Korean Civilization

Rachel Gundrum & Ellen Finnel


  • Almost 70% of the Korean Peninsula is covered by low but steep mountains
  • The landscape makes farming difficult, so people live on the western coastal plains for agriculture
  • Numerous good harbors on 5,400 mile coastline
  • Big fishing industry
  • Mountains and the Yalu River act as a border between Korea and China
  • Because of Korea's close proximity with China and Japan, it acted as a cultural bridge between the two countries
  • Korea developed their own culture before Han Dynasty invaded in 108 B.C. Confucian traditions, Chinese ideas about government, writing, and farming methods entered Korea
  • Modified Chinese ideas to have their own unique culture

Korean Society

100 B.C.-676 A.D. : 3 kingdoms, Koguryo (north), Paekche (southwest), Silla (southeast)

  • Even though shared culture, they often fought with each other and China

  • Heavily influenced by Chinese culture

  • Indian missionaries spread Mahayana Buddhism

676 A.D. : Silla kingdom defeated others and united Korea

918 A.D. : /conflict between peasants and the wealthy lead to overthrowing the government

  • Replaced with Koryo Dynasty

  • Created movable metal type to print books

  • Made porcelain

1200s: Mongols invade and take over

1392: Overthrow Mongols replace with the Choson Dynasty

  • Replaced Chinese system of writing w/Hangul

  • Led to v high literacy rate

1590s: Japan invades

  • Admiral Yi Sun-shin battled Japanese navy

  • 6 yrs later, Japan leaves, take Korean artisans

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Korean Society Con.

Confucianism borrowed from China as ruling philosophy

Four Social Classes: Yangban - nobles/rulers

Chungin - middle class

Sangmin - peasants, laborers, fishermen, merchants

- paid most taxes, subject to military drafts

- considered “clean workers”

Cheonmin - slaves, butchers, shamans, metalworkers

- born into social class

- considered “unclean” by upper classes

Unique and Interesting

  • King Sejong:

- Korea's most celebrated leader

- Consulted experts to create hangul

- Hangul is the Korean phonetic alphabet that uses symbols to represent sounds of spoken Korean

- Lead to higher literacy rate since Chinese had many more written characters

  • Used ships shaped and armored like turtles when Japan invaded. The "turtle ships" sailed right into the Japanese fleet