A Shrimp Amongst Whales Essay

Submitted By jayshondog
Words: 4292
Pages: 18

Surrounded by the giants of Japan, China, and Russian, the Korean peninsula has always been known as the “shrimp amongst whales (Shim, 2009).” Learning to live and survive in such a dangerous neighborhood, South Korean people have persevered through patience, flexibility, and time-tested resilience to maintain a distinct political and cultural identity. Its history includes a longstanding relationship with China, as they willingly accepted Chinese customs and culture, followed by Japanese colonialism, where lasting memories of exploitation and brutality left painful scars. The devastation of the Korean War and the influence of the United States thereafter forced South Koreans to look at the outside world in an entirely new way. Democracy would make its debut in 1948, but the transition would be anything but easy. Political turmoil, as well as periods of military rule and martial law would dominate much of the next three decades until the foundation of the Sixth Republic of South Korea would take over in 1987. Under its newly revised constitution, South Korea would develop into a fully functioning and successful, liberal democracy based on the sovereignty of its people. Today, the Republic of Korea divides its government into executive, judicial, and legislative branches with powers shared among the presidency, the legislature and the judiciary, but traditionally dictated by the president, who is elected for a single term of 5 years. Over the past decades the country has achieved remarkably high levels of economic growth and has used these accomplishments to increase its regional and global role. Trade and investment have become an increasingly important aspect in the relationship with the United States and other nations around the world. The future looks bright for this determined democratic state, as they aim at becoming top manufacturers in electronics and automation that can only mean success for this once poor, war-torn country.

The myth of Korea’s infrastructure by the god-king Dangun in 2333 B.C. represents the uniformity and self-sufficiency treasured by the Korean people. Throughout most of its history Korea has been invaded, influenced, and fought over by its larger neighbors “936 times,” yet still managed to form important dynasties early in their history and survive as independent entities, enabling their citizens to maintain an identity as a separate people (Suh, 173). At first, Korea was divided into tribes until the founding of the Gojoseon, which rose up on the banks of the Taidong River in the northwest corner of the peninsula. They possessed a code of law and a bronze culture that gradually extended their influence over other tribes, conquering most of the Liaodong Basin. The rising power of the feudal state of Yen in China would eventually stop its growth and destroy it as a political entity. Over the centuries other kingdoms emerged, such as the Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and the Samhan occupying most of the peninsula and southern Manchuria until the Three Kingdoms of Goguryeo in the north, Silla in the south, and Baekje in the west grew to control the entire country. As these Three Kingdoms became highly civilized, they fought each other for supremacy. China tried to defeat the northern kingdom of Goguryeo two different times but failed. The Chinese would try a different approach, forming an alliance with the Silla against the other two. The Baekje kingdom would be defeated in 660 A.D. to become apart of Silla, followed by Goguryeo in 668. “Silla unified the Korean peninsula,” though it was heavily influenced by Chinese civilization (Suh, 15). Under the Silla, society was strictly hierarchical. Most of the population was serfs and even the nobility were divided into ranks. Following the Chinese example, a university was formed where Confucian classics were taught and civil services exams were taken, but you still had to be of noble birth to study there. Confucianism would play a