Korea

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For the peninsula where the territory is situated, see Korean Peninsula.
For other uses, see Korea (disambiguation).
Korea
한국 (S. Korean)
조선 (N. Korean)

Flag of Korea (1882-1910).svg
Flag
Capitals
and largest cities
South Korea Seoul (largest overall)
North Korea Pyongyang
Language(s) Korean
Demonym Korean
Sovereign states  North Korea
 South Korea
Leaders
 •  President of the ROK Park Geun-hye
 •  Supreme Leader of the DPRK Kim Jong-un
Area
 •  Total 219,155 km2[1][2]
84,610 sq mi
 •  Water (%) 2.8
Population
 •  2015 estimate 76,497,881
 •  Density 328.49/km2
850.7/sq mi
Currency North Korean won ()
South Korean won ()
Time zone KST (UTC+9 (South Korea))
PYT (UTC+8:30 (North Korea)[3])
ISO 3166 code KR/KP

Korea is a historical state in Northeast Asia, since 1945 divided into two distinct sovereign states: North Korea (officially the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea") and South Korea (officially the "Republic of Korea"). Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by China to the northwest and Russia to the northeast. It is separated from Japan to the east by the Korea Strait and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Korea emerged as a singular political entity after centuries of conflict among the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which were unified as Later Silla to the south and Balhae to the north. Later Silla divided into three separate states during the Later Three Kingdoms period. Later Goguryeo (Goryeo), which had succeeded Goguryeo, defeated the two other states and united the Korean Peninsula. Around the same time, Balhae collapsed and its last remaining crown prince fled south to Goryeo, where he was accepted into the imperial family. Goryeo, whose name developed into the modern exonym "Korea", was a highly cultured state that created the world's first metal movable type in 1234.[4] The invasions by the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, however, greatly weakened the nation, which forced it into vassalage. After the Yuan dynasty's collapse, severe political strife followed, and Goryeo eventually fell to an uprising led by General Yi Seong-gye, who established Joseon in 1388.

The first 200 years of Joseon were marked by relative peace and saw the creation of the Korean alphabet by Sejong the Great in the 14th century and the increasing influence of Confucianism. During the later part of the dynasty, however, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the Western nickname of the "Hermit kingdom". By the late 19th century, the country became the object of imperial design by the Empire of Japan. Despite attempts at modernization by the Korean Empire, in 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan and remained a part of Imperial Japan until the end of World War II in August 1945.

In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea in the aftermath of World War II, leaving Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel, with the North under Soviet occupation and the South under U.S. occupation. These circumstances soon became the basis for the division of Korea by the two superpowers, exacerbated by their inability to agree on the terms of Korean independence. The Communist-inspired government in the North received backing from the Soviet Union in opposition to the pro-Western government in the South, leading to Korea's division into two political entities: North Korea (formally the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and South Korea (formally the Republic of Korea). This eventually led to the Korean War in 1950, which ended in a stalemate without a formalized peace treaty, a factor that contributes to the high tensions which continue to divide the peninsula.

History[edit]

Main article: History of Korea

Prehistory and Gojoseon[edit]

Main articles: Prehistoric Korea and Gojoseon

The Korean Academy claimed ancient hominid fossils originating from about 100,000 BC in the lava at a stone city site in Korea. Fluorescent and high-magnetic analyses indicate the volcanic fossils may be from as early as 300,000 BC.[5] The best preserved Korean pottery goes back to the paleolithic times around 10,000 BC and the Neolithic period begins around 6000 BC.

Early historical records of Han(한,韓), the ancestor of Korea was first mentioned in Shigyeong(시경), which was one of the Seven Chinese Classics: the Four Books and the Three Classics (사서삼경,四書三經), written in 1000 BC; In the story, Han(한후(韓侯), a King of Dongyi people(동이민족), also Joseon(朝鮮) Dynasty, had meeting with Zhou King (선왕,宣王) and negotiated border between the two nations. Later, Wangbu's(왐부) book, Jamburon (잠부론,潛夫論) written in Han(한) Dynasty(circa AD 100) described Han King's(한후,韓侯) descendants began using Han(한,韓) as their sir-name.

Gojoseon's[6] founding father Dangun, a descendant of Heaven, established the kingdom in 2333 BC The original capital may have been on the present-day Joyang(조양) and Yoseo and across vast area of Southern Manju. In 108 BC, Gojoseon and the Han Chinese war, defeated GoJoseon retreated. Han, China installed the Four commendries to occupied area. By 75 BC, three of those commanderies had fallen, but the Nakrang commendry(now, Yodong peninsula area) remained as a center of cultural and economic exchange with successive Chinese dynasties until 313, when it fell to Goguryeo's repatriation of old Joseon territory movement.

Proto–Three Kingdoms[edit]

The Proto–Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Multiple States Period, is the earlier part of what is commonly called the Three Kingdoms Period, following the fall of Gojoseon but before Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla fully developed into kingdoms.

This time period saw numerous states spring up from the former territories of Gojoseon, which encompassed northern Korea and southern Manchuria. With the fall of Gojoseon, southern Korea entered the Samhan period.

Located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, Samhan refers to the three confederacies of Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. Mahan was the largest and consisted of 54 states. Byeonhan and Jinhan both consisted of twelve states, bringing a total of 78 states within the Samhan. These three confederacies eventually developed into Baekje, Silla, and Gaya.

Three Kingdoms[edit]

The Three Kingdoms of Korea consisted of Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje. Silla and Baekje controlled the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, maintaining the former Samhan territories, while Goguryeo controlled the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria and the Liaodong Peninsula, uniting Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and other states in the former Gojoseon territories.[7]

Goguryeo was a powerful empire and one of the great powers in East Asia,[8][9] reaching its zenith in the 5th century when its territories expanded to encompass most of Manchuria to the north, parts of Inner Mongolia to the west,[10] parts of Russia to the east,[11] and the Seoul region to the south.[12] Gwanggaeto the Great and his son Jangsu subdued Baekje and Silla during their times, achieving a brief unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and becoming the most dominant power on the Korean Peninsula. In addition to contesting for control of the Korean Peninsula, Goguryeo had many military encounters with various Chinese dynasties, most notably the Goguryeo-Sui War. In 642, the powerful general Yeon Gaesomun led a coup and gained complete control over Goguryeo. In response, Emperor Tang Taizong of China invaded Goguryeo, but was defeated and retreated. After the death of Tang Taizong, his son Emperor Tang Gaozong allied with the Korean kingdom of Silla and invaded Goguryeo again, but was unable to overcome Goguryeo's stalwart defenses.[13] However, Yeon Gaesomun died of a natural cause in 666 and Goguryeo was thrown into chaos and weakened by a succession struggle between his brother and sons, with one of his sons defecting to Tang and another son defecting to Silla.[14][15] The Tang-Silla alliance finally conquered Goguryeo in 668. After the collapse of Goguryeo, Tang and Silla ended their alliance and fought over control of the Korean Peninsula. Silla succeeded in gaining control over most of the Korean Peninsula, while Tang gained control over Goguryeo's northern territories. However, 30 years after the fall of Goguryeo, a Goguryeo general by the name of Dae Joyeong founded the Korean-Mohe state of Balhae and successfully expelled the Tang presence from much of the former Goguryeo territories.

Founded around modern-day Seoul by a Goguryeo prince, a son of the founder of Goguryeo,[16][17][18] the southwestern Korean kingdom of Baekje expanded far beyond Pyongyang during the peak of its powers in the 4th century under the rule of Geunchogo. Baekje absorbed all of the Mahan states and subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the modern provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, and Jeolla, as well as parts of Hwanghae and Gangwon) to a centralised government. Baekje acquired Chinese culture and technology through contacts with the Southern Dynasties during the expansion of its territory. Historic evidence suggests that Japanese culture, art, and language were influenced by the kingdom of Baekje and Korea itself.[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][27][28]

Although later records claim that Silla was the oldest of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, it is now believed to have been the last kingdom to develop. By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a large state in the southeast, occupying and influencing its neighboring city-states. In 562, Silla annexed the Gaya confederacy which was located between Baekje and Silla. The Three Kingdoms of Korea often warred with each other and Silla was often dominated by Baekje and Goguryeo, but occasionally Silla allied with one of the kingdoms in order to weaken the other kingdom in order to gain influence and territory in the Korean peninsula. In 660, King Muyeol ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, conquered Baekje after defeating General Gyebaek at the Battle of Hwangsanbeol. In 661, Silla and Tang attacked Goguryeo but were repelled. King Munmu, son of Muyeol and nephew of General Kim Yu-shin launched another campaign in 667 and Goguryeo fell in the following year.

North-South States Period[edit]

See also: Later Silla and Balhae

Beginning in the 6th century, Silla's power gradually extended across the Korean Peninsula. Silla first annexed the adjacent Gaya confederacy in 562. By the 660s, Silla formed an alliance with the Tang Dynasty of China to conquer Baekje and later Goguryeo. After conquering Baekje and Goguryeo, Silla repulsed Tang China from the Korean peninsula in 676. Even though Silla unified most of the Korean Peninsula, most of the Goguryeo territories to the north of the Korean Peninsula were ruled by Balhae. Former Goguryeo general Dae Joyeong led a group of Goguryeo refugees to the Jilin area in Manchuria and founded Balhae, 30 years after the collapse of Goguryeo, as the successor to Goguryeo. At its height, Balhae's territories extended from northern Manchuria down to the northern provinces of modern-day Korea.

Later Silla carried on the maritime prowess of Baekje, which acted like the Phoenicia of medieval East Asia,[29] and during the 8th and 9th centuries dominated the seas of East Asia and the trade between China, Korea and Japan, most notably during the time of Jang Bogo; in addition, Silla people made overseas communities in China on the Shandong Peninsula and the mouth of the Yangtze River.[30][31][32][33]

Later Silla fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to the tumultuous Later Three Kingdoms period (892–935), and Balhae was destroyed by the Khitans in 926. Goryeo (also known as Later Goguryeo) unified the Later Three Kingdoms and received the last crown prince of Balhae, thus bringing about a unification of the two successor nations of Goguryeo.[34]

Goryeo dynasty[edit]

Main article: Goryeo

Goryeo was founded in 918 and replaced Silla as the ruling dynasty of Korea. Goryeo's land was at first what is now South Korea and about 1/3 of North Korea, but later on managed to recover most of the Korean peninsula. Momentarily, Goryeo advanced to parts of Jiandao while conquering the Jurchens, but returned the territories due to the harsh climate and difficulties in defending them. The name "Goryeo" (高麗) is a short form of "Goguryeo" (高句麗) and was first used during the time of King Jangsu. Goryeo claimed to be the successor of Goguryeo, hence its name and efforts to recover the former territories of Goguryeo. Wang Geon, the founder of Goryeo, was of Goguryeo descent and made Kaesong, his hometown, the capital.[35][36]

During this period laws were codified, and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished and spread throughout the peninsula. The development of celadon industries flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The publication of the Tripitaka Koreana onto more than 80,000 wooden blocks and the invention of the world's first movable-metal-type printing press in the 13th century attest to Goryeo's cultural achievements.

Goryeo had to defend frequently against attacks by northern tribes, especially the Khitans and the Mongols. Goryeo had a hostile relationship with the Khitans, because the Khitan empire destroyed Balhae, also a successor state of Goguryeo. The last crown prince of Balhae escaped to Goryeo with 10,000 people where he was included in the imperial family of Wang Geon, achieving a national unification between the two successor nations of Goguryeo.[34] The Khitans initially tried to make good relations, sending 50 camels as a gift, but King Taejo of Goryeo tied the camels under a bridge, where they starved to death. Goryeo made an alliance with the Song dynasty of China and Jeongan, the successor state of Balhae, and made efforts to advance into northern lands. In response, the Khitans conquered Jeongan in 986, after two failures in 975 and 985. In 993, the Khitans, whom had established the Liao dynasty in 907, invaded Goryeo with 800,000 troops, demanding that Goryeo make amity with them. Goryeo sent the diplomat Seo Hui to negotiate, who persuaded the Khitan leader to let Goryeo expand to the banks of the Amnok River. The Khitan empire invaded Goryeo twice more in 1009 and 1018, but was repulsed by Goryeo generals Yang Gyu and Gang Gam-chan during the Goryeo-Khitan Wars.

Goryeo was invaded by the Mongols from the 1230s until the 1270s. Exhausted after decades of fighting, Goryeo capitulated to the Mongols but the dynastic line continued to survive under the overlordship of the Mongol Yuan dynasty as a semi-autonomous vassal state and compulsory ally.

In the 1350s, King Gongmin was free at last to reform a Goryeo government when the Yuan dynasty began to crumble. Gongmin had various problems that needed to be dealt with, which included the removal of pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officials, the question of land holding, and quelling the growing animosity between the Buddhists and Confucian scholars. During this tumultuous period, Goryeo momentarily conquered Liaoyang in 1356, repulsed two large invasions by the Red Turbans in 1359 and 1360, and defeated the final attempt by the Yuan to dominate Goryeo when General Choe Yeong defeated a Mongol tumen in 1364. During the 1380s, Goryeo turned its attention to the Wokou threat and used naval artillery created by Choe Museon to annihilate hundreds of pirate ships.

Joseon dynasty[edit]

Main article: Joseon
The Gyeongbokgung Palace
Korean plated mail

In 1392, the general Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) with a largely bloodless coup. His new country was given the name Joseon (朝鲜) by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming dynasty of China. Yi Seong-gye was given rank of nobility "King of Joseon" (朝鲜国王) by the Chinese emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the nominal suzerain of Joseon, and his successors would be invest with rank king of Joseon, after which they would be the legal rulers of Korea.

King Taejo moved the capital to Hanseong (formerly Hanyang; modern-day Seoul) and built the Gyeongbokgung palace. In 1394 he adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the Buddhists. The prevailing philosophy was Neo-Confucianism.

Joseon experienced advances in science and culture. King Sejong the Great (1418–50) promulgated hangul, the Korean alphabet. The period saw various other cultural and technological advances as well as the dominance of neo-Confucianism over the entire peninsula. Slaves, nobi, are estimated to have accounted for about one third of the population of Joseon Korea.[37]

Between 1592 and 1598, the Japanese invaded Korea. Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea, but was completely defeated by a righteous army, Admiral Yi Sun-sin and assistance from Ming China. This war also saw the rise of the career of Sun-sin with the "turtle ship". Japanese warriors brought back to Japan, with Chinese assistance, an estimated 100,000–200,000 noses cut from Korean victims.[38] In the 1620s and 1630s Joseon suffered invasions by the Manchu.

After invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo led a new renaissance of the Joseon dynasty.

However, during the last years of the Joseon dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the name the "Hermit Kingdom", primarily for protection against Western imperialism before it was forced to open trade beginning an era leading into Japanese imperial rule.

Korean Empire[edit]

The earliest surviving depiction of the Korean flag was printed in a US Navy book Flags of Maritime Nations in July 1889.
Main article: Korean Empire
Further information: Gwangmu Reform

Beginning in 1871, Japan began to force Korea out of the China's traditional sphere of influence into its own. As a result of the Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), the Qing Dynasty had to give up such a position according to Article 1 of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, which was concluded between China and Japan in 1895. That same year, Empress Myeongseong was assassinated by Japanese agents.[39]

In 1897, the Joseon dynasty proclaimed the Korean Empire (1897–1910), and King Gojong became Emperor Gojong. This brief period saw the partially successful modernisation of the military, economy, real property laws, education system, and various industries, influenced by the political encroachment into Korea of Russia, Japan, France, and the United States.

In 1904, the Russo-Japanese War pushed the Russians out of the fight for Korea. In Manchuria on 26 October 1909, An Jung-geun assassinated the former Resident-General of Korea, Itō Hirobumi for his role in trying to force Korea into occupation.

Japanese rule[edit]

The memorial tablet for the March 1st movement in Pagoda Park, Seoul

In 1910, an already militarily occupied Korea was a forced party to the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. The treaty was signed by Lee Wan-Yong, who was given the General Power of Attorney by the Emperor. However, the Emperor is said to have not actually ratified the treaty according to Yi Tae-jin.[40] There is a long dispute whether this treaty was legal or illegal due to its signing under duress, threat of force and bribes.

Korean resistance to the brutal Japanese occupation[41][42][43] was manifested in the nonviolent March 1st Movement of 1919, during which 7,000 demonstrators were killed by Japanese police and military.[44] The Korean liberation movement also spread to neighbouring Manchuria and Siberia.

Over five million Koreans were conscripted for labour beginning in 1939,[45] and tens of thousands of men were forced into Japan's military.[46] Nearly 400,000 Korean labourers died.[47] Approximately 200,000 girls and women,[48] mostly from China and Korea, were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military.[49] In 1993, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged the terrible injustices faced by these euphemistically named "comfort women".[50][51]

During the Japanese annexation, the Korean language was suppressed in an effort to eradicate Korean national identity. Koreans were forced to take Japanese surnames, known as Sōshi-kaimei.[52] Traditional Korean culture suffered heavy losses, as numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed[53] or taken to Japan.[54] To this day, valuable Korean artifacts can often be found in Japanese museums or among private collections.[55] One investigation by the South Korean government identified 75,311 cultural assets that were taken from Korea, 34,369 in Japan and 17,803 in the United States. However, experts estimate that over 100,000 artifacts actually remain in Japan.[54][56] Japanese officials considered returning Korean cultural properties, but to date[54] this has not occurred.[56] Korea and Japan still dispute the ownership of the Dokdo, islets located east of the Korean Peninsula.[57]

There was a significant level of emigration to the overseas territories of the Empire of Japan during the Japanese occupation period, including Korea.[58] By the end of World War II, there were over 850,000 Japanese settlers in Korea.[59] After World War II, most of these overseas Japanese repatriated to Japan.

Korean War[edit]

Main article: Korean War
Urban combat in Seoul, 1950, as US Marines fight North Koreans holding the city.

In 1945, with the surrender of Japan, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the Soviet Union administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the United States administering the south. The politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments, North Korea and South Korea.

In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South, using Soviet tanks and weaponry. During the Korean War (1950–53) more than one million people died and the three years of fighting throughout the nation effectively destroyed most cities.[60] The war ended in an Armistice Agreement at approximately the Military Demarcation Line.

Division[edit]

Flag of North Korea
Flag of South Korea

The aftermath of World War II left Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel, with the north under Soviet occupation and the south under US occupation supported by other allied states. Consequently, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a Soviet-style socialist republic, was established in the north while the Republic of Korea, a Western-style regime, was established in the South. The Korean War broke out when Soviet-backed North Korea invaded South Korea, though neither side gained much territory as a result. The Korean Peninsula remains divided, the Korean Demilitarized Zone being the de facto border between the two states.

Since the 1960s, the South Korean economy has grown enormously and the economic structure was radically transformed. In 1957, South Korea had a lower per capita GDP than Ghana,[61] and by 2008 it was 17 times as high as Ghana's.[a]

North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is a one-party state, now centred on Kim Il-sung's Juche ideology, with a centrally planned industrial economy. South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, is a multi-party state with a capitalist market economy, alongside membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Group of Twenty. The two states have greatly diverged both culturally and economically since their partition, though they still share a common traditional culture and pre-Cold War history.

According to R.J. Rummel, forced labor, executions, and concentration camps were responsible for over one million deaths in North Korea from 1948 to 1987;[63] others have estimated 400,000 deaths in concentration camps alone.[64] Estimates based on the most recent North Korean census suggest that 240,000 to 420,000 people died as a result of the 1990s famine and that there were 600,000 to 850,000 unnatural deaths in North Korea from 1993 to 2008.[65]

Geography[edit]

Main article: Geography of Korea
A neighborhood in North Gyeongsang Province
A view of Mount Seorak
Daedongyeojijeondo, a map of Korea
Jeju Island seashore

Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula in Northeast Asia. To the northwest, the Amnok River (Yalu River) separates Korea from China and to the northeast, the Duman River (Tumen River) separates Korea from China and Russia. The peninsula is surrounded by the Yellow Sea to the west, the East China Sea and Korea Strait to the south, and the Sea of Japan.[66] Notable islands include Jeju Island (Jejudo), Ulleung Island (Ulleungdo), and Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo).

The southern and western parts of the peninsula have well-developed plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous. The highest mountain in Korea is Mount Paektu or Paektusan (2,744 m), through which runs the border with China. The southern extension of Mount Paektu is a highland called Gaema Heights. 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 peninsula. This mountain range is named Baekdudaegan. Some significant mountains include Mount Sobaek or Sobaeksan (1,439 m), Mount Kumgang or Kumgangsan (1,638 m), Mount Seorak or Seoraksan (1,708 m), Mount Taebaek or Taebaeksan (1,567 m), and Mount Jiri or 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 basically northwest.

Unlike most ancient mountains on the mainland, many important islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the Cenozoic orogeny. Jeju Island, situated off the southern coast, is a large volcanic island whose main mountain Mount Halla or Hallasan (1950 m) is the highest in South Korea. Ulleung Island is a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan, whose composition is more felsic than Jeju-do. The volcanic islands tend to be younger, the more westward.

Because the mountainous region is mostly on the eastern part of the peninsula, the main rivers tend to flow westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing Nakdong River (Nakdonggang) and Seomjin River (Seomjingang). Important rivers running westward include the Amnok River, the Chongchon River (Chongchongang), the Taedong River (Taedonggang), the Han River (Hangang), the Geum River (Geumgang), and the Yeongsan River (Yeongsangang). These rivers have vast flood plains and provide an ideal environment for wet-rice cultivation.

The southern and southwestern coastlines of Korea form a well-developed ria coastline, known as Dadohae-jin in Korean. Its convoluted 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 can get as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats have been developing on the south and west coastlines.

Wildlife[edit]

Main article: Wildlife of Korea

Animal life of Korea includes a considerable number of bird species and native freshwater fish. Native or endemic species of the Korean Peninsula include Korean hare, Korean water deer, Korean field mouse, Korean brown frog, Korean pine and Korean spruce. The Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with its forest and natural wetlands is a unique biodiversity spot, which harbours eighty two endangered species.

There are also approximately 3,034 species of vascular plants.

Demographics[edit]

The combined population of the Koreans is about 75 million (North Korea: 25 million, South Korea: 50 million). Korea is chiefly populated by a highly homogeneous ethnic group, the Koreans, who speak the Korean language.[67] The number of foreigners living in Korea has also steadily increased since the late 20th century, particularly in South Korea, where more than 1 million foreigners reside.[68] It was estimated in 2006 that only 26,700 of the old Chinese community now remain in South Korea.[69] However, in recent years, immigration from mainland China has increased; 624,994 persons of Chinese nationality have immigrated to South Korea, including 443,566 of ethnic Korean descent.[70] Small communities of ethnic Chinese and Japanese are also found in North Korea.[71]

Language[edit]

Hunminjeongeum, afterwards called Hangul.

Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea, and (along with Mandarin) of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Manchuria area of China. Worldwide, there are up to 80 million speakers of the Korean language. South Korea has around 50 million speakers while North Korea around 25 million. Other large groups of Korean speakers through Korean diaspora are found in China, the United States, Japan, former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

The classification of Korean is debated. Some linguists place it in the Altaic language family; others consider it to be a language isolate. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax. Like Japanese and Vietnamese, Korean has borrowed much vocabulary from the Chinese or created vocabulary on Chinese models.

Modern Korean is written almost exclusively in the script of the Korean alphabet (known as Hangul in South Korea and Chosungul in China and North Korea), which was invented in the 15th century. While Hangul may appear logographic, it is actually a phonemic alphabet organised into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least two of the 24 hangul letters (jamo): at least one each of the 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Historically, the alphabet had several additional letters (see obsolete jamo). For a phonological description of the letters, see Korean phonology.

Etymology[edit]

Main article: Names of Korea

"Korea" is the modern spelling of Corea, a name attested in English as early as 1614.[72] It is an exonym derived from Cauli, Marco Polo's transcription[73] of the Chinese 高麗 (simp.高丽, MCKawlej,[74] mod.Gāolì). This was the Hanja for the Korean kingdom of Goryeo or Koryŏ (고려; 918–1392), which ruled most of the peninsula during the time of his travels. (Scholars who discount the historicity of Polo's account instead derive it via Persian variations of the same Chinese name.[75]) Goryeo's name was an homage to the earlier Goguryeo or Koguryo (고구려; 37 BCAD 668), the northernmost of the Samguk (the Three Kingdoms of Korea), which was officially known by the shortened form Goryeo after the 5th-century reign of King Jangsu. The original name was a combination of the adjective go ("high, lofty") with the name of a local Yemaek tribe, whose original name is thought to have been either *Guru (溝樓, "walled city," inferred from some toponyms in Chinese historical documents) or *Gauri (가우리, "center"). With expanding British and American trade following the opening of Korea in the late 19th century, the spelling "Korea" appeared and gradually grew in popularity;[72] its use in transcribing East Asian languages avoids the issues caused by the separate hard and soft Cs existing in English vocabulary derived from the Romance languages. The name Korea is now commonly used in English contexts by both North and South Korea.

In South Korea, Korea as a whole is referred to as Hanguk (한국, [haːnɡuk], lit. "country of the Han"). The name references the SamhanMa, Jin, and Byeon—who preceded the Three Kingdoms in the southern and central end of the peninsula during the 1st centuries BC and AD. Although written in Hanja as , , or , this Han has no relation to the Chinese place names or peoples who used those characters but was a phonetic transcription (OC: *Gar, MCHan[74] or Gan) of a native Korean word that seems to have had the meaning "big" or "great", particularly in reference to leaders. It has been tentatively linked with the title khan used by the nomads of Manchuria and Central Asia.

In North Korea, Korea as a whole is referred to as Chosŏn (조선, Joseon, [tɕosʰʌn], lit. "[land of the] Morning Calm"). "Great Joseon" was the name of the kingdom ruled by the Joseon dynasty from 1393 until their declaration of the short-lived Great Korean Empire in 1897. King Taejo had named them for the earlier Kojoseon (고조선), who ruled northern Korea from its legendary prehistory until their conquest in 108 BC by China's Han Empire. This go is the Hanja and simply means "ancient" or "old"; it is a modern usage to distinguish the ancient Joseon from the later dynasty. Joseon itself is the modern Korean pronunciation of the Hanja 朝鮮 but it is unclear whether this was a transcription of a native Korean name (OC*T[r]awser, MCTrjewsjen[74]) or a partial translation into Chinese of the Korean capital Asadal (아사달), [76] whose meaning has been reconstructed as "Morning Land" or "Mountain".

Culture and arts[edit]

Korean Buddhist architecture
Traditional Korean dance (Jinju geommu)

In ancient Chinese texts, Korea is referred to as "Rivers and Mountains Embroidered on Silk" (금수강산, ) and "Eastern Nation of Decorum" (동방예의지국, ).[77] Individuals are regarded as one year old when they are born, as Koreans reckon the pregnancy period as one year of life for infants, and age increments increase on New Year's Day rather than on the anniversary of birthdays. Thus, one born immediately before New Year's Day may only be a few days old in western reckoning, but two years old in Korea. Accordingly, a Korean person's stated age (at least among fellow Koreans) will be one or two years more than their age according to western reckoning. However, western reckoning is sometimes applied with regard to the concept of legal age; for example, the legal age for purchasing alcohol or cigarettes in the Republic of Korea is 19, which is measured according to western reckoning.

Literature[edit]

Main article: Korean literature

Korean literature written before the end of the Joseon Dynasty is called "Classical" or "Traditional." Literature, written in Chinese characters (hanja), was established at the same time as the Chinese script arrived on the peninsula. Korean scholars were writing poetry in the classical Korean style as early as the 2nd century BC, reflecting Korean thoughts and experiences of that time. Classical Korean literature has its roots in traditional folk beliefs and folk tales of the peninsula, strongly influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

Modern literature is often linked with the development of hangul, which helped spread literacy from the aristocracy to the common men and women. Hangul, however, only reached a dominant position in Korean literature in the second half of the 19th century, resulting in a major growth in Korean literature. Sinsoseol, for instance, are novels written in hangul.

The Korean War led to the development of literature centered on the wounds and chaos of war. Much of the post-war literature in South Korea deals with the daily lives of ordinary people, and their struggles with national pain. The collapse of the traditional Korean value system is another common theme of the time.

Music[edit]

Main article: Music of Korea

Traditional Korean music includes combinations of the folk, vocal, religious and ritual music styles of the Korean people. Korean music has been practiced since prehistoric times.[78] Korean music falls into two broad categories. The first, Hyangak, literally means The local music or Music native to Korea of which example is Sujecheon, a piece of instrumental music as old as 1,300 years.[79] The second, yangak, represent a more Western style.

Religion[edit]

Amitabha and Eight Great Bodhisattvas, Goryeo scroll from the 1300s

Confucian tradition has dominated Korean thought, along with contributions by Buddhism, Taoism, and Korean Shamanism. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, Christianity has competed with Buddhism in South Korea, while religious practice has been suppressed in North Korea. Throughout Korean history and culture, regardless of separation; the influence of traditional beliefs of Korean Shamanism, Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism have remained an underlying religion of the Korean people as well as a vital aspect of their culture; all these traditions have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years up to today despite strong Westernisation from Christian missionary conversions in the South[80][81][82] or the pressure from the Juche government in the North.[83][84]

According to 2005 statistics compiled by the South Korean government, about 46% of citizens profess to follow no particular religion. Christians account for 29.2% of the population (of which are Protestants 18.3% and Catholics 10.9%) and Buddhists 22.8%.[85]

Islam in South Korea is practiced by about 45,000 natives (about 0.09% of the population) in addition to some 100,000 foreign workers from Muslim countries.[86]

Cuisine[edit]

Main article: Korean cuisine
Tteokbokki, rice cakes with spicy gochujang sauce.

Koreans traditionally believe that the taste and quality of food depend on its spices and sauces, the essential ingredients to making a delicious meal. Therefore, soybean paste, soy sauce, gochujang or red pepper paste and kimchi are some of the most important staples in a Korean household.

Korean cuisine is probably best known for kimchi, a side dish which uses a distinctive fermentation process of preserving vegetables, most commonly cabbage. Kimchi is said to relieve the pores on the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles and providing nutrients to the skin naturally. It is also healthy, as it provides necessary vitamins and nutrients. Gochujang, a traditional Korean sauce made of red pepper is also commonly used, often as pepper (chilli) paste, earning the cuisine a reputation for spiciness.

Bulgogi (roasted marinated meat, usually beef), galbi (marinated grilled short ribs), and samgyeopsal (pork belly) are popular meat entrees. Fish is also a popular commodity, as it is the traditional meat that Koreans eat. Meals are usually accompanied by a soup or stew, such as galbitang (stewed ribs) and doenjang jjigae (fermented bean paste soup). The center of the table is filled with a shared collection of sidedishes called banchan.

Other popular dishes include bibimbap which literally means "mixed rice" (rice mixed with meat, vegetables, and red pepper paste) and naengmyeon (cold noodles).[87][88]

Instant noodles or ramyun are a popular snack food and Koreans also enjoy food from pojangmachas (street vendors), where customers can buy tteokbokki (rice cake and fish cake with a spicy gochujang sauce), gimbap made of steamed white rice wrapped in dried laver seaweed as well as fried squid and glazed sweet potato. Soondae, a sausage made of cellophane noodles and pork blood, is widely eaten. There is also an instant noodle called .

Additionally, some other common snacks include "Choco Pie", shrimp crackers, "bbungtigi" (fried rice cracker), and "nureongji" (slightly burnt rice). Nureongji can be eaten as it is or boiled with water to make a soup. Nureongji can also be eaten as a snack or a dessert.

Television[edit]

Korean television dramas ("K-dramas") have become popular in many countries, and as a result outdoor locations featured in K-dramas have become popular stops for international tourists. Product placements in the dramas have proven effective in advertising; for example, sales of cosmetics, clothing and food favored by the female lead played by actress Jun Ji Hyun in the drama "You who came from a star" (aka My love from the Stars) rose significantly after the relevant episodes aired. In one notorious case it was reported that a woman in China became ill after consuming nothing but fried chicken and beer – the character's favorite snack – for several days.

Education[edit]

The modern South Korean school system consists of six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and three years in high school. Students are required to go to elementary and middle school, and do not have to pay for their education, except for a small fee called a "School Operation Support Fee" that differs from school to school. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, ranks South Korea's science education as the third best in the world and being significantly higher than the OECD average.[89]

South Korea ranks second on math and literature and first in problem solving[citation needed]. Although South Korean students often rank high on international comparative assessments, the education system is criticised for emphasising too much upon passive learning and memorization. The South Korean education system is rather notably strict and structured as compared to its counterparts in most Western societies. Also, the prevalence of non-school for-profit private institutes such as academies or cram schools (Hagwon [학원]), which too emphasise passive memorisation, as opposed to conceptual understanding, in students are criticised as a major social problem. After students enter university, however, the situation is markedly reversed[citation needed] In Korea, university is hard to enter, and graduation is comparatively easier than entry.

The North Korean education system consists primarily of universal and state funded schooling by the government. The national literacy rate for citizens 15 years of age and above is over 99 percent.[90][91] Children go through one year of kindergarten, four years of primary education, six years of secondary education, and then on to universities. The most prestigious university in the DPRK is Kim Il-sung University. Other notable universities include Kim Chaek University of Technology, which focuses on computer science, Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, which trains working level diplomats and trade officials, and Kim Hyong Jik University, which trains teachers.

Outside the formal structure of schools and classrooms in the north is the extremely important "social education". This education includes not only extracurricular activities but also family life and the broadest range of human relationships within society. There is great sensitivity to the influence of the social environment on the growing child and its role in the development of his or her character. The ideal of social education is to provide a carefully controlled environment in which children are exposed only to pro-Juche and anti-south influences. According to a North Korean official interviewed in 1990, 'School education is not enough to turn the rising generation into men of knowledge, virtue, and physical fitness. After school, our children have many spare hours. So it's important to efficiently organise their afterschool education'.

Science and technology[edit]

Jikji, Selected Teachings of Buddhist Sages and Seon Masters, the earliest known book printed with movable metal type, 1377. Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris.

One of the best known artifacts of Korea's history of science and technology is the Cheomseongdae (첨성대, ), a 9.4-meter high observatory built in 634.

The earliest known surviving Korean example of woodblock printing is the Mugujeonggwang Great Dharani Sutra.[92] It is believed to have been printed in Korea in 750–51 AD which, if correct, would make it older than the Diamond Sutra. Goryeo silk was highly regarded by Westerners and Korean pottery made with blue-green celadon was of the highest quality and sought after by even Arabian merchants. Goryeo had a bustling economy with a capital that was frequented by merchants from all over the known world.

During the Joseon period the Geobukseon (Turtle Ship) was invented, which were covered by a wooden deck and iron with thorns,[93][94][95] as well as other weapons such as the bigyeokjincheolloe cannon (비격진천뢰, ) and the hwacha.

The Korean alphabet hangul was also invented during this time by King Sejong the Great.

Sport[edit]

While association football remains one of the most popular sports in Korea, the martial art of taekwondo is still considered to be the national traditional sport. Baseball is also popular.

Taekwondo[edit]

Main article: Taekwondo

Taekwondo is the national sport of Korea and one of the country's most famous sports. It combines combat techniques, self-defense, sport, exercise and in some cases meditation and philosophy. Taekwondo has become an official Olympic sport, starting as a demonstration event in 1988 (when South Korea hosted the Games in Seoul) and becoming an official medal event in 2000.

Hapkido[edit]

Main article: Hapkido

Hapkido is a Korean martial art with a grappling focus that employs joint locks, throws, kicks, punches and other striking attacks like attacks against pressure points. Hapkido emphasizes circular motion, non-resisting movements and control of the opponent. Practitioners seek to gain advantage through footwork and body positioning to employ leverage, avoiding the pure use of strength against strength.

Ssireum[edit]

Main article: Ssireum

Ssireum is a form of wrestling that has been practiced in Korea for thousands of years, with evidence discovered from Korea's Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC to 688). Ssireum is the traditional national sport of Korea. During a match, opponents grip each other by sash belts wrapped around the waist and the thigh, attempting to throw their competitor to the sandy ground of the ring. The first opponent to touch the ground with any body part above the knee or to lose hold of their opponent loses the round.

Ssireum competitions are traditionally held twice a year, during the Tano Festival (the 5th day of the fifth lunar month) and Chuseok (the 15th day of the 8th lunar month). Competitions are also held throughout the year as a part of festivals and other events.

National Holidays[edit]

Samiljeol [삼일절] (Independence Movement Day) March 1st[edit]

Samiljeol, Independence Movement Day, commemorates Korea's declaration of independence from Japanese occupation on March 1, 1919. The name is derived from Korean 삼 "sam" 'three', 일 "il" 'one,' and 절 "jeol" 'day', the date of the uprising in 1919. Korea was annexed to the Empire of Japan on August 29, 1910 following the imposed Japan-Korea Treaty. On March 1, 1919, Korean presented their resistance towards Japan and Japanese occupation with a declaration of independence. Following the conclusion of World War II, Korea was liberated from Japan and its independence restored. The newly established Korean government set aside March 1 as a national holiday to commemorate the sacrifices born in the long struggle for Korean independence.

Hyunchoongil [현충일] (Memorial day) June 6th[edit]

Hyunchoongil is the national holiday in Korea commemorating those who fought and died for the nation. In August 1948, only a few years after Korea achieved its independence from Japan, the Korean War, in Korea also known as the 6.25 war, broke out between North and South Korea. During this war, approximately 400,000 soldiers and some one million citizens were killed or injured. In 1953, North and South Korea agreed to a cease-fire, and three years later the Korean government established Hyungchoogil to commemorate the soldiers who fought in the Korean War. Subsequent to its establishment, Hyungchoogil was reinterpreted as a day of remembrance for those who died defending Korea in all conflicts, not only during the Korean War.

Gwangbokjeol [광복절] (National Liberation Day) August 15th[edit]

Gwangbokjeol is the day for celebrating liberation of the country from Japan in 1945 as well as celebrating the establishment of Korean government in 1948. Gwanbok means "returned light" representing gaining national sovereignty from Japan. It was first declared to be national holiday in 1949 October 1. On this date every year, the president of Korea visits Independence Hall, and invites diplomatic envoys from many countries and all social standings in countries to Cheongwadae (the Blue House, the Korean presidential residence).

Hangulnal [한글날] (Hangul Proclamation Day) October 9th[edit]

Hangulnal is the day to celebrate the creation of Hunminjeongeum (Hangul, Korean letter), which is now registered in UNESCO Memory of the World, and praise its superiority. Hangul was created by King Sejong in 1446 October 9. At that time Korea (Chosun) was borrowing Chinese characters for written documents even two countries spoke completely different language. Since Korea only wrote Chinese characters that simply sounded like Koreans, it was very difficult for lower class to read Chinese since lower class did not have chance to learn Chinese characters. Knowing this problem King Sejong created unique characters that can be used to lower classes, which was Hangul. Hangulnal was first founded during Japanese colonization to evoke how great Hangul was; at that time Japan tried to rid of Korean words and taught young students Japanese to colonize not only the property but also culture itself. After Korea was liberated, the government had Hangulnal as the important date to remember and finally in 2006, it became national holiday.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ $26,341 GDP for Korea, $1513 for Ghana.[62]

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Sources

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • Oberdorfer, Don (2001). The Two Koreas: a Contemporary History. Basic Books. ISBN 0465051626. OCLC 47831650. 
  • Focus On Asian Studies. Special Issue: "Korea: A Teacher's Guide". No. 1, Fall 1986.
  • Shin, Gi-Wook (1999), Robinson, Michael, ed., Colonial modernity in Korea, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, Asia Center, ISBN 0-674-14255-1 .
  • Hart, Dennis. From Tradition to Consumption: Construction of a Capitalist Culture in South Korea. Seoul: Jimoondang, 2003.
  • Jager, Sheila Miyoshi (2013). Brothers at War – The Unending Conflict in Korea. London: Profile Books. ISBN 978-1-84668-067-0. 
  • Joe, W.J. & Choe, H.A. Traditional Korea: A Cultural History, Seoul: Hollym, 1997.
  • Joungwon, A.K. Divided Korea: The Politics of Development, Harvard University Press, 1975.
  • 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.
  • Pratt, Keith L (2006). Everlasting Flower: A History of Korea. London: Reaktion. ISBN 9781861892737. OCLC 63137295. 
  • Tae-Jin, Y. "The Illegality of the Forced Treaties Leading to Japan's Annexation of the Great Han Empire", In the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, Vol. 36, No. 4, 1996.
  • The Gloucestershire Regiment and The Battle of the Imjin River, Korean War, UK: Glosters .
  • "How Does Korea Compare", OECD Health Data (PDF) (briefing note), Organisation For Economic Co-operation and Development, 2009 .

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°19′N 127°14′E / 38.317°N 127.233°E / 38.317; 127.233