founded in 2333 BC by Dangun, said to be descended from the Lord of Heaven.

The people of Gojoseon were the descendants of migrating Altaic tribes that settled in Manchuria, far eastern China north of the Yangtze River, and the Korean Peninsula. They are the first direct Korean ancestral line recorded in writing.[8]

Initially, Gojoseon was probably located in Liaoning, but around 400 BC, moved its capital to Pyongyang, the capital of modern North Korea.[9][10]

Korean stone dagger and stone arrowhead, 7th-6th century BC.

Bronze culture

The Bronze Age is often held to have begun around 1500 – 1000 BCE in Korea, though recent archaeological evidence suggests it might have started as far back as 2500 BCE.[11] Bronze daggers, mirrors, and weaponry have been found, as well as evidence of walled-town polities.[11] Rice, red beans, soybeans and millet were cultivated, and rectangular pit-houses and increasingly larger dolmen burial sites are found throughout the peninsula. [4] Contemporaneous records suggest that Gojoseon transitioned from a feudal federation of walled cities into a centralised kingdom at least before the 4th century BCE.[12]

Iron culture

It is believed that by the third century BC, iron culture was developing and the warring states of China pushed refugees eastward and south. Recently however, an iron mirror has been found in Songseok-ri Kangdong-gun Pyongyang in North Korea,[13] that may have originated from 1200 BC.

Around this time, a state called Jin arose in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Very little is known about Jin, but it established relations with Han China and exported artifacts to the Yayoi of Japan.[14] A king of Gija Joseon may have fled to Jin after a coup by Wiman. Jin later evolved into the Samhan confederacies.

Later the Han Dynasty defeated the Wiman Joseon and set up Four Commanderies of Han.

Decline and fall

The course of the decline and fall of Gojoseon is in dispute, depending on how historians view Gija Joseon. The theory suggested by Joseon Sangosa is that Gojoseon disintegrated by about 300 BCE as it gradually lost the control of its former fiefs.

Many smaller states sprang from the former territory of Gojoseon such as Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye. Goguryeo and Baekje descended from Buyeo. The Three Kingdoms refer to Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla, although Buyeo and the Gaya confederacy existed into 5th and 6th centuries respectively.

Proto-Three Kingdoms

Proto-Three Kingdoms, c. 001 AD.
Gold buckle of the Proto-Three Kingdoms period

The Proto-Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Several States Period (열국시대), is the time before the rise of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which included Goguryeo, Shilla, and Baekje, and occurred after the fall of Gojoseon. This time period consisted of numerous states that sprang up from the former territories of Gojoseon. Among these states, the largest and most influential were Dongbuyeo and Bukbuyeo.

Buyeo and other Northern states

After the fall of Gojoseon, Buyeo arose in today's North Korea and southern Manchuria, from about the 2nd century BC to 494. Its remnants were absorbed by Goguryeo in 494, and both Goguryeo and Baekje, two of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, considered themselves its successor.

Although records are sparse and contradictory, it is thought that in 86 BCE, Dongbuyeo (East Buyeo) branched out, after which the original Buyeo is sometimes referred to as Bukbuyeo (North Buyeo). Jolbon Buyeo was the predecessor to Goguryeo, and in 538, Baekje renamed itself Nambuyeo (South Buyeo).

Okjeo was a tribal state that was located in the northern Korean Peninsula, and was established after the fall of Gojoseon. Okjeo had been a part of Gojoseon before its fall. It never became a fully-developed kingdom due to the intervention of its neighboring kingdoms. Okjeo became a tributary of Goguryeo, and was eventually annexed into Goguryeo by Gwanggaeto Taewang in the 5th century.

Dongye was another small kingdom that was situated in the northern Korean Peninsula. Dongye bordered Okjeo, and the two kingdoms faced the same fate of becoming tributaries of the growing empire of Goguryeo. Dongye was also a former part of Gojoseon before its fall.


Samhan (삼한, 三韓) refers to the three confederacies of Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. The Samhan were located in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula. These three confederacies eventually become the foundations, at which Baekje, Silla, and Gaya were established. Mahan was the largest and consisted of 54 states. Byeonhan and Jinhan both consisted of 12 states, bringing a total of 78 states within the Samhan. The term "Samhan" is later used to describe the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

Today, the hanja name for Korea (한, 韓) comes from the hanja of Samhan.

Three Kingdoms Era

An example of a Goguryeo tomb mural.


Goguryeo at its height, in 476 AD.

Goguryeo was founded in 37 BC by Jumong (posthumous name Dongmyeongseong). Later, King Taejo centralized the government. Goguryeo was also the first Korean kingdom to adopt Buddhism as the state religion in 372, under King Sosurim reign.

Goguryeo reached its zenith in the fifth century, when reign of the King Gwanggaeto and his son, King Jangsu expanded into almost all of Manchuria and part of inner Mongolia, and took the Seoul region from Baekje. Gwanggaeto and Jangsu subdued Baekje and Silla during their times.

Goguryeo later fought and defeated massive Chinese invasions in the Goguryeo-Sui War of 598 - 614, contributing to Sui's fall, and continued to repel the Tang dynasty[15] under several important generals including Yeon Gaesomun and Yang Manchun (see Goguryeo–Tang Wars).

However, numerous wars with China exhausted Goguryeo and it fell into a weak state. After internal power struggles, it was conquered by an allied Silla-Tang forces in 668.


Baekje's foundation by King Onjo in 18 BCE [5], as stated in the Samguk Sagi, followed those of its neighbors and rivals, Goguryeo and Silla.

The Sanguo Zhi mentions Baekje as a member of the Mahan confederacy in the Han River basin (near present-day Seoul). It expanded into the southwest (Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces) of the peninsula and became a significant political and military power. In the process, Baekje came into fierce confrontation with Goguryeo and the Chinese commanderies in the vicinity of its territorial ambitions.

At its peak in the 4th century, it had absorbed all of the Mahan states and subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the modern provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, and Jeolla, as well as part of Hwanghae and Gangwon) to a centralized government. Baekje acquired Chinese culture and technology through contacts with the Southern Dynasties during the expansion of its territory.

Baekje played a fundamental role in transmitting cultural developments, such as Chinese characters, Buddhism, iron-making, advanced pottery, and ceremonial burial into ancient Japan.[16] Other aspects of culture were also transmitted when the Baekje court retreated to Japan after Baekje was conquered. Baekje was defeated by a coalition of Silla and Tang Dynasty forces in 660.


Down-sized replica of the famous 80 meter tall pagoda at Hwangnyongsa Temple which was destroyed by the Mongols.

According to legend, the kingdom Silla began with the unification of six chiefdoms of the Jinhan confederacy by Bak Hyeokgeose in 57 BCE, in the southeastern area of Korea. Its territory included the present-day port city of Busan, and Silla later emerged as a sea power responsible for destroying Japanese pirates, especially during the Unified Silla period.

Silla artifacts, including unique gold metalwork, show influence from the northern nomadic steppes, with less Chinese influence than are shown by Goguryeo and Baekje. Silla expanded rapidly by occupying the Han River basin and uniting the city states.

By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a large state, occupying and influencing nearby city states. Silla began to gain power when it annexed in 562 the Gaya confederacy, between Baekje and Silla. Silla often faced pressure from Baekje and Japan, and at various times allied and warred with Baekje and Goguryeo.

In 660, King Muyeol of Silla ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, conquered Baekje. In 661, Silla and Tang moved on Goguryeo but were repelled. King Munmu, son of Muyeol and nephew of General Kim launched another campaign in 667 and Goguryeo fell in the following year.


Gaya was a confederacy of chiefdoms in the Nakdong River valley of southern Korea, growing out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period. In 562, Gaya ultimately was absorbed into Silla.

North and South States

The term North-South States refers to Unified Silla and Balhae, during the time when Silla controlled the Korean peninsula while Balhae expanded into Manchuria. During this time, culture and technology significantly advanced, especially in Unified Silla.

Unified Silla

After the unification wars, the Tang Dynasty established territories in the former Goguryeo, and began to administer and establish communities in Baekje. Silla attacked the Chinese in Baekje and northern Korea in 671.[15]

China then invaded Silla in 674 but Silla defeated the Chinese army in the north. Silla drove the Tang forces out of the peninsula by 676 to achieve unification of most of the Three Kingdoms.

Unified Silla was a time when Korean arts flourished dramatically and Buddhism became a large part of Silla culture. Buddhist monasteries such as the Bulguksa are examples of advanced Korean architecture and Buddhist influence. State-sponsored art and architecture from this period include Hwangnyongsa Temple, Bunhwangsa Temple, and Seokguram Grotto, a World Heritage Site.

Silla began to experience political troubles in 780. This severely weakened Silla and soon thereafter, descendants of the former Baekje established Later Baekje. In the north, rebels revived Goguryeo, beginning the Later Three Kingdoms period.[15]

Unified Silla lasted for 267 years until, under King Gyeongsun, it was replaced by Goryeo in 935.[17]


Balhae stele at the National Museum of Korea.

Balhae was founded only thirty years after Goguryeo had fallen. It was founded in the northern part of former lands of Goguryeo by Dae Joyeong, a former Goguryeo general. Balhae controlled the northern areas of the Korean Peninsula, much of Manchuria (though it didn't occupy Liaodong peninsula for much of history), and expanded into present-day Russian Maritime Province. Balhae styled itself as Goguryeo's successor state. It also adapted the Culture of Tang Dynasty, for example in the layout of its capitals.

In a time of relative peace and stability in the region, Balhae flourished, especially during the long reign of the third Emperor Mun (r. 737-793) and King Seon. However, Balhae was severely weakened 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 crown prince and the royal family, but compiled no known histories of Balhae either. The Samguk Sagi ("History of the Three Kingdoms"), for instance, includes passages on Balhae, but does not include a dynastic history of Balhae. The eighteenth century Joseon dynasty historian Yu Deukgong advocated the proper study of Balhae as part of Korean history, and coined the term "North and South States Period" to refer to this era.

Later Three Kingdoms

The Later Three Kingdoms (892 - 936) consisted of Silla, Hubaekje ("Later Baekje"), and Taebong (also known as Hugoguryeo, "Later Goguryeo"). The latter two, established as Unified Silla declined in power, were viewed as heirs to the earlier Three Kingdoms of Korea.

Taebong (Later Goguryeo) was originally led by Gung Ye, a Buddhist monk who founded Later Goguryeo. The unpopular Gung Ye was deposed by Wang Geon (877-943) in 918. Wang Geon was popular with his people, and he decided to unite the entire peninsula under one government. He attacked Later Baekje in 934 and received the surrender of Silla in the following year. In 936, Goryeo conquered Later Baekje.


Kingfisher glazed Goryeo celadon incense burner, a national treasure of South Korea.

Goryeo was founded in 918 and by 936, replaced Silla as the ruling dynasty of Korea. ("Goryeo" is a short form of "Goguryeo" and the source of the English name "Korea.") The dynasty lasted until 1392.

During this period laws were codified, and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished, and spread throughout the peninsula. The development of celadon industry flourished in 12th and 13th century. The publication of Tripitaka Koreana onto 80,000 wooden blocks and the invention of the world's first movable-metal-type printing press in 13th century attest to Goryeo's cultural achievements.

In 1231 the Mongols began its campaigns against Korea and after 25 years of struggle, the royal family relented by signing a treaty with the Mongols. For the following 80 years Goryeo survived, but became a vassal of the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty in China.

In the 1350s, the Yuan Dynasty declined rapidly due to internal struggles. King Gongmin was free at last to reform a Goryeo government. 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 Confucian scholars.

The Goryeo dynasty would last until 1392. Taejo of Joseon, who was the founder and the first king of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea, would easily take power in a coup and established the Joseon Dynasty.


The Gyeongbokgung Palace

Political History

In 1392, the general Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) with a largely bloodless coup. The Joseon Dynasty is believed to have been the longest-lived actively ruling dynasty in East Asia. He named it the Joseon Dynasty in honor of the previous Joseon before (Gojoseon is the first Joseon. "Go", meaning "old", was added to distinguish between the two).

King Taejo moved the capital to Hanseong (formerly Hanyang; modern-day Seoul) and built the Gyeongbokgung palace. In 1394 he adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the Buddhists. The prevailing philosophy was Neo-Confucianism.

Joseon experienced advances in science and culture. King Sejong the Great (1418-1450) promulgated hangul, the Korean alphabet. The period saw various other cultural and technological advances as well as the dominance of neo-Confucianism over the entire peninsula.

Between 1592 and 1598, the Japanese invaded Korea. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the forces and tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea, but was eventually repelled by a Righteous army, Admiral Yi Sun-sin and assistance from Ming China. This war also saw the rise of the career of Admiral Yi Sun-sin with the "turtle ship". In the 1620s and 1630s Joseon suffered invasions by the Manchu.

After invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a new renaissance of the Joseon dynasty.

However, during the last years of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the name the "Hermit Kingdom", primarily for protection against Western imperialism before it was forced to open trade beginning an era leading into Japanese colonial rule.


Joseon maintained a stable economy during peaceful times. After the Joseon court was established and completed, the economy began to prosper as well. Early during the Joseon Dynasty, the economy was stable, especially during King Sejong's rule. However, the economy suffered after the Japanese invasions 1592-1598 and internal court corruption, bribery, and heavy tax, strained the Korean economy.

Social hierarchy

During Joseon, a social hierarchy system existed that greatly affected Korea's social development. With the king and the royal family sitting atop the hereditary system, there also existed a class of land owners and agrarian bureaucrats known as Yangban who lived off the efforts of tenant farmers and slaves, through heavy taxation and extortion.

A merchant class, per se, did not exist in Joseon Korea as had existed in China, as commerce and trade was essentially forbidden by the Joseon kings, and if conducted at all, had to be conducted covertly as illegal black market or barter and trade. Slaves constituted the largest class in Joseon Korea, essentially consisting of not only tenant farmers and black-marketeers, but also entertainers, craftsmen, prostitutes, laborers, shamans, vagabonds, outcasts, soldiers and criminals. However, slaves in Korea were treated as low wage workers would be today: they were not treated cruelly like slaves are, most received enough food and some were even treated like family.

But in the late 17–19th centuries, new commercial groups emerged, and the old class system was extremely weakened. The Joseon government ordered the official slaves set free in 1801. Finally, the class system of Joseon was completely banned in 1894.

Foreign invasions

Korean Embassy to Japan, 1655, attributed to Kano Toun Yasunobu. British Museum.

Joseon dealt with a pair of Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598 (Imjin War or the Seven Years war). Prior to the war, Korea sent two ambassadors to scout for any signs of Japan's intentions of invading Korea. However, they came back with 2 different reports, and while the politicians split into sides and fought, no proactive measures were taken.

This conflict brought prominence to Admiral Yi Sun-sin as he repelled the Japanese forces with his invention, and innovative use, of the turtle ship, a massive, yet swift, ramming/cannon ship fitted with iron spikes (and an iron-plated deck which is disputed though[18][19][20]). The use of the hwacha was also highly effective in repelling the Japanese invaders from the land.

Subsequently, Korea was invaded by the Manchus in 1627 (see the First Manchu invasion of Korea) and again in 1636 (see the Second Manchu invasion of Korea), after which the Joseon dynasty recognized the suzerainty of the Qing Empire.

19th century

One of the earliest photographs depicting Koreans, taken in 1863.

During the 19th century, Joseon Korea tried to control foreign influence by closing the borders to all nations but China. In 1853 the USS South America, an American gunboat, visited Busan for 10 days and had amiable contact with local Korean officials. Several Americans who were shipwrecked on Korea in 1855 and 1865 were also treated well and sent to China for repatriation. The Joseon court which ruled Korea was well aware of the foreign invasions and treaties involving Qing China, as well as the Opium Wars, and followed a cautious policy of slow exchange with the West.

Western invasions

In 1866, reacting to greater numbers of Korean converts, the Korean court clamped down on the illicit French missionaries, massacring French Catholic missionaries and Korean converts alike. That same year France invaded and occupied portions of Ganghwa Island in the fall of 1866. The Korean army lost heavily, and the French abandoned the island.

The General Sherman, a British-owned armed merchant marine sidewheel schooner, attempted to open Korea to trade in 1866. After an initial miscommunication, the ship sailed upriver and became stranded near Pyongyang. After being ordered to leave by Korean officials, the American crewmen killed four Korean inhabitants, kidnapped a military officer and engaged in sporadic fighting that continued for four days. After two efforts to destroy the ship failed, the USS General Sherman was finally set afire by Korean fireships laden with primitive explosives.

In response, the United States confronted Korea militarily in 1871, killing 350 Koreans and retreating in what the Koreans call the Sinmiyangyo. Five years later, the reclusive Korea signed a trade treaty with Japan, and in 1882 signed a treaty with the United States, ending several centuries of isolationism.

Japanese Entry

By 1876, a rapidly modernizing Japan forced Korea to open its ports and successfully challenged the Qing Empire in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). In 1895, the Japanese were involved in the murder of Empress Myeongseong,[3] who had sought Russian help, and the Russians were forced to retreat from Korea.

Korean Empire

In 1897, Joseon was renamed the 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 effectively became a protectorate of Japan on 25 July 1905, the 1905 Protectorate Treaty having been promulgated without Emperor Gojong's required seal. Following the signing of the treaty An Jung-geun assassinated Itō Hirobumi, the Resident-General of Korea, in 1909.

Japanese rule

In 1910 Japan effectively annexed Korea by the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. While the legality of the treaty is still asserted by Japan, it is generally not accepted in Korea because it was not signed by the Emperor of Korea as required and violated international convention on external pressures regarding treaties. Korea was controlled by Japan under a Governor-General of Korea until Japan's unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces, on 15 August 1945, with de jure sovereignty deemed to have passed from Joseon Dynasty to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea[citation needed].

European-styled transport and communication networks were established across the nation in order to extract the resources and exploit the Korean people, these networks were almost all destroyed later during the Korean war. The Japanese removed the Joseon hierarchy, destroyed all but 10 building of a 330 building complex with 5,792 rooms. This Korean Palace which once stood on 4,414,000 square feet (410,000 square meters) of land was reduced to 10 office buildings.

After the Emperor Gojong died in January 1919, with a rumor of poisoning, independence rallies against Japanese invaders took place nationwide on 1 March 1919 (the March 1st Movement). This movement was suppressed by force and about 7,000 were killed by Japanese soldiers and police.[21] An estimated 2 million people took part in peaceful, pro-liberation rallies. (The Japanese record claims less than half million.) Many Korean Christians, including an entire village of Jeamni, were crucified or burnt alive in churches as they fought for Korean liberation.[citation needed] This movement was partly inspired by United States president Woodrow Wilson's speech of 1919, declaring support for right of self determination and an end to colonial rule for Europeans. No comment was made by Wilson on Korean independence, perhaps as a pro-Japan faction in the USA sought trade inroads into China through the Korean peninsula.

The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established in Shanghai, China, in an aftermath of March 1 Movement, which coordinated the Liberation effort and resistance against Japanese control. Some of the achievements of the Provisional Government include the Battle of Chingshanli of 1920 and the ambush of Japanese Military Leadership in China in 1932. The Provisional Government is considered to be the de jure government of the Korean people between the period 1919 to 1948, and its legitimacy is enshrined in the preamble to the constitution of the South Korea[citation needed].

Continued anti-Japanese uprisings, 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 exterminate Korea as a nation. Worship at Japanese Shinto shrines was made compulsory. The school curriculum was radically modified to eliminate teaching in the Korean language and history within Korea.[citation needed] The continuance of Korean culture itself began to be illegal. Korean culture and economy suffered heavy losses. The Korean language was banned and Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names.[22] Numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed or taken to Japan.[23] To this day, valuable Korean artifacts can often be found in Japanese museums or among private collectors. Newspapers were prohibited from publishing in Korean language[24]. According to an investigation by the South Korean government, 75,311 cultural assets were taken from Korea.[25][26][27][28] Japan has 34,369, The United States has 17,803.[29]

Some Koreans left the Korean peninsula to Manchuria and Primorsky Krai. Koreans in Manchuria formed resistance groups known as Dongnipgun (Liberation Army) which would travel in and out of the Korean-Chinese boundary, fighting guerrilla warfare with the Japanese forces. These guerilla armies would come together in 1940s as Korean Liberation Army and the Liberation Army took part in allied action in China and parts of South East Asia. Tens of thousands of Koreans also joined the Peoples Liberation Army and the National Revolutionary Army.

During World War II, Koreans were forced to support the Japanese war effort. Tens of thousands of men[30] were conscripted into Japan's military. Around 200,000 girls and women, mostly from Korea and China, were conscripted as sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women". But still Japan has not apologized to Koreans about this issue and the women (who are nearly 80 years old) who were taken as sex slaves are still protesting against Japanese Government.[31]

The division of Korea

American soldiers climbing a sea wall in Incheon during a decisive moment in the timeline of the Korean War.

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. The Provisional Government was ignored, mainly due to American misconception that it was too communist-aligned. 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 November 22, 1943, it was agreed that Korea would be free "in due course Korea shall become free and independent”; at a later meeting in Yalta in February 1945, it was agreed to establish a four-power trusteeship over Korea. On August 9, 1945, Soviet tanks entered northern Korea from Siberia, meeting little to no resistance. Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces on August 15, 1945.

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. On June 25, 1950, by its resolution 82[32] the Security Council of the United Nations recognised the Republic of Korea as the sole legal government of Korea. In June 1950 the Korean War broke out when North Korea breached the 38th parallel line to invade the South, ending any hope of a peaceful reunification for the time being. Beginning with Syngman Rhee, a series of oppressive autocratic governments took power in South Korea, initially with American support and influence. The country eventually transitioned to become a market-oriented democracy in the 1980s, largely due to popular demand for reform. Due to the Soviet occupation of North Korea, post-independence North Korea established a communist government, with ties to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China.

See History of North Korea and History of South Korea for the post-war period.

See also


  1. ^ Byeon (1999), p. 27. Byeon explains that the lower layers of Seokjangni and other sites have been dated to 600,000-500,000 BC, and that the discovery of yet older layers at a site in Damyang County have led to the hypothesis that hominid habitation of Korea began around 700,000 BCE.
  2. ^ Go-Choson
  3. ^ a b Murder of Empress Myeongseong
  4. ^ Forced Annexation
  5. ^ Stark, Miriam T (2005). Archaeology Of Asia. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 137. ISBN 1405102128. 
  6. ^ 6. Korea, to 540 C.E. 2001. The Encyclopedia of World History
  7. ^ See also Jewang Ungi, Dongguk Tonggam, Sejong Sillok, and Chronicle of Korean Rulers, 제왕연대력 帝王年代曆 Jewang yeondaeryeok, Choe Chiwon (최치원) (857 - ?)
  8. ^ Jaehoon Lee (2004). "The Relatedness Between The Origin of Japanese and Korean Ethnicity" (PDF). The Florida State University. pp. 31. Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  9. ^|Daum article: 고조선[古朝鮮
  10. ^|Metropolitan Museum of Art: Timeline of Art and History, Korea, 1000 BC-1 AD
  11. ^ a b Neolithic and Bronze Age - The Art of Asia - Guide to Korean Historical Periods
  12. ^ The Origin of the Korean People: Who are the Koreans?
  13. ^ Editorial of Buksori by Prof. Park Seonhee
  14. ^ "Yayoi Period History Summary,"; Jared Diamond, "Japanese Roots," Discover 19:6 (June 1998); Thayer Watkins, "The Genetic Origins of the Japanese"
  15. ^ a b c Korea's History (Ko-Choson, Three Kingdoms, Parhae Kingdom, Unified Shilla, Koryo Dynasty, Colonial Period, Independence Struggle, Provisional Government of Korea, Independence Army, Republic of Korea,)
  16. ^ "Korean Buddhism Basis of Japanese Buddhism," Seoul Times, June 18, 2006; "Buddhist Art of Korea & Japan," Asia Society Museum; "Kanji,"; "Pottery," MSN Encarta; "History of Japan," Archived 2009-10-31.
  17. ^ Wang Geon changed the name of dynasty to Goryeo.
  18. ^ Hawley, Samuel: The Imjin War. Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China, The Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch, Seoul 2005, ISBN 89-954424-2-5, p.195f.
  19. ^ Turnbull, Stephen: Samurai Invasion. Japan’s Korean War 1592-98 (London, 2002), Cassell & Co ISBN 0-304-35948-3, p.244
  20. ^ Roh, Young-koo: "Yi Sun-shin, an Admiral Who Became a Myth", The Review of Korean Studies, Vol. 7, No. 3 (2004), p.13
  21. ^ March 1st Movement
  22. ^ 宮田 節子 [Miyata, Setsuko]. "創氏改名" [Creating Surnames and Changing Given Names], 明石書店 [Akashi-shoten], 1992, al. ISBN 4-7503-0406-9
  23. ^ Who rightfully owns Korean artifacts looted by Japan?
  24. ^
  25. ^ Kay Itoi; B. J. Lee (2007-10-17). "KOREA: A TUSSLE OVER TREASURES — Who rightfully owns Korean artifacts looted by Japan?". Newsweek. Retrieved 2008-06-06. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ 山脇 啓造 Yamawaki, Keizo. 近代日本と外国人労働者―1890年代後半と1920年代前半における中国人・朝鮮人労働者問題 Modern Japan and Foreign Laborers: Chinese and Korean Laborers in the late 1890s and early 1920s, 明石書店 Akashi-shoten, 1994, et al. ISBN 4750305685
  31. ^ [1] [2] [3]
  32. ^ The link usually doesn't work. Access the document through the UN website, their archive of Security Council Resolutions.


  • Byeon Tae-seop (변태섭) (1999). 韓國史通論 (Hanguksa tongnon) (Outline of Korean history), 4th ed.. Sŏul Tʻŭkpyŏlsi: Samyŏngsa. ISBN 89-445-9101-6. 
  • Yang, S.C. (1999). The North and South Korean political systems: A comparative analysis. (Rev. Ed.). Seoul: Hollym. ISBN 1-56591-105-9

External links

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