Korea’s Place in Global History

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This paper analyzes major themes and central arguments presented in the five representative textbooks of world history and East Asia in the English-speaking world.[1] The purpose of this paper is to offer a brief introduction to Korean history as told by Anglo-European historians. Korean history, as presented in these works, forms an integral part of world history, the grand narrative of human societies constructed by generations of scholars in the Anglo-European academe. While making efforts to place Korean in the context of world history, the main focus of this paper should be on Korean history in these works. Any attempt to separate Korean history out from the larger contexts of world history by heeding only the parts related to Korea might risk decontextualizing it. In lieu of providing a mere summary of these works, I have tried to critically assess these textbooks: that is, to illuminate their professed purposes as well as hidden agendas.

Part I: Early Korea

North: Goguryeo, Buyeo, etc.

1. The central themes of early Korean history

These five textbooks commonly address the following themes of early Korea: 1) Korea’s ethnic and cultural origins; 2) Korea’s connections to other parts of Asia; 3) the nature of a distinctive Korean culture before the influence of Chinese culture; 4) the influences of Chinese civilization on the formation of early state-systems in Korea. (EA 98) These themes define their approaches to Korean history: to show how the early migrants of the Korean peninsula intermixed the indigenous cultures of Inner Asia, Mongolia, and Siberian origins with and advanced Chinese civilizations to achieve the early stage of state-making. Korea’s role as a cultural bridge linking China and Japan is also emphasized. (WH 383-384) For these reasons, they generally illuminate how early tribal communities became chiefdoms, regional states, the Three Kingdoms, and finally Unified Silla, the first “national” state to appear on the Korean peninsula.

2. Written Sources

The earliest extant source written in Korea is an inscription dated 414 AD. The earliest surviving histories written in Korean were compiled much later, in 1145 and 1279, respectively. (EA 100) For early Korean history, historians rely on Chinese sources and archaeological evidence. (EA 100) Chinese sources record the activities of various small polities in Manchuria and Korea: raids on Chinese territory or other military conflicts, the arrival of envoys, and travel records of Chinese envoys, traders, or migrants. (EA 100)

3. Nationalism in Korean History

The Korean people today form one of the most homogenous ethnic groups in history. Since 1945, Korean history has witnessed the surge of nationalism. Guarding against the excess of nationalism in Korean historiography, the authors of the five textbooks commonly emphasize early Korea’s connection with its neighbors.

4. The Multiple Origins of the Korean People

Tracing human habitation in the Korean peninsula back to thirty thousand years ago (EA 100), the authors emphasize the multiple origins of Korean ethnicity from Inner Asia, Mongolia, and Siberia through Manchuria. (EA 100; WH 384) The Korean peninsula was home to many different tribes, tribal confederations, and other types of small polities. (EA 100) Frequent contact existed between the earliest states in Korea and Manchuria with the peoples and polities of Inner Asia, China, and Japan. (EA98; WI 346)

5. Archaeology

The archaeological findings of early Korea such as Neo-lithic comb-marked earthenware (6000 B.C.E.) and bronze artifacts (1300 B.C.E.) suggest a direct linkage to the Northern Zone culture of the steppe from Scythia to Siberia (EA 100). With population movements from Manchuria, Mongolia, and Siberia, the spread of languages distantly related to the Turkic tongues of Inner Asia took place. (EP 304) The Korean language is thought to belong to a larger group of Altaic languages spoken in Manchuria and Siberia. (EA 100)

6. Korean Nativism v. Chinese tradition.

These early migrants into the Korean peninsula evolved their own ways of life before being exposed to Chinese civilization. (WH 384) The two origin legends Tan’gun (native) and Gija (Chinese) show the tension between the two. The Koreans with their native traditions creatively absorbed Chinese culture without losing a distinct way of life. (WI 346; EA 100)

7. The Four Han Commanderies and state-making in early Korea

With the expansion of Han army outposts into Manchuria, Korea, northern Vietnam, Tibet, and Central Asia, soldiers, traders, and merchants spread Chinese civilization in these areas. (WH 104; TE173; TE282) The Han Empire established the Four Han Commanderies in Korea in 108 B.C.E. in order to outflank Xiongnu and to check on Goguryeo. (EA 100; EP 161; WI 202; TE 163-164) The Four Han commanderies facilitated the spread of Chinese material culture and Confucian learning until 313 AD (EA 100), as shown by excavations of Lelang (Naklang). (EA 100-101); as a result, the early state-making process appeared in Korea. (EA98) In the early 4th century, the three main states emerged in the Korean region, and competed for territorial gains. (EA 98) Buyeo and Guguryeo became militarily more formidable than the smaller polities in the south. (EA 112)

8. Chinese invasions

In 244 during the Three Kingdoms period in China, the Chinese state of Wei temporarily captured the Goguryeo capital. In 286, after Wei was replaced by the Jin Dynasty, the Murong branch of the Xianbei people attacked Buyeo and took thousands of captives.

9. Goguryeo’s rise

Early in the fourth century, when north China fell into the hands of Xianbei and other non-Chinese rulers, Goguryeo seized Lelang and Daifang. Goguryeo absorbed Buyeo in 494. (EA 101)

10. The Making of the Three Kingdoms

After 313, the peninsula was divided into three rival kingdoms: Goguryeo in the north, Baekje in the southwest, and Silla in the southeast. (112) During Han rule, the various Korean tribes began to gather together into federations. Eventually, these federations developed into three rival kingdoms. In the mid-600s, one of these kingdoms, the Silla, defeated the other kingdoms, drove out the Chinese, and gained control of the whole Korean peninsula. (WI 346)

11. Weapons and Warfare

Warfare was conducted with bows and arrows, swords, and halberds, and each family had to supply its own weapons. Punishment included execution and reduction to slavery of the family members of criminals. Like the Xiongnu, some of these societies practiced the levirate (marriage to a brother’s widow). (EA 101)

The South: The Three Han (Samhan)

1. The Samhan States

In the southern half of the Korean peninsula, never under Chinese administration, early Chinese sources mention much smaller polities organized into three confederations of the Han. Mahan in the southwest, Jinhan in the southeast, Byeonhan between the other two on the southern coast. (EA 101)

2. The Samhan states, the population of

According to Chinese sources, these three together had seventy-odd polities and nearly a million people. All three were stratified societies with aristocratic elites that selected their chiefs and lorded it over not only commoners but also “low” households and slaves. The climate of the south favored growing rice and other grains, which were supplemented by hunting, gathering, fishing, sericulture, and the weaving of ramie cloth. In Jinhan, iron was produced. (EA 101)

3. Chinese Sources on Samhan

Chinese sources paid less attention to these southern societies because they were not contiguous with Chinese territories and posed no military threat. They reported that dwellings in the south had thatched roofs and earthen floors and that the people did not understand the value of precious metals like gold and silver or appreciate fine silks. (EA 101)

4. Samhan Culture

Some of the men tattoed their bodies, and the men living on the islands of offshore Mahan wore their hair like the Xianbei and ran about half-naked. (EA 101)

5. Samhan Culture

None of their towns were surrounded by walls, as in China. In Jinhan and Byeonhan, the people flattened the heads of their babies and tattoed their bodies like to Wa people in Japan. Warriors fought on foot because there were no horses. (EA 101)

6. Korea-Japan relations

Early Chinese accounts claimed that the Wa (usually interpreted as a name for the Japanese) also lived along the southern coast. Other sources, too, suggest that groups crossed frequently between Korea and Japan in these early centuries, with ethnic and linguistic distinctions between them evolving only slowly. (EA 101)

The Three Kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje, Silla (313-668)

1. The Rise of the Territorial States

During the fourth century, the welter of peoples, polities, and Chinese garrisons began to evolve into three distinct territorial states. Both the decline in Chinese people and a diaspora of Chinese contributed to the state-building process. (EA 103)

2. The Leadership of the Three Kingdoms

These territorial states were ruled by field-commanding warrior elites who borrowed Chinese political practices as ways to strengthen the king’s control. (EA 103)

3. The Tombs of the Three Kingdoms

Large mounded tombs found throughout the Three Kingdoms and Western Japan demonstrate the extensive control of resources and labor power by the ruling elite. The scores of mountain fortresses built during the period proved military conflicts during the period. (EA 103)

4. Early Korea, the shamanistic traditions of

Hunters and gatherers in Manchuria and Korea developed indigenous shamanistic traditions that remain alive today. (EA 107)

5. Shamanism

The practice of identifying special individuals (shamans) who will interact with spirits for the benefit of the community. Characteristic of the Korean kingdoms of the early medieval, period and of early societies of Central Asia. (EP 304)

6. Buyeo, the religion of

In wartime, the Buyeo held a sacrifice to Heaven and then examined the hooves of a sacrificial ox to divine the outcome of upcoming battles. (EA 107)

7. Mahan, the religious practices of

The Mahan conducted planting and harvest rituals in the fifth and tenth lunar months. Each chiefdom offered sacrifices to the spirit of Heaven. The Mahan also had a special holy place which was off limits even to state agents. (EA 107)

8. The Three Kingdoms, the Buddhism of

Buddhism was introduced to Goguryeo and Baekje in the 360s and 370s. It took another 150 years before Buddhism spread to Silla. Learned monks contributed to the spread of Chinese learning and Confucian ethics. Buddhist temples and monasteries located in the mountains provided refuge from strife. The art and architecture of Buddhist temples were a source of inspiration open to all. (EA 107; EP 238; TE246; WI 71; WH 82; WH 383; EP 304)

9. The Rise of Goguryeo

The northernmost of these states, Goguryeo, had slowly gained strength for centuries. It was centered in southern Manchuria, and its rulers claimed to be a branch of the Buyeo ruling house. (EA 103)

10. Goguryeo’s conflict with Xianbei

In the fourth century, Goguryeo got caught up in the wars amongst the different Xianbei tribes in north China and southern Manchuria. Despite some serious setbacks, Goguryeo was expanding by the late fourth century. (EA 103)

11. King Gwanggaeto, the territorial expansion of

During this period, the Goguryeo king Gwanggaeto (r. 391-413) was making advances against the Khitan tribes in Manchuria and other tribes in the present-day Russian Maritime Province to the east, and by 410 controlled large territories in both places. He also began pushing southward down the Korean peninsula, in part because of pressure from the Xianbei states to the west. In 399 he sent an expeditionary force to help Silla drive out invading Baekje and Wa forces. He then enrolled the king of Silla as his vassal. (EA 103)

12. King Gwangaeto’s relations with Xianbei

In 406 he ended his long campaign against the Later Yan state (whose rulers were the Murong branch of the Xianbei). The peace agreement required him to provide military aid against the powerful Northern Wei state in north China, which was ruled by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei. (EA 103)

13. King Gwanggaeto’s Stele

In 414, the year after he died, his successor erected a stone slab inscribed with a record of all his exploits, the earliest extant Korean document (written, though, in Chinese). It described his first victory in 395 as a defeat of three tribes of six hundred to seven hundred tents and the capture of uncountable numbers of cattle, sheep, and horses, clearly showing that this region should be considered part of Inner Asia during this period. (EA 103)

14. Goguryeo influence on Japan

From this time to about 450, Goguryeo culture also had an increased influence on Japan (EA 103).

15. Goguryeo tomb murals

Some of the best evidence of material culture in the Three Kingdoms period is found in murals in royal and aristocratic Goguryeo tombs. These murals are reminiscent of Han China’s tomb murals in their depictions of dancers and other entertainers, seemingly there to amuse the tomb occupant. (EA 103)

16. Goguryeo tomb murals

Some tomb murals depict royal palaces with elaborate multicolored decorations on beams and rafters, the women living there garbed in elaborate and colorful clothing and served by slaves and servants. (EA 103)

17. Goguryeo tomb murals

Some of the best evidence of material culture in the Three Kingdoms period is found in murals in royal and aristocratic Goguryeo tombs. (EA 103)

18. Goguryeo tomb murals

These murals are reminiscent of Han China’s tomb murals in their depictions of dancers and other entertainers, seemingly there to amuse the tomb occupant. Some tomb murals depict royal palaces with elaborate multicolored decorations on beams and rafters, the women living there garbed in elaborate and colorful clothing and served by slaves and servants. (103) Some depict kings leading colorful processions of mounted guards and chariots with military banners waving in the breeze. (EA 103)

19. Goguryeo tomb murals

Other murals show mounted warriors out hunting, shooting arrows while at full gallop. Entertainers depicted on tomb walls include men wrestling and women dancing, wearing robes with elongated sleeves that they waved in circles in the air. The upper parts of the tombs were often decorated with images of the Heavens, including magnificent examples of phoenixes and intertwined snakes and turtles that were symbolic of the four points of the compass associated with the Five Phases theory of Chinese cosmology. (EA 103)

20. Baekje and Silla

It was not until the late fourth century that Baekje and Silla were mentioned in Chinese records, suggesting that they did not become important powers until that time. (EA 103)

21. Baekje, the origins of

Like the Goguryeo rulers, Baeje’s rulers claimed descent from a Buyeo prince. Baeje began with a base just west of the Liao River in southwest Manchuria. (EA 103)

22. Baekje, the territorial expansion of

In 369, Baekje attacked and defeated its erstwhile Mahan overlord and soon absorbed much of the rest of Mahan territory, thus giving it control of the southwestern part of the peninsula. (EA 103)

23. Baekje, the bureaucracy of

To strengthen royal control, Baekje kings established the post of chief minister and set up a system of sixteen official ranks. They promoted Confucian ideas and ordered the compilation of historical records. In this era, Baekje was a maritime power conducting trade with both China and Japan. It transmitted Chinese culture and Buddhism to Japan and sought weapons and military support from Japan. (EA 103).

24. Baekje, relations with Gogyryeo and Silla

As Baekje expanded, it came into conflict with Goguryeo and Silla. After defeat by Goguryeo in 475, Baekje withdrew south of the Han River. In 493 Baekje forged an alliance with Silla against Geogureyo, which protected both states for over half a century through a balance of power. (EA 103-104)

25. Baekje, the state-making of

In the sixth century, Baekje worked to strengthen central control by increasing the number of local magistrates assigned from the capital and registering commoners for labor service and tax collection. (EA 104).

26. Silla’s Rise

Baekje’s effort to expand eastward was stymied when Silla took over the Gaya confederation in 562. (EA 104)

27. Baekje, the population of

By the time of its final defeat in 660-663, Baekje boasted two hundred cities and 760,000 households. (EA 104)

28. Silla, the state-making of

The third of the Three Kingdoms, Silla, started as the weakest but emerged victorious in the end. Silla began as a confederation of six tribes controlled by a council of tribal leaders, under the larger Jinhan confederation. (EA 104).

29. Silla, the leadership of

The first chiefs came from the Bak family, and after that line died out, from the Seok and Kim families. They were assisted by a shaman or spiritual chief. Like the rulers of Baekje and Goguryeo, Silla’s kings took steps to institutionalize their governments. They set up a ministry of war, issued a Chinese-style law code, made Buddhism a state-sponsored religion, and collected taxes on agriculture. (EA 104)

30. Silla’s contact with China

Through military conquests, Silla gained access to the Yellow Sea and direct maritime contact with China, laying the groundwork for a decisive alliance with China a century later. By the 570s, Silla was replacing military lords with commissioners dispatched from the capital. (EA 104)

31. Gaya’s Rise

Besides the three main rival kingdoms was a loose confederation on the southern coast known collectively as Gaya, noted for its production of iron and trade ties with Japan. Excavation of the royal Gaya tombs shows a prosperous society and rulers who could command considerable labor and resources.

32. Gaya’s annexation into Silla

Too small to resist the expansion of its neighbors, Gaya fell bit by bit, the last part absorbed by Silla in 562. (EA 105)

Development of Complex Societies in Korea, Vietnam, and Japan (TE282)

1. NEW KINGDOMS IN EAST ASIA under Tang influence

Under Chinese Influences, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam had first made the early state by adopting the government institutions and material culture of Tang China through international trade and commercial networks. (EP291; EP 304-305; WI 325-326; TE 268; TE 282; WH 369)

2. Sui attacks on Goguryeo

In 598, Sui first invaded Gogureyo, and once again in 612 only to be foiled by a brilliant naval victory at the Salsu River. Three most unsuccessful invasions followed in 613, 614, and 617. The enormous toll of Sui’s repeated attempts to regain ground in Korea let to its collapse. (EA 105; EP 292; TE 266-267)

3. Yeon Gaesomun

In 642 the powerful Goguryeo aristocrat Yeon Gaesomun seized power, creating a virtual dictatorship that allowed him to prepare the kingdom for the coming crisis with China. (EA 105)

4. Sino-Korean Relations during the Three Kingdoms Period

Each of the Three Kingdoms tried to ally with China by sending envoys against their rivals. (EA 105)

5. Tang attacks on Goguryeo

Queen Seondeok of Silla (r. 632-647) asked the Tang emperor Taizong to pressure Goguryeo to cease its attacks on Silla. Taizong responded by launching a campaign against Goguryeo in 644. It, too, failed, as did two subsequent campaigns. (EA 105)

6. Silla, Tang alliance

Failing to defeat Goguryeo by direct attack, Tang decided to try attacking from the south in alliance with Silla. One hundred Silla ships were said to have ferried Tang troops to the Korean peninsula. (EA 105)

7. Silla and Tang’s destruction of Baekje

First they attacked and destroyed Baekje, despite the help it got from Japan. This was the first Chinese victory in Korea since Han times. (EA 105)

8. Tang installing Five Military Commands in Baekje

With victory, Tang set up five military commands to administer Baekje territory rather than turning the area over to Silla, an insult Silla swallowed toward the greater goal of eliminating Goguryeo.

9. Goguryeo, the fall of

One of the Goguryeo princes defected to Tang and contributed to the fall of Goguryeo in 668 to the invading Tang and Silla forces. (EA 105-106)

10. Silla’s victory

Why was Silla victorious? Goguryeo was the largest and most militant of the Three Kingdoms. Yet in the mid-seventh century, Silla’s diplomacy trumped Goguryeo’s militancy as the way for a small country to survive in the face of a huge and powerful neighbor. (EA 106)

11. Silla driving out Tang forces

After the destruction of Goguryeo, however, Silla was ready to turn on Tang. The Silla king organized a coalition of forces, including soldiers from the defeated armies from Baekje and Goguryeo, to help drive the Chinese from the peninsula by 676.

12. Silla’s unification

Silla unified more of the Korean peninsula than had any earlier state, even though it did not gain control over all of former Goguryeo territory. (EA 106)

13. Silla-Tang Relations

Relations with Tang were severed until the beginning of the eighth century, but after that time Silla and Tang established very strong relations. By that point, Tang’s strategic interests had shifted, and it allied with Silla against their common foe, Balhae. Silla protected from foreign invasion by the Tang empire, was able to reduce its military expenditures. (EA 106)

14. Silla’s distinction from Tang

Despite the strong influence of Tang culture, Silla society was fundamentally different from China’s. (EA 107)

United Silla (668-892)

1. Unified Silla, state-making

Since it drove out Tang in 676, the Silla government sought to build the Tang model state by setting up post stations to facilitate the communications system. (EA 106) The Unified Silla marked the beginning of an enduring political unity in Korean history until 1910. (WH 385)

2. Bureaucratic specialization

Silla produced specialists in medicine, law, mathematics, astronomy, and water clocks. (EA 106)

3. Silla’s Administration

the layout of Korean and Japanese capitals was modeled after Changan, (EP 292) diving the country after the Tang model into nine prefectures and two hundred superior districts and more than three hundred ordinary districts. (EA 106)

4. By 680 the government had established five small capitals in addition to the main one at Gyeongju to spread Silla culture throughout the conquered territories. (EA 106)

5. Political Unrest

Beginning around 760, the True Bones led four successive rebellions marked by murders and attempted usurpations, which led to continued power struggle among the elites. (EA 106)

6. Silla, the foreign relations of

The security Tang had provided Silla declined along with Tang power after its own crises from 756 on. In 819, Silla’s relations with its northern neighbor were disrupted when it joined an unsuccessful Tang campaign against Balhae. (EA 107)

7. Silla, the border defence of

In 826, after that expedition failed, Silla decided to build a long wall along the border in the northeast. (EA 107)

8. Silla, the maritime trade of

In the 820s Jang Bogo dominated the trade and transportation routes among Japan, Korea, and China. He was killed in 845, and his base at Wando was destroyed in 851, which cost Silla’s loss of maritime predominance. (EA 107)

9. Silla, the art of

Under the Silla dynasty, Korea prospered and the arts flourished. Gyeongju, the Silla capital modelled after the Tang capital Chang’an, was the center of this great cultural and technical flowering. Medicine, astronomy, metal casting, sculpture, and textile manufacturing reached especially high levels. (WH 385)

10. Silla, the fall of

In the late ninth century, when the Tang Dynasty was brought to collapse by the Huang Chao rebellion, Silla, too, fell into disorder as warlords competed for power. (EA 107)

11. The later Three Kingdoms

The period from 889 to 935, the interregnum between Silla and the next long dynasty, Goryeo, is referred to as the Later Three Kingdoms because warlords claimed to be reviving and continuing the old rival kingdoms. (EA 107)

12. Silla, the aristocracy of

The main reason why kings adopted elements of Chinese statecraft was to strengthen their own positions vis-à-vis the deeply entrenched nobility. The True Bone aristocrats who traced their ancestry to earlier kings did not think the king outranked them. (EA 107)

13. Silla, the leadership of

Starting in the third century, Silla had a council of chieftains that constrained royal power, which developed into the Council of Notables. (EA 107)

14. Silla, the nobility of

Silla’s system of aristocratic ranks was applied to the entire society. In the Silla bone rank system, the descendants of its three royal clans were referred to as the True Bones. The True Bones monopolized the top five of the nine grades of offices. This bone rank system of inherited status resembles the kabana of early Japan, both of which had similar roots in Inner Asian social organization. (EA 107-108; EP 305)

15. Silla, the aristocratic culture of

Silla was much more aristocratic than Although the Tang model examinations were introduced in 788, only aristocrats were eligible to take them. (EA 107; WH 385)

16. Silla, the hwarang of

Young men from the True Bone families joined the “flower youth” (hwarang) groups. These groups of aristocrat-warriors just coming of age practiced military skills together and later also engaged in such cultural activities as poetry-writing. The leaders of the Silla armies often had strong bonds to each other that originated in these age groups. (EA 108)

17. Silla, the social strata of

Lower reaches of society included both commoners and slaves. Some of the True Bone aristocrats in the capital at Gyeongju possessed several thousand slaves thanks to prisoners of war captured in Silla’s victorious over rivals. (EA 108)

18. Silla, the slavery of

Nevertheless, the few extant village registers indicate that slaves made up only 5 percent of the village population (their numbers would grow during the next dynasty). (EA 108)

19. Silla, the kinship organizations of

the aristocrats maintained marital alliance through the so-called double-descent system, according to which most of Silla kings and queens were exclusively from the Pak, Kim, and Seok lineages. Daughters of kings could also succeed to the throne. (EA 108)

20. The Three Kingdoms, the spread of Chinese culture during

During the Three Kingdoms period, the use of the Chinese writing system had spread to Korea. Those excluded from the highest office because of their family rank could learn Chinese in order to serve as scribes and clerks. (EA 108)

21. Silla-Tang relations

The close alliance between Tang and Silla facilitated cultural exchange. The development of naval technology boosted maritime trade. Silla sent annual embassies (of two to three hundred) to the Tang capitals and received many in return. Silla military officers enlisted Tang armies; Silla scholars like Choe Chiwon who excelled in the Tang examination system took civil office in China. Several Tang cities had “Silla wards” for Silla students and merchants. (EA 108; EP 293; TE 275)

22. Unified Silla, the Buddhism of

Under Silla rule, the Koreans built Buddhist monasteries and produced elegant stone and bronze sculptures. (WI 346) Buddhist monks who went to China brought back up-to-date Buddhist teachings, and persuaded the Silla court to adopt advanced Chinese institutions like the Tang calendar. (EA 108) Uisang (625-702) had studied in China and in 661 wrote an influential exposition of Hwaeom (Huayan in Chinese) Buddhism. (EA 108; EP 292) The native monk Wonhyo (617-686) founded the Dharma-nature sect, and spread the Buddhist message to the people of the lowest status. Hyecho (ca. 700-780) traveled beyond China, and wrote an account of his pilgrimage to India. (EA 108)

23. Unified Silla, the Seon Buddhism of

The Seon, or meditation, section of Buddhism, which stressed gaining insight through meditation, flourished. Nine mountain sects emerged. Despite factional division, Buddhism was a unifying force in Korean culture. Buddhist teachings also inspired much of the painting and sculpture of this period (Seokguram Grotto). (EA 109; WI 320)

Balhae (698-926)

1. Balhae and Goguryeo

Unified Silla’s neighbor to the north and main rival was the state of Balhae (Bohai in Chinese), which proudly proclaimed itself heir to the Goguryeo state. (EA110)

2. Balhae, the founder of

Dae Joyeong, ex-general of Goguryeo, led a group of Malgal back to central Manchuria. After defeating pursuing Tang forces, Dae Joyeong moved his people eastward, and established a state with about four hundred thousand people. (EA110)

3. Balhae, the territories of

Balhae territory extended south of the Sungari River and included the present Maritime province in Siberia and about the northern third of the Korean peninsula. The southernmost of its five capitals was in the territory of modern Korea. (EA110)

4. Balhae, the identify of

Should Balhae be viewed as Korean because its founder and many of its subjects had been subjects of Goguryeo? Or, because its founder was a Malgal, should it be viewed as an Inner Asian state, more like the Xianbei, Khitan, Jurchen, and later the Manchus who expanded from bases in southern Manchuria? (EA111)

5. Malgal, the ethnicity of

The Malgal people, seemingly a seminomadic group widely dispersed across Manchuria, northeast Korea, and southeast Siberia, formed a fluid ethical identity. Balhae is part of Korean history today because it ruled over land that today is part of Korea. (EA111)

6. Balhae, the capital of

Balhae’s culture owed much to Goguryeo, Tang, and Inner Asian traditions. Its capital in northern Manchuria (modern Heilong jiang) and its government structure followed Tang models. (EA111)

7. Balhae, the diplomatic relations of

Balhae relations with Tang turned sour in 719 when it abandoned the Tang calendar. (EA111) Balhae maintained strong relations with Japan, and sent students to Chang’an. For two centuries Balhae, separated Silla from Tang China and also from Inner Asian nomadic forces such as the Turks. The Khitans captured the Balhae capital in 926. (EA111)

8. Multi-ethnicity of Manchuria

The Manchuria region continued to be multiethnic: the Jurchens might have descended from the Malgal tribes. (EA112)

Part II: Goryeo Korea (935-1392)

As to the Silla-Goryeo transition, the authors tend to emphasize social and cultural continuities rather than changes. In their views, the Goryeo political system was at best a limited centralized rule. 1) The founder Wang Geon (877-943; r. 918-943) consolidated his rule through marital alliance with local strongmen. 2) Gwangjong’s (925-975; r. 949-975) attempts to increase centralized control failed to weaken the hereditary aristocracy. 3) The government introduced a prebend system (begun in 976 and continued till 1076), the grants of tax-collection rights on a portion of land given to former magistrates and military officers. To place Goryeo in the global context, the authors highlight the following points: (1) Its relative independence from China in a post-Tang world beset by powerful non-Chinese neighbors; (2) the decline of commercial economy with an increasing portion of the unfree population in the hands of aristocrats and local magnates or enslaved directly by the government; (3) the failed efforts of the early reigns to strengthen central control due to the strong aristocracy propped by a system of land grants (prebends); (4) the continued influence of Buddhism; (5) the dominance of military strongmen in the government; (6) the inferiority of its military power to the much larger empires to their north, especially during the period of Mongol domination; (7) the post-1020s rise of an oligarchy of aristocratic clans with a large amount of privatized land grants and a large number of slaves; (8) the loss of direct land access to China due to the nomadic empires to the north and the vitalization of the sea routes and maritime trade; (9) the spread of books due to the development of printing and the spread of Buddhism and Confucianism. (EA112)

Early Goryeo Government (935-1170)

1. Goryeo, the Founder of

The founder Wang Geon (King Taejo, r. 935-943) consolidated his power through marital alliance with local strongmen. (EA 169-170) In order to alienate the old Silla bone rank aristocracy, Taejo chose men to staff his central government from a much wider range of families. On the other hand, Taejo built support by patronizing Buddhism and Confucianism, and continued some of the Silla Buddhist festivals. (EA170)

2. Goryeo, Gwangjong

In 956, Gwangjong (r. 949-975) attempted to increase centralized control by investigating slaves’ origins; he also adopted a centralized school system combined with a Chinese-style civil service examination system, and favored civil over military officials. However, his centralization policy failed to weaken the hereditary aristocracy. (EA 170)

3. Goryeo, the Preben System of

To appease aristocrats, the next king initiated a prebend system (begun in 976 and continued till 1076), the grants of tax-collection rights on a portion of land given to former magistrates and military officers. The state also made similar grants to Buddhist monasteries, princes and princesses, foreign settlers, degree holders, state offices, schools, and military colonies. Unlike the Tang equal-field system, it resulted from the weakness of the royal house. (EA170)

4. Goryeo, Limits to centralization

Goryeo’s centralizing measures, although based on Tang and Song models, were limited: only a third of three hundred districts were governed with officials from the center; the other two-thirds headed by magistrates recruited from local magnates. The prebend system limited the tax basis of the state. The system of prebendal allotments collapsed due to the aristocrats’ privatization of land. By the twelfth century, they were forming estates by inducing indebted peasants to become their private serflike slaves. (EA170) The growth of slavery and private estates went unchecked. (EA171)

5. Goryeo, Economic backwardness

Compared to Tang or Song China, the Goryeo economy was backward with little use of money and very limited trade. (EA170)

6. Factional Struggle

After 1020, Goryeo politics was dominated by an oligarchy of powerful clans. Bloody succession struggles marred politics between 1095 and 1109. The examination became more important with time.

7. Civil Service Examinations

In the 1050s, on average, only eleven candidates passed per year, but by 1120 the number had doubled to twenty-two. By then, besides state schools, there were also private academies for educating the sons of the aristocracy. (EA170)

8. The Rise of the Prominent Families

This concentration of land and slaves increased the aristocrats’ wealth and power significantly. The three most prominent aristocratic clans were the Gyeongju Choe, the Haeju Choe, and the Gyeongwon Yi.

9. Dynastic Crisis

In the mid-twelfth century, Goryeo faced a serious dynastic crisis due to corruption, rebellions, piracy, and royal indolence. Immersed in pleasure-seeking and escapist spiritualism, the King abandoned the responsibilities of government. Until 1158 he left business in the hands of a eunuch. (EA171)

10. Military Coup

The civil officials’ disparagement of the military officials aggravated the tension between the civil and military officials, leading way to the military coup. (EA171)

The Changing International Context (943-1146)

1. Goreyo and the nomadic empires

Goryeo had to confront military threats from the formidable northern nomadic empires. Goryeo enrolled as a Song tributary in 963, but Liao demanded that Goryeo enroll as tributary instead. Goryeo adopted a pragmatic foreign policy to survive between the two neighboring states. After two decades of military confrontation, Goryeo became a vassal state to the Liao in 1020. The Goryeo court later decided to transfer its tributary relationship from the Liao to the Jurchen Jin to avoid military conflict. (EA171) When the Mongols invaded Goryeo (1231-1259), the court and its military rulers took refuge on Ganghwa Island for almost three decades. (EA171)

2. Goryeo and Khitan Liao

Abaoji, the founder of the Khitan confederation, destroyed Balhae in 926, and Goryeo reinforced the defense in preparation for war. Liao forces invaded Goryeo territory in 993. The Khitans forced Goryeo to end tributary relations with Song. In 1010, the Khitan emperor personally led an attack on Goryeo, and burned its capital. Goryeo had to reaffirm its tributary relationship with Liao in 1020. The final border between Liao and Goryeo was farther north than the earlier border between Silla and Balhae (but not as far north as the modern border). (EA171)

3. Goryeo and Jurchen Jin

The Jurchens made their first contacts with Goryeo in the 980s and began to launch pirate raids on Goryeo’s east coast in 997. In 1103, the Wanyan branch of the Jurchen attacked Goryeo territory and defeated a Goryeo army the next year. In response, Goryeo added a new cavalry unit and began recruiting soldiers from all social statues, including Buddhist monks and slaves, hoping to strengthen its military forces. After the Jurchen declared the Jin Dynasty in 1115 and allied with Song to oppose Liao, Goryeo consented to an elder brother-younger brother relationship with Jin. When Jin invaded north China, Goryeo enrolled as a Jin tributary against opposition from Confucian hardliners and Buddhist radicals. (EA172)

4. Myocheong (? - 1135), a Buddhist monk, insisted on an independent and assertive foreign policy in opposition tributary subservience preferred by King Injo’s Confucian advisers, headed by the Confucian scholar historian Kim Busik (1075-1151). Myocheong was removed by his enemies, and his push for war with the Jurchens was aborted, and close to a century of peace with Jin was preserved (EA172).

Goryeo Society and Culture

1. Goryeo, the maritime trade of

Goryeo continued trade and cultural exchange with Song by developing the sea route. Goryeo craved Song products like silks, ceramics, and the new printed books, including the Chinese classics and the Buddhist tripitaka. Arab merchants also traveled on to trade with Goryeo.

2. Goryeo, the art and literature of

Under the heavy influence of Song culture, distinctly Korean arts also flourished in painting styles, particularly the monumental monochrome landscape paintings, and in ceramics, especially world-famous Goryeo celadon, and poetry as well. (EA172)

3. Goryeo, the social classes of

Goryeo society was as deeply stratified as Silla society before it. Despite the early reigns’ attempts to strengthen the central government, a hereditary aristocracy was soon to be entrenched. In the eleventh century, the new aristocracy came to be called the yangban; below them were commoners (mostly peasants), merchants or artisans (in smaller numbers). (EA172)

4. Goryeo slaves

The slaves were the private property of their masters. Commoners were mostly “free” to pay taxes to the state and rent to landlords, perform uncompensated labor service for the state to build roads and palaces, or serve as soldiers. The wars of the transition from Silla to Goryeo increased the yangban stratum’s land and slave holdings. Taejo’s failture to manumit captives created the basis for hereditary slavery. A decree issued in 1037 provided that the children of mixed marriages would inherit the social status of the mother. Slave owners in practice enslaved the offspring of all mixed marriages. By the eleventh and twelfth century, hereditary slavery rapidly increased to at least 30 percent of the population. (EA 172-173)

Family and Kinship

1. Goryeo family

Compared to the Chinese patrilineal and patrilocal system, the Goryeo elite family was much more matrilineal and matrilocal; the family worshipped both paternal and maternal ancestors; the married women had the rights to divorce, and held the custody over her children after divorce. Marriage between cousins occurred in elite families. Maternal relatives could inherit the headship of a family. A man could turn to eight lines of descent in paternal as well as maternal relatives for political allies. “There were few restrictions on choice of marriage partners, and once married, a man’s wife’s relatives were as important to him as his own relatives.” As in the Three Kingdoms and Silla periods, women could reign as queens. (EA173)

2. Goryeo family, the characteristics of

1) Sons-in-law usually lived with their wives’ families for several years. 2) Oldest daughters often stayed permanently in their parents’ home. 3) Continuing a family through a daughter was an accepted practice. 4) The female siblings also shared equally in the inheritance of property. Women could take their property into marriage and maintain control of it; if they had no children to inherit the property, it was returned to their natal family; 5) Both men and women remarried if widowed. 5) Polygamous men treated all wives equally. 6) Ancestor worship was not common. 7) Funerals were largely Buddhist affairs; families followed the Buddhist practice of cremation. 9) Mourning followed Buddhist customs (limited to one hundred days). (EA 261)

Buddhism and Confucianism

1. Goryeo Buddhism

Buddhism flourished and saw an independent development. Synthetic approaches in Goryeo Buddhism: Leading Buddhist thinkers put effort into reconciling doctrinal differences among rival schools. (EA174)

2. Goryeo Geomancy

Centuries earlier, the Buddhist monk and geomancer Doseon had traveled to China and returned with information on geomancy and occult teachings along with Buddhism. Goryeo kings honored him posthumously, and his teachings gained respect throughout the land. (EA174)

3. Seon Buddhism

The prince-monk Uicheon (1055-1101) returned from a year’s visit to China and attempted to merge the meditative Seon sect with the textual Chontae sect. (EA175) Jinul (b. 1158) devoted his life to reforming Buddhism. To fight corruption in Buddhist monastery, he established a separate Seon Cultivation Community of monks and laypeople in 1190 by combining the gradual and sudden enlightenment approaches of the northern and southern Chan schools in China. He admired the Tang monk Zongmi, who had argued for gradual cultivation even after enlightenment to distinguish good from evil and act accordingly in society. (EA175)

4. Goryeo Neo-Confucianism

In 1344, the Four Books were established as a subject for study in Goryeo. Many eminent scholars admired Zhu Xi’s teachings because of their emphasis on the cultivation of virtue. (EA176; TE282)

5. Goryeo Printing Culture

Printing came into wider use during the Goryeo period and was adopted by both Confucians and Buddhists to make their books more widely available. Korea led the world in inventing metal movable-type printing in 1234, but as in China most books continued to be printed by carving whole wooden blocks. (EA176)

6. Tripitaka Koreana

Korean artisans produced one of the great treasures of the Buddhist world during the period from 1237 and 1251 to seek the aid of the cosmic Buddha in resisting the Mongol armies. It involved carving the entire Buddhist canon (tripitaka) onto woodblocks. (EA176) Although this set of blocks was destroyed by the Mongols, the recreated new set of more than 80,000 blocks, one of the most well-preserved tripitaka, have been preserved to this day in Haeinsa monastery near Daegu. (WI 347)

7. The art of papermaking slowly spread to the rest of the world. First, it moved east to Korea and Japan. Then, it spread westward to the Arab world in the 700s, and from there to Europe. (WI 203)

8. Movable type

Koreans invented durable, metal moveable type in the thirteenth century. (EP 301) By Song times, Korean experiments reached China, where further improvements led to metal or porcelain type from which texts could be cheaply printed. (EP 305)

9. History-writing

Kim Busik oversaw the compilation in 1145 of the History of the Three Kingdoms, the earliest extant history of Korea. Promoting Confucian values and praising loyalists, Kim Busik defended the tributary system and upheld the universality of Confucian ethical standards; at the same time, he justified the Silla practice of marriage between close relatives. Kim Busik conceptualized the Three Kingdoms as a single nation, emphasized the strong kingship of all the Three Kingdoms, and justified the Silla conquests of the other two states, but he failed to take note of Balhae as part of Korean history. (EA176)

Military Rule and Choe Family Dominance

1. Military Coup

Goryeo went into a period of military rule, which resembled the Kamakura shogunate in Japan. In 1170, a group of military officers carried out a coup d’etat; they slaughtered numerous civil officials and eunuchs, replacing the king with his younger brother, and assassinated the deposed king. Filling the government positions with military officers, the coup leaders made the supreme military council the highest council of state. The military takeover of the civil government led to a decade of disorder, culminating in the most dangerous uprising lasted from 1174 to 1176 by the minister of war and concurrent magistrate of the Western capital. (EA177)

2. Social disorder under Military rule

The social order was completely overturned during the period of military rule, as exemplified by Yi Uimin whose mother was a monastery slave and father a salt and liquor merchant. Yi Uimin had worked his way up the ranks in the capital guards to the post of superior general. Because his rule was corrupt, Choe Chungheon staged another coup in 1196 and executed Yi, his whole family, and thirty-six high civil officials and military commanders. (EA177)

3. Choe Family Dictatorship

Choe Chungheon sought to carry out a set of state reforms such as personnel retrenchment, land reform, tax reform, and eliminate Buddhist influence and monastic money lending. After his death in 1220, his direct heirs secure Choe family rule for four generations to 1258 despite the Mongol invasions. They deposed two kings and enthroned four. (EA 177; EP 333)

4. Political turmoil

The Choes governed the country with the military headquarters as the supreme agency. They built a private army, taxed provinces, handled state security, oversaw personnel appointments, and controlled civil officials. The Choe sought to ally with the yangban through marital connections. During their rule occurred two slave uprisings, two popular revolts on the eastern coast, attempts to restore both Silla and Goguryeo, and the revolt of a Baekje pretender. (EA 177)

The Mongol Invasions (1170-1259)

1. Mongol Rule

Goryeo faced a major threat in 1231 with the Mongol onslaught. The harsh period of Mongol occupation lasted until the 1360s. (WI 347; EP 313)

2. Khitans and Mongols

In the 1210s the Mongols pushed Jurchen Jin commanders to the area around the Duman River in northeast Korea, and pressured a Khitan army to cross the Yalu River into the Korean peninsula in 1216. The local population in northern Goryeo, who resisted Choe rule, cooperated with the Khitans. Goryeo forces were repeatedly defeated by the Khitan forces. In 1218, the Mongols sent units south across the Yalu River in pursuit of the Khitans. The local Goryeo commander, Jo Jung, joined in the Mongol operation in 1219 to mop up the Khitan force. However, the initial efforts to forge the Mongol-Goryeo alliance failed in 1225. (EA177)

3. Mongol Invasion

When, the Mongols invaded Goryeo almost to Gaegyeong in 1231 before Goryeo sued for peace at a heavy cost. After withdrawing the next year, Mongol forces again invaded Goryeo. The Goryeo court and the Choe family took refuge on Ganghwa Island, where they remained for the next two decades. A year after their final destruction of the Jin Dynasty in 1234, the Mongols again invaded Goryeo. The Goryeo court in Ganghwa Island resisted, encouraging guerrilla warfare, while the rest of the country was ransacked by the Mongols. (EA178)

4. Popular Suffering

Mӧngke, the great Khan of the Mongols, pressed the Goryeo king to return to the old capital. In 1254 alone, about 207,000 Koreans were taken captive, with casualties reaching new heights. The Goryeo king crossed over to the mainland from Ganghwa Island in 1254. In 1257 Choe family rule collapsed, and King Gojong submitted to the Mongols. (EA178)

Goryeo under Mongol Domination (1260-1351)

1. Marital Alliance

Khubilai did not impose direct rule over most of Goryeo, and encouraged intermarriage between Mongols and Koreans. In 1272 the Korean crown prince married Khubilai’s daughter, the first of seven marriages of a Korean crown prince to a Mongol princess. (EA178) Many Goryeo kings chose to abdicate early and retire to Beijing. King Chungyeol, the first to marry a Mongol princess, surrounded himself with a large number o retinue: interpreters of the Mongol language, eunuchs, inner palace functionaries, military officers with little education, scribes, petty clerks, and slaves. (EA178)

2. Mongol Invasion of Japan

During Khubilai’s 1274 invasion of Japan, Koreans were required to build about nine hundred ships and provide supplies. A large scale of twenty-five thousand Mongol and Chinese troops and another eight thousand Korean troops and sixty-seven hundred sailors were mobilized, but a huge typhoon (kamikaze) wrecked more than half the ships at anchor off Kyushu and forced the return of the expedition. (EA 178) When Khubilai began preparations for his second invasion of Japan, King Chungyeol was much more cooperative than his father had been before the first invasion in 1274. (EA178)

3. Mongol Military Control

In 1279, Khubilai established ten branch secretariats throughout China for military control over existing Chinese prefectures. He also established one in Goryeo to manage the second invasion of Japan, possibly to use the newly conquered several hundred thousand Southern Song troops. (EA178-179)

4. Mongol Invasion of Japan

The second invasion of 1281, which deployed over forty thousand Korean troops and eighteen thousand Korean sailors in combination with forces from China, was ill-fated due to a typhoon. About one hundred thousand Chinese and Mongol troops and seven thousand Korean soldiers were lost. After the failed invasion, Khubilai left the branch secretariat in place with authority to supervise the Mongol military colonies in southern Korea and manage defense in case of a Japanese counterattack. (EA179)

5. Mongols’ abuse of Goryeo Kings

The Mongols emperors deposed Goryeo kings in 1298, 1313, 1321, 1330, 1332, 1343, and 1351. Some kings were held in detention in Dadu (Beijing) to issue decrees in absentia. In 1343 Mongol envoys physically assaulted the recalcitrant Goryeo King, and exiled him to China, a blatant act which fomented the anti-Yuan dynasty group in Goryeo. (EA 179)

6. Cultural Encounters

Under Mongol control Goryeo put an end to centuries of isolation. Many ambitious Koreans obtained opportunities to adopt advanced global cultures in the Mongol capital at Dadu. Cotton was introduced in southern Korea; gunpowder came into use; and the art of calendar-making stimulated astronomical observation and mathematics.

7. Goryeo under Mongol Rule

Goryeo scholars learned the advanced mathematics and medical knowledge from the Arab world. Goryeo scholars learned Mongolian. Landowners opened their lands to falconry and grazing. Goryeo scholars brought back with them new currents in Chinese painting, calligraphy, literature, and, above all, Neo-Confucianism. These developments contributed to the rise of a new landed and educated class. (EP 333; EA 179)

8. Gunpowder

Gun powder was used in China and Korea to excavate mines, build canals, and channel irrigation. The Chinese and then the Koreans adapted gunpowder to shooting masses of arrows. (EP 332)

9. Mongol intervention on Goryeo Slavery and close-kin marriage

In 1300, the Mongol official Kӧrgüz requested King Chungyeol reform the Goryeo system of slavery. King Chungyeol objected that the Korean custom of hereditary slavery was so firmly entrenched that any attempt to change it could cause serious political resistance from yangban slave owners. Mongols also objected to Korean marriages to close kin, including first cousins on both sides and even step-siblings with different mothers. King Chungseon decided in 1308 to prohibit marriages to maternal cousins at least among the royal hose and the yangban. (EA179)

10. Goryeo Assimilation to Mongol Culture

By the mid-1300s the Koryo kings were of mostly Mongol descent and favored Mongol dress, customs, and language. The kings, their families, and their entourages often traveled between China and Korea, thus exposing Korea to the philosophical and artistic styles of Yuan China: neo-Confucianism, Chan Buddhism (called Son in Korea), and celadon (light green) pottery. (EP 333) Goryeo Pottery: Korean potters produced the much-admired celadon pottery, famous for its milky green glaze. (WI 347)

11. Foreigners in Goryeo

Reportedly there were also thousands of foreigners in Korea during this period, many of them Mongols. Some new families rose to power by gaining favor under the Mongols. For instance, the Ki family gained influence at the Goryeo court after a woman from their family became the favored consort of the Mongol emperor Toghun Temür (r. 1332-1370). (EA179)

12. King Gongmin’s Thwarted Reform

After 1350, King Gongmin quickly set about asserting Korean independence and restoring civil agencies that had existed prior to military rule and the Mongol conquest. His reform efforts were interrupted by frequent pirate attacks and by two major invasions by the Red Turban rebels from China between 1359 and 1361. (EA179)

13. Nahachu’s Invasion

Nahachu, a new satrap in Manchuria, invaded next, and burned the national slave registers in the capital and the household registers of Gyeonggi province, thus weakening the government’s ability to levy taxes and labor service. (EA 179)

14. With the decline of Mongol rule, the new breed of Goryeo scholars sought to transform Korea into a morally perfect Confucian society. Yi Jehyeon (1287-1367) who had been traveling back and forth from Bejing for several decades promoted Zhu Xi’s thought. (EA179-180)

15. King Gongmin’s Confucian Reform

Gongmin set up new Confucian schools, increased lower degree graduates in the civil service examinations, and appointed more degree holders to office. Gongmin also sought the help of Buddhist monks, notably Sin Don, who was given charge of the monk register, the office of yin yang and geomancy, the Royal Guards, and the personnel bureau. Because Sin Don had no landed estates and no independent economic base, he was totally dependent on the king’s favor. In 1366, Sin Don was appointed director of the General Directorate for the Investigation of Land and Slaves to register everyone who had illegally been made a slave during the period of turmoil and all the land that the landlords had been hiding from the central government. These measures infuriated wealthy yangban. (EA180-181)

Part III: Joseon Korea (1392-1800)

The Joseon Dynasty went through the four centuries of gradual “Confucianization,” through which Korean society shed its indigenous culture and became more like China. The non-patrilineal and comparatively gender-equitable Goreyo family system was transformed into the patriarchal and patrilineal ancestor-worshipping Confucian family system during the mi-Joseon period. The hereditary yangban who checked on the royal authority were often caught up in factional struggle. Despite internal struggles and foreign invasions, the Joseon dynasty lasted close to six hundred years, a remarkable longevity for a pre-modern state. (EA 247; WI 347).

Yi Seonggye’s Rise to Power

1. Dynastic Transition

The Goryeo court’s attempts to centralize power were aborted when King Gomin was brutally assassinated in 1378; a powerful general Yi Seonggye usurped the throne, and declared the founding of Joseon in 1392. (EA 248)

2. Continuance of the ruling elite

Despite the dynastic transition, most of the prominent Goryeo families remained powerful throughout the Joseon dynasty. (EA 248)

3. King Taejong built a new capital at Hanyang (Seoul), strengthened the armed forces, confiscated Buddhist temple and monastery property, and created a sound fiscal base for the state. (EA 248)

4. Sejong’s state-making

Sejong (r. 1`418-1450) reformed the military, defeated the Wako pirates, extended Joseon territory, migrated thousands of Koreans, reformed the land register system, published books on agriculture and sericulture, subsidized peasants, prohibited cruel punishments, allowed appeals in death penalty cases, and banned the slave owners’ beating of slaves without permission.

5. Sejong’s Cultural Projects

He tried (unsuccessfully) to introduce coins and paper currency. He founded the Hall of Worthies (Jiphyeonjeon) in 1420, and commissioned those “worthies” to invent an alphabet in 1443. Scientific accomplishments of his reign included sundials, an astronomical chart, a new type of water clock, and a rain gauge invented in 1442. The arts and crafts also flourished during this period. (EA 249)

6. Sejo’s reign

Sejo (r. 1455-1468) was devoted to military strategy, authorized attacks against the Jurchens in 1460 and 1467, established military colonies, and installed the Five Guards Command in 1446, a supreme national defense council. He adopted the ever-normal granaries to stabilize the price of grain, and tried, though failed, to circulate iron cash. He also ordered the compilation of a major law code, the Grand Institutes for Governing the State. Sejo antagonized the Confucian officials by patronizing Buddhism and finding ways to circumvent Confucian critics. He neglected the state council, ordered the communications of the six ministries sent directly to him, and abolished the Hall of Worthies which would tarnish his reputation. (EA 249)

Kings and Yangban: Confucian Officials

1. Contradictory trends in Joseon Politics

While Kings sought to reassert central control, yangban aristocrats maintained their political and social predominance and circumscribed the king’s authority. (EA 249)

2. Centralization

The early Joseon period saw the highest point of centralization: the central government appointed magistrates in all of the three-hundred-odd local districts, and recruited high officials via the civil examinations. (EA 250)

3. Social reproduction of the hereditary yangban class

yangban families produced the vast majority of officials in the Joseon Dynasty by investing in education and holding a large amount of private properties such as land and slaves; the yangban banned the Goryeo practice of promoting local clerks to the central bureaucracy, and narrowed the pool of candidates by barring sons of concubines from taking the examinations. (EA 250)

4. Anti-Buddhist campaign

The Confucian elite were instrument in disbanding many Buddhist monasteries and confiscating their land, and converting eighty thousand of their slaves to government slaves. (EA 250)

5. Confucian fundamentalism

Joseon Confucians believed in the universality of Confucianism, and aspired to create a more perfect Confucian society in accord with the Confucian classics. The royal court emphasized filial piety and loyalty for social tranquility and political stability. (EA 250)

6. Limits to royal power

The obstruction and remonstrance of the civil officials with a long pedigree of aristocracy constrained Joseon kings’ theoretically absolute power. For example, Yeonsangun (r. 1494-1506) who sought to constrain the Confucian establishment in the name of defending his rights as an absolute monarch was deposed by a cabal of high officials in 1506. (EA 250)

7. Royal constraint on the yangban class

King Jungjong (r. 1506-1544) purged the young censors and executed Jo Gwangjo who had misused the recommendation policy to advance their close friends and allies. (EA 251)

8. Joseon Neo-Confucianism

By the late sixteenth century, many scholars debated the ethical and metaphysical arguments of Zhu Xi Neo-Confucianism. As to the priority between principle (yi) and psychophysical force (ki), Yi Toegye argued for the primacy of the nonphysical principle whereas the younger Yi Yulgok held that psychophysical force took priority. (EA 251)

9. The yangban stratum remained powerful throughout the dynasty and even grew in size; the yangban separated into two groups

those who entered the court and those who were left in the countryside. Some yangban families formed single-family villages and further strengthened their local power. In other villages, yangban power declined: as village associations were formed of all households to divide the tax burden equitably among all families, many yangban in the countryside became indistinguishable from ordinary farmers. (EA 251)

10. Middle People (jungin)

During the Joseon period jungin, or middle people, formed a new hereditary class. The jungin were clerks, legal specialists, accountants, interpreters, and the like who had lost any hope of rising to regular office but at the same time wanted to save these positions for themselves. (EA 251)

Dynastic Decline and the Japanese Invasion

1. Dynastic Decline

By the sixteenth century, signs of dynastic decline were apparent. Rich landlords expanded their holdings through usurious money-lending and foreclosure; indebted poor peasants became slaves to evade the tax collector and military service; and the state failed to update tax registers and was unable to remedy this situation. (EA 251)

2. Military unpreparedness

the rise of false reports, escapees, and corruption in local governments led to a series decline in the number of troops on duty. Although the Border Defense Command had been created in 1522 for defense against Japanese pirate raids, the military continued to deteriorate. (EA 251)

3. Factional Struggle

Since 1575 the factional struggle between Easterners and Westerners continued on a hereditary basis, resulting in frequent purges in times of crisis. By shifting his favor from one faction to another repeatedly, King Seonjo (r. 1567-1608) intensified factional struggle. In 1589, King Seonjo mistakenly executed more than seventy Easterner officials on a false accusation by the Westerners. (EA 252-253)

4. Military Unpreparedness

Although a delegation to Japan in 1591 was sent to assess the intentions of the Japanese leader Hideyoshi, Seonjo took no action to prepare for war with Japan. (EA 253-254)

5. The Imjin War

In 1592 Japan invaded Korea: Hideyoshi forces occupied Seoul in three weeks and Pyeongyang in two months. Under the tributary system, the Ming mobilized its forces seven months after the Japanese invasion, and arrived in Korea to fight the Japanese. The Ming forces defeated Japanese forces at Pyeongyang in February 1593, and were defeated just north of Seoul later that month. Later that year, the Ming then negotiated a truce with the Japanese commander. (EA 254)

6. Yi Sunsin’s naval forces

According to a historical record, Admiral Yi Sunsin’s naval forces with only twelve ships destroyed four hundred ships in one month alone. (EA 254)

7. Hideyoshi’s Second Invasion

Hideyoshi renewed the fighting in 1597 but with his death in 1598, Japanese forces withdrew from the peninsula. Thanks to Ming military intervention, Korea was saved but devastated with the loss of about 2 million lives and economic collapse. (EA 254)

8. Resuming Trade with Japan

Korea severed all relations with Japan after the invasion, and Korea re-established relations in a 1609 treaty with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Trade with Japan, limited to a specific number of ships a year and confined to Tongnae in the southeast, was regulated through tallies distributed to various daimyo throughout Japan. (EA 254)

Relations with the Manchus

1. The rise of the Manchus

In the 1590s, the Jurchen tribes were unified by Nurhaci into the confederation of Manchu. Wedged between the two rivals, Gwanghaegun tried to maintain neutrality against the vast majority of his pro-Ming officials. (EA 254)

2. Gwanghaegun’s Political Struggle

With the support of the Great Northerner faction, Gwanghaegun purged the Grand Prince Yeongchang and his younger brother. In 1623 the Westerner faction led a coup to depose Gwanghaegun, and enthroned King Injo. All the Northerners who had supported Gwanghaegun were executed or banished. Upon seizing power, the Westerners reversed Gwanghaegun’s controversial foreign policy and supported the Ming against the Manchus. (EA 254-255)

3. Manchu Invasion of Joseon

The Manchus invaded Korea first in 1627 with a force of 30,000, and once again with 120,000 men in 1637. King Injo was finally forced to submit to the Qing demand that he sever relations with the Ming dynasty and enroll as a Qing tributary. (EA 255) To conquer Ming China, the Manchus levied heavy tribute demands on Joseon. By the end of the seventeenth century Joseon kings abandoned anti-Qing policies. Most Korean yangban, however, remained loyal to the memory of the Ming while holding the Manchus in contempt. (EA 255)

4. Because Joseon proved a nonthreatening vassal, she could safely be allowed to remain autonomous. (EA 255)

Internal Politics in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

1. Military Reform

After the Japanese and Manchu invasions, Joseon tried to strengthen the armed forces by requiring military duty from slaves although evasion by the yangban persisted. (EA 255)

2. Factional struggle

In 1659 Song Siyeol of the Westerner faction and the Southerner faction led by Yun Hyu were in conflict over the mourning ritual for the deceased King Hyojong, the second son of King Injo. The Westerners split into the Disciples faction and the Patriarchs faction. (EA 255) By switching his support, King Sukjong (r. 1674-1720) intensified the conflict. He replaced Patriarchs and Disciples with Southerners in 1689, and purged the Southerners in 1694. The Patriarchs who regained power excluded the Southerners from office until the late eighteenth century. (EA 255)

3. Yeongjo’s Coalition Cabinet

In 1727 King Yeongjo appointed moderate members of both the Disciples’ and Patriarchs’ factions and excluded the extremists of the two factions as well as of the Northerners and Southerners. The radical Disciples rebelled in 1728. Although the rebellion was down, Yeongjo learned of the risk of endangering yangban interests. (EA 256)

4. Prince Regent Sado’s Death

In 1749, the fifteen-year old Crown Prince Sado assumed responsibility in governing as prince regent, but was driven to the edge of sanity and killed a court lady. In 1762 the king ordered the prince locked in a small rice chest and starved to death. This action bifurcated the government into those (mostly Patriarchs) who agreed with the king’s decision and those (mostly Southerners) who sympathized with the deceased crown prince. (EA 256)

5. Jeongjo’s rule

In 1776 the deceased Crown Prince Sado’s son Jeongjo ascended the throne. He ordered the importation of Chinese classical texts for the new Royal Library and turned the library staff into his own private cabinet for advising him on state affairs. Nevertheless, he banned the free importation of books from China because he saw many as subversive, including works by Wang Yangming, popular novels, and treatises on Christian theology. Jeongjo’s efforts to be a model king did not bring about the moral transformation of society; to the contrary, plotters tried to have him assassinated seven times. (EA 256)

Economic Growth and the Decline of Slavery

1. Limited Commerce

During the early Joseon period, the economy was predominantly agrarian with limited commercial activity. All taxes were paid in kind or by physical labor. Most artisans were slaves. Commerce in the capital was restricted to monopoly merchants and in the countryside to itinerant peddlers and fifth-day markets. Commercial towns and permanent shops were rare. (EA 257)

2. National Defense

National defense was based on military service for all adult males except for merchants, slaves, and men in official schools; sons of yangban with official rank (not necessarily office) were allowed to serve in special guard units set aside for them. (EA 257)

3. Fiscal Problems

Many government fiscal policies were in need of reform, especially the tribute tax on local products, the maladministration of the land tax burden, and the military conscription system. The local products tribute tax originated as a fixed and unchanging assessment on local villages that specialized in the production of certain goods, but when many villages ceased producing those products, they had to pay fees to so-called tribute merchants to procure those products elsewhere. (EA 257)

4. Tribute Tax Quotas

This practice of tribute contracting was regarded by the authorities as illegal, and those caught doing it were subject to punishment and fines, but there was no other way for villagers to meet their tribute tax quotas. Yet although tribute contracting was illegal, it contributed to the expansion of commercial activities by private merchants in the countryside. (EA 257)

5. Recruiting slaves for military service

After the invasions, the Joseon government extended military service to private slaves for the first time. It also replaced local product payments in kind an extra land tax in grain, which it used to purchase the special goods it needed. The new tax was adopted gradually, but by 1708 the new system covered the entire country and more than doubled the tax burden on landowners. The law stimulated increased commercial activity, particularly among private, unlicensed merchants. (EA 257)

6. Circulation of Coins

In 1650, the official Kim Yuk received King Hyojong’s approval to put the coins into circulation, and in 1654 he persuaded the king to order that the cash be accepted in payment of the tax. This marked the first use of money in about one hundred years. (EA 257)

7. Demographics

The Joseon population grew to 14 million by 1810, a 40 percent increase from 1650 thanks to increases in agricultural productivity: the abandonment of the fallow system, the conversion of dry fields to wet, irrigated ones, and the adoption of transplanting rice seedlings.

8. Average production per acre in Korea as late as 1900 was about the same as in China in 1400 (15 bushels), and about two-thirds of p roduction in Japan and China around 1880.” (EA 257)

9. Commerce Activity

The eighteenth century witnessed expanded commercial activity. Although the number of commercial towns remained small, the number of periodic fifth-day markets increased.

10. Coin mintage

Due to inflation, the government stopped minting coins for three decades from 1697. The court resumed minting more cash in 1731, and minting continued for the rest of the dynasty. (EA 257)

11. Private Merchants

In the 1740s the government stopped prosecuting unlicensed private merchants who traded in monopoly goods. In 1791 the court adopted the joint-sales policy (monopoly privileges for only six shops in Seoul) and allowed private merchants to trade all other products. (EA 257)

12. Joseon slavery

In the early Joseon period, both private and government slavery were pervasive. State slaves alone in the late fifteenth century numbered about 350,000, and government efforts to limit private slaveholding never got far.

13. The decline of slavery

In the eighteenth century, slavery declined. Between 1750 and 1790, the slave population decreased from about 30 percent to less than 10 percent of the population. 1) In 1730 King Yeongjo amended the matrilineal rule of inheriting slave status. 2) The main cause of the decline was the increase of runaway slaves. 3) The government had begun to replace official slaves with hired commoner labor: the number of official slaves dropped from 350,000 in 1590 to 60,000 by 1801.

14. From slaves to tenant farmers

Yangban and rich landlords rented their land to the increased number of landless peasants. Escaped slaves became tenant farmers who paid rents to landlords, interest on grain loans from the state or private lenders, and the commoner military cloth tax. (EA 258)

Cultural Developments

1. Rise of New Ideas

A new openness to cultural variety and innovative thinking emerged thanks to the social and economic changes of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. (EA 258)

2. Rise of New Literature

Literary activity burgeoned in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During this period, the short sijo poems, their longer versions (saseol sijo), and the still longer lyrical gasa, hundreds of short tales and long novels were written. (EA 258-259)

3. Popular oral literature also flourished. Rural dances and local masked plays were often biting in the satire. Pasori was an oral song tradition that became popular in the countryside in the eighteenth century. (EA 260)

Northern Learning:

1. The intellectually rigid Confucianism of early Joseon changed in the eighteenth century with the introduction of new ideas from Qing China. The so-called Northern Learning Group, mostly from the minority Southerner or Northerner factions, sought to adopt new ideas from the Qing dynasty for economic prosperity and material well-being. (EA 260)

2. Escape from Sino-centrism

In 1765, after a visit to Qing China, Hong Daeyong came to reject the long-standing Sino-centric world view, praised manual labor, and criticized the backwardness of the Joseon economy. In 1780, Pak Jiwon, one of Hong’s disciples, satirized yangban by writing stories like Master Heo and The Yangban, called for the abolition of social discrimination and the manumission of official slaves, and proposed a land-limitation scheme. He emphasized the importance of commerce and industry and recommended improving transportation. Pak Jega urged the king to appoint the best merchants to office and expand trade with Qing China. (EA 260)

3. Limits of Northern Learning

Northern Learning represented a liberalization of intellectual thought, but it had a very limited effect on government policy because of too deeply entrenched anti-Manchu prejudice and the Confucian bias against merchants. (EA 260)

Christianity and Western Learning

1. Adoption of Western Ideas

With the introduction of Matteo Ricci’s works in Chinese on Catholic theology and Western mathematics, astronomy, and geography, Koreans were won over to Western astronomical ideas and adopted the Western calendar in 1653. (EA 260)

2. Critique of Christianity

Joseon Neo-Confucians often rejected the basic doctrines of Christianity in the 1720s. (EA 260-261) They paid keen attention to the pope’s 1715 condemnation of Chinese ancestral rites as idolatry and the Yongzheng emperor’s subsequent ban against Christian proselytization. (EA 261)

3. Christian Converts

In 1784 the student Yi Seunghun brought back Christian texts from China, and formed the first Christian congregation with several dozen men. They worshipped at the home of Kim Beomu, the first Korean Christian martyr. (EA 261)

4. Persecution of Converts

In 1788 two high officials asked the king to ban European books. King Jeongjo ordered the destruction of all Christian books. In 1791, two Catholics (Southerners) burned the ancestral tablets, and refused to recant; King Jeongjo ordered their decapitation and forced their associates to commit apostasy. (EA 261)

5. King Jeongjo executed the first Christian missionary the Chinese Zhou Wenmo in 1794, and purged the sympathetic Southerners. (EA 261)

The Family and Women in the Confucian Age

1. The Confucian Transformation of Joseon

Through the zealous efforts of Korean Confucians to remodel Korean society, the Joseon Confucians tried to reform the matrilocal and matrilineal tendencies of the Goryeo family system. By the end of the fifteenth century, Confucian mourning prescriptions were practiced among yangban, the equitable inheritance of family property among all siblings gradually disappeared, and remarriage of widows also declined markedly. The decree of 1474 barred sons of remarried widows to take the civil examinations. By the eighteenth century, Confucian ancestor worship had completely replaced Buddhist ceremonies, and the Confucian pattern of patriarchal domination of the family reached its zenith. It took about three hundred years before Buddhist burial practices and beliefs were replaced at the lowest level of society. (EA 261)

2. Genealogy

Confucian promotion of patrilineal kinship led to the compilation of genealogies. At the beginning of the dynasty, women were listed in the family genealogy along with their brothers in the order of birth. By the eighteenth century, however, women were all listed after their brothers, and when they married, their names were expunged and listed instead in their husband’s genealogy as the daughter of their father. Their personal names were not even recorded. (EA 261)

3. The Spread of Confucian Practices

The lower levels of yangban society meticulously observed Confucian family practices to claim their yangban credentials. Confucians compiled moral tracts in hangul to spread the commoners. (EA 261-262)

4. Primogeniture

Unlike post-Han Chinese society where all brothers were entitled by law to inherit the equal shares of property, Korea discriminated against younger sons and, even more so, sons of concubines. (EA 262)

5. Women in Confucian Society

Women in yangban families were placed under more pressure to conform to conservative Confucian ideals. Certainly women could still have considerable power within the family, especially older women who chose spouses for their children and had daughters-in-law subordinate to them. The women, however, continued to engage in religious practices: they prayed to mountains, trees, and household gods. Women also attended religious festivals, such as the Tano Festival. (EA 262)

6. Women and Popular religions

In popular religion, women hired shamans, and continued to believe in Buddhist ideas, particularly transmigration, karma, and punishment in Buddhist hell. Literature often depicts women as independent and articulate. (EA 262)

Part IV. Modern Korea, since the mid-19th century

The End of the Joseon Dynasty

1. Korean in the middle

Amidst imperialist rivalries, Korea, located at a crossroads of East Asia, came into focus among Russia, China, and Japan. As one of the model tributary states in a Sino-centric world, Korea adopted an isolation policy although it maintained relations with China and sometimes with Japan. (WH 789)

2. Unequal Treaties

As Chinese power declined in the mid-nineteenth century, Russia expanded into East Asia. The Japanese also eyed Korea. However, as Japan industrialized after the Meiji Restoration (1868), it forced Korea to open its ports to Japanese trade in 1876. Korea was also forced into unequal treaties with the Western powers. (WH 789; WI 812; TE 764)

3. Japanese imperial aims

In the name of defending Japanese independence, Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922), a leader of the Meiji oligarchs, planned to construct a “sphere of influence” that included Korea, Manchuria, and part of China, and led a vigorous program of military industrialization, culminating in the building of battleships. (EP 709)

4. Sino-Japanese War

When the interests of both countries collided in Korea, Japan and China signed a hands-off agreement in 1885. (WI 812) However, when the Donghak rebellion occurred, both China and Japan sent troops to Korea. This Sino-Japanese War lasted just a few months. In that time, the modernized and efficient Japanese naval forces won decisive victory over China with its oversized and weak naval forces. In 1895, China and Japan signed a peace treaty. This treaty gave Japan its first colonies, Taiwan and the neighboring Pescadores Isiands. (WI 812; WH 789; TE 736; TE 738; TE 764-765)

5. Japanese Racism. In the 1890s, Japanese newspapers portrayed Chinese and Korean peoples as dirty, backward, stupid, and cowardly. Some even argued that the Japanese people were more akin to the "Aryans" than to the " Mongolians." (TE 769)

6. Western Powers’ pressure on Japan

France, Germany, Britain, Russia, and the United States made Japan give up Liaodong in the name of the “territorial integrity” of China, and gained additional territorial and trade concessions including ninety treaty ports. Despite Western attempts to outflank Japan, it continued to increase its influence to gain control of southern Manchuria, with its industries and railroads, and to finally annex Korea in 1910. (EP 709)

7. Russo-Japanese War

In February 1904, Japan launched a surprise attack on Russian ships anchored off the coast of Manchuria, captured most of Russia's Pacific fleet, and also destroyed Russia's Baltic fleet. (WI 812-813) By defeated Russian troops, Japan gained control of Korea as well as rights in parts of Manchuria by concluding the Treaty of Portsmouth mediated by U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. Through this treaty, when the war was over, Japan claimed its colonial authority over Korea and the Liaodong peninsula. (WH 790; WI 812-813; TE732; TE 765; EP 709)

Japanese Colonial Rule, 1910s-1930s

1. Japanese Colonization of Korea

Japan made Korea a protectorate. In 1910, it annexed Korea outright, absorbing the kingdom into the Japanese empire. Japan ruled Korea for 35 years. Like Western imperialists, the Japanese set out to modernize their newly acquired territory. They built factories, railroads, and communications systems. Development, however, generally benefited Japan. Under Japanese rule, Koreans produced more rice than ever before, but most of it went to Japan. (WH 790)

2. Harsh Colonial Rule

The Japanese imposed harsh rule on their colony and deliberately set out to erase the Korean identity. “They took land away from Korean farmers and gave it to Japanese settlers. They encouraged Japanese businessmen to start industries in Korea, but forbade Koreans from going into business. Resentment of Japan's repressive rule grew, helping to create a strong Korean nationalist movement.” (WI 813) “Repression bred resentment. And resentment, in turn, nourished a Korean nationalist movement.” (WH 790)

3. Japanese Occupation of Korea

After defeating Russia, Japan made Korea a protectorate in 1905. In 1907, Emperor Gojong, unable to garner international support, had to relinquish direct rule, and disband the Imperial Army in two years. In 1910, Japan officially brought Korea under Japan's control. (WI 813)

4. Japanese Expansion in East Asia

Japan continued to expand in East Asia to obtain natural resources and territory. By the early 1900s, Japan was the strongest power in Asia. During WWI, Japan also requested the Twenty-One Demands from Yuan Shikai to obtain more rights in China. After WWI, Japan took over former German possessions in East Asia, including the Shandong province in China. In 1910 Japan had already annexed Korea as a colony. (WH 790; WH 875)

5. Western Missionaries

Missionaries spread Christianity and European cultures to colonized people, and Korea was also influenced by those Western missionaries as well. (WH 794)

6. Western Indifference to Japanese brutality

The rest of the world clearly saw the brutal results of Japan’s imperialism. Preoccupied with their imperial aims, the U.S. and other European countries remained indifferent to Japanese imperialism in Korea. (WI 813)

7. The Non-Violent March First Movement

Nine years after annexation, a nonviolent protest against the Japanese began on March 1, 1919, and soon spread throughout Korea. The Japanese crushed the uprising and massacred many Koreans. The March First Movement became a rallying symbol for Korean nationalists. (WH 790)

8. Comfort Women

“The army presented the women to the troops as a gift from the emperor, and the women came from Japanese colonies such as Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria and from occupied territories in the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia. The majority of the women came from Korea and China.” (TE 874)

The Korean War 1950-1953

1. The Creation of the Two Koreas

After Japan's defeat in World War II, Soviet and American forces agreed to divide Korea temporarily along the 38th parallel of latitude. During and after When World War II, the Soviets had assisted communist forces in China and Korea. (WH 968) The dictator Kim Il Sung in North Korea was endorsed by the Soviet Union, In South Korea, the United States backed Rhee Syngman. (WH 989-990; EP 798)

2. Outbreak of the Korean War

By 1949, both the United States and the Soviet Union had withdrawn most of their troops from Korea. The Soviets gambled that the United States would not defend South Korea. So they supplied North Korea with tanks, airplanes, and money in an attempt to take over the peninsula. (WI 976; TE 877-879; EP 798; EP 800)

3. The North Korean Invasion

In early 1950, Kim Il Sung called for a heroic struggle" to reunite Korea. On June 25, 1950, North Koreans swept across the 38th parallel, and penetrated deep into the south within days, by August North Korean troops occupied all of South Korean but the Pusan Perimeter. Identifying the North Korean aggressors as Hitler and Mussolini of the 1930s, And Truman resolved to help South Korea resist communism. The United States then organized a United Nations force to help South Korea. (WI 976; WH 990)

4. UN Intervention

South Korea also asked the United Nations to intervene. A total of 15 nations, including the United States and Britain, participated under the command of General Douglas MacArthur. (WI 976-977) In September 1950, United Nations troops landed on the beaches around the port of Incheon behind enemy lines. (WI 977) Caught in this "pincer action," with the supply lines cut off, about half of the North Koreans surrendered soon surrendered. United Nations forces pursued the retreating North Koreans across the 38th parallel, and by November, had advanced north to the Yalu River at the Chinese border. (WH 990)

5. PRC intervention

In late November, Mao Zedong sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops to resist the U.S. and aid North Korea. The Chinese greatly outnumbered the UN forces. In tough winter fighting, the Chinese and North Koreans forced UN troops back to the south of the 38th parallel. (WH 990; WI 977)

6. The Progress of the Korean War

Over the next two years, UN forces fought to drive the Chinese and North Koreans back. By January 1951, they had pushed UN and South Korean troops out of North Korea. The Chinese then moved into South Korea and captured the capital of Seoul. MacArthur called for the use of nuclear weapon, but Truman removed him. By 1952, UN troops had regained control of South Korea. Finally, in July 1953, the UN forces and North Korea signed a cease-fire agreement. The border between the two Koreas was set near the 38th parallel, almost where it had been before the war. In the meantime, 4 million soldiers and civilians had died. (WI 977; TE 879)

7. Stalemate and Armistice

The Korean War turned into a stalemate. Finally, in 1953, both sides signed an armistice. Nearly two million North Korean and South Korean troops remained dug in on either side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ) near the 38th parallel. The armistice held for the rest of the Cold War, but no peace treaty was ever negotiated. (WH 990)

Post-War Construction since 1953

1. US-sponsored rehabilitation

The U.S. sponsored rehabilitation of their former enemy, Japan, and the forming of client slates in South Korea and Taiwan. (TE 878)

2. Post-war Reconstruction

“Like the two Germanys, North and South Korea developed separately after the armistice. North Korea as a communist command economy, South Korea as a capitalist market economy. As in Germany, the capitalist portion of the country had an economic boom and rising standards of living, while the communist zone went through economic stagnation and decline. Also as in Germany, the United States gave economic and military aid to capitalist South Korea, while the Soviets helped the communist north.” (WH 991)

3. North Korea

Aftermath of the War After the war, Korea remains divided today. In North Korea, the Communist dictator Kim Il Sung established collective farms, developed heavy industry, and built up the military. Under Kim II Sung, the command economy increased output for a time in North Korea. At Kim’s death in 1994, his son Kim Jong Il took power. Under his rule, Communist North Korea developed nuclear weapons but had serious economic problems. North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is a major obstacle. The United States still keeps troops in South Korea. (WI 978) However, in the late 1960s, economic growth slowed. Kim's emphasis on self-reliance kept North Korea isolated and poor. The government built a personality cult around Kim. Resisting economic reform, North Korea still clings to hard-line communism. (WH 991)

4. South Korea

By the mid-1960s, South Korea's economy had leapt ahead. After decades of dictatorship and military rule, a prosperous middle class and fierce student protests pushed the government to hold direct elections in 1987. (WH 991) These elections began a successful transition to democracy. During the 1980s and 1990s, South Korea had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world. (WI 977-978)


  1. The list of the textbooks analyzed in this paper is as follows:

    WI: Beck, Roger B., et al. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012. ISBN 9780547491127
    WH: Ellis, E. G. and Esler, A. (Prentice Hall) World History. Pearson Education, 2009. ISBN 9780133720488
    TE: Bentley, J. H., et al. Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Volume I and II. McGraw-Hili Education, 2015. ISBN 9780077504908, ISBN 9780077504915
    EP: Bulliet, R.W., et al. The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, 6th Edition. Volume I and II. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN 9781285436913, ISBN 9781285436968
    EA: Ebrey, Patricia B. and Walthall, Anne. East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History. Wadsworth Publishing, 2013. ISBN 9781133606475