As the school year winds down, we’re finally getting to a place in history where we’ll get to visit Korea history more often. I’m excited about that! Today we studied Wiman Joseon, which is a period in ancient Korean history between 194 BC and 108 BC. As with all of the ancient history of the peninsula, I’ve had to piece together the story and as usual lately, I’ve found a lot of information at Wikipedia.
In the 2nd century BC, the land we know today as the Korean peninsula was divided into to main states: Gojoseon and Jin. King Jun ruled over Gojoseon.
After the founding of the unified Han Dynasty in China in 206 BC, political upheaval ensued and many people from the former Yan State of China sought refuge in Gojoseon. Wiman, a Yan leader, was one of these refugees; he reportedly led more than 1000 followers to Gojoseon. The story says that he dressed in the style of Gojoseon, even wearing his hair in a topknot.
King Jun allowed Wiman to live in Gojoseon and even granted Wiman’s request to become a commander around 195 BC. He was ordered to fortify the country’s northwestern border. But instead, around 194 BC, Wiman overthrew the throne and claimed to be king of Gojoseon. King Jung fled south into the Jin state.
Wiman located the capital of his Gojoseon at Wanggeom-seong (the archeological evidence of the location is disputed; some say it’s near Pyongyang, while others say it was further north). Since the Han Dynasty in China wasn’t completely stable, the governor of Liaodong appointed Wiman as an outer subject somewhere around 192 or 191 BC. Using its superior military force, Wiman Joseon was able to extend its borders.
But the kingdom wasn’t to last. In 109 BC, Wiman’s grandson King Ugeo reigned over Wiman Joseon and a conflicted broke out when he refused to allow ambassadors from the Jin State (to the south) to use his land to reach China. When the dispute couldn’t be settled through negotiations, Emperor Wu of Han launched a two-front attack on Wiman Joseon–one by sea and one by land. Although the forces took heavy losses, the two forces merged on Wanggeoum and the capital fell in 108 BC.
Han took over the Wiman Joseon lands and established the Four Commanderies of Han in the western part of the former Gojoseon area. This led to several small states emerging in what is known as the Proto-Three Kingdoms Era (which will likely be our next lesson).
Wiman is the first Korean king who was written about in documents from the time period in which he ruled, thus his Korean state is the first one to be verified historically.
For an activity to accompany this lesson, I drew a map of the area noting the significant places, which our son colored, and I had him draw a picture of what he though Wiman looked like.
Sources: In addition to various Wikipedia sites, I gathered information for this post from “The Land of Scholars: Two Thousand Years of Korean Confucianism” by Jaeun Kang. You can preview this book at via Google Books.
I also found information and maps at http://byeongjupark.wordpress.com/article/gojoseon-2zvfgrgyend5c-5/
And since the histories of China and Korea are linked, you might want to check out this changing map that shows the various dynasties in China.