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Although many Americans who hear the word "Korea" primarily associate it with the Korean War, they frequently know little about either Korea, per se, or the major war that bears its name. Despite the controversy generated by periodic crises centered in Korea, especially North Korea, all too many Westerners remain unfamiliar with the basics of Korean affairs. Korea's location, its history of achievements and failures, and the ways in which Korea is perceived by its neighbors, the broader international community, and that community's leaders, has great significance.

Korea is often in the news because of international tensions, fears of conflict, and other contentious issues. For those who follow Korean affairs closely, keeping up with the nuances of such circumstances is not difficult. However, for many in the general public that is not feasible because they know little about Korea. This volume is intended to help fill that void. In that light, the selected references cited in this volume are intended to guide readers toward further readings on certain aspects of Korean affairs.

Following a survey of Korea's physical geography as part of this introductory section chapter 1 , an overview of Korea's traditional historical legacy is provided. Both factors influenced Korea's ability to cope with the pressures created by the advent of Western imperial intrusions in Asia and other Asian countries' adaptations to these geopolitical pressures, notably in China and Japan.

The impact of that era upon Korea is examined by assessing Korea's colonial subjugation, postcolonial liberation, and post-World War II occupation division into the two Korean states that today dwell on the Korean peninsula.

Quansheng Zhao

These initial portions chapters review the societal context for the emergence of a divided Korea and set the stage for the remainder of the volume, which focuses on the divided Korean nations' evolution and place in the international system. The origins of the two Korean states and their respective political, economic, and strategic positions are examined.

It is important to note a major fact that most readers probably do not know. Although the two Korean states on the peninsula receive a great deal of media attention, there is far more factual data available about noncommunist South Korea's domestic politics and economics than there is about its totalitarian communist neighbor, North Korea. North Korea is arguably the most secretive state on earth.


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Therefore much analysis of North Korean domestic affairs, including that found in this volume, must draw on limited data, reaching conclusions based on reading between the lines of North Korean propaganda, and inferential interpretations of comparisons to South Korea and to Korean history. In a similar vein, it is important to note in advance why the topic of Korean unification is treated separately from each Korea's foreign and defense policies, discussed in chapters 5 and 6.

Based on all these aspects of the two Koreas, a series of foreign appraisals of each Korea is provided in order to help the reader appreciate the importance ascribed to the Korean situation. Drawing on this background, this volume then moves on to assess how a divided Korean nation has attempted to resolve its differences, and examines how Korean unification is most likely to be accomplished. It concludes with an assessment of the impact a United Korea may have internally and externally. Before moving on, an explanatory note regarding Korean personal and place-names is also necessary.

Normally Korean personal names are used with the family name first, followed by a given name—usually a two-part name, but sometimes a one-part name. However, some Koreans, such as South Korea's first president, Syngman Rhee, prefer to use the Western word order and peculiar spelling rather than the standard Korean word order and spelling.

In Rhee's case that would be: Yi Sung-man. This also is common for Korean authors writing in Western languages. Both styles are used here, depending on how the individual or the author noted has cited the name. Similarly, there are variations in Korean place-name spellings in English. The most frequently used versions, which are easier for Western readers to comprehend, shall be used here. This latitude became famous after the Korean War as the proximate location of the post-Korean War Demilitarized Zone DMZ , which divides the two Koreas and enjoys considerable geopolitical renown.

As important as this factor is, there are other basic facts of Korea's geography with which those who are interested in Korea need to be familiar. The entire peninsula is approximately 85, square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Minnesota.

Why Did America Fight the Korean War?

The peninsula is significantly smaller than neighboring China , square miles and Japan , square miles. In its current politically divided configuration, North Korea is 47, square miles, or roughly the size of Mississippi, and South Korea is 38, square miles, or a little larger than Indiana. In terms of their populations, as of the year , there were about 20 million North Koreans, although estimates vary widely due to the secrecy of North Korean society and the uncertain impact of North Korea's post-Cold War famines. South Korea's population as of was about 46 million. Their combined population is 66 million, compared to million in Japan and 1.

That means the combined population of the Korean nation is about half that of Japan and a little over 5 percent of China's.


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  • The latter ratio makes Korea similar to a substantial Chinese province. This sense of being overshadowed by its neighbors' larger size and populations gave rise to a Korean saying about being a shrimp between two whales and when the whales fight the shrimp suffers. While Korea's geographic context may have shrimp-like overtones, it is also important to recognize that the combined population of the Korean nation puts it on the same level as Britain, France, and Italy.

    The peninsula is attached to the Asian continent, abutting the Manchurian region of northeast China and Russia's far eastern maritime province. Korea's ancient historical roots extend across these riverine borders, leaving a lasting legacy of ethnic kinship with indigenous people on the other side, as well as a sizable population of Korean migrants, especially in China.

    This causes some concern about Korean irredentism—a desire to reclaim territories with which they have historical ties—although it is unlikely to ever be acted upon. The peninsula, or what Koreans refer to as a bando literally half an island , is surrounded by water to the west, south, and east.

    Logically, Koreans refer to these as the West Sea Suh hae. The latter is a particularly sensitive issue among Koreans, North and South, who are adamant that the rest of the world also should call it the East Sea so that it does not imply Japanese control over that body of water. Because of its half-island identity, the Korean peninsula has instilled among those who live along its coasts and on some of the over three thousand mostly small offshore islands, a long-term interest in fisheries.

    In historic times, Koreans also maintained a relatively significant maritime commerce as well as an interest in naval power when external circumstances called for it. As important as these coastal factors have been, Korea's socioeconomic roots have been much more focused on agriculture and land-based contacts with China.

    Korean Nationalism in a Divided Nation: Challenges to US Policy

    In that regard China's continentalism strongly influenced Korea's geographic mind-set. Although Korea has a significant maritime tradition, this tradition did not become as influential in shaping Korea's national identity as did a similar tradition for neighboring Japan. Not until Korea's post-World War II division, which carved the peninsula in half territorially and thereby denied South Korea land-based access to the continent, did a Korean state begin to consider itself a virtual island, dependent upon seaborne connections. Furthermore, South Korea's maritime and naval positions did not become a major factor in its geopolitical calculations until the Republic of Korea's ROK economy expanded sufficiently to permit South Korean leaders to pursue such goals in a credible fashion.

    Having achieved such economic stature, South Korea transformed itself into a serious player in maritime affairs and may well extend those capabilities to the entirety of a reunited Korean national state in the future. The peninsula's location and geomorphology also has had a significant impact on its development throughout history.

    It is subject to the summer monsoon that carries moisture-laden air around the Eurasian continent from subtropical southern Asia. This tends to facilitate agricultural activities via heat and water in the growing season. This weather pattern contributes to Korea's hot and humid summer climate, especially in the southern sections of South Korea. While these winters are often relatively dry because of the arid origins of the Siberian winds, when the winds swing over the East Sea and flow onshore, they pick up moisture and deposit snow on the peninsula.

    This is Korea's version of New England's nor'easter. Korea's cold winters and hot, sweaty summers left their imprint on many American soldiers who served in the Korean War. These soldiers then conveyed their memories—especially of the "frozen chosin" at the Chosin, the Japanese pronunciation, or Changjin reservoir in north-central North Korea —to many Americans at home about what Korea is like.

    The peninsula's mountainous terrain—with a major mountain range, the Taebaek mountains, extending north-south roughly parallel to the peninsula's east coast, and the Taebaek's relatively significant offshoot, the Sobaek mountains, extending southwestward in the southern part of the peninsula, as well as numerous lesser mountains and plateaus—exerts a powerful influence on the climate. Korea also has a number of relatively—in worldwide terms—small rivers that flow within the peninsula. Also well known are the two rivers that Korea shares with China and Russia, defining their borders, as noted above.

    While this terrain and its internal waters may not be impressive when compared to neighboring China, this setting has had a significant impact on the development of Korean society over the centuries. Koreans are very conscious, and proud, of their mountainous redoubts—especially the highest peak at Mt. Paektu 9, feet and the scenic Mt. Kumgang, both in North Korea. As is true in parts of Europe and elsewhere, identification with one's home turf can contribute to significant linguistic and cultural subregionalism within an ethnic nation.

    This remains a prominent by-product of Korea's geography to date in each half of Korea and in the inter-Korean relationship. The peninsula's location between China and Japan has had a huge impact on its history and on its regional role. The nature of this impact is aptly characterized by the saying about a Korean "shrimp. This truth is also reflected in the now-cliche insights that the Korean peninsula is the "land bridge to Asia" for Japanese aggression and the "dagger at the heart of Japan," endangering Japan from the Asian mainland.

    As perceptive as both these descriptions are, over the longer span of history the Korean peninsula has functioned as a cultural transmitter for Sinic civilization, which reshaped Korea and then spread via Korea into the Japanese islands in a more selective fashion. In short,3 Korea's geographic configuration has not only helped define to Korea's cultural, economic, and geopolitical identity, it also has played a major role in transforming Japan, and influencing Chinese, Japanese, and Russian interactions over the territory and waters that occupy the space between them.

    This page intentionally left blank CHAPTER 2 The Legacy of Antiquity Korean history is profoundly important to North and South Koreans, both in terms of their differing views of the complex time line that shaped their nation's role in Asia and in terms of the regional factors that yielded their national identity. Each facet of the legacy of antiquity for the Korean nation shall be examined in order to convey a sense of why Koreans are so attuned to their past's impact on the present.

    Korean sensibility to history's legacy can be traced to several factors. This is most obvious regarding relatively recent history, namely their oppression under colonial Japan and their post-World War II division by the United States and the Soviet Union. More important for present purposes is the Korean nation's past relationships with various neighbors that have shaped its sense of nationhood.

    These relationships have contributed greatly to the evolution of Korean nationalism, which today influences how Koreans perceive their past and its impact on their national identity. At the foundation of Korea's national identity is what may seem an oxymoronic question: how long has Korea been "Korean"? According to one Korean legend, the first Korean state was founded in B. On earth, in a cave, lived a female tiger and a female bear who prayed to Hwan-ung in order to become human. Only the bear succeeded and became a woman who then mated with Hwan-ung when he led a band of followers to Paektu Mountain.

    This founding myth, in varying formats, enjoys considerable popularity among contemporary Koreans, especially in North Korea, since Mt. That issue shall be explored further below, but in terms of the legacy of antiquity, the Tangun legend is important because of its ethnic themes and its contrast with yet another foundational legend. This legend reflects early Chinese interactions with people living on the Korean peninsula, but also suggests Korea was a separate offshoot of Chinese civilization.

    For obvious reasons Korean nationalists have not been as fond of the Chinese-linked legend as the divinity-linked legend. However, both are symbolic of early circumstances in the nation that came to be known as Korea. It is uncertain how far back in history extend roots which can be unequivocally determined as "Korean. In that supernatural sense, no one else has a claim on Korean territory being tied to an identifiably non-Korean ethnicity. The Kija legend does not offer that depth, but it does connote a clear separation from China—albeit with links that do not serve Korean nationalists' needs.

    As far as anthropological and archeological evidence suggest, both legends offer clues as to Korea's roots, but neither legend offers a definitive answer. Even sketchier evidence suggests some human habitation on the peninsula as far back as the Paleolithic era.

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    Given the sensitivity of Korean nationalists to claims of deep founding roots on the peninsula, the precise nature of this prehistoric era and how it made the transition into an era that can be unambiguously labeled "Korean" can be very controversial. It matters greatly to these nationalists whether the peninsula became identifiably Korean because of decisive Korean-shaped events, or as a by-product of the spread of Chinese civilization along its borders. It also matters greatly whether the peninsula became "Korean" rapidly, either by settling vacant territory or by ousting its previous occupants, or by an incremental emergence of "Korean" identity through the assimilation of previous residents on the peninsula who could be perceived as non-Korean.

    Unfortunately for these nationalists, given the very long period of prehistory on the peninsula, it is likely that gradualism would characterize the manner in which the Korean peninsula became "Korean. There were some of a Mongoloid heritage who used tigers in their shamanistic rituals, and other ethnic groups descended from paleo-Asiatic peoples related to the Ainu of present-day Japan, a group sometimes classified as proto-Caucasoid who used bears in their rituals—even though Korean archeology does not support evidence of bear worship there.

    As metaphors, however, the tiger and bear suggest an assimilative process yielded a Korean national identity. Precisely when the Chinese became "Chinese" is even murkier than defining Korean identity, but is equally as sensitive an issue among nationalistic Chinese. These comparisons are important for Korea because they are the basis for Koreans' ability to make a case for their ethnic identity being separate from their Chinese and Japanese neighbors. This strongly influenced the historical evolution of the entities that coalesced into a Korean nation state and carved out that state's relations with its neighbors.

    Against the background of Koreans creating their ethnic identity, and their distinctive self-perceptions, Koreans proceeded to build a series of separate states that became the basis for an eventual nationstate. Although the importance of the Kija legend is primarily symbolic in terms of the factual chronology of Korean state-building, China's role in noting Korea's emergence was crucial.

    The early records of Korea's state-building efforts derive from Chinese scholarly and governmental sources. Korean histories of events do not become significant until Korean states became far more sophisticated and began to emulate the record-keeping of the established Chinese neighboring states. The first notable example of these states was called Chao-xian Morning Calm by the Chinese, pronounced Chosun by the Koreans as they adapted Chinese ideographs for use in the Korean language. It dates to the third century B.

    The Old Chosun state probably encompassed portions of southern Manchuria and the northern Korean peninsula, but its precise realm is unclear as is its significance in its day. It was a Bronze Age civilization on the fringes of the Chinese empire in its formative phase. Factual evidence about Old Chosun is sparse. In many respects the empire's key significance is its role as a progenitor for successive states and the way later generations of Koreans revere its legacy and ascribe legendary links to the Chosun name.

    It also is widely used in South Korea. In addition to referring to Korea as Chosun in contemporary Korean, the Korean nation also is referred as Han. The English name "Korea" seems to have evolved from other Western languages' pronunciation for a later Korean dynasty that will be covered below, the Koryo dynasty. The earliest reported English language use of "Korea" dates to The earliest examples symbolize the ambiguous nature of the claims of Korean nationalists upon antiquity because of the ties of early states in Korea to events in China.

    Dynastic shifts in China that led to the emergence of the Chinese Han dynasty B. Although a Korean leader named Wiman had established a state in the vicinity of today's Pyongyang early in the second century B. The Han dynasty created four outposts in Korea to control that portion of its border. These Chinese commanderies can be seen as an extension of China's provinces or as a form of colony. One of them proved more powerful than the others and lasted almost four centuries. The Chinese called it Lolang, but Koreans pronounced in Nangnang. Also centered in the vicinity of Pyongyang, it became a vehicle for the spread of Chinese culture into the Korean peninsula.

    It also became the focus of a number of Korean ministates, which were branches of the Han tribes located further south on the peninsula. It is important to note here that the Chinese ideograph for China's "Han" and for the Korean name for Korea, also "Han," differ. Over time, these states clustered into a federation that took the names Chin-han, Ma-han, and Pyon-han. Of these, Ma-han and Chin-han gradually were transformed into a stronger state, Paekche, whose base of power expanded from the southwest of the peninsula toward the vicinity of present-day Seoul.

    Similarly, Pyon-han became the basis for the Shilla state in the eastsoutheast portion of the peninsula. Concurrently, but to the north of China's main outpost on the peninsula, two other states with Korean roots emerged. Centered well north of and in the Yalu river basin, the states of Puyo and Koguryo were created.

    Puyo's identity blurred the distinctions between Manchurians and Koreans, whereas Koguryo was more clearly Korean despite its territorial scope, which extended beyond the peninsula. Even though the evolution of these three states Puyo is not counted because it's not completely Korean was incremental and built on previous population centers, which can be characterized as tribal or clannish, each state had institutional turning points that permit most historians to ascribe them a founding year: Paekche in 18 B.

    Collectively, the history of these states is widely characterized as Korea's three kingdoms period. This period lasted until the creation of a unified Korean nation-state in A. Because this national integration process was central to the creation of a single Korean state that remained largely intact throughout the subsequent centuries under a succession of rulers, it was decisive in establishing Korea's identity. In that sense the national identity of each of these three kingdoms, which are so much a part of Korean history, should be considered as quasi-Korean en route to full-fledged Korean.

    The three kingdoms' relationships with each other and with China had a lasting impact on the Korean nation. Each of the kingdoms had relations with China that led to the percolating yet pervasive influence of Sinic civilization upon Korean society and its values. The perceptions of Chinese-invented Confucianism and Chinese-shaped Buddhism exerted, respectively, profound philosophical and religious pressure on Koreans. Although the Chinese and Korean spoken languages originally had little in common—Chinese dialects being multitonal, unlike Korean, which is probably an offshoot of the pan-Eurasian Altaic family of agglutinative languages—China's script and many of its words were adopted, then adapted, by Koreans.

    The many positive features of Chinese civilization were admired and emulated by Koreans in the three kingdoms. While much of this process symbolized Korean desires to show respect for and emulate their neighbors to the north and west, China's power and proximity also posed intermittent problems and opportunities for Koreans.

    Because of its location, Koguryo had the advantage of easier access to China, but also confronted Chinese protection of its territory on their common border during periods when China enjoyed coherent powerful governments. In this sense, Koguryo became a geopolitical buffer for the entire peninsula, creating the military wherewithal to defend itself. During periods when China was inwardly less unified, notably after the fall of the Han dynasty in A. In this sense Koguryo was both a buffer and a conduit.

    Both facets of Koguryo had an impact on its Korean neighbors to the south. When Koguryo's relations with China and the two other Korean kingdoms were amicable, it served as a conduit or facilitator for greater Korean Sinification. However, when Koguryo's relations with its neighbors to the north and south were less than neighborly, the kingdoms' focus on Koguryo generated rationales for Chinese strategic cooperation with the other two Korean kingdoms. This rationale was underscored by periodic friction between the three Korean kingdoms predicated on their distinct identities and the tendency of the two southern kingdoms, Paekche and Shilla, to build external support systems designed to cope with the military capabilities developed by the northern Koguryo, mainly to deal with Chinese power.

    This complex of bilateral and triangular tension generated geopolitical forces that eventually led to unification of the Korean nation. Those subnational identities contributed to parochial perceptions of each kingdom's relative stature that fostered a legacy of regional biases which persists into the contemporary era.

    That sense of cultural-political rivalry was initially most evident between Koguryo and Paekche, partly because of their relative proximity to areas of China—by land with northern China for Koguryo and by sea with more southern areas of China for Paekche. In time they became bitter adversaries in ways that evolved to Shilla's advantage.

    Prior to that, however, the kingdom of Shilla had to cope with what could be considered a fourth kingdom of the three kingdoms period—but is not treated as one partly because of its relatively small size but mostly because of its connections with the formative phase of Japan as a distinct entity. On the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, a small kingdom called Kay a by Koreans and Mimana by Japanese also was an offshoot of Korea's early subnational evolution.

    It was related as a clan cluster to the group that spawned the Paekche kingdom, but as a coastal maritime-oriented state also was a de facto conduit for Sino-Korean contacts with people dwelling in Japan. In important ways this perception by subsequent generations of Koreans, who cultivated their national identity by focusing on the Koreanness of the people in the three kingdoms, is ironic because a strong case can be made that all the peoples involved were part of an incremental transformative process that eventually yielded a Korean sense of national identity.

    Events in China facilitated those developments. After the fall of the Han dynasty in A. Eventually the Sui dynasty succeeded in , although it only lasted until when it was replaced by one of China's greatest regimes—the Tang dynasty. The Koguryo kingdom played a marginal yet important role in events in China.

    After the Sui dynasty established control within China, one of its priorities was to secure its borders from potential threats. Since the Koguryo kingdom was militarily strong and had expanded its domain from northern and central portions of the peninsula into large areas of Manchuria, the Sui dynasty attempted to exert its power by attacking Koguryo in Koguryo had earlier in the mids faced a joint Paekche-Shilla alliance against their northern rival.

    The alliance failed and caused major setbacks for Paekche, of which Shilla took advantage. In the wake of that experience, Shilla supported Sui against Koguryo. The main focus for Koguryo was to repel the Sui forces, and it inflicted a major reversal under the leadership of one of the most famous figures in Korean military history: Ulchi Mundok. Sui's defeat was catastrophic in scale, with hundreds of thousands killed, and it led to the dynasty's collapse. These developments sent profound signals to Shilla as well. Although Koguryo was victorious, events in China spawned the Tang dynasty that refocused on dealing with Koguryo by developing a more coordinated alliance with Koguryo's southern rival, Shilla.

    This was not a new concept, because former Chinese states had cooperated with either Paekche or Shilla against Koguryo, albeit without success. In the process of strengthening that alliance in order to make Shilla a more effective partner against Koguryo, the Tang dynasty joined with Shilla in a two-front attack on Paekche that led to its defeat and absorption within an expanded Shilla kingdom. Given a history of periodic conflicts between Shilla and Paekche that had not forced Paekche to succumb to Shilla, it is evident that Tang's assistance tilted the balance in Shilla's favor.

    This had major consequences for Korea's future as a nation-state, but it also had a major impact on neighboring Japan. The defeat of the Koguryo kingdom in A. This is symbolic in several ways that bequeathed a lasting legacy for subsequent states in Korea.

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    As important as this merger under duress was as a symbol of Korean nationhood, the fact that it was precipitated by Chinese intervention and then shaped by post-conflict friction between the leaders of unified Shilla, who rejected the Tang dynasty's efforts to manipulate circumstances in Korea to its advantage, also left a lasting legacy for the Korean nation. The united Korean state, fostered by Chinese intervention, simultaneously gave the resulting unified Shilla reasons to be grateful for Chinese assistance but also caused Shilla to resist Tang meddling in Shilla's handling of the post-conflict situation in ways that led Shilla to expel Tang forces from Shilla-controlled territories.

    That mixture of gratitude and tension regarding their much larger and more powerful Chinese neighbor constituted a lasting legacy of ambivalence for subsequent regimes in Korea. That ambivalence was underscored in ways that helped define Korea's territorial identity as one of being on a peninsula demarcated by the Yalu and Tumen rivers, when the Tang dynasty had to cope with a breakaway portion of the former Koguryo kingdom, called Palhae, located in the northernmost portion of the peninsula and a large portion of southern Manchuria. Even though Shilla became the Korean nation's first unified state, it was not totally in charge of everything on the peninsula that could be deemed Korean.


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    Palhae persisted as a viable northern variant that stayed beyond Shilla's control, but Palhae became preoccupied by ties with its Manchu neighbors to the north. Since the Tang dynasty also was concerned about the circumstances on its Manchurian borders, Tang-Shilla ties were reinforced because of shared interests vis-a-vis the Palhae-Manchurian connections. In time the southern portions of Palhae that were within the peninsula were absorbed into the Koryo dynasty that replaced Shilla, making Koryo arguably the first unified peninsular Korean nation-state.

    The remainder of Palhae, with its Korean roots, evolved in ways that integrated it into Manchuria's traditions.

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    Kahn Author Chandler Author Iranian Weapons of Mass Cordesman Author Forest Author Cline Author Sullivan Author Kimberly Jones Author Thomas Author I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero. Bryn Mawr College. WH Big Era Three. Korea is located in the northeastern part of the Asian continent, neighboring China, Russia, and Japan.