Korea Study Guide

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Korea Study Guide

Note: I have mixed the reading notes and the Module questions. I have essentially taken the notes from each module and synthesized them into various key concepts. These include not only the module questions and vocabulary but other information as well.

Goals of the Module

1) Identify geographic characteristics of the Korean Peninsula.

a. The Koreans live on a peninsula and are separated from the Chinese by the Yalu River. Korea is a mountainous island about 600 miles long. It relies on agriculture for food such as millet and rice. The North has abundant natural resources such as coal.

2) Trace the development of Korean history:

Periods/Dynasties of Korea

1) Choson State –

a. Brief state founded by Han expatriate, overthrown by the Han armies, around 200 BC.

2) Koguryo –

a. Native Korean state that coexisted with the Han, around 200 BC

3) Koguryo, Silla, and Paekche –

a. Three kingdoms that fought each other. Koguryo was heavily influenced by China. Silla and Paekche were further away.

b. Occurred between the Han and Tang Dynasties in China

4) Silla –

a. Kingdom that defeated Koguryo and Paekche with the help of the Tang.

b. Would later turn on the Tang and create the first independent Korean state

5) Koryo –

a. Founded after the decline of the Silla

b. 935 – mid 1200s

6) Mongol Invasions

a. Approximately 1 century from mid 1200s to mid 1300s

7) Yi Dynasty

a. Founded by Yi Songye after an alliance with the Ming.

b. Included Yi Sunsin, the admiral who defeat Hideyoshi with the turtle ships

c. 1388 – 1895

8) Japanese Control and Occupation

a. Japanese exploit and colonize the Koreans

b. 1895 – 1945

9) Modern Period

a. North and South Korea

b. 1945/1953 – Present

3) Explain the cross cultural exchange between China, Korea, and Japan.

a. Korea’s most basic agricultural practices most likely spread from China. This includes the farming of rice and millet, the use of bronze, and double-cropping. Korea’s culture was also greatly influenced. The spread of Buddhism through China into Korea greatly affected culture. The spread of Confucianism and Chinese bureaucracy also shaped the Korean state. Many of these ideas and practices spread to Japan as well. However, this was slightly slower because Japan is an island nation.

b. Korea has retained its unique cultural practices. These include diet, lifestyle, dress, and custom.

4) Describe the impact that Japan’s aggression had on Korea’s development.

a. In 1895, Korea became a protectorate of the Japanese Empire. The Japanese had ‘given it independence’ from China. In reality, the Koreans simply had a new state in control.

b. The Japanese brutally exploited its new colony. It suppressed its culture and forced the Koreans to adopt Japanese practices and language. Korean culture was viewed as inferior to the Japanese.

c. Koreans could only do menial labor as Japanese filled all important positions. Standards of living decreased and although the population increased, prosperity decreased.

5) Assess the significance of the Cold War and the Korean War on Korean history and culture.

a. See 1.6 Notes. The Cold War between the US and the USSR resulted in a brush conflict – the Korean War. The Korean War cost millions of lives and left both the North and South economies in shambles. It has also left bitter division in the country. There have been families separated since the war.

b. Now, there are two separate states; an American influenced capitalistic South Korea and a Communist North Korea.

6) Identify the differences between North and South Korea.

a. The North is a communist dictatorship while the South is a democratic republic.

b. The North regularly experiences famine and relies on foreign aid while the South has a strong, capitalist economy.

c. North Koreans are significantly poorer and less healthy than South Koreans.

d. North Koreans are an average of 3 inches shorter than South Koreans.

e. The Communist North is comparable to the old “hermit kingdom.” It is cut off from foreigners and the outside world, except for its fellow Socialist comrades in China

Module 1.1 – HoWS pgs 198 – 200, Murphy pgs 17 – 18


* What did the Koreans do for subsistence?

o Millet agriculture spread to Korea from China by 2000 BC

o Rice and bronze also moved from China into Korea around 1100 BC as refugees from the Chinese Shang dynasty entered Korea.

o Koreans began as a hunter-gatherer and fishing culture. They transitioned to farming and established permanent settlements with houses.

* Who are the Koreans descended from? What evidence supports this?

o The Koreans most likely are descended from ancient Siberians, who migrated south through Manchuria. Evidence that supports this is the Korean language; a variant of Altaic that is also spoken in North East Asia.

* How did China influence early Korea?

o Korean mythology reflects links to China.

o There are several myths regarding Korea’s creation. These include one about a devine creator and bear and a refugee from the Shang Dynasty.

o Around 300 BC, iron technology was spread to Korea by the Chinese.

o The Han dynasty, under Wu Ti, conquered Korea in 194 BC.

o Around 220 BC, the Han collapsed and Korea remained independent, albeit in independent states.

o The Koreans sought to adopt Chinese culture and admired it greatly. Koreans use Chinese characters for place names and personal names.

o Buddhism spread to Koguryo in 372 and it moved into the other states as well.

* What was the first Korean state? How did it end?

o The first Korean state was Choson, established by a Han expatriate.

o This was overthrown by the Han. Chinese colonies were outposts of Chinese civilization.

* What was the first native Korean kingdom?

o A native Korean kingdom, Koguryo, was founded in the first century BC and coexisted with the Chinese.

* What happened after the Chinese were overthrown?

o After the Chinese were overthrown, the Korean kingdoms of Paekche, and Silla emerged. Koguryo also continued.

o Later, the Chinese Tang dynasty allied itself with the Silla to destroy the other kingdoms. The Tang wanted to reassert Chinese control in Korea.

o Then, Silla turned against their former allies and repelled the Tang. With their new nationalism, they were able to create the first unified Korea.

o The Silla modeled itself off of Chinese civilization in its institutions and arts.

o Although the Koreans adopted many Chinese government practices, it did not initially adopt the Civil Service Exams because of its hierarchically structured society.

* What were the accomplishments of Silla Korea?

o Silla Korea, after conquering Koguryo and destroying Paekche, had a golden age of creativity and Chinese-style culture. The Koreans’ excellent green glazed pottery and porcelain was one of the highlights of their cultural achievements.

o They would also refine hang gul syllabary (writing and speaking).

o Hang gul was a system of phonetic writing

Module 1.2 – HoWS pgs 350 – 351, 679 – 681; Murphy pgs 167 – 171

* How was the Koryo dynasty formed?

o The Silla dynasty began to decline in 780, after the king was killed.

o Rebellions, coups, and chaos ensued. However, a man named Wang Kon began a new dynasty, the Koryo, in 935.

o He gained the support of the aristocracy or yang ban – the ruling property owners.

o The Koryo rule eventually degenerated into another civil war just as the Mongols invaded.

* What was life like during this time?

o Koryo aristocrats lived rich lives in the capital city, Pyongyang, while the size of the serf/slave population greatly increased. There was strong prejudice against slaves at this time.

o Although the economy declined, the industry of ceramics, especially the art of celadon pottery, flourished.

o Buddhism was also popular.

o The History of the Three Kingdoms was created in 1145 by Kim Pu-sik in Chinese. It is a great source of information on Chinese history.

* How did the ruling family lose power?

o The dynasty continued even as the royalty lost power. In 1196, General Ch’oe Ch’ung took control. His family came to dominate court politics.

* What foreign hardships did the Koreans face? How did the Yi Dynasty emerge?

o The Koryo Civil War greatly weakened Korea and allowed the Mongols to take over.

o From 1000 to 1300, Korea faced numerous invasions and attacks by external forces. First, the Khitan state of Liao attacked. Then the Jurchens attacked. Finally, in 1254, the Mongols attacked and enslaved 200,000 Koreans.

o Previously, the Koreans had to pay heavy tribute to the Mongols and serve as a vassal state.

o The Mongols ruled China and held power over Korea for almost 100 years. In 1388, Yi Song-ye (not Admiral Yi Sunsin) made an alliance with the Ming

dynasty against the Mongols. In 1392, he brought his troops back to the capital and took power, creating the Yi dynasty.

* What was life like in the Yi period? What were some significant accomplishments?

o The Yi implemented the Confucian bureaucracy and Imperial Examination system.

o The Yi established its capital at Seoul.

o During the Yi period, there was a favorable relationship between the Chinese and Koreans. Koreans refurred to the Chinese as “older brother”

o The Koreans were hampered by mountains, which were barriers to trade. They were also power than the Chinese.

o During the first century of the Yi (the 1400s) the Koreans perfected the movable type, printed new texts, placed high importance on learning, developed mathematics and astronomy.

o Hang gul syllabary was used to create Korean pronunciation for Chinese words.

* How did the Koreans gain from the Chinese while retaining their own practices as well?

o Although the Koreans adopted some Chinese The upper class, the yang ban, was comparable to the Chinese gentry and was a hereditary educated elite, unlike the Chinese model, which was not hereditary.

o The yang ban held power in military and civil government.

o The Koreans, although they adopted governing practices from China and admired the Chinese, still kept their own ceramics, dress, houses, diet, lifestyles, marriage, and many other parts of culture. Korea was distinct enough from China that there was no risk that Korea would be absorbed into China culturally.

o During the reign of Yi-Songye, neoconfucianism prospered. Confucianism replaced Buddhism as the official state religion. New law codes were written along Confucian lines.

* What were some of the problems that the Yi faced? Who was Yi Sunsin? What did he do?

o An enormous problem that led to the decline of the Yi was factionalism in the 1500s; a lack of strong rulers and abundance of rivaling factions. This weakened Korea and allowed the Japanese Hideyoshi [who you should remember, was one of the Japanese leaders who worked toward a united Japan – he ‘baked the pie’ or ‘cooked the rice’]. The Japanese ran amok in Korea from 1592 to 1598.

o Hideyoshi was stopped by the Chinese Ming (the ‘older brother’) who drove him to the coast. From here, Korean Admiral Yi Sunsin used turtle ships to defeat the Japanese.

o The turtle ships were the first armored warships. They were covered with iron and copper and used their metal prows to ram and sink ships.

o The Japanese ended the invasion when Hideyoshi died that same year, 1598.

* What Yi accomplishments occurred after Hideyoshi’s failed attack?

o Even after this Korean victory, the Yi continued to decline by factional infighting. However, the economy grew and the population doubled from 1600 to 1800.

o Some merchants and farmers were able to produce wealth and become yang ban. The government used taxes for revenue. It reduced the tax burden on the

peasantry and allowed merchants to purchase goods on behalf of the government. These merchants were called the kongin.

o There were many advances in agriculture including double cropping. These greatly increased agricultural production and were very labor intensive. Commercial farming also increased greatly with crops such as tobacco.

o The number of rich farmers increased as well as the number of wealthy tenant farmers. Below them were the unemployed.

* What was the status of Korea’s relationship with other countries?

o The Manchu attacked Korea in 1637. Korea became a vassal state of the Manchu.

o Even though the Koreans respected the Chinese, the had to use a language of submission and kowtow to the emperors of China. They were really tribute missions.

o The Yi struggled onward until it was finally defeated by the Japanese in 1895.

Module 1.3 –

HoWS pgs 878 – 879, 1062 – 1063, 1151 – 1153; Murphy pgs 393 – 401

* Why was Korea called the Hermit Kingdom?

o Korea rejected all foreign influences and presence. It persecuted missionaries and Christians, was closed to trade, and treated shipwrecked sailors harshly.

o Koreans saw Westerners as a threat to Korean values and identity. “Tiger hunters” attacked foreigners and attempted to repel foreign expeditions.

* What was the Tonghak movement?

o The Tonghak (“Eastern Learning”) was a cult-like movement formed by a poor village scholar, Ch’oe Cheu, who was comparable to Hong of the Chinese Taiping Rebellion. Both had failed civil service examinations and both claimed to have divine instructions to lead a movement.

o The Tonghak fused Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, and Catholic religions into a new ‘way’ that would restore Korea. He was arrested and executed.

o However, the Tonghak continued to spread, albeit more passively.

* How did Korea’s Yi government respond to the Western challenge?

o The Koreans, under Taewongun or “Grand Prince,” took a series of conservative ‘reforms’ in which an attempt was made to restore the Golden Age of the Yi. They attempted to strengthen the government but remained xenophobic and isolationist.

o The Koreans drove off a French naval attack and murdered French priests. They persecuted Christians ferociously.

o The Taewongun provoked an anti-foreign riot. After he was removed by the Chinese, The Min family took over. The Min family undid many of the improvements and changes that the Taewongun made.

* How did the Japanese gain increasingly greater control in Korea?

o In 1875, Japanese sailors were fired upon by the Koreans. The Japanese then engaged in gunboat diplomacy, anchoring a ship off of the port of Inchon, and forced the Koreans to sign an unequal treaty.

o The treaty opened by ports to trade by the Japanese only. However, the Koreans still were inspired by the Japanese. They supported the Japanese efforts to reform Korea.

o The Li-Ito convention occurred after both the Chinese and Japanese found themselves in Korea. Japan supported a coup against the King and Queen and the Chinese tried to protect the royalty.

o The convention between the Japanese and China agreed that both China and Japan would withdraw troops from Korea. However, Li of China pushed to modernize Korea. The Tonghak movement rose again but this time, the superior Japanese military was able to defeat it and the Chinese. The Japanese declared Korea independent from China in 1895. In actuality, it became part of the Japanese power sphere.

o In 1905, Japan formally declared Korea as a protectorate state, essentially, a territory.

o Korea was annexed by the Japanese in 1909 as a part of the empire.

* What effects did the Japanese occupation and exploitation of Korea have on Korean economics and culture?

o Economic effects

* From 1910 to 1945, Korea was brutally exploited by the Japanese. Living standards fell as the Japanese took Korea’s coal, iron, food crops, and lumber.

* Population increased but many were poor. Most Koreans could not get education and could only take menial jobs.

* After a mass demonstration on March 1, 1919, the Japanese killed or injured 20,000 Koreans.

o Effects on Korean Culture

* The Koreans had to learn the Japanese language.

* Korean customs were viewed as inferior and were suppressed.

* This is ironic because much of Japan’s culture spread form Korea.

* Missionaries and their schools were often targeted by the Japanese as well.

* What were the causes of the Korean War?

o After the end of World War II, the US and the Soviet Union proposed the 38th parallel as an occupation line. This began as simply a matter of convenience; Japanese soldiers above the parallel would surrender to the Soviets while those below would surrender to the Americans.

o The Soviets began closing off the border before the Americans arrived. They used Communist takeover techniques.

o When the Americans arrived, the border was sealed and the North was cut off from the South.

o The US went to the newly formed United Nations that declared that elections needed to take place. The Soviets refused to allow elections in the north and the South Koreans elected nationalist Syngman Rhee as their first President.

o The North retaliated by creating their own state. In 1950, they attacked to remove the capitalist nation on its border (although they claimed that it was self defense, the south was in no position to attack).

o The Americans entered the war and fought the North almost to the Yalu River. China, fearing an American attack and newly nationalistic after its Communist revolution, attacked and fought the Americans and Koreans back to the parallel. Here, a truce line was eventually formed.

* How was Syngman Rhee similar to Sun Yat-sen?

o Both were American educated nationalists who led their country on a pro-western stance. Both sought to unify their country and were strongly anti-communist. Sun and Rhee were both Christians. However, Sun was a radical westernized reformer while Rhee was more conservative.

* What is the “economic miracle” of South Korea?

o South Korea in 1950 was a poor, agricultural country. In the 1960s, it began to recover from the war. By the 1970s, its economic growth skyrocketed. This occurred while Gneral Park Chung-hee was a dictator in the South.

o South Korean economic growth helped people of all social classes. In 1987, the first democratic elections took place. Then, material prosperity came as the result of production in light consumer goods. Large businesses, equivalent of the zaibatsu in Japan, such as Hyundai and Samsung emerged. An economic miracle based on hard work, national drive, and education had succeeded in creating a powerful economy.

o What other countries had an economic miracle at the same time as South Korea (the Four Dragons)?

Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore

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