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South Korea

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is a country in eastern Asia, covering the southern half of the peninsula of Korea. To the north its borders North Korea with which it formed a single nation until 1948, while Japan lies across the Korea Strait[?] to the southeast. It is commonly known locally as Han-guk (한국; 韓國), meaning "The Nation of Han". It is called South Chosŏn or Nam Chosŏn (남조선; 南朝鮮) in North Korea.

대한민국 / 大韓民國
Daehan Min-guk
(In Detail[?])
National motto: None
Official language Korean
Capital Seoul
PresidentRoh Moo-hyun
Prime minister Goh Kun[?]
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 107th
99,274 km²
0.3%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 25th
48,324,000
491/km²
Independence
 - Date
From Japan
August 15, 1945
Currency South Korean won[?]
Time zone UTC +9
National anthem Aegukga
Internet TLD .KR
Calling Code82

Table of contents

History Main article: History of South Korea
About history before the division, see History of Korea.

After the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into two zones of influence, followed in 1948 by two matching governments: a communist North and a United States-influenced South. In June 1950 the North invaded the South igniting the Korean War. The United Nations-backed South and the Chinese-backed North eventually reached a stalemate and an armastice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarised zone at about the 38th parallel, which had been the original demarcation line.

Thereafter, the southern Republic of Korea achieved rapid economic growth, while autocratic governments and civil unrest dominated politics until protests succeeded in starting democratic reforms. A potential Korean reunification has remained a prominent topic and no peace treaty has yet been signed with the North. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place, part of the South's continuing "Sunshine Policy[?]" of engagement, despite recent concerns over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

Politics Main article: Politics of South Korea

Head of state of the republic of Korea is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a single five-year term. In addition to being the highest representative of the republic and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the president also has considerable executive powers and appoints the prime minister with approval of parliament, as well as appointing and presiding over the State Council or cabinet.

The unicameral Korean parliament is the National Assembly or Kukhoe, whose members serve a four-year term of office. The legislature currently has 273 seats, of which 227 are elected by popular vote and the remainder are distributed proportionately among parties winning five seats or more. This system, possibly along with the number of seats, will be revised starting in 2004. The highest judiciary body is the Supreme Court, whose justices are appointed by the president with the consent of parliament.

Provinces and Cities Main articles: Provinces and Metro cities of South Korea

South Korea consists of 9 provinces (do, singular and plural; ; ) and 7 metropolitan cities (gwang-yeog-si, singular and plural; 광역시; 廣域市), marked by a *:

Geography Main article: Geography of South Korea

Korea forms a peninsula that extends some 1,100 km from the Asian mainland, flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west and the Sea of Japan (a disputed name, called the East Sea by Koreans) to the east, and terminated by the Korea Strait[?] and the East China Sea to the south. The southern landscape consists of partially forested mountain ranges to the east, separated by deep, narrow valleys. Densely populated and cultivated coastal plains are found in the west and south.

The local climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma, and winters that can be bitterly cold on occasion. South Korea's capital and largest city is Seoul in the northwest, other major cities include nearby Incheon, central Daejeon[?], Gwangju[?] in the southwest and Daegu[?] and Busan in the southeast.

Economy Main article: Economy of South Korea

As one of the four East Asian Tigers, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Three decades ago GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. Today its GDP per capita is roughly 20 times North Korea's and equal to the lesser economies of the European Union.

This success through the late 1980s was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labour effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector.

Growth plunged by 6.6% in 1998, then strongly recovered to 10.8% in 1999 and 9.2% in 2000. Growth fell back to 3.3% in 2001 because of the slowing global economy, falling exports, and the perception that much-needed corporate and financial reforms have stalled. Led by industry and construction, growth in 2002 was an impressive 5.8%, despited anemic global growth.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of South Korea

Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world, with the only minority being a small Chinese community. Koreans have lived in Manchuria for many centuries, who are now a minority in China, and Joeseph Stalin[?] sent thousands of Koreans[?], against their will, to Central Asia (in the former U.S.S.R.) from Vladivostok, while the Korean population in Japan moved there during the colonial period.

Political, social and economic instability in South Korea have driven many South Koreans to emmigrate to foreign countries, amongst which the friendship, freedom and opportunities provided by the United States and Canada render popularity.

The city of Seoul is the most populated single city (excluding greater metropolitan areas) in the world that human civilization has yet to build. Its density has allowed it to become one of the most "digitally-wired" cities in today's globally connected ecomony.

The Korean language is a member of a wider linguistic family of the Altaic languages. The Korean writing system, Hangeul, was invented in 1446 by King Sejong to widely spread education --- as Chinese characters were thought to be too difficult and time consuming for a common person to learn --- through the Royal proclamation of Hoonminjungeum [훈민정음/訓民正音)] which literally means the "proper sounds to teach the general public." It is different from the Chinese form of written communication as it is phonetically based.

Numerous underlying words still stem from Hanja and older people in Korea still prefer to write words in Hanja, as they were strictly forbidden to study and speak the Korean language when Japan ruled. Koreans are the only people in the world who fully understand how, when and why their written language was created through the transcripts of King Sejong's innovative contribution.

In 2000 the government decided to introduce a new romanisation system, which this article also uses. English is taught as a second language in most primary and intermediate schools. Those students in highschool are also taught 2 years of either Chinese, Japanese, French, German or Spanish as an elective course.

Christianity (49%) and Buddhism (47%) comprise South Korea's two dominant religions. Though only 3% identified themselves as Confucianists, Korean society remains highly imbued with Confucian values and beliefs. The remaining 1% of the population practice Shamanism (traditional spirit worship) and Cheondogyo[?] ("Heavenly Way"), a traditional religion.

Culture Main article: Culture of South Korea[?]

Holidays
DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year's Day  
January 1 (Lunar)Lunar New Year's DaySeollal 설날Usually in early February
March 1Independence Movement DaySamil Jeol 3.1절Independence Movement under Japanese Colonisation in 1919
April 5Arbor DaySingmogil 식목일 
May 5Children's DayEorininal 어린이날 
April 8 (Lunar)Buddha's BirthdayBucheonim Osinnal 부처님오신날Usually in late May
June 6Memorial DayHyeonchung-il 현충일 
July 17Constitution DayJehyeonjeol 제현절The first Constitution proclaimed in 1948
August 15Liberation DayGwangbokjeol 광복절Independence from Japanese Colonisation in 1945
August 15 (Lunar)Thanks Giving DayChuseok 추석Usually in late September
October 3National Foundation DayGaecheonjeol 개천절 
December 25Christmas  

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

  • Korea.net (http://www.korea.net) - Official ROK portal
  • Cheong Wa Dae (http://www.cwd.go.kr/warp/app/home/en_home) - Official presidential site
  • Kukhoe (http://eng.assembly.go.kr) - Official parliamentary site


Countries of the world  |  Asia



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