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Template:SpecialCharsNoteFor 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) and use the unique script Hangul.

Korea was partitioned into two halves following World War II. South Korea is now a capitalist liberal democracy, and sometimes referred to simply as "Korea". North Korea 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.


Names of Korea

Main article: Names of Korea

"Korea" derives from the Goryeo/Koryŏ (고려) period of Korean history, which in turn referred to the ancient kingdom of Goguryeo/Koguryŏ (고구려). In the Korean language, Korea as a whole is referred to as Han'guk (한국, Han Nation) by South Korea and Chosŏn (조선) by North Korea.

Culture and philosophy

Main article: Culture of Korea

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 (Cumings 1997: 65). Hangul was created by King Sejong in 1443. During the Koryo period, Korean silk was considered by China to be the best in the world; Korean pottery made with blue-green celadon was highly valued. In the Joseon era, Korea advanced traditional arts and crafts, such as white celadon glazes, fine silk and paper, and the invention of the Korean alphabet, hangul. Also during this time the first ironclad warships in the world were developed and deployed in Korea.

Although about half of the population is non-religious, Confucian tradition dominates Korean thought, along with contributions by Buddhism, Taoism, and Korean Shamanism. Koreans valued scholarship and rewarded education and study of Chinese classic texts; Yangban boys were highly educated in Hanja. Instead of a notion of "blood line" to trace genealogy, Koreans traditionally used a system of bone rank (Kim et al. 1976). Chinese culture greatly influenced Korea, with Korea like many other asian nations such as Japan paying tributes to the regional superpower which was China; 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).

Festivities showcase vibrant colors, which are attributed to Mongolian influences; bright red, yellow, and green often mark traditional Korean motifs [1]. Korean cuisine is known for its traditional dish called kimchi 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. See also Korean cuisine.


Main article: History of KoreaTemplate:History of Korea There is archaeological evidence that people were living on the Korean peninsula 700,000 years ago. The Palaeolithic period began around 70,000 BC, and earliest known Korean pottery dates to around 7000 BC, and the Neolithic period begins around 6000 BC.


Gojoseon (literally meaning "Land of the Morning Calm") was founded in 2333 BC, according to the Dangun legend. Gojoseon encompassed northern Korea and Manchuria. In 108 BC, Gojoseon fell to the Chinese Han dynasty, who installed four commanderies in northern Korea, three of these Chinese commanderies quickly fell to local Korean warlords. In this period, southern Korea was occupied first by the Jin state, and later the Samhan, three loose confederacies.

In the north, the expanding Goguryeo reunited Buyeo, Okjeo, and Dongye in the former Gojoseon territory, and destroyed the last Chinese commandery in 313.

The Three Kingdoms

The three kingdoms Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje (the latter two arising from the Samhan) competed with each other as minor statelets 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) 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 a little 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 without 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.

File:Hanbok oct2005 shopwindow.jpg
Traditional Hanbok dress


In 1392 Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty, moving the capital to Hanseong (now Seoul). During the late 1500s, Japan invaded Korea in two failed attempts, known together as the Seven-Year War, eventhough Japan had lost, Japan inflicted great destruction and suffering on Korea. This allowed the Manchus to successfully invade China and force Korea in 1627 to recognize the Manchu government.

Japanese occupation

Main article: Korea under Japanese rule

Beginning in the 1870s, Japan began to force Korea away from China's sphere of influence. In 1895, Empress Min of Korea was murdered by the Japanese under Miura Goro (Kim et al. 1976). In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan. The Japanese occupation built Shinto shrines in Korea, replaced use of Korean with the Japanese language, and forced name-changes to Japanese names. Koreans resisted the colonization, which led to brutal police actions, political unrest, and economic exploitation. During the suppression of independence movement in 1919, 7,000 Koreans were killed by Japanese police and soldiers.

During the Pacific War (World War II), Koreans were used by Japanese to support the Japanese war effort; Koreans were conscripted into Japanese military, used as forced laborers, and as sex slaves, called "comfort women" (Cumings 1997). Although statistics are difficult to verify, around 60,000 Korean laborers in Japan are known to have died between 1939 and 1945.

Japanese occupation lasted until 1945 when it was defeated by the Allied Forces at the end of World War II. Anti-Japanese sentiment still runs strong in Korea, as a result of what Koreans see as continuing unrepentant actions.


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

With the defeat of Japan in 1945, the Japanese colonial government was immediately replaced with American and Soviet presence. The Soviet Union loosely supported the North Korean government, which was also associated with Communist China; the United States closely controlled South Korea, helping Koreans with experience under the Japanese occupation to gain power and suppress Communists. Koreans faced bitter divisions: former collaborators were widely mistrusted and hated by Koreans, yet they possessed the most experience and remained in power. Communism began to take hold in Korea, and Koreans who had fought along with Communist China gained power and fame.

Civil war and hopes for reunification

The Korean War resulted directly from the United States policy of Containment. The United States supported Korean nationalists who opposed Communism, funded and staffed the South Korean army, and influenced the United Nations to support the South Korean military (Cumings 1997). 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.

The Korean War began in June 1950 and lasted until 1953. The North Korean army invaded the South, prompting U.S. and then Chinese intervention. Millions of Koreans died, and the United States waged a bombing campaign over North Korea that effectively destroyed most cities: "There were simply 'no more cities in North Korea'" (Cumings 1997: 298). After three devastating years of fighting the war ended in a ceasefire agreement at approximately the same boundary, though South Korea gaining slightly more territory than it lost. This boundary was set as the demilitarized zone which constitutes the border between the two countries. The two countries never signed a peace treaty. Both Korean states proclaim eventual reunification as a goal, and a united Korea is very much a part of Korean ethno-cultural identity.

Since the 1990s, 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.


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).

The southern part and western part of the Korean mainland have well developed plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous. The highest mountain in Korea is Mt. Baekdu (2744m, Changbaishan in chinese). The border with China runs through the mountain. The southern extension of Mt. Baekdu is a highland called Gaema Gowon. This highland was mainly raised during the Cenozoic orogeny and partly covered by volcanic matter. To the south of Gaema Gowon, successive high mountains are located along the eastern coast of the Korean Peninsula. This series of mountains is named Beakdudaegan. Some significant mountains include Sobaeksan (2,184 m), Baeksan (1,724 m), Geumgangsan (1,638 m), Seoraksan (1,708 m), Taebaeksan (1,567 m) and Jirisan (1,915 m). There are several lower, secondary mountain series whose direction is almost perpendicular to that of Baekdudaegan. They are developed along the tectonic line of Mesozoic orogeny and their directions are NW, NWW.

As opposed to the old mountains on the mainland, some important islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the recent Cenozoic. Jeju Island, situated off the south coastline of the Korean Peninsula, is a large volcanic island whose main mountain is Mt. Halla (1950 m). Ulleung-do and the Liancourt Rocks (Dok-do) are volcanic islands in the East Sea (Sea of Japan), whose composition is more feslic than Jeju. The volcanic islands tend to be younger as one moves westward.

Because the mountainous regions are biased toward the eastern part of the peninsula, the main rivers tend to flow to westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing Nakdong and the Seomjin River. Important rivers running westward include the Yalu, Cheongcheon River, Daedong River, Han River, Geum River, and Yeongsan River. These rivers have vast flood plains and they provide an ideal environment for rice cultivation.

The southern and southwestern coastline of the Korean Peninsula is a well-developed Lias coastline. It is known as Dadohae in Korean. Its complicated coastline provides mild seas, and the resulting calm environment allows for safe navigation, fishing, and seaweed farming. In addition to the complex coastline, the western coast of the Korean peninsula has an extremely high tidal amplitude (at Incheon, around the middle of the western coast, it is as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats are developing on the south and west coastline of the Korean Peninsula.


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 [2]) exists in South Korea, and small communities of ethnic Chinese and Japanese are said to exist in North Korea ([3]). 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.

Korea in sporting events

South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, giving the country an economic boost through increased tourism and greater world recognition. At the time, North_Korea boycotted the event on the grounds that it was not made co-host.

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.

In the summer of 2002, the FIFA World Cup was hosted jointly by South Korea and Japan, at 10 stadiums in each country. They competed separately, however.


Cumings, Bruce. Korea's Place in the Sun, Norton, 1997. ISBN 0-393-31681-5 Kim, et al. Women of Korea: A History from Ancient Times to 1945, Ewha Womans University Press, 1976. ISBN 89-7300-1167.

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

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Template:SpecialCharsast:Corea bg:Корея ca:Corea cs:Korea cy:Corea da:Korea de:Korea et:Korea es:Corea eo:Koreio fr:Corée gl:Corea ko:한국 hi:कोरिया hr:Koreja 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 scn:Corea simple:Korea sk:Kórea sl:Koreja sv:Korea tl:Korea tr:Kore zh:朝鲜 (称谓)

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