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SOUTH KOREA
 
   
   
 

South Korea Identity Card

Country name:
~ conventional long form: Republic of Korea
~ conventional short form: South Korea
~ local long form: Taehan-min'guk
 
Area: 98,480 sq km
Coastline: 2,413 km
Highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
Population: 48,422,644
Density: 491/km2
Population growth rate: 0.38%
Language: Korean
Religions: no affiliation 46%, Christian 26%, Buddhist 26%, Confucianist 1%, other 1%
Government type: republic
Capital: Seoul
GDP - per capita: $19,200
Inflation rate: 3.6%
Currency (code): South Korean won (KRW)
Vehicle Country Id-Code: ROK
ISO CODE Alpha2: KR
ISO CODE Alpha3: KOR
ISO NUMERIC CODE: 410
Calling code: +82
Internet country code: .kr
Time Zone: + 9.0 H

 
 
 
 

Seoul bridges at night

South Korea is bestowed with abundant natural and historical splendours that project the nation as one of the most happening Asian destination in the world. The country is situated on the southern half of the Korean peninsula, which is located below the 38th parallel line. Except for the northern boundaries with North Korea, the country has no other land borders. It has an extended coastline all around the other sides. While the east coasts are drenched by the waves of Sea of Japan, the western frontiers are washed by the Yellow Sea. The Korea Strait separates the South Korean mainland from Japan in the southern side along with the East China Sea. There is also several off shore islands attached to the country. South Korea, referred as ‘Daehan Minguk’ in local Korean dialect, proclaimed as Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948. Seoul is the largest and capital city of the country. Busan is the country's chief port that boasts of an excellent natural harbour near the delta of the Nakdong River. Other important cities of South Korea are Daegu, Incheon, Ulsan and Gwuangju.
South Korea due to its strategic positioning in East Asia has been subject to centuries of war games and witnessed a series of invasion from neighbouring countries. However, each time it emerged as victorious. After its independence in middle half of the twentieth century, South Korea pulled the top gear to economic growth and today it is regarded as one of the “Four Asian Tigers”. It is well regarded as a democratic republic with a teeming population of 48.42 million people. South Korea has one of the world’s highest population densities. The South Korean populace is dominated by the native and ethnic race with minorities of Chinese and people from other Asian countries. Christianity (49%) and Buddhism (47%) comprise the country’s two dominant religions.


Seoul Skyline and Namsan tower at night

Geography

The de-militarised zone covering 238 km long area is the only land frontier of South Korea that it shares with North Korea on the north side. However the Japanese islands of Honshu and Kyushu are not far away at a distance of 200 kilometers to the southeast across the Korean Strait. The Shandong Peninsula of China comes closer with 190 kilometers to the west. The country is spread over an area of 98,477 square kilometres and boasts of a wide coastline by the Korean Bay, and Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan. The eastern shores of South Korea are comparatively smoother compared to the jagged ones of western and southern lines. The later have conglomeration of many islands along their sides. The largest island is Cheju with an area of 1,825 square kilometres, and Ullung in the Sea of Japan and Kanghwa Island at the mouth of the Han River.
Overall the terrain of South Korea provides the much-needed green relief amidst the rolling mountains. Over 70% of the land is mountainous with the eastern regions consisting of mainly rugged mountain ranges and deep valleys. The three major mountain ranges of South Korea are the Taebaek Mountains and Sobaek ranges and the Chiri Massif. The foothills and mountains have become popular with tourists for hiking and other adventurous activities. The highest point of South Korea is Halla-san at 1,950 m. Most of the larger rivers and forests are located in the west. The Naktong is South Korea's longest river followed by the Han River, 514 kilometers long and flowing through Seoul, and the Kum River is 401 kilometers long. The coastline is dotted with bays and it has some of the highest tides in the world. The eastern coastline has many sandy beaches, while the western side consists mainly of mud flats and rocky shores.
Climate
The climate of South Korea resembles that of the North Korea, except the fact that it is less prone to vagaries of nature like earthquakes or typhoons. Its general weather condition is temperate with four distinct seasons. Winters are usually long, cold, and dry, whereas summers are short, hot, and humid. Spring and autumn are a welcome break but stay for a little time period. Monsoons come in good amount over the landscape of South Korea and supplements it agriculture needs.

History

Highway of Seoul

The historical timeline of South Korea begins from the Tangun reign in BC 2333 when it was part of the undivided great Korean Peninsula. It experienced many invasions by its larger neighbours in its 2,000 years of recorded history. The Chinese influence over the country declined by the end of the twentieth century and Korea became vulnerable to Western and Japanese encroachment. In 1910, Japan began a 35-year period of colonial rule over Korea. This left a remarkable Japanese cultural influence over the region, which is still evident in present generation of South Korean population. Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers in 1945 brought the end of World War II. However, Korea’s in foreign rivalries were far from over. A political division by the 38th Parallel marked the beginning of Soviet and U.S. trusteeship over the North and South, respectively. On August 15, 1948 the Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) was established, with Syngman Rhee as the first President. The newfound identity was disturbed by the attack of North Korean forces over South Korea on June 25, 1950. Led by the United States of America, a coalition undertook the first collective action under United Nations Command. Following China’s entry on behalf of North Korea later that year, a stalemate ensued for the final two years of the conflict. Armistice negotiations, initiated in July 1951, were ultimately concluded on July 27, 1953 at Panmunjom, in the now Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
In the following decades, South Korea experienced political turmoil under autocratic leadership. President Syngman Rhee was forced to resign in April 1960 following a student-led uprising. The Second Republic under the leadership of Chang Myon ended after only one year, when Major General Park Chung-hee led a military coup. Park’s rule, which resulted in tremendous economic growth and development but increasingly restricted political freedoms, ended with his assassination in 1979. Subsequently, a powerful group of military officers, led by Lieutenant General Chun Doo Hwan came into power. Composed primarily of students and labour union activists, protests movements reached a climax after Chun’s 1979 coup and declaration of democratic rule in the country. Kim Young-sam became Korea’s first civilian elected president in 32 years.


Downtown of Seoul

Economy

South Korea is one of the most formidable financial success stories in the world. The Republic of Korea’s economic growth over the past 30 years has been spectacular. Per capita GNP, only $100 in 1963, exceeded $14,000 in 2004. South Korea is now the United States’ seventh-largest trading partner and is the 11th-largest economy in the world. The reason for such fiscal upsurge lies in the fact that recent years Korea’s economy moved away from the centrally planned, government-directed investment model toward a more market-oriented one. Korea bounced back from the 1997-98 Asian market crisis with some International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance. It also followed some extensive financial reforms that restored stability to markets. Economic performance of South Korea in 2004 improved to 4.6%, based largely on vibrant exports. Agriculturally, the country has developed too. Rice is the chief crop of South Korea, with wet paddy fields constituting about half of the farmland. Barley, wheat, corn, soybeans, and grain sorghums are also extensively cultivated. The South Korean government has expanded irrigation facilities, constructed numerous dams, and initiated land reclamation projects to supplement growth in this sector. However, Korean financial policy makers are increasingly worried about high rate of inflation and unemployment.


Cable car in Seoul

Politics

The political system of South Korea provides enough breathing space for democracy and the population to wield their republican rights. South Koreans at or over the age of 20 can apply their voting rights. It has a distinct segregation of executive, legislature and the judiciary sections. The president is chief of state and is elected for a single term of 5 years. The 299 members of the unicameral National Assembly are elected to 4-year terms--243 members are from single-seat districts and 46 members are chosen by proportional representation. South Korea’s judicial system comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court; the judiciary is independent under the constitution. The country has nine provinces and seven administratively separate cities--the capital of Seoul, along with Pusan, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju, Incheon and Ulsan. Political parties include the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), Grand National Party (GNP); Millennium Democratic Party (MDP); and, Our Open Party/"Uri" Party (UP). In August 1991, South Korea joined the United Nations along with North Korea and is active in most UN specialized agencies and many international forums. The Republic of Korea also hosted major international events such as the 1988 Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup Soccer Tournament (co-hosted with Japan), and the 2002 Second Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies.

 



 

 

 
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