The Phanerozoic subduction system of the Korean peninsula is considered to have been activated by at least Middle Permian time. The geochemically arc-like Andong ultramafic complex (AUC) occurring along the border between the Precambrian Yeongnam massif and the Cretaceous Gyeongsang back-arc basin provides a rare opportunity for direct study of the pre-Cretaceous mantle wedge lying above the subduction zone. The tightly constrained SHRIMP U–Pb age of zircons extracted from orthopyroxenite specimens (222.1±1.0 Ma) is indistinguishable from the Ar/Ar age of coexisting phlogopite (220±6 Ma). These ages represent the timing of suprasubduction zone magmatism likely in response to the sinking of cold and dense oceanic lithosphere and the resultant extensional strain regime in a nascent arc environment. The nearly coeval occurrence of a syenite-gabbro-monzonite suite in the SW Yeongnam massif also suggests an extensional tectonic setting along the continental margin side during Late Triassic time. The relatively enriched ɛHf range of dated zircons (+6.2 to −0.6 at 222 Ma) is in contrast to previously reported primitive Sr–Nd–Hf isotopic features of Cenozoic mantle xenoliths from Korea and eastern China. This enrichment is not ascribed to contamination by the hypothetical Palaeozoic crust beneath SE Korea, but is instead attributable to metasomatism of the lithospheric mantle during the earlier subduction of the palaeo-Pacific plate. Most AUC zircons show a restricted core-to-rim spread of ɛHf values, but some grains testify to the operation of open-system processes during magmatic differentiation.