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xi 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 been the main arena of activity for Koreans until ad 926, when the Korean kingdom of Parhae fell to Qidan (Khitan)Liao.AtfirsttheKoreanpeoplecametogetherintoaclusterof villages and tribal states, termed “walled-town states.” As stronger walled-town states subjugated weaker ones under their dominion, these walled-town states grew into confederated kingdoms, including Old Chosŏn, Puyŏ, Koguryŏ, Paekche, and Silla, as well as the Kaya confederation. Among these, the kingdoms of Koguryŏ, Paekche, and Silla developed into centralized kingdoms, opening the period of the Three Kingdoms. When Silla unified two rival kingdoms in 676, or certainly when Koryŏ ended the period of the Later Three Kingdoms in 936, Koreans finally came together into a single homogeneous nation that has kept its identity despite repeated invasions by surrounding countries and peoples. During the Koryŏ and Chosŏn dynasties, Korea was an autonomous, unified state with a sophisticated central government for a millennium. When Japan annexed the Chosŏn kingdom in 1910, Koreans lost their independence and came under Japanese colonial rule. Koreans tenaciously resisted unrelenting pressurefromtheJapanesetoannihilatetheirwayof life,andtheysucceededin preserving their own culture intact. Since liberation from the Japanese in 1945, andasaresultof theColdWar,Koreacametobedividedintotwostates,North and South. Despite this division, Koreans in each state have regarded those in the other as their brethren and have aspired to reunification. Introduction xii Introduction Inshort,throughouttheirlonghistory,Koreanshaveenduredallkindsof trialstomaintainanethnicandculturalidentityquiteseparatefromthatof China or Japan. Koreans all speak the same language and share the same culture, and clearly their language, alphabet (han’gŭl), arts, and customs are distinct from those of the Chinese and the Japanese. Although it began as a small nation on the eastern tip of the Asian continent, Koreahashadalong,importantcivilization.Korea’sextensivehistoryhasbeen characterized both by the persistent assertion of a distinctive Korean identity and by military, political, and cultural assaults from external sources. Korean historians note that, throughout its history, Korea has been invaded by foreign aggressors once every two years on average. Given Korea’s strategic location and the much greater power of its neighbors, first China, and then Japan and Russia, it is remarkable that the Korean nation has survived. While establishing its national identity, the Korean nation has produced remarkableculturalachievements .RecentlySouthKorea(Republicof Korea)has excelled from the standpoints of political and economic development. Indeed, it has been universally acclaimed as a political and economic success story. An internationally recognized middle power, South Korea is marked not only by a fully functioning modern democracy but also by a high-tech modern world economy. It has raised itself from the depths of devastation and poverty following the Korean War (1950–1953) and shaken off the shackles of authoritarian rule to become a fully democratic nation committed to human rights, the rule of law, and economic prosperity for its people. The history of South Korea is also one of the fastest socioeconomic growth stories in the world during the past six decades.1 As of 2008 it was the 15th largest economy and the 12th most activetradingnationamong186countries.Ithasbecomeamuchmoredynamic and creative society than it was 20 years ago. The country is now a leader in information technology, and its popular culture, known as hallyu, or the Korean wave, dominates much of Asia. South Korea’s full-fledged democracy and internationally oriented, prospering economy has earned it recognition as the legitimate government on the Korean peninsula. Throughout its history the Korean nation has been influenced by the immense power and culture of China. Historically the Chinese were far more numerous and more powerful militarily than Koreans; their technology and culture were also more advanced. Before 1895 successive Chinese dynasties from the Han to the Qing empires exerted great power and influence on Korea. Koreans drew from the Chinese model in organizing its political institutions, Introduction xiii and the Korean adoption of the Chinese political system extended to society and culture. But this adoption of Chinese institutions and culture was not an expression of submission. Rather, it was the indispensable condition of being civilized in the East Asian context. It did not obliterate the identity of the Korean people. After1895,followingitsmilitarydefeatof China(theFirstSino-JapaneseWar of 1894–1895),JapanmadepoliticalandeconomicinroadsintoKorea,whichled to Korea’s 35 years of subjugation. No sooner was Korea liberated from Japan’s imperialistic rule at the end of World War II than...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253000781
Related ISBN
9780253000248
MARC Record
OCLC
826449509
Pages
720
Launched on MUSE
2012-11-02
Language
English
Open Access
No
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