One of the first question that might come to mind when discussing Korea might be why there are two Koreas. Obviously, while being divided into North and South today, it is easy to guess that like most countries, the borders and the fabric of Korea have greatly changed overtime.
There is no doubt in my mind that with powerful neighbors such as China, Japan and Russia, the small territory of Korea has no doubt been under much pressure over time.
As far as territory goes, if we go back in time to the 5th century, we’d see the Three Kingdoms of Korea (the ancient kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekja and Silla), which looked like this:
Then, jumping to the 8th century, we’d see the rise of the North and South States (Unified Silla and Balhae):
These states then made way for Goryeo:
And, finally, Joseon:
Following this, there was the rather short-lived Korean Empire that ended with the onset of the Japanese Colonial rule. These circumstances paved the way for the North Korea and South Korea of today.
While Korea wasn’t always a united state, the question of how exactly Korea got to its present division is an interesting one… One that has roots that go deep in somewhat recent conflicts.
The division of Korea is not an issue that should be explored too quickly. I have planned to go into the details of it in my next few posts. I will start with brief descriptions of both countries before diving into the conflicts that led to Korea as it is now, starting with the annexation of Korea by Japan.