The Joseon Dynasty was founded in 1392 by Korean general Yi Seonggye (Taejo), who overthrew the former kingdom of Goryeo and established the kingdom of Joseon in a coup d'etat, simultaneously ending the period of Mongol domination that had begun in 1259.

During the Joseon Dynasty, a centralized administrative system was installed and Confucianism adopted. With Confucianism there was a new moral system established in Korea.

In 1592 and 1597 Korea was invaded by Japanese troops, but these invasions were eventually resisted in 1598 with Chinese help. Following these events the kingdom became increasingly isolationist. The rulers sought to cut off all contact to foreign countries. This is why Korea is sometimes known as the hermit kingdom.

More than a century later, in the 17th century, the Manchus defeated the Ming dynasty, and the Korean rulers were forced to pay tribute to the Chines rulers. By the middle of the 19th century, Japan and China disputed over the Korean penisula. After defeating China in 1894-1895 Japan increased its influence on Korea. The country became a protectorate, and in 1910 annexed the country as a colony. This ended the Joseon Dynasty.

The Joseon Dynasty is sometimes refered to as the "Lee Dynasty" or the "Yi Dynasty".