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The Choson Dynasty - the end of the Koryo Kingdom

How did the Choson Dynasty (Joseon) start? General Ri Song Ye (Yi Seong-gye) was sent by the Koryo Kingdom (Goryeo) to fight the Ming Dynasty in China, but instead he overthrew the Koryo King and set up a new dynasty.

Confucianism was embraced, negatively affecting the wealth and status of Buddhists who had flourished during the Koryo dynasty. This was the last feudal state in Korea, and one of its greatest contributions is the invention of the Korean alphabet (Hangul alphabet) in the 15th century.

Korea was involved in several wars with foreign powers which, together with knowledge of the western hostile policies with China, prompted to its isolationist policy in the 1800s where it would only open its borders to China.

Home of the founder of the Choson Dynasty, Hamhung, North Korea

In the late 1800s confrontations with France took place after the Korean government had ordered the killing of French missionaries and Korean converts. Fighting took place in Gwanghua island in 1866 and heavily affected the Korean military.

In 1871 a US expedition led by the British General Sherman, entered Korea and made its way up into Pyongyang. After being asked to leave, members of the crew killed 4 Koreans, leading to fighting with the Sherman crew. The ship was set on fire and members hacked to death. This led to US retaliation, and years later Korea signed trade treaties with the US and Japan, thus ending its isolationism foreign policy.

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Please click on our Koryo section for more information on the dynasty that preceded the Choson Dynasty or here for more information on the general history line of Korea.

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