KOREA_50_MIDTERM_ESSAY - Jacobi Gunsalus Professor S Wang...

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Jacobi Gunsalus Professor S. Wang Korea 50 11/4/2019 One of your friends who is studying Computer Science and knows very little about Asian or Korean history discovers that you are taking this wonderful class called the "Korea 50: History of Korean Civilization." She asks you: "for a relatively small country surrounded by bigger countries like China, Japan, and Mongol Empire, etc. throughout history, how did Korea survive? How did it maintain its own culture and society without being completely absorbed by said superpowers?" (This by the way, is a question from the anonymous question bank). How do you answer this question? First of all, this question assumes that Korea was both geographically and politically less important than its East Asian counterparts, which is not accurate. Although Korea’s geographical size is contested, we know that it was likely than it is today. Politically, we know that Korea had significant political power throughout East Asian history, which can be seen through its diplomatic relations with neighboring countries. Furthermore, this question comes in with the assumption that the aforementioned superpowers’ goal was to absorb or assimilate Korea. Although this statement more accurately describes East Asia in the late 19th century onwards, it doesn’t accurately portray the situation during the earlier periods of Korean history. In most cases, foreign powers wanted to put Korea under their rule and extract valuable resources from Korea. Their main goal was not to assimilate the Korean people; oftentimes, the foreign powers would take a more hands-off approach. This can be seen through the use of the tributary system, which I will elaborate on later. Finally, it is true that for most of its history, Korea has been a small country that has faced constant threats from foreign peoples. However, the question seems to assume that China, Japan, and the Mongol Empire were all powerful forces that were constantly attacking Korea, which isn’t really the case. In reality, the military and political power of all of these kingdoms ebbed and flowed and Koreans rarely, if ever, had to fight off more than one major intruder. In this essay, I will be using the rise of the Mongols and the fall of China and the rise of Japan and the Imjin Wars to help demonstrate this. Unfortunately, Korean history is filled with accounts of war. One of the most devastating wars was the Mongol invasions during the 13th century. The Mongols, led by Chinggis Khan,
Jacobi Gunsalus Professor S. Wang Korea 50 11/4/2019 were considered “barbarians” because of their violent and nomadic ways. They destroyed much of Korea and didn’t stop until the Korean king surrendered. The effects of these invasions were

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