The history of Korea is one not many fully know. What we
know today is that Korea is split between its militaristic north and democratic
south. But that wasn’t always the case Korea used to be unified country.
The start of the split between
North and South Korea goes back to the Russo-Japanese war. During the war Japan
annexed a part of Korea for military operations, after Japan had won it had an
undisputed claim to land in Korea. Using this as a platform Japan then set up a
government and began oppressing and assimilating the Koreans. They closed
private schools, deprived of freedom of speech, controlled the press, forced
their language and a new financial system upon the Koreans. When emperor Gojong
died a declaration was read at his funeral sparking an estimated 2 million
Koreans to peacefully march in the streets demanding independence from Japan.
Sensing its iron will weaking Japan opted for more subtle tactics of
oppression. It gave partial freedom of press and replaced gendarmerie with regular law enforcement, but
it then proceeded to exploit Korea as a market for its goods and land. Korea
finally threw off Japan’s rule 35 years later after numerous protests, two wars,
and teaming up with China and other allied forces to declare war against Japan
and force them to surrender. On August 11th the surrender terms drafted by the
United States split Korea with the Soviet Union. The United States received the Japanese surrender in Seoul
the capital of South Korea on September 9th 1945. The historic decision to
divide the peninsula has aroused speculation on several counts. Some historians
believe that the decision was a measure to prevent the Soviet forces from
occupying the whole of Korea.
South Korea began to organize a police force one year
later. A year after that their Department of National Defense was formed. In
June of 1950, war broke out, between the two Koreas. South Korea had a force of
about 98,000 men with only small arms. The U.S. had already completely withdrew
from Korea in 1949, leaving behind about 500 men to train the South Korean
armed forces. U.S. Congress approved $10,970,000 for military aid in March
1950. The military equipment committed under the U.S. military assistance
program was still en route, when North Korean troops invaded the South in June.
South Korea was thus unprepared to resist the total invasion from the
North. The North was much more prepared
when it came to invading. Over the years thanks to deals with the soviets they
were able to create a force of over 135,000 men with a tank brigade. On June
28th Seoul fell and most of South Korea’s army was destroyed. June 27th
President Truman had ordered air and naval forces to aid South Korea and on the
30th ordered U.S. troops stationed in Japan to move in on Korea. Even with the
U.S joining the fight North Korea still advanced. In October the U.S. was
authorized to move into North Korea and destroy the rest of their army. Late
1952 China joined the war sending 1,200,000 men across the North Korean border.
Finally in 1953 the war had come to an end. In an effort to prevent further
hostilities a neutral zone known as a demilitarized zone was created and Korea
was now officially split.
Korea is the northern half on a peninsula off the coast of China. It is made up
of mostly mountains and valleys. Mount Paektu is it’s tallest mountain. Running
through the middle of the country the Nangnim Mountains stretch from the
northeastern to the northwestern parts of its peninsula and down southwest to
the Yellow Sea.
Korea is the southern half of the peninsula. It is made up of mountains,
valleys, and coastal narrow plains. The highest peak is Mount Halla an extinct
volcano. They have two volcanic islands, one of the southern tip and one to the
east of the mainland. South Korea has dry cold winters and hot humid summers.
It’s population with around 51.4 people, is a mix of Korean, Chinese, American, and Japanese. The
language is mainly Korean. They don’t have a national religion but about 43%
practice buddhism, another 34.5% are protestant, 20.6% are roman catholic, and
1.9% are other. Won is the name of their money, one dollar is worth 1,088 won.
South Korea is also known as the Republic of Korea as it still recognises North
Korea as part of the country instead of a separate entity.(find some way to
incorporate that south korea is a democratic republic)
South Koreans have a healthier diet as they believe that
good and bad health come from the food they eat and how they eat it, most of their meals involve a wide
variety of rice, cabbage, soups, and usually some kind of meat dish.
Traditionally rice is the most popular as it is the easiest to grow, harvest,
and cook. Most of their food they ferment to improve its nutritional value and
its flavor. One such dish that they ferment and make almost year round and have
with every meal is Kimchi. It is made by mixing cabbage, a few seasonings,
garlic and onion, and seafood or fish sauce together and then fermented for a
couple days before being eaten, in some case people will let it ferment for a
year to get what they call Mugeunji which translates to ripe kimchi. Bulgogi is
one of the few meat dishes which are incredibly rare in South Korea as most of
their cuisine is vegetable based. It is made by shredding beef and sometimes
pork and then grilling it with a wide variety of sides and soy sauce. Bibimbap is nothing but
rice mixed with a large number of vegetables sometimes with an egg on top or
meat mixed in, but it is widely considered to be the healthiest dish, proving
to even prevent geriatric disease and even has its own festival as well as
being regarded as one of the three main traditional Korean dishes. Hanjeongsik,
the Korean set meal, consists of soup, rice, and several vegetable side dishes.
As people are gradually becoming better off today’s hanjeongsik is much more
elegant with new dishes including meat and fish with the three traditional
dishes remaining. Korea also has many fast food places such as Burger King,
McDonalds, Taco Bell, KFC, and even a few burger joints showing that they’ve
come a long way from just vegetables and the occasional meat dish. Those who
practice buddhism in Korea are kept on a diet that is wholly traditional
vegetarian and has no meat dishes. Korean buddhism teaches compassion for all
living things the only thing they use from an animal is dairy. They also have
five prohibited vegetables that they believe hinder spiritual practice, they
are garlic, chives, onions, green onions, and leeks.
Festivals and celebrations are a big part of Korean
society. They have 10 very important national festivals. Lunar New Years
Day(Seollal), Independence Day, Buddha’s Birthday, Children’s Day, Memorial
Day, Liberation Day, Chuseok, National Foundation Day, Hangeul Day, and Christmas,
these are considered public holidays in which work is suspended. Seollal is
widely considered the most important, it is celebrated as the first day one the
Korean calendar and marks the passing of another year. Many traditional foods
are served but one in particular called tteokguk is a rice cake soup. Eating it
means you are one year older. So say someone is born in December and then
celebrates Seollal, they are considered two years old. The festival is then
concluded by a ceremony in where people bow before their elders which is called
Sabae. After this the elders give gift money and the festival comes to an end.
Korea is a beautiful place. It’s cultural history and its
ideals are incredible. From the beliefs on food, to the festivals they have
celebrating their traditions. While the the peninsula is split, it is the
southern half of the peninsula that is the most vibrant and richer in its
cultural background and history.