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Korean History

Protectors of an Ancient Time


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Today, we have satellites, aircraft, bombs, guns – a whole slew of modern warfare technology that countries use to protect themselves from other nations.

But in ancient times, the only thing that separated people from a potential invasion or destruction by a foreign nation or their soldiers was a simple brick and mud wall.

These defense walls were the common protectors of cities and sovereign lands in ancient times. We can see the remanence of them all over the world – from The Great Wall of China to The Walls of Constantinople in Turkey.

Which brings me to the Seoul Fortress Wall.

Seoul Lantern Festival

I was skimming through some photos in my camera and found a lot of pictures from last year’s Seoul Lantern Festival which my husband and I came to see before we went to the Philippines in November. I was going to talk about the festival and share the photos in my blog, but I suffered from “temporary amnesia” as a result of my preoccupation with our business in the PI. Now I’m back in Korea, back to sanity, back to blogging… but I miss my Mom and the family back home. I can’t wait to see them again this summer.

Seoul Lantern Festival

I was skimming through some photos in my camera and found a lot of pictures from last year’s Seoul Lantern Festival which my husband and I came to see before we went to the Philippines in November. I was going … Continue reading

Why The Korean War Has Been "Forgotten"

This past Saturday marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice that ended the hostilities between North and South Korea.  Lasting from 1950-1953, the war that was catalyzed by conflicting negotiations over the reunification of post-World War II divisions resulted in over 2.8 million casualties, separated tens of thousands of families, and left both Koreas in shambles. 

Despite these tragedies, the war is often referred to as "the Forgotten War" since the majority of the world quickly lost interest in the fighting soon after it began, mostly due to the fact that the war was unable to produce any positive political outcomes.

Where Have All The Korean Ruins Gone?

There isn’t a whole hell of a lot left of the Shilla Dynasty. Aside from two spectacular sets of ruins in Gyeongju—Seokguram and Bulguksa, of course—and a few decent sculptures in the local museum, nearly everything this thousand-year old culture created has been completely destroyed. Part of me suspected that this was due to a lack of artistic fervor, but absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence: it’s also possible that the last millennium of Korean history was turbulent enough to nearly erase the Shilla from existence.

Wishing Trees and Rice Chests: Suwon's Hwaseong Haenggung

Once a resting shelter and vacation destination for kings, the grounds of Hwaseong Haenggung in Suwon, South Korea are now a site where locals and tourists can learn about Korean royal history and culture. Despite recent renovations, every inch of the palace has a story to tell.  So much so, in fact, that when I visited there recently, I could almost sense the spirits of Korea’s dynastic leaders luring me back in time for a glimpse into the country’s captivating past.

One of the first things I noticed about Hwaseong Haenggung was that it was quite small compared to other royal structures I have visited throughout Asia.  I soon learned, however, that what the palace lacks in size, it makes up for in grandeur.

The Busan Modern History Museum

History Books About Korea

On the northern side of Yongdusan Park is the Busan Modern History Museum, which takes visitors on a stroll through the recent past of the city. It might as well call itself the Busan Museum of Japanese Aggression, because that’s basically the focus of every exhibit.

Let’s Not Have Shaman Rituals In The Forest!

The sign reads:
산림내 무속행위를 하지 맙시다
(무속행위는 100만원이하 과태료 처분)

Shaman Rituals Prohibited
Let’s Not Have Shaman Rituals In The Forest
(Fine For Shaman Rituals Less Than $1000)

It’s a sad and a wonderful thing, at the same time, for a modern nation to have this kind of problem—of people dancing around too much in the forest. Google images tells me that a Moo-soke-haeng-wee, or Shaman Ritual, looks like this—

History of Korea through Korean Dolls

Cheonmin Couple

This is an attempt to not only simplify Korean History but also make it interesting using Korean Dolls as props. The idea is to educate the kids about the history of Korea, who might otherwise find this subject boring. We have also made an attempt to highlight the social class structure that existed in Korea during the Chosun Dynasty. Understanding the Social Class structure should give an understanding about the people of Korea and why Korean Society focuses a lot on higher education.

The Ancient age

Kojoseon – 10th century B.C to 108 B.C
Puyo – around the 5th century B.C to 494
Chinguk – from before the 6th century B.C. to 9 A.D.

Topics In Korean History


Korean History

People often ask me, “Why are you interested in Korean history? Isn’t it just so sad?”

Well, they are partially right. Much of Korean history -ancient and modern- is a tragic story of suffering and wasted lives, but throughout it rings a beautiful story of a people who have managed to maintain a unique culture in the face of enormous difficulties.

The Rose of Sharon - The Flower of Eternity. South Korea's National Flower.

The Rose of Sharon/The Flower of Eternity. South Korea's National Flower.

Private Education and the Korean Independance Movement

Ancient Erotic Korean Coins

Korea has a long history of producing sexual artefacts, with recent archeological studies having found sex toys dating back to the Unified Silla Era (7th-10th century) and ithyphallic pictures on Bronze Age kitchenware. These coins were produced during the Joseon era, which, unlike the previous Goryo dynasty, was notable for its conservative and prude mores.

The 6.10 Democracy Movement (6.10 민주항쟁)

A French Traveler's Account of Joseon Korea: Charles Varat's "Tour du Monde"

Korean Leper Colony: Sorok Island (소록도)

Sorokdo (소록도/小鹿島 lit. "small deer island", the island was thus named because of its shape) is a small island off the southwestern coast of Korea where the country's last leper colony has been standing for over a hundred years.

An American in Joseon Korea: George Foulk

Born in 1856, George Clayton Foulk was an officer of the US navy who was sent to Asia at the end of the 19th century. During his first mission he became fluent in Korean and Japanese and was later appointed Minister to the Kingdom of Korea from 1885 to 1886 and again from 1886 to 1887. The numerous pictures he took during his time in Korea are an invaluable historical legacy.

Korean Map: Daedong Yeojido (대동여지도)

As we talked about maps a few days ago, I figured posting about this would be a good idea. Daedong Yeojido (대동여지도, 大東輿地圖) is a map published in 1861 by Kim Jeong Ho (김정호, pen name Go San Ja 고산자) and remarkable for its accuracy. The map is a National Treasure of Korea (no. 850), it is 360 cm wide and 685cm high, with a scale of about 1:162 000.

Zoomorphic Maps of Korea


Commemorating The Fight for Freedom: The Gwangju Massacre (May 18th)

Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Gwangju Massacre (also commonly referred to as the Gwangju Democratization Movement, 광주민주화운동, Gwanju Uprising, 광주민중항쟁 or 518). On May 18, 1980 several thousands of protesters gathered in the city of Gwangju to protest the dictatorial rule of president Chun Doo Hwan.

Animated Korean History Maps

Don't know what Baekjae or Goguryo are? Do you still think Silla is a Roman general? Looks like you need to brush up on your Korean History. Here are a few animated maps to help you do just that in no time!

Animated Map of Early Korean History

I thought this map was really great, a thousand years of history in a few minutes:

“63 Years On: The Story of the Comfort Women” Screening This Saturday

The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 4

( Source )

“Smoking Among Men Drops to Record Low” reads a recent headline in The Chosunilbo, with only 39.6% of Korean men over 19 now doing so: a drop of 3.5% from a year earlier, and of 17.1% from 2003.

Korean Sociological Image #46: The Language of Exclusion (Updated)

( Source: Mental Poo; reproduced with permission )

A receipt from a recent visit by blogger My Jihae to an upscale restaurant in Seoul, about which she wrote:

Korean Sociological Image #45: Modernizing Traditional Korean Clothes

( Source )

For all my love of Korean culture, I’ve never really understood the appeal of modern hanbok (한복).

The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 2

A teaser for the next posts in the series (click to enlarge):

The Gender Politics of Smoking in South Korea: Part 1

( Park Soo-ae {박수에} in A Family {가족; 2004}; source )

As numerous expats can attest to, coming to live in Korea can be quite a jarring experience sometimes. But probably not as much as you’d expect, for Korea too is a modern, developed country, with institutions and services that match – nay, are often better – than equivalents in your home country.

An Introduction to Chomsongdae