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South Korea Table of Contents

South Korea


After the Three Kingdoms period, Korea witnessed the rise and fall of three dynasties--unified Silla (668-935), Koryo (918-1392), and Choson (1392-1910). Each of these dynasties was marked by initial periods of consolidation, the flourishing of civilization, and eventual decline.


Fifth- or sixth-century gold crown excavated from a Silla Dynasty tomb
Courtesy Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Washington

The first 215 years of the Silla Dynasty were marked by the establishment of new political, legal, and education institutions of considerable vigor. Domestic and foreign trade (with Tang China and Japan) prospered. Scholarship in Confucian learning, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine also flourished. Buddhism, introduced to the peninsula in A.D. 372, reached its zenith (see Religion , ch. 2).

Silla began to decline, however, in the latter part of the eighth century when rebellions began to shake its foundations. By the latter half of the ninth century, two rivals had emerged. The chaotic situation eventually led to the emergence of a new Koryo Dynasty in 918 under a former officer, Wang Kon.

Data as of June 1990