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Middle Age

Through the struggle of the people for independence slave states in Korea began to give way to feudal ones from the early 3rd century BC.

Koguryo was the first feudal state of the Korean nation, which was set up in 277 BC. Ko Jumong was the founder-king, later called King Tongmyong.

It had made rapid progress in the military, economic, cultural and other fields.
In the mid-1st century Koguryo occupied a territory extending 800km in all directions.

After the 4th century it expanded its territory southward. In 427 it moved its capital to Pyongyang from Jian.

In those days Koguryo was a powerful country with a vast territory stretching 2 400km to the east and west and 2 000km to the north and south.

In the southern area of the Korean peninsula Paekje was founded in the late 1st century BC and Silla was set up in the middle of the early 1st century.

The period until the mid-7th century when the three states existed is called the period of Three Kingdoms.

Paekje existed until AD 660 and Koguryo until AD 668. In 698 Palhae came into being as the successor to Koguryo in the northern area, and thereby Palhae and Later Silla in the southern area co-existed until the 10th century.

Afterwards, Later Silla, Later Paekje and Thaebong, called the Later Three Kingdoms in history, were existent together in the former territory of Later Silla.

In 918 Wang Kon of Thaebong established a new kingdom and merged it with Later Paekje and Later Silla and embraced the people of Palhae in the north, which was ruined by foreign forces. As a result the first united state of the Korean nation was built.

He set the capital at Kaegyong (today’s Kaesong) and named the country Koryo in the meaning that it succeeded Koguryo.

Koryo made it the mainstay of its external policy to win back the old territory of Koguryo and channelled big efforts into building up the capital of Pyongyang politically, economically and militarily.

Koryo witnessed a remarkable growth in productivity, culture and other fields, with the result that it was widely known as “Corea” to the world.

It existed for nearly 500 years until 1392, the year of establishment of the feudal Joson dynasty, the last feudal state of the Korean nation.

And feudal Joson lasted for over 500 years until it was deprived of its national sovereignty by the Japanese imperialists.

In the middle ages the Korean people waged an uninterrupted vigorous struggle for independence in the whole period of Koguryo, Palhae, Koryo and the feudal Joson dynasty.

Famous patriotic generals, Ulji Mun Dok and Yon Kaesomun of Koguryo, Kang Kam Chan of Koryo and other generals and people added glorious pages to the history of struggle against aggression. In the period of the lmjin Patriotic War (1592-1598), the Korean people dealt a heavy blow to the Japanese invaders in every part of the country.

Under the command of Admiral Ri Sun Sin the Korean navy sank numerous warships of the enemy with turtle ships, the first iron-clad warship in the world, and other ships. This was a special event worthy of note in the world history of naval battles.

The middle ages witnessed a remarkable progress of culture.

In the period of the Three Kingdoms there was great advance in astronomy, meteorology, geography, medicine, handicraft, architecture, fine arts and other sectors. Steel-made weapons, farm implements and daily necessities were massively manufactured and the workmanship of gold, silver and copper was on a high standard.

The mural paintings in Koguryo tombs including those in Anak Tomb No. 3 and the Kangso Three Tombs and the astronomical observatory Chomsongdae of Koguryo and Silla show the great creative abilities and artistic talents of the people in the period of the Three Kingdoms.

The Record of Travel to India, which Hyecho wrote after travelling many countries in Southeast and Southwest Asia via India in the early 8th century, is one of the oldest travelogue in the world.

The cultural development in the period of Koryo draws particular attention. The Korean people invented metal types for the first time in the world in the 12th century, hundreds of years earlier than the Germans and the Netherlanders, and made the 80 000 Blocks of the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures, showing a high level of wood-block printing.

The pottery of Koryo, celadon in particular, was widely known to the world as a rare treasure.
Astronomy and meteorology were at a high level. Over 50 pieces of data on sunspot observed from 1105 belong to the oldest records of the world.

Medical books including Hyangyakgugupbang which prescribes medicines prepared mainly with medicinal herbs show the high level of medical development at the time.

In the period of the feudal Jason dynasty culture witnessed further development. In 1444 the Korean alphabet Hunminjongum was created and, on the basis of it, poetry and publication were brought to efflorescence.

In 1395 Chonsangryo/chabunyajido, an adaptation of the astronomical chart made in the period of Koguryo, was brought out, in 1441 a rain gauge was invented for the first time in the world, in six years from 1432 astronomical observation instruments of 15 kinds including kanui were produced, and in 1525 mongnyun, an old type of telescope, was devised.

Hyangyakjipsongbang, Uibangryuchwi and Tonguibogam, which were brought out during the feudal Jason dynasty, are still recognized as valuable medical books.

In addition, high-performance firearms and other weapons using gunpowder and chariots were made, and turtle ship, the first iron-clad warship in the world, was built.

History of Koryo, Taedongyo Map and other publications on history and geography and maps were printed and lots of literary, fine arts, music and dance pieces were created.

Standouts included novel The Tale of Chun Hyang, song Arirang and dance Pongsan Masque Dance.

In the latter half of the 17th century commodity-money relations achieved a rapid growth and in the mid-18th century capitalist relations emerged and developed.

In the 19th century, social and class conflict got aggravated due to the corruption and incompetency of the feudal state, thereby the peasant war in Phyongan Province between 1811 and 1812 and other peasant uprisings broke out one after another, shaking the feudal ruling system to the roots.

The medieval history of Korea spanning some 2 000 years from the 3rd century BC to the mid-19th century ended, and the Korean nation greeted modern times.