Seoul Ethnography

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final project Wlodawski


  • 1. I decided to do my final project on the city of Seoul in South Korea, because I had visited it six or seven years ago. I really enjoyed myself there and realistically could not complain about the dense foot and automobile traffic nor the overtly distinct and potent smells undulating from it's many little store fronts or street vendors. After all I was use to that growing up in New York City, andexpected that from a Global City. In international status, Seoul is deemed so, because it is considered an important point in the global economic grid. Seoul Korea By: Michael Wlodawski -Anthro101

2. It is difficult to talk about Seoul without first understanding the definitive points ofthe Korean nation throughout the course of history.The beginning of Seoul and it's preliminary stages of prominence goes back to the dynamics of the power struggle between the Three Kingdoms of Korea which dominated the power and poitics of the peninsula during the early common era. These kingdoms competed with one another economically and militarily in much the sameway that Athens and Sparta competed with one another. These kingdoms were Goguryeo,Silla,and Baekje. 3. The history of Seoul can be traced back as far as 18 BC. In that year the newly established kingdom of Baekje built its capital in the Seoul area. During the time when the three kingdoms fought for hegemony in Korea, Seoul was often the site where disputes were carried out. It was thought that only the kingdom who controls the area around Seoul is able to control the whole of the peninsula. So from the beginning, Seoul was more of a symbol of militaristic power and political influence than anything else. v 4. A Bridge in Seoul being bombed by the communist North duringthe Korean War. Modern Seoul, with one of it's 23 pristineBridges, highlighting the economic power of the city. Control passed from Baekje to the Gogureyo in the 5 thcentury A.D. The people in power at that time knew that only the kingdom which controlled the Han River Valley, where Seoul was situated, would be able to control the whole peninsula. The river was immensely important because it was the center of both transportation and thus trade. The strategic physical location of Seoul in the heart of the Han river and the center location point for kingdoms gave it a sense of vital importance and prestige. When I was in Seoul the Han River is very prominent and the many bridges which are especially beautiful at night connect North and South Seoul. 5. Ancient Goguryeo art piece Stunning craftsmanship of queen's crown from this era. The most infamous Goguryeogeneral and dictator.Yeon-Gaesomun Goguryeo was a typical class based society, and consisted of a four tiered hierarchy of the King, aristrocrats, commoners, and slaves. The majority of the people cultivated plots of land and payed taxes to the state. Agriculture and especially fishing were mainstays of the ancient economy. Increased agricultural output entailed the development of cities and commercial activities. Although Seoul was not the capital of the Gogureyo empire it grew and flourished as cities and commerce played a more vital role under Gogureyo rule. All great powers in history perished in the long run. And, Goguryeo was no exception. Yeon-gaesomun, who seized power in 642, was a great general. He led Goguryeo to victory in wars against Tang in 645 and 662. But, he also left the legacy of dictatorship.Furthermore, after Yeon-gaesomun died, a power struggle broke out among his three sons over the succession of the throne and this internal dissension threw Goguryeo into doom.The after-effects of Goguryeo's downfall were bad. With the exit of Goguryeo, which used to form an axis of multi-polar civilizations, the Tang-centered asian civilization emerged in East Asia, which in turn came to develop as the East Asian international order. 6. From the time of the three kingdoms in 57 B.C.-668 A.D. A new kingdom emerged. The Silla Kingdom lasted from 668-935. This period is significant because it marks the real influence that Buddhism had on Korea's cultural development, effecting many facets of life such as architecture and social behavior. The Silla were able to gain power as well as unify the peninsula by forging an alliance with the Chinese Tang Dynasty and holding off aristrocratic revolts on its monarchy. This period is very important considering that buddhism still plays a vital role in Seoul and the rest of South Korea , but approximately 40% of South Koreans are not religious while the rest of the population is split between buddhism and christianity.A sculpture of Buddha in the side of a mountain, chiselled during the SillaPeriod. Bronze sculpture influenced by Buddhism,sculpted during Silla period Part of a Buddhist temple in Seoul. This circular pattern is quite common in Buddhist influenced cities and marksTemples and other structures. v 7. Since the first time it was a capital in the Baekje kingdom Seoul became a capital once again during the Joseon Dynasty which lasted from 1392-1910. Since 5000 BC, Seoul has been one of the major settlement areas and served as a fortress city during the early Baekje Kingdom from which relics can still be found. Seoul became more urban in Joseon times after being selected as the capital city. From early modern times, the city underwent many drastic changes not only resulting from the natural transformation of the city, but also from distortions exerted by the Japanese colonial rule. The ruler of the Joseon Dynasty moved the capital to Hanyang-gun (today's Seoul) in 1394 and adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion. As a result, Buddhists lost much of their wealth and power. The Joseon Dynastywas the final ruling dynasty of Korea with an actual king and queen and monarchy. It was in 1395, three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded , that the large royal palace was built in Seoul. The palace was named Gyeongbokgung, the "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven."The site of Gyeong-bokgung Palace was at the heart of Seoul. 0 G Y E O N G B O K G U N G P A L A C E in S E O U L 8. The population under the Joseon peaked at 18 million. A centralized administrative system was installed by Confucian scholars called the Yangban. The Yangban and the monarchy ruled the peninsula's government and military. About 40% of the population were slaves. Slavery was hereditary, as well as a form of legal punishment. Most ofthePopulation was farmers and merchants and evidence suggests that sometimes citizens had dual roles under the Joseon dynasty. Under this dynasty their was a very strict multlayered class system with many different forms and customs signifying these Distinctions. The Monarchy and the main Yangban council was based in Seoul. Joseon repelling Japanese naval forces 9. It was during this period that the Korean alphabet,Hangeul , was invented by King Sejong the Great. King Sejong the Great is regarded as the most enlightened king in Korean history. King Sejongwas born in 1397, and ascended the throne in 1418 at the age of 21. He was the fourth king of theJoseon dynasty. He died in 1450 at the age of 54. During his 32-year reign, King Sejong energetically promoted learning. He was responsible for the creation of the Korean Hangul alphabet, and this scientificalphabet is his most known achievement. This alphabet enabled literacy to become more available to thegeneral population, who could not be expected to master the classical Chinese language that was the officialwritten language of Korea at the time. The invention of a korean alphabet and language that was distinctly Korean was an immense feat which gave a new meaning to being Korean. This invention did more for Korean pride and identity than anything prior or since. King Sejong was a scholar, philologist, musician, poet,and a skilled swordsman.King Sejong 10. The Imjin War (1592-98),was one of the most disastrous periods of Korean history. Shortly after consolidating control of Japan, the great general Toyotomi Hideyoshi decided to invade China in an attempt to become the ruler of all Asia. The easiest route to China cut through the Korean Peninsula. He asked the Korean king for help, or for unobstructed passage. As Korea had strong diplomatic relations with the Ming Dynasty, the king refused. To teach Korea a lesson, Japanese troops attacked Korea in April 1592 with their full military might. Although there had been voices in the Korean government calling for the strengthening of the military, the crown did not take note and Korea was virtually defenseless when Japan let loose its battlehardened troops. During the latter half of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbok Palace was the main palace, having been rebuilt in the early 1600s after its destruction (along with all of the other palaces in Seoul) during the Hideyoshi invasions of the 1590s. Worth notingis that it was Seoul's citizens, angry that the king was fleeing and leaving them to their fate, who burned Seoul's palaces - not the invading Japanese armies. In the 1860s Gyeongbok Palace, having sat in ruins for over 250 years, was rebuilt, and it became the main palace under King Gojong's rule. The two most common types of protest at the time were peasant uprisings andbowing before the palace's gate and submitting petitions to the King. Invasion of Korea 1592 Imjin War 11. Japan conquered the Joseon dynasty, and the age of a monarchy in Korea ended. With the Japanese again victorious, Korea was declared a protectorate and annexed as a Japanese colony, ending the centuries-old Korean dynastic structure. The Japanese controlled Korea until the end of World War II in 1945. The Korean political structure reformed again with the advent of the Republic of Korea. During this time the Japanese subjected the people in Seoul and the rest of the peninsula to criminal acts such as rape and plunder. Seoul under Japanese rule 12. Korean War was the conflict b