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Korea:
An Enduring Culture

lion guarding the gate (xrb) Stylized dragons and lions often guard the gates to palaces, government office buildings, and elite homes. In Korean mythology, dragons are benevolent creatures related to water and agriculture, inferring prosperity. Both dragon and lion guardians are paired, representing yin and yang or male and female. The Korean calendar begins in the year 2333 BCE. What we now call "national" boundaries were in those days blurred conglomerations of people related by religion, language, and social mores that were often held together as a group by military power. Having knowledge of the past can perhaps help us to understand the present. What is the background of the modern people and their leaders who have contributed to what historians have labeled, "The Miracle on the Han".

by samuel orchard from australia (bulguksa uploaded by caspian blue) The Bulguksa Temple [bool-gook; "sah" = temple] was built on a moun­tainside in 774 CE in the Shilla [shil-la] Kingdom (57 BCE–935 CE). Bulguksa has been named a UNESCO culture heritage. The Choseon Dynasty (1392–1897) has left its mark on modern Korea. During the Choseon Dynasty, the arts, culture, language, science, and Confucianism flourished. As the 19th century approached, however, regional conflict, royal intrigue, and isolation from the international community began to take their toll on the viability of the Joseon royal court.
A weakened royal throne culminated in the submission to Japanese colonial annexation. With hope for a new future emerging after liberation at the end of World War II, the three-year Korean War inflicted another catastrophic blow to peace, tranquility, and prosperity on the peninsula. Despite historical odds, South Korea in the 21st century has emerged as a proud member of the Group of Twenty (G20 nations), having earned global success in the arts, entertainment, consumer goods, ship building, semi-conductors, and information technology. Among nations that have received financial aid from the World Bank and from the International Monetary Fund, Korea is the only nation to have overcome adversity to become a donor to others on the international stage. Korean success is also manifested in the Korean diaspora, where Koreans have contributed to and have assimilated into the cultures of countries on every continent. Who are these people?

Over the millennia, Korea has been nicknamed by many historians, poets, and travelers. A few nicknames are listed below (Hangeul script may not appear without font support.):  

"Flourishing Eastern Sea Country"
 [해동성국 / Hae-dong sung gook]
"Country of Dangun"
 [단국 / Danguk (mythical father of the Korean people)]
"Land of Scholarly Gentlemen"
 [군자지국 / Gunjaji-guk (a reference to Confucianism)]
"Eastern Country of Courtesy"
  [동방예의지국 / Dongbang yeuiji-guk]
"Land of Beautiful Scenery"
 [금수강산 / Geum-soo Gahng Sahn]
"The White-Clad People"
 [백의민족 / Baeg-ui-min-jok]
"Blue Hills"
 [청구 / Cheong Goo (distant mountains often appear blue)]

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  An Enduring Culture