From Academic Kids

Location of Korea
Missing image
Map of Korea

Korea (한국) is a formerly unified country, situated on the Korean Peninsula in northern East Asia, bordering on China to the west and Russia to the north. It is populated by a homogeneous ethnic group, the Koreans. Two countries, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) have replaced it since the end of World War II in 1945, when the once-unified state was divided.

Korea was partitioned into two halves following World War II. South Korea is Western-leaning and has begun to develop in the direction of liberal democracy. North Korea is a Communist state, often referred to as Stalinist. The Unification Flag is often used to represent Korea at international sporting events, but is not an official flag of either country.



Paleolithic and archaeologic evidence indicates that early humans have lived in Korea for 2.5 million years and humans have lived in Korea for at least 70,000 years. For much of the past millennium, Korea was politically a single state, which led to the development of a fairly homogeneous and unique culture. Korea is characterized by a distinct people (Koreans) and language (Korean).

In ancient Chinese texts Korea is referred to as Kumsu Kangsan, literally meaning "the river and mountains are embroidered on silk". In addition, the Chinese credited the Koreans with being the producers of some of the best silk in the world. During the 7th and 8th centuries there existed, via both land and sea routes, trading networks between Korea and Arabia. Koreans used wooden printing blocks by 751. The publication technique of using metal movable type was invented in Korea as early as 1232 (although clay prints were invented by Pi Sheng about 200 years earlier in China), long before Johann Gutenberg developed metal letterset type in Europe. During the Goryeo period, the silk industry became widespread and pottery made with blue-green celadon glazes became a Korean specialty. Korea achieved rapid cultural growth during the Joseon era, developing a culture distinct from Ming China. The Joseon era also presided over progress in traditional arts and crafts, such as pottery with white celadon glazes, finer silk and better paper, beautiful fans and clothes, and the completion of the Korean alphabet, hangul. Also during this time the first ironclad warships in the world were developed and deployed in Korea.

Korea is currently divided into the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the stalinist Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). This division occurred, in effect, after Japan's defeat in 1945, which put an end to World War II, whereas permanent division came after the Korean War in 1953.

North Korea officially pursues a policy of self reliance (Juche). However, it depended heavily on both China and the USSR for support, and now uses the threat of nuclear weapons to broker energy deals. Due to the hard line Stalinist rule, the country remains largely undeveloped, and shortages and famine conditions are frequent occurrences. In contrast, South Korea, which pursues an export-driven economy, is the 11th largest economy in the world. However, both Korean states proclaim eventual reunification as a goal; that is, the restoration of Korea as a single state. Even though Korea is no longer one nation in real political terms, it is very much alive in the minds of Koreans and as an ethno-cultural space critical to Korean national identity.


Main article: History of Korea Template:History of Korea There exists archaeological and paleolithic evidence that people were living in the land we now call Korea 70,000 years ago. Eventually, Go-Joseon, the most important and powerful of these early states, was established. Its foundation is highly symbolic, holding sentimental value for many modern day Koreans. Bronze age culture, introduced around the 12th century BCE, catalyzed more state formations. Around the beginning of the Common Era, control over the northern Korean peninsula switched back and forth from the Chinese Han dynasty, Buyeo/Goguryeo, and later the Yan state of China. The Chinese incursion would last until Goguryeo destroyed the Chinese controlled territory Lelang (Nangnang), in 313 CE. In this period, new regional powers emerged. Of these, three became the most dominant, the Three Kingdoms of Goguryeo in the north,Baekje in the southwest, and Silla (or Shilla) in the southeast. The confederacy of Gaya also flourished in the south until it was annexed by Silla in 562.

The Three Kingdoms period

Following the Gojoseon era comes the Three Kingdoms period (1st Century BCE - 688 CE). The Three Kingdoms were Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje. They competed with each other in order to strengthen state power and to expand their territories. As minor regions fell or merged with these regional powers, highly sophisticated state organizations started to form under Confucian and Buddhist hierarchical structures. Goguryeo was the most dominant power, but was at constant war with the Chinese Sui and Tang. Emperor Yang-ti of Sui, with 1 million troops, invaded Goguryeo, but in 612 CE, General Eulji Mundeok pushed the Chinese force into retreat. The Sui fall from power in China was partly due to Goguryeo. The Chinese Tang rose in power and Tai Zong of the Tang Dynasty sought revenge against Goguryeo. The Tang turned to Silla for assistance. Goguryeo's dominance in this region also forced other weaker powers to form alliances. Silla was the least advanced of the Three Kingdoms, but had established a fierce military.

Silla first annexed Gaya, then conquered Baekje and Goguryeo with Tang assistance. Thereupon Silla drove out their former Tang allies. Silla (from this point referred to as "Unified Silla" by historians) thus came to control most of the Korean peninsula. The northern regions, as well as parts of Manchuria, and today's Maritime Province of Russia became the new state of Balhae (see Pohai), which styled itself Goguryeo's successor state.

Balhae and Unified Silla

After the fall of Goguryeo, General Dae Joyeong led a group of his people to the Jilin area in Manchuria. The general founded the state of Balhae (Bohai in Chinese) and regained control of lost northern territory of Goguryeo. Eventually, Balhae's territory would extend from the Sungari and Amur Rivers in northern Manchuria all the way down to the northern provinces of modern Korea. In the 10th century Balhae was conquered by the Khitans.

In the late 9th century, Unified Silla disintegrated as regional strongmen vied for power. Unified Silla gave way to the brief Later Three Kingdoms period. The kingdom of Goryeo took over and replaced Silla as the dominant power in Korea in the year 935. Many members of the Balhae ruling class, who were mostly Koreans, moved south and joined the newly founded Goryeo Dynasty. While most of the Manchurian portion of the Balhae territory was lost, the area south of the Amnok (Yalu)- Duman (Tumen) boundary was incorporated in Goryeo.


During the Goryeo period (918 CE - 1392 CE) laws were codified, and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished and spread throughout the peninsula. Goryeo, during this time in fear of its power being usurped, made official policies to discourage the practice of martial arts and the warrior class, who were no longer appreciated, and government policies were initiated to put more emphasis on scholars rather than warlords.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, Goryeo continued to be plagued by attacks from Jurchen and Liao tribes on the northern borders. Conflict increased between civil and military officials as the latter were degraded and poorly paid. In 1170, the military officials rose up against the civil officials. In 1238 the Mongols invaded Goryeo and laid the kingdom in ruins as resistance continued on and off for almost thirty years. In the 1340s, the Mongol Empire declined rapidly due to internal struggles. King Gongmin was free at last to reform a Goryeo government. It was at that time that General Yi Seong-gye distinguished himself by repelling Japanese pirates in a series of successful engagements. He would go on to overthrow the Goryeo kingdom.


In 1392 general Yi Seong-gye, overthrew the Goryeo king in a coup d'tat and established a new dynasty: the Joseon Dynasty. The name Joseon was chosen by the Chinese Emperor Hongwu, at Yi's invitation. The Joseon Dynasty moved the capital to Hanseong (now Seoul), built the Gyeongbok Palace, and adopted Confucianism as the state ideology. The Hangul alphabet was created by King Sejong in 1443. During the late 1500s Toyotomi Hideyoshi of Japan invaded Korea in two failed attempts, known together as the Seven-Year War. Although Hideyoshi was virtually defeated by the expeditionary Ming and Joseon armies and navies, the Seven-Year War subjected Korea to great destruction and suffering and weakened the Ming Dynasty. This allowed the Manchus to successfully invade China and eventually forced Korea in 1627 to recognize the legitimacy of the Manchu government.

Prior to the 1870s, Joseon's agreements with China required that trade in ginseng, minerals such as iron and gold, and rice, were regulated as per old trade agreements going back to the Ming dynasty. However, these arrangements were forcibly broken down by Japan and the Western powers. By the late 1890s, Korea had lost total control over its exports, and there were growing shortages of food and basic supplies. Emboldened by her victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894) Japan took an aggressive position on Korea. In 1897, Joseon was renamed Daehan Jeguk (Korean Empire), as a way of formally separating it from its traditional allegiance to China. A period of dual Russian-Japanese influence followed Russia's forced lease of Liaodong in 1898 until Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Japanese Occupation

Main article: Period of Japanese Rule

In 1910 the country was annexed by Japan and came to be ruled by a Governor-General of Korea. Japanese rule lasted until 1945 when Japan unconditionally surrendered to the Allied Forces at the end of World War II. The occupation by the Japanese is characterized by many historians as a period of brutal abuses of human rights. However, there are also some historians who take an apologist stance towards the occupation. As of yet, the issue remains a point of contention between the governments of Korea and the government of Japan. Anti-Japanese sentiment still runs strong throughout Korea, as a result of the occupation and various japanese war atrocities.


Main articles: Division of Korea, Korean War

Korea was divided 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.

Initial hopes for a unified, independent Korea quickly evaporated as the politics of the Cold War and domestic opposition to the trusteeship plan resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments in the North and the South with diametrically opposed political, economic, and social systems. In June 1950 the Korean War broke out. It lasted for three years and ended with a ceasefire agreement and no victor, turning the division into a permanent one. Technically, the two countries are still at war.


Main article: Korean reunification

There were some historical talks between the two Koreas; however, most did not address the possibility of reunification, and little progress has been made. It is unlikely that the regime in North Korea would volunteer in a process in which they would lose their powers. However, reunification is still strong in the people's minds. A railway has been built (or rebuilt) between the two countries through the JSA, but has never been officially opened.

The main argument against reunification on the south side is the incredible cost involved. Estimates to modernize and integrate the north into the south would cost trillions of dollars, between three to ten times the total GDP of the peninsula.


Main article: Culture of Korea

The nation uses vibrant colors for its festivities which is said to be due to Mongolian influences. It is common to see bright hues of pink, yellow, and green on objects and material that define traditional Korean motifs [1] (http://www.pacificasiamuseum.org/calendar/kcostumes.htm). Family ties are an important aspect of familial relations, not excluding relations involving business. Bowing is a custom that is proper and expected among Koreans as a way of greeting one another, although it is typically reserved for special occasions in the modern age. Korean values spring from a large number of influences, including Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, ancestor worship, Buddhism, and more recently Christianity and authoritarianism [2] (http://www.seoulsearching.com/culture/). Although Korea is sometimes described as a Confucian society, this would be an over-simplification of the culture akin to describing the culture of China or Japan in the same terms. Korean cuisine is marked by its traditional dish called kimchi (see also Korean cuisine) which uses a distinctive process of preserving vegetables by fermentation, developed before electric refrigeration existed. Chili peppers are also commonly used in Korean cuisine, which has given it a reputation for being 'spicy'.

Korea in sporting events

Unification Flag
Unification Flag

A unified Korean team competed under the Unification Flag in 1991 in both the 41st World Table Tennis Championship in Chiba, Japan and in the 6th World Youth Soccer Championship in Lisbon, Portugal. A unified Korean team marched under the Unification Flag in the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, and the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, but the North and South Korean national teams competed separately in sporting events.


(see also: Demographics of South Korea)

The Korean Peninsula is populated almost exclusively by ethnic Koreans, although a significant minority of ethnic Chinese (about 20,000 [3] (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ks.html)) exists in South Korea, and small communities of ethnic Chinese and Japanese are said to exist in North Korea [4] (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/kn.html). While the Koreas are populated by almost entirely Koreans, there is a large foreign workforce in South Korea estimated at over half a million. The combined population (including North and South Korea) of the Korean Peninsula is about 71,000,000 people.


Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula in North-East Asia. It is separated from China by the Yalu/Amnok River in the north and the Yellow Sea in the west. It is separated from Japan by the East Sea (Sea of Japan) to the east. Korea also has a short border with Russia along the Tumen/Duman River. Notable islands include Jeju-do, Ulleung-do and Dokdo.



Main article: Names of Korea [5] (http://worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/eastsea.gif)

In Korean, Korea is referred to as "Hanguk" (한국; 韓國) in the south and "Chosŏn" (조선; 朝鮮) in the north. In addition, South Koreans also use "Hanguk" to refer only to South Korea and North Koreans also use "Chosŏn" to refer only to North Korea. The western name "Korea" or "Corea" (from Goryeo (고려; 高麗)) is a neutral name often used by both countries in international contexts. There are complex historical reasons for the use of all three names, of which the following paragraph is a summary. The Chinese characters of Goryeo are pronounced Gaoli in Chinese, which is why Marco Polo marked today's Korea as Cauli in his travel.

Before the Three Kingdoms Period "Old Joseon" was the first Korean state. Then in the 660s, the kingdoms of Baekje;백제 and Goguryeo;고구려 came under the control of Silla, and Korea was called "Silla" (or Unified Silla;신라or 통일신라 by modern historians) from then until the 10th century. In 936, the newly formed kingdom of Goryeo;고려 replaced Shilla. From Goryeo came "Cauli" (the Italian spelling of the name Marco Polo gave to the country in his Travels), from which came the English names "Corea" and the now more commonly used "Korea". (For the Corea-vs.-Korea debate, please see Names of Korea.) In 1392, the Joseon Dynasty; 조선 came to power and the country was renamed "Joseon" (Dae Joseon-guk 대조선국 in full, or "Great Joseon Nation"). In 1897, the Korean Empire (Daehan Jeguk 대한제국) was formed, reviving the name "Han". In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan and the name reverted to "Joseon" ("Chosen" in Japanese). In 1919, a Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was formed in Shanghai, which used the name "Republic of Korea" (Daehan Minguk대한민국), a modified form of the name "Korean Empire". After independence from Japan and the country's division in 1945, the southern American-occupied zone became the "Republic of Korea" (or Hanguk for short in South Korean) in 1948, due to the influence of the non-Communist Shanghai group. Meanwhile, the northern Soviet-occupied zone became the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea" (or Chosŏn for short in North Korean) under the control of Kim Il-sung, who wished to use the name "Chosŏn" for its ancient and northern connotations.

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

Further Readings

  • Account of a voyage of discovery to the west coast of Corea, and the great Loo-Choo island (http://fax.libs.uga.edu/DS895xR9xH2/); with an appendix, containing charts, and various hydrographical and scientific notices. By Captain Basil Hall with a vocabulary of the Loo-Choo languages, by H. J. Clifford. Publisher: London, J. Murray, 1818. (a searchable facsimile at the University of Georgia Libraries; DjVu & layered PDF (http://fax.libs.uga.edu/DS895xR9xH2/1f/halls_corea.pdf) format)
  • Chun, Tuk Chu. "Korea in the Pacific Community." SOCIAL EDUCATION 52 (March 1988), 182. EJ 368 177.
  • Cumings, Bruce. THE TWO KOREAS. New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1984.
  • FOCUS ON ASIAN STUDIES. Special Issue: "Korea: A Teacher's Guide." No. 1, Fall 1986.
  • 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.

See also

External links

Template:Commons Template:Wikicities

cy:Corea de:Korea et:Korea es:Corea eo:Koreio fr:Core ko:한국 io:Korea id:Korea it:Corea he:קוריאה la:Corea lt:Korėja nl:Korea ja:朝鮮 no:Korea pl:Korea pt:Coreia ru:Корея simple:Korea sk:Krea sv:Korea zh-min-nan:Tiu-sin (Khu-pia̍t-ia̍h)


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