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The name Korea is now commonly used in English contexts by both North and South Korea.

In South Korea, Korea as a whole is referred to as or Gan) of a native Korean word that seems to have had the meaning "big" or "great", particularly in reference to leaders.

"Great Joseon" was the name of the kingdom ruled by the Joseon dynasty from 1393 until their declaration of the short-lived Great Korean Empire in 1897.

King Taejo had named them for the earlier , the Han dynasty defeated Gojoseon and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula.

With involvement by foreign troops, the war ended in a stalemate in 1953, but without a formalized peace treaty.

This status contributes to the high tensions that continue to divide the peninsula.

However, multiple invasions by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty during the 13th century greatly weakened the nation, which eventually agreed to become a vassal state after decades of fighting.

Following the Yuan Dynasty's collapse, severe political strife followed, and Goryeo eventually fell to a coup led by General Yi Seong-gye, who established Joseon in 1392.

In 642, the powerful general Yeon Gaesomun led a coup and gained complete control over Goguryeo.Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades, but the Lelang commandery remained as a center of cultural and economic exchange with successive Chinese dynasties for four centuries.By 313, Goguryeo annexed all of the Chinese commanderies.The Proto–Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Multiple States Period, is the earlier part of what is commonly called the Three Kingdoms Period, following the fall of Gojoseon but before Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla fully developed into kingdoms.This time period saw numerous states spring up from the former territories of Gojoseon, which encompassed northern Korea and southern Manchuria.

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