Teaching English in Korea: Korean History

Before teaching English in Korea, learn more about the Korean history and what the country and its people have been through over the past century.

Korea has a solemn history, one that has been filled with pillaging and war.  Koreans have been seriously mistreated by neighboring Japan and China because of their geographical location to each country.  Korea’s sovereignty was a mighty feat for the small nation. The maintenance of their culture and language throughout their 5000 year history is remarkable, considering the many hostile occupations and invasions they have endured.  The country’s trying history is, in large part, the cause of its patriotism and cultural pride.

1910- 1945: Japan invaded Korea and officially occupied the entire country (including the North which was not separate at that time).  The invaders made it law that the only language that was allowed to be spoken was Japanese, even to the point where all Korean names were changed to Japanese names.

1948: North Korea and South Korea divided as separate states once they became independent from Japan.

June 25, 1950: The North Korean army, followed by the Chinese army, invaded South Korea.

1953:  After three years, The Korean War finally came to an end as the North and the South agreed to stop the fighting and made a compromise to exist as separate states.  The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) was made, which is the official line separating the two states along the 38th parallel. South Koreans are not allowed to enter North Korea and North Koreans are restricted from entering South Korea.The differences in political and economic ideologies (mainly that of Democracy and Communism) was the predominate cause of the divide between North and South Korea.  

However, over the years, the political rivalry between the two states has drastically changed.  Both North and South have started to work together with regard to trade.  South Koreans have also built factories in North Korea and even talks of unification between the two leaders have been broached. Efforts have also been made by South Korea to come to the aid of North Korea with assistance being given with food shortages and medical supplies.

The Korean Flag (Taegukgi)

Korean flag

The Korean flag is considered to be the most philosophical flag in the world for the following reasons:

◊The white background symbolizes the land of Korea while the center circle, its people.

◊The bars are symbolic of its balanced government and philosophical underpinning.

◊The central ‘taeguk’ circle is a yin/yang symbol representing the interrelatedness of opposing forces, the dualism of nature and the harmony and balance of opposites.

◊The red upper half is the positive (yang), representing light, day, fire, maleness, goodness, life and heat.

◊The blue lower half (yin) represents darkness, night, water, femininity, evil, death and cold.  The bars come from ancient Taoist and Confucian thought, representing opposite yet harmonious aspects of nature.  The three solid bars represent heaven, east, spring and generosity.

◊The three broken bars represent the earth, west, summer and righteousness, two solid and one broken bar – the sun, south, autumn and courtesy, the two broken and one solid bar, the moon, north, winter and wisdom.




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