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.
Korea is populated by a relatively homogeneousethnic group, the Koreans, who speak a distinct language, not known to be related to any other called Korean and use a unique script, called Hangul in south Korea, also called Chosongul in North Korea.
A 1925 photo of Wongudan, an altar site in Seoul built in 1897 as a location for the performance of the rite of heaven. KingSeongjong of the Goryeo Dynasty was the first to perform the rite, designed to ensure a bountiful harvest, in the tenth century. The practice was discontinued by later Goryeo kings, revived briefly in the mid fifteenth century by Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty, then reinstated with the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897. Much of the altar complex was destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and the gate and fountain seen here were also subsequently removed, leaving only the three-storey Hwangungu pagoda remaining.