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South Korea History Timeline

3000 BC - 50 BC
  • (3000 BC) Early civilization began with settlers from central Asia
  • (2333 BC) First Korean kingdom, Gojoseon, founded by Dangun
  • (700 BC) Eastern Chinese immigrants brought new rice growing techniques
  • (171 BC) Major wave of migration from Japan to the Korean Peninsula brought metal tools, rice and new farming techniques
  • (108 BC) Gojoseon collapsed after conflicts with Han Dynasty, Proto-Three Kingdoms founded
  • (57 BC) Silla was founded
  • (37 BC) Goguryeo was founded
  • (18 BC) Baekje was founded
50s AD - 1600 AD
  • (57 - 668) Three Kingdoms of Korea dominated Korean Peninsula and part of Manchuria
  • (200) Laws were developed by the emerging states, new writing system using Chinese characters was created
  • (676) Three Kingdoms unified under Silla Dynasty
  • (828) Jang Bogo established Cheonghaejin as a major center of trade with Japan and China
  • (892) Silla Dynasty began to close control of parts of the peninsula
  • (935) Silla Dynasty weakened due to internal conflict, surrendered to Goryeo, became Ioseon Dynasty
  • (1231) Mongol invasions began
  • (1270) Peace treaty signed with Mongols
  • (1392) Yi Dynasty began, country was renamed Choson
  • (1394) Seoul was founded
  • (1592) Japanese invaded Korea
  • (1627) First invasion by Manchu
  • (1636) Second Manchu invasion
1800 - 1900
  • (1866) French invaded in retaliation for Korean execution of several French Catholic missionaries, burned more than 5,000 Korean manuscripts after raid on royal library
  • (1871) Diplomatic mission by U.S. turned into armed conflict over a misunderstanding, 200 Korean troops and three Americans were killed
  • (1897) Ioseon renamed Korean Empire, Emperor Gojong took control
  • (1905) Japan annexed entire Korean Peninsula, Korean Empire became protectorate of Japan
  • (1909) Japanese Resident General of Korea was assassinated by An Jung-geun, a Korean independence activist
  • (1910 - 1945) Japanese forced Koreans to adopt Japanese names; forbade use of Korean language, converted Koreans to Shinto religion
  • (1910) End of the Chosun Dynasty - Japanese deposed the royal family
  • (1919) Korea declared independence, held nation-wide peaceful demonstrations which were crushed by Japanese military and police forces
  • (1919) Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea established in Shanghai, China
  • (1919) Saito Makoto appointed Governor-General of Korea
  • (1920) Battle of Qingshanli fought between Imperial Japanese Army and Korean guerrillas; considered to be great victory for Korea
  • (1932) Lee Bong-chang, Korean independence activist, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate Japanese Emperor Hirohito with a hand grenade
  • (1932) Independence activist, Yun Bong Gil, bombed Japanese army celebration, two killed, injured several others; he was arrested at the scene
  • (1932) Yun Bong Gil executed for bombing incident
  • (1939 - 1945) World War II
  • (1945) World War II ended; Japan relinquished control of Korea to U.S. and Soviet Union
  • (1945) Korean Peninsula divided at 38th parallel, Soviets occupied north, U.S. occupied the south
  • (1945) Peoples Republic of Korea was established with Yuh Woon-Hyung as leader
  • (1946) U.S. established United States Army Military Government; Peoples Republic was forcibly dissolved; Yuh Woon-Hyung was murdered
  • (1946) U.S.-USSR Joint-Commission was dissolved after impasse on formation of a Korean Government; Cold War began
  • (1948) Elections were held; Syngman Rhee was elected president
  • (1948) The Republic of Korea declared independence
  • (1950) Korean War began; forces from Communist North invaded South
  • (1950) President Truman authorized U.S. Air Force and Navy to enter the Korean conflict
  • (1953) Korean Armistice Agreement ended Korean War; two million lives lost
  • (1960) April Revolution started by student uprising protesting against election fraud; First Republic of South Korea overthrown
  • (1960) President Syngman Ree stepped down, went into exile
  • (1960) Second Republic of South Korea formed by new constitution
  • (1961) Second Republic of South Korea overthrown by military forces led by General Park Chung Hee in Military Coup d'etat
  • (1963) General Park established Third Republic, restored some political freedoms, began major industrial development
  • (1965 - 1973) South Korean troops fought alongside US forces in Vietnam
  • (1965) Japan, Republic of South Korea signed Treaty on Basic Relations
  • (1968) North Korea commandos attempted unsuccessful assassination of President Park Chung Hee
  • (1972) President Park Chung Hee declared emergency martial law, changed constitution allowing him to become permanent ruler
  • (1974) First Lady Yuk Young-soo assassinated by North Korean Mun Segwang
  • (1976) Group of North Korean soldiers attacked US and South Korean soldiers in demilitarized zone, two US army officers killed
  • (1979) US President Jimmy Carter visited, threatened to reduce US forces in Korea if President Park did not stop Nuclear Weapons Development program
  • (1979) President Park assassinated by Kim Jaegyu, Chief of KCIA; Choi Kyu-hah became acting president
  • (1979) In coup d'etat, Major General Chun Doo Hwan gained military power
  • (1980) Following student demonstrations, martial law was declared; army killed over 200 in city of Gwangju
  • (1980) Choi Kyu-hah forced to step down, Chun Doo Hwan had military junta name him president
  • (1981) Martial law ended, Chun indirectly elected to seven-year term as president
  • (1983) Korean Airlines flight was shot down by Soviet jet fighter after entering Soviet airspace, 269 people on board were killed
  • (1986) Change in constitution allowed direct election of president
  • (1987) Student uprising began June Democracy Movement; Fifth Republic of South Korean overthrown; President Chun pushed out of office, succeeded by Roh Taw-woo who granted greater political liberalization, launched anti-corruption campaign
  • (1988) Olympic Games held in Seoul
  • (1990) South Korea, USSR established diplomatic relations
  • (1991) North Korea, South Korea joined United Nations
  • (1992) South Korea, People's Republic of China established diplomatic relations
  • (1993) In first free parliamentary elections, President Roh succeeded by Kim Young San, the first civilian president
  • (1994) US, Japan and South Korea agreed to seek punitive steps against North Korea over nuclear program
  • (1995) Department store in Seoul collapsed, 501 killed, over 900 injured
  • (1995) Former presidents Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-hwan charged with corruption and treason
  • (1996) Former President Chun Doo-hwan sentenced to death, Roh Tae-woo sentenced to 22.5 years in prison
  • (1996) North Korean submarine ran aground in Gangneung on east coast of South Korea; during search operations, 11 crew members found dead in apparent suicide, 13 killed by South Korean forces
  • (1996) South Korea joined Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • (1997) South Korea reached agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $55 billion bailout for faltering economy
  • (1997) In presidential elections, former dissident Kim Dae Yung won
  • (1998) President Kim Dae Yung pursued "sunshine policy" of economic and humanitarian aid to North Korea
  • (1998) Over 2,500 workers marched in Seoul protesting government's labor reform plan
  • (1998) North Korean mini-sub in South Korean waters captured, nine crew found dead inside
  • (1999) South Korean warships sank North Korean torpedo boat, damaged a second one in Yellow Sea
  • (1999) North Korea declared new demilitarized zone; five islands controlled by South Korea were within North Korea's territory
  • (1999) Thousands of workers protested in Seoul on government plans to privatize state-run power, gas, financial firms; demanded reduction of workweek hours from 44 to 40
2000s
  • (2000) Prime Minister Kim Jong Pil appointed Park Tae Joon as his successor
  • (2000) Following outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, South Korea said it would slaughter 350,000 livestock
  • (2000) Prime Minister Park Tae Joon resigned after court ruling that he had concealed property ownership to avoid tax payments
  • (2000) Kim Jong-il of North Korea and South Korean President Kim Dae Yung held summit in Pyongyan (first meeting between two countries in fifty years); North ceased propaganda broadcasts against South; agreement signed allowing visits for some families separated for last five decades
  • (2000) South Korea gave amnesty to more than 3,500 prisoners
  • (2000) President Kim Dae Yung awarded Nobel Peace Prize
  • (2000) First visits were held between family members from North and South Korea - some had not seen family members in 50 years
  • (2001) Incheon International Airport opened
  • (2002) 25 North Koreans defected to South Korea through Spanish Embassy in Beijing
  • (2002) Four South Koreans killed, 19 wounded; 30 North Koreans killed in battle between North and South Korean naval vessels along disputed Yellow Sea border
  • (2002) Roh Moo Hyun won presidential election
  • (2002) Typhoon Rusa struck, left at least 119 people dead
  • (2002) 15,000 civil servants went on strike in protest against proposal to shorten working week and government ban on public sector unions
  • (2002) Over 120,000 auto workers struck against Hyundai and 165 other workplaces over working conditions
  • (2003) 198 people killed, 147 injured when arsonist set fire to train at station of Daegu Subway
  • (2003) 100 South Korean tourists flew to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital on first flight between the two countries in more than six decades
  • (2004) Parliament approved dispatch of 3,000 troops to Iraq
  • (2004) Parliament voted to impeach President Roh Moo Hyum over breach of election rules, incompetence
  • (2004) Markets plunged after presidential impeachment
  • (2004) South Korea's first free trade agreement was ratified with Chile
  • (2004) Constitutional Court overturned impeachment, President Roh reinstated
  • (2004) US announced plans for withdrawal of one-third of its 37,000 troops by end of 2005
  • (2004) Islamic militants beheaded South Korean after government refused to pull troops from Iraq
  • (2004) Second wave of mass defections from North Korea arrived on flight from Vietnam, total two-day airlift was 460
  • (2005) Japan restated claim to small group of islands in Sea of Japan; sovereignty disputed by Seoul and Tokyo
  • (2005) Former head of Daewoo, Kim Woo-choong, arrested for his role in the $70 billion collapse, sentenced to 10 years in jail
  • (2005) About 60,000 workers went on strike demanding better protection for part time workers
  • (2006) Protesters at a planned new US military base clashed with police, hundreds were wounded
  • (2006) Around 1,500 South Korean Christians who were in Afghanistan for a peace festival were ordered to leave by the Afghan government
  • (2006) Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon appointed as United Nation's new secretary-general; first US chief to publicly disclose personal finances
  • (2006) Wal-Mart Stores announced its withdrawal from South Korean retail market, sold its stores to country's top discount chain
  • (2006) Quarantine officials slaughtered more than 200,000 poultry after an outbreak of bird flu at chicken farm
  • (2007) North Korea and South Korea agreed to restart suspended 2006 talks
  • (2007) South Korea agreed with US to assume control of own military forces beginning 2012
  • (2007) South Korea, US agreed on free-trade deal
  • (2007) Aid shipments to North Korea were postponed until main atomic reactor was shut down
  • (2007) Passenger trains crossed North-South border for first time in 56 years
  • (2007) President Roh crossed Demilitarized Zone in symbolic walk for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il
  • (2007) Oil tanker collided with barge carrying a crane, thousands of tons of oil spilled into Yellow Sea
  • (2007) Regular freight train service began across the North and South borders for the first time in more than 50 years
  • (2007) Former Hyundai CEO Lee Myung-bak won landslide victory in presidential election
  • (2008) Arsonist set fire to Namdaemun, one of the most historic gates in Seoul, the first Korean National Treasure
  • (2008) President Lee Myung-bak ended "sunshine policy", North Korea warned of catastrophic consequences
  • (2008) Series of demonstrations were held after government reversed 2003 ban of importing US beef
  • (2008) Government announced $130 billion rescue package for banking system and to stabilize markets following global credit crisis
  • (2008) North Korea announced plans to curtail ties with South Korea, including ending cross-border train service, based on Seoul's "confrontational" policies
  • (2009) Ties worsened between North and South Korea; North Korea said it was scrapping all military and political deals over the South's "hostile intent"
  • (2009) Central Bank cut interest rates to a record low due to economic forecasts that economy would contract
  • (2009) South Korea signed $3.55 billion agreement with Iraq to help rebuild the country in return for oil and gas
  • (2009) South Korea announced a 50 trillion won ($38.1 billion) investment over next four years for environmental projects (Green New Deal) to create nearly one million jobs, help economy grow
  • (2009) North Korea ended all wage and rent agreements in a joint industrial estate, demanded a 3,000% hike in rent, told over 100 South Korean companies to leave if they could not accept the change
  • (2009) Former President Roh Moo Hyum, while under investigation for alleged corruption, committed suicide
  • (2009) Parliament endorsed the appointment of Chung Un-chan as prime minister
  • (2009) North, South Korean warships exchanged fire over disputed sea border
  • (2010) North Korea accepted food aid from South Korea
  • (2010) North Korea fired artillery shells near disputed sea border, South Korea returned fire
  • (2010) North Korea announced the confiscation of five South Korean-owned properties at a jointly operated mountain resort
  • (2010) Investigators found proof that South Korean naval ship Cheonan, was sunk by North Korean torpedo in Yellow Sea, 46 sailors were killed; South Korea broke off all trade with North Korea
  • (2010) Maritime border dispute on Yeonpyeong Island resulted in deaths of four South Koreans, 19 injured; military placed on highest non-wartime alert
  • (2011) Somali pirates seized chemical tanker in Arabian Sea; South Korean forces retook ship, eight of 17 pirates were killed
  • (2011) North, South Korea held first talks since 2009
  • (2011) Additional exchanges of fire occurred near Yeonpyeong Island
  • (2011) Heavy rainfall caused flooding and landslides around Seoul, 77 dead or missing, over 11,000 forced to evacuate
  • (2012) International conference on nuclear security held in Seoul
  • (2012) South Korea was first major Asian economy to halt oil imports from Iran, as part of EU-US sanctions over Iran's nuclear program
  • (2012) Deal between South Korea and US would nearly triple range of ballistic missile system
  • (2012) Two nuclear reactors shut down operations after discovery that parts being used were supplied with forged quality certificates
  • (2012) Park Geun-hye was elected first female president
  • (2013) North Korea announced it was scrapping all non-aggression pacts South South Korea, shutting shared border point
  • (2013) Cyber-attack from internet address in China shut down computer systems at banks and broadcasters in South Korea
  • (2013) Alert level was raised to vital threat in South Korea based on indications that North Korea was preparing to launch a ballistic missile
  • (2013) Officials from North Korea and South Korea agreed to hold talks for first time since 2007
  • (2013) Cyber attack penetrated a number of news media and government agency websites
  • (2013) US and South Korea signed military pact for coordinated response against possible nuclear threats from North Korea
  • (2014) Personal information was stolen on over 100 million South Korean credit cards
  • (2014) North Korea and South Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells into each other's waters, residents in South Korean islands were forced to evacuate to shelters
  • (2014) Sewol ferry sunk off west coast, at least 300 missing or dead, mainly high school students
  • (2014) Prime Minister Chung Hong-won resigned over criticism of the government's mishandling of the rescue operations for the sinking of the ferry; ferry captain was charged with manslaughter

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This page was last updated on April 7, 2017.