Korea’s history stretches back thousands of years. Its culture is rich, complex, and unique. So before heading off on your exciting Korean adventure, take some time to learn more about Korea and its people. Click here for a quick history lesson. Click here for a quick history lesson.
The Three Kingdoms Period (57 B.C – 676 A.D)
The Three Kingdoms Period refers to the early 4th to mid-7th centuries A.D. It is marked by the struggle of three rival kingdoms (Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla) over territory spanning the Korean peninsula and part of North-eastern Asia.
An ancient state of the Korean peninsula, Goguryeo occupied the largest territory among the three kingdoms. Founded in 37 B.C., Goguryeo prospered and covered a vast area encompassing the northern part of the Korean peninsula and south-central Manchuria. The kingdom expanded its territory in fierce battles against the Chinese kingdoms, but fell to an alliance of Silla and Tang forces in 668 A.D.
Silla originated in the south-eastern part of the Korean peninsula. The kingdom lasted for 992 years, from 57 B.C. to 935 A.D. This kingdom conquered Baekje and Goguryeo by joining forces with the Tang Empire of China. Following the unification of the three kingdoms, the Tang Empire was no longer seen as an ally, but as an invader. Silla joined forces with the people of Goguryeo and Baekje to drive out the Tang forces. It eventually founded the first unified state of Korea, within the territory south of the Daedonggang River and Wonsanman.
Baekje (18 B.C. – 660 A.D.) was founded by King Onjo, the son of the king of Goguryeo, in the south-western part of the Korean peninsula. The kingdom witnessed the flowering of the elegant and delicate Baekje culture, which in influenced Japanese culture. In 660 A.D., Baekje was defeated by the coalition troops of Silla and Tang of China.
The Goryeo Dynasty (918 – 1392)
The Goryeo Dynasty was established in 918. Buddhism became the state religion during this time and greatly influenced politics and culture. Famous items produced during this time include Goryeo celadon and the Tripitaka Koreana. Interestingly, the world’s first movable metal type was developed in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty. Jikjisimgyeong, a Buddhist scripture printed using the metal type, is at least 78 years older than the first Gutenberg Bible. The Goryeo Dynasty’s strength decreased gradually in the latter half of the 14th century.
The Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910)
The Joseon Dynasty was formed at the end of the 14th century. Confucianism became the state ideology and exerted a massive influence over the whole of society. Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, was invented in 1443 during the reign of King Sejong. The dynasty’s power declined as a result of foreign invasions, beginning with the Japanese invasion of 1592.
The Korean War (1950-1953)
In the early hours of June 25, 1950, North Korea attempted a forcible unification of North and South Korea by crossing the 38th Parallel and invading South Korea. Military assistance from over 16 nations under the leadership of UN General Douglas MacArthur helped defend South Korea against the threat of communism. China and the Soviet Union lent their military might to North Korea. The war continued over the next three years before coming to an end on July 27, 1953, with a peace agreement signed at Panmunjeom, located in the DMZ. Not only did the war ravage the peninsula, it also heightened hostile feelings between the North and South, making reunification a difficult task.