The Choson Dynasty, also known as the Yi Dynasty, has long
been celebrated for its artistic, scientific and intellectual achievements,
including the 1443 invention of the Korean alphabet (han'gul) by the
greatest of all Choson kings, King Sejong. The Choson Dynasty, which means
the kingdom of morning serenity, is one of modern history's longest dynastic
rules, lasting over 500 years. This achievement is even more impressive in
light of Korea's strategic and, some might say, precarious geopolitical location
at the center of the East Asian corridor.
How did Korea achieve such political stability? What social forces were at work? The Choson Dynasty adopted Confucianism as its state religion and developed concomitant social structures, ultimately establishing cultural values, which supported continuous dynastic rule.
These cultural values of the Choson Dynasty, centerpieces to the Ch'unhyang
story, still resonant in contemporary Korean life. The idea of an interdependent,
collective self rather than an independent, autonomous self, of role dedication
rather than self-fulfillment, and the privileging of harmony and order over
justice or progress are all typically Confucian cultural values that have
carried over from the Choson era into the present.
Choson Dynasty officially began in 1392 when Yi Songgye, an army general, was declared king, following his successful coup against the Koryo government. With the support of Neo-Confucian scholar-officials, he and the twenty-six Yi kings that followed him adopted and enforced the principles of Confucianism, a belief system founded by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, as the for guide their actions as well as virtually every citizen of their dynasty.