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South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK) ( , ) and often simply referred to as Koreamarker, is a country in East Asia, located on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by Chinamarker to the west, Japanmarker to the east, and North Koreamarker to the north. Its capital is Seoulmarker, the second largest metropolitan city in the world and a major global city. South Korea lies in a temperate climate region with a predominantly mountainous terrain. Its territory covers a total area of 100,032 square kilometers and has a population of over 48 million, making it the third most densely populated (significantly sized) country in the world (after Bangladesh and Taiwan).

Archaeological findings show that the Korean Peninsula was occupied as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. Korean history begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by Dangun. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea under Silla 668 AD, Korea went through the Goryeo Dynastymarker and Joseon Dynastymarker as one nation until the end of the Korean Empiremarker in 1910, when Korea was annexed by Japanmarker. After liberation and occupation by Soviet and U.S. forces at the end of World War II, the nation was divided into North and South Korea. The latter was established in 1948 as a democracy. A war between the two Koreas ended in an uneasy cease-fire. After the war and a period of military rule, the South Korean economy grew significantly and the country was transformed into a major economy and a full democracy.

South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of 16 administrative divisions and is a developed country with a high standard of living. It has the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 15th largest in the world. The economy is export-driven, with production focusing on electronics, automobile, ship, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics. South Korea is a member of the United Nations, WTO, OECD and G-20 major economies. It is also a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit, and a major non-NATO ally of the United Statesmarker.


Like many democracies, South Korea's government is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and legislative branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels. South Korea is a constitutional democracy.

The South Korean government's structure is determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. This document has been revised several times since its first promulgation in 1948 at independence. However, it has retained many broad characteristics and with the exception of the short-lived Second Republic of South Korea, the country has always had a presidential system with an independent chief executive. The first direct election was also held in 1948. Although South Korea experienced a series of military dictatorships since the 1960s up until the 1980s, it has since developed into a successful liberal democracy. Today, the CIA World Factbook describes South Korea's democracy as a "fully functioning modern democracy".


Before division

Korea began with the founding of Joseon (The name Gojoseon is almost always used to prevent confusion with another Joseon dynasty founded in 14th century; the prefix Go- means 'old' or 'earlier') in 2333 BCE by Dangun. Gojoseon expanded until it controlled much of the northern Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria. After numerous wars with the Chinese Han Dynasty, Gojoseon disintegrated, leading to the Proto-Three Kingdoms of Korea period.

In the early centuries of the Common Era, Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and the Samhan confederacy occupied the peninsula and southern Manchuria. Of the various small states, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla grew to control the peninsula as the Three Kingdoms. The unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla in 676 led to the North South States Period, in which much of the Korean peninsula was controlled by Unified Silla, while Balhae succeeded the northern parts of Goguryeo. In Unified Silla, poetry and art was encouraged, and Buddhist culture flourished. Relationships between Korea and China remained relatively peaceful during this time. However, Unified Silla weakened under internal strife, and surrendered to Goryeomarker in 935. Balhae, Silla's neighbor to the north, was formed as a successor state to Goguryeo. During its height, Balhae controlled most of Manchuria and parts of Russia. It fell to the Khitan in 926.

After the North-South Period, successor states fought for control during the Later Three Kingdoms period. The peninsula was soon united by Emperor Taejo of Goryeomarker. Like Silla, Goryeo was a highly cultural state and created the Jikji in 1377, using the world's oldest movable metal printing press.

The Mongol invasions in the 13th century greatly weakened Goryeo. After nearly 30 years of war, Goryeo continued to rule Korea, though as a tributary ally to the Mongols. After the Mongolian Empire collapsed, severe political strife followed and the Goryeo Dynasty was replaced by the Joseon Dynastymarker in 1388 following a rebellion by General Yi Seong-gye.

King Taejo declared the new name of Korea as "Joseon" in reference to Gojoseon, and moved the capital to Seoulmarker. The first 200 years of the Joseon Dynasty were marked by relative peace and saw the creation of Hangul by King Sejong the Great in the 14th century and the rise in influence of Confucianism in the country.

Between 1592 and 1598, the Japanese invaded Korea. Toyotomi Hideyoshi led the forces and tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea, but was eventually repelled by the Righteous army and assistance from Ming Dynastymarker Chinamarker. This war also saw the rise of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and his reknowned "turtle ship". In the 1620s and 1630s, Joseon suffered from invasions by the Manchu who eventually conquered all of China.

After another series of invasions from Manchuria, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. King Yeongjo and King Jeongjo especially led a new renaissance of the Joseon Dynasty.

However, the latter years of the Joseon Dynasty were marked by excessive dependence on China for external affairs and isolation from the outside world. During the 19th century, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the name the "Hermit Kingdom". The Joseon Dynasty tried to protect itself against Western imperialism, but was eventually forced to open trade beginning an era which eventually led to 35 years of Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945). After the end of World War II, the Japanese surrendered to Soviet and U.S. forces who occupied the northern and southern halves of Korea, respectively.

After division

Despite the initial plan of a unified Korea in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, escalating Cold War antagonism between the Soviet Union and the United States eventually led to the establishment of separate governments, each with its own ideology, leading to Korea's division into two political entities in 1948: North Koreamarker and South Korea. In the North, a former anti-Japanese guerrilla and communist activist, Kim Il-sung gained power through Soviet support, and in the South, an exiled and right-wing Korean political leader, Syngman Rhee, was installed as president.
On 25 June 1950, North Korea launched an attempt to unify the country by military force which lead to the Korean War. At the time, the Soviet Union had boycotted the United Nations (UN), thus forfeiting their veto rights. This allowed the UN to intervene in a civil war when it became apparent that the superior North Korean forces would unify the entire country. The Soviet Union and Chinamarker backed North Korea, with the later participation of millions of Chinese troops. After huge advances on both sides, and massive losses among Korean civilians in both the north and the south, the war eventually reached a stalemate. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along the demilitarized zone near the original demarcation line. No peace treaty was signed, resulting in the two countries remaining technically at war. At least 2.5 million people died during the Korean War.

In 1960, a student uprising led to the resignation of the autocratic President Syngman Rhee. A period of political instability followed, broken by General Park Chung-hee's military coup (the "5-16 coup d'état") against the weak and ineffectual government the next year. Park took over as president until his assassination in 1979, overseeing rapid export-led economic growth as well as severe political repression. Park was heavily criticised as a ruthless military dictator, although the Korean economy developed significantly during his tenure.

The years after Park's assassination were marked again by considerable political turmoil as the previously repressed opposition leaders all campaigned to run for president in the sudden political void. In 1980 there was another coup d'état by General Chun Doo-hwan against the transitional government of Choi Gyu Ha, the interim president and a former prime minister under Park. Chun assumed the presidency. His seizure of power triggered nationwide protests demanding democracy, in particular in the city of Gwangju, in Jeollanam-domarker, where Chun sent special forces to violently suppress the Gwangju Democratization Movement.

Chun and his government held Korea under a despotic rule until 1987, when Park Jong Chul—a student attending Seoul National Universitymarker—was tortured to death. On 10 June, the Catholic Priests' Association for Justice revealed Park's torture, igniting huge demonstrations around the country. Eventually, Chun's party, the Democratic Justice Party, and its leader, Roh Tae-woo announced the June 29th Declaration, which included the direct election of the president. Roh went on to win the election by a narrow margin against the two main opposition leaders, Kim Dae-Jung and Kim Young-Sam.

In 1988, Seoul successfully hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, and continuing economic development led to membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1996. As with many of its Asian neighbors, South Korea was adversely affected by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, however the country was able to recover and continue its economic growth.

In June 2000, as part of president Kim Dae-Jung's "Sunshine Policy" of engagement, a North-South summit took place in Pyongyangmarker, the capital of North Korea. Later that year, Kim received the [[Nobel Peace Prize] "for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular."

In 2002, South Korea and Japan jointly co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup, however South Korean and Japanese relations later soured due to conflicting claims of sovereignty over the Liancourt Rocksmarker (known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan), in what became known as the Liancourt Rocks dispute.

Foreign relations

South Korea maintains diplomatic relations with approximately 170 countries. The country has also been a member of the United Nations since 1991, when it became a member state at the same time as North Korea. On January 1, 2007, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon assumed the post of UN Secretary-General. It has also developed links with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as both a member of ASEAN Plus three, a body of observers, and the East Asia Summit (EAS).

Beginning in May 2007, South Korea and the European Union are negotiating a free trade agreement to reduce trade barriers. South Korea is also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Canadamarker, and another with New Zealandmarker.

United States

The United States engaged in the decolonization of Korea (mainly South, Soviet Union engaged North Korea) from Japan after World War II. After 3 years of military administration by the United States, the South Korean government was established.Upon the onset of the Korean War, the U.S. forces were sent to defend South Korea against invasion by North Korea and later China. Since then, the two nations have had strong economic, diplomatic and military ties, although they have at times disagreed with regards to policies towards North Korea. Currently, the U.S. Eighth Army, Seventh Air Force and U.S. Naval Forces Korea are stationed in South Korea. In 2007, a free trade agreement known as the Republic of Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) was signed between South Korea and the United States, but has not yet been approved by the legislative bodies of the two countries.


Historically, Korea has had relatively close relations with the Republic of Chinamarker. Before the formation of South Korea, Korean independence fighters worked with Chinese soldiers during the Japanese occupation. However, after World War II, the People's Republic of Chinamarker embraced Maoism while South Korea sought close relations with the United States. The PRC assisted North Korea with manpower and supplies during the Korean War, and in its aftermath the diplomatic relationship between South Korea and the PRC almost completely ceased. Relations thawed gradually and South Korea and the PRC re-established formal diplomatic relations on August 24, 1992. The two countries sought to improve bilateral relations and lifted the forty-year old trade embargo, and South Korean-Chinese relations have improved steadily since 1992. The Republic of Korea broke off official relations with the Republic of Chinamarker upon gaining official relations with the People's Republic of Chinamarker. Today, China is South Korea's most important trading partner.


Although there were no formal diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan after the end of World War II, South Korea and Japan signed the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965 to establish diplomatic ties. There is heavy anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea due to a number of unsettled Japanese-Korean disputes, many of which stem from the period of Japanese occupation. During World War II, more than 100,000 Koreans were forced to serve in the Imperial Japanese Army. Korean women were lured to the war front to serve the Imperial Japanese Army as sexual slaves, called comfort women.[4459] Longstanding issues such as Japanese war crimes against Korean civilians, the visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrinemarker honoring Japanese soldiers killed at war (including some class A war criminals), the re-writing of Japanese textbooks to overlook Japanese aggression during World War II, and the territorial disputes over Dokdo Islandmarker continue to trouble Korean-Japanese relations. In response to then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, former President Roh Moo-hyun suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan. Japan sent much aid to support development of South Korea after the war, but the amount of compensation for colonial suffering was questioned for its legitimacy. The amount of money they paid and the method of distribution caused protest among those people who suffered from forced labor and abuse.

North Korea

Both Northmarker and South Korea continue to officially claim sovereignty over the entire peninsula and any outlying islands. With longstanding animosity following the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, North Korea and South Korea signed an agreement to pursue peace. On October 4, 2007, Roh Moo-Hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il signed an eight-point agreement on issues of permanent peace, high-level talks, economic cooperation, renewal of train services, highway and air travel, and a joint Olympic cheering squad.

Despite the Sunshine Policy and efforts at reconciliation, the progress was complicated by North Korean missile tests in 1993, 1998, 2006marker and 2009. , relationships between North and South Korea are very tense; North Korea has been reported to have deployed missiles, ended its former agreements with South Korea, and threatened South Korea and the United States not to interfere with a satellite launch it had planned.As of 2009, North and South Korea are still technically at war (having never signed an armistice after the Korean War) and share the world’s most heavily fortified border. On May 27, 2009, North Korea declared that the ceasefire treaty, signed post Korean War, is no longer valid due to the South Korean government's pledge to "definitely join" the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Armed forces

ROK Amphibious Task Force conducts amphibious landing

A history of domination by its neighbors and unresolved tension with North Korea have prompted South Korea to pump 2.6% of its GDP and 15% of all government spending into its military, while maintaining compulsory conscription for men. Consequently, South Korea has the world's sixth largest number of active troops, the world's second-largest number of reserve troops and the twelfth largest defence budget.

The South Korean military consists of the Army (ROKA), the Navy (ROKN), the Air Force (ROKAF), and the Marine Corps (ROKMC), and reserve forces. Many of these forces are concentrated near the Korean Demilitarized Zone. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically for a period of two years. However, there have been debates about shortening the length of the military services, and even dismissing the mandatory service itself. The government recently allowed some male students who were in the process of earning a university bachelor's degree and master's degree to dismiss the military requirements to allow them to further study and research their fields. Furthermore, Koreans of mixed race are exempt from military duty if they "look distinctively biracial".

The South Korean army has 2,300 tanks in operation, including the K1A1 and K2 Black Panther. The South Korean navy has the world's sixth largest fleet of destroyers, including the King Sejong the Great class destroyer, which has an Aegis guided missile system.. The South Korean airforce operates the ninth largest airforce in the world, including Americanmarker fighters such as the F-15K, KF-16, and the indigenous T-50 Golden Eagle.

From time to time, South Korea has sent its troops overseas to assist American forces. It has participated in most major conflicts that the United States has been involved in the past 50 years. South Korea dispatched 320,000 troops to fight alongside American, Australian, Filipinomarker, New Zealandmarker and South Vietnamese soldiers in the Vietnam War, with a peak strength of 50,000. Most recently, South Korea sent 3,300 troops of the Zaytun Division to help re-building in northern Iraqmarker, and was the 3rd largest contributor in the coalition forces after only the US and Britain.

The United States has stationed a substantial contingent of troops in South Korea since the Korean War to defend South Korea in case of a North Korean attack. There are also approximately 29,000 U.S. Military personnel stationed in Korea, most of them serving one year of unaccompanied tours. The American troops, which primarily are assigned to the Eighth United States Army are stationed in installations at Osanmarker, Yongsan, Dongducheonmarker, Sungbuk, and Daegumarker. A still functioning UN Command is technically the top of the chain of command of all forces in South Korea, including the US forces and the entire South Korean military. Although, if a sudden escalation of war between North and South Korea were to occur, as of currently, the United States would assume control of the South Korean Army in all military and paramilitary moves. However, in September 2006, the Presidents of the United States and the Republic of Korea agreed that South Korea should assume the lead for its own defense. In early 2007, the U.S. Secretary of Defense and ROK Minister of National Defense determined that South Korea will assume wartime operational control of its forces on April 17, 2012. U.S. Forces Korea will transform into a new jointwarfighting command, provisionally described as Korea Command (KORCOM).

Administrative divisions

See also Special cities of Korea and Provinces of Korea
Principal divisions of South Korea
General map of South Korea
The major administrative divisions in South Korea are provinces, metropolitan cities (self-governing cities that are not part of any province), and one special city.
Namea hangul hanja population
Special city (Teukbyeolsi)a
1 Seoul marker 서울특별시 서울特別市 10,421,782
Metropolitan cities (Gwangyeoksi)a
2 Busanmarker 부산광역시 釜山廣域市 3,635,389
3 Daegumarker 대구광역시 大邱廣域市 2,512,604
4 Incheonmarker 인천광역시 仁川廣域市 2,628,000
5 Gwangjumarker 광주광역시 光州廣域市 1,415,953
6 Daejeonmarker 대전광역시 大田廣域市 1,442,857
7 Ulsanmarker 울산광역시 蔚山廣域市 1,087,958
Provinces (Do)a
8 Gyeonggi-domarker 경기도 京畿道 10,415,399
9 Gangwon-domarker 강원도 江原道 1,592,000
10 Chungcheongbuk-domarker (Northern Chungcheong) 충청북도 忠淸北道 1,462,621
11 Chungcheongnam-domarker (Southern Chungcheong) 충청남도 忠淸南道 1,840,410
12 Jeollabuk-do (Northern Jeolla) 전라북도 全羅北道 1,890,669
13 Jeollanam-domarker (Southern Jeolla) 전라남도 全羅南道 1,994,287
14 Gyeongsangbuk-domarker (Northern Gyeongsang) 경상북도 慶尙北道 2,775,890
15 Gyeongsangnam-domarker (Southern Gyeongsang) 경상남도 慶尙南道 2,970,929
Special self-governing province (Teukbyeoljachi-do)a
16 Jeju-teukbyeoljachidomarker 제주특별자치도 濟州特別自治道 560,000

Geography and climate

South Korea occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which extends some 680 miles (1,100 km) from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Seamarker to the west, and the East Sea (동해) to the east. Its southern tip lies on the Korea Straitmarker and the East China Seamarker.

The country's total area is .

South Korea can be divided into four general regions: an eastern region of high mountain ranges and narrow coastal plains; a western region of broad coastal plains, river basins, and rolling hills; a southwestern region of mountains and valleys; and a southeastern region dominated by the broad basin of the Nakdong River.

South Korea's terrain is mostly mountainous, most of which is not arable. Lowlands, located primarily in the west and southeast, constitute only 30% of the total land area.

About three thousand islands, mostly small and uninhabited, lie off the western and southern coasts of South Korea. Jeju-domarker is located about 100 kilometers (about 60 mi) off the southern coast of South Korea. It is the country's largest island, with an area of 1,845 square kilometres (712 sq mi). Jeju is also the site of South Korea's highest point: Hallasanmarker, an extinct volcano, reaches 1,950 meters (6,398 ft) above sea level. The most eastern islands of South Korea include Ulleungdomarker and Liancourt Rocksmarker (Dokdo in Korean), while Marado and Socotra Rockmarker are the southernmost islands of South Korea.

South Korea has 20 national parks and some popular nature places like Boseongmarker Tea Field, Suncheon Bay Ecological Park in South Jeollamarker province.


South Korea has a humid continental climate and a humid subtropical climate, and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma (장마), which begins end of June through the end of July. Winters can be cold: in Seoul, the average January temperature range is −7 °C to 1 °C (19 °F to 33 °F), and the average August temperature range is 22 °C to 30 °C (71 °F to 86 °F). Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months of June through September. The southern coast is subject to late summer typhoons that bring strong winds and heavy rains. The average annual precipitation varies from 1,370 millimeters (54 inches) in Seoul to 1,470 millimeters (58 inches) in Busanmarker. There are occasional typhoons that bring high winds and floods.


During the first 20 years of South Korea's growth surge, little effort was made to preserve the environment. Unchecked industrialization has resulted in deforestation and the ongoing destruction of wetlands such as the Songdo Tidal Flat. However, there have been recent efforts to balance these problems, including a government run $84 billion five-year green growth project that aims to boost energy efficiency and green technology. The Green based economic strategy is a comprehensive overhaul of South Korea’s economy, equaling at nearly two percent of the national GDP. The initiative includes greening such as a nation wide bike network, solar and wind energy, lowering oil dependent vehicles, backing daylight savings and extensive usage of environmentally friendly technologies such as LED in electronics and lighting. The country, already the world's most wired plans to build a nation wide next generation internet 10 times faster than broadband to reduce energy usage.The Seoul's tap water recently became safe to drink, with city offials branding it "Arisu" in a bid to convince the public. Efforts have also been made with afforestation projects. Another multi-billion dollar project was the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, a stream running through central Seoul that had earlier been paved over by a motorway.)One major challenge is air quality, with acid rain, sulphur oxides and annual yellow dust storms being particular problems. It is acknowledged that much of these difficulties are a result of South Korea's proximity to China, which is a major air polluter.

South Korea is a member of Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity Treaty, Kyoto Protocol (forming the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), regarding UNFCCC, with Mexicomarker and Switzerlandmarker), Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling.


South Korea had the world's second-fastest growing economy from 1960 to 1990. Korea's transformation into a developed country during this time was termed the Miracle on the Han River, and South Korea was considered one of the Four Asian Tigers. The growth surge was initially achieved by paying low wages to manufacture labour-intensive goods, aimed at export. South Korea is a member of the OECD, and is classified as a high-income economy by the World Bank and an advanced economy by the IMFmarker and CIA and a developed market by the FTSE Group.

Today, the South Korean economy is dominated by large business groups known as Chaebol. These include companies such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai-Kia and SK. The Chaebol are government-supported powerful global multinationals owning numerous international enterprises. The Korean word means "business family" or "monopoly" and is often used the way "conglomerate" is used in English.

Despite lacking natural resources and having the smallest territory among the G-20 major economies, the South Korean economy is the fourth largest in Asia and 15th largest in the world. Like West Germanymarker and Japanmarker, rapid industrialization since the 1960s has made South Korea one of the world's top ten exporters. It is the seventh largest trading partner of the United States and the eighth largest trading partner of the European Union. In 2009, South Korea was ranked as the most innovative country in the world among major economies by the BCG and NAM.

South Korea is the world's largest shipbuilder, and one of the world's top five automobile manufacturing nations.South Korea is also dominant in crude oil imports, refined oil exports, and the building construction industry.

Its capital, Seoul, has been listed as one of the world's top ten financial and commercial cities by Forbes and Mastercard, and is the center of the service industry in South Korea

In 2008, negotiations for free trade agreements with the USmarker (also known as the KORUS FTA) and the European Union were carried out. At that time, Korea's GDP (PPP) per capita was estimated at $27,646.

High-tech industries

In consumer electronics, South Korea is the world's largest LCD, OLED, CRT and plasma display maker. The South Korean companies Samsung and LG are among the top three manufacturers of televisions and mobile phones. Samsung is currently the world's most valued consumer electronics brand.

South Korea has a high-tech infrastructure, with the world's highest broadband internet access per capita, and the fastest average Internet connections.

South Korea also exports radioactive isotope production equipment for medical and industrial use to countries such as Russia, Japan and Turkey.

The government is also investing in the robotics industry. There are also plans to develop other sectors, including financial services, biotechnology and aerospace industries.

South Korea was the first country to start Digital Multimedia Broadcasting in 2005 and wireless broadband Internet in 2006 and nation-wide 100 Mbit/s fibre-optic broadband network, which is being upgraded to 1 Gbit/s by 2013.

Transportation and energy

South Korea has a technologically advanced transportation network consisting of high-speed railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that criss-cross the country. Korea Expressway Corporation operates the toll highways and service amenities en route.

Korail provides frequent train service to all major South Korean cities. Two rail lines, Gyeongui and Donghae Bukbu Line, to North Koreamarker are now being reconnected. The Korean high-speed rail system, KTX, provides high-speed service along Gyeongbu and Honam Line. Major cities—including Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon and Gwangju—have subway systems. Metropolitan Cities (gwangyeoksi, self-governing cities that are not incorporated into any province) have express bus terminals.

Construction of South Korea's largest airport, Incheon International Airportmarker, was completed in 2001. By 2007, the airport was serving 30 million passengers a year. The airport has been selected as the "Best Airport Worldwide" for four consecutive years since 2005 by Airports Council International. Other international airports include Gimpomarker, Busanmarker and Jejumarker. There are also seven domestic airports, and a large number of heliports.

Korean Air, founded in 1962, served 21,640,000 passengers, including 12,490,000 international passengers in 2008. A second carrier, Asiana Airlines, established in 1988, also serves domestic and international traffic. Combined, South Korean airlines currently serve 297 international routes. Smaller airliners, such as Jeju Air, provide domestic service with lower fares.

South Korea is the world's sixth largest nuclear power producer and the second-largest in Asia. Nuclear power in South Korea supplies 45% of electricity production and research is very active with investigation into a variety of advanced reactors, including a small modular reactor, a liquid-metal fast/transmutation reactor and a high-temperature hydrogen generation design. Fuel production and waste handling technologies have also been developed locally. It is also a member of the ITERmarker project.

Science and technology

Aerospace research

South Korea has launched two satellites, Arirang-1 in 1999 and Arirang-2 in 2006, as part of its space partnership with Russiamarker.

Naro Space Centermarker, the first spaceport of South Korea, was completed in 2008 at Goheungmarker, Jeollanam-domarker. The Korea Space Launch Vehicle was launched from Naro in the 2009 but failed.

In April 2008, Yi So-yeon became the first Korean to fly in space, aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-12.


Robotics has been included in the list of main national R&D projects in Korea since 2003. In 2009, the government announced plans to build robot-themed parks in Incheon and Masanmarker with a mix of public and private funding.

In 2005, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technologymarker developed the world's second walking humanoid robot, HUBO. A team in the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology developed the first Korean android, EveR-1 in May 2006. EveR-1 has been succeeded by more complex models with improved movement and vision. Next models are scheduled to be completed by 2010.


Since the 1980s, the Korean government has actively invested in the development of a domestic biotechnology industry, and the sector is projected to grow to $6.5 billion by 2010. The medical sector accounts for a large part of the production, including production of hepatitis vaccines and antibiotics.

Recently, research and development in genetics and cloning has received increasing attention, with the first successful cloning of a dog, Snuppy, and the cloning of two females of an endangered species of wolves by the Seoul National Universitymarker in 2007.

The rapid growth of the industry has resulted in significant voids in regulation of ethics, as was highlighted by the scientific misconduct case involving Hwang Woo-Suk.


Education in South Korea is regarded as being crucial to one's success, and competition is consequently very heated and fierce. In the 2006 results of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, South Korea came first in problem solving, third in mathematics and eleventh in science.

A centralised administration in South Korea oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. South Korea has adopted a new educational program to increase the number of their foreign students through the year 2010. According to Ministry of Education, Science and Technology estimate, by that time, the number of scholarships for foreign students in South Korea will be doubled, and the number of foreign students will reach 100,000.The school year is divided into two semesters, the first of which begins in the beginning of March and ends in mid-July, the second of which begins in late August and ends in mid-February.The schedules are not uniformly standardized and vary from school to school.


South Korea is noted for its population density, which at 487 per square kilometer is more than 10 times the global average. Most South Koreans live in urban areas, due to rapid migration from the countryside during the country's quick economic expansion in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The capital city of Seoulmarker is also the country's largest city and chief industrial center. According to 2005 census, Seoul had a population of 9.8 million inhabitants. The Seoul National Capital Area has 24.5 million inhabitants making it the world's second largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include Busanmarker (3.5 million), Incheonmarker (2.5 million), Daegumarker (2.5 million), Daejeonmarker (1.4 million), Gwangjumarker (1.4 million) and Ulsanmarker (1 million).

The population has also been shaped by international migration. Following the division of the Korean peninsula after World War II, about four million people from North Korea crossed the border to South Korea. This trend of net entry reversed over the next forty years due to emigration, especially to the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. South Korea’s total population in 1960 was 25 million. The current population of South Korea is roughly 49,540,000.

South Korea is a homogeneous society with an absolute majority of the population of Korean ethnicity. Although small, the percentage of non-Koreans has been increasing. , South Korea had 1,106,884 foreign residents, more than double the 2006 total. Migrants from the People's Republic of China make up 56.5% of the total; however, many of them are Joseonjok, PRC citizens of Korean ethnicity. The roughly 33,000 Mongolian immigrants are believed to be the largest community of Mongolian citizens residing abroad. Another notable group is women from Southeast Asia who comprised 41% of new marriages with Korean farmers in 2006. There are also 31,000 US military personnel. In addition, about 43,000 English teachers from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and South Africa temporarily reside in Korea.

South Korea's birthrate is the world's lowest. If this continues, its population is expected to decrease by 13 percent to 42.3 million in 2050, South Korea's annual birthrate is approximately 9 births per 1000 people. The average Life expectancy in 2008 was 79.10 years, which is 40th in the world.

Cities of South Korea

The figure below lists the twenty largest cities within administrative city limits; the figures below only include long-term residents.


Just under half of South Koreans profess no religious beliefs. Those who do are mostly Christian or Buddhist, along with minor traditional religions practiced in small regions.Other religions include Islam and various new religious movements such as Jeungism, Daesunism, Cheondoism and Wonbuddhism.

Christianity is South Korea's largest religion, accounting for more than half of all South Korean religious adherents.There are approximately 15 million Christians in South Korea today, with more than two-thirds of Christians belonging to the Protestant group, while about 15% belong to the Catholic group. The largest Christian church in South Korea, Yoido Full Gospel Church, is located in Seoul. Roman Catholicism has been the fastest growing denomination in South Korea since the late 1980s. South Korea is also the second-largest missionary-sending nation.

Buddhism was introduced to Korea in the year 372. According to the national census as of 2005, South Korea has over 10.7 million Buddhists. Today, about 90% of Korean Buddhists belong to Jogye Order. Most of the National Treasures of South Korea are Buddhist artifacts. Along with Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism was also a state religion during the periods from Three Kingdoms of Korea to Goryeomarker before suppression under the Joseon Dynasty.

Islam in South Korea has an estimated 45,000 native followers, in addition to some 100,000 resident foreign workers from Muslim countries, particularly Bangladeshmarker and Pakistanmarker.


South Korea shares its traditional culture with North Koreamarker, but the two Koreas have developed distinct contemporary forms of culture since the peninsula was divided in 1945. Historically, while the culture of Korea has been heavily influenced by that of neighbouring China, it has nevertheless managed to develop a unique and distinct cultural identity from its larger neighbour. The South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs. The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea have brought many changes to the way Korean people live. Changing economics and lifestyles have led to a concentration of population in major cities, especially the capital Seoul, with multi-generational households separating into nuclear family living arrangements.

There were 8 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Korea and recently Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynastymarker was added, with a total of 9.

Contemporary Music and Film/TV

In addition to domestic consumption, South Korean mainstream culture, including televised drama, films, and popular music, also generates significant exports to various parts of the world. This phenomenon, often called "Hallyu" or the "Korean Wave", has swept many countries in Asia and other parts of the world.

Until the 1990s, trot and ballads dominated Korean popular music. The emergence of the rap group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992 marked a turning point for Korean popular music, also known as K-Pop, as the group incorporated elements of popular musical genres of rap, rock, and techno into its music. Hip hop, dance and ballad oriented acts have become dominant in the Korean popular music scene, though trot is still popular among older Koreans. Many K-Pop stars and groups are also well known abroad, especially in Asia.

Since the success of the film Shiri in 1999, Korean film has begun to gain recognition internationally. Domestic film has a dominant share of the market, partly due to the existence of screen quotas requiring cinemas to show Korean films at least 73 days a year.

Korean television shows, especially the short form dramatic mini-series called "dramas", have also become popular outside of Korea, becoming another driving trend for the Korean Wave in Asia and elsewhere. The trend has generated internationally known Korean stars and has boosted the image of Korean popular culture. The dramas are popular mostly in Asia. The stories have a wide range, but the most prominent among the export dramas have been romance dramas, such as Autumn Fairy Tale, Winter Sonata, Full House , All About Eve, and historical/fantasy dramas, such as Dae Jang Geum, The Legend and Goong.


Korean cuisine, hanguk yori (한국요리, 韓國料理), or hansik (한식, 韓食), has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Ingredients and dishes vary by province. There are many significant regional dishes that have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. The Korean royal court cuisine once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family. Meals consumed both by the royal family and ordinary Korean citizens have been regulated by a unique culture of etiquette.

Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables, fish and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes, banchan (반찬), which accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Every meal is accompanied by numerous banchan. Kimchi, a fermented, usually spicy vegetable dish is commonly served at every meal and is one of the best known Korean dishes. Korean cuisine usually involves heavy seasoning with sesame oil, doenjang (된장), a type of fermented soybean paste, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang (고추장), a hot pepper paste.

Soups are also a common part of a Korean meal and are served as part of the main course rather than at the beginning or the end of the meal. Soups known as guk (국) are often made with meats, shellfish and vegetables. Similar to guk, tang (탕) has less water, and is more often served in restaurants. Another type is jjigae (찌개), a stew that is typically heavily seasoned with chili pepper and served boiling hot.

Technology culture

South Korean corporations Samsung and LG are the second- and third-largest cell phone companies in the world, respectively. A typical South Korean consumer purchases a new phone every 11 months. An estimated 90% of South Koreans own a mobile phone. Aside from placing/receiving calls and text messaging, mobile phones in the country are widely used for watching Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) or viewing websites. Over one million DMB phones have been sold and the three major wireless communications providers SK Telecom, KT, and LG Telecom provide coverage in all major cities and other areas.

In recent years online games have become a significant part of Korean culture. StarCraft, the real-time strategy game, is by far the most popular televised game in South Korea. Game tournaments, recorded in places like the COEX Mall are often broadcast live on TV stations such as MBCGame and Ongamenet. Professional StarCraft players can command considerable salaries in South Korea as members of pro-gaming teams that are sponsored primarily by cell phone providers. PC games are usually played in PC bangs which are basically internet cafes, dedicated to LAN games of popular titles like Kart Rider, Sudden Attack, World of Warcraft, Mabinogi and Lineage.


Korean art has been highly influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism.There are well-known Korean pottery and porcelain like Baekja and Buncheong. Also Korean tea ceremony, Pansori, Talchum and Buchaechum are popular Korean performing arts.Hanbok is the traditional Korean dress. Nowadays, people wear it during traditional festivals and celebrations.It has many germants like Dopo , Durumagi and Jeogori, so it is worn as semi-formal or formal wear.


Pre-modern Korean architecture may be divided into two main styles: these used in palace and temple structures, and these used in the houses of common people, which consisted of local variations.

Korean's ancient architects adopted the bracket system and is characterized by thatched roofs and heated floors called ondol. People of the upper classes built bigger houses with tiled roofs. The roofs were elegantly curved and accentuated with slightly uplifting eaves. There still are many sites like Hahoe Folk Villagemarker, Yangdong Village of Gyeongju and Korean Folk Village where the traditional Korean architecture is preserved.


The martial art taekwondo originated in Korea. In the 1950s and 60s, modern rules were standardised, and Taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 2000. Other Korean martial arts include taekkyeon, hapkido, tang soo do, kuk sool won, kumdo and subak.

Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 and has since become the most popular spectator sport in South Korea. The first South Korean professional sports league was the Korea Baseball Organization, established in 1982. South Korea finished third during the 2006 World Baseball Classic and second during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, South Korea won the gold medal in baseball.

In 1988, South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics in Seoul, coming fourth with 12 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 11 bronze medals. South Korea regularly performs well in archery, shooting, table tennis, badminton, short track speed skating, handball, hockey, freestyle wrestling, baseball, judo, taekwondo, and weightlifting. South Korea also hosted the Asian Games in 1986 (Seoul) and 2002 (Busan), and will host again in 2014 (Incheon). It also hosted the Asian Winter Games in 1999, the Winter Universiade in 1997 and the Summer Universiade in 2003.

In the 2002 FIFA World Cup, jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan, the national football team became the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to reach the semi-finals.

In 2010, South Korea will host their first Formula One race to be staged at the Korean International Circuitmarker in Yeongammarker, about south of Seoul. In 2011, the South Korean city of Daegu will host the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

See also



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