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
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
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