The Medieval and Early Modern History section displays historical and cultural items
from the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1897) periods, tracing the events,
conflicts, and achievements that marked the two most significant periods of Korea’s
Incursion of the Yuan Dynasty
Beginning in 1274, the Yuan Dynasty tormented the Goryeo Dynasty for around 80 years, forcing them to surrender women and pay sizable tributes. Despite such malefaction, Goryeo adopted Neo-Confucianism from the Yuan Dynasty, as well as gunpowder, cotton plants, and manufacturing technology, marking a cornerstone in the development of Goryeo culture, science, and industry. Furthermore, events in this era laid the foundation for the legacy of metal type print, as exemplified by the creation of Jikji (full name: Baegun hwasang chorok buljo jikji simche yojeol, 1377), a Korean Buddhist document which is the world’s oldest extant document made with movable metal type, pre-dating Johannes Gutenberg’s Bible by almost 78 years.
In the middle of the 14th century, King Gongmin took advantage of the decline of the Yuan Dynasty to initiate an anti-Yuan policy. He also attempted to lead a land reform, but his initial efforts failed due to a lack of support. However, a radical new faction appeared, led by Jeong Do-jeon, who had been educated by King Gongmin’s Neo-Confucianism policies, in cooperation with Yi Seong-gye, a military general who turned his troops around to attack the Goryeo capital in the famous Wihwado Hoegun (1388). In 1391, this group succeeded in enacting the extensive land reforms that King Gongmin had earlier attempted. Thus, Yi Seong-gye became King Taejo (r. 1392-1398), the first king of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).