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South Korea

The Republic of Korea (ROK for short; Daehan Min-guk (대한 민국; 大韓民國) in Korean) is a country in East Asia, covering the southern half of the peninsula of Korea.

To the north it borders North Korea with which it formed a single nation until 1948, while Japan lies across the East Sea (Sea of Japan; see Notice on Talk page) and Korea Strait to the southeast. The Korean name of the country means "Great Han Republic," and comes from Daehan Jeguk (대한 제국; 大韓帝國; "Great Han Empire"), the official name of Korea from the 1890s until the Japanese occupation of Korea. The country is commonly called Namhan (남한; 南韓; "South Han") in South Korea and Namchosŏn (남조선; 南朝鮮; "South Chosŏn" (McCune-Reischauer (MR))/"South Joseon" (Revised Romanization (RR))) 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
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 107th
99,274 km²
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 25th
 - Date
Japan is defeated in World War II - Korea regains autonomy
August 13, 1948
Currency Won
Time zone UTC +9
National anthem Aegukga
Internet TLD .KR
Calling Code82

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Provinces and Cities
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture and Tourism
8 Main Holidays
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External Links


Main articles: History of Korea, History of South Korea, Rulers of Korea

After the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was involuntarily divided-up into two zones of influence by the world's super powers, followed in 1948 by two matching governments: a communist North and a United States-influenced South. In June 1950, the Korean War started. The United Nations-backed South and the Chinese-backed North eventually reached a stalemate and an armistice 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, under the autocratic government of Syngman Rhee and the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee achieved rapid economic growth. Civil unrest dominated politics until protests succeeded in overthrowing the dictatorship and installing a more democratic form of government in the 1980's. A potential Korean reunification has remained a prominent topic; 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.


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 article: Administrative divisions of Korea. For historical information, see Provinces of Korea and Special cities of Korea.

South Korea consists of 9 Provinces (do, singular and plural; ; ), 1 Special City (Teukbyeolsi; 특별시; 特別市), and 6 Metropolitan Cities (Gwangyeoksi, singular and plural; 광역시; 廣域市):


Main article:
Geography of South Korea; Regions of 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 East Sea/Sea of Japan (see Notice on Talk page) to the east, and terminated by the Korea Strait and the East China Sea to the south. According to Koreans, Japan never returned back the name of Sea of Korea/Corea which had been used throughout 18th/19th century western maps after being defeated in World War II.

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.


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.


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 Joseph Stalin sent thousands of Koreans, against their will, to Central Asia (in the former U.S.S.R) from Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, while the majority of Korean population in Japan moved there during the colonial period.

Political, social and economic instability in South Korea have driven many South Koreans to emigrate 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. 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 the Great 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 high school 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 and Tourism

South Korea shares its traditional culture with that of North Korea. The Korean culture is influenced by that of China and Japan but is essentially distinct. Traditional culture has also been influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism.

Main article: Culture of Korea

Since its divsion into two separate states, the two Koreas have developed distinct contemporary forms of culture.

Main article: Contemporary culture of South Korea

South Koreans must receive permission from their government to visit North Korea, or may be imprisoned under the draconian National Security Laws upon return.

Main 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 3.1절To commemorate a nation-wide independence movement which took place in 1919 in protest against Japan's immoral colonisation
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 15Indepedence 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

Countries of the world  |  Asia