As printed in A HANDBOOK OF KOREA, 9th, 1993;
Published by the Korean Overseas Information Service


People

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Korean Peninsula was inhabited by lower palaeolithic people at least as early as 500,000 B.C. Many archaeological sites, mostly located along rivers, have been excavated. The most famous are Sokchang-ri in Ch’ungch’ongnam-do province and Chongok-ri in Kyonggi-do province. Various stone tools, including hand-axes and chopper-scrapers, have been found at the sites, leading archaeologists to believe that their inhabitants engaged in hunting and fishing. These people are thought to have dwelt in caves, as the bones of many extinct animals and relics of their daily life have been unearthed in such places. The supposed connection between these palaeolithic people and today’s Koreans is blurred at present by the lack of sufficient archaeological excavations and anthropological evidence.

It is the latecomers of neolithic culture that scholars generally agree are the direct ancestors of today’s Koreans. According to anthropological and linguistic studies, as well as legendary sources, Koreans trace their ethnic origins from those who lived in and around the Altaic mountains in Central Asia. Several thousand years ago, these people began to migrate eastward until they finally settled in an area including Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula.

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When these migrants entered the Korean Peninsula around the third millennium B.C., they were confronted by natives called Paleoasians, who were eventually driven into various areas outside the Korean Peninsula. The Ainu of the northern tip of Japan, the natives of Sakhalin and the Eskimos of the eastern coast of Siberia are all descendants of these Paleoasian tribes.