Korean Peninsula

한반도의 역사

History of the Korean Peninsula

China and Korea’s civilizations have same ancestry.

  • 2300 BC. The Yellow Emperor is said to be the ancestor of Chinese civilizations. The Chinese Dynasties: Xia; Shang; W. Zhou and E. Zhou; Qin; and then the Hans who conquered the Korean peninsula.



  • 2200 BC. Traces of Ancient Chosun civilization were found in the areas of Northern Korea, and the south east of today’s China. It led to the Gojoseon Kingdom (ancestors of today’s Korea).

Ancient Chosun’s roots, from the migration of early Chinese Civilization, produced the Gojoseon Kingdom, a very advanced civilization, more so than their Chinese counterparts, until the Han Dynasty.


Han Commanderies

Han Commanderies

By 108 B.C., the Hans of China, distributed Gojoseon into 4 Commanderies.

The 4 commanderies and their 4 governors, literally turned Gojoseon into a slave state, until the 37 B.C. Rebellion and creation of the Kingdom of Goguryo.

After strife and disagreements some of the Royals of Goguryo, travelled South to create their own Kingdom of Baekje in 18 B.C.

At the same time that the Korean peninsula grew in power, the Han Dynasty extinguished within a few hundred years.  China remained divided for many centuries giving the Korean peninsula time to prosper, and their Kingdoms (up to 5 at one time) to try claiming supremacy over the area:

3 Kingdoms

3 Kingdoms

  • 37 BC to 918 AD: Goguryo
  • 18 BC to 936 AD: Baekje
  • 42 AD to 562: Gaya
  • 540 to 938 AD: Later then Unified Silla
  • 698 AD to 926: Balhae
Gaya Confederacy

Gaya Confederacy

The Gaya Kingdom was short lived, as it was absorbed by the more powerful Silla. The 3 main Kingdoms Goguryo, Baekje, and Silla, warred for a few centuries, until Silla sought the help of the Tang of China to conquer Baekje and later Goguryo. The then Unified Korean peninsula under Silla, had to fight of the remnants of Tang colonies to lay claim on on the Unified Silla.

Later on, political divides due to the remnants of the 2 previous kingdoms of Goguryo and Baekje, led to the emergence of the new state of Goryeo in 918.



Goryeo a result of Civil wars, remained dominant of the Korean peninsula until 1392, regardless of the constant aggression’s of the Northern Chinese tribes, the Yuan dynasty, and the Mongols. By the mid 14th century, Goryeo freed itself from the grip or over-lordship of the Yuan Chinese Dynasty.

The Mongols attacked and raided Goryeo for 30 years until eventually giving up the conquest and the Master Servant relationship so desired.

Towards the end of it’s existence, Goryeo’s nobility completely ignored the misery of it’s people caused by constant Japanese pirates attacks and raids, capture and slave trade, on the peninsula.

King of Joseon flag

King of Joseon flag

In 1392, a military overthrow led to the newly Joseon Kingdom, basically a more modern political entity, that would rule the Korean peninsula, still through Monarchy, but with a prominent control of political parties, that were still in majority the nobility of the nation.

The same war driven Yuan and Ming dynasties influenced the overthrow of Goryeo for the new Joseon.

Joseon saw it’s culture gradually separate from China, more so by the creation of it’s own writing system in 1443: Hangul. Yes, until then, Koreans used the Chinese writing system to express their own language.

Unfortunately, it led to an ever increasing isolationism from the surrounding nations, and eventually from progress.  Joseon however proved very crafty, by it’s own development of firearms, explosives, and military ships, in order to fight of the constant attempts of invasion by the Japanese.

From Ming to the Qing, Joseon had to keep those Chinese dynasties from their grip and their tributary state system.

For five centuries, the name Joseon remained, until 1897, to be renamed the Korean Empire, in an attempt to prove it’s independence from Chinese sphere of influence.

In 1910, Japan made Korea a Japanese territory.

Korea remained under Japanese rule until the end of WWII.

The same end result that occurred in Germany, with the division of East and West Germany, Korea became North and South Korea after the end of WWII.

USSR controlling the North, and USA the South.

That’s when things went wrong. the UN created the southern Republic of Korea, while the USSR in disagreement kept influence over the North. Unfortunately, the USSR, literally left the North on it’s own. Enters China in the vacuum! China’s influence over North Korea prevented any sort of reunification, as it did occur with Germany at the end of the USSR.

Communist China needed this buffer zone from the Western influenced South Korea.

1950: Korean War began when North Korea invaded South Korea June 1950.

After the first two months of war, South Korean forces were on the point of defeat, forced back to the Pusan Perimeter. In September 1950, an amphibious UN counter-offensive was launched at Inchon, and cut off many North Korean troops. Those who escaped envelopment and capture were rapidly forced back north all the way to the border with China at the Yalu River, or into the mountainous interior. At this point, in October 1950, Chinese forces crossed the Yalu and entered the war. Chinese intervention triggered a retreat of UN forces which continued until mid-1951. After these reversals of fortune, which saw Seoul change hands four times, the last two years of fighting became a war of attrition, with the front line close to the 38th parallel. The war in the air, however, was never a stalemate. North Korea was subject to a massive bombing campaign. Jet fighters confronted each other in air-to-air combat for the first time in history, and Soviet pilots covertly flew in defense of their communist allies.

1953: The fighting ended on 27 July 1953, when an armistice was signed. The two Koreas are technically still at war.Queen Seon Duk, a 62 episode series

I got hooked on Korean Historical Dramas the day I watched Queen Seon Duk, a 62 episode series.  I then found myself verifying it’s accuracy in history.  Of course, much of it is embellished and romanticized but for the most part, the characters and their place in history was accurate.

These writtings in Chinese characters on the side of a cliff must predate the 15th century.

These writtings in Chinese characters on the side of a cliff must predate the 15th century.

More on Korea in the 21st Century ⇒

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