From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
Note: This article contains special characters.For other places called Korea, see: Korea (disambiguation)
Location of Korea
Map of Korea

Korea refers to South Korea and North Korea together, which were a unified country until 1948. It is situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia, bordering China to the northwest and Russia to the northeast. It is populated by a homogeneous ethnic group, the Koreans, who speak a distinct language (Korean).

The Western name derives from the Goryeo/Koryŏ (고려) period of Korean history, which in turn referred to the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo/Koguryŏ (고구려). In Korean, Korea as a whole is referred to as Hanguk (한국, Han Nation) by South Korea and Chosŏn/Joseon (조선) by North Korea. See Names of Korea.

Korea was partitioned into two halves following World War II. South Korea, supported by the United States, is now a capitalist liberal democracy, and sometimes referred to simply as "Korea". North Korea, supported by the Soviet Union, remains a Communist state, often described as Stalinist and isolationist.

The Unification Flag may represent Korea at international sporting events, but is not an official flag of either country.



In ancient Chinese texts Korea is referred to as "Rivers and Mountains Embroidered on Silk" (錦繡江山) and "Eastern Nation of Decorum" (東方禮儀之國). During the 7th and 8th centuries, land and sea trading networks connected Korea and Arabia. Koreans used wooden printing blocks by 751. Metal movable type was invented in Korea as early as 1232 (although clay prints were earlier invented in China), before Johann Gutenberg developed metal letterset type. During the Goryeo period, the silk was considered by China to be the best in the world, and pottery made with blue-green celadon glazes became a coveted Korean specialty. In the Joseon era, Korea presided over progress in traditional arts and crafts, such as white celadon glazes, finer silk and paper, and the creation 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 western leaning capitalist Republic of Korea (ROK) and the communist Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

After the Korean War, North Korea's economy rebounded relatively quickly, stronger than that of the South until the 70's. Since the 90's the loss of communist markets in Eastern Europe, poor management, and natural disasters have left the country largely dependent on foreign aid. A famine in the late 90's likely killed about a million people, although reliable statistics are difficult to come by (Meredith Woo-Cummings, The Political Ecology of Famine: The North Korean Catastrophe and Its Lessons, Tokyo: Asian Dev. Bank Inst., 2001).


In contrast, South Korea after the war remained impoverished into the 60's, when the dictator-president Park Chung Hee began to funnel investment into the large conglomerates or chaebŏl/jaebeol. His rule was marked by the violation of human rights (although on a far smaller scale than in North Korea) as well as by record-breaking economic growth. Korea now is the 11th largest economy in the world. Currently, South Korea has become a democracy with presidential elections held every 5 years.

Both Korean states proclaim eventual reunification as a goal. 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.


Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula in North-East Asia. It is bound by two countries and three seas. To the northwest, the Yalu River separates Korea from China and to the north, the Tumen River separates Korea from Russia. The Yellow Sea is to the west, the South China Sea is to the south, and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) is to the east of Korea. Notable islands include Jeju-do, Ulleung-do, and Liancourt Rocks (Dok-do).


(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 [1]) exists in South Korea, and small communities of ethnic Chinese and Japanese are said to exist in North Korea ([2]). Foreign workforce in South Korea is estimated at over half a million. The combined population (including North and South Korea) of the Korean Peninsula is about 71,000,000 people.


Main article: History of Korea

History of Korea

Three Kingdoms :
 Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla
Unified Silla and Balhae
Later Three Kingdoms
Divided Korea :
 N. Korea, S. Korea

There is archaeological and paleolithic evidence that people were living on the Korean peninsula 70,000 years ago. Eventually (2333 BC according to the Dangun legend), Gojoseon was founded, encompassing northern Korea and Manchuria. Around the beginning of the Common Era Gojoseon dissipates and the northern Korean peninsula would be contested by Buyeo, Goguryeo of Korea and the Chinese Han dynasty. The Chinese incursion would last until Goguryeo destroyed the last of the Han commandaries in 313 CE. In this period, southern Korea was occupied first by the Jin state of Korea, and later the Samhan, the 3 hans of Korea (Not related to the Chinese Han dynasty).

The Three Kingdoms

The three kingdoms Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje (the latter two arising from the Samhan) competed with each other as minor regions fell or merged with these regional powers. Sophisticated state organizations developed under Confucian and Buddhist paradigms. Goguryeo was the most dominant power, but was at constant war with the Chinese Sui and Tang. Emperor Yang-ti of Sui, with one 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.

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. Silla warriors were called the Hwarang.

Balhae and Unified Silla

Silla eventually repulsed Tang from Goguryeo territory, although the northern part regrouped as Balhae. Silla ("Unified Silla" hereon) thus came to control most of the Korean peninsula by the 8th century. In the late 9th century, Unified Silla gave way to the brief Later Three Kingdoms period.

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) as the successor to Goguryeo and regained control of lost northern territory. 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.


The kingdom of Goryeo (918 CE - 1392 CE) took over and replaced Silla as the dominant power in Korea. Many members of the Balhae ruling class joined the newly founded Goryeo Dynasty, which established boundaries of Korea to alittle more than where they exist today (See Gando region which is now occupied by the Chinese). During this period, laws were codified, and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished throughout the peninsula.

In the 10th and 11th centuries, Goryeo continued to be plagued by attacks from Jurchen and Khitan tribes on the northern borders. Conflict increased between civil and military officials in Goryeo as the latter were degraded and poorly paid. This led to an uprising by military and forced some military officials to migrate to other areas. In 1238 the Mongols invaded Goryeo and laid the kingdom in ruins as resistance continued on and off for almost thirty years. Eventually, a treaty was signed between the two Kingdoms in favor of the Mongols. In the 1340s, the Mongol Empire declined rapidly due to internal struggles. Korea was at last able to forge political reform with out mongol interference. At this time a General named Yi Seong-gye distinguishes himself by repelling Japanese pirates who were constantly stealing mainland technology from Korean and Chinese merchant ships.

Traditional Hanbok dress
Traditional Hanbok dress


In 1392 Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty, moving the capital to Hanseong (now Seoul). Hangul was created by King Sejong in 1443. During the late 1500s, Japan invaded Korea in two failed attempts, known together as the Seven-Year War, inflicting great destruction and suffering on Korea. The Manchus then successfully invaded China and forced Korea in 1627 to recognize the Manchu government.

Beginning in the 1870s, Japan began to acquire western technology then forced Korea away from China's sphere of influence. In 1895, Empress Min of Korea was murdered by the Japanese under Miura Goro. Japan further increased its control over Korea following the First Sino-Japanese War (1894) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).

Japanese Occupation

Main article: Period of Japanese Rule

In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan. Japanese occupation lasted until 1945 when Japan was defeated by the Allied Forces at the end of World War II.

The occupation by the Japanese is characterized by most historians as a period of brutal repression. An estimated seven million Koreans were jailed or killed. Many Koreans were forcibly sent all around the empire, men as slave laborers and women as military sex slaves.

Some Japanese take a more nationalistic stance, claiming that Korea received benefits from Japanese rule.

Anti-Japanese sentiment still runs strong in Korea and Asia, as a result of various Japanese war atrocities and what Koreans see as continuing unrepentant actions.


Main articles: Division of Korea, Korean War, Korean reunification

In 1945, in the aftermath of WWII, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the United States effectively began administering the peninsula south of the 38th parallel and the Soviet Union administering north. The politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments.

In June 1950, North Korea invaded the South, beginning the Korean War. After three devastating years of fighting that involved China, Soviet Union, and the U.S., the war ended in a ceasefire agreement at approximately the same boundary. The two countries never signed a peace treaty.

Since the 90's, with progressively liberal South Korean administrations, as well as the death of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, the two sides have taken halting, symbolic steps towards cooperation, in international sporting events, reunification of separated family members, and tourism.


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 red, yellow, and green on objects and material that define traditional Korean motifs [3]. Family ties are an important aspect of familial relations, including business relations. Bowing is a custom that is expected among Koreans as a way of greeting one another. Although about half of the population is non-religious, Korean values spring from a large number of influences, including Shamanism, Confucianism, Buddhism, and more recently Christianity. [4]. Korea is sometimes described as a Confucian society. Korean cuisine is marked by its traditional dish called kimchi (see also Korean cuisine) which uses a distinctive fermentation process of preserving vegetables. 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 competed separately in sporting events. As of the 2006 Asian Games, South Korean officials have announced the countries shall compete in the same unified sporting teams as well.

Represented Airport

Further Readings

  • Account of a voyage of discovery to the west coast of Corea, and the great Loo-Choo island; 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 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

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Special characters

Personal tools