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South Korea
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South Korea

The Republic of Korea (ROK; Korean: Daehan Minguk (Hangul: 대한 민국; Hanja: 大韓民國)) commonly known as South Korea is a country in East Asia, covering the southern half of the Korean peninsula. To the north, the Republic of Korea borders North Korea, with which it formed a single nation until 1948, while Japan lies across East Sea and Korea Strait to the southeast. The country is commonly called Hanguk (한국; 韓國) by South Koreans and Namchosŏn (남조선; 南朝鮮; "South Chosŏn;") in North Korea.

대한 민국
Daehan Minguk 大韓民國
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official language Korean
Capital Seoul
PresidentRoh Moo-hyun
Prime MinisterLee Hae-chan
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 107th
99,274 km²
0.3%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 25th
48,324,000
491/km²
Independence
-Liberation
-Constitution
World War II:
August 15, 1945
July 17, 1948
GDP (base PPP)
 - Total (2002)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 11th
931 billions $
19,400 $
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 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links

History

Main articles: History of Korea, History of South 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 Chunghee 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.

See also: rulers of Korea

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 Gukhoe (국회), whose members serve a four-year term of office. The legislature currently has 299 seats, of which 243 are elected by regional vote and the remainder are distributed by the proportional representation ballot. 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.

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): See also: provinces of Korea and special cities of Korea

Geography

Main articles: 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 East See(Sea of Japan) to the east, and terminated by the Tsushima 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.

See also: regions of Korea

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

The Korean people

Korea's population is one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogenous in the world, with the only minority being a small Chinese community. People whose parents are a mixed couple (e.g. American servicemen, European businessmen... who married a Korean woman) are perceived as a minority there and quite often discriminated (e.g. children at school). 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 was brought there as forced labor 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. California has an extremely large number of Koreans and Korean-Americans, numbering well over one million people.

Cities

About 85 percent of South Koreans live in urban areas. The capital city of Seoul had 10.4 million inhabitants in 2000, making it 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. Other major cities include Busan (3.9 million), Incheon (2.9 million), Daegu (2.65 million), Daejeon (1.48 million), Gwangju (1.38 million) and Ulsan (1.15 million).

Language

The Korean language, thought by some scholars to be a member of a wider linguistic family of the Altaic languages, is currently classified as a language isolate by western scholars. Its vocabulary, however, has borrowed a lot from neighboring countries, especially from Chinese.

The Korean writing system, Hangul, 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 Hunminjeongeum (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.

Religion

Christianity (31.7%) and Buddhism (23.9%) comprise South Korea's two dominant religions. Christianity grew exponentially in the 1970s and early 1980s, and despite slower growth in the 1990s, overtook Buddhism as the largest single faith. Presbyterians (with around 7.8 million members), Roman Catholics (3.8 million), Pentecostals (1.7 million), and Methodists (1.4 million) are the largest denominations. Statistics have been published purporting to show that almost 50 percent of South Koreans are Christians, but these figures are almost certainly inflated, due to the high incidence of dual membership and unrecorded transferal of membership among different denominations. Christians, although well represented in all parts of South Korea, are especially strong around Seoul, where they comprise about 50 percent of the population. Buddhism is stronger in the more conservative south of the country. There are a number of different "schools" in Buddhism; among them are the Seon (선); (closely related to Zen in Japan and Chan in China, and the more modern Wonbulgyo (원불교); movement, which emphasizes the unity of all things. Other religions comprise about 9.4 percent of the population. These include Shamanism (traditional spirit worship) and Cheondogyo, an indigenous religion combining elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Christianity. Confucianism is small in terms of self-declared adherents, but the great majority of South Koreans, irrespective of their formal religious affiliation, are strongly influenced by Confucianist values, which continue to permeate Korean culture. About 35 percent of South Koreans profess to follow no particular religion. There are also about 37 000 members of the Bahai Faith and about 33 000 Muslims.

Culture and tourism

Main articles: culture of Korea, contemporary culture of South Korea

South Korea shares its traditional culture with that of North Korea. Throughout history, the Korean culture was influenced by that of China. Today, there is a big boom in China where the wind is blowing in the opposite direction in terms of popular music, fashion and television drama.

Traditional culture has also been influenced by Buddhism, Christianity and Confucianism. Many great scholars and philosophers lived in Korea, but are not well known to outsiders who show lack of deep interest in Korean studies.

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

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

Miscellaneous topics

External links


[ Edit {}] Countries in East Asia
China (PRC) | Japan | North Korea | South Korea | Taiwan (ROC)