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Joseon

map of Joseon Dynasty (15th century)
map of Joseon Dynasty (15th century)
In 1392, General Yi Seong-gye established a new dynasty called Joseon. The early rulers of Joseon, in order to counter the dominant Buddhist influence during the Goryeo period, supported Confucianism as the guiding philosophy of the kingdom.

The Joseon rulers governed the dynasty with a well-balanced political system. A civil service examination system was the main channel for recruiting government officials.

The examinations served as the backbone for social mobility and intellectual activity during the period. The Confucian-oriented society, however, highly valued academic learning while disdaining commerce and manufacturing.

During the reign of King Sejong the Great (1418-1450), Joseon's fourth monarch, Korea enjoyed an unprecedented flowering of culture and art. Under King Sejong's guidance, scholars at the royal academy created the Korean alphabet Hangeul. It was then called Hunminjeongeum, or "proper phonetic system to educate the people."

King Sejong's interest in astronomical science was comprehensive. Sundials, water clocks, celestial globes and astronomical maps were produced at his request. King Sejo (r.1455-1468) later established an institutional framework for government by publishing a compendium of legal codes, called Gyeongguk Daejeon.

In 1592, Japan invaded the peninsula to pave the way for its incursion into China. At sea, Admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598), one of the most respected figures in Korean history, led a series of brilliant naval maneuvers against the Japanese, deploying the geobukseon (turtle ships), which are believed to be the world's first ironclad battleships.

drawing of geobukseon, which is believed to the world's first ironclad battleship
drawing of geobukseon, which is believed to the world's first ironclad battleship
From the early 17th century, a movement advocating Silhak, or practical learning, gained considerable momentum among liberal-minded scholar-officials as a means of building a modern nation.

They strongly recommended agricultural and industrial improvements along with sweeping reforms in land distribution. The conservative government aristocrats, however, were not ready to accommodate such drastic change.

In the latter half of the Joseon era, government administration and the upper classes came to be marked by recurring factionalism. To rectify the undesirable political situation, King Yeongjo (r.1724-1776) eventually adopted a policy of impartiality. He was thus able to strengthen the royal authority and achieve political stability.

King Jeongjo (r.1776-1800) maintained the policy of impartiality and set up a royal library to preserve royal documents and records. He also initiated other political and cultural reforms. This period witnessed the blossoming of Silhak. A number of outstanding scholars wrote progressive works recommending agricultural and industrial reforms, but few of their ideas were adopted by the government.

 
 

  Korea History  
   Gojoseon
People began living on the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding areas from some 700,000 years ago. The Neolithic Age began some 8,000 years ago. Relics from that period can be found in areas throughout the Korean Peninsula, mostly in coastal areas and in areas near big rivers. The Bronze Age began around 1,500 to 2,000 B.C. in present-day Mongolia and on the peninsula. As this civilization began to form, numerous tribes appeared in the Lioaning region …
   Three Kingdoms and Gaya
Town-states gradually united into tribal leagues with complex political structures which eventually grew into kingdoms. Among various tribal leagues, Goguryeo (37 B.C.- A.D. 668), situated along the middle course of the Amnokgang (Yalu River), was the first to mature into a kingdom. Goguryeo's aggressive troops conquered neighboring tribes one after another, and in 313, they even occupied China's Lolang outposts. Baekje (18 …
   Unified Silla and Balhae

map of Unified Silla and Balhae (8th century) By the mid-sixth century, the Silla Kingdom had brought under its control all of the neighboring town-states within the Gaya Confederation. Through an alliance with the Tang Dynasty of China, Silla unified the Korean Peninsula in 668 and saw the zenith of its power and prosperity in the mid-eighth century. It attempted to establish an ideal Buddhist country. Bulguksa Temple was constructed during the Unified Silla period. However, its Buddhist social order began to deteriorate as the nobility indulged in increasing luxury. Silla had repelle…

   Goryeo
map of Goryeo Dynastry (11th century) The Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) was founded by Wang Geon, a general who had served under Gungye, a rebel prince of the Silla Kingdom. Choosing his native town of Songak (present-day Gaeseong in North Korea) as the capital, Wang Geon proclaimed the goal of recovering the lost territory of the Goguryeo Kingdom in northeast China. Wang Geon named his dynasty Goryeo, from which the modern name K…
   Joseon
map of Joseon Dynasty (15th century) In 1392, General Yi Seong-gye established a new dynasty called Joseon. The early rulers of Joseon, in order to counter the dominant Buddhist influence during the Goryeo period, supported Confucianism as the guiding philosophy of the kingdom. The Joseon rulers governed the dynasty with a well-balanced political system. A civil service examination system was the main channel for recruiting go…
   Japanese Occupation
Japanese Occupation and Korea's Independence Movement High-ranking officials from Korea's Provisional Government in Shanghai pose for a commemorative photo in 1945. In the 19th century, Korea remained a "Hermit Kingdom," adamantly opposed to Western demands for diplomatic and trade relations. Over time, a few Asian and European countries with imperialistic ambitions competed with each other for influence over the Korean Peninsula…
   Founding of the Republic
A special ceremony inaugurating the government of the Republic of Korea was held on August 15. 1948. Koreans rejoiced at Japan's World War II defeat. However, their joy was short-lived. Liberation did not instantly bring about the independence for which the Koreans had fought so fiercely. Rather, it resulted in a country divided by ideological differences caused by the emerging Cold War. Korean efforts to establish an indepen…
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Domestic flights : Most domestic destinations are within an hour's flight from Seoul. Gimpo Airport, located between the western area of Seoul and the newer Incheon International Airport, is primarily used for domestic travel and short flights to Japan and China. Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and a few domestic discount carriers handle all flights within the country. KTX Railway services : The Korea Railroad (KORAIL) operate…
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Seoul Located along the Hangang River, Seoul has grown into a teeming metropolis with a population of more than 10 million. Over the years, the capital city of Korea has greatly expanded in the process of urbanization and industrialization and continues to grow as the thriving center of the country's political, economic, cultural and educational activities. Seoul is the world's 10th-largest city. Its past and present coexist in a fascin…





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