The history of man on the Korean peninsula can be traced back to the Paleolithic era about several hundreds of thousands years ago. The earliest state appeared when a league of several tribes came together to form Old Joseon around the 10th century BC. Old Joseon fell to an invasion by Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty of China in 108 BC, after which emerged various walled tribal states. As their political power built up, these tribal states developed into Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla, the Three Kingdoms.
Then, in the mid-7th century, Silla defeated first Baekje and then Goguryeo to unite the territories of the former Three Kingdoms and lay the foundation for a unified nation. To the north, in Manchuria, refugees from Goguryeo established the state of Balhae, which sustained the cultural tradition of Goguryeo over the next 200 years.
After came the Later Three Kingdoms period in which Silla struggled with Later Baekje and Later Goguryeo, and in the process the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1312) was established to reunite the nation and overcome the injustices of Silla society. However, in the late Goryeo period, warlords such as Yi Seong-gye came to the fore in collusion with a powerful new gentry, and together they were eventually able to topple the Goryeo regime and seize sovereignty for themselves, founding the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
Joseon established a new framework for the country through the Confucian ideals of virtue and through various reforms aimed at providing a secure livelihood for the people and economic and military strength. However, with the changing political situations in neighboring countries, Joseon suffered invasions from both China and Japan from the latter half of the 16th century.
In 1910 Japan, which had borrowed much of its culture from Korea since ancient times, ended the Joseon Dynasty by military force. Korean people had to accept Japan's colonial rule. During this harsh regime, a provisional government of korea was established overseas, while within the country Koreans from all walks of life took part in nationalistic movements. Finally, with the surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces on August 15, 1945, Korea was liberated from 35 years of colonial rule. In taking over from the Japanese, however, the Allies divided the peninsula at the 38th parallel under Soviet and American trusteeships. Thus, in the interests of the superpowers, in 1948 the Republic of Korea was established in the south and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the north.
The ideological confrontation between North and South eventually triggered the Korean War which broke out on June 25, 1950. The army of North Korea attacked the South, plunging the entire country into the tragedy of a fratricidal war. The war continued for three years, ending on July 27, 1953. The wartime front line became the true line that remains to this day.
During the past several decades, the world has witnessed the successful rise of the Republic of Korea as a major player on the international stage; a feat all the more impressive considering the utter devastation wrought by the Korean War (1950-1953). Many are aware of the "Miracle on the Han River", Korea's remarkable economic transformation from a subsistence-level economy into an advanced industrial nation, one of the "Four Asian Dragons". Korea also left a shining impression on the world with its successful staging of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.
Today, Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. It hosted the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 Korea-Japan FIFA World Cup. More recently, Korean dramas, movies, and music are attracting many audiences in Asian countries and beyond, creating what is being called the "Korean Wave." Korea's new standing in the international community was highlighted in 2010 with the nation becoming the first Asian country to chair the G20 and host the G20 Seoul Summit.
Though, few are aware of its less famous treasures: its breath-taking scenery and diverse climate, its rich cultural heritage and artistic life, its peace-loving yet passionate populace, and its continuous devotion to the Confucian ideals of filial reverence, social harmony, education, and self-enrichment. The Koreans are a proud people who have weathered many hardships with a strong sense of unity and stoicism, never losing their identity or pride as a people. Korea has much to offer to the international community.
Republic of Korea (South Korea)
Seoul (10.4 million) (2010)
Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon)
won (US$1 = 1,129.94 won) (2013)
Korean (Writing system: Hangeul)
48.87 million (South Korea) (2010)
* Foreign Residents (including short-term sojourners) :
* Cities by Population: Seoul (10.4 million),
Busan (3.6 million), Incheon (2.7 million),
Daegu (2.5 million), Daejeon (1.5 million),
Gwangju (1.4 million), Ulsan (1.1 million) (2010)
38 years (2010)
Economically Active Population
24.5 million (2010)
Population Increase Rate
Male, 77 years; female, 83.8 years (2009)
A 2005 census showed one half of the population
practice religion. Among them, 10,726,463 Buddhists,
8,616,438 Protestants, and 5,146,147 Catholics comprise
the three dominant religions.
Republic with a president elected to a single 5-year term
by direct popular vote. Division of power among the
executive, legislature (unicameral National Assembly),
and judiciary branches
Park Geun-hye (since 2013)
Universal at 19 years of age
Presidential: every 5 years
National Assembly: every 4 years
Local Government: every 4 years
Semiconductors, automobiles, ships, consumer electronics,
mobile telecommunications, equipment,
steel, and chemicals.
Korea lies in the northeastern part of the Asian continent. It is located between 33 degrees and 43 degrees in Northern Latitude, and 124 degrees and 132 degrees in Eastern Longitude. China, Russia and Japan are adjacent to Korea. Local time is nine hours ahead of GMT.
The Korean Peninsula extends southward from the eastern end of the Asian continent. The peninsula is roughly 1,030 km (612 miles) long and 175 km (105 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Mountains cover 70% of Korea's land mass, making it one of the most mountainous regions in the world. The lifting and folding of Korea's granite and limestone base has created breathtaking landscapes of scenic hills and valleys. The mountain range that stretches the length of the east coast plunges steeply into the East Sea, while along the southern and western coasts, the mountains descend gradually to the coastal plains that produce the bulk of Korea's agricultural crops, especially rice.
The Korean Peninsula is divided just slightly north of the 38th parallel. The democratic Republic of Korea in the south and communist North Korea are separated by the Demilitarized Zone(DMZ).
South Korea's 99,500sq.km is populated by 47.9 million people (2003).
Administratively, the Republic of Korea consists of nine provinces ; the capital Seoul; and the six metropolitan cities of Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, Daejeon and Ulsan. In total, there are 77 cities and 88 countries.
Climate and Weather
The Republic of Korea lies between 38ºN and 33ºN latitude and 126ºE to 132ºE longitude. The country has a continental climate of very cold, dry winters and very hot, humid summers. Winters are influenced by westerly winds from Siberia and the Mongolian plateau, while summers are generally characterized by an oceanic climate due to moist, warm winds from the Pacific Ocean. Korea has four distinct seasons, though spring and autumn tend to be short. Spring comes in early April and lasts throughout May. The hot and humid summer begins in June and lasts about four months. The summer rainy season lasts from the end of June to mid July. Summer ends in late September, giving way to crisp, clear autumn days that last until the end of October. It becomes colder in November, and a very cold, bleak winter sets in during December and lasts until the end of February.
Four Distinct Seasons
Korea's climate is considered a continental climate and a monsoonal climate from a precipitation standpoint. Korea's climate is characterized by four distinct seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter.
Spring is warm and lasts from late March to May. Various flowers, including the picturesque cherry blossom, cover the nation's mountains and fields during this time. The trees curst into leafy splendor to mark the beginning of spring. Mostly sunny days and cool weather can be expected.
Summer lasts from June to early September. It is a hot and humid time of the year. During the relatively hot and rainy summer season, the vegetation is lush. By June the average temperature is over 20°C(68°F). Monsoon rains usually begin around the end of June and last until mid-to-late July. August is hot and humid. Mid-July through mid-August is the hottest period and the most popular Korean vacation season.
Autumn lasts from September to November, and produces mild weather. It is the best season for visiting Korea. Continental mild winds and clear weather make the fall months perhaps the most pleasant time of year. October’s vivid golds and vibrant reds create a colorful panorama.
Winter lasts from December to mid-March. It can be bitterly cold during this time due to the influx of cold Siberian air. Heavy snow in the northern and eastern parts of Korea makes favorable skiing conditions.
Koreans are one ethnic family and speak one language. Sharing distinct physical characteristics, they are believed to be descendants of several Mongol tribes that migrated onto the Korean Peninsula from Central Asia.
In the seventh century, the various states of the peninsula were unified for the first time under the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935). Such homogeneity has enabled Koreans to be relatively free from ethnic problems and to maintain a firm solidarity with one another.
At the end of 2002, Korea's total population was estimated at 47,640,000 with a density of 479 people per square kilometer. The population of North Korea is estimated to be 22,253,000.
Korea saw its population grow by an annual rate of 3 percent during the 1960s, but growth slowed to 2 percent over the next decade. Today, the rate stands at 0.6 percent, and is expected to further decline to 0.06 percent by 2020.
A notable trend in Korea's demographics is that the population is growing older with each passing year. Statistics show that 6.9 percent of the total population of Korea was 65 years or older in 1999 and 7.9 percent was 65 years or older in 2002.
In the 1960s, Korea's population distribution formed a pyramid shape, with a high birth rate and relatively short life expectancy. However, the structure is now shaped more like a bell with a lower birth rate and extended life expectancy. Youth (under the age of 15 years) will make up a decreasing portion of the total, while senior citizens (65 years or older) will account for some 15.1 percent of the total by the year 2020.
The nation's rapid industrialization and urbanization in the 1960s and 1970s has been accompanied by continuing migration of rural residents into the cities, particularly Seoul, resulting in heavily populated metropolitan areas. However, in recent years, an increasing number of people have begun moving to suburban areas of Seoul.
Constitution & Government
The Republic of Korea has a democratic government based on a system of checks and balances. The Constitution was adopted in 1948, when the Republic was established, and has since been revised nine times as the country has struggled to refine and strengthen its democracy. In its present form, the Constitution guarantees all Korean citizens the same basic rights and freedoms. These include, but are not limited to, equality before the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of residence, the right to vote and hold public office, the right to privacy, and freedoms of religion, speech, and assembly, as well as the right to a clean environment and to the pursuit of happiness. It also provides for various economic rights, such as the right to own property, the right (as well as the duty) to work, freedom of occupation, and the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining so as to obtain optimum wages and working conditions.
The most recent revision of the Constitution provided, among other things, for the direct election of the President for a single five-year term and for the institution of a system of local autonomy, which had been absent for 30 years. These two provisions are vital to the strengthening of democratic institutions in the Republic. The revision also reinstated the right of the National Assembly to conduct regular inspections of all state affairs, as a legislative check against the power of the executive branch. Finally, it charges the Government to seek to reunify the Korean Peninsula, a mandate which has been vigorously pursued under the administration of President Roh, Moo-hyun.