About 10,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Korean people who lived in the Pharmil fields of Central Asia, began to migrate to the east for the warm weather and the bright sun. They crossed the Altai Mountains and settled in what is today Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula. There, Koreans created a unique civilisation based on the Han philosophy.
The Han Philosophy is purely of Korean origin. It was nurtured and matured by Korean people before relations with neighbouring nations were established. The Han philosophy is based on four distinct characteristics.
First, Han means head or high position. The Korean people look for leadership and guidance from the holders of high position. They are the King (head of state), the father (head of the family), and the teacher (head of the classroom). They are regarded as the most important persons in the nations.
Second, Han means big or whole. Each person is considered a vital member of the community as a whole. Harmony within the community as a whole is very important in the pursuit of happiness for the individual as well as for the country.
Third, Han means brightness or optimism. Brightness in the Korean language implies peace, cleanliness and honesty in life. They see the future as optimistic regardless of the hardships they have faced in the past.
Finally, Han means higher learning. The Korean people place great value on education and culture. They strive for excellence in learning, whether it is in literature or martial arts.
These four distinct characteristics of the Han Philosophy permeated into every facet of Korean society. It has been embedded in Korean culture, religion, economics, and politics and especially in the martial arts. It still plays a significant role in what constitutes the Korean identity.
Around the first Century B.C the Korean people began to actively seek out contact with neighbouring countries.
The introduction of foreign cultures followed as Korea sought to broaden its knowledge about it neighbours. The Han Philosophy evolved as harmonious aspects of the newly introduced ideas were assimilated into it.
Choi Chi- won, the pre-eminent Scholar and warrior of the Silla Kingdom wrote about the philosophy of Han on the tombstone of the Nan Nang Tomb. Master Choi said that the introduction of Confucianism in Korea reinforced Han values of respect to parent, teacher and King and loyalty to the country. The introduction of Taoism reinforced the Han philosophy of harmony with nature as well as other human beings. And the introduction of Zen Buddhism reinforced love and mutual help among citizens of the society.