history of korea

This doesn’t look like much. An old, cracked bowl with poorly-done glaze. But to the Japanese in the late 1500s, this was a prize!  Provincial Korean porcelain bowls, such as this one, were highly valued as tea bowls in Japan. The discoloration of the clay was caused by the tea’s seeping through pores in the glaze. Japanese connoisseurs poetically compared the subtle variations in color to the rain-stained plaster walls of a dilapidated hut. And by “poetically” I mean, they literally wrote poems about tea bowls like this one.

Those cracks by the way? They are repaired with gold lacquer. It was the traditional method for repairing chips and cracks in Japan, meant to highlight the life each vessel had lived.

If someone posted this image in your Facebook feed, you’d probably glance at it for half a second and assume that it’s a completely normal photo of two guys running in the park (even though they have some perfectly good bikes right in front of them that they could use instead). However, once you look at the background, two odd little details stand out. The first one, of course, is that there are tanks coming from the upper right corner.

So, despite the first guy’s amused expression, these guys aren’t just jogging: They’re escaping from tanks. The second, even more significant detail is the lone man who can be seen between the trees behind Chuckles here – a lone man standing in the middle of the street, carrying two grocery bags, in front of some tanks.

The photo was taken by Reuters correspondent Terril Jones, who figured that no one would care about it once he noticed that someone else had photographed the same situation from a far better angle. Jones didn’t publish the photo until 2009, after reading a New York Times retrospective on Tank Man, but the most mind-blowing part is that it shows how deliberate the unknown man’s actions were. He didn’t just cross the street one day and run into some tanks – he saw them coming a mile away and intentionally stayed there to block their passage.

8 Ordinary Photos Hiding Mind-Blowing Details

In 1962, Private James Joseph “Joe” Dresnok, stationed on the south side of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, was depressed. His wife had just left him, and he was completely disillusioned by his life in the U.S. military, which consisted of watching an empty DMZ on the off chance that the wrong kind of Korean would come strolling across the goddamn minefield for some reason. Also, the food sucked ass. So, one night, he decided to do something we shall politely call “unwise.” He defected to North Korea. North Korea.

To pull it off, he simply had to go strolling across that goddamn minefield we mentioned earlier. But hell, he was depressed enough that the very good chance of becoming an airborne rain of dog chow didn’t deter him. He wandered off toward that certain death, and his silhouette on the horizon was the last anyone saw of him.

Until 2006, that is, when British filmmakers Dan Gordon and Nick Bonner, two of the very few foreigners who are allowed to film in North Korea, came face to face with the miraculously still-alive Joe Dresnok.

The 5 Ballsiest Ways Anyone Has Ever Switched Sides Mid-War

Buddhism and the First Korean Unification

Unified Silla, a period in Korean history, began when Silla conquered the neighboring Baekje and Goguryeo kingdoms. The new rulers justified their rule with the concept of protecting the country through Buddhism. Buddhist leaders argued that if the Silla dynasty governed with the teachings of Buddha in mind, their people would be safe from misery. The religion became the driving force behind Korean progress and (to a degree) united its people. (Shamanism was still practiced as well.) Unified Silla also led to a flowering of Buddhist art, commissioned by the government to further the ideology and reinforce their royal authority.

The peninsula of Korea remained under Silla control from 668 to 935. In the 900s, aristocratic conflict and peasant uprisings led to the overthrow of the Silla dynasty and its replacement by the Koryo Dynasty. But Buddhism was here to stay, and continued to be the most powerful religion on the peninsula through the Koryo Dynasty.

Koreans demonstrate in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. They’re protesting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s ongoing lack of forthright apologies for the Japanese state’s aggression during World War II, especially the enslavement of young women in brothels to service soldiers. Two former ‘comfort women,’ ages 88 and 90, are seen here, seated in front. Photo credit: HaeRyun Kang