Wikijunior:Ancient Civilizations/Korean

A photo of Jihoo Moon, one of the authors of this book.

The people of Korea are the descended from the Han, a tribe originally from Mongolia. The name, "Korea", is a corruption of "Goryeo", which refers to a Dynasty that ruled Korea one thousand years ago.

What Country did they live in?

The Three Kingdoms of Korea in the 5th century.

Korea is situated in Northeast Asia, on the Korean Peninsula. It is bordered by two countries and three seas. To the northwest, the Yalu River separates Korea from China. To the northeast, the Tumen River separates Korea from Russia. The Yellow Sea is to the west; the East China Sea is to the south; and the Sea of Japan is to the east. There are two separate parts of Korea, called North Korea and South Korea.

How did the civilization rise and fall?


There were people living on the Korean Peninsula around 700,000 years ago. The earliest known Korean pottery dates to around 8000 BC. The city and state of Gojoseon was founded in 2333 BC. [5] Archaeological and contemporary written records indicate it developed from a federation of walled cities into a centralized kingdom sometime between the 4th and 7th centuries BC. The original capital may have been somewhere near what is now the border with China.

The three Kingdoms of Korea in the 5th century.


The Three Kingdoms of Korea were Goguryeo, Silla, Baekje, along with the Gaya confederacy.. They dominated the peninsula and parts of present day China. Goguryeo was the largest of the three, but was constantly at war with China. The southwestern kingdom Baekje was founded near where the capital of Korea, Seoul is today. Silla, in the southeast is believed to have been the last kingdom to develop, And Kaya, the smallest of the four kingdoms.

As time went on, Silla's gradually grew more powerful. Silla first annexed the adjacent Kaya Kingdom. In the 660s, Silla formed an alliance with the Tang Dynasty of China to conquer Baekje and later Goguryeo. Silla established the first unified state to cover most of the Korean peninsula. Silla fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to a tumultuous period, which ended with the establishment of the Goryeo Dynasty. During the Goryeo period, laws were codified, a civil service system was introduced, and Buddhism flourished.

In the late 14th century, the general Lee Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty with a largely bloodless coup. The Joseon Dynasty is believed to have been the longest-lived actively ruling dynasty in East Asia. A Joseon king, Sejong the Great, created the Korean alphabet.

What did their buildings look like?

Bulguksa Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site..
The Pagoda of Many Treasures is an ornate pagoda carved from stone.

Unified Silla was a time when Korean arts flourished dramatically and Buddhism became a large part of Silla culture. Buddhist monasteries such as the Bulguksa are examples of advanced Korean architecture and Buddhist influence. State-sponsored art and architecture from this period include Hwangnyongsa Temple, Bunhwangsa Temple, and Seokguram Grotto, a World Heritage Site.

A pagoda is the general term for a tiered tower with multiple eaves. There are two famous stone pagodas at Bulguska. The older one is simple with strong square lines and flared eaves with a central spire. The newer one is known as the Pagoda of Many Treasures. It has steps leading to a square chamber formed by four carved stone pillars, above that are traditional flared eaves and an octagonal (8 sided) carved stone cupola. At Hwangnyongsa there was the largest of all ancient Korean pagodas. It towered 224 feet and nine stories tall. The base was a square 78 feet wide on each side. Hwangnyongsa was made from wood except for the foundation which had eight stone pillars and 15 foundation stones on each side. Each story had a flared roof. There is the ruins of an ancient pagoda still standing at the Bunhwangsa temple, Bunhwangsa Pagoda. It is a square building made of cut stone brinks. At one time it was nine stories tall but it has since collapsed and is now only three stories.

Bibimbap with banchan.

What did they eat?


The traditional food of Korea uses richly varied ingredients and preparation techniques, many dishes are internationally popular today.

Korean food often has rice, vegetables, meats and tofu. Traditional Korean meals are served with many side dishes (called banchan in Korean.) Most meals are served with steamed short-grain rice. Korean food is usually seasoned with sesame oil, doenjang (fermented soybean paste), soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger and red chili paste (gochujang). Korean food has a lot of garlic compared to other Asian foods.

One of the common side dishes is Kimchi, which is pickled, fermented, spicy vegetables. Kimchi is most commonly made from cabbage, radish or cucumber. Kimchi is traditionally eaten during winter, because it is preserved in big ceramic containers stored underground.

Korean royal cuisine, once only enjoyed by the royal court of the Joseon period, take hours and days to prepare. It must harmonize warm and cold, hot and mild, rough and soft, solid and liquid, and a balance of presentation colors. It is often served on hand-forged bronzeware or Bangjjaa. The foods are served in a specific arrangement of small dishes alternating to highlight the shape and color of the ingredients.

What did they wear?

Hanbok, Traditional Korean Dress.

Hanbok or chosŏn-ot is the traditional Korean dress. It is characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines without pockets.

The upper classes wore hanbok of closely woven ramie cloth or other high-grade lightweight materials in warm weather and of plain and patterned silks the rest of the year. Commoners were restricted by law as well as resources to cotton at best. The upper classes wore a variety of colors, though bright colors were generally worn by children and young girls and subdued colors by middle-aged men and women. Commoners were restricted by law to everyday clothes of white but for special occasions they wore dull shades of pale pink, light green, gray and charcoal. Formally, when Korean men went outdoors, they were required to wear overcoat known as durumagi which comes down to knee-length.

Hanbok are classified according to their purposes: everyday dress, ceremonial dress and special dress. Ceremonial dresses are worn on formal occasions, including a child's first birthday, a wedding or a funeral. Special dresses are made for shamans and officials.

Today the hanbok is still sometimes worn during formal occasions. The everyday use of the dress, however, has been lost, with a few exceptions such as at Chunghakdong, a famous anachronistic village.

Both males and females wore their hair in a long pigtail until they were married, at which time the hair was knotted-the man’s in a topknot sangtu on the top of the head and the woman’s in a ball just above the nape of the neck. A long pin, or binyeo, was thrust through the knotted hair of the woman as both a fastener and a decoration. The material and length of the binyeo varied according to the wearer’s class and status. Men wore a gat, which also varied according to class and status. Women wore a jokduri on their wedding day, and wore an ayam for protection from the cold.

What did their writing look like?


Korean (한국어/조선말, see below) is the official language of both North and South Korea. The language is also one of the two official languages (the other is Standard Mandarin) in neighbouring Yanbian, China. Worldwide, there are around 80 million Korean speakers, including large groups in the former Soviet Union, China, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Japan, and more recently, South Africa and the Philippines.

The genealogical classification of Korean is debated. Many linguists place it in the Altaic language family; some others consider it to be a language isolate. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax. This article is mainly about the spoken Korean language. See Hangul for details on the native Korean writing system.

What did they believe?


In old times Korea was heavily influenced by Buddhism. Now, like most other countries, Korea has practitioners of several religions. A 2005 survey showed people with no affiliation at 46%, Christian 26%, Buddhist 26%, Confucianist 1%, other 1%.

Are some of them famous even today?


Ban Ki-moon (born 13 June 1944 in Eumseong, North Chungcheong, Korea) is a South Korean former politician, who succeeded Kofi Annan as the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 1 January 2007.[1] Ban was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) from January 2004 to 1 November 2006.

On 13 October 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly; he was sworn in on 14 December 2006.

8th Secretary-General of the United Nations Designate.
Kim Dae-jung during a visit of George W. Bush in Seoul, 20 February 2002.

Kim Dae-jung (born 6 January 1926) is a former South Korean president and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, the first winner of a Nobel to hail from Korea [1]. A Roman Catholic since 1957, he has been called the "Nelson Mandela" of Asia [2] and was a symbol of democratic opposition to the dictatorial government. Kim Dae Jung was the President (succeeding Kim Young-sam) from 1998 to 2003. He was born in Haui-do, South Jeolla Province, an island off the South Korean Coast.

Won The Nobel Peace Prize 2000 "for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular."

What is left of them today?


A civil war, known as the Korean War (1950–1953,) left Korea separated into two states. North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) is despite its name a communist state, while South Korea (Republic of Korea) became a capitalist liberal democracy and has now become one of the largest economies in the world.

대한민국 大韓民國 Daehan Minguk Republic of Korea.