Hermit kingdom is a term applied to any country, organization or society which willfully walls itself off, either metaphorically or physically, from the rest of the world. The Joseon dynasty of Korea was frequently described as a hermit kingdom during the latter part of the dynasty. The term is still commonplace throughout Korea and is often used by Koreans themselves to describe pre-modern Korea.
Today, the term is often applied to North Korea in news media, and in 2009 was used by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Other countries, like Bhutan and the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, have also been described as hermit kingdoms due to their government's reluctance to engage in dialogue with the outside world. The early African civilization of Axum, now known as Ethiopia, was identified by the Europeans as the "hermit kingdom".
The first documented use of "hermit" to refer to Korea is in the title of William Elliot Griffis' 1882 book Corea: The Hermit Nation, well before the division of Korea. The writer of the book had never visited the country, and did not speak the language.
- THE OBLITERATION OF THE KINGDOM OF KOREA; With Complete Disregard of Her Promises Preceding the Russian War, Japan Abolishes the Emperor of That Nation and Places a Marionette Upon the Throne. THE VANISHING "LAND OF THE MORNING CALM" The Exiled Monarch Will Probably Join the former King of Foo-Choo Islands in Tokio. by Stephen Bonsal, The New York Times, July 28, 1907
- Covell, Jon Carter; Carter, Alan (1984). Korean Impact on Japanese Culture: Japan's Hidden History. Covell, NJ: Hollym Publishers.
- Fischer, David H. Historians' Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought.
- Wilson, Myoung Chung. Korean Government Publications: An Introductory Guide. Lantham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2000.