Published on April 18, 2008
The History Of North and South Korea: The History Of North and South Korea Jennifer McPhee Fall 2006 The Beginning: The Beginning Legend has it that Hwan-ung, the son of the God of All and the ruler of Heaven, yearned to live on Earth among the valleys and the mountains. His father sent him and 3,000 helpers to rule Earth and provide humans with great happiness. Hwan-ung descended to Mount T'aebaeksan on the border between Manchuria and what is now North Korea. He named the place Shinshi, City of God. Along with his ministers of clouds, rain, and wind, he instituted laws and moral codes and taught the humans various arts, medicine, and agriculture. The Beginning: The Beginning A tiger and a bear living in a cave together prayed to become human. Be gave them orders but, the tiger shortly gave up and left the cave. However, the bear remained true and after 21 days was transformed into a woman. Hwan-ung, moved by her prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a handsome son. They named him Tan-gun, meaning "Altar Prince". At the age of 1,908, he returned to T'aebaeksan where he became a mountain god. Pre 20th Century History: Pre 20th Century History 57 B.C. - 668 A.D.: The Three Kingdoms of Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje had similar ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Koguryo occupied the northern part of the peninsula from the Chinese border to the Han River, while Silla and Baekche dominated the southern regions. All three kingdoms were heavily influenced by China, and Buddhism was introduced to Koguryo in 372. Various alliances were formed either with or against the Chinese until 660 when Silla allied with China to overthrow Baekje. Goguryeo fell shortly afterwards in 668. Pre 20th Century History: Pre 20th Century History 668 - 935: The Silla Kingdom period marked the start of Korea's cultural development. Buddhism expanded and furled the construction of numerous temples and art works. However, despite Chinese influences, Silla remained largely tribal in culture. Society divided into distinct classes with a large semi-slave population supporting an aristocratic minority. Warlords began amassing power bases to the north and eventually took over Silla and founded a new kingdom- Goryeo. Pre 20th Century History: Pre 20th Century History 918 - 1392: Korea's English name was derived during the Goryeo period. At this time the government codified the laws and introduced a civil service system. During this time Buddhism flourished and spread throughout the peninsula. Like other kingdoms before it, Koryo was also subject to internal strife and external threats, most notably from the Mongols who had taken over China. In 1231 the Mongols invaded Korea, forcing the royal family to flee to Kanghwa Island near Seoul. After 25 years of struggle, the royal family finally surrendered. The following 150 years saw continued Goryeo rule, but under the control of the Mongols. As the Mongols declined in power, so too did Goryeo. In 1392 a Korean general, Yi, Song-gye, was sent to China to campaign against the Ming rulers. Instead, he allied himself with the Chinese, returned to overthrow the Korean king, and setup his own dynasty. During this time, Korea also perfected the art of celadon pottery. Pre 20th Century History: Pre 20th Century History 1392 - 1910 The ruler of the Yi Dynasty (also known as the Joseon Dynasty) moved the capital to Hanyang-gun (today's Seoul) in 1394 and adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion. As a result, Buddhists lost much of their wealth and power. It was during this period that the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, was invented by King Sejong the Great. This period also had its share of external problems, suffering invasions by the Japanese (1592-1598) and the Manchus (1627-1636). With the arrival of Japanese and Western traders in the 19th century, the Korean rulers tried to prevent the opening of the country to foreign trade by closing the borders, earning Korea its nickname of the Hermit Kingdom. Due to growing anti-Japanese sentiment, in 1897 King Kojong declared himself to be emperor of the Taehan Empire, an independent Korea. However, during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Japanese forces moved onto the peninsula, despite Korean declarations of neutrality. The signing of the Japan-Korea Protection Treaty in 1905 gave Japan virtual control over Korea, and in 1910 a Korean royal proclamation announced the annexation by Japan. 20th Century History: 20th Century History 1910 - 45: During its occupation, Japan built up Korea's infrastructure, especially the street and railroad systems. However, the Japanese ruled with an iron fist and attempted to root out all elements of Korean culture from society. People were forced to adopt Japanese names, convert to the Shinto (native Japanese) religion, and were forbidden to use Korean language in schools and business. The Independence Movement on March 1, 1919, was brutally repressed, resulting in the killing of thousands, the maiming and imprisoning of tens of thousands, and destroying of hundreds of churches, temples, schools, and private homes. During World War II, Japan siphoned off more and more of Korea's resources, including its people, to feed its Imperial war machine. Many of the forced laborers were never repatriated to Korea. The Cause for Two Nations: The Cause for Two Nations 1945 - 60: The Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945, cause the peninsula to came under divided rule: the USSR occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel, while the U.S. occupied the southern section. Under UN auspices, a democratic government established the Republic of Korea (South Korea) in 1948 with its capital in Seoul. The Communists established the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) with its capital in P'yongyang. On June 25, 1950, the North Korean Army invaded the South, starting the Korean War. UN forces helped the South while Communist Chinese volunteers sided with the North, resulting in a three year war which left millions dead on both sides. Student protests against the corrupt government caused Syngman Rhee to step down as president in 1960. Two Nations Until the Present: Two Nations Until the Present 1961 - 79: On May 16, 1961, General Park, Chung Hee organized a military coup and toppled the civilian government. Though his leadership was oppressive, President Park instigated many economic and social changes which helped elevate Korea into and industrializing nation. Major infrastructure enhancements, including the Seoul-Pusan expressway and the Seoul subway system, began under his regime. The Korean CIA chief assassinated President Park on October 26, 1979. 1980 - 87: In the power vacuum left by President Park's death, General Chun, Doo Hwan staged a military coup and seized power on May 17, 1980. After re-establishing martial law, he had himself elected President and banned several hundred former politicians from campaigning. Violent student demonstrations in 1987 forced President Chun to implement more social reforms and hold presidential elections in 1988. 1988 - 92: General Noh, Tae-woo, Chun's chosen political successor, won the presidential election. During his term, President Noh's government established diplomatic relations with many non-capitalist countries, including the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union, both long-term allies of communist North Korea. The successful hosting of the 1988 Olympic Games brought Korea to the center stage of world recognition. 1992 - 1996: The election of President Kim, Young-sam ushered in a new era of civilian rule. Since taking office he worked hard to reform the widely criticized regulatory system through his "New Economy" and "Globalization" programs. The implementation of the real-name financial transaction act put an end to the easy hiding of hot money. Another 2,000 rules and regulations were abolished or amended during Presdient Kim's term. 1997 - present: The election of President Kim, Dae-jung marked the first time an opposition leader has been elected as president in Korea. After failing in four other attempts to win the popular vote, his party joined with the party of Kim, Jong-il, and riding the population's growing resentment towards the ruling party, gained the narrow majority needed to gain the presidency. His term immediately got off to the rocky start when the former ruling party boycotted the National Assembly session which was to have confirmed President Kim's choice of cabinet and prime minister candidates.