The Korean Creation Legend:
Legend has it that Hwan-ung, the son of Hwan-in (who was the God of All and the ruler of Heaven), yearned to live on Earth among the valleys and the mountains. His father sent him and 3,000 helpers to rule Earth and provide humans with great happiness.
Hwan-ung descended to Mount T'aebaeksan on the border between Manchuria and what is now North Korea. He named the place Shinshi, City of God. Along with his ministers of clouds, rain, and wind, he instituted laws and moral codes and taught the humans various arts, medicine, and agriculture.
A tiger and a bear living in a cave together prayed to become human. Upon hearing their prayers, Hwan-ung called them to him and gave them 20 cloves of garlic and a bunch of mugwort. He then ordered them to only eat this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for 100 days. The tiger shortly gave up and left the cave. However, the bear remained true and was transformed into a woman.
The bear-woman was very grateful and made offerings to Hwan-ung. However, lacking a companion she soon became sad and prayed beneath a sandalwood tree to be blessed with a child. Hwan-ung, moved by her prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a handsome son. They named him Tan-gun, meaning "Altar Prince" or sandalwood.Tan-gun developed into a wise and powerful leader and in 2333 BC moved to P'yongyang and established the Choson ("Land of the Morning Calm") Kingdom. Finally, at the age of 1,908, he returned to T'aebaeksan where he became a mountain god.
Early Inhabitants of the Island:
Although the island was probably inhabited from prehistoric times, the earliest evidence of human habitation dates to about 4000 BC or nearly 6,000 years ago. The earliest known inhabitants called the island Kabbigocha.
There are many ancient artifacts on the island. The most famous of these are the Goindol Rocks or Dolmen, designated as a World Cultural Treasure. The Goindol graves are where the rulers of Kanghwa-do during the Bronze Age (3000-2000 BC) are buried.
Korean History Begins
There are also evidences of the Dangunwanggeom or Tan Gun, the founding figure of Korea whose life marks the beginning of recorded Korean history in 2333. If you walk up the many steps of Chamseongdan in Mani Mountain, you will come to a peak where you can see the West Sea. This is where Tan Gun is said to have offered sacrificial rites to the heavens. Tan Gun and his three sons built the legendary Samnangseong castle and relics from the Bongeunsa temple, the stone Buddah statue relating to the tales of Bong's family, define Kanghwado as a holy place throughout its history.
Strategic Importance of Kang Wha Do Throughout Korea History
A defining moment of Kanghwado history occurred in the late period of Koryo dynasty. During the national revolt against Mongolian's invasion of 1231, the capital was transferred to Kanghwado for the period of 1232 and 1270. With such strongholds as the Koryo palace site and fortress, Kanghwado was deemed the best refuge to keep the royal family safe from the invasion of Mongolian forces. The world renown treasure; Palman daejanggyeong, consisting of 80,000 sheets of Buddha's scriptures were engraved and stored on the island during this period of the Mongol invasion.
The importance of Kang Wha Do as a refuge had been successively proven during the Choson dynasty. Two incidents during the Manchurian invasion; the battle of Jeongmyo-horan in 1627 and the battle of Byeongja-horan 1636, forced the King to take refuge on the island. Thereafter, Kanghwado installed many military facilities; castles, military bases, forts, outposts, batteries and beacon fire mounds to defend the capital.
In the latter years of the Choson dynasty, incursions by the Western Power's made Kanghwado the most important military base for the defense of the country.
The first incident was the battle of Byeongin-yangyo in 1866 between Choson and France. Daewongun, the actual ruler and father of King Gojong, believed in a policy of isolationism and he executed a religious oppression of the catholic priesthood and believers that caused hostilities with France. The French captured and held the island for about two weeks but were ultimately driven off before brokering a trade agreement.
The second incident was a conflict with American naval forces known as the battle of Sinmiyangyo in 1871. This conflict stemmed from the destruction of a previous trade mission and the Choson's denial of the American proposal for a trade port opening. The Americans defeated the Korean forces, captured and held the island, but subsequently withdrew without a trade agreement.
The third conflict with Japan in 1875 was the most historically significant as it led directly to the opening of Korea to trade with the outside world. An incidental clash between Choson forces and the Japanese ship Unyomaru occurred off Kanghwado following the refusal of Japan's demand for a trade port opening. As compensation for damage to the Unyomaru, a treaty of amity was bilaterally concluded between Korea and Japan. This treaty was known as the Treaty of Kanghwa. This treaty ultimately led to the occupation of Korea by Japan.
Japan Occupies Korea
Even through the kingdom of Korea declared its neutrality in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan used the conflict as a pretext to occupy Korea in 1904 and in 1910 Japan officially annexed Korea and made it a Japanese colony.
During this very dark period of modern Korean history, all Koreans - under threat of death or imprisonment - were forced to pledge allegiance to the Japanese Emperor, learn and speak only Japanese, study Japanese history and practice Japanese culture, change their names to Japanese names, and to covert to and practice the Japanese national religion - Shinto. Even if they cooperated, their properties were confiscated and they were forced into slave labor to further the insatiable ambitions of the Japanese Empire.
This extremely brutal occupation lasted for more than forty years and was ended only by the defeat of Japan by Allied forces in 1945.
Post World War II Korea
When WW II ended the Allies adopted a plan where the Soviets were to administrate the part of Korea above the 38th parallel and the United States the part of Korea below the 38th parallel as trustees, under the auspices of the UN, for a period of five years.
However, Koreans in both areas objected and wanted to get on with governing themselves and rebuilding their country. The United Nations suggested that a nation-wide general election be held to establish a new government but the northern political forces objected. As a result a general-election was held only in the southern area and a government was established for that area.
War Amongst the Koreas
The more heavily armed northern forces had their own ideas of what was best for the country and on January the 20th of 1950 the north forces crossed the 38th parallel and attacked the surprised forces of the south, driving them almost into the sea before UN forces entered the conflict. The combined forces of the UN drove the northern Koreans forces north - almost to the Chinese border - before Chinese forces entered the conflict and began driving the UN forces south. The Soviets proposed, and the combatants agreed to, a cease-fire and withdraw of forces to the original north-south lines along the 38th parallel. Thus, the Korean nation was divided into two parts in July of 1953.
ASA Arrives on Kang Wha Do
In 1956, the 12th ASA Detachment of the 501st Communications Reconnaissance Group arrived on Kangwha-do to establish a listening post on Koryosan that would monitor North Korean military activities to ensure that the Korean and UN forces in the south were never surprised by North Korean military aggressions again.