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A History of Korea

From "Land of the Morning Calm" to States in Conflict

Jinwung Kim

Publication Year: 2012

Contemporary North and South Korea are nations of radical contrasts: one a bellicose totalitarian state with a failing economy; the other a peaceful democracy with a strong economy. Yet their people share a common history that extends back more than 3,000 years. In this comprehensive new history of Korea from the prehistoric era to the present day, Jinwung Kim recounts the rich and fascinating story of the political, social, cultural, economic, and diplomatic developments in Korea's long march to the present. He provides a detailed account of the origins of the Korean people and language and the founding of the first walled-town states, along with the advanced civilization that existed in the ancient land of "Unified Silla." Clarifying the often complex history of the Three Kingdoms Period, Kim chronicles the five-century long history of the Choson dynasty, which left a deep impression on Korean culture. From the beginning, China has loomed large in the history of Korea, from the earliest times when the tribes that would eventually make up the Korean nation roamed the vast plains of Manchuria and against whom Korea would soon define itself. Japan, too, has played an important role in Korean history, particularly in the 20th century; Kim tells this story as well, including the conflicts that led to the current divided state. The first detailed overview of Korean history in nearly a quarter century, this volume will enlighten a new generation of students eager to understand this contested region of Asia.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix

I deeply thank my patron, Spencer C. Tucker, former John Biggs Chair of Military History at Virginia Military Institute and currently Senior Fellow of Military History at ABC-CLIO. Dr. Tucker helped me find a publisher for my work on the history of Korea and offered many...

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pp. xi-xx

Koreans, a branch of the Ural-Altaic family, began their long, rich history as small tribes entering Manchuria (Manzhou) and the Korean peninsula from the Asian mainland hundreds of thousands of years ago. The vast plains of Manchuria, which now belong to China, had...

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1. Dawn of the Korean Nation

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pp. 1-31

As a nation, Korea has a long history. The archeological finds suggest that, at some point in the misty past, tiny bands of tribesmen inhabiting the lands along the Altai Mountains of Central Asia began making their way eastward in the eternal quest for the...

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2. The Period of the Three Kingdoms (57 BCAD 676)

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pp. 32-83

Beginning as a small walled-town state before the second century BC, Koguryŏ grew increasingly into a confederated kingdom after its expulsion of the Chinese commandery of Hyŏndo in 75 BC. At around that time there were five large tribal enclaves...

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3. Parhae, Unified Silla, and the Later Three Kingdoms (676–936)

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pp. 84-121

After Silla pushed Tang China off the Korean peninsula in 676, it asserted authority over the Korean peninsula south of the Taedong River-Wŏnsan Bay line and thus unified Korea south of the peninsula’s narrow waist. The old domain of...

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4. The First Half of the Koryŏ Period (918–1170)

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pp. 122-154

After unifying the Later Three Kingdoms, King T’aejo (Wang Kŏn’s posthumous, official title, meaning “Great Progenitor”) sought to achieve national integration by forging alliances with members of the local gentry, who were scattered throughout the...

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5. The Second Half of the Koryŏ Period (1170–1392)

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pp. 155-185

In the twelfth century, some 200 years after Koryŏ’s founding, conditions in the kingdom began rapidly to deteriorate, an apparent outcome of the dynastic cycle. The cycle was an inevitable result of the periodic weakening of royal authority, the corruption of...

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6. The First Half of the Chosŏn Period (1392–1650)

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pp. 186-239

The first century of the Chosŏn dynasty, which ranged from King T’aejo (1392–1398) to King Sŏngjong (1469–1494), saw a new ruling order established and witnessed the dynasty’s greatest strength, prosperity, cultural brilliance, and unprecedented vitality...

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7. The Second Half of the Chosŏn Period (1650–1910)

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pp. 250-320

In the later Chosŏn period fierce factional struggles developed, in which scholar-officials quarreled even over minor points of Confucian ritual and etiquette, especially the proper mourning period following the death of a royal personage. Neo-Confucian doctrine...

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8. The Period of Japanese Colonial Rule (1910–1945)

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pp. 321-366

The fateful Korean-Japanese annexation treaty not only culminated the process of Japan’s domination of Korea but heralded the demise of the Chosŏn dynasty. Despite the people’s resentment and bitter opposition, Korea had become a colony of the Japanese...

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9. Liberation, Division, and War (1945–1953)

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pp. 367-421

The years from 1945 to 1948 was a difficult and uncertain period in Korean history, only to be followed by the country’s division into two Koreas, the North and the South, in August and September of 1948. The three-year U.S. occupation of the area south of the 38th parallel...

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10. The Period of Postwar Reconstruction (1953–1971)

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pp. 422-467

South Korean politics during the Rhee regime (1948–1960) revolved around his struggle to remain in power indefinitely against the opposition’s efforts to unseat him. Since the inauguration of the ROK, on 15 August 1948, Rhee disingenuously portrayed himself as a...

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11. Reversal of Fortunes (1972–1992)

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pp. 468-518

Prior to the early 1970s North Korea’s economic and political institutions were more stable than those of its southern counterpart. Then, perhaps beginning in 1971, a dramatic reversal began in their relative economic and political strengths, and by the early 1990s South...

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12. Both Koreas in a New Phase (1993 to the Present)

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pp. 519-608

President Kim Young-sam, sworn in on 25 February 1993, was the first civilian president in a country that had been ruled by former military men since 1961, and he proudly named his administration the “civilian government.” His successors, Kim Dae-jung and Roh...


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pp. 609-629


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pp. 631-640


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pp. 641-644


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pp. 645-684

About the Author

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pp. 685

E-ISBN-13: 9780253000781
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253000248

Page Count: 720
Publication Year: 2012