There is much more than K-pop, beauty products and the Korean barbecue. Discover the past of one of the most promising nations in the world.
South Korea is quite popular these days. The rise of K-pop, the fever for Korean beauty products and the popularization of the Korean barbecue helped to draw attention to the country.
Recently, however, the film Parasite, which has stood out at awards such as Golden Globe and SAG Awards, revealed a not-so-popular reality in South Korea, showing that we still have a lot to learn about it.
Learn more about its history and culture:
1. Three Kingdoms of Korea
Korea’s history goes back to the Neolithic period, with settlements of tribes from Manchuria and Siberia on the peninsula where the Koreas are today. It was only in 2333 B.C., however, that the first Korean state was formed, in the Tangun Dynasty, also known as Choson or Gojoseon. The dynasty ended with the invasion of the Chinese, and the territory was separated into three kingdoms: Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla.
Developing more slowly than the other kingdoms, Silla eventually overcame the neighbors and conquered the neighboring territories, unifying it. New invasions and conflicts divided the territory again, until, in 1392, a general carried out a coup d’état and established the Chinese dynasty that lasted until 1910.
2. Current division
Even with the Chinese dynasty stabilized, Korea has always been the target of invasion attempts by the Japanese, due to its proximity to the island country. The Chinese were defeated in 1910, and Japan gained control of the territory. But this was short-lived: in 1945, with the defeat of the Axis at the end of World War II, the Japanese were expelled from Korea, which was occupied by the Soviet and American winners.
Shortly thereafter, the start of the Cold War divided Korea according to the political interests of the two powers, just as they did in Germany. While the People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) adopted the communist system, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) adopted the capitalist system.
Needless to say, this generated conflicts. In 1950, North Korean troops invaded the territory trying to unify the country, starting a war. In 1953, an armistice was signed. Because it was a formal agreement in which the parties involved had to agree to stop fighting, and not an official peace treaty to end the war, there are still tensions between the two countries.
Confucius was one of the most important philosophers in China, and his ideas about ethics, family, and government are the basis of Chinese and Korean society. Respecting the customs and values of his philosophy is important in all interactions in the country: speaking respectfully with the elderly, always accepting the offer of a shot of soju (rice distillate) and never starting to eat before your boss, are some common practices.
4. Asian tiger
With almost 52 million inhabitants, most of them concentrated in the capital, Seoul, South Korea is today one of the great world powers. It is considered the 13th largest economy in the world and one of the most developed countries, occupying the 22nd place in the Human Development Index (HDI) ranking.