Aviva Directory » Local & Global » Asia » South Korea

Situated in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula, the Republic of Korea is commonly known as South Korea. The country's only land border is with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), as it is bounded by the Yellow Sea to the west, the Sea of Japan in the east, and the Korea Strait and the East China Sea in the south. The country has maritime borders with Japan to the east and southeast, and with China to the west.

Thousands of islands, largely off of the western and southern coast, are also part of South Korea, the largest being Jejudo (Jeju), Geojedo, Jindo, Ganghwado, Namhaedo, Anmyeondo, Yeongjongdo, Wando, Ulleungdo, and Dolsando. Jeju Island is noted for the horses that are allowed to run free. Most of its islands are small and uninhabited.

Most of the land of South Korea is mountainous, although mostly low mountains. Only about 20% of the entire peninsula is flatland.

A couple of generations ago, South Korea was largely agricultural. Today, most of the country's young people have abandoned the farms as its economy has mostly left farming behind as the country has become one of the most industrialized countries in the region. Depending heavily on international trade, South Korea is a major exporter and importer.

South Korea is also the fifth-largest producer of nuclear power, and the second-largest in Asia, as well as an exporter of nuclear reactors.

The Korean Peninsula has been inhabited since about 8000 BC. Situated along a busy trade route, the Korean Peninsula has, at various times, been overrun by forces of the Chinese, Japanese, Mongols, and Manchus. In more recent years, the occupying forces have included the Russians and the Americans.

Around 300 BC, a number of tribes had established loosely connected states in the peninsula. In the early 200s, the Han Dynasty invaded the peninsula, establishing military command posts, one of which survived, in what is now North Korea, until 313 AD. Various minor kingdoms and states were brought together by the Silla Dynasty in 676, after which the land that would become North and South Korea shared a history until 1945. The Silla Dynasty maintained good relations with China, paying tribute to China, and adopting the Chinese administrative system, thereby preventing Chinese domination of the peninsula.

Following the First Sino-Japanese War (1894) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904), Korea was occupied by the Japanese, ending a long period of Korean seclusion. Ousting the Korean administration, the Japanese installed a pro-Japan cabinet, and used the Korean Peninsula as a base to wage war on China.

Although there were protests and insurrections, Japan retained control of the Korean Peninsula until it was forced to cede its overseas possessions following its defeat in World War II. Many Koreans anticipated that independence would follow Japan's surrender, that's not the way it worked out. Negotiations between the United States and Russia, allies during World War II, resulted in the Korean Peninsula being divided up between Russian and American control, with the goal of independence at some point in the future.

Having little interest in Korea, Russia granted independence to communist North Korea in 1948, while the United States retained control over the southern portion of the peninsula, fearing a communist takeover of South Korea. Shortly afterward, the US withdrew most of its military from South Korea, leaving a standing force of 100,000.

In 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea, taking its capital city of Seoul in three days. The United States joined what became known as the Korean War, which was actively waged for approximately three years. The Soviet Union and China provided financial support to North Korea, while Chinese troops also joined the war. Technically, the Korean War has not ended, and American troops continue to be stationed along the DMZ separating South and North Korea.

Today, South Korea is a sovereign country whose government is organized as a presidential constitutional republic, although it experienced military dictatorships from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Nearly 60% of South Koreans do not identify with any religion, although many of the unaffiliated are believed to practice Korean shamanism, as only 125% of the population considers themselves to be atheists. Of those who claim a religion, the most common are Christians and Buddhists, although Christianity has declined in the 2000s.

Korean is the official language of South Korea, although most South Korean students learn English in school, although some opt for Japanese or Mandarin. South Korea is one of the highest performing countries in reading literacy, mathematics, and sciences.

Topics related to South Korean businesses, organizations, or the country itself are the focus of this category.



Recommended Resources

Search for South Korea on Google or Bing