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Korean History

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B.C.   Bronze Age Jomon Period Early Mesopotamia
Egyptian Kingdoms
2000   Shang Dynasty (1766-1122)
Zhou Dynasty (1122-256)
   
1000 Bronze Age
Gojoseon
Spring and Autumn Period
(770-476)
  Founding of Rome(753)
500 Iron Age
Buyeo
Warring States Era (475-221)
Bronze Age
Yayoi Period
Socrates (469-399)
Alexander the Great (356-323)
First Punic War (264-241)
Second Punic War (219-201)
200 Confederated Kingdoms of Samhan (Three Han States) Qin Dynasty (221-206)
Former Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 9)
   
100 Three Kingdoms:

Silla
(57 BC - AD 935)
Goguryeo
(37 BC - AD 668)
Baekje
(18 BC - AD 660)
Gaya
(42-562)
Later Han Dynasty (26-221)
Three Kingdoms (220-280)
  Birth of Christ
A.D. 200 Iron Age  
300 Jin Dynasty (265-420) Tumulus Period Christianity adopted as the state religion of Roman Empire (392)
Roman Empire divided (395)
400 Nothern and Southern
Dynasties (420-581)
  Anglo-Saxons established in Britain (449)
500 Asuka Perios (552-645) Mohammed (570-632)
600 Unified Silla Kingdom
(676-935)


Balhae Kingdom (668-928)
Sui Dynasty (581-618)
Tang Dynasty (618-906)
Nara Period (710-794) Hegira (622) and beginning of Islamic era
700 Heian Period (794-1185)  
800 Charlemagne crowned first Holy Roman Emperor (800)
900 Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) Five Dynasties(906-960)
Song Dynasty (960-1279)
 
1000 First Crusade (1096-1099)
1100 Kamakura Period (1185-1392)  
1200 Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) Magna Carta (1215)Marco Polo (1254-1324)
1300 Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Muromachi (Ashikaga) Period (1392-1568) The Hundred Years' War(1338-1453)
1400 Gutenberg's Press (1492)
Columbus discovers America (1492)
1500 Momoyama Period(1568-1615) Martin Luther launches reform of the church (1517)
1600 Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Tokugawa Period(1615-1867) The Thirty Years' War(1618-1648)
1700 American Independence (1776)
French Revolution (1789-1793)
1800 Meiji Period(1868-1912) American Civil War (1861-1865)
1900 Annexation by Japan (1910)
Establishment of the ROK (1948)
Korean War (1950-1953)
Establishment of the ROC (1912)
Establishment of the PRC (1949)
Taisho Period(1912-1926)
Showa Period(1926-1988)
Heisei Period(1989-)
World War I (1914-1918)
World War II (1939-1945)

According to legend, Korea was founded in 2333 BC by a mythical figure named Tan'gun / Dangun. Korea celebrates National Foundation Day, or Gaecheonjeol in Korean, which translates into the day the sky was opened. The story behind the holiday begins with Hwanung, the son of a god who lived in the heavens but wanted to live on Earth. He descended and ruled over the people with the noble aim of benefiting mankind. Then two animals, a bear and a tiger, came and begged Hwanung to let them become human. Hwanung agreed to grant their wish, but only if they endured 100 days without exposure to sunlight, with only garlic and ssuk, a type of mugwort, as their diet. The tiger gave up halfway through, but the bear persevered and became a woman. She later bore Hwanung a son, who would be called Dangun. Even to this day, Emperor Dangun is considered to be the founder of this nation, and his mixed ancestry of a bear and deity has become a symbol for national identity.

The earliest Korean people are believed to have been migrants and invaders from present-day Manchuria, northern China, and Mongolia. They are also believed to have been divided into large extended kin groups and most likely practiced shamanism, a belief system that centers on worship of nature and ancestral spirits that has persisted through the centuries.

From the fourth century A.D. to the mid-seventh century A.D., three kingdoms fought for control of Korea: Koguryo in the northern part of the peninsula and Manchuria, Paekche (18 B.C.) in the southwest, and Shilla (57 B.C.) in the southeast. As they progressed into statehood, each developed institutions of centralized power and authority. In 668 A.D., Korea emerged as a unified political entity under the Shilla Kingdom. The century that followed is usually described as a golden age of artistic and cultural development, as the diminished threat of invasion from the north permitted Korean scholars to travel to China and bring back advanced Chinese culture.

In the mid-eighth century however, central authority began to decline. The Shilla Kingdom was overturned in 935 A.D. by the dynasty of Koryo, from which the name "Korea" was derived. In 1390-91, a group of dynasty officials, allied with the newly established Ming Dynasty of China, broke the economic backbone of leading Koryo families by instituting a new land-holding system. This led to the overthrow of Koryo by the Chosun Dynasty in 1392. The Chosun Dynasty adopted the ancient name of Chosun to claim antiquity for the Korean people, and moved the capital from Kaesong to Seoul.

The most notable intellectual achievement of the dynasty was the development in 1443 of a phonetic writing system known as Hangul. The Chosun Dynasty is regarded as the golden age of Confucianism in Korea, and Confucian political and social ideals became firmly embedded in the country. Rampant strife, however, also became deeply rooted in Korean society especially after the 15th century. This factionalism persisted in the Korean culture well into the mid-20th century. It divided the Chosun Dynasty's leadership and demoralized its military forces, leaving Korea defenseless against Japanese invasions in the late 16th century.

In November 1905, Korea became a Japanese colony until 1945. Korea was ruled directly from Tokyo through a governor general appointed by the Japanese emperor. Under Japanese rule all civil liberties were revoked. The Japanese closed many private schools and established their own public school system designed to assimilate Korean youth into Japanese culture.

Nationalist sentiments were strong among Koreans, and resistance movements were formed among students, factory workers, and urban intellectuals. In 1919, the Japanese police crushed nationwide demonstrations, in which about 370,000 Koreans participated and about 6,670 were killed. Korea re-entered the limelight during World War II when its struggle for independence was recognized in the Cairo Declaration issued in December 1943, by the leaders of the United States, Great Britain and China.

On August 25, 1945, President Truman authorized a line of demarcation in Korea to ease the surrender of Japanese forces on the peninsula. Soviet forces accepted the surrender of Japanese troops north of the 38th parallel; U.S. forces received those located in the south. This area soon evolved into a hardened barrier. In November 1947, the United Nations adopted a resolution stipulating that elected representatives of the Korean people themselves should establish the conditions for unification and determine their own form of government. The Soviets refused to admit a United Nations commission to observe the free elections in the northern half, so elections were held in May 1948, only in the southern half.

Following adoption of a new constitution, Syng-man Rhee was elected president on July 20, and the Republic of Korea was established on August 15, 1948. By June 1949, the U.S. withdrew all American troops, except for a 500-man military advisory group. The north's leader, Kim Il-sung, seized the opportunity to unite the peninsula under his rule. Kim undertook a direct attack, sending his Army south across the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950.

The United Nations Security Council, on June 27, 1950, requested members of the United Nations to assist South Korea. The United States, initially responding with air and naval support, had ground forces committed by the end of the month. Eventually, 15 other nations fought under the flag of the United Nations. In July 1953, an Armistice Agreement brought the existing uneasy truce. The biggest problem now facing the Republic was reconstruction. The south had survived the war with freedom but little else.

President Rhee was re-elected in 1956 and again in 1960 - an election that was later proven to have been fraudulent. Tension and violence followed. The "April 19 Student Revolution," led to Rhee's resignation. The second Republic elected Chang Myon prime minister in August 1960.

In May 1961, a military junta headed by Maj. Gen. Park, Chung-hee deposed the Chang government. The new government established a strong presidency dominating a largely subservient legislature. They also began an unprecedented program of economic development that later catapulted the ROK into the ranks of the developed industrial nations. Park retired from the Army and was elected president in October 1963. President Park was assassinated on 26, 1979 and emergency martial law was proclaimed. Choi, Kyu-hah became the fourth president of the Republic.

Following a period of civil unrest and declaration of total martial law, Gen. Chun, Doo-hwan seized control of the government in a coup d'etat in May 1980. Chun retired and was elected president on August 27, 1980. The fifth five-year development plan, beginning in 1982, was suggested as an ambitious blueprint for a second stage of economic growth. The invitation of the 1986 Asian games and the 1988 Summer Olympics to Seoul advanced the international status of Korea and elevated the people's pride.

Retired Gen. Roh, Tae-woo was elected president through the first direct popular vote in 16 years. This 6th Republic ended perennial domestic and international controversy over the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea government and set the stage for the successful hosting of the Seoul Olympics and the effective implementation of a northern diplomacy aimed at opening and expanding the ties with the socialist world.

The seventh Republic came into being in February 1993 by president Kim, Young-sam. President Kim's election marked a significant milestone in modern Korean history -- the first popularly-elected civilian government in 32 years. Korean democracy further matured in 1998, with the election of Kim, Dae-jung, an opposition candidate, in the first successful transition of governmental authority in Korean history.




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