The Koreans

For the Civilopedia entry on the Koreans, click here.

An ancient Korean proverb describes Korea as a “shrimp among whales”, referring to the three great powers of China, Japan, and Russia that surround the small peninsula. Despite its small status, Korea has historically been able to use cunning diplomacy and shrewd defensive wars to retain its independence. A player who chooses Korea will have to show similar slyness in order to prosper.

At first glance, Korea appears to be a copy of Greece, but with a cannon Unique Unit. While true that Korea, like Greece, is Scientific and Commercial, Korean play is markedly different. Scientific and Commercial are both traits that are most powerful in the mid- to late-game. So, a Korean player has the potential to become a deadly late-game threat, ahead in technology, with a productive empire and a prosperous economy- if they can survive that long. The logical inverse of Korea’s ability to thrive in the late-game is its inability to keep up in the early ages, especially the rapid early expansion phase. Besides starting with two of the most prized techs, Alphabet and Bronze Working, Korea has almost no other advantages to use in its early development. One is hard-pressed to find a Civ that expands and grows slower than Korea. This is devastating when one takes into account that the eventual outcome of most games are decided before the age in which Korea can shine.

Korea is primarily geared toward being a builder Civ. Any Scientific Civ has the potential to be a builder, because scientific improvements are consistently the highest culture producing buildings. Add to this the Commercial trait, which works on cheaper libraries and universities by fighting shields lost to waste, producing those buildings even faster. The result can be some of the earliest libraries and universities in the game. Unfortunately, only under ideal conditions is Korea free to concentrate on culture.

Korea, especially in the early game, tends to play distressingly weakly in the military area. Though a warmongering strategy with Korea can work, it is only possible if the player has used Korea’s building strength to create a strong and productive infrastructure to outproduce aggressive neighbors. In the ancient ages, a Korean player is most vulnerable and would generally be wise to avoid war, perhaps even appeasing powerful hostiles with gifts.

It is in the unique unit department that Greek and Korean play so drastically differ. Greek Hoplites are incredible defenders that are immediately available and not obsolete until the development of cavalry. This shields the Greeks from their early-game weaknesses. Korea has no such saving grace. The Hwach’a is a mildly intriguing unit that replaces the cannon. Its stats are identical to the cannon’s, but it has the power of Lethal Land and Sea Bombardment, and does not require iron to build. While a very helpful unit because of its ability to eliminate enemy stacks without risk, it is by no means a game-breaker. They are poorly placed in the tech-tree to be effective- to get them early would require a deviation from the upper, peaceful branches of the Middle Ages tech tree; a deviation that does not benefit a builder player like Korea. To arrive at the Hwach’a as one of the last items researched in the Middle Ages puts them both too late to be very effective, as well as giving the Korean player an awkwardly timed Golden Age. (For those not in the know, a Korean Golden Age is triggered when a Hwach’a bombs a unit out of existence.)


Though Korea is crippled by its weak early game, it is most hurt by comparison to Greece. There is no reason to play Korea that is not better served by playing Greece, except perhaps the sheer challenge. If Korea can survive long enough, it is a 1st rate builder; but its 3rd rate warmongering and general early unreliability, as well as a novelty UU, give it a 3rd tier status.

Discuss this article in the forum