??- 57 B.C.: Evidence of inhabitants in Korea from as early as 4000 BC exists in Korea. Legend has that the man-god Tan Gun founded the Joseon (meaning Land of the Morning Calm) Kingdom in 2333 BC. Almost no centralized communities existed from then until three kingdoms emerged in the 1st century BC.
57 B.C. - 668 A.D.: The Three Kingdoms of Silla, Goguryeo, and Baekje had similar ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Koguryo occupied the northern part of the peninsula from the Chinese border to the Han River, while Silla and Baekche dominated the southern regions. All three kingdoms were heavily influenced by China, and Buddhism was introduced to Koguryo in 372. Various alliances were formed either with or against the Chinese until 660 when Silla allied with China to overthrow Baekje. Goguryeo fell shortly afterwards in 668.
668 - 935: The Silla Kingdom period marked the start of Korea's cultural development. Buddhism expanded and furled the construction of numerous temples and art works. However, despite Chinese influences, Silla remained largely tribal in culture. Society divided into distinct classes with a large semi-slave population supporting an aristocratic minority. Warlords began amassing power bases to the north and eventually took over Silla and founded a new kingdom- Goryeo.
918 - 1392: Korea's English name was derived during the Goryeo period. At this time the government codified the laws and introduced a civil service system. During this time Buddhism flourished and spread throughout the peninsula. Like other kingdoms before it, Koryo was also subject to internal strife and external threats, most notably from the Mongols who had taken over China. In 1231 the Mongols invaded Korea, forcing the royal family to flee to Kanghwa Island near Seoul. After 25 years of struggle, the royal family finally surrendered. The following 150 years saw continued Goryeo rule, but under the control of the Mongols. As the Mongols declined in power, so too did Goryeo. In 1392 a Korean general, Yi, Song-gye, was sent to China to campaign against the Ming rulers. Instead, he allied himself with the Chinese, returned to overthrow the Korean king, and setup his own dynasty. During this time, Korea also perfected the art of celadon pottery.
1392 - 1910 The ruler of the Yi Dynasty (also known as 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. It was during this period that the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, was invented by King Sejong the Great. This period also had its share of external problems, suffering invasions by the Japanese (1592-1598) and the Manchus (1627-1636). With the arrival of Japanese and Western traders in the 19th century, the Korean rulers tried to prevent the opening of the country to foreign trade by closing the borders, earning Korea its nickname of the Hermit Kingdom. Beginning in 1876, the Japanese forced a series of Western-style trade agreements on Korea, leading to Japan's eventual annexation of the country in 1910. Due to growing anti-Japanese sentiment, in 1897 King Kojong declared himself to be emperor of the Taehan Empire, an independent Korea. However, during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), Japanese forces moved onto the peninsula, despite Korean declarations of neutrality. The signing of the Japan-Korea Protection Treaty in 1905 gave Japan virtual control over Korea, and in 1910 a Korean royal proclamation announced the annexation by Japan.