The history of Korea stretches from Lower Paleolithic times to the present. The
earliest known Korean pottery dates to around 8000 BCE, and the Neolithic period
began before 6000 BCE, followed by the Bronze Age around 2500 BCE. The Gojoseon (Old
Joseon) kingdom was founded in 2333 BCE, eventually stretching from the peninsula
to much of Manchuria. By 3rd Century BCE, it disintegrated into many successor
In the early Common Era, the Three Kingdoms (Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje) conquered
other successor states of Gojoseon and came to dominate the peninsula and much of
Manchuria. The three kingdoms competed with each other both economically and militarily.
While Goguryeo and Baekje were more powerful for much of the era (especially Goguryeo,
which defeated massive Chinese invasions) Silla's power gradually extended across
Korea and it eventually established the first unified state to cover most of Korean
peninsula by 676, while former Goguryeo general Dae Jo-yeong founded Balhae as the
successor to Goguryeo.
Unified Silla itself fell apart in the late 9th century, giving way to the tumultuous
Later Three Kingdoms period (892-936), which ended with the establishment of the
Goryeo Dynasty. After the fall of Balhae in 926 to Khitan, much of its people led
by the Crown Prince Dae Gwang-hyeon were absorbed into Goryeo. During the Goryeo
period, laws were codified, a civil service system was introduced, and Buddhism flourished.
In 993 - 1019 Khitan Liao Dynasty invaded Goryeo and were repelled. In 1238, the
Mongolian Empire invaded and after nearly thirty years of war, the two sides signed
a peace treaty.