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Korea Facts
Korean History
Korean Language
Korean History

A small, approximately the size of Britain, Korea is located on a peninsula that protrudes southward from the northeastern corner of the Asian continent. In ancient times events on the peninsula were strongly and profoundly affected by the civilizations and political developments on the contiguous Asian continent.

Korea once called the Hermit Kingdom has a recorded history since 1st Century BC. After more than 1,000 years of Chinese settlements among the Korean tribes, the first of several native kingdoms arose, in the North c100 AD. Korea was not united until the 7th century. Most of its early civilization was destroyed by Mongol invasions of 13th century; but with the establishment (1392) of Yi dynasty, Korea entered an age of stability and outstanding cultural achievement including Hangul (Korean letters) and the first known printing with movable metal type.

In 1592 Japan invaded the peninsula, followed soon by Manchu. Korea became a Chinese vassal state, entirely cut off from the world. Commercial contact with Japan in the late 1800s foreshadowed Japan's forcible annexation of Korea in 1910.

After Japan's capitulation in World WarII Korea was divided into a Russian zone of North and a US zone of South. This blocked efforts to let the Koreans unite their country. Negotiations to unite the country failed, and 1948 separate regimes were established. The North became a communist state under the former guerrilla leader, Kim Il Sung. Elections in the South produced a republic under Syngman Rhee. A separate communist regime was formed in the North; its army invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, thus beginning of Korean War. The UN troops, under US command supported the South in the war. The heavy fighting was eventually stopped (July 1953) by armistice.

In the South Syngman Rhee's increasingly autocratic and corrupt regime was displaced (1960). In an army coup May 16,1961 Gen. Park Jung Hee became chairman of a ruling junta. He was elected president, 1963. He gained wider powers and the right to unlimited terms of office in 1972. he was assassinated by the chief of Korean Central Intelligence Agency, October 26, 1979 and replaced by general Chun Doo Hwan, who established his own autocratic rule. In 1987, after widespread antigovernment demonstrations, Chun abandoned his plan to name his own successor and agreed to a presidential election. Rho Tae Woo was elected president but with only a third of the total vote.

The survival of the regime was due in large part to the country's astonishing economic growth during the preceding 20 years, when per capita gross national production was quadrupled. In 1988 Seoul hosted the summer Olympics.

In North Korea, Kim Il Sung presided over a drab and disciplined state in which he was the object of a personality cult. He groomed his son, Kim Jung Il, to succeed him. In 1988 he demanded that North Korea co-host the Olympics. His demand was rejected by South Korea and unsupported by communists countries. But negotiations were undertaken between north and south toward some accommodation, and 1993-38 year after the Korean War-the two Koreas signed a comprehensive accord calling the reconciliation, nonaggression and transportation. Both the North and South admitted to the UN Sept.1991.

Kim Yong Sam took office in 1993 as the first civilian president since 1961. With financial and monetary crisis, Korea averted default by agreeing on a $19 bil. bailout from the IMF. Kim Dae Jung, a longtime dissident leader, was elected president Dec. 1997. He took on leadership in overcoming the difficulties.

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