A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present by Michael J. Seth

By Michael J. Seth

During this accomplished but compact e-book, Michael J. Seth surveys Korean heritage from Neolithic instances to the current. He explores the origins and improvement of Korean society, politics, and its nonetheless little-known cultural background from their inception to the 2 Korean states of at the present time. Telling the impressive tale of the origins and evolution of a society that borrowed and followed from out of the country, Seth describes how quite a few tribal peoples within the peninsula got here jointly to shape one of many worlds such a lot distinct groups. He indicates how this historic, culturally and ethnically homogeneous society was once wrenched into the realm of late-nineteenth-century imperialism, fell sufferer to jap expansionism, after which grew to become arbitrarily divided into adversarial halves, North and South, after global struggle II.
Tracing the previous seven many years, the booklet explains how the 2 Koreas, with their deeply diversified political and social platforms and geopolitical orientations, developed into sharply contrasting societies. South Korea, after an unpromising commence, grew to become one of many few postcolonial constructing states to go into the ranks of the 1st international, with a globally aggressive economic system, a democratic political procedure, and a worldly and dynamic tradition. North Korea, in contrast, grew to become one of many worlds so much totalitarian and remoted societies, a nuclear energy with an impoverished and famine-stricken inhabitants. Seth describes and analyzes the significantly assorted and traditionally extraordinary trajectories of the 2 Koreas, previously one tight-knit society. all through, he provides a richdimension via putting Korean historical past into broader worldwide standpoint and through together with basic readings from each one period. All readers trying to find a balanced, an expert historical past can be richly rewarded with this transparent and concise ebook.

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Archaeologists have also provided valuable information that is no less important in understanding this period. And although it seems unlikely that major new written sources will be found, new archaeological evidence is providing a continuously better picture of early Korea. Still another source is the myths and legends associated with this period. The study of myths for historical information is a difficult and controversial field, but it too can yield clues about the past. The most famous myth is that of Tan’gun.

Most probably Silla was still in the process of completing its consolidation of the former Chinhan guo in the late fourth century. As it did so, it began associating itself with Koguryo˘ and competing with Paekche and the Kaya states for mastery of the entire Samhan region, roughly the region that makes up what is now South Korea. The fourth century also saw the emergence of a loose federation of small states collectively known as Kaya. The Kaya states may have evolved out of the Pyo˘nhan peoples who inhabited the fertile middle and lower Naktong basin and the southeast coast.

In this myth a celestial deity mates with a compliant bear that gives birth to Tan’gun (Sandalwood Prince), who in turn establishes the first Korean state of Choso˘n in 2333 BCE. While this story was not recorded until the thirteenth century, it is probably of much more ancient origin. It hints of animal totems; mountain worship, since most of the action takes place on a sacred mountain; and perhaps at the semidivine claims for early ruling families. In the twentieth century, the Tan’gun myth would be interpreted by nationalist writers as supporting claims for the antiquity and uniqueness of the Korean people.

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