Draft Gojoseon

From Korea100
Jump to: navigation, search

Title Gojoseon (2333 (?) - 108 BCE) and Jin (4C - 2C BCE)
Author Lyndsey Twining
Actor Dangun, Gija, Wiman
Place Daedonggang River, Pyeongyang
Record Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms
Concept Shang China, Yan China, Han China, Three Kingdoms of Korea, Goguryeo

Gojoseon, the earliest Korean state, was located in the area around the Daedonggang River, which runs through present-day Pyeongyang, in the northern Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria. It dates back to the Bronze Age (2,000-1,500 BCE), although many details about the state, including the exact date of its beginning, the scope of its territory, the location of its capital, and details about its rulers, are unknown or conflicting.

According to an ancient myth recorded in the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms (13th century CE), Gojoseon was founded in 2333 BCE by Dangun, a figure who has since become popularly considered to be the founder of the Korean people. There are also records of a 12th century BCE sage named Gija who fled to Gojoseon from Shang China and was involved in the creation of Gojoseon, though the extent of this involvement is debated. However, modern historians believe that Gojoseon likely began sometime between the 7th and 4th centuries BCE, as tribes in the area around the Daedonggang River began consolidating power. It collapsed in the 2nd century BCE after attacks by Yan China, and its territories were briefly taken over by Wiman, a Chinese refugee, but were conquered in 108 BCE by Han China. The Gojoseon territory then became a part of Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.

Meanwhile, in the southern portion of the Korean peninsula, the Jin state emerged in the 4th century BCE. Believed to be a federation of small states with some central organization, this state eventually gave rise to the Samhan Confederacies in the 1st century BCE.


  • Concepts
    • Han China
    • Shang China
    • Yan China
    • Goguryeo
    • Samhan Confederacy

Further Reading


Editor's Worksheet

Items for Review

  • Was Gojoseon really located around the Daedonggang, or just the northern part of the Korean peninsula?
  • When did Gojoseon begin really? 7th-4th centuries BCE? What evidence is there for this?

Media Content to Be Produced

  • Maps
    • Daedonggang River
    • Gojoseon, Yan, Han, Jin


  • Center for International Affairs, Korea in the World, Academy of Korean Studies, 2015, p.6.

The Korean peninsula has been inhabited since the Old Stone Age. By the Bronze Age, settlers had established the first official state of Gosojeon (Old Joseon). Koreans still refer to the founder of Gojoseon as 'Grandfather Dangun.' According to the ancient legend, Dangun was the son of a bear and the heavenly king's son, Hwanung, who descended from heaven to live with the people of the land. Gojoseon was the ruler of the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, as well as a large area of today's Manchuria. The kingdom prospered for a long time before being destroyed by the Han Dynasty in 108 BC.

  • Korean Culture and Information Service, Facts about Korea, Korean Culture and Information Service, 2009, p.26.

People began living on the Korean Peninsula and its surrounding areas from some 700,000 years ago. The Neolithic Age began some 8,000 years ago. Relics from that period can be found in areas throughout the Korean Peninsula, mostly in coastal areas and in areas near big rivers.

The Bronze Age began around 1,500 to 2,000 B.C. in present-day Mongolia and on the peninsula. As this civilization began to form, numerous tribes appeared in the Liaoning region of Manchuria and in northwestern Korea. These tribes were ruled by leaders, whom Dangun, the founder of the Korean people, later united to establish Gojoseon (2333 B.C.). The founding date is a testament to the longevity of Korea's history. This heritage is also a source of pride that provides Koreans the strength to persevere in times of adversity.

  • The Association of Korean History Teachers, Korea Through the Ages, Vol. 1, Academy of Korean Studies, 2005, p.35.

History and Myths

History demands a distinction between myth and reality. If a myth is taken as fact, regardless of the context, it can be quite misleading.

For instance, 2333 B.C., the year Dangun Wanggeom founded Gojosoen, falls in the Neolithic Period. In contrast, it is a widely accepted theoretical premise that the founding of states around the world only began during the Bronze Age at the earliest.

Therefore, the foundation myth of Dangun Wanggeom should be viewed as an effort to deify historical events surrounding the formation of the state. In this way, the description of Dangun as a descendant of the Lord of Heavens reflects an emphasis on the legitimacy of his authority and the ministers of the rain, wind and clouds are a personification of the elements crucial to agriculture. The bear and tiger could be a representation of the tribes for whom these animals served as totems.

In sum, the foundation myth is a story about the first ruling class of the Korean Peninsula which emerged as a result of the remarkable advancements in agriculture in the Bronze Age. This ruling class subsequently declared itself to be the descendants of the Lord of the Heavens and eventually set up the first state on the peninsula.