The first human presence on the Korean Peninsula can be traced back as far as the Paleolithic Age. By examining other remains from the Paleolithic Age (such as hunting stones) collected in areas known today as Cheongsa-po of Haeundae and the new urban development areas of Jwa-dong and Jung-dong, it appears that people were present in Busan by the late Paleolithic Age.
Most of the ruins and remains in the Busan area to date are from the period after the beginning of the Neolithic Age.
The well-known remains of the Neolithic Age in Busan are shell mounds and these are all consistently located near rivers or the sea. (locations such as; Dongsam-dong, Yeongseon-dong, Dadae-dong, Amnam-dong, Geumgok-dong and Beombang.)
It appears therefore that our ancestors' life centered around fishing and access to water.
In particular, the Neolithic Culture of the southern coast region settled around modern-day Busan. It was influential on the Neolithic Culture found in the Kitakyushu region of Japan.
Busan is geographically located in the south-east corner of the Korean Peninsula, and this might explain the late arrival of the Bronze Age there. The ruins and remains of the Bronze Age are being discovered in places such as; Guseo-dong, Geumgang Park, Geumsa-dong, Sajik-dong, Bugok-dong, Goijeong-dong, and Nopo-dong.
The ruins being discovered are more numerous and significant when compared with the ruins of the Neolithic Age. Of particular note is the inland location of the ruins on hilly regions some distance from the sea.
Bronze Age communities in Busan used no patterned earthenware.
The Bronze Age had a great effect on the ensuing development of the Japanese Yayoi Culture.
Most ruins and remains from the Iron Age (throughout the Three Hans period, Gaya and the beginning of the Three Kingdoms) are shell mounds and old tombs.
Shell mounds and old tombs are found ranging throughout Jodo, Yeongseon-dong, Dadae-dong, Goejeong-dong, Dongnae Nakmin-dong, Oryundae, Hwamyeong-dong, Geumsa-dong, and Bokcheon-dong.
There are many more old tombs from the Busan region dating back to the Iron Age compared to other regions. Since the place for refining iron was discovered in Dongnae, further excavations have shown that Busan was the central production area for Iron in the region. It is also apparent that refined iron from here was exported to Japan, Naglang ,Dabang and other regions by means of the Suyeonggang River. Accounts of long distance trading were recorded in the "Wui History" chapter of the "History of the Three Kingdoms of China".
After this period, there were historic advancements in the area around the Suyeonggang River and Oncheoncheon stream.
According to studies of literature during this period, small territories such as Geochilsanguk and Dokloguk were influential.
In the middle of the 6th century, the Silla Kingdom annexed Gaya and the name for the Busan region was changed from Geochilsanguk to Geochilsangun. During the reign of King Gyeongdeock (757 CE) it was changed again from Geochilsangun to Dongnaehyeon. At that time, the name Dongnae appeared for the first time in historical records.
In the Goryeo Dynasty, the Busan region continued to use the administration system of the Silla.
In the middle of the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), during the reign of King Injong, the family of Dongnae Jeong rose to power in central politics but faced many new challenges. A family feud and a sense of entrapment between the nobility and the Jeong family occurred. The prominent government official Jeongseo was accused of disloyalty to the king and exiled to his hometown. After retreating to the Dongnae area Jeongseo set up beautiful pavilions and composed the poem “Jeong-gwajeong-gok” that stressed the virtues of faithfulness and integrity. Jeong-gwajeong-gok is the one of the best poems in Goryeo literature and is widely accepted as the origin of Busan literature itself.
Despite the political turmoil, Busan's military importance only became more solidified in the presence of external threats. As a result, a fortress was built in Busan to station troops in defence against Japan's expanding power.
In the Joseon Period (1392-1897) during the reign of King Taejo (1392-1398), the administrative boundary (jin) around Dongnae was established. Later, in the reign of King Taejong (1400-1418), the "Daeil Gyoyeokjang" (trading center) was also established. By 1470 trade was flourishing between the Kingdom of Joseon and Japan.
At the same time, Dongnae’s role in defence and diplomacy was becoming increasingly important for the expanding kingdom.
After the Imjin War (1592-1598) the need to forge a new and better relationship for Korea and Japan became a key policy goal. After the Imjin War, efforts were made at improving relations between the two hostile neighbors. The eventual improvements in the relationship saw the establishment of a trading system and delegations were exchanged between Korea and Japan.
During the late Joseon Dynasty, the Choryangwaegwan, which acted as a modern-day embassy, was the only place relations between Joseon and Japan ensued. It was also the place for establishing expanding trade links between the Eurasian Continent and the Far East.
It should not be forgotten, however, that the combined spirit of the anti-Imperial Japanese struggle and quest for national salvation bravely shown by citizens and soldiers alike has been handed down to Koreans today and has subliminally permeated the collective subconscious of their rights as citizens.
In the 19th century, Busan's struggle against the imperialist Japanese Empire was stronger than that of any other region. Many patriots, students, laborers and kisaeng entertainers alike, participated in the movement to resist Japanese encroachment.
With the end of World War II, the restoration of independence took place on August 15th, 1945.
Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, Busan became an enormous city of refugees and the last bastion of national power as the provisional capital. Busan was upgraded to a “Jikhalsi” (city under direct control of the government) in 1963 and a metropolitan city in January, 1995.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Busan emerged as a leading base for the economic rehabilitation and promotion of democracy in Korea.
However, increased foreign competition in the 1990s and the Asian Financial Crisis forced Busanites to show their toughness in the face of economic adversity.
After passing through a long, dark tunnel, Busan is well on its way to emerging stronger and better than ever before.
For reference, please visit Busan Museum, Dongsam-dong Shell Mounds, Bokcheon Museum, Chungnyeolsa Shrine, Baeksan Memorial Hall and the many other historical facilities in Busan. To really enjoy your time here, make the most of Busan's cultural heritage.