History of Korea, 1260 to 1876

Korea 180B Poster

Korea 180B in UCLA Registrar


In 1260, after decades of intermittent warfare, the Koryŏ dynasty of Korea capitulated to the Mongols, inaugurating a century of Mongol domination on the Korean peninsula. This period, which saw Korea’s integration into the Mongol empire, also witnessed a number of changes, both subtle and dramatic, in Korea’s society, religion, political relations, and intellectual culture. Social transformations among the Koryŏ elite helped set the stage for rise of a new dynasty, Chosŏn. Relations with the Mongol empire established some of the core institutions that guided Korea’s later relations with the later Ming and Qing empires of China. Neo-Confucianism was introduced to Korea and became the dominant intellectual strand in Korea.

This course will focus on the history of Korea between 1260–1876, roughly the period corresponding to the late Koryŏ and Chosŏn dynasties, beginning with the Mongol period and ending with Chosŏn’s entry into the modern international system. It will introduce students to the major historical and historiographical issues surrounding this period, while allowing students to experience first hand the process of historical inquiry.



If you are looking for a passive educational experience, this course is NOT FOR YOU.

Korean studies, especially premodern studies in the West is an underdeveloped field with few, accessible resources, especially for beginners. This is made worse by the general “ivory tower” problem where the state of knowledge within the academy is often inaccessible to a broader, interested audience. So for instance, while university students rely heavily on open-source internet resources, such as Wikipedia, to complement their learning process and to study for exams, these resources are sometimes quite poorly curated. We see this in the English-language Wikipedia articles concerning Korean history, where the bulk of the articles are low-quality and rely on low-quality source materials.

The problem is not unique to Korean studies, or even the humanities. In the sciences, cutting-edge research is often behind a paywall, Science too faces this problem of misrepresentation in the media or poor communication across boundaries, but science majors usually get to work hands on in lab experiments and pursue meaningfully in the process of scientific knowledge production. In the Humanities, however, students are often asked to do projects, write research papers as classroom assignments, but are not actually given the chance to PARTICIPATE and IMPACT the direction of public scholarship.

This course will change that. In this course, students will engage with the forefront of research in Korean history. They will make their own contributions to the field by communicating this research to a wider audience in their final projects. Students will therefore be encouraged to make their final projects public (optional).

  • The course will engage students with the basics of historical research and historical writing
  • Students will read up-to-date, current research on Korea’s premodern and early modern history.
  • Through active discussion, deep reading, and engaged collaboration, students will communicate their knowledge and perspectives to one another
  • Students, as their final project, will make tangible contributions to public knowledge by publishing with the UCLA Korean History and Culture Digital Museum project, a public resource that connects academic research with the broader public shphere
    • Formats flexible: The default is a 3-5 page essay (1000 words) discussing a major issue or topic, though any format is possible EQUIVALENT (art, comic strips, video essay, podcast…)
    • Note: publication is optional and not required for course completion. Students who wish to share their work publicly should sign WAIVER.
  • Students will divide into groups according to their chosen area of interest.
    • War and military
    • diplomacy and trade
    • women and society
    • religion and society
    • knowledge and science
    • frontiers and margins
    • learning and culture
    • law and justice
    • ethnicity and class etc.