- The beginning of Korean history is often dated from 2333 B.C. Tan-Gun is the mythical progenitor of the Korean people. King Tan-Gun established the first Korean kingdom, Choson. Nowadays, Koreans celebrate October 3rd, as National Foundation Day.
- The Korean primitive age progressed throughout the old-stone age, mid-stone age and new-stone age.
- The end of the new stone age, people started to use metal goods. At that time, Choson was established. There were various new and strong kingdoms that succeeded after Choson. These kingdoms were based on the metal culture. Among various kingdoms, Koguryo, Paekche, and Shilla were remarkable ones.In 676, Shilla achieved its first territorial unification. For two and half centuries, Shilla enjoyed peace and prosperity during that time. She built up national culture in various areas of science, the arts, and literature.
- Medieval Ages
In the beginning of the 10th century, ancient ages transgressed into the medieval ages. The founding monarch of Koryo (918-1392), was named by Wang-Gun, who had served under the rebel prince of Shilla.
Koryo achieved some great accomplishments. Korean potters created a mysterious bluish-green glaze for celadon, making a monumental contribution to the world of ceramics .
Aswell, Koryo invented the world first movable printing metal type in 1234. This preceeded Gutenberg’s printing press by two centuries.
In 1392, another Choson Dynasty succeeded Koryo. The Choson rulers governed with a well-balanced and sophisticated political system. The founders of the Choson Dynasty replaced Buddhism with Confucianism in order to reduce the political power of the dominant Buddhist influences. During this age, society in general highly valued academic learning while dishonoring commerce and manufacturing.
During the reign of King Sejong (1418-50)– Choson’s fourth monarch- Korea enjoyed an unprecedented flowering of culture and the arts. For instance, Han-Gul, the Korean alphabet, was invented while he reigned.
In the late 16th century, however, Korea experienced difficulties through war against Japan. From the early 17th century, a movement advocating practical studies gained considerable momentum among liberal-minded scholar-officials as a way to build a modern country.
However, the government of conservative aristocrats was not ready to accommodate their ideas.
- Modern Ages
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Koreans experienced the rise of Sil-hak, the school of practical learning among liberal minded scholar-officials. Unfortunately, most of their ideas were ignored, and the governments stuck to its traditional ways.
Korea remained a hermit kingdom opposed to the western demands for diplomatic and trade relationships in the 19th century.
Korea again became the arena for a power struggle in Asia. Japan, China and Russia were the prime competitors. The Choson dynasty ended in 1910.
- Present Ages
After Korea was annexed, Japan started to exploit Korea. Japanese colonial rule stimulated the growth of nationalism among Koreans. In 1919, Koreans started the independence movement against Japanese annexation and exploitation. This movement continued till August 1945.
Finally, the strong bond of national identity and patriotism of the Korean people led to the independence and establishment of the Republic of Korea.
In spite of the tragic Korean War (1950-1953), Korea kept its successful economic development during the last 30 years.