Korea can look back on a glorious past. Koreans used to be famous for making finely decorated iron caskets, inlaid ware, lacquer work, bowls, vases, wooden money chests and brass ware. One of their most famous article was paper made of the inner bark of the mulberry tree, much sought after in China and Japan.
In war, Koreans were above all inventive. The most famous war in their history was the great fight with Japan at the end of the sixteenth century. The Japanese then invaded Korea with big forces, but were beaten off after a ruinous war. It was then that the Korea developed an explosive shell–the first in the world–which the Japanese were unable imitate. They regarded it as supernatural, and it caused far more havoc through the soldiers.
HISTORIC KOREA—Continued from page 30
fear of it than the actual casualties. Equally famous was a large round battleship, known as the Giant Tortoise. This wonderful weapon, which won two naval battles, was covered all over with iron plates and spikes, to prevent boarding. Its prow, shaped like a turtle's beak, was most sinister and fearsome; not only was it used as a ram, but it also emitted fiery arrows, fired by bowmen within.
The Koreans, however, had more taste for scholarship than war. They invented moveable metal type, that is, modern printing, before anyone else in the world. Popular education was particularly well developed. Higher schooling was in six ‘liberal arts’, which consisted of: ceremonial, music, archery, charioteering, literature and arithmetic.
Although Korea repelled the Japanese in 1599, she never recovered from the destruction of that war, and many of her skilled tradesmen were taken as prisoners to Japan, transferring Korea's traditional craftsmanship to that country. In the nineteenth century, when Western powers started to become interested in Korea, decline had already set in. The Koreans refused to come to any terms with the West, and did not even allow European ships to land. They wished to keep foreign greed far from their shores. Japan, however, was able to intrigue her way slowly into Korea, by pretending to
protect the Koreans from Chinese imperialism. She obtained commercial privileges, became Korea's financier, took sides in Korean internal disputes; its “paramount political, military and economic interests in Korea” were recognised by the European nations, and in 1910 Japan annexed Korea.
Japan modernised the country, put up fine buildings and such railways, roads and harbours as there were when the present Korean war began. Land was developed, rice production was raised enormously. But the Koreans do not seem to have benefited a great deal from this development. The Japanese permitted no higher education in Korea; the more skilled and responsible work was done by Japanese, who flooded the country in great numbers.
So the Second World War came, and finally the liberation of Korea from the Japanese. Following the sudden attack in June, 1950, by North Korean Communist forces on the Republic of Korea, United Nations forces were sent to defend South Korea. After two and a half years there is no sign yet of a satisfactory solution being found for the Korean problem, and the time has not yet come to think about the future of the Korean people.