List of Korean inventions and discoveries

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A page from the Hunmin Jeong-eum Eonhae. The Hangul-only column, fourth from left, (나랏말ᄊᆞ미), has pitch-accent diacritics to the left of the syllable blocks.

This is a list of Korean inventions and discoveries.


  • Early Soybean Cultivation: The cultivation and domestication of Korean soybean dates back to 4,000 years ago in Manchuria and Korean peninsula.[1] Early Chinese records mention that soybeans were a gift from the region encompassing Manchuria and Korea. Korean soybeans dating to 3000 BP are the oldest yet discovered.[2][3] The oldest preserved soybeans resembling modern varieties in size and shape were found in archaeological sites in Korea dated about 1000 BCE[4] Radiocarbon dating of soybean samples recovered through flotation during excavations at the Early Mumun period Okbang site in Korea indicated soybean was cultivated as a food crop in around 1000–900 BCE.[4]
  • Underfloor heating: Until recently, Koreans were thought to have invented under-floor heating, a system they call "ondol".[5] It was first thought to have been invented by the people of the Northern Okjeo around 2,500 years ago. However, the recent discovery of a c. 3,000-year-old equivalent indoor heating system in Alaska has called current explanation into question.[5] The absence of prehistoric and/or ancient ondol features in the area between the two archaeological sites makes it unlikely that the two systems might have come from the same source.[5][6][7] Inspired by Korean ondol-hydronic radiant floor heating system, an American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, later introduced and developed the first "radiant heating system" using hot-water pipes.[8][9]
  • Star Chart: The earliest known constellation in Korea found were from dolmens during Gojoseon period around 3000 B.C.[10] Cheonsang Yeolcha Bunyajido, is a planispheric star map inscribed on a black marble that was completed in 1395 during the reign of Taejo of Joseon. Based on the inscription, it was originally based on Goguryeo (37 BCE - 668 CE) constellation chart that was lost in a war. It is known as the world’s second oldest star map engraved in stone, after China’s Suzhou Star Chart of 1247. However, since the time period implied by the stellar positions on the map is from the first century AD, this makes it the oldest complete representation of the sky in the world.[11][12][13]
  • Movable type printing transitioned from ceramic type to metal cast type in 1234 during the Goryeo Dynasty of Korea and is credited to Choe Yun-ui.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] A set of ritual books called the Sangjeong Gogeum Yemun was printed with the metal movable type in 1234.[21][22] Examples of this metal type are on display in the Asian Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.[23] The oldest extant movable metal print book is the Jikji, printed in Korea in 1377.[24] In 1392, movable copper type was also invented in Korea.[25]
  • Kiln sauna: Hanjeungmak (한증막; 汗蒸幕) is Korean traditional sauna using burning wood of pine to heat a domelike kiln made of stones. The first mention of hanjeungmak is found in the "Sejong Sillok," in the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty in the 15th century.[26][27] Korean kiln saunas are still used today, especially in Korean saunas.[28]
  • Astronomical observatory: Cheomseongdae is the world’s oldest observatory,[29] that was built inside the royal palace grounds during the Silla dynasty around 632 AD, during the reign of Queen Seondeok (632-647). Modeled on an observatory in the kingdom of Paekche, which now exists only in historical records, Cheomseongdae’s design was later used as the basis for the observatory in Asuka, Japan in 675 AD, and Duke Zhou’s observatory in China in 723 AD.[30]
  • Active Greenhouse: this type of greenhouses, in which it is possible for the temperature to be increased or decreased manually, appeared in the 15th century Korea. Sanga yorok written in the year 1450 AD in Korea, contained descriptions of a greenhouse, which was designed to regulate the temperature and humidity requirements of plants and crops. One of the earliest records of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty in 1438 confirms growing mandarin trees in a Korean traditional greenhouse during the winter and installing a heating system of Ondol.[31]
  • Multiple rocket launcher: Hwacha is a Multiple rocket launcher which was a platform device on wheels that used gunpowder to fire fire arrows, a predecessor of the modern MLRS.[32][33]
Encyclopedia in Hangul
  • Refrigeration: Seokbinggo is an ancient subterranean chamber for ice and stored food, was an early refrigeration system that dates back to Silla kingdom (57 BC – 935 AD).[34]
  • Water Gauge: Jang Yeong-sil, a Joseon scientist and astronomer invented the world's first water gauge, called Supyo (수표/水標) in 1441. It was a calibrated stone column placed in the middle of a body of water, connected by a stone bridge.[35]
  • Pluviometer: Cheugugi, the first standardized pluviometer (rain gauge), was invented during the reign of King Sejong the Great in the Joseon Dynasty of Korea.[36][37][38][39][40] It was used throughout the country for official purposes. In the 15th century, Korea was the only country to use a quantitative measuring device for the purpose of meteorological observation.[40]
  • Horology: In 1433, Jang Yeong-sil invented an automatic time-annunciating water-clock called the Striking Palace Clepsydra or (Jagyeok-gungnu, 自擊宮漏) under the order from King Sejong the Great. The uniqueness of the clock was its capability to announce dual-time automatically with visual and audible signals. The signal conversion system developed by Jang made it possible to measure analog time and announce digital time simultaneously as well as to separate the water mechanisms from the ball-operated striking mechanisms.[41] The conversion device was called pangmok, and was placed above the inflow vessel that measured the time, the first device of its kind in the world.[11] Hence, it is considered to be the first hydro-mechanically engineered dual-time clock in the history of Horology.[42][43]
  • Featural alphabet: Hangul is the world's first featural alphabet, wherein the shapes of the letters are not arbitrary, but encode phonological features of the phonemes they represent.[44] It is unique among the world's writing systems, in that it combines aspects of featural, phonemic and syllabic representation.[45]
  • Phonetic writing systems: Predating the creation of Hangul by hundreds of years, Koreans created various phonetic writing systems that were used in conjunction with Hanja, including: idu, hyangchal, gugyeol, and gakpil.[46][47][48][49] Some of them may have influenced the development of kana in Japan.[48][50][51]
  • Musical notation system: Jeongganbo is a unique traditional musical notation system created during the time of Sejong the Great that was the first East Asian system to represent rhythm, pitch, and time.[52][53]
  • Armored warship: Turtle ships, also known as geobukseon, were large armored warships built during the Joseon dynasty from the early 15th century up until the 19th century.[54] Yi Sun-sin used them against the Japanese in the Imjin War, which occurred during the last decade of the 16th century.
  • Time bomb: The first time bomb called Pigyok Chinchollae (비격진천뢰;飛擊震天雷) was developed during the Imjin War (1592-1598) by a technician, Yi Chang-son (이장손;李長孫).[55][56] It was used to project into enemy camps and formations by mortar. (대완구) [57]
  • Naval artillery: One of the world's first naval guns were used by the Koreans to counter Japanese piracy during the Goryeo Dynasty in the 1370s.[58]
  • Myeonje Baegab: A soft bullet-proof vest invented by Kim Gi-du and Gang Yun in the late 1860s in the Joseon Dynasty.[59]
  • Inlay Technique: The invention of inlay technique (sanggam) in ceramics, particularly Goryeo celadon in mid-12th century.[60][61]
  • Hexagonal tortoise problem was invented by Joseon mathematician Choi Seokjeong (최석정,1646–1715), it is a mathematical problem that involves a hexagonal lattice, like the hexagonal pattern on some tortoises' shells and is similar to geometric magic square. Choi Seokjeong also said to devised the first orthogonal Latin square predating Leonhard Euler's work.[62][63]
  • Musket: A type of Jochong (matchlock musket) called Cheonbochong (천보총;千步銃) or "thousand-pace gun" was invented during reign of Sukjong of Joseon (1674-1720) by Park Yeong-jun (박영준;朴永準). It is said to have a maximum range of 1800m with an effective range of 900m as most matchlock muskets at that time did not exceed more than 180m. Unlike other Jochong muskets, it has an extremely long barrel with an accurate range. Its usage is thought to be similar to the Afghanistan Jezail or American Kentucky Rifle.[64]
  • Korean fortress: Koreans developed a unique and distinct fortress tradition.[65] There are numerous types of Korean fortresses, including sanseong (mountain fortress), eupseong (city fortress), pyeongjiseong, gwanseong, jangseong, chaekseong, and more.[66] Korean fortresses were based on a stone culture and built using stones, and often incorporated natural mountainous terrain, and therefore were conceptually completely different compared to Chinese fortresses, which were based on an earth culture and built using bricks from earth.[67][68] Korean fortresses were invented by Goguryeo and spread to Baekje and Silla,[69] and then inherited and further developed by Goryeo and then Joseon.[68] Goguryeo fortress ruins have been found in about 170 sites to date, including in China;[70] one of the most notable among them is Anshi Fortress, which successfully defended against Tang Taizong during the Goguryeo-Tang War.[71][72] Korea, especially Goguryeo,[66][70][73] has often been called the "country of (mountain) fortresses";[65][68][74][75] almost 2,400 mountain fortress sites have been found in Korea.[65][68] Korean-style fortresses can also be found in Japan, which were constructed and supervised by immigrants of Baekje origin.[68]
  • Korean pagoda: Koreans created a unique and distinct pagoda tradition using stone.[76][77][78] Pagodas were created in India using earth, then in China using wood, which spread to the Three Kingdoms of Korea, and then Japan; however, the pagoda tradition of East Asia diverged, with China creating pagodas using bricks, Korea creating pagodas using stone, and Japan continuing to use wood.[79][80][81][82][83] Korean stone pagodas were first created in Baekje during the early 7th century and then inherited by Later Silla; 90% of the pagodas in Later Silla were made of stone.[79] The stone pagoda tradition was propagated by the great abundance of high quality granite in Korea,[84] which also led to other granite creations such as the Seokguram and Cheomseongdae. Goryeo, a devoutly Buddhist state, also inherited the stone pagoda tradition.[85] Examples of Korean stone pagodas are: Mireuksa of Baekje; Dabotap and the Seven-storied stone pagoda in Tappyeong-ri of Later Silla; Gyeongcheonsa Pagoda of Goryeo; and Wongaksa Pagoda of Joseon. Examples of Korean wood pagodas are: Hwangnyongsa and Palsangjeon of Silla.

Modern science and technology[edit]


Information technology[edit]

  • Contactless smart transport card: Seoul has the world's longest experience of using contactless transport cards.[127] The Korean system integrator Intec and Seoul Bus Union first launched a test of their system in a trial from October to December 1995.[128] The first contactless e-Ticketing systems went live in 1996 in Seoul and 1997 in Hongkong.[129]
  • Coloring Ring back tone: A South Korean wireless services provider, invented this type of ringback tones for cellphone networks.[130] CRBT (Coloring Ring back tones) are pieces of music and audio clips that callers hear instead of normal ringing tone when they dial a specific number. The original service first premiered by South Korean operator SK Telecom in April 2002.[130][131][132]
  • WiBro: An abbreviation of wireless broadband, refers to the Mobile WiMAX system developed and deployed in Korea.[133]
  • Digital Multimedia Broadcasting: The technology was developed in South Korea.[134]
  • Digital Mobile TV: By developing Digital Multimedia Broadcasting, Korea became the first nation in the world to introduce mobile television.[135] In 1999, Samsung introduced the SCH-M220, the world's first TV phone.[136]
  • Virtual Store: A Korean supermarket chain, Home Plus has developed a "virtual" store by Homeplus CEO Lee Seung-han, who originally had the idea in 2008. It allows consumers to do their shopping with smartphones from the subway station with the Homeplus App and get the items delivered to their doorsteps. It opened at Seolleung subway station in Seoul, Korea.[137]
  • LTE service: The world's first commercial LTE device, developed by Samsung, was provided for the world's first LTE service in Stockholm.[138] The South Korean company is providing the LTE infrastructure on the MetroPCS, North America’s first operator offering 4G LTE services.[109]

Natural science[edit]

Simulation result for formation of inversion channel (electron density) and attainment of threshold voltage (IV) in a nanowire MOSFET

Biomedical science[edit]

Structural diagram of gemifloxacin

Social science[edit]

  • Blue Ocean Strategy denote all the industries not in existence today—the unknown market space, untainted by competition. The term was coined by W. Chan Kim. However, the book was published in English, by a U.S. publisher and researched and written at INSEAD, a non-Korean college.
  • Ubiquitous City or U-City, is a 21st-century futurist city which enables urban functions and services such administration, traffic, crime prevention, fire prevention and home-networking of residential places, fusing high-tech infrastructure and ubiquitous information available into the urban area.[188][189]


Entertainment technology[edit]

  • ScreenX: the world’s first multi-projection system that allows theater-goers to go beyond the frame of the movie screen by extending the images onto the theater walls, created by South Korean conglomerate and multiplex cinema chain CJ CGV in 2012.[197] The technique provides a panoramic experience, but demands that film-makers take the two new 'screens' into account when shooting their movies.[198]
  • 4DX: the world's first and leading 4D Technology-based movie theatres, developed by South Korean company CJ 4DPLEX, a part of the CJ Group in 2009. 4DX allows a motion picture presentation to be augmented with environmental effects such as seat motion, wind, rain, fog, lights, and scents along with the standard video and audio.[199]




  • Electronic café: An archaic form of cybercafé called Electronic Café opened in front of Hongik University in March 1988 by Ahn Sang-Su and Keum Nuri in Seoul, South Korea. It had two 16bit computers connected to Online service networks through telephone lines. Online service users’ offline meetings were held in the Electronic Café, which served as a place that connected online and offline activities.[202]
  • LAN gaming center: PC Bang, otherwise called local area network-based gaming center, is a place where people can get access to high-speed Internet.[203] PC bangs rose to popularity following the release of the PC game StarCraft in 1998.[204] In 1997, there were only around 100 PC bangs in South Korea but by 2002 this number has increased rapidly to around 25,000.[205]
  • Question-and-answer site: Naver the number-one search portal in South Korea, pioneered a community-driven question-and-answer site called Knowledge Search in 2002.[206] The program allows users to ask about any questions, such as requests for recipes for kimchi or how to subscribe to international magazines through the internet.[207] Later in 2005, Yahoo! Answers launched a question-and-answer service, which was modeled from the Korean Naver's Knowledge Search.[208]
  • National intranet: North Korea's Kwangmyong (Bright Light) is generally considered the first national intranet, developed in 2000 as another alternative to state-controlled Internet services.
  • eSports: eSports in the field of online gaming started its first league in 1997 when Starcraft became popular in South Korea. In December 1997, PC Bang chains opened the first national online gaming league, known as Korea Pro-Gamers League. The term, " eSports" was first coined by Park Ji-won, minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism in February 2000 when he first inaugurated the Korean e-Sports Association.[209]


Main article: Culture of Korea
  • Yut is a traditional board game played in Korea, especially during Korean New Year. The game is also called cheok-sa or sa-hee. The suffix nori means "game".[210]
  • Polyhedral dice or Juryeonggu 주령구(酒令具) was first invented in Unified Silla period in the 7th century, it is a 14-sided wooden dice and was a popular drinking game among the nobility.[211]
  • Tujeon, a traditional card game played with long rectangular numbered cards decorated with animal motifs and characters on one side.[212]
  • Seunggyeongdo Nori, or "Government Career Ladder Climbing Game" (승경도놀이, 陞卿圖) or also known as Jongjeongdo (종정도, 從政圖), is a traditional board game that is played on a board with a list of all the bureaucratic posts ordered from lowest to highest rank. The objective is to reach the highest rank by the end of the game. It is attributed to Ha Ryun (1347-1416), a literati bureaucrat at the end of the Goryeo dynasty, who first created the game.[213] It is very similar to another traditional popular board game called Seongbuldo (성불도, 成佛圖), or literally "a drawing of becoming Buddha" that was played during Goryeo dynasty. The game itself became popular abroad in China during Ming and Qing dynasties.
  • Jangchigi, or "bat striking" (장치기놀이) is a traditional folk sport that is similar to field hockey, it was popular sport in Joseon dynasty and Goryeo dynasty among the general populace. It is similar to Gyeokgu, a traditional Korean polo sport, but without using horses.[214]


Musical instruments[edit]

  • Janggu is the most widely used drum used in the traditional music of Korea. It is available in most kinds, and consists of an hourglass-shaped body with two heads made from animal skin. The two heads produce sounds of different pitch and timbre, which when played together are believed to represent the harmony of man and woman.[216]
  • Gayageum is a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument, with 12 strings, although more recently variants have been constructed with 21 or other numbers of strings. It is probably the best known traditional Korean musical instrument.[217]
  • Sohaegeum, is North Korean four stringed fiddle based on traditional Haegum, a stringed instrument.
  • Junghaegeum, is a modernized small fiddle with four strings; used only in North Korea.
  • Daehaegeum, is a modernized middle fiddle with four strings; used only in North Korea.
  • Jeohaegeum, is a modernized large fiddle with four strings; used only in North Korea.
  • Oungum, is a pear-shaped lute with five strings similar to 5-stringed hyangbipa; used only in North Korea.
  • Cheolhyeongeum, is a Geomungo with 8 steel strings plucked with a bamboo stick and played with a slide made out of either glass or metal in the manner of a slide guitar, developed in early 20th century.
  • Ongnyugeum, is a large modernized box zither with 33 nylon-wrapped metal strings, developed in North Korea in 1973; pronounced ongryugeum in North Korea.
  • Jangsaenap, is a modernized Taepyeongso, only played in North Korea.[218]

Martial arts[edit]

Main article: Korean martial arts
  • Taekgyeon is believed that it originated with warriors from the Silla Dynasty (57 BCE–668 CE) who learned subak from the neighboring Goguryeo armies when they appealed for their help against invading Japanese pirates. Practicing subak became part of the training for Silla's hwarang, and this contributed to the spread of subak on the Korean peninsula. But again, it is not known exactly which techniques the hwarang practiced. Buddhist monks, who added more spiritual aspects to the art, often instructed the hwarang. Their greatest contribution to the development of Korean martial arts is probably adding a spiritual dimension to the training practices, something that Korean martial arts lacked before. Empty-handed combat appears to have played a small role; most of the emphasis was on armed combat. It has only been recently that empty-handed combat has gained more popularity than armed combat.[219]
  • Ssireum is a form of folk wrestling native to Korea. In the modern form each contestant wears a belt that wraps around the waist and the thigh. The competition employs a series of techniques, which inflict little harm or injury to the opponent: opponents lock on to each other's belt, and one achieves victory by bringing any part of the opponent's body above the knee to the ground.[220]
  • Gukgung, also known as gungsul, is traditional Korean archery that makes use of the gakgung, the traditional Korean composite bow made of horn.[221]


  • Coffee mix: A stick-shaped packet filled with coffee powder, powdered cream and sugar. It was developed by Dongsuh Food Corp in the 1970s.[222]
  • Italy Towel, also known as the Korean exfoliating mitt,[223] is a mass-produced bath product used to scrub and peel the outermost layer of skin; it was invented in Busan by Kim Pil-gon in 1962. Since then, the Italy Towel has become a household item in Korean homes and a staple item in Korean saunas. The Korean exfoliating mitt was named the Italy Towel because the viscose fabric used to make it was imported from Italy at the time.[224][225]
  • Electrically heated stone bed, also known as the dol bed or stone bed, is a manufactured bed that has the same heating effect as ondol and is purported to have health benefits.[226] The dol bed industry is estimated to be worth 100 billion Korean won, comprising 30 to 40 percent of the entire bed industry in South Korea; dol beds are most popular with middle-aged people in their 40s and 50s.[227][228]
  • Amphibole stone cookware, also known as Gop-dol in Korean, similar to the dolsot (stone bowl), is made of natural stone which comprises an iron-rich amphibole rock. It has traditionally been used in Korean kitchenware.[229]


  • Chisanbop: An abacus-like finger counting method used to perform basic mathematical operations. It was brought to the West in the 1970s.[230]
  • Thundersticks are inflated plastic tubes that make a loud clapping noise when struck together. They are usually used at sporting events but have also been used at political rallies in Korea.
  • Hand acupuncture, also known as Koryo hand acupuncture,[231] is a modern system of acupuncture, created by Yu Tae-u in the 1970s,[232] in which the hand represents the entire body and is needled or stimulated during treatment.[233] Hand acupuncture is popular among the general population as a form of self-medication in Korea, and has adherents in Japan and North America;[232] it is also popular among overseas Koreans.[234] Korean hand acupuncture is different from American hand reflexology, another form of alternative medicine.[235]

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