Tag Archive | Korean history

The History of the two Koreas

1945: The Division of the Korean People

Following Japan’s defeat in 1945 the Soviet Union and United States agreed to split the post-war control of the Korean peninsula between themselves. On August 10, 1945 two young U.S. military officers drew up a line demarcating the U.S. and Soviet occupation zones at the 38th parallel. The divide should have been temporary, a mere footnote in Korea’s long history, but the emergence of the Cold War made this a seminal event. Seeking to ensure the maintenance of their respective influences in Korea, the U.S. and USSR installed leaders sympathetic to their own cause, while mistrust on both sides prevented cooperation on elections that were supposed to choose a leader for the entire peninsula. The United States handed control over the southern half of the peninsula to Syngman Rhee, while the Soviet Union gave Kim Il-sung power over the north. In 1948, both sides claimed to be the legitimate government and representative of the entire Korean people.

August 15, 1948

Syngman Rhee declares the formation of the Republic of Korea in Seoul, claiming jurisdiction over all of Korea..

September 8, 1948

Kim Il-sung declares the formation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Pyongyang, also claiming jurisdiction over all of Korea.

From the Liberty in North Korea website

Japan’s colonization of Korea

Japan Colonizes Korea

In 1910, the Chosun Dynasty ended with Japan’s annexation and colonization of Korea. Koreans remember the Japanese colonial rule as a brutal experience. Resistance groups formed in Korea and China, mostly adopting leftist politics in reaction to the right-wing Japanese administration. Memories of the Japanese Imperial Administration’s oppression continue to haunt relations between the people of both Koreas and Japan today. Korea also began to modernize during this period, and the city of Pyongyang in particular became a vibrant center for Christianity and western culture.

From LiNK – Liberty in North Korea


The Great Revival in Pyongyang 1907

Pyongyang Great Revival (1907-1910) – Korea


From 150 Years of Revival by Mathew Backholer
The first Protestant missionary to Korea was a Welshman, the Rev. Robert Jermain Thomas. He arrived in Korea in 1866 where he sold classical Chinese Bibles (which could be read by Koreans, Japanese and Chinese) and risked decapitation if caught. Korea, known as the Hermit Kingdom was still a closed land to foreigners…On the 2 September 1866, Rev. Robert Jermain Thomas was martyred on the river bank (alongside all the crew of the merchant-marine schooner that he was travelling on) outside of Pyongyang, (the present capital of North Korea) and the centre where the 1907 revival broke out.

…In 1886, the first Protestant Korean was baptised and by 1887 there was seven Korean converts. Korea saw its first revival in 1903 and it was known as the Wonsan Revival Movement and both the Presbyterians and Methodists reaped large harvests as they were united to exalt Jesus Christ. In 1904, there was 10,000 converts in Pyongyang and by the middle of 1906, after 30,000 new converts in that year alone, the revival had waned and died out.

Pyongyang, Korea, in 1907 was known as a city of wine, women and song. It was a dark city in the early twentieth century with sin abounding. It even had its own Gisaeng (Korean geisha) training school. It was in this city that Korea’s second revival began in January 1907 after months of persistent prayer, 50,000 people were converted in that one year and Korea was set ablaze – it was known as the Pyongyang Great Revival (1907-1910).

Missionary, John McCune in a letter wrote: ‘…The work of the Holy Spirit here at the Jangdaehyun Church where revival first broke out would far surpass what we have read about the great revival in Wales and India…’

…In September 1906, Dr. Howard Agnew Johnston, of New York, whilst in Seoul, informed a group of missionaries and Korean Christians about the Khasi Hills Revival, (1905-1906) in India. Jonathan Goforth, a missionary to China and Manchuria wrote that because of this more than twenty missionaries from Pyongyang Presbyterian and Methodist missions resolved to meet together to pray daily for ‘greater blessings.’ Over the Christmas period the Pyongyang Christians met each evening for prayer, instead of their usual festive celebrations. The evening prayer ceased at the start of the Pyongyang General Class but continued at noon for those who could attend.

A Bible colporteur from Kan Kai Church along the Yalu River, of 250 believers was also in Seoul. He heard Dr. Johnston and encouraged his church to meet for prayer at 5am through the autumn and winter of 1906-1907. For six months they prayed until the Holy Spirit came as a flood.

…Jonathan Goforth, missionary to China and Manchuria on his tour of the country in June 1907 said, “Those missionaries seemed to carry us right up to the throne of God. The Korean movement was of incalculable significance in my life, because it showed me at first hand the boundless possibilities of the revival method. Korea made me feel, as it did many others, that this was God’s plan for setting the world aflame.” Jonathan Goforth went on to have a powerful ministry and saw revival in China and Manchuria during 1907-1909 and again in 1915 in various cities.

…South of Pyongyang, Jonathan Goforth passed through Songdo, the ancient Korean capital. In 1907 the revival had added 500 to the Church, but during a month of special meetings in 1910, 2,500 were added to the Church because of the incredible fields which were white unto harvest (John 4:35).

Jonathan Goforth wrote: ‘When we visited Seoul in 1907, every church was crowded. A missionary said that on a six weeks tour he had baptised 500 and recorded 700 catechumens, and that his five out-stations, in one year, had increased to twenty-five. During 1910 there were 13,000 people in Seoul who signed cards saying they wanted to become Christians, and in September of that year the Methodist churches of the city received 3,000 by baptism.

‘Directly west of the capital, at the port of Chemulpo, the Methodist Mission, in 1907, had a church with 800 members. Opposite the harbour was an island with 17,000 inhabitants. The churches on the island had a baptised membership of 4,247, and more than half of them had been brought in that year. The Christians were praying that soon the whole island would become the Lord’s.’

…In 1910, the British and Foreign Bible Society through its Bible Colporteurs sold the immense total of 666,000 books to the people of Korea, most of them single gospels! A Church at Sang Sim Li, which had birthed sixteen other churches in the district, in connection with the ‘Million Movement’ (the aim of which was to win one million souls for the Lord) were believing for four hundred new converts; their share of the million, and so stepped out in faith and enlarged their church from 36ft. sq. to 225 ft. sq.!

…Paget Wilkes, founder of the Japanese Evangelistic Band visited Korea in March 1911. In his journal he wrote about the story of the Sensen Magistrate, a town in the north, where one in three of the population were Christian. When asked how things were going in his city he replied, “Go and ask the missionaries; they rule in Sensen.” Paget wrote: ‘He had but little to do. Quarrels and differences were settled before the Church, and not brought into the public courts – as St. Paul lays down in the Corinthians letters.’

Paget Wilkes wrote that on the 26 March 1911 he ‘spent a pleasant evening with Dr. Underwood, one of the oldest missionaries in Korea’ who said, “Twenty-four years ago I came to Korea and there was not one protestant Christian. Today there are 200,000, i.e. one to every fifty of the population…”

150 Years of Revival by Mathew Backholer

Kimhae City, Korea – the Gaya Kingdom

Kimhae City is the ancient region of the Gaya Kingdom. It is located west of Busan City in South Korea.

Gaya kingdom began in 42 A.D. when King Sooro was born near present day Kimhae. According to tradition six eggs were dropped from heaven and were to become six kings. The area named Goo Ji Bong in Kimhae City is the birthplace of King Sooro. The story says that this area is where the 500 year history of the Gaya Kingdom was born. It is also the birthplace of Goo Ji Ga, the poetry from that time era in Korea’s literary traditions. King Sooro is named as the father of all the Kims of Kimhae City.

Goo Ji Bong

Plaque in Kimhae describing Goo Ji Bong area as the birthplace of King Sooru. He founded the Karak nation and became the father of all the Kims originating from Kimhae.

As I mentioned in my post on the Shilla Dynasty,  Shilla Dynasty overtook Gaya Kingdom in 562 AD.

Map of Gaya from Wikipedia site

Map of Gaya from Wikipedia site

The Kimhae Museum has an excellent display of many artifacts and history of Gaya. The people of Gaya Kingdom were well known for their iron working skill. They traded their iron works with Japan and other East Asian countries. The video shown below gives a very interesting summary of Gaya’s history.



Some artifacts from Kimhae Museum:

All photos from Wikipedia


Photos from our visit to the Queen of King Sooro’s tomb and Kimhae Museum.

Josun Dynasty 조선 (1392-1897)

The Josun Dynasty followed the Goryeo Dynasty. Many significant events happened  during this period. I will try to highlight a few of them in this post. Joseon is the last dynasty of Korean history.

Joseon dynasty

Joseon dynasty


General Yi Seong Gye founded the Josunn dynasty. He was later named King Taejo and was raised to the rank of Emperor after he died. He was born in the North Korea city of Hamheung and died at the Chang deok Palace in Seoul, as he had made Seoul the capital city of the empire. This palace is part of the 5 great palaces complex in Seoul. The general had gained favor by pushing Mongol forces out of the peninsula and repelling attacks by Japanese pirates.

Confucianism was chosen as the official dynasty ideology. This was to counter the Buddhist religion from Goryeo and Shilla dynasties. Many Confucian societal mores continue today, especially within the education system. One example is the civil service examination. These exams were established to limit the movement between classes in Korea.

Sosuseowon Confucian School

Sosuseowon Confucian School – Kyung-ju, South Korea

King Sejong the Great and the Korean alphabet 한글

from Korea.net

During the reign of King Sejong the Great (r. 1418-1450), Joseon’s fourth monarch, Korea enjoyed an unprecedented flowering of culture and art. Under King Sejong’s guidance, scholars at the royal academy created the Korean alphabet Hangul. It was then called Hunminjeongeum, or “proper phonetic system to educate the people.”

The Turtle Ship 거북선  (Japanese Invasions 1592-98)

In 1592, Japan invaded the peninsula to pave the way for its incursion into China. At sea, Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598), one of the most respected figures in Korean history, led a series of brilliant naval maneuvers against the Japanese, inventing the geobukseon (turtle ship), the world’s first ironclad battleship.

Turtle Ship 1795 Wikipedia

Turtle Ship 1795

General Yi sun-sin is credited with the resurrection and recreation of the turtle ship from former style of boats. Here are some pictures from Yeo-Su where general Yi had his headquarters. He used the turtle ships in four campaigns against the Japanese. The final campaign being fought in Busan. He was successful in all four campaigns.

After invasions by Japan and Manchuria, Korea was able to obtain a peaceful period of two hundred years. During this time they became known as the Hermit Kingdom because of their isolationist foreign policy. They just wanted to be left alone. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for long as Japan came to occupy Korea in 1910 ending the Joseon period of history.

Josun Society

Korean Confucian ethics encouraged frugality and pragmatism. This was reflected in very simple pottery of the time:



Hwa fortress near Seoul UNESCO World Heritage Site

Hwa fortress near Seoul UNESCO World Heritage Site

Jinju fortress

Korea Jinju fortress built during Joson Dynasty

North gate of the Dongnae fortress in Busan

North gate of the Dongnae fortress in Busan about 20 minutes from where we live








Pottery site Leeum Museum

Korean Bath Houses

Korean Bath Houses are a pretty interesting cultural education. You can learn a lot about the culture there. I’ve been a couple times, but it’s just a little too out there for me. Being naked with a bunch of naked Korean ajummas and halmonis is a little overwhelming. 😀

I’m going to add some interesting pictures to this post. Most of them have been posted on other blogs, so I will try to include the links to the original article at the end. They are all very interesting stories of people’s experiences in these types of bath houses.


Korean spa Korean spa

This is a bath house in Pusan. Nongshim in Dong nae This is a bath house in Pusan. Nongshim in Dong nae

National Archives of Australia
Korean bath houses in 1959


Psy in the steam room
Psy in the steam room

Might as well add the video too

Article from CNN

Bathhouse basics

Getting Naked in Korea

Korean Bathhouse in Shanghai

Korean Spa

Hotel Nongshim, Pusan

Bathhouse experience

JJimJil Bang


Teacher, I like dog food!

This was what one enthusiastic student interrupted my lesson with. Another shocked student responded incredulously, 개음식 (dog food)? I think everyone knew he meant dog meat, but I was on the floor practically break dancing I was laughing so hard. Most kids will say they don’t like dog meat because they like dogs as pets. But this boy was unashamed of his love for dog soup, and the other students were a little surprised at his honesty.

When the students are asked, “Do you like dogs?” they will respond, “Yes, I like dog” as they are not accustomed to using plurals on the end of their nouns. They use a counting unit which varies depending on what kind of object you’re counting. Ironically, it means they like dog meat if they say that and when you say “Oh, you like dog meat?”, they say “NO, teacher!” That’s the fun of teaching English in Korea.

When we first came to Korea they were getting ready for Word Cup 2002. There were a few news stories being done on the Korean’s practice of eating dog soup to get people acquainted with some of Korea’s more controversial side, so when we arrived here they were very defensive about this. Actually, I had not seen any of these programs and was unaware of it until a colleague of mine said when he found out I was headed for Korea: “Tell those @#$% to stop eating dogs”. He added he wasn’t so much against eating the meat, but the practice they used in killing them. It is cruel. I guess they beat the dog to death so that the meat is more tender, but I think there’s something superstitious about it too, meaning they can get some power from it when they eat it, especially men like dog meat. Women eat black goat.

One thing about Korean cuisine is true. They are still very much in touch with their ancient food culture. They use food as medicine and view it that way. So they eat special soups in the summer to help their bodies deal with the heat, such as, 삼개탕 (chicken soup), 보신탕 (dog soup  of body nourishing soup), and 영양 탕 (basically means health soup). They also eat bone broth (oxtail soup) for health. And they eat Kimchi which is a fermented food that originates from having to preserve it over the winter and it’s health boosting qualities are well documented.

Restaurant that sells health soup

Restaurant that sells health soup in the traditional market


Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about dog meat:


Gaegogi (개고기) literally means “dog meat” in Korean. The term itself, however, is often mistaken as the term for Korean soup made from dog meat, which is actually called bosintang (보신탕; 補身湯, Body nourishing soup).

The consumption of dog meat can be traced back to antiquity. Dog bones[further explanation needed] were excavated in a neolithic settlement in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province. A wall painting in the Goguryeo Tombs complex in South Hwangghae Province, a World Heritage site which dates from the 4th century AD, depicts a slaughtered dog in a storehouse. The Balhae people also enjoyed dog meat, and the modern-day tradition of canine cuisine seems to have come from that era.[82]

Although their Mohe ancestors did not respect dogs, the Jurchen people began to respect dogs around the time of the Ming dynasty and passed this tradition on to the Manchu, it was prohibited in Jurchen culture to use dog skin, and forbidden for Jurchens to harm, kill, and eat dogs, the Jurchens believed that the “utmost evil” was the usage of dog skin by Koreans.[citation needed]

South Korea

A dish made with dog meat in South Korea, Seoul, Korea

Dog meat sold in Gyeongdong Market, Seoul, South Korea

In South Korea dog meat is eaten nationwide and all year round, although it is most commonly eaten during summer.[4]

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety recognizes any edible product other than drugs as food.[83] In the capital city of Seoul, the sale of dog meat was outlawed by regulation on February 21, 1984 by classifying dog meat as ‘repugnant food’ (혐오식품), but the regulation was not rigorously enforced except during the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In 2001, the Mayor of Seoul announced there would be no extra enforcement efforts to control the sale of dog meat during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was partially hosted in Seoul. In March 2008, the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced its plan to put forward a policy suggestion to the central government to legally classify slaughter dogs as livestock, reigniting debate on the issue.[84][85][86]

South Korean Food Sanitary Law (식품위생법) does not include dog meat as a legal food ingredient. Also, dog meat has been categorized as ‘repugnant food’ (혐오식품) based on a regulation issued by Seoul Metropolitan Government, of which using as food ingredient is not permitted.[87]

However, the laws are not strictly enforced. The primary dog breed raised for meat, the Nureongi (누렁이), or Hwangu (황구); which is a specific breed, different from the breeds raised for pets in the country.[88][89]

There is a large and vocal group of Koreans (consisting of a number of animal welfare groups) who are against the practice of eating dogs.[90] Popular television shows like ‘I Love Pet’ have documented in 2011, for instance, the continued illegal selling of dog meat and slaughtering of dogs in suburban areas. The program also televised illegal dog farms and slaughterhouses, showing the unsanitary and horrific conditions of caged dogs, several of which were visibly sick with severe eye infections and malnutrition. However, despite this growing awareness, there remains some in Korea that do not eat or enjoy the meat, but do feel that it is the right of others to do so, along with a smaller but still vocal group of pro-dog cuisine people who want to popularize the consumption of dog in Korea and the rest of the world.[90] A group of pro-dog meat individuals attempted to promote and publicize the consumption of dog meat worldwide during the run-up to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, which prompted retaliation from animal rights campaigners and prominent figures such as Brigitte Bardot to denounce the practice.[91] Opponents of dog meat consumption in South Korea are critical of the eating of dogmeat as some dogs are beaten, burnt or hanged to make their meat more tender.[92]

The restaurants that sell dog meat do so, often exclusively, at the risk losing their restaurant licenses. A case of a dog meat wholesaler brought up on charges of selling dog meat in arose in 1997. However, an appeals court acquitted the dog meat wholesaler, ruling that dogs were socially accepted as food.[93] According to the National Assembly of South Korea, more than 20,000 restaurants, including the 6484 registered restaurants, served soups made from dog meat in Korea in 1998.[94][95][96] In 1999 the BBC reported that 8,500 tons of dog meat were consumed annually, with another 93,600 tons used to produce a medicinal tonic called gaesoju (개소주).[96] As of 2007, the dogs were no longer being beaten to death as they had been in past times.

Dog meat is often consumed during the summer months and is either roasted or prepared in soups or stews. The most popular of these soups is bosintang and gaejang-guk, a spicy stew meant to balance the body’s heat during the summer months. This is thought to ensure good health by balancing one’s “ki” or vital energy of the body. A 19th-century version of gaejang-guk explains the preparation of the dish by boiling dog meat with vegetables such as green onions and chili pepper powder. Variations of the dish contain chicken and bamboo shoots.[97]

North Korea

Daily NK reported that the North Korean government included dog meat in its new list of one hundred fixed prices, setting a fixed price of 500 won per kilogram in early 2010.[98]


I’ve never eaten dog soup. I just don’t care to try it. I’m glad to hear they’re not beating the dogs anymore. What about you? Would you like to try it?




The Shilla Dynasty

While Rome was busy trying to keep control of its empire, the Korean peninsula was in the process of solidifying its power blocks.

The period called the three kingdoms is when some unification of the peninsula started taking place. Shilla kingdom was located in the southeast of the peninsula, where present day Busan City and area is. Baekje was in the southwest, where present day Jeolla province is. Goguryeo was in the north area.

Shilla(57 B.c. – 935A.D.)

Baekje (18 B.C – 660 A.D.)

Goguryeo (37 B.C. – 668 A.D.)



The Kaya kingdom was formed later than the others from 42 A.D. and remained until 562 when Shilla swallowed it up. Spelling differences in the names are due to the romanisation of the Korean names. When Shilla annexed the Kaya/Gaya kingdom, Baekje and Goguryeo responded by allying together. Shilla then countered with a unification with the Tang Dynasty in China. That tipped the scales and Shilla then united the southern parts of Korea and the north passed into the Balhae era, so that there was a north/south delineation.

This map shows the geographical boundaries of the two kingdoms around 830 A.D. Balhae extended far into Manchuria and Russia until China rose up and took back some of the land.


The Unified Shilla Kingdom remained from 676 until 935 and Balhae Kingdom was in existence about the same time period. Obviously the south of the peninsula is very proud of their Shilla Dynasty roots. The capital of the Kingdom was Gyongju. It was the capital of the Shilla Dynasty for 1000 years. They call the whole city a ‘museum without walls’ as there are Kings tombs scattered throughout the area. It is designated as a World Heritage Site.

Kings tombs

Kings tombs

more tombs

more tombs

It was during the Shilla dynasty that Buddhism became the official religion for the Kingdom.

Bulgok sa in fall

Bulguk sa (temple) in fall

Bul gok sa

Bul guk sa (Sa means temple)

The temple of Bul Guk is the most famous temple of Kyong ju. It has a Unesco Heritage Treasure designation.

Korea's biggest bell

Korea’s biggest bell

A huge bronze bell is displayed near the Kyong-ju National Museum. It is one of Korea’s National Treasures.

Here we are by the Bomun Lake

Here we are by Bomun Lake Resort.


The Bomun Lake Resort is an international tourist destination. There are five super-deluxe hotels, a golf course, an amusement park, a hot spring, museums, and lots of shopping.

Maurie and Darcy in front of the Cheomseongdae Observatory

Us in front of the Cheomseongdae Observatory

This observatory is the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia. It was constructed about 632-647 and was used for observing the stars and forecasting the weather. It is one of Korea’s National Treasures.

That’s my short history for the Shilla Dynasty in Korea. I recommend seeing this city when you come to Korea. Koreans, especially those in the Kyung Sang province, are very proud of their Shilla Dynasty.