The "Hermit Kingdom" has existed on the strategically important Korean Peninsula for a very respectable length of time, and the Korean people have lived there for an unguessable length of time: there is no indication of any minorities or non-indigenous people dwelling among the Koreans.

Here may be found: Byeonhan, Ancient Chosun, Gaya Confederation, Geumgwan Gaya, Gija Joseon, Hubaekche, Jin, Jinhan, Karak (Pom Gaya), Mahan, Majin (T'aebong), Parhae, Puyo, Tae Gaya, Tamna, Usan-Guk, the Three Kingdoms (Koguryo, Paekche, and Silla); and the rulers of Korea (Koryo - Chosun - Joseon) from the unification of the Three Kingdoms to the present day.


CHOSUN (Ancient) The ancient history of Korea is full of controversy. Based largely on annals and chronicles written much later than the events they describe (and based on oral tradition and earlier writing that has vanished), the material now available has been used by a variety of people to "prove" one thing or another. At issue are nationalistic problems relating to the origin of the Korean people. In one model, the Koreans have always been there, and founded an exceedingly ancient state. A different line of thought has a Chinese courtier leading a large group of people into the Korean peninsula, and there founding an early polity. Below, I give both versions. Bear in mind that in either case the material is traditional in nature, and as such the names and dates contained therein must be approached with an appreciation for the complex interplay between historical memory and mythological legend-making.

GAYA CONFEDERACY A group of closely associated tribal states in southeastern South Korea which emerged out of the fragmentation of the precursor State of Jin - information about the Gaya is usually muddled and fragmentary. See Geumgwan, Karak, and Tae for some rulers of Gaya statelets. Other Gaya polities about which less is known are:

GEUMGWAN GAYA A local tribal Kingdom in southern Korea, one of the members of the Gaya Confederacy. See also Karak and Tae, and see Jin for the antecedents of the Gaya.

JIN An ancient Korean state or league of tribal states, located in southern Korea.

KARAK (Pon Gaya) A minor kingdom in southern Korea, with its capital at Kimhae. It was one of the Gaya Confederacy states. See also Geumgwan and Tae for other Gaya states, and Jin for the antecedents to the Gaya.

KOGURYO Located in the northern part of the peninsula. See also Fuyu for a Manchurian state that Koguryo considered a predecessor.

KORYO (Chosun, Joseon, Korea) The second unified state, reintegrating the peninsula following the collapse of the old Silla hegemony. The name "Koryo" was conciously selected as a hearkening back to the splendour of the old Koguryo state.

MAJIN (renamed T’aebong, 911) An ephemeral state emerging for a time during the chaotic last years of Silla. Located in central Korea, the provinces of Kyonggi and Kangwon.

PAEKCHE Located in the southwest corner of the peninsula. See also Fuyu for a Manchurian state that Paekche considered a predecessor.

PARHAE (BO HAI) A kingdom straddling the frontier region between modern Manchuria, North Korea, and Russia and established by Mohe tribes, emerging out of the chaos following the Khitan rebellion against China in 696. Nominally a client state of China, it was generally left to manage it's own affairs. It has become controversial in recent years, as various peoples of the region (Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian) have tried to link or separate it's history to or from other ethnoi in the area. Koreans want to see in it a Korean state and a successor to Koguryo. The Chinese, regarding anything happening within the current Chinese frontier as belonging to Chinese history, put forth the view that Bohai was a provincial client of the Tang Dynasty. The Russians and Japanese tend, for their own reasons, to view Bohai as separated and distinct from either Korean or Chinese influence. The following list provides the personal names of the Bohai monarchs in Korean, followed paranthetically by the Chinese transcription.

PUYO (Buyeo) A district in western Korea - the town of Puyo is 87 miles (140 km.) south of Seoul. The region has hosted several polities over a long stretch of time.

SILLA Located in the eastern portion of the peninsula.

TAE GAYA A state of the Gaya Confederacy, in southern Korea. See also Geumgwan and Karak for related states, and Jin for the antecedents to the Gaya.

TAMNA An early Korean Kingdom based on the island of Jeju, off the southwest coast of the Peninsula. I have no names of Tamnan rulers at this time.

USAN-GUK An early Korean state based on the island of Ulleong-Do in the Sea of Japan about 90 miles (145 km.) east of Kangnung. I have no names of Usani rulers at this time.