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King Taejo had named them for the earlier , the Han dynasty defeated Gojoseon and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula.
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.
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.
It has been tentatively linked with the title khan used by the nomads of Manchuria and Central Asia.
During the later part of the dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the Western nickname of the "Hermit Kingdom".
By the late 19th century, the country became the object of imperial design by the Empire of Japan.
This time period saw numerous states spring up from the former territories of Gojoseon, which encompassed northern Korea and southern Manchuria.
In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea in the aftermath of World War II, leaving Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel. These circumstances soon became the basis for the division of Korea by the two superpowers, exacerbated by their incapability to agree on the terms of Korean independence.
It is separated from Japan to the east by the Korea Strait and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
Korea emerged as a singular political entity in 676 AD, after centuries of conflict among the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which were unified as Unified Silla to the south and Balhae to the north.
To date, each country contends it is the sole legitimate government of all of Korea; they each refuse to recognize the other as legitimate. With expanding British and American trade following the opening of Korea in the late 19th century, the spelling "Korea" appeared and gradually grew in popularity; its use in transcribing East Asian languages avoids the issues caused by the separate hard and soft Cs existing in English vocabulary derived from the Romance languages.
The name Korea is now commonly used in English contexts by both North and South Korea.
In North Korea, China, Vietnam and Japan, Korea as a whole is referred to as "[land of the] Morning Calm").