The South Korea reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
(provided by Fixed Reference: snapshots of Wikipedia from wikipedia.org)

South Korea

Support a children's charity online
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 the "Democratic Republic of Korea" (North Korea) —with which it formed a single nation until 1948—while Japan lies across the East Sea (Sea of Japan) 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. The country is sometimes called "ROK" for short, or Hanguk (한국; 韓國) for short in Korean.

대한 민국
Daehan Minguk ÷ 大韓民國
Image:South_korea_flag_medium.png Image:South_korea_coa.png
(In Detail)
National motto: None
image:LocationSouthKorea.png
Official language Korean
Capital Seoul
PresidentRoh Moo-hyun
(suspended)
Prime Minister and Acting PresidentGoh Kun
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 13, 1948
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.

On 12 March 2004, the South Korean parliament voted to impeach Roh Moo-hyun for illegal electioneering and incompetence charges. Prime Minister Goh Kun will run the country until the Constitutional Court rules on the impeachment.

Provinces and Cities

''Main article: Administrative divisions of Korea.

Image:Ks-map.png
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 (West Sea; 황해) to the west and the East Sea (Sea of Japan; 동해) to the east, and terminated by the Korea Strait and the South Sea (East China Sea; 남해) 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.

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. 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.

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), Daejon (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. 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 Bahá'í 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. 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.

Since its divsion 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


East Asia
China | Japan | North Korea | South Korea | Taiwan


Logo of APEC
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
Australia | Brunei Darussalam | Canada | Chile | People's Republic of China | Hong Kong, China | Indonesia | Japan | Malaysia | Mexico | New Zealand | Papua New Guinea | Peru | Philippines | Russia | Singapore | Republic of Korea | Chinese Taipei | Thailand | United States | Vietnam


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Australia | Austria | Belgium | Canada | Czech Republic | Denmark | Finland | France | Germany | Greece | Hungary | Iceland | Ireland | Italy | Japan | South Korea | Luxembourg | Mexico | Netherlands | New Zealand | Norway | Poland | Portugal | Slovakia | Spain | Sweden | Switzerland | Turkey | United Kingdom | United States