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KOREAN WAR

KOREAN WAR



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Wars & Treaties


Battles

Biographies

Collins, J. Lawton, 1896-1987 (Lighting Joe)
Westmoreland, General William, 1914-2005

Weapons, Armies & Units

25-pdr Field Gun 1939 - 1972: Part Two
Baltimore Class Heavy Cruisers
Boeing B-29 Combat Record
Bremerton, USS (CA-130)
Browning Automatic Rifle
Canberra, USS (CA-70) (originally Pittsburgh)
Centurion Main Battle Tank (UK)
Chance Vought AU-1 Corsair
Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair
Chance Vought F4U-5 Corsair
Cleveland Class Light Cruisers
Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer
Douglas A-26 Invader: Introduction and Development
Douglas B-26 in Korea
Douglas C-54 Skymaster
Eastern TBM-3 Avenger
Fairey Firefly
Fairey Firefly FR.5
Gloster Meteor Overseas Customers
Hawker Sea Fury
Hawker Sea Fury FB 11
Heavy Tank M45 (T26E2)
Helena, USS (CA-75)
Iowa class battleships
Iowa, USS (BB-61)
Juneau, USS (CL-119)
Los Angeles, USS (CA-135)
M7 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage 'Priest'
M15 Combination Gun Motor Carriage
M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage
M19 40mm Gun Motor Carriage
M24 Light Tank Chaffee
M26 Pershing Medium Tank (USA)
M36 90mm Gun Motor Carriage
M37 105mm Howitzer Motor Carriage
M39 Armoured Utility Vehicle
M40 155mm Gun Motor Carriage
M41 155mm Howitzer Motor Carriage
M43 Howitzer Motor Carriage
M47 Medium Tank (USA)
Manchester, USS (CL-83)
MiG-19 'Farmer'
Missouri, USS (BB-63)
North American P-51 (F-51) during the Korean War
North American P-51D
Pittsburgh, USS (CA-72) (originally Albany)
Quincy, USS (CA-71) (originally St Paul)
Rochester, USS (CA-124)
St Paul, USS, (CA-73) (originally Rochester)
Sten machine carbine
Short Sunderland - Combat Record
Short Sunderland V
Supermarine Seafire
T17 Command Post Vehicle
T-34-85 Medium Tank
T81 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage
Toledo, USS (CA-133)
Wisconsin, USS (BB-64)

Concepts


8 Things You Should Know About the Korean War

Japan ruled over Korea from 1905 until the end of World War II, after which the Soviet Union occupied the northern half of the peninsula and the United States occupied the south. Originally, they intended to keep Korea together as one country. But when the United Nations called for elections in 1947, the Soviet Union refused to comply, instead installing a communist regime led by Kim Il-Sung. In the South, meanwhile, strongman Syngman Rhee became president. Both Kim and Rhee wanted to unify Korea under their rule and initiated border skirmishes that left thousands dead.


Statues:

The 19 stainless steel statues were sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt. and cast by Tallix Foundries of Beacon, N.Y. They are approximately 7-feet tall and represent an ethnic cross section of America. The advance party has 14 Army, three Marine, one Navy and one Air Force members. The statues stand in patches of juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips, which give a semblance of order and symbolize the rice paddies of Korea. The troops wear ponchos covering their weapons and equipment. The ponchos seem to blow in the cold winds of Korea. The statues are identified below:

Position Service Duty Race Weapon
1. Army Lead Scout Caucasian M-1
2. Army Scout Caucasian M-1
3. Army Squad Leader Caucasian M-1
4. Army BAR Man Afro-American Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)
5. Army BAR Assistant Caucasian Carbine
6. Army Rifleman Afro-American M-1
7. Army Group Leader Caucasian Carbine
8. Army Radio Operator Caucasian Carbine
9. Army Army Medic Hispanic None
10. Army Forward Observer Caucasian Carbine
11. Air Force Air-Ground Controller Caucasian Carbine
12. Marine Corps Assistant Gunner Caucasian Tripod
13. Marine Corps Gunner Caucasian Machine Gun
14. Navy Corpsman Afro-American None
15. Marine Corps Rifleman Asian-American M-1
16. Army Rifleman Caucasian M-1
17. Army Rifleman Hispanic M-1
18. Army Assistant Group Leader Caucasian M-1
19. Army Rifleman Native American M-1


The Significance of the Korean War in the History of Warfare

Clockwise from top: A column of the U.S. 1st Marine Division’s infantry and armor moves through Chinese lines during their breakout from the Chosin Reservoir UN landing at Incheon harbor, starting point of the Battle of Incheon Korean refugees in front of an American M26 Pershing tank U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, landing at Incheon F-86 Sabre fighter aircraft.

In spite of its limited nature, the Korean War was tremendously destructive. Korea’s industrial base was wiped out. Four million Koreans, 10 percent of the population, were rendered casualties and five million became refugees. The North Korean armed forces lost approximately 600,000 men in the fighting, in addition to two million civilian casualties. The Chinese suffered an estimated one million casualties. Losses to the ROK armed forces are estimated at 70,000 killed, 150,000 wounded, and 80,000 captured (the majority of whom died from starvation or mistreatment). One million South Korean civilians were killed or injured. The USA lost 33,600 men killed and 103,200 wounded.

The Korean peninsula was divided along the line of contact at the end of the war and remains so to this day. A political conference called for in the armistice agreement was held in Geneva in 1954, but the two sides’ demands were too far apart to permit any compromise. The peninsula became a microcosm of the Cold War itself. Heavily armed, North and South Korea faced each other across the demilitarized zone. But, other than desultory skirmishing, a second war has not broken out.

South Korea emerged from the war militarily secure but domestically unstable. The ROK armed forces had grown to number 600,000 men. They could hold their own against the North Koreans and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese. Following his unilateral release of North Korean POWs, Rhee had secured from the USA a mutual defense treaty, long-term economic aid, and assistance in expanding the ROK armed forces. Additionally, the Eighth Army remained in South Korea throughout the Cold War. The ROK was now an important bulwark against Communist expansionism in east Asia. It would be one of the few nations to provide a sizable military contribution to the American war effort in Vietnam. However, South Korea would not experience substantial economic growth until the 1960s. The constant threat of war led Rhee toward greater authoritarianism and high levels of military spending, which detracted from economic development. The political context of South Korea was marked by authoritarian governments and intermittent student protests. Rhee himself was overthrown in a coup d’état in 1961.

North Korea remained a potent military power after the war. Close ties were maintained with the Soviet Union and the PRC. Indeed, North Korea became intensely-Communist. The re-indoctrination of Communism was necessary to mobilize sufficient resources for economic reconstruction. The effort was largely successful, and the North Korean economy was rebuilt by the late 1950s. Politically, the defeats of the Korean War undercut Kim Il Sung’s leadership position. In order to stay in power, he executed a number of his opponents. He then built a cult of personality around the myth that North Korea had won the Korean War. Kim ultimately survived the Cold War, and North Korea remains a Communist state to this day under his son’s leadership.

The Korean War is often considered a draw or even a defeat for the UNC. The Soviet Union and the PRC had achieved their minimal goal of defending their positions in east Asia. The two countries remained powerful obstacles to American hegemony in the area. The independence of North Korea had been preserved. However, this reasoning assumes that the lack of total victory was a defeat. In fact, the Korean War was an unmistakable victory for the UNC.

First, the important UNC demands were met in negotiations. Concessions were only made on minor points. The line of contact, not the 38 th Parallel, became the border between North and South Korea, and voluntary repatriation was enforced. Second, in the course of military operations, the Communists suffered far greater manpower and economic losses than the UNC. For the PRC and North Korea, the opportunity cost of these lost resources for internal development was great. Third, the West halted the first major Communist attempt at overt aggression. Without delving into a counterfactual, it is reasonable to assume that if South Korea had not been successfully defended, China and the Soviet Union would have continued with a more overtly aggressive foreign policy against the West. Instead, for the remainder of the Cold War, they resorted to guerrilla warfare as the primary means of expanding their influence. There were no truly decisive battles in the Korean War. Success for the Communists or the UNC ultimately depended on their ability to sustain protracted warfare through a combination of economic strength and military efficiency. The Communists proved less able to do so. Despite their numerical superiority, the Communists needed to break the military ascendancy of the UNC before the weakness of their economic systems made continued warfare unacceptably expensive. Instead, the clumsy Communist tactics in the first year of the war and Ridgway’s generalship crippled their war effort. Deng Hua and Yang Dezhi did a remarkable job reforming the CPV in 1952. But by the time these reforms took effect, the Chinese could no longer shoulder the costs of war.

After overcoming the initial Chinese intervention, the UNC became an exceptionally efficient military force. The UNC mounted offensives without sustaining heavy casualties repeatedly halted Communist attacks conducted air strikes throughout North Korea and controlled the seas surrounding the peninsula. Technological superiority, abundance of firepower, a core of experienced soldiers, and innovating commanders engendered military efficiency. Moreover, the economic strength of the USA meant that the UNC could fight the war virtually indefinitely. China’s economy, on the other hand, had never recovered from the Chinese Civil War or the Second World War. As the Korean War dragged on, the need for internal economic development and an end to the burden of military expenditure created an impetus for compromise. For the Soviet Union, the heavy costs of financing and supplying a major regional war were not worth the marginal reward of enforcing the Communist bargaining position in negotiations. Hence, by 1953, the Communists preferred to compromise rather than overburden their economies with an interminable war.

The Korean War had wide implications for the entire international system. First, as technically a United Nations action, the Korean War was pivotal in the development of that organization. Second, in the area of military strategy, Korea was significant as the first limited war. Hard practical experience in the Korean War had raised major questions regarding the usability of nuclear weapons. Third, and most importantly, the war affected the balance of power between the two superpowers.

It was in Korea that the UN first authorized the use of force in the name of collective security. Unfortunately, the Korean War showed that, in reality, the UN was not a guarantor of collective security. UN action was a fluke resulting from Soviet absence in the Security Council. The UN was not acting out the will of the entire international community, but that of the West. Later in the Cold War, UN action in support of collective security was usually impossible because of opposition from either the USA or the Soviet Union, depending on whose sphere of influence the UN was considering intervening in. Nevertheless, several important diplomatic initiatives originated in the UN, including the first cease-fire resolution in December 1950 and Jacob Malik’s proposal for negotiations in June 1951. The ‘Uniting for Peace’ procedure was also created in the Korean War. It would be used again in the Cold War, most notably as a means for the USA to punish the British and French during the Suez Canal Crisis. Most importantly, the fact that the Korean War was heavily debated in the UN by all member states validated the UN’s role as the legitimate mediator of international conflicts and a forum for diplomacy.

Regarding military strategy, the Korean War was the first illustration of the new context of warfare that emerged in the Cold War. The former aim of warfare, the total annihilation of an opponent, was excessively dangerous. The dramatic victories of the North Korean blitzkrieg, the Inchon landing, and the Second Phase Offensive caused a rapid escalation of the Korean War that brought each combatant to the brink of world war. A limited aim was now the goal of most wars. In Korea, and frequently thereafter, a limited aim embodied seeking minor political gains through a negotiated resolution of the war. Military operations were carefully restrained in order to reduce the risk of escalation. Similar restrictions on military operations would reappear in subsequent wars, such as Vietnam, the Arab-Israeli Wars, and the Indo-Pakistani Wars. The methods of warfare implemented under these restrictions in the Korean War – attrition, air power, and nuclear threats – were the first adaptations to limited war. Consequently, the Korean War was the formative experience in the strategic thought and operational doctrines developed during the Cold War.

Attrition was the first method of warfare that the UNC applied to fighting a limited war. Ridgway found that gradual and careful attrition could defeat the Communists on the battlefield and enforce the UNC bargaining position yet not escalate the conflict. The significance of attrition was underlined when Peng Dehuai and Deng Hua adopted it as the operational doctrine of the CPV. However, because of its protracted nature, attrition on the ground entailed a steady flow of casualties for both the UNC and the Communists. Indeed, after 1953, the Eisenhower administration forswore the use of conventional force largely because of the costs of attrition in Korea. Nevertheless, attrition would be applied as a strategy in many later conflicts in the Cold War – not always successfully – such as Vietnam, the Egyptian-Israeli War of Attrition, and the Iran-Iraq War.

The use of air power was less effective as a means of fighting a limited war. It could not inflict the damage necessary to make the Communists crack. Nevertheless, it remained a preferred, if often overrated, means of applying force after Korea. In the US air force, the perceived success of the air campaign was used to confirm the decisiveness of air power in modern warfare. Strategic air campaigns that were very similar to Operation Strangle and the sustained air pressure strategy were implemented in Vietnam, the 1991 Gulf War, and the 1999 conflict in Kosovo. Although rarely decisive, the allure of a painless and quick victory makes air power the West’s principal means of waging war to this day.

Eisenhower’s nuclear threats represented the final new method of warfare implemented in Korea. As noted above, while the nuclear threats signalled that the USA was resolved to fight a heightened war if necessary, they probably had only a marginal effect on the Communist decision to compromise. Historically, the nuclear threats were a part of the development of deterrence strategy, which dominated strategic discourse in the Cold War. In 1954, Eisenhower and Dulles instituted the New Look doctrine, hoping to repeat the supposed success of their nuclear threats at the end of the Korean War. The New Look threatened that Communist aggression anywhere in the world would be the subject of a devastating American nuclear strike. It was believed that this threat of massive retaliation would deter future Communist expansionism. Although massive retaliation was eventually discredited, nuclear threats, as a component of deterrence, were used again in international crises such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

In terms of the balance of power, the Korean War motivated the Western powers to view Communism as an imminent threat to their security and take a more determined stance against its expansion. The USA mobilized meaningfully to enforce containment throughout the world. As the Soviet Union strove to match this impressive military build-up, Western rearmament set the tone for the arms races that marked the remainder of the Cold War. The size of the American armed forces multiplied. Massive programs for new ships, missiles, tanks, and aircraft were implemented. In Europe, England and France also increased the size of their armed forces. NATO was greatly strengthened through the establishment of unified command with strong military forces under its authority. Moreover, the impetus had been created to rearm West Germany as a part of NATO, which would actually occur in 1950s.

Outside Europe, the USA ceased neglecting east Asia in its geostrategic planning. The Japan-US Security Treaty facilitated the long-term stationing of formidable American air, ground, and naval forces in Japan. Additionally, increased American military spending in Japan during the Korean War helped it on the path to economic recovery. With its relatively secure island status, large population, and growing economy, Japan became the centrepiece of American security architecture in East Asia.

The USA also took greater interest in the defense of Taiwan. In the Taiwan offshore islands crises of 1954-55 and 1958, the USA appeared willing to defend Nationalist territory against Communist encroachment. But the Korean War also caused the USA to embrace global containment and the precepts of NSC 68 too tightly. In Indochina, the USA was paying for 80 percent of France’s military operations by 1954. With the losses of Korea fresh in mind, Eisenhower would not send military forces to fight the Viet Minh, nor would he agree to use nuclear weapons to save the French at Dien Ben Phu. Later administrations were less cautious and believed that the ultimate success of the Korean War in halting Communism meant that the USA would also be successful in a war in Vietnam.

The growth of American power in east Asia was inhibited by the emergence of the PRC as a military power in the region. The world now viewed the PRC as a major Communist military power and not a backward agricultural state. The Chinese military had proven that they could contend with the best forces of the West. The catastrophic defeat of the US Eighth Army in November and December 1950 showed that liberating Communist countries could be excessively dangerous. After the defeat, the USA never again tried to liberate a Communist state by invasion. For example, in the Vietnam War, the USA would not invade North Vietnam for fear of Chinese intervention. The PRC enjoyed increased influence in east Asia and the Third World. Its veteran officers became advisors in numerous national liberation movements, particularly in Vietnam. Mistakenly, the USA predominantly treated China as the unswerving and unpredictably dangerous ally of the Soviet Union. In fact, the PRC was denied entry into the UN until Nixon’s presidency.

The Korean War also had implications for China’s relationship with the Soviet Union. In the short term, fighting the USA reinforced the Sino-Soviet Alliance. The level of military and economic assistance provided during the war continued after 1953, with a tremendous amount of technology being transferred to the PRC. However, the war also caused the beginning of cracks in the alliance. The Chinese had fought the war largely on their own and were disappointed by the limited military involvement of the Soviet Union. The Soviet demand that China pay for all of the military equipment provided was particularly galling. More fundamentally, by the late 1950s, Mao found deep Soviet involvement in Chinese economic development and military affairs to be curtailing the PRC’s independence. By the mid-1960s, these cracks would widen and the Sino-Soviet Alliance would break apart.

Finally, the Korean War symbolizes the superpower competition of the Cold War. It was the only occasion in the Cold War when the armed forces of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, and the United States – plus the other Western powers – were regularly in direct combat with one another. Later in the Cold War, the superpowers only fought each other’s proxies or client states. But in Korea, Soviet fighter pilots engaged in dogfights with American pilots, and Chinese infantry grappled with American infantry. Hundreds of thousands of men were taken prisoner, injured, or killed. Some of the most modern new weapons were utilized and the best generals of the three countries planned operations for the war. Historian William Stueck has gone so far as to describe it as a substitute for a Third World War. In any event, the Korean War brought the superpowers to the brink of world war. Less dramatically, the Korean War was the point where the differences between Communism and democracy, the Soviet Union and the USA, actually warranted major conventional warfare. The fact that the Korean War was a conflagration of this magnitude and intensity is sufficient reason that it should not be forgotten.


How damaging was it?

The war devastated Korea. Historians said that between three million and four million people were killed, although firm figures have never been produced, particularly by the North Korean government. As many as 70 percent of the dead may have been civilians.

Destruction was particularly acute in the North, which was subjected to years of American bombing, including with napalm. Roughly 25 percent of its prewar population was killed, Professor Cumings said, and many of the survivors lived underground by the war’s end.

“North Korea was flattened,” he said. “The North Koreans see the American bombing as a Holocaust, and every child is taught about it.”

Damage was also widespread in South Korea, where Seoul changed hands four times. But most combat took place in the northern or central parts of the peninsula around the current Demilitarized Zone, which divides the countries, Professor Cumings said.


Contents

Paleolithic Edit

No fossil proven to be Homo erectus has been found in the Korean Peninsula, [21] though a candidate has been reported. [2] Tool-making artifacts from the Palaeolithic period have been found in present-day North Hamgyong, South Pyongan, Gyeonggi, and north and south Chungcheong Provinces of Korea, [22] which dates the Paleolithic Age to half a million years ago, [5] though it may have begun as late as 400,000 years ago [1] or as early as 600,000–700,000 years ago. [2] [3]

Neolithic Edit

The earliest known Korean pottery dates back to around 8000 BC, [23] and evidence of Mesolithic Pit–Comb Ware culture (or Yunggimun pottery) is found throughout the peninsula, such as in Jeju Island. Jeulmun pottery, or "comb-pattern pottery", is found after 7000 BC, and is concentrated at sites in west-central regions of the Korean Peninsula, where a number of prehistoric settlements, such as Amsa-dong, existed. Jeulmun pottery bears basic design and form similarities to that of Mongolia, the Amur and Sungari river basins of Manchuria, the Jōmon culture in Japan, and the Baiyue in Southern China and Southeast Asia. [24] [25]

Archaeological evidence demonstrates that agricultural societies and the earliest forms of social-political complexity emerged in the Mumun pottery period (c. 1500–300 BC). [26]

People in southern Korea adopted intensive dry-field and paddy-field agriculture with a multitude of crops in the Early Mumun Period (1500–850 BC). The first societies led by big-men or chiefs emerged in the Middle Mumun (850–550 BC), and the first ostentatious elite burials can be traced to the Late Mumun (c. 550–300 BC). Bronze production began in the Middle Mumun and became increasingly important in ceremonial and political society after 700 BC. Archeological evidence from Songguk-ri, Daepyeong, Igeum-dong, and elsewhere indicate that the Mumun era was the first in which chiefdoms rose, expanded, and collapsed. The increasing presence of long-distance trade, an increase in local conflicts, and the introduction of bronze and iron metallurgy are trends denoting the end of the Mumun around 300 BC. [26]

In addition, 73 tombs similar to the ones found in Japan, estimated to date back to Gojoseon (100 BC), have been found in the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, and the discovery of jar burials, suggest a close relationship with Japan, [27] and Gojoseon, proving that Gojoseon and Yayoi period Japan maintained close relations with one another even during the ancient times.

Gojoseon, Chinese Rule and Jin state Edit

Gojoseon was the first Korean kingdom, located in the north of the peninsula and Manchuria, later alongside the state of Jin in the south of the peninsula.The historical Gojoseon kingdom was first mentioned in Chinese records in the early 7th century BC. [13] [14] By about the 4th century BC, Gojoseon had developed to the point where its existence was well known in China, [28] [29] and around this time, its capital moved to Pyongyang. [30] [31]

Dangun Joseon Edit

The founding legend of Gojoseon, which is recorded in the Samguk Yusa (1281) and other medieval Korean books, [32] states that the country was established in 2333 BC by Dangun, said to be descended from heaven. [33] While no evidence has been found that supports whatever facts may lie beneath this, [34] [35] the account has played an important role in developing Korean national identity.

Gija Joseon Edit

In the 12th century BC, Gija, a prince from the Shang dynasty of China, purportedly founded Gija Joseon. In pre-modern Korea, Gija represented the authenticating presence of Chinese civilization, and until the 12th century, Koreans commonly believed that Dangun bestowed upon Korea its people and basic culture, while Gija gave Korea its high culture—and presumably, standing as a legitimate civilisation. [36] However, due to contradicting historical and archaeological evidence, its existence was challenged in the 20th century, and today no longer forms the mainstream understanding of this period.

Wiman Joseon Edit

In 194 BC, Gija Joseon was overthrown by Wi Man (also known as Wei Man), a Chinese refugee from the Han vassal state of Yan. Wi Man then established Wiman Joseon. [37] [38]

Chinese Rule Edit

In 108 BC, the Chinese Han dynasty defeated Wiman Joseon and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula. Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades, but the Lelang commandery remained as a center of cultural and economic exchange with successive Chinese dynasties for four centuries, until it was conquered by Goguryeo in 313 AD.

Jin State Edit

Around 300 BC, a state called Jin arose in the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Very little is known about Jin, but it established relations with Han China and exported artifacts to the Yayoi of Japan. [41] [42] [43] Around 100 BC, Jin evolved into the Samhan confederacies. [44]

Many smaller states sprang from the former territory of Gojoseon such as Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, Goguryeo, and Baekje. The Three Kingdoms refer to Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla, although Buyeo and the Gaya confederacy existed into the 5th and 6th centuries respectively.

Metallurgy Edit

The Bronze Age is often held to have begun around 900-800 BC in Korea, [5] though the transition to the Bronze Age may have begun as far back as 2300 BC. [6] Bronze daggers, mirrors, jewelry, and weaponry have been found, as well as evidence of walled-town polities. Rice, red beans, soybeans and millet were cultivated, and rectangular pit-houses and increasingly larger dolmen burial sites are found throughout the peninsula. [45] Contemporaneous records suggest that Gojoseon transitioned from a feudal federation of walled cities into a centralised kingdom at least before the 4th-century BC. [46] It is believed that by the 4th century BC, iron culture was developing in Korea by northern influence via today's Russia's Maritime Province. [47] [48]

Proto–Three Kingdoms Edit

The Proto-Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Several States Period (열국시대), [49] is the time before the rise of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which included Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje, and occurred after the fall of Gojoseon. This time period consisted of numerous states that sprang up from the former territories of Gojoseon. Among these states, the largest and most influential were Dongbuyeo and Bukbuyeo.

Buyeo and other Northern states Edit

After the fall of Gojoseon, Buyeo arose in today's North Korea and southern Manchuria, from about the 2nd century BC to AD 494. Its remnants were absorbed by Goguryeo in 494, and both Goguryeo and Baekje, two of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, considered themselves its successor. [50]

Although records are sparse and contradictory, it is thought that in 86 BC, Dongbuyeo (East Buyeo) branched out, after which the original Buyeo is sometimes referred to as Bukbuyeo (North Buyeo). Jolbon Buyeo was the predecessor to Goguryeo, and in 538, Baekje renamed itself Nambuyeo (South Buyeo). [51]

Okjeo was a tribal-state that was located in the northern Korean Peninsula, and was established after the fall of Gojoseon. Okjeo had been a part of Gojoseon before its fall. It never became a fully developed kingdom due to the intervention of its neighboring kingdoms. Okjeo became a tributary of Goguryeo, and was eventually annexed into Goguryeo by Gwanggaeto Taewang in the 5th century. [52]

Dongye was another small kingdom that was situated in the northern Korean Peninsula. Dongye bordered Okjeo, and the two kingdoms faced the same fate of becoming tributaries of the growing empire of Goguryeo. Dongye was also a former part of Gojoseon before its fall. [53]

Samhan Edit

Sam-han (삼한, 三韓) refers to the three confederacies of Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. The Samhan were located in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula. [54] The Samhan countries were strictly governed by law, with religion playing an important role. Mahan was the largest, consisting of 54 states, and assumed political, economic, and cultural dominance. Byeonhan and Jinhan both consisted of 12 states, bringing a total of 78 states within the Samhan. The Samhan were eventually conquered by Baekje, Silla, and Gaya in the 4th century. [55]

Goguryeo Edit

Goguryeo was founded in 37 BC by Jumong (posthumously titled as Dongmyeongseong, a royal given title). [59] Later, King Taejo centralized the government. Goguryeo was the first Korean kingdom to adopt Buddhism as the state religion in 372, in King Sosurim's reign. [60] [61]

Goguryeo (also spelled as Koguryŏ) was also known as Goryeo (also spelled as Koryŏ), and it eventually became the source of the modern name of Korea. [62]

The 3rd and 4th centuries were characterized by territorial competition with the Chinese and Xianbei, resulting in both losses and gains. Goguryeo initiated the Goguryeo–Wei War by attacking a Chinese fortress in 242 in an attempt to cut off Chinese access to its territories in Korea. Cao Wei of the Three Kingdoms of China retaliated by invading and destroying Hwando in 244. This forced the king to flee with Cao Wei in pursuit and broke Goguryeo's rule over the Okjeo and Ye, damaging its economy. The king eventually settled in a new capital, and Goguryeo focused on rebuilding and regaining control. In the early 4th century Goguryeo once again attacked the Chinese (now Sima Jin) to cut off their access to Korea and this time succeeded, and soon afterward conquered Lelang and Daifang ending the Chinese presence in Korea. However Goguryeo's expansion led to confrontation with the rising Xianbeis. The Xianbeis devastated Goguryeo's capital in the mid 4th century and the king retreated. Goguryeo eventually regrouped and began striking back in the late 4th century by King Gogukyang, culminating with the conquests of Gwanggaeto the Great. [63] [64]

Goguryeo reached its zenith in the 5th century, becoming a powerful empire and one of the great powers in East Asia, [65] [66] [67] [68] when Gwanggaeto the Great and his son, Jangsu, expanded the country into almost all of Manchuria, parts of Inner Mongolia, [69] parts of Russia, [70] and took the present-day city of Seoul from Baekje. [69] Goguryeo experienced a golden age under Gwanggaeto and Jangsu, [71] [72] [73] [74] who both subdued Baekje and Silla during their times, achieving a brief unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and becoming the most dominant power of the Korean peninsula. [75] [61] [76] Jangsu's long reign of 79 years saw the perfecting of Goguryeo's political, economic and other institutional arrangements. [77]

Goguryeo was a highly militaristic state [78] [79] in addition to contesting for control of the Korean Peninsula, Goguryeo had many military conflicts with various Chinese dynasties, [80] most notably the Goguryeo–Sui War, in which Goguryeo defeated a huge force traditionally said to number over a million men, [note 2] and contributed to the Sui dynasty's fall. [81] [82] [83] [84] [85]

In 642, the powerful general Yeon Gaesomun led a coup and gained complete control over Goguryeo. In response, Emperor Tang Taizong of China led a campaign against Goguryeo, but was defeated and retreated. [86] [87] [88] [89] After the death of Tang Taizong, his son Emperor Tang Gaozong allied with the Korean kingdom of Silla and invaded Goguryeo again, but was unable to overcome Goguryeo's stalwart defenses and was defeated in 662. [90] [91] However, Yeon Gaesomun died of a natural cause in 666 and Goguryeo was thrown into chaos and weakened by a succession struggle among his sons and younger brother, [92] [93] with his eldest son defecting to Tang and his younger brother defecting to Silla. [94] The Tang–Silla alliance mounted a fresh invasion in 667, aided by the defector Yeon Namsaeng, and was finally able to conquer Goguryeo in 668. [95] [96]

After the collapse of Goguryeo, Tang and Silla ended their alliance and fought over control of the Korean Peninsula. Silla succeeded in gaining control over most of the Korean Peninsula, while Tang gained control over Goguryeo's northern territories. However, 30 years after the fall of Goguryeo, a Goguryeo general by the name of Dae Joyeong founded the Korean-Mohe state of Balhae and successfully expelled the Tang presence from much of the former Goguryeo territories.

Baekje Edit

Baekje was founded by Onjo, a Goguryeo prince and the third son of the founder of Goguryeo, in 18 BC. [97] Baekje and Goguryeo shared founding myths and originated from Buyeo. [98] The Sanguo Zhi mentions Baekje as a member of the Mahan confederacy in the Han River basin (near present-day Seoul). It expanded into the southwest (Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces) of the peninsula and became a significant political and military power. In the process, Baekje came into fierce confrontation with Goguryeo and the Chinese commanderies in the vicinity of its territorial ambitions.

At its peak in the 4th century during the reign of King Geunchogo, Baekje absorbed all of the Mahan states and subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the modern provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, and Jeolla, as well as part of Hwanghae and Gangwon) to a centralized government. Baekje acquired Chinese culture and technology through maritime contacts with the Southern dynasties during the expansion of its territory. [99]

Baekje was a great maritime power [100] its nautical skill, which made it the Phoenicia of East Asia, was instrumental in the dissemination of Buddhism throughout East Asia and continental culture to Japan. [101] [102] Baekje played a fundamental role in transmitting cultural developments, such as Chinese characters, Buddhism, iron-making, advanced pottery, and ceremonial burial to ancient Japan. [68] [103] [104] [105] [106] [107] [108] Other aspects of culture were also transmitted when the Baekje court retreated to Japan after Baekje was conquered by the Silla–Tang alliance.

Baekje was once a great military power on the Korean Peninsula, especially during the time of Geunchogo, [109] but was critically defeated by Gwanggaeto the Great and declined. [110] [ self-published source ] Ultimately, Baekje was defeated by a coalition of Silla and Tang forces in 660. [111]

Silla Edit

According to legend, the kingdom of Silla began with the unification of six chiefdoms of the Jinhan confederacy by Bak Hyeokgeose in 57 BC, in the southeastern area of Korea. Its territory included the present-day port city of Busan, and Silla later emerged as a sea power responsible for destroying Japanese pirates, especially during the Unified Silla period. [112]

Silla artifacts, including unique gold metalwork, show influence from the northern nomadic steppes and Iranian peoples and especially Persians, with less Chinese influence than are shown by Goguryeo and Baekje. [113] Silla expanded rapidly by occupying the Nakdong River basin and uniting the city-states.

By the 2nd century, Silla was a large state, occupying and influencing nearby city-states. Silla gained further power when it annexed the Gaya confederacy in 562. Silla often faced pressure from Goguryeo, Baekje and Japan, and at various times allied and warred with Baekje and Goguryeo.

Silla was the smallest and weakest of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, but it used cunning diplomatic means to make opportunistic pacts and alliances with the more powerful Korean kingdoms, and eventually Tang China, to its great advantage. [114] [115]

In 660, King Muyeol of Silla ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, conquered Baekje. In 661, Silla and Tang moved on Goguryeo but were repelled. King Munmu, son of Muyeol and nephew of Kim, launched another campaign in 667 and Goguryeo fell in the following year. [116]

Gaya Edit

Gaya was a confederacy of small kingdoms in the Nakdong River valley of southern Korea, growing out of the Byeonhan confederacy of the Samhan period. Gaya's plains were rich in iron, so export of iron tools was possible and agriculture flourished. In the early centuries, the Confederacy was led by Geumgwan Gaya in the Gimhae region. However, its leading power changed to Daegaya in the Goryeong region after the 5th century.

Constantly engaged in war with the three kingdoms surrounding it, Gaya was not developed to form a unified state, and was ultimately absorbed into Silla in 562. [117]

The term North-South States refers to Unified Silla and Balhae, during the time when Silla controlled the majority of the Korean peninsula while Balhae expanded into Manchuria. During this time, culture and technology significantly advanced, especially in Unified Silla.

Unified Silla Edit

After the unification wars, the Tang dynasty established outposts in the former Goguryeo, and began to establish and administer communities in Baekje. Silla attacked Tang forces in Baekje and northern Korea in 671. Tang then invaded Silla in 674 but Silla drove the Tang forces out of the peninsula by 676 to achieve unification of most of the Korean peninsula. [118]

Unified Silla was a golden age of art and culture. [119] [120] [121] [122] During this period, long-distance trade between Unified Silla and the Abbasid Caliphate was documented by Persian geographer Ibn Khordadbeh in the Book of Roads and Kingdoms. [123] Buddhist monasteries such as the World Heritage Sites Bulguksa temple and Seokguram Grotto are examples of advanced Korean architecture and Buddhist influence. [124] Other state-sponsored art and architecture from this period include Hwangnyongsa Temple and Bunhwangsa Temple. Persian chronics described Silla as located at the eastern end of China and reads 'In this beautiful country Silla, there is much gold, majestetic cities and hardworking people. Their culture is comparable with Persia'. [125]

Unified Silla carried on the maritime prowess of Baekje, which acted like the Phoenicia of medieval East Asia, [126] and during the 8th and 9th centuries dominated the seas of East Asia and the trade between China, Korea and Japan, most notably during the time of Jang Bogo in addition, Silla people made overseas communities in China on the Shandong Peninsula and the mouth of the Yangtze River. [127] [128] [129] [130] Unified Silla was a prosperous and wealthy country, [131] and its metropolitan capital of Gyeongju [132] was the fourth largest city in the world. [133] [134] [135] [136]

Buddhism flourished during this time, and many Korean Buddhists gained great fame among Chinese Buddhists [137] and contributed to Chinese Buddhism, [138] including: Woncheuk, Wonhyo, Uisang, Musang, [139] [140] [141] [142] and Kim Gyo-gak, a Silla prince whose influence made Mount Jiuhua one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Chinese Buddhism. [143] [144] [145] [146] [147]

Silla began to experience political troubles in late 8th century. This severely weakened Silla and soon thereafter, descendants of the former Baekje established Hubaekje. In the north, rebels revived Goguryeo, beginning the Later Three Kingdoms period.

Unified Silla lasted for 267 years until King Gyeongsun surrendered the country to Goryeo in 935, after 992 years and 56 monarchs. [148]

Balhae Edit

Balhae was founded only thirty years after Goguryeo had fallen, in 698. It was founded in the northern part of former lands of Goguryeo by Dae Joyeong, a former Goguryeo general [149] [150] or chief of Sumo Mohe. [151] [152] [153] Balhae controlled the northern areas of the Korean Peninsula, much of Manchuria (though it didn't occupy Liaodong peninsula for much of history), and expanded into present-day Russian Primorsky Krai. It also adopted the culture of Tang dynasty, such as the government structure and geopolitical system. [154]

In a time of relative peace and stability in the region, Balhae flourished, especially during the reigns of King Mun and King Seon. Balhae was called the "Prosperous Country in the East". [155] However, Balhae was severely weakened and eventually conquered by the Khitan Liao dynasty in 926. [154] Large numbers of refugees, including Dae Gwang-hyeon, the last crown prince of Balhae, were welcomed by Goryeo. [17] [156] Dae Gwang-hyeon was included in the imperial family of Wang Geon, bringing a national unification between the two successor nations of Goguryeo. [18]

No historical records from Balhae have survived, and the Liao left no histories of Balhae. While Goryeo absorbed some Balhae territory and received Balhae refugees, it compiled no known histories of Balhae either. The Samguk sagi ("History of the Three Kingdoms"), for instance, includes passages on Balhae, but does not include a dynastic history of Balhae. The 18th century Joseon dynasty historian Yu Deukgong advocated the proper study of Balhae as part of Korean history, and coined the term "North and South States Period" to refer to this era. [154]

Later Three Kingdoms Edit

The Later Three Kingdoms period (892 – 936) consisted of Unified Silla and the revival of Baekje and Goguryeo, known historiographically as "Later Baekje" and "Later Goguryeo". During the late 9th century, as Silla declined in power and exorbitant taxes were imposed on the people, rebellions erupted nationwide and powerful regional lords rose up against the waning kingdom. [157]

Later Baekje was founded by the general Gyeon Hwon in 892, and its capital was established in Wansanju (modern Jeonju). The kingdom was based in the southwestern regions in the former territories of Baekje. In 927, Later Baekje attacked Gyeongju, the capital of Unified Silla, and placed a puppet on the throne. Eventually, Gyeon Hwon was ousted by his sons due to a succession dispute and escaped to Goryeo, where he served as a general in the conquest of the kingdom he personally founded. [158]

Later Goguryeo was founded by the Buddhist monk Gung Ye in 901, and its original capital was established in Songak (modern Kaesong). The kingdom was based in the northern regions, which were the strongholds of Goguryeo refugees. [159] [160] Later Goguryeo's name was changed to Majin in 904, and Taebong in 911. In 918, Wang Geon, a prominent general of Goguryeo descent, deposed the increasingly despotic and paranoid Gung Ye, and established Goryeo. By 936, Goryeo conquered its rivals and achieved the unification of the Later Three Kingdoms. [161]

Goryeo was founded by Wang Geon in 918 and became the ruling dynasty of Korea by 936. It was named "Goryeo" because Wang Geon, a descendant of Goguryeo nobility, [162] deemed the nation as the successor of Goguryeo. [163] [164] [165] [166] [167] [156] Wang Geon made his hometown Kaesong (in present-day North Korea) the capital. The dynasty lasted until 1392, although the government was controlled by military regime leaders between 1170 and 1270. Goryeo (also spelled as Koryŏ) is the source of the English name "Korea". [168] [169]

During this period, laws were codified and a civil service system was introduced. Buddhism flourished and spread throughout the peninsula. The development of celadon pottery flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. [170] [171] The production of the Tripitaka Koreana onto 81,258 wooden printing blocks, [172] and the invention of the metal movable type attest to Goryeo's cultural achievements. [173] [174] [175] [176] [177]

In 1018, the Khitan Empire, which was the most powerful empire of its time, [178] [179] invaded Goryeo but was defeated by General Gang Gam-chan at the Battle of Kuju to end the Goryeo–Khitan War. After defeating the Khitan Empire, Goryeo experienced a golden age that lasted a century, during which the Tripitaka Koreana was completed, and there were great developments in printing and publishing, promoting learning and dispersing knowledge on philosophy, literature, religion, and science by 1100, there were 12 universities that produced famous scholars and scientists. [180] [181]

In 1231, the Mongols began their invasions of Korea during seven major campaigns and 39 years of struggle, but were unable to conquer Korea. [182] Exhausted after decades of fighting, Goryeo sent its crown prince to the Yuan capital to swear allegiance to the Mongols Kublai Khan accepted, and married one of his daughters to the Korean crown prince, [182] and for the following 80 years Goryeo existed under the overlordship of the Mongol-ruled Yuan dynasty in China. [183] [184] The two nations became intertwined for 80 years as all subsequent Korean kings married Mongol princesses, [182] and the last empress of the Yuan dynasty was a Korean princess. [185] [ self-published source ]

In the 1350s, the Yuan dynasty declined rapidly due to internal struggles, enabling King Gongmin to reform the Goryeo government. [186] Gongmin had various problems that needed to be dealt with, including the removal of pro-Mongol aristocrats and military officials, the question of land holding, and quelling the growing animosity between the Buddhists and Confucian scholars. [187] During this tumultuous period, Goryeo momentarily conquered Liaoyang in 1356, repulsed two large invasions by the Red Turbans in 1359 and 1360, and defeated the final attempt by the Yuan to dominate Goryeo when General Choe Yeong defeated an invading Mongol tumen in 1364. During the 1380s, Goryeo turned its attention to the Wokou menace and used naval artillery created by Choe Museon to annihilate hundreds of pirate ships.

The Goryeo dynasty would last until 1392. Taejo of Joseon, the founder of the Joseon dynasty, took power in a coup in 1388 and after serving as the power behind the throne for two monarchs, established the Joseon dynasty in 1392. [188]

Political history Edit

In 1392, the general Yi Seong-gye, later known as Taejo, established the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897), named in honor of the ancient kingdom Gojoseon, [189] [14] [190] and based on idealistic Confucianism-based ideology. [191] The prevailing philosophy throughout the Joseon dynasty was Neo-Confucianism, which was epitomized by the seonbi class, scholars who passed up positions of wealth and power to lead lives of study and integrity.

Taejo moved the capital to Hanyang (modern-day Seoul) and built Gyeongbokgung palace. In 1394 he adopted Neo-Confucianism as the country's official religion, and pursued the creation of a strong bureaucratic state. His son and grandson, King Taejong and Sejong the Great, implemented numerous administrative, social, and economic reforms and established royal authority in the early years of the dynasty. [192]

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Joseon enjoyed many benevolent rulers who promoted education and science. [193] Most notable among them was Sejong the Great (r. 1418–50), who personally created and promulgated Hangul, the Korean alphabet. [194] This golden age [193] saw great cultural and scientific advancements, [195] including in printing, meteorological observation, astronomy, calendar science, ceramics, military technology, geography, cartography, medicine, and agricultural technology, some of which were unrivaled elsewhere. [196]

Internal conflicts within the royal court, civil unrest and other political struggles plagued the nation in the years that followed, worsened by the Japanese invasion of Korea between 1592 and 1598. Toyotomi Hideyoshi marshalled his forces and tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea, but was eventually repelled by the Korean military, with the assistance of the righteous armies and Chinese Ming dynasty. This war also saw the rise of the career of Admiral Yi Sun-sin with the turtle ship. As Korea was rebuilding, it had to repel invasions by the Manchu in 1627 and 1636. Internal politics were bitterly divided and settled by violence. [197] Historian JaHyun Kim Haboush, in the summary by her editor William Haboush in 2016, interpreted the decisive impact of the victories against the Japanese and Manchu invaders:

Out of this great war at the end of the 16th century and the Manchu invasions of 1627 and 1636–1637, Koreans emerged with a discernible sense of themselves as a disethnic united by birth, language, and belief forged by this immense clash of the three great powers of East Asia . Korea arrived at the brink of the seventeenth century as a nation. [198]

After the second Manchu invasion and stabilized relations with the new Qing dynasty, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of external peace. However internally, the bitter and violent factional battles raged on. In the 18th century, King Yeongjo (reigned 1724–76) and his grandson King Jeongjo (reigned 1776–1800) led a new renaissance. [199] Yeongjo and Jeongjo reformed the tax system which grew the revenue stream into the treasury, strengthened the military and sponsored a revival of learning. The printing press was rejuvenated by using movable metal type the number and quality of publications sharply increased. Jeongjo sponsored scholars from various factions to work in the Kyujanggak, or Inner Royal Library, established in 1776. [200]

Period of "rule by royal in-laws" Edit

Corruption in government and social unrest prevailed after 1776. The government attempted sweeping reforms in the late 19th century, but adhered to a strict isolationist policy, earning Korea the nickname "Hermit Kingdom". The policy had been established primarily for protection against Western imperialism, but soon the Joseon dynasty was forced to open trade, beginning an era leading into Japanese rule. [201] The destabilization of the Korean nation may be said to have begun in the period of Sedo Jeongchi (Korean: 세도정치 Hanja: 勢道政治 lit. in-law politics) whereby, on the death of King Jeongjo of Joseon (r. 1776–1800), the 10-year-old Sunjo of Joseon (r. 1800–34) ascended the Korean throne, with the true power of the administration residing with his regent, Kim Jo-sun, as a representative of the Andong Kim clan. As a result, the disarray and blatant corruption in the Korean government, particularly in the three main areas of revenues – land tax, military service, and the state granary system – heaped additional hardship on the peasantry. Of special note is the corruption of the local functionaries (Hyangni), who could purchase an appointment as an administrator and so cloak their predations on the farmers with an aura of officialdom. Yangban families, formerly well-respected for their status as a noble class and being powerful both "socially and politically", were increasingly seen as little more than commoners unwilling to meet their responsibilities to their communities. Faced with increasing corruption in the government, brigandage of the disenfranchised (such as the mounted fire brigands, or Hwajok, and the boat-borne water brigands or Sujok) and exploited by the elite, many poor village folk sought to pool their resources, such as land, tools, and production, to survive. Despite the government effort in bringing an end to the practice of owning slaves in 1801, slavery in Korea remained legal until 1894. [202]

Anti-Christian forces Edit

At this time, Catholic and Protestant missions were well tolerated among the nobles, most notably in and around the area of Seoul. [203] Animus and persecution by more conservative elements, the Pungyang Jo clan, took the lives of priests and followers, known as the Korean Martyrs, dissuading membership by the upper class. The peasants continued to be drawn to Christian egalitarianism, though mainly in urban and suburban areas. Arguably of greater influence were the religious teachings of Choe Je-u, (최제우, 崔濟愚, 1824–64) called "Donghak", which literally means Eastern Learning, and the religion became especially popular in rural areas. Themes of exclusionism (from foreign influences), nationalism, salvation and social consciousness were set to music, allowing illiterate farmers to understand and accept them more readily. Along with many other Koreans, Choe was alarmed by the intrusion of Christianity and the Anglo-French occupation of Beijing during the Second Opium War. He believed the best way to counter foreign influence in Korea was to introduce democratic and human rights reforms internally. Nationalism and social reform struck a chord among peasant guerrillas, and Donghak spread all across Korea. Progressive revolutionaries organized the peasants into a cohesive structure. Arrested in 1863 following the Jinju uprising led by Yu Kye-chun, Choe was charged with "misleading the people and sowing discord in society". Choe was executed in 1864, sending many of his followers into hiding in the mountains. [204]

King Gojong, 1864-1907 Edit

Gojong of Korea (r. 1864–1907), enthroned at the age of twelve, succeeded Cheoljong of Joseon (r. 1849–63). King Gojong's father, the Heungseon Daewongun (Yi Ha-ung 1820–98), ruled as the de facto regent and inaugurated far-ranging reforms to strengthen the central administration. Of special note was the decision to rebuild palace buildings and finance the project through additional levies on the population. Further inherited rule by a few elite ruling families was challenged by the adoption of a merit system for official appointments. In addition, Sowon – private academies – which threatened to develop a parallel system to the corrupt government and enjoyed special privileges and large landholdings, were taxed and repressed despite bitter opposition from Confucian scholars. Lastly, a policy of steadfast isolationism was enforced to staunch the increasing intrusion of Western thought and technology. He was impeached in 1873 and forced into retirement by the supporters of Empress Myeongseong, also called "Queen Min". [205]

Culture and society Edit

Korea's culture was based on the philosophy of Neo-Confucianism, which emphasizes morality, righteousness, and practical ethics. Wide interest in scholarly study resulted in the establishment of private academies and educational institutions. Many documents were written about history, geography, medicine, and Confucian principles. The arts flourished in painting, calligraphy, music, dance, and ceramics. [206]

The most notable cultural event of this era is the creation and promulgation of the Korean alphabet Hunmin jeongeom (later called Hangul) by Sejong the Great in 1446. [194] This period also saw various other cultural, scientific and technological advances. [207]

During Joseon dynasty, a social hierarchy system existed that greatly affected Korea's social development. The king and the royal family were atop the hereditary system, with the next tier being a class of civil or military officials and landowners known as yangban, who worked for the government and lived off the efforts of tenant farmers and slaves.

A middle class, jungin, were technical specialists such as scribes, medical officers, technicians in science-related fields, artists and musicians. Commoners, i.e. peasants, constituted the largest class in Korea. They had obligations to pay taxes, provide labor, and serve in the military. By paying land taxes to the state, they were allowed to cultivate land and farm. The lowest class included tenant farmers, slaves, entertainers, craftsmen, prostitutes, laborers, shamans, vagabonds, outcasts, and criminals. Although slave status was hereditary, they could be sold or freed at officially set prices, and the mistreatment of slaves was forbidden. [208]

This yangban focused system started to change in the late 17th century as political, economic and social changes came into place. By the 19th century, new commercial groups emerged, and the active social mobility caused the yangban class to expand, resulting in the weakening of the old class system. The Korea government ordered the freedom of government slaves in 1801. The class system of Korea was completely banned in 1894. [209]

Foreign pressure Edit

Korea dealt with a pair of Japanese invasions from 1592 to 1598 (Imjin War or the Seven Years' War). Prior to the war, Korea sent two ambassadors to scout for signs of Japan's intentions of invading Korea. However, they came back with two different reports, and while the politicians split into sides, few proactive measures were taken.

This conflict brought prominence to Admiral Yi Sun-sin as he contributed to eventually repelling the Japanese forces with the innovative use of his turtle ship, a massive, yet swift, ramming/cannon ship fitted with iron spikes. [210] [211] [212] The use of the hwacha was also highly effective in repelling the Japanese invaders from the land.

Subsequently, Korea was invaded in 1627 and again in 1636 by the Manchus, who went on to conquer China and establish the Qing dynasty, after which the Joseon dynasty recognized Qing suzerainty. Though Joseon respected its traditional subservient position to China, there was persistent loyalty for the perished Ming China and disdain for the Manchus, who were regarded as barbarians.

During the 19th century, Joseon tried to control foreign influence by closing its borders to all nations but China. In 1853 the USS South America, an American gunboat, visited Busan for 10 days and had amiable contact with local officials. Several Americans shipwrecked on Korea in 1855 and 1865 were also treated well and sent to China for repatriation. The Joseon court was aware of the foreign invasions and treaties involving Qing China, as well as the First and Second Opium Wars, and followed a cautious policy of slow exchange with the West.

In 1866, reacting to greater numbers of Korean converts to Catholicism despite several waves of persecutions, the Joseon court clamped down on them, massacring French Catholic missionaries and Korean converts alike. Later in the year France invaded and occupied portions of Ganghwa Island. The Korean army lost heavily, but the French abandoned the island.

The General Sherman, an American-owned armed merchant marine sidewheel schooner, attempted to open Korea to trade in 1866. After an initial miscommunication, the ship sailed upriver and became stranded near Pyongyang. After being ordered to leave by the Korean officials, the American crewmen killed four Korean inhabitants, kidnapped a military officer and engaged in sporadic fighting that continued for four days. After two efforts to destroy the ship failed, she was finally set aflame by Korean fireships laden with explosives.

This incident is celebrated by the DPRK as a precursor to the later USS Pueblo incident.

In response, the United States confronted Korea militarily in 1871, killing 243 Koreans in Ganghwa island before withdrawing. This incident is called the Sinmiyangyo in Korea. Five years later, the reclusive Korea signed a trade treaty with Japan, and in 1882 signed a treaty with the United States, ending centuries of isolationism.

Conflict between the conservative court and a reforming faction led to the Gapsin Coup in 1884. The reformers sought to reform Korea's institutionalized social inequality, by proclaiming social equality and the elimination of the privileges of the yangban class. The reformers were backed by Japan, and were thwarted by the arrival of Qing troops, invited by the conservative Queen Min. The Chinese troops departed but the leading general Yuan Shikai remained in Korea from 1885-1894 as Resident, directing Korean affairs.

In 1885, British Royal Navy occupied Geomun Island, and withdrew in 1887.

Korea became linked by telegraph to China in 1888 with Chinese controlled telegraphs. China permitted Korea to establish embassies with Russia (1884), Italy (1885), France (1886), the United States, and Japan. China attempted to block the exchange of embassies in Western countries, but not with Tokyo. The Qing government provided loans. China promoted its trade in an attempt to block Japanese merchants, which led to Chinese favour in Korean trade. Anti-Chinese riots broke out in 1888 and 1889 and Chinese shops were torched. Japan remained the largest foreign community and largest trading partner. [213]

A rapidly modernizing Meiji Japan successfully challenged China in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), forcing it to abandon its long-standing claims to deference by Korea. Modernization began in Korea when Japan forced it to open its ports in 1876. However, the forces of modernization met strong opposition not only from the traditionalism of the ruling Korean elite but from the population at large, which supported the traditional Confucian system of government by gentlemen. Japan used modernization movements to gain more and more control over Korea. [214]

In 1895, the Japanese were involved in the murder of Empress Myeongseong, [215] [216] who had sought Russian help, and the Russians were forced to retreat from Korea for the time.

Korean Empire (1897–1910) Edit

As a result of the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki was concluded between China and Japan. [217] It stipulated the abolition of subordinate relationships Korea had with China, in which Korea was a tributary state of China since the Qing invasion of Joseon in 1636.

In 1897, Joseon was renamed the Korean Empire, and King Gojong became Emperor Gojong. The imperial government aimed to become a strong and independent nation by implementing domestic reforms, strengthening military forces, developing commerce and industry, and surveying land ownership. Organizations like the Independence Club also rallied to assert the rights of the Joseon people, but clashed with the government which proclaimed absolute monarchy and power. [218]

Russian influence was strong in the Empire until being defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Korea effectively became a protectorate of Japan on 17 November 1905, the 1905 Protectorate Treaty having been promulgated without Emperor Gojong's required seal or commission. [219] [220]

Following the signing of the treaty, many intellectuals and scholars set up various organizations and associations, embarking on movements for independence. In 1907, Gojong was forced to abdicate after Japan learned that he sent secret envoys to the Second Hague Conventions to protest against the protectorate treaty, leading to the accession of Gojong's son, Emperor Sunjong. In 1909, independence activist An Jung-geun assassinated Itō Hirobumi, former Resident-General of Korea, for Ito's intrusions on the Korean politics. [221] [222] This prompted the Japanese to ban all political organizations and proceed with plans for annexation.

Japanese rule (1910–1945) Edit

In 1910, the Empire of Japan effectively annexed Korea through the Japan–Korea Annexation Treaty. Along with all other previously signed treaties between Korea and Japan, the annexation treaty was confirmed to be null and void in 1965. While Japan asserts the treaty was concluded legally, Korea [ who? ] disputes the legality of the treaty, because the treaty was not signed by the Emperor of Korea as required [ by whom? ] and it violated the international convention [ which? ] on external pressures regarding treaties. [223] [224] Many Koreans formed the Righteous army to fight against Japanese rule. [225]

Korea was controlled by Japan under a Governor-General of Korea from 1910 until Japan's unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces on 15 August 1945. De jure sovereignty was deemed to have passed from the Joseon dynasty to the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. [221]

After the annexation, Japan set out to suppress many traditional Korean customs, including eventually even the Korean language itself. [226] [227] Economic policies were implemented primarily for Japanese benefit. [228] [229] European-styled transport and communication networks were constructed across the nation in order to extract resources and exploit labor. However, much of the built infrastructure was later destroyed during the devastating Korean War. The banking system was consolidated and the Korean currency abolished.

The Japanese removed the Joseon hierarchy and gave the census register to the Baekjeong and Nobi who were not allowed to have the census register during Joseon period, [230] The Gyeongbokgung palace was mostly destroyed, and replaced with the office building of the Governor-General of Korea. [231]

After Emperor Gojong died in January 1919, with rumors of poisoning, independence rallies against the Japanese colonizers took place nationwide on 1 March 1919 (the March 1st Movement). This movement was suppressed by force and about 7,000 persons were killed by Japanese soldiers [note 3] [232] and police. [233] An estimated 2 million people took part in peaceful, pro-liberation rallies, although Japanese records claim participation of less than half million. [234] This movement was partly inspired by United States President Woodrow Wilson's speech of 1919, declaring support for right of self-determination and an end to colonial rule after World War I. [234]

The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established in Shanghai, China, in the aftermath of the March 1 Movement, which coordinated the liberation effort and resistance against Japanese rule. Some of the achievements of the Provisional Government included the Battle of Chingshanli of 1920 and the ambush of Japanese military leadership in China in 1932. The Provisional Government is considered to be the de jure government of the Korean people between 1919 and 1948. The legitimacy of the provisional government is enshrined into the preamble of the constitution of the Republic of Korea. [235]

So far as primary and secondary education in Korea were classified as being for “those habitually using the Korean language”, and for “those habitually using the Japanese language”. Thus, the ethnic Koreans could attend the schools primarily for Japanese, and vice versa. [236]

As of 1926, the Korean language was taught for 4 hours a week for the first and second year of a common school having a six-year course, 3 for the rest of the course. Both Japanese and Koreans paid school-fees, without exception. The average fee in a common school was about 25 cents a month. The educational assessment levied by District educational bodies, paid by the ethnic Koreans, averaged about 20 cents in 1923, per capita of the Korean population, that levied by school associations, paid by the ethnic Japanese, averaged about 3.30 dollars per capita of the Japanese population comprised within all the school associations in Korea. [237]

The literacy rate of Korea reached 22% in 1945. [238] The school curriculum was radically modified to eliminate teaching of the Korean language and history. [221] The Korean language was banned, and Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names, [239] [note 4] [240] and newspapers were prohibited from publishing in Korean. Numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed or taken to Japan. [241] According to an investigation by the South Korean government, 75,311 cultural assets were taken from Korea. [241] [242]

Some Koreans left the Korean Peninsula to exile in China, the United States, and elsewhere. Koreans in Manchuria formed resistance groups known as Dongnipgun (Liberation Army) they would travel in and out of the Sino-Korean border, fighting guerrilla warfare with Japanese forces. Some of them would group together in the 1940s as the Korean Liberation Army, which took part in allied action in China and parts of South East Asia. Tens of thousands of Koreans also joined the People's Liberation Army and the National Revolutionary Army.

The expulsion of the Japanese in 1945 removed practically all administrative and technical expertise. While the Japanese only comprised 2.6 percent of the population in 1944, they were an urban elite. The largest 50 cities contained 71 percent of the Japanese but only 12 percent of the Koreans. They largely dominated the ranks of the well-educated occupations. Meanwhile, 71 percent of the Koreans worked on farms. [243]

Division and Korean War (1945–1953) Edit

At the Cairo Conference on November 22, 1943, the US, UK, and China agreed that "in due course Korea shall become free and independent" [244] [245] at a later meeting in Yalta in February 1945, the Allies agreed to establish a four-power trusteeship over Korea. [246] On August 14, 1945, Soviet forces entered Korea by amphibious landings, enabling them to secure control in the north. Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces on August 15, 1945.

The unconditional surrender of Japan, combined with fundamental shifts in global politics and ideology, led to the division of Korea into two occupation zones, effectively starting on September 8, 1945. The United States administered the southern half of the peninsula and the Soviet Union took over the area north of the 38th parallel. The Provisional Government was ignored, mainly due to American belief that it was too aligned with the communists. [247] This division was meant to be temporary and was intended to return a unified Korea back to its people after the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, and Republic of China could arrange a single government.

In December 1945, a conference convened in Moscow to discuss the future of Korea. [248] A 5-year trusteeship was discussed, and a joint Soviet-American commission was established. The commission met intermittently in Seoul but members deadlocked over the issue of establishing a national government. In September 1947, with no solution in sight, the United States submitted the Korean question to the United Nations General Assembly. On December 12, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognised the Republic of Korea as the sole legal government of Korea. [249]

On June 25, 1950, the Korean War broke out when North Korea breached the 38th parallel line to invade the South, ending any hope of a peaceful reunification for the time being. After the war, the 1954 Geneva conference failed to adopt a solution for a unified Korea. Approximately 3 million people died in the Korean War, with a higher proportional civilian death toll than World War II or the Vietnam War, making it perhaps the deadliest conflict of the Cold War-era. In addition, virtually all of Korea's major cities were destroyed by the war. [250] [251] [252] [253] [254]

Modern Korea (1953–present) Edit

Beginning with Syngman Rhee in 1948, a series of autocratic governments took power in South Korea with American support and influence.

With the coup of Park Chung-Hee in 1961, a new economic policy began. In order to promote economic development, a policy of export-oriented industrialization was applied. President Park developed the South Korean economy through a series of highly successful Five-Year Plans. South Korea's economic development was spearheaded by the chaebol, family conglomerates such as Samsung, Hyundai, SK Group, LG Corporation. The chaebol received state-backing via tax breaks and cheap loans, and took advantage of South Korea's inexpensive labor to produce exportable products. [255] The government made education a very high priority to create a well-educated populace capable of productively contributing to the economy. Despite occasional political instability, the Korean economy subsequently saw enormous growth for nearly forty years, in a period known as the Miracle on the Han River. The unparalleled economic miracle brought South Korea from one of the poorest states in the world after the Korean War into a fully developed country within a generation.

South Korea eventually transitioned into a market-oriented democracy in 1987 largely due to popular demand for political reform, and then hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, the second Summer Olympic Games to be held on the Asian continent, in the following year.

Moving on from cheap, lower-value light industry exports, the South Korean economy eventually moved onto more capital-intensive, higher-value industries, such as information technology, shipbuilding, auto manufacturing, and petroleum refining. Today, South Korea is a leading economy and a technological powerhouse, rivaling even countries such as the United States in information and communication technology. South Korean pop culture has also boomed abroad in recent years, in a phenomenon known as the Korean Wave.

Due to Soviet Influence, North Korea established a communist government with a hereditary succession of leadership, with ties to China and the Soviet Union. Kim Il-sung became the supreme leader until his death in 1994, after which his son, Kim Jong-il took power. Kim Jong-il's son, Kim Jong-un, is the current leader, taking power after his father's death in 2011. After the Soviet Union's dissolution in 1991, the North Korean economy went on a path of steep decline, and it is currently heavily reliant on international food aid and trade with China.


UN Forces Push Back: September - October 1950

UN forces breakout from Busan Perimeter, UN troops secure Gimpo Airfield, UN victory in Battle of Busan Perimeter, UN retakes Seoul, UN captures Yosu, South Korean troops cross 38th Parallel into North, General MacArthur demands North Korean surrender, North Koreans murder Americans and South Koreans at Taejon, North Koreans murder civilians in Seoul, U.S. troops push toward Pyongyang


Korean War History Guide.. The History Beat.

Online Korean War Resources


The Inchon Invasion, September 1950, First Lieutenant Baldomero Lopez, USMC, leads the 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines over the seawall on the northern side of Red Beach, as the second assault wave lands, 15 September 1950. Wooden scaling ladders are in use to facilitate disembarkation from the LCVP that brought these men to the shore. Lt. Lopez was killed in action within a few minutes, while assaulting a North Korean bunker.


A short history of the Korean War

The Korean War, from June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953, was a conflict between communist North and anti-communist South Korea. This was also a proxy war of a kind between the United States and the Soviet Union. Principal combatants were North and South Korea, the United States and China although many nations sent troops under the aegis of the United Nations.

The invasion of South Korea came as a complete surprise to the US, Dean Rusk of the State Department had told Congress on June 20 that no war was likely . Interestingly a CIA report of early March had predicted an invasion in June. US officials had previously publicly stated that America would not fight over Korea, and that the country was outside of American concern in the Pacific. This attitude may have encouraged the North or given Syngman Rhee in the South a motive to gain US support.

On hearing of the invasion Truman agreed with his advisors, unilaterally, to use US airstrikes against the North Korean forces and also ordered the Seventh Fleet to protect Formosa. The US gained a United Nations mandate for action because the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council while Chiang Kai-shek's representative held the Chinese seat. Without the Soviet veto and with only Yugoslavia opposed the UN voted to aid South Korea. The US would have fought whatever the outcome, and MacArthur later told Congress "I had no connection with the UN whatsoever".

The US forces were suffering from demobilization which had continued since 1945. Excluding the Marines, the infantry divisions sent to Korea were at 40% of paper strength and the majority of their equipment was found to be useless.

In initial stages of the war, North Korea troops overwhelmed South Korean and American forces and drove them to a small area in the far South around the city of Pusan. This became a desperate holding action called the Pusan Perimeter. American general Douglas MacArthur, as UN commander in chief for Korea, ordered a invasion far behind the North Korean troops at Inchon. United Nations troops drove the North Koreans back past the 38th parallel and continued on toward the Yalu River border of North Korea and China. This brought the Chinese into the war.

The Chinese had issued warnings that they would react if the UN forces encroached on the frontier at the Yalu River. Mao sought Soviet aid and saw intervention as essentially defensive - "if we allow the US to occupy all of Korea. we must be prepared for the US to declare. war with China" he told Stalin, Zhou Enlai was sent to Moscow to add force to Mao's cabled arguments. Mao delayed his forces while waiting for Russian help, the planned attack was postponed from the 13th to the 19th of October. Soviet assistance was limited to providing air support no nearer than sixty miles to the battlefront - the MiG-15s in Chinese colours were an unpleasant surprise to the UN pilots, they held local air superiority until the newer F-86 Sabres were deployed. The Soviet role was known to the US but they kept quiet as "the last thing we [the US] wanted was. a more serious confrontation with the Soviets".

The Chinese assault repelled the United Nations troops back to the 38th parallel, the pre-conflict border. The battle of Chosin Reservoir in winter was a terrible defeat for the United Nation troops, mainly American Marines. The situation was such that Truman mentioned that atomic weapons may be used, much to the alarm of his allies. MacArthur was removed from command by President Harry S Truman in 1951. The rest of the war involved little territory changes and lengthy peace negotiations. A cease fire established a demilitarized zone (DMZ) around the 38th parallel which is still today defended by North Korean on one side and South Korean and American troops on the other. No peace treaty has yet been signed 50 years later.

Korea was officially a police action not a war in US parlance. 600,000 Koreans had died and perhaps a million Chinese. US troops suffered about 50,000 fatalities, roughly equal to the Vietnam conflict but in a much shorter time. However later neglect of remembrance of this war in favor of the Vietnam War and World War II has caused the Korean War to be called the Forgotten War.

However the war was instrumental in re-energising the US military-industrial complex from their post-war slump. The defense budget was boosted to $50 billion, the Army was doubled in size as was the number of Air Groups and they were deployed beyond American soil in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, including Vietnam where covert aid to the French was made overt. The Cold War became a much stronger state of mind for American policy makers.


List Of Korean War Battles

List of every major Korean War battle, including photos, images, or maps of the most famous Korean War battles when available. While it is not a comprehensive list of all skirmishes, conflicts, or battles that took place in the Korean War, we have tried to include as many military events and actions as possible. All the battles on this Korean War list are currently listed alphabetically, but if you want to find a specific battle you can search for it by using the "search". Information about these Korean War battles are included below as well, such as their specific locations and who was involved in the fight.

You can rank all of these battles, from Battle of Chosin Reservoir to Battle of Inchon.

Photo : Metaweb (FB) / Public domain

The Korean War 1950-1953

Armistice talks began at Kaesong on 10 July 1951. North and South Korea were willing to fight on, but after twelve months of large-scale but indecisive conflict, their Cold War supporters -- the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union on one side, the United States and its UN allies on the other -- had concluded it was not in their respective interests to continue. The chief negotiator for the UN was American Vice Adm. C. Turner Joy his counterpart was Lt. Gen. Nam Il, the chief of staff of the North Korean People's Army. At the first session it was agreed that military operations could continue until an armistice agreement was actually signed. The front lines remained relatively quiet, though, as the opposing sides adopted a cautious watch-and-wait stance.

Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet's Eighth Army had fortified its positions along Line Kansas and along Line Wyoming, a bulge north of Kansas in the west-central area known as the Iron Triangle. Both the Kansas line in the east and the Wyoming bulge were above the 38th Parallel, the prewar boundary between the two Koreas. On the west, the front line dipped below the 38th Parallel north of Seoul, the South Korean capital, and then continued to fall toward the coast. This uneven line led to the first impasse in negotiations, when the North Korean and Chinese side argued that the armistice line should be the 38th Parallel, while the UN negotiators called for a line reflecting current positions, which they argued were more defensible and secure than the old border.

When the Communist side broke off negotiations on 23 August, General Matthew B. Ridgway's United Nations Command (UNC) responded with a limited new offensive. General Van Fleet sent the U.S. X Corps and the Republic of Korea (ROK) I Corps to gain terrain objectives in east-central Korea five to seven miles north of Kansas -- among them places that resonate with veterans, such as the Punchbowl, Bloody Ridge, and Heartbreak Ridge. In the west, five UN divisions (the ROK 1st, the 1st British Commonwealth, and the U.S. 1st Cavalry and 3d and 25th Infantry) struck northwest along a forty-mile front to secure a new position beyond the Wyoming line to protect the vital Seoul-Ch'orwon railway. The U.S. IX Corps followed by driving even farther north to the edge of Kumsong.

By the last week of October the UN's objectives had been secured, and on the 25th the armistice talks resumed -- now at P'anmunjom, a hamlet six miles east of Kaesong. When the North Koreans and Chinese dropped their demand that the armistice line be the 38th Parallel, the two sides agreed on 27 November that the armistice demarcation line would be the existing line of contact, provided that an armistice agreement was reached in thirty days. A lull now settled over the battlefield, as fighting tapered off to patrols, small raids, and small unit (but often bitterly fought) struggles for outpost positions. When the thirty-day deadline came and went, as negotiations stalled over the exchange of prisoners of war, among other issues, both sides tacitly extended their acceptance of the armistice line agreement. The continuing absence of large-scale combat allowed the UNC to make several battlefield adjustments, withdrawing the U.S. 1st Cavalry and 24th Infantry Divisions from Korea between December 1951 and February 1952 and replacing them with the 40th and 45th Infantry Divisions, the first National Guard divisions to serve in the war. General Van Fleet also shifted UN units along the front in the spring of 1952, giving more defensive responsibility to the ROK Army in order to concentrate greater U.S. strength in the west.

Meanwhile, the Far East Air Forces intensified a bombing campaign begun in August 1951, supported by U.S. naval fire and carrier-based aircraft. In August 1952 the largest air raid of the war was carried out against P'yongyang, the North Korean capital. Both sides exchanged heavy artillery fire through 1952, and in June the 45th Division, in response to increased Chinese ground action, engaged in an intense period of fighting with the Chinese, successfully establishing eleven new patrol bases along its front. By the beginning of 1953, however, the larger picture was still one of continuing military stalemate, with few changes in the front lines, reflecting the deadlock in the armistice talks that had led the UN delegation to call an indefinite recess in October 1952.

Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor took command of the Eighth Army on 11 February 1953. By March he was faced with renewed enemy attacks against his frontline outposts. Despite the fact that the armistice talks had resumed on 26 April, accompanied by a major exchange of sick and wounded UN and enemy prisoners, flare-ups occurred again in late May and on 10 June, when three Chinese divisions attacked the ROK II Corps defending the UN forward position just south of Kumsong. By 18 June the terms of a final armistice agreement were almost settled, but when South Korean President Syngman Rhee unilaterally allowed some 27,000 North Korean prisoners who had expressed a desire to stay in the South to "escape," the final settlement was further delayed. The Chinese seized on this delay to begin a new offensive to try to improve their final front line. On 6 July they launched an attack on Pork Chop Hill, a 7th Division outpost, and on the 13th they again attacked the ROK II Corps south of Kumsong (as well as the right flank of the IX Corps), forcing the UN forces to withdraw about eight miles, to below the Kumsong River. By 20 July, however, the Eighth Army had retaken the high ground along the river, where it established a new defensive line.

As the UN counterattack was ending, the P'anmunjom negotiators reached an overall agreement on 19 July. After settling remaining details, they signed the armistice agreement at 10 o'clock on the morning of 27 July. All fighting stopped twelve hours later. The cease-fire demarcation line approximated the final front. It ranged from forty miles above the 38th Parallel on the east coast to twenty miles below the parallel on the west coast. It was slightly more favorable to North Korea than the tentative armistice line of November 1951, but compared to the prewar boundary, it amounted to a North Korean net loss of some 1,500 square miles. Within three days of signing both sides were required to withdraw two kilometers from the cease-fire line. The resulting demilitarized zone has been an uneasy reality in international relations ever since.