One of the world's oldest civilizations, Korea has a recorded history dating back to approximately 2,333 B.C. It enjoyed long periods of relative peace throughout its history. In 1910, Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan, becoming a colony until 1945. Following World War II, the country was devastated in the Korean War and divided into two political entities as a result, North Korea and South Korea.
A c. 1890 Korean illustration of a litter (gama in Korean), a type of human-powered transport, for the transport of persons. Gamas were primarily used by royalty and government officials, or in traditional weddings. Because of the difficulties posed by the mountainous terrain of the Korean Peninsula and the lack of paved roads, gamas were preferred over wheeled vehicles.
Choe Bu (1454–1504) was a Korean official during the early Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). He is best known for the account of his shipwrecked travels in China from February to July 1488, during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). He was eventually banished from the Joseon court in 1498 and executed in 1504 during two political purges. However, in 1506 he was exonerated and given posthumous honors by the Joseon court. Choe's diary accounts of his travels in China became widely printed in the 16th century in both Korea and Japan. Modern historians also utilize his written works, since his travel diary provides a unique outsider's perspective on Chinese culture in the 15th century and valuable information on China's cities and regional differences. The attitudes and opinions expressed in his writing represent in part the standpoints and views of the 15th-century Confucian Korean literati, who viewed Chinese culture as compatible with and similar to their own. His description of cities, people, customs, cuisines, and maritime commerce along China's Grand Canal provide insight into the daily life of China and how it differed between northern and southern China during the 15th century.