A Chronological Outline
- Go-Joseon (2333 B.C. - 108 B.C)
- The Three Kingdoms Period (57 B.C. - A.D. 676)
- Goguryeo (37 BCE- 668 CE)
- Baekje (18 BCE - 663 CE)
- Silla (57 BCE - 668 CE)
- The Unified Silla Kingdom and Balhae (676 - 935)
- The Unified Silla(676 - 935)
- Balhae(698 - 926)
- The Goryeo Dynasty (918 - 1392)
- The Joseon Dynasty (1392 - 1910)
- The Japanese Colonial Period (1910 - 1945)
- Establishing the Korean Government (1945 - 1948)
- Republic of Korea (ROK) under American Occupation (1945 - 1948)
- Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) under Soviet Occupation (1945 - 1948)
- Modern Korea
- The Republic of Korea (1948 - Present)
- DPRK (North Korea) (1949 – Present)
Brief History of Korea
- THE BEGINNING OF THE HISTORY OF KOREA
Korea is a modern nation with a history of over 5,000 years. The history of its culture can be seen in the Korean art and architecture that remains today.
In Korean mythology there is a story of the birth of the Korean nation when a god named Hwanung comes from heaven and transforms a bear into a woman. He marries her and she gives birth to a son, Tangun. Tangun establishes the first capital of the Korean nation in 2333 B.C. and calls it Joseon - Land of the Morning Calm.
Go (Old) Joseon, Korea's first nation-state, developed into a central force within East. The people of Go-Joseon probably lived in pit houses and had iron tools. Their walled-kingdom was near Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea in present.
Prehistoric remains found throughout Korea indicate that early in the history of the Korean Peninsula sophisticated technologies were known by these inhabitants. These people believed that all objects had spirits which is a belief known as animism. They also believed that some people had the power to communicate with these spirits and this is known as Shamanism. This was about 3,500 years ago at the start of the Bronze Age. Many farm tools have been found from this time.
- THE GROWTH OF THE THREE KINGDOMS AND UNIFICATION
The Three Kingdoms (57 B.C. - A.D. 676)
In the 1st century B.C., Go-Joseon gives way to three nations. The first is Goguryeo (founded in 37 B.C.) to the north which was in Manchuria and northern Korea. Goguryeo becomes a buffer against the aggressive nations of China. Two other kingdoms developed, Silla (founded in 57 B.C.) in the south eastern corner of the peninsula, and Baekje (founded in 18 B.C.) in the south-western part of the peninsula. They become known as the "Three Kingdoms", although there was a fourth kingdom known as Kaya (founded in 42 A.D.).
The Three Kingdoms developed as aristocrat-centered societies, and the aristocrats became the leaders of the culture. The Three Kingdoms accepted Buddhism, which advanced and expanded the scope of their culture. In this way, the Three Kingdoms developed a colorful and refined aristocrat-centered Buddhist culture which was eventually introduced to Japan and greatly influenced the development of its ancient culture.
Unified Silla (676-935)
In the 7th century Silla conquered the other kingdoms and the Three Kingdoms were united by Silla except for the part of Goguryeo in Manchuria. They are then able to form a nation under one government known as Unified Silla.
Unified Silla amalgamated the cultures of the Three Kingdoms and was influenced by the Tang culture to develop an advanced national culture. Buddhism flowered and adopted by the populace. Many beautiful temples and shrines are built including Bulguksa Temple and the Seokguram Buddhist Grotto, a technological as well as a sculptural masterpiece. Buddhists texts were printed with woodblocks. The oldest astronomical observatory in the world was also built in Gyeongju, the ancient Silla capital.
The Balhae Kingdom began to emerge just as the Goguryeo Dynasty was on the verge of collapsing. Goguryeo General, Dae Joyeong founded Balhae along with his army of displaced peoples. At one point, Balhae became so powerful that it was able to acquire territories in northern and eastern parts of China, as well as many other developments within the kingdom. At those times, the Tang Dynasty of China referred to Balhae as 'the strong country by the sea in the east.' The significance of the Balhae Kingdom is greatly inherited from Goguryeo, including the land that it was able to retrieve.
- THE GORYEO DYNASTY (918 - 1392)
The Silla rulers began to fight among each other and in 918 Wang Geon founded the Goryeo Dynasty. This was where the name, Korea, was derived.
The Goryeo Dynasty, which succeeded in reunifying the country, arranged its political and social structures around Confucian political ideology, and developed an aristocrat-centered society and culture. In the latter half of the 12th century the military rebelled against the civilian structure, and Goryeo society underwent a great deal of disturbance under the military regime. Later, Goryeo was invaded by the Yuan Dynasty and faced obstacles to maintain its independence, however it continued to make steady efforts to maintain its independence.
During the period of the Goryeo Dynasty, the national culture developed greatly. Confucian and Buddhist cultures were amalgamated and many cultural exchanges were made with foreign countries. During the Goryeo Dynasty, Jikji, the world's oldest movable metal type was invented. It was invented 78 years earlier than the German movable metal type created by Gutenburg. In addition, Goryeo's blue ceramics demonstrate the artistic talents and creative capabilities of its people.
- THE JOSEON DYNASTY (1392 - 1910)
In 1392 the Goryeo Dynasty was taken over by the Joseon Dynasty who had a Confucian form of government. The Joseon Dynasty was ruled by the Yi family from 1392 to 1910. This was a government which promoted loyalty to their country and respect for parents. Joseon founder King Tae jo began the construction of Jongmyo Shrine in 1394 when the dynasty moved its capital to Hanyang, now Seoul. King Sejong the Great began his reign in 1418. In the early 1420 King Sejong also gathered many scholars to create a phonetic language which has 11 vowels and 17 consonants to form the Korean written language known as Hangeul. Until then, only a few scholars could read and write using Chinese characters. He also promoted education for all citizens and many scientific developments such as the sun dial and water clocks.
- THE JAPANESE COLONIAL PERIOD (1910 - 1945)
In 1876, the Joseon Dynasty was forced to adopt an open-door policy with Japan. The Japanese annexation of Korea concluded in 1910, and Korean people had to accept Japanese colonial rule until the surrender of Japan, at the end of World War II.
During those periods, Koreans were not allowed to speak their own language or to learn about their history during this time in an effort to obliterate the Korean culture. Japan plundered land and food. On March 1, 1919 many Koreans were killed or put in prison nationwide as they protested the colonial rule. Koreans remember this day as a symbol of their patriotism. Koreans strove to keep their cultural heritage which we see today in their many historical sites.
- ESTABLISHING THE KOREAN GOVERNMENT (1945-1948)
Korea was liberated from Japanese oppression in August 15, 1945, but it soon faced the tragic division of the North and South along the 38th parallel. Both regions were placed under temporary military rule by the U.S. and Soviet armies. On May 10, 1948 with the help of the United Nations, South Korea held an election and elected Dr. Rhee Syngman as President. On August 15th of that same year, the birth of the South Korean government was officially declared.
In the North, North Korea formed the Provisional People’s Committee, led by Kim Il-song, in February 1946. On September 9, 1948, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was founded.
- THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA (1948 - Present)
During the past fifty years, the Republic of Korea has made splendid economic developments and has entered the threshold of an advanced nation. Its industrial development has made it into one of the top 11 trading countries in the world and its enterprises and labor power capabilities have made inroads overseas. The rapid development of Korean communities in foreign countries is another special feature in this growth.
Culturally, Korea has now become an influence in the world. National education has greatly expanded and science, arts and technologies have also developed. The 1988 Olympics in Seoul was made possible through the world's recognition of the cultural advances in Korea.