|Fig.1: Official Vegas Odds
Of course, the war-loving Goguryeo were the ones to get the party started. They invaded Baekje in the 360s, as their territory was coveted for its fertile soil and secluded make-out spots along the Han River. Baekje showed that maybe they weren't willing to shake hands and share the land with just anyone: not only did they repel Goguryeo, but killed their king in a counter-invasion as well. These hippies don't mess around! Intermittent warfare continued between the two before Goguryeo's King Gwanggaeto took over the river valley around 404, forcing Baekje to move their capital to the south. The city of Pyongyang would be established by Goguryeo during this time, albeit without the creepy proletarian monuments that cover the city at present. Silla came out of their room every once in a while and changed alliances between Goguryeo and Baekje (when asked why, they would shout, "Cause I feel like it! Gosh!"). Meanwhile, Gaya discovered that they could tickle their own feet.
|Fig.2: Pretty much the greatest scene
ever depicted in a Buddhist shrine.
After a lull of just plain skirmishing and "Yo Mama" jokes, the Three Kingdoms were ready to go at it once again by 550. Baekje and Silla put aside their inherent differences and decided to take that arrogant Goguryeo down a notch or two. Through the magical power of teamwork, they took back the river valley Goguryeo stole from Baekje nearly two hundred years earlier. Baekje was willing to split the spoils with Silla, as well as hold a nine-day rock festival in typical hippie fashion (aka: without proper hygiene facilitates). Unfortunately for them, Silla did not hold the same sociological values and decided to take over all the land for themselves. While they were at it, they did the world a favor and annexed that butterfly-chasing Gaya kingdom as well. Silla wasn't going to hide behind those dark, greased-down bangs any longer.
|Fig.3: "Okay, I've got my big
boy belt on. Time to conquer
It was time for Tang to put their thinking caps on (which Taizong had the one he sported in fig.3 passed to his son and successor, Gaozong) and figure out an innovative way to invade Korea. Luckily, newly-extroverted Silla offered to help provide a base on the peninsula, in exchange for helping to get rid of those long-haired freaky people in Baekje. A combined attack in 660 reduced the Three Kingdoms down to two, and the rulers of Baekje were free to follow the Grateful Dead on tour whether they liked it or not. With Goguryeo trapped between Tang on the north and Silla to the south, it was only a matter of time before they shriveled up like a dead platypus (they seem like they would shrivel, wouldn't they?). They finally fell in 668, and Tang began to set up their own government in the region. But in a lesson worthy of the Berenstain Bears, Silla brought together the former officials and citizens of Goguryeo and Baekje to help kick the Chinese out of Korea! Hooray for xenophobia!
And so after nearly seven centuries of fighting amongst themselves, it was their common hatred of their neighbors that finally brought all the Koreans together in harmony. (There's a lesson in that somewhere, but it's probably not a very nice one, so let's move on.) In the end, it was dark horse Silla that emerged the victor in the War of the Three Kingdoms, making some bookies very happy. They would rule the united peninsula for less than another three centuries before an old fashioned East Asian rebellion took the dynasty down in 935. But the Three Kingdoms period would be important in establishing a Korean identity, and the age has been romanticized in several books, television dramas, and comedic history blogs. Maybe the present day split of Korea can become mended one day as well, perhaps through the skilled diplomacy of one Dennis Rodman.