Korean history dates back to a bronze culture called “Gojoseon (Old Joseon)” that existed in modern-day Manchuria approx. 1000 BC ~ 108 BC. The kingdom left a foundation myth, 3 penal statutes, one sad song, shamanic culture, and lots of mandolin-shaped bronze daggers and dolmens

Almost all Korean children grow up hearing about the foundation myth of **Gojoseon** and the mythical god-king Dangun. Later at school, students learn about the archeological relics of the culture, one surviving poem, and 3 surviving penal statues – which is often tested in the standardized state exams.

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**The foundation myth**:

(copied from [https://www.madghosts.com/r/HistoryAnecdotes/comments/61y8dw/koreas_origin_myth/](https://www.madghosts.com/r/HistoryAnecdotes/comments/61y8dw/koreas_origin_myth/))

>… Hwanung, the son of the Emperor of Heaven, wished to descend from heaven and living the world of human beings. Knowing his son’s desire, the Emperor of Heaven surveyed the three highest mountains and found Mount Taebaek the most suitable place for his son to settle and help human beings. … Leading the Earl of Wind, the Master of Rain, and the Master of Clouds, he [Hwanung] took charge of some three hundred and sixty areas of responsibility, including agriculture, allotted life spans, illness, punishment, and good and evil, and brought culture to his people.
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>At that time **a bear and a tiger** living in the same cave prayed to Holy Hwanung to transform them into human beings. The king gave them **a bundle of sacred mugworts and twenty cloves of garlic** and said, ‘**If you eat these and shun the sunlight for one hundred days**, you will assume human form.’ Both animals ate the spices and avoided the sun. After twenty-one days **the bear became a woman**, but the tiger, unable to observe the taboo, remained a tiger. Unable to find a husband, the bear-woman prayed under the alter tree for a child. Hwanung metamorphosed himself, **lay with her, and begot a son called Dangun** Wanggeom (the mythical king of Korea).
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>In the fiftieth year of the reign of Emperor Yao (one of China’s mythological founders), Dangun made **the walled city of Pyongyang** (not the modern day city) the capital and **called his country Joseon**. He then moved his capital to Asadal on Mount Paegak … he later hid in Asadal as a mountain god at the age of one thousand nine hundred and eight.

(Source: *Samguk Yusa or Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms*, one of the two oldest chronicles of the Korean history, written in 1281)

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**3 surviving penal statutes**:

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Prohibitions](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight_Prohibitions)

Chinese sources say that Gojoseon had 8 penal statutes called “Eight Prohibitions.” Only 3 of them are known now.

* Those who commit murder shall be put to death immediately
* Those who cause injury must compensate with grain.
* Those who steal will be enslaved or pay recompense.

which draws an interesting parallel to the earliest penal codes from other cultures (e.g. The Code of Hammurabi).

(Source: Chinese source *The Book of Han*, written in 111)

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Song <**My dear, don’t cross the river** (Gongmudohaga 公無渡河歌)>

This is the only surviving poem from Gojoseon, passed down in a Chinese source <古今注> (written in 300 A.D.)

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>Dear, my dear, please don’t cross that river
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>Oh, my dear is now crossing the river
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>Ah, he’s drowned, he’s gone
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>What am I to do, what am I to do

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The Chinese source also tells a heartbreaking background story:

>One day a bargeman in Gojoseon* was slowly rowing in the river. Then **a madman with grey hair walked into the river** with a bottle of liquor in his hand. His wife was chasing after him to stop him. He ignored her and kept going until **he was swept away, and drowned**. In despair, the wife took out her Gong-hu (a string instrument) and started singing. **The song was unspeakably sad**. Then **she followed her husband into the river and drowned**. The bargeman came back home and told his wife about this story and the song. She cried and sang the song with her Gong-hu, and everyone who heard the song shed tears.

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**Bronze daggers and dolmens**

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liaoning_bronze_dagger_culture](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liaoning_bronze_dagger_culture)

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gojoseon#Dolmen_Tombs](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gojoseon#Dolmen_Tombs)

The historical records of Gojoseon are supported by archaeological sites found in modern-day Manchuria and North Korea. The culture is characterized by large dolmen tombs and mandolin-shaped bronze daggers, among others.

* Traditional Korean folk culture has a strong shamanic element, and many people link this trait to **shamanism in Northern Asia and Siberia**. In some Korean regions shamans were called *Danggol*, similar to *Dangun* (the name of the god-king in the foundation myth). This is often interpreted as a cognate of *Tengri* (deity, god) in many Mongolic and Turkic cultures.

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**The Fall of Gojoseon**

[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiman_Joseon](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiman_Joseon)

Around 200 BC, Wiman, a general from the Kingdom of Yan of northeastern China, took refuge in Gojoseon in the chaos of the collapse of Qin Dynasty in China. Later, WIman revolted and took over the kingdom.

About a hundred years later, China became reunified by Han Dynasty. In 109 BC, the Emperor Wu of Han invaded Wiman Joseon, destroyed it, and established the Four Commanderies of Han.

This triggered many Gojoseon refugees to migrate to the southern part of the Korean peninsula – **new Koreanic-kingdoms** such as Buyeo, Goguryeo, and Baekje arose.

* In particular, the foundation myths of Buyeo (Manchuria), Goguryeo (Manchuria and Northern Korea), and Baekje (Central Korea) are interrelated.
* The mythical founder of the **Buyeo** kingdom is Hae Mo-su (the son of heaven)
* Jumong, the mythical founder of **Goguryeo**, was the son of Hae Mo-su and a daughter of a river god. Jumong was an exceptional archer, but his half-brothers got jealous of him. With the help of fishes and turtles that created a bridge for him, he escaped Buyeo and established a new kingdom.
* There’s a k-drama called ***Jumong*** that first triggered a global interest in k-drama in the mid-2000s…
* Also, Kim Il-sung created similar myths for his cult of personality…
* When Jumong left Buyeo, he left his first son there. He had two other sons, Biryu and Onjo, with a new wife named Soseono in his new kingdom. He thought his first son was dead. But when his first son showed up, Jumong immediately made him the crown prince. After this, Jumong’s wife Soseono left the kingdom, taking her two sons **southwards** for them to found their own kingdom. This is the origin story of **Baekje**.

There are several hypotheses about who lived in the southern part of the Korean peninsula before this wave. One of the newest and most radical hypotheses I’ve heard is that Japonic languages had previously been spoken in the southern part of the peninsula, and these were replaced by the advance of Koreanic-speakers from the North ([https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peninsular_Japonic](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peninsular_Japonic)). Although this is a rising hypothesis among linguists, most Koreans haven’t yet heard about that (and many will have emotional reactions to it).

* The consensus among linguists so far is that the Koreanic languages and Japonic languages did not originate from the same root. They instead came up with this replacement theory.

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Hope someone finds this interesting!

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