"On the periphery of Chinese imperium lay a mountainous peninsula known for, among other things, its ingenious technological craftsmanship and pottery. Defend your mountain fortresses against fearsome invaders, obliterate your enemies with deadly siege weaponry, and construct armored Turtle Ships that can send any vessel to the depths of the ocean. The tactical genius of Wang Geon and Yi Sun Shin beckon!"
The Korean civilization is based on Korea during the Joseon Dynasty, which was a dynastic kingdom on the Korean Peninsula that lasted for five centuries. Like their predecessors, they are descendants of the Choson civilization, which inhabited the same peninsula. They are a defensive civilization using towers. Also, they utilize a variety of ranged units such as War Wagons, Onagers, and Turtle Ships at sea. One of their most recognized innovations was the Hwacha which fires a series of small bolt like rockets. This is represented by a Mangonel with higher range granted by their unique technology. Being able to successfully defend themselves despite the numerical disadvantages, they are a defensive civilization with a focus on ranged units. As a result of their innovation and knowledge of gunpowder (which originated in China, though the Koreans had to develop it separately since the Chinese kept their technologies a closely guarded secret) the Koreans are one of the few civilizations that have two unique units. The Castle-based unique unit is the War Wagon, a horse-drawn carriage that is essentially a heavily armored cavalry archer. The Dock-based unique unit is the Turtle Ship, an armored and spiked ship which is a heavily armored, short-range artillery ship that is effective against Fire Ships and Demolition Ships. The Koreans were also fine stone workers, especially in crafting sculptures and pottery whose highly prized ceramic coated celadon glaze was the finest in the world. To reflect their stone artisanship and defensive capabilities, their Villagers mine stone faster. Finally, to keep in touch with their defensive theme, their towers are automatically upgraded.
The Koreans focus on ships and towers and are a rather defensive civilization. As such, their non-ranged units are not very prominent. The lack of Blast Furnace hinders infantry and cavalry alike and the latter is further limited in its capabilities by the lack of Bloodlines and Plate Barding Armor. Their archers, however, get all the upgrades there are, including Hand Cannoneers. Their siege weapons are overall average without Heavy Scorpions and Siege Rams, but they get excellent Siege Onagers with greater range and shorter minimum range. Also, they get Bombard Cannons. The Koreans lack Demolition Ships completely, but get Turtle Ships, which are a major asset in naval battles, making the Koreans an overall very strong naval civilization. It is left to note, though, that they lack Elite Cannon Galleons, making it the only gunpowder unit the Koreans have no access to. Their Monks are overall weak. The defensive structures are a selling point for the Koreans despite the missing Hoardings. The towers get all upgrades (most notably Arrowslits), upgrade themselves for free, and get a range bonus that brings the range to a total of 13 - enough to retaliate to even Bombard Cannons (bar Turkish ones). Also, the fortifications are built faster. Put together with the stone mining bonus which increases the stone gathering speed, that makes the Koreans a civilization with outstanding defensive capabilities. The overall good economy is also helpful there.
When playing a random map game against the computer, the player may encounter any of the following Korean AI characters:
Admiral Chang Bo-ko (장보고/궁복; 787-846): A famous admiral from the Later Silla period known as a maritime figure who effectively controlled the Yellow Sea and dominated the trade with Heian Japan, and Tang China for decades.
Ch'oe Mu-son (최무선; 1325-1395): A Korean scientist/inventor and military commander during the late Goryeo Dynasty and early Joseon Dynasty, best known for allowing Korea to produce gunpowder of their own.
General Kang Kam-chan (강감찬; 948-1031): A Korean general from the Goryeo dynasty known for his victories during the Third Goryeo-Khitan War.
General Kwon Yul (권률/권율; 1537-1599): A Korean general and commander-in-chief who led the Korean forces during the Japanese invasion, best known for his victory at the Battle of Haengju.
General Kyebaek (계백; ?-660): A Korean general from the kingdom of Baekje known for his last stand on the Battle of Hwangsaebol; died 660.
General Taejoyoung (대조영; ?-719): A Korean general from the kingdom of Goguryeo who later established the state of Balhae as King Go (고왕); died 719.
General Ulji Mun-tok (을지문덕; ?-?): A Korean military leader from the kingdom of Goguryeo best known for defending Korea from Sui Chinese invasion, and remembered as one of Korea's greatest military heroes.
Kwanggaeto the Great (광개토태왕; 374-413): The nineteenth monarch of the kingdom of Goguryeo best known for bringing the kingdom into a golden age as one of the great powers on East Asia.
Yi Song-kye (이성계; 1335-1408) – Personal name of Taejo of Joseon, the founder and the first king of the Joseon dynasty.
Wang Kon (왕건; 877-943) – Personal name of Taejo of Goryeo, the founder and the first king of the Goryeo dynasty.
When Europe fell into its Dark Age, Korea had been divided into three competing kingdoms: Koguryo to the north, Paekche to the southwest, and Shilla to the southeast. In alliance with China, Shilla conquered the other two kingdoms in the 7th century and then expelled their erstwhile Chinese ally. The central authority of Shilla disintegrated in the 8th-9th centuries, however, under pressure from local lords. Korea was unified once again as Koryo in the 10th century and after that, recovered territory reaching up to the Amnok River border with China in 993. The civilian nobility was thrown out of power by a military coup in 1170 and military rule then lasted for sixty years.
The Mongols invaded in 1231, initiating a 30-year struggle. The Mongols were often distracted by their wars in China and elsewhere but eventually brought enough power to bear that Koryo made peace with the invaders in 1258. Under the Mongols the Koryo maintained their distinct culture and were inspired to demonstrate their superiority to their conquerors through a burst of artistic accomplishment.
Land reform, the rise of a new bureaucracy, the diminishment of Buddhism, and the rise of Confucianism around 1400 were part of the creation of a new kingdom, the Choson, that would rule Korea until the 20th century. China heavily influenced the Choson politically and culturally. Korea became an important center of learning, aided by the invention of movable type and the woodblock technique of publishing around 1234.
The greatest test of the Choson dynasty was invasion by samurai armies from Japan in 1592 that ostensibly planned to conquer China. Although seven years of fighting left much of the Korean peninsula devastated, the Japanese were forced to withdraw because their fleets could not keep open sea lines of supply and reinforcement back to Japan. The great Korean admiral Yi Sun-Shin defeated the Japanese at sea. One key to the Korean naval victories was their innovative turtle ships, the first cannon-bearing armored ships in history. The Japanese had no answer for these slow but powerful weapons.
Before the Definitive Edition, the Koreans were the only East Asian civilization to get Bombard Cannons. Currently, the Vietnamese. which now have the East Asian set, can also train Bombard Cannons.
The Koreans are the only East Asian civilization that cannot research Bloodlines.
Since patch 4.8 (where Arrowslits was removed from the Portuguese tech tree), Koreans are the only civilization with access to all University technologies.
Before the Definitive Edition (where the Vietnamese architecture is switched to East Asian style), the Koreans are the only East Asian civilization to have two unique units.
The tower range civilization bonus (+2 in total) is a callback to the Koreans' predecessor, the Choson.
Since patch 4.8, the Koreans are the only civilization that is unable to build any unit from the Demolition Ship line. Before the patch, the Aztecs were also unable to build the Demolition Raft.
During the development of The Conquerors, the Khmer - along with Tibetans and Koreans - were considered as one of the new factions to represent Asia. Eventually, the developers picked the Koreans because they were impressed with Turtle Ships and attracted by potential sales in South Korea.
The Koreans' civilization icon is based on Taegeuk, the Korean version of the yin-yang symbol.