The Korean Peninsula was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. The history of Korea begins with the founding of Joseon (also known as "Gojoseon", or Old Joseon, to differentiate it with the 14th century dynasty) in 2333 BCE by Dangun, according to Korea's foundation mythology. Gojoseon was noted in Chinese records in the early 7th century. Gojoseon expanded until it controlled the northern Korean Peninsula and parts of Manchuria. Gija Joseon was purportedly founded in the 12th century BCE, but its existence and role have been controversial in the modern era. In 108 BCE, the Han dynasty defeated Wiman Joseon and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula. Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades. As Lelang commandery was destroyed and rebuilt around this time, the place gradually moved toward Liaodong. Thus, its force was diminished and it only served as a trade center until it was conquered by Goguryeo in 313.
During the period known as the Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea, the states of Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye and Samhan occupied the whole Korean peninsula and southern Manchuria. From them, Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla emerged to control the peninsula as the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Goguryeo experienced a golden age under Gwanggaeto the Great and his son Jangsu, who both subdued Baekje and Silla during their times, achieving a brief unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and becoming the most dominant power on the Korean. Baekje was once a great military power on the Korean Peninsula, especially during the time of Geunchogo, but was critically defeated by Gwanggaeto the Great and declined. Silla was the smallest and weakest of the three, but it used cunning diplomatic means to make opportunistic pacts and alliances with the more powerful Korean kingdoms, and eventually Tang China, to its great advantage.
Silla was a prosperous and wealthy country, and its metropolitan capital of Gyeongju was the fourth largest city in the world. Buddhism flourished during this time, and many Korean Buddhists gained great fame among Chinese Buddhists and contributed to Chinese Buddhism, including: Woncheuk, Wonhyo, Uisang, Musang,and Kim Gyo-gak, a Silla prince whose influence made Mount Jiuhua one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Chinese Buddhism. However, Later Silla weakened under internal strife and the revival of Baekje and Goguryeo, which led to the Later Three Kingdoms period in the late 9th century.
In 936, the Later Three Kingdoms were united by Wang Geon, a descendant of Goguryeo nobility, who established Goryeo as the successor state of Goguryeo. Balhae had fallen to the Khitan Empire in 926, and a decade later the last crown prince of Balhae fled south to Goryeo, where he was warmly welcomed and included into the ruling family by Wang Geon, thus unifying the two successor nations of Goguryeo.
Yi Seong-gye declared the new name of Korea as "Joseon" in reference to Gojoseon, and moved the capital to Hanseong (one of the old names of Seoul).Between 1592 and 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi launched invasions of Korea, but his advance was halted by Korean forces (most notably the Joseon Navy led by Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his renowned "turtle ship") with assistance from Righteous Army militias formed by Korean civilians, and Ming dynasty Chinese troops. Through a series of successful battles of attrition, the Japanese forces were eventually forced to withdraw, and relations between all parties became normalized. After the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, Korea was occupied by Japan (1910–45). At the end of World War II, the Japanese surrendered to Soviet and U.S. forces who occupied the northern and southern halves of Korea, respectively.
Republic of Korea (South Korea) ruled in a democratic system. The head of state is the president. South Korea is divided into 9 provinces and 6 administrative districts (Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Gwangju, Daecheon).
Official language : Korean