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1. Life and Culture in the Prehistoric Age


2. Foundation and Development of Kojoson


3. Other Nations



 1. The Rise and Development of the Kingdoms


2. Unification of the Three Kingdoms By Shilla


3. The Societies and Culture of the Kingdoms


4. The Inroads into Foreign Nations by the Three Kingdoms and Cultural Exchange



1. Development and Decline of Unified Shilla


2. Founding of Parhae and Its Domination over Manchuria


3. Prosperity of the Shilla Culture


4. Advances in Sea Trade Overseas



1. National Reunification and Safeguarding Independence


2. Development within the Koryo Culture


3. International Activities of the Koryo People



1. Political Development and Society


2. Scholastic Activities, Science, Technology and Culture

(1) Promotion of Scholastic Activities

With the promotion of a king-centered Confucian government, since the beginning of its foundation the Choson Dynasty encouraged Confucian learning and supported its activities. The government and the conservative Confucian scholars who held governing powers set forth metaphysics as the guiding ideology and conducted research in pragmatic studies in order to stablize the lives of the people. Thus, through the Confucian scholars, scholarly activities were developed to a higher degree in the 15th century.
The successive sovereigns of Choson made great strides in the development of scholarly learning. Among them, King Sejong and King Songjong not only led the study of scholarly learning but also actively supported many scholars in their research.
King Sejong established a Chiphyon-jon (Hall of Worthies) where talented young scholars gathered to concentrate on their studies. King Songjong established the Hongmun-gwan as the institution to succeed Chiphyon-jon in order to provide hospitality and encouragement to scholars.


Han'gul, created under King Sejong's orders in 1443 and proclaimed in 1466. Designated National Treasure No.745.


In the 15th century, many notable scholastic achievements were made in many different fields. Many contributions in the fields of history, geography, agricultural science, medicine, language and phonology are especially evident.
In the 16th century, through the activities of the Sarim, the study of metaphysics flourished. Aside from this field, particular achievements did not develop in any other area.


(2) The Creation of Han'gul (Korean Alphabet)

In the past, Chinese characters were used in Korea to write. However, Chinese characters could not adequately express Korean words. Thus, early Koreans used, Idu which was a system based on sounds and meanings of Chinese ideographs, but there were many inconveniences in using this system as well. Because Choson lacked its own particular national alphabet, except for the intelligentsia, the general people could not understand the written language and thus experienced inconveniences in their lives. During the initial stages of the Choson Dynasty, as national consciousness rose, Choson took up the great cultural task of creating its own alphabet which came to be known as Han'gul (Hunmin chong'um). King Sejong made great efforts to create a system of letters which would be easy to learn and write.
After a long period of research, he succeeded in creating the alphabet Han'gul, and in 1446 he promulgated it to the world, referring to it as Hunmin chong'um.
Hunmin chong'um means "the correct sounds for the instruction of the people." It was named as such with the spirit of the King's love for his people. After the completion of Hunmin chong'um, the King made efforts to promote it by ordering his scholars to publish the Yongbi och'on-ga (The Dragon Flies to Heaven) and the Worin ch'ongang-jigok (The Moon Shines on a Thousand Rivers) in Hunmin chong'um.
Han'gul is easy to learn and systematic. It can, not only give expression to sounds, but its form is beautiful and was created on the basis of scientific theory. Thus, Koreans consider it to be one of the most superior systems of letters in the world.
As a result of the creation of Han'gul, the Korean people were able to possess pride as a cultured nation with its own unique national alphabet, thus boosting the national culture.


(3) Development of Metaphysics

Metaphysics was known as the study of Cheng Zhu or Zhuzi. It was introduced to our country from China at the end of the Koryo Dynasty and became the main current of Confucianism during the Choson Dynasty. Metaphysics greatly influenced politics, society and education during the Choson era and became the standard for an ethical and moral life.
In the initial stages of Choson, Chong To-chon and Kwon Kun made efforts to fix metaphysics as a political ideology. These scholars were referred to as the "government school" faction.
However, at the end of 15th century, a group of Sarim and metaphysical scholars centered around a scholar named Kim Chong-chik. Metaphysics in Choson thus further developed as a result of these scholars. In the 16th century, metaphysics became a subject of even deeper study and philosophical disputes continued. Yi Hwang and Yi I were great metaphysicians of this era and were the twin stars of metaphysics in Choson.


Books authorized by Yi hwang


Yi Hwang, as the chief theorist in metaphysics, trained many disciples including Yu Song-nyong and became the master of the Yongnam school. Yi I, as the chief proponent of Confucian materialism, established the system of Choson metaphysics and nurtured Kim Chang-saeng and many other scholars who became the masters of the Kiho hakp'a. During the 16th century the Sowon which had been built in various places included the Paekundong sowon, erected by Chu Se-bung, a Kun official in P'ungki. It was named Sosu sowon by the King and was later granted both land and slaves. These Sowons which were named by the state and provided with land and slaves were called Sa'aek sowons. Afterwards, the local scholars in each of the various regions erected many Sowons, and the number of Sa'aek sowons which were supported by the state increased daily. The scholars gathered in the Sowons to study metaphysics and educate their disciples. In this way, scholastic activities on the research of metaphysics steadily continued.


Sillok of the Chosun Dynasty.


(4) Increase in the Compilation of Books

During the beginning of Choson, national books were actively compiled. Books on the subjects of history, geography, military, Confucianism, morality and others. were published in relatively large numbers. The successive monarchs and ruling classes made great efforts to compile books on history. By compiling the history of the Koryo Dynasty, the books Koryosa and Koryosa choryo were published. The Tongguk t'onggam was published in order to provide an outline of national history.
From the beginning of the Choson Dynasty, attempts to compile the Sillok, the records of successive Kings, continued. This was done in order to inform the present King of the history of his predecessors which enabled him to use the information as a political model during his reign. Under the reign of King T'aejong, the T'aejo sillok was compiled and historical records of the successive Kings were published. Four copies of each of these Sillok were printed and preserved in each of the four libraries.
Today, the Sillok of the Choson Dynasty are a proud possession of Korean culture as a precious heritage and have become an important document in the study of the history of the Choson period.



3. International Relations and Cultural Exchanges



1. Social Change in the Latter Choson Period


2. New Trends in Cultural Activities


3. International Exchanges and New Trends in Religion



1. Modern Reform Movements


2. Economic Aggression by World Powers and the Movement to Protect


3. Growth of Modern Culture and Social Change



1. Colonial Domination by Japanese Imperialism and the National Ordeal


2. Movement to Protect National Rights and the Independence Struggle


3. Safeguarding and Preserving the National Culture



1. Birth and Growth of the Republic of Korea


2. Economic Growth and Inroads Overseas


3. A Flourishing Modern Culture


Korea is a proud country with a unique culture and tradition that are over 5,000 years old. Yet results of various surveys indicate that many people around the world do not have a correct understanding of the country's history, and information in this area has been relatively scarce. The purpose of this source is to address the inaccuracies or distortions foreigners may have in their knowledge of the history of Korea.

History of Korea is co-published by Radio Korea International of KBS and the National Institute for International Education Development under the Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development of Korea.

VANK has the permission on the use of History of Korea from the two organizations mentioned above.

Radio Korea International of KBS

History of Korea covers the history of Korea from its beginning to the year 1995.
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