According to the Koreans, the first of their kin was born in 2333 BC. Less aesthetically-minded
scientists believe Korea was first inhabited around 30,000 BC, when tribes from
central and northern Asia stumbled on the peninsula.
Under constant pressure from China, these tribes banded together to found a kingdom
in the 1st century AD. By 700 AD the Silla Kingdom of Korea was hitting its cultural
stride, littering the country with palaces, pagodas and pleasure gardens and influencing
the development of Japan's culture.
But in the early 13th century the Mongols reached Korea and gave it their usual
scorched-earth treatment. When the Mongol Empire collapsed, the Joseon Dynasty
took over and a Korean script was developed.
In 1592 Japan invaded, followed by China - the Koreans were routed and the Chinese
Manchu Dynasty took over. Turning its back on the mean and nasty world, Korea
closed its doors to outside influence until the early 20th century, when Japan
annexed the peninsula.
The Japanese, who hung on until the end of WWII, were harsh masters, and anti-Japanese
sentiment is still strong in Korea. After the war, the USA occupied the south
of the peninsula, while the USSR took over the north.
Elections to decide the fate of the country were held only in the south, and when
the south declared its independence, the north invaded. The ensuing war lasted
until 1953 (or is still continuing, if you count MASH re-runs).
Doctrine of Confucianism, an ethics system originating from China
in 500 BC, is the essence of Korean society. Confucianism highly
regards devotion and respect for parents, family, friends, and rulers.
Also emphasized are justice, peace, education, reform, and humanitarianism.
Korea's remarkable success has always been associated with this
attitude. Confucianism seems most apparent in the Koreans one-to-one
relations, based on the Five Relationships behavior principles that
outline the system: ruler and subject, father and son, husband and
wife, old and young, and between friends. Anybody who is not in
any of these relationships, he/she virtually does not exist.
In other words, you cannot possibly live alone without having to
communicate with other people.
The locals may seem rude from the outside. The fact of the matter
is, they just do not know you.
For many a Korean, a relationship only starts when you are introduced
to one of the people inside the Korean societal boundary - a local.
When this happens, you are included within the rules for friends
and you will never be lonely again in Korea.