Korea is a peninsula streaching south from Manchuria toward Japan. This geography has in large measure determined the history of Korea. Large powers from Manchuria abd China to the north and Japan from the south have over time invaded abd dominated Korea. The ealiest Korean state may have been a Chinese colony--Kojoseon. Three Kingdoms developed on the penib=nsula and were eventually unified by Silla. The Three Kingdoms accepted Buddhism and with Buddhism came increased Chinese cultural influences. Wang Kon founded the Goryeo Dynasty (918). This was the derivation of the modern name Korea. The Goryeo Dynasty was suplanted by the Yi family which established the Joseon Dynasty (1392). The Yi set up a state structure based on the Confusian ideal. The Goryeo rulled for centuries, facing invasions from China, the Mongols, and the Japanese. Korea became a Chinese vassal state (17th century). It became known as the Hermit Kingdom. As the dominant military power in northeastern Asia, Japan was able to annexed and colonize Korea (1910). The Japan began a brutal attempt to extinguish Korean culture. Japanese authorities did not permit Koreans to speak their own language in public. The Japanese in the early colonial period did not expell Christian missionaries. Chistinity gradually became associate with resistance to Japanese domination. The Allies at the Cairo Conference committed to Korean indedendence (1943). Japan surrendered to the Allies ending the Pacific War (June 15, 1945). Soviet troops which had attacked the Japanese in Manchuria entered the Korean Peninsula from the north. Americans landed in the south. The country was divided into Soviet and American occupation zones at the 38th parallel. As in Germany, cooperation proved impossible. The North Koreans Army crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950 to forcibly unify Korea. The Soviets had provided modern weapons in great quantity to the Noryth Koreans. Embolded by the Communist victory in China during 1948-49, Kim-il-Jong obtained Stalin's approval for the attack. President Truman ordered the United States military to support South Korea and obtained United Nations support.
We do not yet have much information on Korean pre-history. Archeologists have found evidence of pre-historic human hapitation throughout the Korean peninsula. As in other areas, the early humans were animists. Agriculture was based on rice appeared approximately at the same time as the bronze age (1500 BC). Archeologists have found large numbers of agricultural tools..
Korea mythology depicts the birth of the Korean nation as the god Hwanung descends from heaven and urns a bear into a woman. He then marries the former bear who gives birth to a son--Tangun.. It is Tangun establishes the Korean nation and its first capital (2333 BC). He calls his new kingdom Joseon, meaning Land of the Morning Calm.
Korean historians associate the mythological kingdom with Ko (Old) Joseon. Very little is known about the Kojoseon. Archeologists have found the remains of a walled city and pit houses. They possessed iron tools. They were centered in central Korea near what is now Pyongyang. Some describe this as a Chinese colony established by the scholar Ki-tze (12 century BC).
Several kingdoms were competing for power in Manchuria and Korea during the Iron Age. This period of Korean history is reffered to as the era of the Three Kingsomes even though there were actually four kingdoms. Goguryeo (37 BC - 668 AD) dominated Manchuria and northern Korea. Goguryeo operated as a kind of becomes a buffer between China and the Korean Peninsula. As a result, it was the kingdom most influenced by Chinese culture. Two other kingdoms developed to the south within the Korean Peninsula itself. Silla was founded in the southeastern corner of the peninsula (57 BC). As a result of its location, Silla was the kingdom leadt inflienced by Chinese culture. Thus their art and architecture was the most detinct. Koreans tend to see this as the birth of the destinct Korean culture. Baekche was founded in the southwest (18 BC). A fourth kindom was founded (42 AD). Over time the culture of the Korean kingdoms developed aristocratic socities with important artisticic achievements.
Buddhism developed in India and spread over the Silk Road to China. From China it spread to countries influenced by Chinese culture. The Three Kingdoms accepted Buddhism (417-58 AD). With Buddhism came increased Chinese cultural influences. This had a major impact on Korean culture, both art and architecture. Buddhism introduced the building temples, stone Buddhas, stone pagodas, and stone lanterns. Buddhists cast huge iron bells. They were struck by logs suspended from chains. Buddhist monks composed literature in the Chinese language.
Tension developed betweem Silla and Baekche, leading to wars between the Three Kingdoms. Silla emerges victorious in the wars. Goryeo was not totally defeated, but driven out of the Korean Peninsula. Silla thus united the Korean Peninsula for the first time. Notally Sillawas the kingdom that was most destinct from China and thus Korean culture was spread throughout the peninsula. Many beautiful temples and shrines date from the Unified Silla era. Some of the most beautiful examples are the Bulguksa Temple. The Seokguram Buddhist Grotto is considered to be a technological marvel as well as magnificent sculpture. Artistic Buddhist texts were printed with woodblocks, a Chinese art form. An early astronomical observatory was built in Gyeongju which was the Silla capital.
Internal strife developed in Silla. Wang Kon founded the Goryeo Dynasty (918). This was the derivation of the modern name Korea. Laws were enacted based primarily on Chinese laws and influenced by Chinese Confucian and Buddhist beliefs. Buddhism was made the state religion. Goryeo celadon pottery was developed to a high leve and is still practiced today. Internal conflicts between civilian and military authorities weakened the country (12th century). They also faced invasions by Mongolian tribesmen (13th century). The Mongols occupied Silla (1231-60) Japanese pirates became a problem.
The Goryeo Dynasty was suplanted by the Yi family which established the Joseon Dynasty (1392). The Yi set up a state structure based on the Confusian ideal. The highest vales were loyalty to the country and respect for ancestors.
The dynasty was founded by King Dae jo. He began building the Jongmyo Shrine (1394). He moved the capital to Hanyang (modern Seoul). King Sejong the Great (1418- ) is perhaps the greatest of the Korean kings. It was Sejong who gathered scholars and assigned them the task of creating a phonetic alphabet based on the Korean language (early 1420s). Until Sejong, few Koreans were literate and scholars used Chinese characters. The alphabet consisted of 11 vowels and 17 consonants. Thus for the first time, Korean had its own written language--Hangeul. This permitted printing. Sejong promoted education and for the first time, large numbers of Koreans could read and write. Sejong also promoted scientific advances. The Japanese Shogun Hideyoshi invaded Korea (1592) leadung to a destructive 6-year war with great physical damage and loss of life. Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin played a major role in defeating the Japanese. He built the famed Kobukson--the world's first ironclad naval vessels. The Chinese ais the Koreans finally expelled the Japanese (1596). Korea became a Chinese vassal state (17th century). Korean society changed as merchants began to trade with Japan and the West. This disturbed the conservative Joseon rulers. They attempted to close off Korea from outside influences. The country became known as the Hermit Kingdom. This ended when the Japanese forced Korea to accept a commercial treaty (1876).
Japan began using it rising military power to build an overseas empire. The Japanese shocked the Chinese when they emerged victorious in the First Sino-Japanese War. Tension between China and Japan over interests in Korea broke out in war (1894). The War highlighted the decline of the Qing dynasty. It also highlighted the weakness of the Chinese military and the success of the modetnization process in Japan. The Yi dynasty in Korea attempted continue its traditional seclusion. Korea had a tributary relationship with China which in exchange had provided military protection. China allowed Japan to recognize Korea as an independent state (1875). Subsequently the situation in Korea became complicated. China attempted to maintain its influemce while Japan attempted to expand its influenmce. The Koreans divided between conservative traditionlists and reformists, many of who supported the Japanese. After the assasination of a reformer, a Korean religious sect, the Tonghak, launched a rebellion. The traditionalist Korean Government asked for Chinese military support. A Japanese military epedition reached Seoul (June 8, 1894), obstensibly to support the reformers. China declared war (August 1) after both land and naval engagements had occurred. The War was a disaster for China. The Japanese Armny mauled the Chinese in battles around Seoul and Pyóngyang. The Chinese retreated north and suffered another defeat at Liaoning. The Japanese then took Port Arthur (Luda) (November 21). The Chinese fared even worse at sea. China's northern fleet was devestated by the Japanese Navy in a battle at the mouth of the Yalu River. The Yalu forms part of the border between China and Korea. The Japanese sank 8 of 12 Chinese ships engaged. The surviving 4 ships withdrew behind the fortifications of the naval base at Weihaiwei. There they were destroyed when the Japanese attacked by land across the Liaodong Peninsula. Japan took Weihaiwei (February 2, 1895). After the harsh Winter weather passed, The Japanese drove into Manchuria. The Chinese finally sued for peace. The Treaty of Shimonoseki ended the War (April 1895). Korea was recognized as a sovereign state, but effectively became a Japanese protectorate. China ceded Formosa (Taiwan), the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Pescadores Islands to Japan. The Japanese set out on a comprehensive program of imposing the Japanese language and culture. China was required to pay an indemnity of 200 million taels. Even more humiliating for China, they were forced to open four more treaty ports to external trade. The outcome of the War, however, was modifIed by the Triple Intervention (Russia, France, and Germany). They forced Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula, but China was required to pay an additional 30 million taels to mollify the Japanese. China's defeat outraged Chinese students and strengthened the reform movement in China. Sun Yat-sen founded the revolutionary republican movement which evolved into the Kuomintang.
The Japenese even before the Koreans tried to close themselves off from the world. Commodore Perry forced the Japanese to open to the West (1853). This led to the Menji Restoration and Japan's enbrace of Westrern technology. The Government fostered industry and developed a modern army and navy. This mean that by the end of the century, Japan was the most powerful country in Asia. Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War (1895). Japan next defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Competition between China, Russia, and Japan was what allowed much smaller Korea to maintain its independence. Japan gradually expanded its commercial influence in Korea. As the dominant military power in northeastern Asia, Japan was able to annexed and colonize Korea (1910). The Japan began a brutal attempt to extinguish Korean culture. Japanese authorities did not permit Koreans to speak their own language in public. Schools were conducted in Japanese. Korean history or literature was not taught. Authorities seized both land and harvests from Koreans. A peaceful protest by Koreans including many students (March 1, 1919) led to a brutal crackdown. Many protestors were shot or inprisoned. Koreans could only preserve their culture and language privately in their homes. Interesyingly, the Japanese in the early colonial period did not expell Christian missionaries. Chistinity gradually became associate with resistance to Japanese domination. Korea was not only important strategically to China, but it had important natural resources. Raw materials in the north served as a basis for industry which Japan promoted. The agricultural south became an important source od rice and other agicultural products, although this declined over time as rice was needed to feed the expanding industrial work firce in the north and the Japanese military occupation force.
Korea was not an independent country during World War II, but a Japanese colony. Thus there was no independent Korean participation in the War. Korea as aJapanese colony ws involved in the War. Korea's primary importance was as a source of raw materials for the Japanese war effort. Allied POWs were used as slave labor in Korean mines. The Japanese heavily industrialized the north and thus Korea was also an important source of war production outside the range of American bombers. The Japanese conducted some of their research on weapons of mass destruction in Korea. The Japanese conscripted Koreans as laborors in the War. Some of these laborors were encountered by Americans on Pacific islands. I'm not sure to what extent Koreans were drafted into the Japanese military. One of the best publicized Japanese attriocties of the War is the Japanese Army's use of Koreans as "confort women". Syngman Rhee formed a Korean Government in exile. He attracted little international attention before the War, but this changed after Pearl Harbor. Kim Il Sung claimed to have played an important role in the liberation of Korea, but there is little evidence to substantiate this. The Soviets and Americans agreed to split the occupation of Korea at the 38th parallel. Japanese civilians were repatriated after the War.
The Western Allies at the Cairo Conference committed to Korean indedendence (1943). By 1945 it was clear that Japan had lost the War and would almost certainly be stripped of their colonies, including Korea. Communists began organizing people's committees throughout the continent. Given the Communist anti-coloinal stance (until the Soviets occpied a couhntry). Many Koreans were thus impressed with socialism and communism. Largely because of the success of Christianity, there were also Koreans with aestern orientation. Few Koreans foresaw occupation and division. Even under Jaopanese occupation, Korea had remain unified. Japanese Governor-General of Korea, General Abe Nobuyuki, took it upon himseld to contact influential Koreans (early August). He realized that Japan had lost the War and was concrned about the substantil numbers of Japanese civilians living there as well as the military forces deployed there. It was expected that the Pacific War would be a long-drawn out struggle requiring a massive American invasion to force Japan tp surrender. Then the pace of events quickened. A lobe American B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Stalin not wanting to be shut out of territorial gains, declared war and launched an invasion of Manchuria (August 8). A second B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki (August 9). Emperor Hirohito who the Army had assured that the Amricans had only one atomic bomb finalled decided that there was no alternative but surrender, ending the Pacific War (August 15, 1945). Lyuh Woon-Hyung, a moderate left-wing politician, in contact with General Abe, agreed to head an interim regime. He set about establishing a new Korean Government (August 15). Lyuh convened an assembly in Seoul (September 6), only 3 weeks after Japan's capitulation. It was the begginning of an independent Korea. Andeven before a Government was formnally installed, J|korea became involved in Cold War politics.
Soviet forces reached Korea first as their drive through Manchuria was so rapid. Given Soviet behavior in post-War Europe, officials reasonably concluded that the entire colony would fall under Soviet control unless the United states intervened. They only occupied the northern half of Korea, stopping at the 38th parallel. World War II allies, the United States and the Soviet Union, agreed as a temporary measure to occupy the country as a United Nations trusteeship. Their respective occupation zones were demarked roughly at the 38th parallel, about midway north and south. The purpose of the trusteeship was prepare for a provisional national government which would become an independent state. Soviet troops which had attacked the Japanese in Manchuria entered the Korean Peninsula from the north. Americans landed in the south. Cooperation between the Americans and Soviets which proved difficult in divided Germany, proved impossible in Korea. The United Nations scheduled elections (1947). The Soviets refused to cooperate with U.N. plans and the elections were only held in the south. The Soviets objected to the idea of free elections. Instead, the Soviets set up a Communist police state in their zone--the Democratic People's Republic of Korea) (1948). And it began to heavily arm a military organized under Soviet auspices. As a result, two Korean states existed as the country became independent. The Soviets withdrew withdrew their troops (1949). The United States turned its authority over to an elected South Korea government--the Republic of Korea (1948). The United States did not provide massive military assistance and withdrew its military except for a small military advisory group. While two separatestates wreestablished, each were committed to a unified couhtry and claimed sovereignty over the entire Korean peninsula.
The North Koreans Army crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950 to forcibly unify Korea. The Soviets had provided modern weapons in great quantity to the Noryth Koreans. Embolded by the Communist victory in China during 1948-49, Kim-il-Jong obtained Stalin's approval for the attack. President Truman immediately ordered war material be provided the South Koreans and then air support for the South Korean Army. Seoul fell within days. Truman went to the United Nations which, because the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council, approved a military opperation to repell the North Korean attack. Truman than ordered American military intervention. The Soviets had helped the North Koreans build a powerful military force. The United states after World War II had significantly scled back its conventional military force. As a result, the North Koreans pushed the South Koreans back to a small perimiter around the southern port of Pusan. Generl MacArthur from Japan organized an amphibious invasion at Inchon which caught the North Koreans between two United Nation's forces. North Korem resistance collapsed and MacArthur rushed north accross th 38th parallel to completely defeat and occupy North Korea. President Truman was skeptical, but MacArthur assured him that Chinese warnings to intervene were bluff. They were not an American forces approaching the Yalu River were mauled by a massive Chinese attack. For a while it looked like the massive Chiese invasion would totally defeat the U.N. forces, but the front was finally stabilized north of Seoul. What followed was 2 years of stalemate which became a major political issue. Peace talks with the Communists were frustrating. Th major issue became the Communist demand that all POWs be returned, even the ones who did not want to be repatriated. Finally a ceasefire was reached. Stalin died in 1953. Eisenhower became president in 1953 and fulfilling a campaign promise, went to Korea. The armistice wnt into force on July 27, 1953. More than 3 million Koreans were killed as a result of te War. Millions more were made homeless refugees. About 1 million Chinese soldiers are believe to have been killed. American casualties totaled nearly 55,000.
Germany and Korea were geographic and economic bookends of the Cold War. Germany provided a test case for capitalism and Communism in an insustrial state. Korea provide the same test case of an underdeveloped country. Korea was seized by Japan and made into a colony (1909). The Japanese improved the ifrastructure, but brutally suppressed Korean nationalism. The schools were taught in Japan. At the end of the Pacific War, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and swept through Manchuria, seizing northern Korea. The United States seized control in the south. Two competing regimes were organized and vied for control of the country. The Soviet Union armed North Korea to the teeth. The United States provided modest military assistance. They withdrew their troops (1949). The United States turned its authority over to an elected South Korea government--the Republic of Korea (1948). The United States withdrew its miklitary except for a small military advisory group. Stalin stepped basck from military action in Europe over Berlin (1949). Apparently enboldened by development of an atomic bomb and the Communist victory in China, he decided to try military action using North Korean proxies. The North Koreans Army crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950 to forcibly unify Korea. The result was ther bloody 3-year Korean War which China entered. An armistic was signed (1953). As a result, as in Germany, capitalism and socialism competed economically while separated by a heavily armed border. Communism in Korea proved to be an even greater failure than in Germany. North Korea had been the more properous, indusdtrialized area of the country with important natural resources. But under Communism, the economy declined and by the 1970s, North Korea was not even able to feed itself. South korea on the other hand, despite lacking notable resources emerged as one of the Asian Tigers--economic power centers. South Korea trough capitalism developed not only a vibrant modern economy, but a democratic political system. North Korea under Communism developed as the most repressive country in the world and an economic disaster case. Sattelite imagery offer stark testimony of the differences between the two Koreas.
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