In modern Korea, the Joseon Dynasty, also known as Yi Dynasty by the Japanese occupiers, (1392-1910 AD) became one of the longest reigns by a single dynasty in world history. During the dynasty, various kings, under the influence of Neo-Confucianism, introduced many social and cultural changes. The dynasty was considered Korea's "Age of Enlightenment," but it was also the beginning of the "dark ages" for martial arts in Korea.
After his defeat of the Mongols and driving out the Red Turbans "armies of red heads" in 1364 AD, General Yi Song Gye emerged as a leader of the Korean people. Yi came from a family that, for generations, had supplied military leaders to the Hamyong province in the northeast and he had a distinguished military career from suppressing local rebellions. After the Mongol defeat, General Yi turned his attention to curbing the constant Japanese pirate attacks that were becoming intolerable. He repelled the pirate attacks in his own northeastern area and then fought a series of engagements over the next few years that reduced their power and kept them more or less at bay.
These times were more a period of diplomacy than of continual war. When threatened from the north, Korea looked to Japan for assistance. When threatened from the south, she looked to China. Yi strongly supported Confucianism so he re-opened relations with China, re-established the central government, and provided the king with Confucian advisors. Confucianism began to replace Buddhism as a strong cultural force in Korea. With consolidated support from the ruling classes, General Yi rose to power.
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