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South Korea - History

Archeological finds of prehistoric toolmaking date back to 70,000 BC, and the first pottery is found around 8000 BC. Comb-pattern pottery culture peaked around 3500-2000 BC.

Korea's history begins with the founding of Gojoseon (also called Ancient Choson) by the legendary Dangun in 2333 BC. Archeological and contemporaneous written records of Gojoseon as a kingdom date back to around 7th-4th century BC. It was followed by the Three Kingdoms of Korea, namely Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla, which vied for control of the peninsula until unified by Silla in 668. Unified Silla was replaced by the Goryeo (also Koryo) dynasty, from which the modern name "Korea" derives. The Joseon (also Choson) dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910, one of the longest actively ruling dynasties in world history.

In the early 20th century, Japan occupied Korea, as a protectorate in 1905 and by annexation in 1910. Despite an independence movement, 35 years of occupation followed, through suppression of resistance, economic exploitation, and a "cultural assimilation" policy.

After Japan's defeat in World War II, US-occupied southern half and Soviet-occupied northern half each declared separate states in 1948. The Korean War (1950-53) began with North Korea's attack, and when US and other UN forces intervened on South Korea's side, China supported the North. An armistice was signed in 1953 splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel, but a peace treaty has never been signed.

Thereafter, under former dictator President Park Chung Hee, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth, with per capita income rising to roughly 20 times the level of North Korea. South Korea is now a liberal democracy and the 10th largest economy in the world. In June 2000, a historic first summit took place between the South's President Kim Dae-jung and the North's leader Kim Jong-il (leading Kim Dae-jung to awarding first Nobel Peace Prize for South Korea), but the peace process has moved at a glacial pace.

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