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South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...
, constituting the southern part of the
Korean Peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
and sharing a
land border Borders are usually defined as geographical Geography (from Ancient Greek, Greek: , ''geographia''. Combination of Greek words ‘Geo’ (The Earth) and ‘Graphien’ (to describe), literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...
with
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and shares borders with China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Y ...
. Its western border is formed by the
Yellow Sea The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean located between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and can be considered the northwestern part of the East China Sea. It is one of four seas named after common colour terms ...
, while its eastern border is defined by the
Sea of Japan The Sea of Japan is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula, and the mainland of the Russian Far East. The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it h ...
. South Korea claims to be the sole legitimate government of the entire peninsula and adjacent islands. It has a
population Population typically refers to the number of people in a single area, whether it be a city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, ...
of 51.75 million, of which roughly half live in the
Seoul Capital Area The Seoul Capital Area (SCA), Sudogwon (, ) or Gyeonggi region (), is the metropolitan area of Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, ...
, the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the world. Other major cities include
Incheon Incheon (; ; or Inch'ŏn; literally "kind river"), formerly Jemulpo or Chemulp'o (제물포) until the period after 1910, officially the Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시, 仁川廣域市), is a city located in northwestern South Kore ...
,
Busan Busan (), officially known as is South Korea's most populous city after Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''d ...
, and
Daegu Daegu (, , literally 'large hill', 대구광역시), formerly spelled Taegu and officially known as the Daegu Metropolitan City, is a city in South Korea. It is the third-largest urban agglomeration in South Korea after Seoul and Busan; it is ...
. The Korean Peninsula was inhabited as early as the
Lower Paleolithic The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek: παλαιός ''wikt:παλαιός, palaios'', "old" and λίθο ...
period. Its first kingdom was noted in Chinese records in the early 7th century BCE. Following the unification of the
Three Kingdoms of Korea Samhan or the Three Kingdoms of Korea () refers to the three kingdoms of Goguryeo (고구려, 高句麗), Baekje (백제, 百濟), and Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Kore ...
into
Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Korean kingdom located on the southern and central parts of the Korea, Korean Peninsula. Silla, along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdom ...
and
Balhae Balhae ( ko, 발해, zh, c=渤海, p=Bóhǎi, russian: Бохай, translit=Bokhay, ), also rendered as Bohai, was a multi-ethnic kingdom whose land extends to what is today Northeast China, the Korean Peninsula and the Russian Far East. It wa ...
in the late 7th century, Korea was ruled by the
Goryeo dynasty Goryeo (; ) was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korea, Korean Peninsula until 1392. Goryeo achieved what has been called a "true national un ...
(918–1392) and the
Joseon dynasty Joseon (; ; Middle Korean: 됴ᇢ〯션〮 Dyǒw syéon or 됴ᇢ〯션〯 Dyǒw syěon), officially the Great Joseon (; ), was the last dynastic kingdom of Korea, lasting just over 500 years. It was founded by Taejo of Joseon, Yi Seong-gye in ...
(1392–1897). The succeeding
Korean Empire The Korean Empire () was a Korean monarchical state proclaimed in October 1897 by Gojong of Korea, Emperor Gojong of the Joseon, Joseon dynasty. The empire stood until Empire of Japan, Japan's Korea under Japanese rule, annexation of Korea in Au ...
(1897–1910) was annexed in 1910 into the
Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II 1947 constitution and subsequent fo ...
. Japanese rule ended following Japan's surrender in
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, after which Korea was divided into two zones; a northern zone occupied by the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
and a southern zone occupied by the United States. After negotiations on
reunification A political union is a type of polity, political entity which is composed of, or created from, smaller polities, or the process which achieves this. These administrative subdivision, smaller polities are usually called federated states and federal ...
failed, the latter became the Republic of Korea in August 1948 while the former became the socialist
Democratic People's Republic of Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and shares borders with China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Y ...
the following month. In 1950, a North Korean invasion began the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
, which saw extensive American-led United Nations intervention in support of the South, while China intervened to support the North, with Soviet assistance. After the war's end in 1953, the country entered into a military alliance with the U.S., and its devastated economy began to soar, recording the fastest rise in average GDP per capita in the world between 1980 and 1990. Despite lacking natural resources, the nation rapidly developed to become one of the
Four Asian Tigers The Four Asian Tigers (also known as the Four Asian Dragons or Four Little Dragons in Chinese and Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * K ...
based on
international trade International trade is the exchange of Capital (economics), capital, goods, and Service (economics), services across international borders or territories because there is a need or want of goods or services. (see: World economy) In most countr ...
and
economic globalization Economic globalization is one of the three main dimensions of globalization Globalization, or globalisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is the process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and ...
, integrating itself within the
world economy The world economy or global economy is the economy of all humans of the world, referring to the global economic system, which includes all economic activities which are conducted both within and between nations, including production (economics), ...
with
export-oriented industrialization Export-oriented industrialization (EOI) sometimes called export substitution industrialization (ESI), export led industrialization (ELI) or export-led growth is a trade Trade involves the transfer of goods and services from one person o ...
; currently being one of the largest exporting nations in the world, along with having one of the largest foreign-exchange reserves in the world. The
June Democratic Struggle The June Democratic Struggle (), also known as the June Democracy Movement and June Democratic Uprising, was a nationwide pro-democracy movement in South Korea that generated mass protests from June 10 to June 29, 1987. The demonstrations force ...
led to the end of authoritarian rule in 1987 and the country is now considered among the most advanced democracies in Asia, with the highest level of
press freedom Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the fundamental principle that communication and expression through various media, including printed and electronic media Media may refer to: Communication * Media (communication), tools us ...
on the continent. South Korea is a power and a highly
developed country A developed country (or industrialized country, high-income country, more economically developed country (MEDC), advanced country) is a sovereign state that has a high quality of life, developed economy and advanced technological infrastr ...
and ranked as the fifth-highest country on the
Human Development Index The Human Development Index (HDI) is a statistic composite index of life expectancy, Education Index, education (mean years of schooling completed and expected years of schooling upon entering the Educational system, education system), ...
(HDI) in the Asia and
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a region, geographical region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Spanning the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Western Hemisphere, Western hemispheres, Oceania is estimated to have a land area of ...
region. South Korea has the third-highest life expectancy in the world. In recent years, the country has been facing an aging population and the lowest fertility rate in the world. Its
economy An economy is an area of the Production (economics), production, Distribution (economics), distribution and trade, as well as Consumption (economics), consumption of Goods (economics), goods and Service (economics), services. In general, it is ...
ranks as the world's thirteenth-largest by nominal GDP. Its citizens enjoy one of the world's fastest Internet connection speeds and the densest high-speed railway network. The country is the world's ninth-largest exporter and ninth-largest importer. Its
armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinc ...
are ranked as one of the world's strongest militaries, with the world's second-largest standing army by military and paramilitary personnel. Since the 21st century, South Korea has been renowned for its globally influential pop culture, particularly in music (
K-pop K-pop (), short for Korean popular music, is a form of popular music originating in South Korea as part of South Korean culture. It includes styles and genres from around the world, such as Pop music, pop, Hip hop music, hip hop, Contemporar ...
), TV dramas ( K-dramas) and
cinema Cinema may refer to: Film * Cinematography, the art of motion-picture photography * Film or movie, a series of still images that create the illusion of a moving image ** Film industry, the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking * ...
, a phenomenon referred to as the Korean wave. It is a member of the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
's
Development Assistance Committee The OECD, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is a forum to discuss issues surrounding aid, development and poverty reduction in developing country, developing countries. It desc ...
, the G20, the IPEF, and the
Paris Club The Paris Club (french: Club de Paris) is a group of officials from major creditor countries whose role is to find co-ordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries. As debtor countries undertake ...
.


Etymology

The name ''Korea'' derives from the name ''Goryeo''. The name ''Goryeo'' itself was first used by the ancient kingdom of
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
, which was considered a
great power A great power is a sovereign state that is recognized as having the ability and expertise to exert its influence on a global scale. Great powers characteristically possess military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power i ...
of East Asia during its time, in the 5th century as a shortened form of its name. The 10th-century kingdom of
Goryeo Goryeo (; ) was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korea, Korean Peninsula until 1392. Goryeo achieved what has been called a "true national un ...
succeeded Goguryeo, and thus inherited its name, which was pronounced by the visiting Arab and Persian merchants as "Korea". The modern name of Korea, appears in the first Portuguese maps of 1568 by João vaz Dourado as ''Conrai'' and later in the late 16th century and early 17th century as Korea (Corea) in the maps of Teixeira Albernaz of 1630. The kingdom of ''Goryeo'' became first known to Westerners when
Afonso de Albuquerque Afonso de Albuquerque, 1st Duke of Goa (; – 16 December 1515) was a Portuguese general, admiral, and statesman. He served as List of governors of Portuguese India, viceroy of Portuguese India from 1509 to 1515, during which he expanded Portug ...
conquered Malacca in 1511 and described the peoples who traded with this part of the world known by the Portuguese as the Gores. Despite the coexistence of the spellings ''Corea'' and ''Korea'' in 19th century publications, some Koreans believe that
Imperial Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of Japan, 1947 constitutio ...
, around the time of the Japanese occupation, intentionally standardized the spelling on ''Korea'', making Japan appear first alphabetically. After Goryeo was replaced by Joseon in 1392, Joseon became the official name for the entire territory, though it was not universally accepted. The new official name has its origin in the ancient kingdom of
Gojoseon Gojoseon () also called Joseon (), was the first kingdom on the Korea, Korean Peninsula. According to Korean mythology, the kingdom was established by the legendary founder named Dangun. Gojoseon possessed the most advanced culture in the Kor ...
(2333 BCE). In 1897, the
Joseon Joseon (; ; Middle Korean: 됴ᇢ〯션〮 Dyǒw syéon or 됴ᇢ〯션〯 Dyǒw syěon), officially the Great Joseon (; ), was the last dynastic kingdom of Korea, lasting just over 500 years. It was founded by Taejo of Joseon, Yi Seong-gye in ...
dynasty changed the official name of the country from ''Joseon'' to ''Daehan Jeguk'' (
Korean Empire The Korean Empire () was a Korean monarchical state proclaimed in October 1897 by Gojong of Korea, Emperor Gojong of the Joseon, Joseon dynasty. The empire stood until Empire of Japan, Japan's Korea under Japanese rule, annexation of Korea in Au ...
). The name ''Daehan'' (Great Han) derives from
Samhan Samhan, or Three Han, is the collective name of the Byeonhan confederacy, Byeonhan, Jinhan confederacy, Jinhan, and Mahan confederacy, Mahan confederacies that emerged in the first century BC during the Proto–Three Kingdoms period, Proto–Thr ...
(Three Han), referring to the
Three Kingdoms of Korea Samhan or the Three Kingdoms of Korea () refers to the three kingdoms of Goguryeo (고구려, 高句麗), Baekje (백제, 百濟), and Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Kore ...
, not the ancient confederacies in the southern Korean Peninsula. However, the name ''Joseon'' was still widely used by Koreans to refer to their country, though it was no longer the official name. Under Japanese rule, the two names ''Han'' and ''Joseon'' coexisted. There were several groups who fought for independence, the most notable being the ''
Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea The Korean Provisional Government (KPG), formally the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, was a partially recognized Korean government-in-exile based in Shanghai, Republic of China (1912–1949), China, and later in Chongqing, ...
'' ( / ). Following the
surrender of Japan The surrender of the Empire of Japan in World War II was Jewel Voice Broadcast, announced by Emperor of Japan, Emperor Hirohito on 15 August and formally Japanese Instrument of Surrender, signed on 2 September 1945, End of World War II in A ...
, in 1945, the "Republic of Korea" ( / , IPA: , ; ) was adopted as the legal English name for the new country. However, it is not a direct translation of the Korean name. As a result, the Korean name "Daehan Minguk" is sometimes used by South Koreans as a
metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech in which a concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept. Etymology The words ''metonymy'' and ''metonym'' come from grc, μετωνυμία, 'a change of name' ...
to refer to the Korean ethnicity (or " race") as a whole, rather than just the South Korean state. Conversely, the official name of North Korea in English, the "Democratic People's Republic of Korea", is a direct translation of the Korean name. Since the government only controlled the southern part of the
Korean Peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
, the informal term "South Korea" was coined, becoming increasingly common in the
Western world The Western world, also known as the West, primarily refers to the various nations and state (polity), states in the regions of Europe, North America, and Oceania.
. While South Koreans use ''Han'' (or ''Hanguk'') to refer to both Koreas collectively, North Koreans and ethnic Koreans living in China and Japan use the term ''Joseon'' instead.


History


Ancient Korea

The Korean Peninsula was inhabited as early as the
Lower Paleolithic The Lower Paleolithic (or Lower Palaeolithic) is the earliest subdivision of the Paleolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek: παλαιός ''wikt:παλαιός, palaios'', "old" and λίθο ...
period. The
history of Korea The Lower Paleolithic era in the Korea, Korean Peninsula and Manchuria began roughly half a million years ago. Christopher J. Norton, "The Current State of Korean Paleoanthropology", (2000), ''Journal of Human Evolution'', 38: 803–825. The e ...
begins with the founding of Joseon (also known as "
Gojoseon Gojoseon () also called Joseon (), was the first kingdom on the Korea, Korean Peninsula. According to Korean mythology, the kingdom was established by the legendary founder named Dangun. Gojoseon possessed the most advanced culture in the Kor ...
", or Old Joseon, to differentiate it with the 14th century dynasty) in 2333 BCE by
Dangun Dangun (; ) or Dangun Wanggeom (; ) was the legendary founder and god-king of Gojoseon Gojoseon () also called Joseon (), was the first kingdom on the Korea, Korean Peninsula. According to Korean mythology, the kingdom was established b ...
, according to Korea's foundation mythology.* :"An extreme manifestation of nationalism and the family cult was the revival of interest in Tangun, the mythical founder of the first Korean state... Most textbooks and professional historians, however, treat him as a myth." * :"Although Kija may have truly existed as a historical figure, Tangun is more problematical." * :"Most orean historianstreat the angunmyth as a later creation." * :"The Tangun myth became more popular with groups that wanted Korea to be independent; the Kija myth was more useful to those who wanted to show that Korea had a strong affinity to China." * :"If a choice is to be made between them, one is faced with the fact that the Tangun, with his supernatural origin, is more clearly a mythological figure than Kija." Gojoseon was noted in Chinese records in the early 7th century. Gojoseon expanded until it controlled the northern Korean Peninsula and parts of
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym and endonym, exonym (derived from the endodemonym "Manchu") for a historical and geographic region in Northeast Asia encompassing the entirety of present-day Northeast China (Inner Manchuria) and parts of the Russian Fa ...
.
Gija Joseon Gija Joseon (1120–194 BC) was a dynasty of Gojoseon Gojoseon () also called Joseon (), was the first kingdom on the Korea, Korean Peninsula. According to Korean mythology, the kingdom was established by the legendary founder named D ...
was purportedly founded in the 12th century BCE, but its existence and role have been controversial in the modern era. In 108 BCE, the
Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of Liu. The dynasty was preceded by the short-lived Qin dynasty (22 ...
defeated
Wiman Joseon Wiman Joseon (194–108 BC) was a dynasty of Gojoseon. It began with Wiman of Gojoseon, Wiman's (Wei Man) seizure of the throne from Gija Joseon's Jun of Gojoseon, King Jun and ended with the death of Ugeo of Gojoseon, King Ugeo who was a grand ...
and installed four commanderies in the northern Korean peninsula. Three of the commanderies fell or retreated westward within a few decades. As
Lelang commandery The Lelang Commandery was a commandery of the Han dynasty The Han dynasty (, ; ) was an imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 9 AD, 25–220 AD), established by Emperor Gaozu of Han, Liu Bang (Emperor Gao) and ruled by the House of ...
was destroyed and rebuilt around this time, the place gradually moved toward Liaodong. Thus, its force was diminished and it only served as a trade center until it was conquered by
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
in 313.Early Korea
. Shsu.edu. Retrieved 17 April 2015.


Three Kingdoms of Korea

During the period known as the Proto–Three Kingdoms of Korea, the states of
Buyeo Buyeo or Puyŏ (Korean language, Korean: 부여; Korean pronunciation: Help:IPA/Korean, u.jʌ or 扶餘 ''Fúyú''), also rendered as Fuyu, was an ancient kingdom that was centered in northern Manchuria in modern-day northeast China. It ...
, Okjeo, Dongye and
Samhan Samhan, or Three Han, is the collective name of the Byeonhan confederacy, Byeonhan, Jinhan confederacy, Jinhan, and Mahan confederacy, Mahan confederacies that emerged in the first century BC during the Proto–Three Kingdoms period, Proto–Thr ...
occupied the whole
Korean peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
and southern Manchuria. From them,
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
,
Baekje Baekje or Paekche (, ) was a Korean kingdom located in southwestern Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Kor ...
and
Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Korean kingdom located on the southern and central parts of the Korea, Korean Peninsula. Silla, along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdom ...
emerged to control the peninsula as the
Three Kingdoms of Korea Samhan or the Three Kingdoms of Korea () refers to the three kingdoms of Goguryeo (고구려, 高句麗), Baekje (백제, 百濟), and Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Kore ...
. Goguryeo, the largest and most powerful among them, was a highly militaristic state, and competed with various Chinese dynasties during its 700 years of history. Goguryeo experienced a golden age under
Gwanggaeto the Great Gwanggaeto the Great (374–413, r. 391–413) was the nineteenth monarch of Goguryeo. His full posthumous name means "Entombed in ''Gukgangsang'', Broad Expander of Domain, Peacemaker, Supreme King", sometimes abbreviated to ''Hotaewang'' ...
and his son Jangsu, who both subdued Baekje and Silla during their times, achieving a brief unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and becoming the most dominant power on the Korean Peninsula. In addition to contesting for control of the Korean Peninsula, Goguryeo had many military conflicts with various Chinese dynasties, most notably the
Goguryeo–Sui War The Goguryeo–Sui War were a series of invasions launched by the Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China that lasted from 581 to 618. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties, thus endin ...
, in which Goguryeo defeated a huge force said to number over a million men. Baekje was a great maritime power; its nautical skill, which made it the
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, ancient thalassocracy, thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern Lebanon. The territory of the Phoenician city-st ...
of East Asia, was instrumental in the dissemination of Buddhism throughout East Asia and continental culture to Japan. Baekje was once a great military power on the Korean Peninsula, especially during the time of Geunchogo, but was critically defeated by Gwanggaeto the Great and declined. Silla was the smallest and weakest of the three, but it used cunning diplomatic means to make opportunistic pacts and alliances with the more powerful Korean kingdoms, and eventually
Tang China The Tang dynasty (, ; zh, t= ), or Tang Empire, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907 AD, with an Zhou dynasty (690–705), interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dyn ...
, to its great advantage. 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
Later Silla Unified Silla, or Late Silla (, ), is the name often applied to the Korean kingdom of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, after 668 CE. In the 7th century, a Silla–Tang alliance conquered Baekje and the southern part of Goguryeo in the ...
, while
Balhae Balhae ( ko, 발해, zh, c=渤海, p=Bóhǎi, russian: Бохай, translit=Bokhay, ), also rendered as Bohai, was a multi-ethnic kingdom whose land extends to what is today Northeast China, the Korean Peninsula and the Russian Far East. It wa ...
controlled the northern parts of Goguryeo. Balhae was founded by a Goguryeo general and formed as a successor state to Goguryeo. During its height, Balhae controlled most of Manchuria and parts of the Russian Far East, and was called the "Prosperous Country in the East".
Later Silla Unified Silla, or Late Silla (, ), is the name often applied to the Korean kingdom of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, after 668 CE. In the 7th century, a Silla–Tang alliance conquered Baekje and the southern part of Goguryeo in the ...
was a golden age of art and culture, as evidenced by the
Hwangnyongsa Hwangnyongsa, or Hwangnyong Temple (also spelled Hwangryongsa) was a Buddhist temple in the city of Gyeongju, South Korea. Completed in the 7th century, the enormous 9-story structure was built entirely with wood with interlocking design with no ...
,
Seokguram The Seokguram Grotto is a Hermitage (religious retreat), hermitage and part of the Bulguksa temple complex. It lies four kilometers east of the temple on Mt. Tohamsan, in Gyeongju, South Korea. It is classified as ''National Treasure No. 24'' by ...
, and Emille Bell. Relationships between Korea and China remained relatively peaceful during this time. Later Silla carried on the maritime prowess of
Baekje Baekje or Paekche (, ) was a Korean kingdom located in southwestern Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Kor ...
, which acted like the
Phoenicia Phoenicia () was an ancient Semitic-speaking peoples, ancient thalassocracy, thalassocratic civilization originating in the Levant region of the eastern Mediterranean, primarily located in modern Lebanon. The territory of the Phoenician city-st ...
of medieval
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...
, and during the 8th and 9th centuries dominated the seas of East Asia and the trade between China, Korea and Japan, most notably during the time of
Jang Bogo Jang Bogo (787–841), childhood name: Gungbok, was a List of Silla people, Sillan who rose to prominence in the Later Silla period of Korea as a powerful maritime figure who effectively controlled the Yellow Sea (West Sea), and dominated the t ...
; in addition, Silla people made overseas communities in China on the
Shandong Peninsula The Shandong (Shantung) Peninsula or Jiaodong (Chiaotung) Peninsula is a peninsula in Shandong Province in eastern China, between the Bohai Sea to the north and the Yellow Sea to the south. The latter name refers to the east and Jiaozhou. ...
and the mouth of the
Yangtze River The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ; ) is the longest list of rivers of Asia, river in Asia, the list of rivers by length, third-longest in the world, and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in th ...
. Later Silla was a prosperous and wealthy country, and its metropolitan capital of
Gyeongju Gyeongju ( ko, 경주, ), historically known as ''Seorabeol'' ( ko, 서라벌, ), is a coastal city in the far southeastern corner of North Gyeongsang Province in South Korea. It is the second largest city by area in the province after Andong, ...
was the fourth largest city in the world. Buddhism flourished during this time, and many Korean Buddhists gained great fame among Chinese Buddhists and contributed to Chinese Buddhism, including: Woncheuk, Wonhyo, Uisang, Musang, and
Kim Gyo-gak Gim Gyo-gak (김교각, 金喬覺, 696-794), or Jin Qiaojue in Standard Mandarin, Mandarin, also known as his buddhist name Jijang(地藏), was a Korean Buddhist monk believed to be the manifestation of Ksitigarbha at Mount Jiuhua, one of the fou ...
, a Silla prince whose influence made
Mount Jiuhua Mount Jiuhua () located in Chizhou, Anhui, Anhui Province in China is an important Buddhist site and natural scenic spot. It is one of the four famous Buddhist mountains in China, one of the first batch of 5A level scenic spots in China, one of ...
one of the Four
Sacred Mountains Sacred mountains are central to certain religion Religion is usually defined as a social- cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or religious o ...
of Chinese Buddhism. However, Later Silla weakened under internal strife and the revival of
Baekje Baekje or Paekche (, ) was a Korean kingdom located in southwestern Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Kor ...
and
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
, which led to the Later Three Kingdoms period in the late ninth century.


Unified dynasties

In 936, the Later Three Kingdoms were united by Wang Geon, a descendant of Goguryeo nobility, who established
Goryeo Goryeo (; ) was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korea, Korean Peninsula until 1392. Goryeo achieved what has been called a "true national un ...
as the successor state of
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
. Balhae had fallen to the Khitan Empire in 926, and a decade later the last crown prince of Balhae fled south to Goryeo, where he was warmly welcomed and included into the ruling family by Wang Geon, thus unifying the two successor nations of Goguryeo. Like Silla, Goryeo was a highly cultural state, and invented the metal movable type
printing press A printing press is a mechanical device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a printing, print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. It marked a dramatic improvement on earlier printing methods in wh ...
. After defeating the Khitan Empire, which was the most powerful empire of its time, in the
Goryeo–Khitan War The Goryeo–Khitan War (; ) was a series of 10th- and 11th-century conflicts between the Goryeo, Goryeo dynasty of Korea and the Khitan-led Liao dynasty of China near the present-day border between China and North Korea. Background During the ...
, Goryeo experienced a golden age that lasted a century, during which the
Tripitaka Koreana The (lit. ) or ("Eighty-Thousand ''Tripiṭaka''") is a Korean collection of the (Buddhist scriptures, and the Sanskrit word for "three baskets"), carved onto 81,258 Woodblock printing, wooden printing blocks in the 13th century. It is the ...
was completed and there were great developments in printing and publishing, promoting learning and dispersing knowledge on philosophy, literature, religion, and science; by 1100, there were 12 universities that produced famous scholars and scientists. However, the
Mongol invasions The Mongol invasions and conquests took place during the 13th and 14th centuries, creating history's largest contiguous empire: the Mongol Empire ( 1206- 1368), which by 1300 covered large parts of Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest con ...
in the 13th century greatly weakened the kingdom. Goryeo was never conquered by the Mongols, but exhausted after three decades of fighting, the Korean court sent its
crown prince A crown prince or hereditary prince is the heir apparent to the throne in a royal or imperial monarchy. The female form of the title is crown princess, which may refer either to an heiress apparent or, especially in earlier times, to the wife ...
to the Yuan capital to swear allegiance to
Kublai Khan Kublai ; Mongolian script: ; (23 September 1215 – 18 February 1294), also known by his temple name as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan and his regnal name Setsen Khan, was the founder of the Yuan dynasty of China and the fifth khagan-Emperor of Chi ...
, who accepted, and married one of his daughters to the Korean crown prince. Henceforth, Goryeo continued to rule Korea, though as a tributary ally to the Mongols for the next 86 years. During this period, the two nations became intertwined as all subsequent Korean kings married Mongol princesses, and the last empress of the Yuan dynasty was a Korean princess. In the mid-14th century, Goryeo drove out the Mongols to regain its northern territories, briefly conquered
Liaoyang Liaoyang () is a prefecture-level city of east-central Liaoning province, China, situated on the Taizi River. It is approximately one hour south of Shenyang, the provincial capital, by car. Liaoyang is home to Liaoning University's College of Fo ...
, and defeated invasions by the Red Turbans. However, in 1392, General
Yi Seong-gye Taejo of Joseon (4 November 1335 – 27 June 1408), born Yi Seong-gye (), was the founder and first ruler of the Joseon, Joseon dynasty of Korea. After ascending to the throne, he changed his name to Yi Dan (), and reigned from 1392 to 1398 ...
, who had been ordered to attack China, turned his army around and staged a coup. Yi Seong-gye declared the new name of Korea as "Joseon" in reference to Gojoseon, and moved the capital to Hanseong (one of the old names of
Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''de jure'' capital of the North Korea, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea ...
). The first 200 years of the Joseon dynasty were marked by peace, and saw great advancements in science and education, as well as the creation of
Hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's Revised Romanization of Korean, standard Romanization. ( ) in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is the modern official writing system f ...
by
Sejong the Great Sejong of Joseon (15 May 1397 – 8 April 1450), personal name Yi Do (Korean language, Korean: 이도; Hanja: 李祹), widely known as Sejong the Great (Korean language, Korean: 세종대왕; Hanja: 世宗大王), was the fourth ruler of th ...
to promote literacy among the common people. The prevailing ideology of the time was
Neo-Confucianism Neo-Confucianism (, often shortened to ''lǐxué'' 理學, literally "School of Principle") is a moral, ethical, and metaphysical Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the fundamental nature of reality, the first principles ...
, which was epitomized by the
seonbi Seonbi or sŏnbi were scholars during the Goryeo Goryeo (; ) was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korea, Korean Peninsula until 1392. Gorye ...
class: nobles who passed up positions of wealth and power to lead lives of study and integrity. Between 1592 and 1598,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi , otherwise known as and , was a Japanese samurai and ''daimyō'' (feudal lord) of the late Sengoku period regarded as the second "Great Unifier" of Japan.Richard Holmes, The World Atlas of Warfare: Military Innovations that Changed the Cour ...
launched invasions of Korea, but his advance was halted by Korean forces (most notably the
Joseon Navy The Joseon Navy ( ko, 조선수군; Hanja Hanja (Hangul: ; Hanja: , ), alternatively known as Hancha, are Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been ...
led by Admiral
Yi Sun-sin Admiral Yi Sun-sin (April 28, 1545 – December 16, 1598) was a Korean admiral and military general famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty Joseon (; ; Middle Korean: 됴ᇢ〯션 ...
and his renowned "
turtle ship A ''Geobukseon'' ( ko, script=Hang, 거북선, ), also known as turtle ship in western descriptions, was a type of large Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the ...
") with assistance from
Righteous Army Righteous armies, sometimes called irregular armies or militias, are informal civilian militias that have appeared several times in History of Korea, Korean history, when the national armies were in need of assistance. The first righteous armies ...
militias formed by Korean civilians, and
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was an Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China, ruling from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol Empire, Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last ort ...
Chinese troops."Yi's successes gave Korea complete control of the sea lanes around the peninsula, and the Korean navy was able to intercept most of the supplies and communications between Japan and Korea" Through a series of successful battles of attrition, the Japanese forces were eventually forced to withdraw, and relations between all parties became normalized. However, the
Manchus The Manchus (; ) are a Tungusic peoples, Tungusic East Asian people, East Asian ethnic group native to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. They are an officially recognized Ethnic minorities in China, ethnic minority in China and the people from who ...
took advantage of Joseon's war-weakened state and invaded in 1627 and 1637, and then went on to conquer the destabilized Ming dynasty. After normalizing relations with the new
Qing dynasty The Qing dynasty ( ), officially the Great Qing,, was a Manchu people, Manchu-led Dynasties in Chinese history, imperial dynasty of China and the last orthodox dynasty in Chinese history. It emerged from the Later Jin (1616–1636), La ...
, Joseon experienced a nearly 200-year period of peace. Kings
Yeongjo Yeongjo of Joseon (31 October 1694 – 22 April 1776), personal name Yi Geum (Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **K ...
and
Jeongjo Jeongjo of Joseon (28 October 1752 – 18 August 1800), personal name Yi San (Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language ** ...
particularly led a new renaissance of the Joseon dynasty during the 18th century. In the 19th century, the royal in-law families gained control of the government, leading to mass corruption and weakening of the state, and severe poverty and peasant rebellions throughout the country. Furthermore, the Joseon government adopted a strict isolationist policy, earning the nickname "the hermit kingdom", but ultimately failed to protect itself against
imperialism Imperialism is the state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas, often through employing hard power (economic powe ...
and was forced to open its borders. After the
First Sino-Japanese War The First Sino-Japanese War (25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895) was a conflict between Qing dynasty, China and Empire of Japan, Japan primarily over influence in Joseon, Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land ...
and the
Russo-Japanese War The Russo-Japanese War ( ja, 日露戦争, Nichiro sensō, Japanese-Russian War; russian: Ру́сско-япóнская войнá, Rússko-yapónskaya voyná) was fought between the Empire of Japan and the Russian Empire during 1904 and 1 ...
, Korea was annexed by Japan (1910–1945). What followed was a period of forced assimilation, in which Korean language, culture, and history were suppressed. Towards the end of
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, the U.S. proposed dividing the Korean peninsula into two occupation zones (a U.S. and Soviet one).
Dean Rusk David Dean Rusk (February 9, 1909December 20, 1994) was the United States Secretary of State from 1961 to 1969 under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, the second-longest serving Secretary of State after Cordell Hull from the Pre ...
and Charles H. Bonesteel III suggested the 38th parallel as the dividing line, as it placed Seoul under U.S. control. To the surprise of Rusk and Bonesteel, the Soviets accepted their proposal and agreed to divide Korea.


Modern history

Despite the initial plan of a unified Korea in the
1943 Cairo Declaration The Cairo Declaration was the outcome of the Cairo Conference in Cairo Cairo ( ; ar, القاهرة, al-Qāhirah, ) is the capital of Egypt and its largest city, home to 10 million people. It is also part of the largest urban agglomera ...
, escalating
Cold War The Cold War is a term commonly used to refer to a period of Geopolitics, geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc. The term ''Cold war (term), co ...
antagonism between the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
and the United States eventually led to the establishment of separate governments, each with its own ideology, leading to the
division of Korea The division of Korea began with the defeat of Empire of Japan, Japan in World War II. During the war, the Allies of World War II, Allied leaders considered the question of Korea's future after Japan's surrender in the war. The leaders reached ...
into two political entities in 1948:
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and shares borders with China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Y ...
and South Korea. In the South,
Syngman Rhee Syngman Rhee (, ; 26 March 1875 – 19 July 1965) was a South Korean politician who served as the first president of South Korea from 1948 to 1960. Rhee was also the first and last president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Ko ...
, an opponent of communism, who had been backed and appointed by the United States as head of the provisional government, won the first presidential elections of the newly declared Republic of Korea in May. In the North, however, a former anti-Japanese guerrilla and communist activist,
Kim Il-sung Kim Il-sung (; , ; born Kim Song-ju, ; 15 April 1912 – 8 July 1994) was a Koreans, North Korean politician and the founder of North Korea, which he Supreme Leader (North Korean title), ruled from the North Korea#Founding, country's est ...
, was appointed premier of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in September. In October, the Soviet Union declared Kim Il-sung's government as sovereign over both parts. The UN declared Rhee's government as "a lawful government having effective control and jurisdiction over that part of Korea where the UN Temporary Commission on Korea was able to observe and consult" and the Government "based on elections which was observed by the Temporary Commission" in addition to a statement that "this is the only such government in Korea.""195 (III) The problem of the independence of Korea"
, 12 December 1948, ''Resolutions Adopted by the General Assembly During its Third Session'', p. 25.
Both leaders began an authoritarian repression of their political opponents inside their region, seeking for a unification of Korea under their control. While South Korea's request for military support was denied by the United States, North Korea's military was heavily reinforced by the Soviet Union.


Korean War

On 25 June 1950, North Korea invaded South Korea, sparking the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
, the Cold War's first major conflict, which continued until 1953. 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 China backed North Korea, with the later participation of millions of Chinese troops. After an ebb and flow that saw both sides facing defeat with massive losses among Korean civilians in both the north and the south, the war eventually reached a stalemate. During the war, Rhee's party promoted the One-People Principle (based on the German
ideology An ideology is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed to a person or group of persons, especially those held for reasons that are not purely epistemic, in which "practical elements are as prominent as theoretical ones." Formerly applied pr ...
of the '' Herrenvolk'') an effort to build an obedient citizenry through
ethnic An ethnic group or an ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, an ...
homogeneity and authoritarian appeals to
nationalism Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the State (polity), state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation (as in a in-group and out-group, group of peo ...
.Su-kyoung Hwang, ''Korea's Grievous War.'' Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016; pg. 90–95. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along the
demilitarized zone A demilitarized zone (DMZ or DZ) is an area in which treaties or agreements between nations, military powers or contending groups forbid military installations, activities, or personnel. A DZ often lies along an established frontier or bounda ...
near the original demarcation line. No peace treaty was ever signed, resulting in the two countries remaining technically at war. Approximately 3 million people died in the Korean War, with a higher proportional civilian death toll than
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
or the
Vietnam War The Vietnam War (also known by #Names, other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vi ...
, making it one of the deadliest conflicts of the Cold War era. In addition, virtually all of Korea's major cities were destroyed by the war.


Post-Korean War (1960–1990)

In 1960, a student uprising (the "April 19 Revolution") led to the resignation of the autocratic then-President Syngman Rhee. This was followed by 13 months of political instability as South Korea was led by a weak and ineffectual government. This instability was broken by the 16 May 1961 coup led by General
Park Chung-hee Park Chung-hee (, ; 14 November 1917 – 26 October 1979) was a Korea, South Korean politician and Republic of Korea Army, army general who served as the dictator of South Korea from 1961 until Assassination of Park Chung-hee, his assassination ...
. As president, Park oversaw a period of rapid export-led economic growth enforced by political repression. Park was heavily criticized as a ruthless military dictator, who in 1972 extended his rule by creating a new constitution, which gave the president sweeping (almost dictatorial) powers and permitted him to run for an unlimited number of six-year terms. The Korean economy developed significantly during Park's tenure. The government developed the nationwide expressway system, the Seoul subway system, and laid the foundation for economic development during his 17-year tenure, which ended with his assassination in 1979. The years after Park's assassination were marked again by political turmoil, as the previously suppressed opposition leaders all campaigned to run for president in the sudden political void. In 1979, General
Chun Doo-hwan Chun Doo-hwan (; or ; 18 January 1931 – 23 November 2021) was a South Korean army general and military dictator who ruled as an unelected strongman from 1979 to 1980 before replacing Choi Kyu-hah as president of South Korea from 1980 t ...
led the coup d'état of December Twelfth. Following the coup d'état, Chun Doo-hwan planned to rise to power through several measures. On 17 May, Chun Doo-hwan forced the Cabinet to expand martial law to the whole nation, which had previously not applied to the island of Jejudo. The expanded martial law closed universities, banned political activities, and further curtailed the press. Chun's assumption of the presidency through the events of 17 May triggered nationwide protests demanding democracy; these protests were particularly focused in the city of
Gwangju Gwangju () is South Korea's list of cities in South Korea, sixth-largest metropolis. It is a designated Special cities of South Korea, metropolitan city under the direct control of the central government's Home Minister. The city was also the ...
, to which Chun sent special forces to violently suppress the
Gwangju Democratization Movement The Gwangju Uprising was a popular uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Korea, from May 18 to May 27, 1980, which pitted local, armed citizens against soldiers and police of the South Korean government. The event is sometimes called 5·18 (Ma ...
. Chun subsequently created the National Defense Emergency Policy Committee and took the presidency according to his political plan. Chun and his government held South Korea under a despotic rule until 1987, when a
Seoul National University Seoul National University (SNU; ) is a national public research university located in Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seou ...
student, Park Jong-chul, was tortured to death. On , the Catholic Priests Association for Justice revealed the incident, igniting the
June Democratic Struggle The June Democratic Struggle (), also known as the June Democracy Movement and June Democratic Uprising, was a nationwide pro-democracy movement in South Korea that generated mass protests from June 10 to June 29, 1987. The demonstrations force ...
across the country. Eventually, Chun's party, the
Democratic Justice Party The Democratic Justice Party (; DJP) was the ruling party of South Korea from 1981 to 1988. History Chun had become the country's de facto leader after leading a Coup d'état of December Twelfth, military coup in December 1979, and was electe ...
, and its leader,
Roh Tae-woo Roh Tae-woo (; ; 4 December 1932 – 26 October 2021) was a South Korean politician A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking an elected office in government A government is the syste ...
, announced the June 29 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 Kim Dae-jung (; ; 6 January 192418 August 2009), was a South Korea, South Korean politician and activist who served as the eighth president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003. He was a 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his work for democra ...
and
Kim Young-sam Kim Young-sam (; or ; 20 December 1927 – 22 November 2015) was a Demographics of South Korea, South Korean politician and activist who served as the seventh president of South Korea from 1993 to 1998. From 1961, he spent almost 30 year ...
. Seoul hosted the Olympic Games in 1988, widely regarded as successful and a significant boost for South Korea's global image and economy. South Korea was formally invited to become a member of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be ...
in 1991. The transition of Korea from autocracy to modern democracy was marked in 1997 by the election of Kim Dae-jung, who was sworn in as the eighth president of South Korea, on 25 February 1998. His election was significant given that he had in earlier years been a political prisoner sentenced to death (later commuted to exile). He won against the backdrop of the
1997 Asian Financial Crisis The Asian financial crisis was a period of financial crisis that gripped much of East Asia and Southeast Asia beginning in July 1997 and raised fears of a worldwide economic meltdown due to financial contagion. However, the recovery in 1998–1 ...
, where he took
IMF The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a major financial agency of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and international security, ...
advice to restructure the economy and the nation soon recovered its economic growth, albeit at a slower pace.


Contemporary South Korea

In June 2000, as part of president Kim Dae-jung's "
Sunshine Policy The Sunshine Policy () is the theoretical basis for South Korea South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and sharing a Korean Demilitarize ...
" of engagement, a North–South summit took place in
Pyongyang Pyongyang (, , ) is the Capital city, capital and largest city of North Korea, where it is known as the "Capital of the Revolution". Pyongyang is located on the Taedong River about upstream from its mouth on the Yellow Sea. According to the 2 ...
, the capital of North Korea. Later that year, Kim received the
Nobel Peace Prize The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Swedish industrialist, inventor and armaments (military weapons and equipment) manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Chemi ...
"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". However, because of discontent among the population for fruitless approaches to the North under the previous administrations and, amid North Korean provocations, a conservative government was elected in 2007 led by President
Lee Myung-bak Lee Myung-bak (; ; ; born 19 December 1941) is a South Korean businessman and politician who served as the 10th president of South Korea The president of the Republic of Korea (), also known as the president of South Korea (often abbreviate ...
, former
mayor of Seoul The Mayor of Seoul () is the chief executive of Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul being the capital and largest city of South Korea. The position is historically one of the most powerful in the country, charged with managing an annual budget ...
. Meanwhile, South Korea and Japan jointly co-hosted the
2002 FIFA World Cup The 2002 FIFA World Cup, also branded as Korea Japan 2002, was the 17th FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial Association football, football world championship for List of men's national association football teams, men's national teams organized by ...
. However, South Korean and Japanese relations later soured because of conflicting claims of
sovereignty Sovereignty is the defining authority within individual consciousness, Social constructionism, social construct, or territory. Sovereignty entails hierarchy within the state, as well as external autonomy for states. In any state, sovereignty i ...
over the
Liancourt Rocks The Liancourt Rocks, also known by their Korean name of Dokdo or their Japanese name of Takeshima,; ; . form a group of islets in the Sea of Japan between the Korean peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. The Liancourt Rocks comprise two ...
. In 2010, there was an escalation in attacks by North Korea. In March 2010 the South Korean warship ROKS Cheonan was sunk leading to the death of 46 South Korean sailors, allegedly by a North Korean submarine. In November 2010 Yeonpyeong island was attacked by a significant North Korean artillery barrage, with 4 people dying. The lack of a strong response to these attacks from both South Korea and the international community (the official UN report declined to explicitly name North Korea as the perpetrator for the
Cheonan Cheonan (; 천안시, ''Cheonan-si''), also spelled Ch'ŏnan, is a Administrative divisions of South Korea, city in Chungcheongnam-do, South Chungcheong, South Korea. Cheonan has a population of 666,417 (2018), making it the most-populous city or ...
sinking) caused significant anger with the South Korean public. South Korea saw another milestone in 2012 with the first ever female president
Park Geun-hye Park Geun-hye (; ; often in English ; born 2 February 1952) is a South Korean politician who served as the 11th president of South Korea from 2013 to 2017, until she was Impeachment of Park Geun-hye, impeached and convicted on 2016 South Korean ...
elected Elected may refer to: *Elected (song), "Elected" (song), by Alice Cooper, 1973 *Elected (EP), ''Elected'' (EP), by Ayreon, 2008 *The Elected, an American indie rock band See also

*Election {{disambiguation ...
and assuming office. Daughter of another former president,
Park Chung-hee Park Chung-hee (, ; 14 November 1917 – 26 October 1979) was a Korea, South Korean politician and Republic of Korea Army, army general who served as the dictator of South Korea from 1961 until Assassination of Park Chung-hee, his assassination ...
, she carried on a conservative brand of politics. President Park Geun-hye's administration was formally accused of corruption, bribery, and influence-peddling for the involvement of close friend Choi Soon-sil in state affairs. There followed a series of massive public demonstrations from November 2016 and she was removed from office. After the fallout of President Park's impeachment and dismissal, new elections were held and
Moon Jae-in Moon Jae-in (; ; born 24 January 1953) is a South Korean former politician, civil servant and lawyer who served as the 12th president of South Korea between 2017 and 2022. Prior to his presidency, he served as Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs an ...
of the Democratic party won the presidency, assuming office on 10 May 2017. His tenure saw an improving political relationship with North Korea, some increasing divergence in the military alliance with the United States, and the successful hosting of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. In April 2018, former president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in jail, because of abuse of power and corruption. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the nation since 2020. That same year, South Korea recorded more deaths than births, resulting in a population decline for the first time on record. In March 2022,
Yoon Suk-yeol Yoon Suk-yeol (; born 18 December 1960) is a South Korean politician, former public prosecutor and lawyer who has been serving as the 13th and current president of South Korea since 2022. Prior to his presidency, he served as the Prosecutor G ...
, the candidate of conservative opposition People Power Party, won a close
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative ...
over Democratic Party candidate by the narrowest margin ever. On 10 May 2022, Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn in as South Korea's new president to succeed Moon. On 29 October 2022, at least 153 people were crushed to death when a crowd surged in an alleyway during
Halloween Halloween or Hallowe'en (less commonly known as Allhalloween, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve) is a celebration observed in many countries on 31 October, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Saints' Day. It begins the observa ...
festivities in Seoul's
Itaewon Itaewon (; International Phonetic Alphabet, IPA ) is multi-cultural commercial area located in Seoul, South Korea. it is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Seoul, known for its nightlife and trendy restaurants. Etymology The name Itaewon ...
district. President Yoon declared a state of official national mourning.


Geography, climate and environment


Geography

South Korea occupies the southern portion of the
Korean Peninsula Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) comprising its northern half and Sout ...
, which extends some from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the
Yellow Sea The Yellow Sea is a marginal sea of the Western Pacific Ocean located between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and can be considered the northwestern part of the East China Sea. It is one of four seas named after common colour terms ...
to the west, and the
Sea of Japan The Sea of Japan is the marginal sea between the Japanese archipelago, Sakhalin, the Korean Peninsula, and the mainland of the Russian Far East. The Japanese archipelago separates the sea from the Pacific Ocean. Like the Mediterranean Sea, it h ...
to the east. Its southern tip lies on the
Korea Strait The Korea Strait is a sea passage in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Jap ...
and the
East China Sea The East China Sea is an arm of the Western Pacific Ocean, located directly offshore from East China. It covers an area of roughly . The sea’s northern extension between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula is the Yellow Sea, separated b ...
. The country, including all its islands, lies between latitudes 33° and 39°N, and longitudes 124° and 130°E. Its 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 The Nakdonggang River or Nakdonggang () is the longest river in South Korea, and passes through major cities such as Daegu and Busan. It takes its name from its role as the eastern border of the Gaya confederacy during Three Kingdoms of Korea, K ...
.Geography of Korea
Asia Info Organization
South Korea is home to three terrestrial ecoregions: Central Korean deciduous forests, Manchurian mixed forests, and Southern Korea evergreen forests. South Korea's terrain is mostly mountainous, most of which is not arable.
Lowland Upland and lowland are conditional descriptions of a plain based on elevation above sea level. In studies of the ecology of freshwater rivers, habitats are classified as upland or lowland. Definitions Upland and lowland are portions of p ...
s, located primarily in the west and southeast, make up 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-do is about off the southern coast of South Korea. It is the country's largest island, with an area of . Jeju is also the site of South Korea's highest point:
Hallasan Hallasan is a shield volcano on Jeju-do, Jeju Island in South Korea; it is the highest point of South Korea and the second-highest mountain in Korea overall, after Paektu Mountain. The area around the mountain is a designated national park, the ...
, an extinct
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the Crust (geology), crust of a Planet#Planetary-mass objects, planetary-mass object, such as Earth, that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and volcanic gas, gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface. On Ear ...
, reaches
above sea level Height above mean sea level is a measure of the Vertical position, vertical distance (height, elevation or altitude) of a location in reference to a historic mean sea level taken as a vertical datum. In geodesy, it is formalized as ''orthometric h ...
. The easternmost islands of South Korea include
Ulleungdo Ulleungdo (also spelled Ulreungdo; Hangul: , ) is a South Korean island 120 km (75 mi) east of the Korean Peninsula in the Sea of Japan, formerly known as the Dagelet Island or Argonaut Island in Europe. Volcanic in origin, the rocky s ...
and
Liancourt Rocks The Liancourt Rocks, also known by their Korean name of Dokdo or their Japanese name of Takeshima,; ; . form a group of islets in the Sea of Japan between the Korean peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. The Liancourt Rocks comprise two ...
(Dokdo/Takeshima), while Marado and Socotra Rock are the southernmost islands of South Korea. South Korea has 20 national parks and popular nature places like the Boseong Tea Fields, Suncheon Bay Ecological Park, and the first national park of Jirisan.


Climate

South Korea tends to have a
humid continental climate A humid continental climate is a climate, climatic region defined by Russo-German climatologist Wladimir Köppen in 1900, typified by four distinct seasons and large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and ...
and a
humid subtropical climate A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cool to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents (except Antarctica), generally between latitudes 25° and 40° ...
, and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with
precipitation In meteorology, precipitation is any product of the condensation of atmospheric water vapor that falls under gravitational pull from clouds. The main forms of precipitation include drizzle, rain, Rain and snow mixed, sleet, snow, ice pellets, ...
heavier in summer during a short rainy season called ''
jangma The East Asian Monsoon is a monsoonal flow that carries moist air from the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean to East Asia. It affects approximately one-third of the global population, influencing the climate of Japan, the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, Ch ...
'' ( 장마), which begins end of June through the end of July. Winters can be extremely cold with the minimum temperature dropping below in the inland region of the country: in Seoul, the average January temperature range is , and the average August temperature range is . Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Summer can be uncomfortably hot and humid, with temperatures exceeding in most parts of the country. South Korea has four distinct seasons; spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring usually lasts from late March to early May, summer from mid-May to early September, autumn from mid-September to early November, and winter from mid-November to mid-March. Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months of June through September. The southern coast is subject to late summer
typhoons A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone that develops between 180th meridian, 180° and 100th meridian east, 100°E in the Northern Hemisphere. This region is referred to as the Tropical cyclone basins#Northwestern Pacific Ocean, Northwestern P ...
that bring strong winds, heavy rains and sometimes floods. The average annual precipitation varies from in
Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''de jure'' capital of the North Korea, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea ...
to in
Busan Busan (), officially known as is South Korea's most populous city after Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''d ...
.


Environment

During the first 20 years of South Korea's growth surge, little effort was made to preserve the environment. Unchecked industrialization and urban development have 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 five-year
green growth Green growth is a term to describe a hypothetical path of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable. It is based on the understanding that as long as economic growth remains a predominant goal, a Eco-economic decoupling, decoupling of ec ...
project that aims to boost energy efficiency and green technology. The green-based economic strategy is a comprehensive overhaul of South Korea's economy, utilizing nearly two percent of the national GDP. The greening initiative includes such efforts as a nationwide bike network, solar and wind energy, lowering oil dependent vehicles, backing daylight saving time and extensive usage of environmentally friendly technologies such as LEDs in electronics and lighting. The country – already the world's most wired – plans to build a nationwide next-generation network that will be 10 times faster than broadband facilities, in order to reduce energy usage. The renewable portfolio standard program with renewable energy certificates runs from 2012 to 2022. Quota systems favor large, vertically integrated generators and multinational electric utilities, if only because certificates are generally denominated in units of one megawatt-hour. They are also more difficult to design and implement than a
Feed-in tariff A feed-in tariff (FIT, FiT, standard offer contract,Couture, T., Cory, K., Kreycik, C., Williams, E., (2010)Policymaker's Guide to Feed-in Tariff Policy Design National Renewable Energy Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy advanced renewable tariff, ...
.Renewable Energy Policy Mechanisms by Paul Gipe
(1.3MB)
Lauber, V. (2004). "REFIT and RPS: Options for a harmonized Community framework", ''Energy Policy'', Vol. 32, Issue 12, pp. 1405–1414.
Lauber, V. (2008). "Certificate Trading – Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?" Ljubljana Conference on the Future of GHG Emissions Trading in the EU, March 2008. Salzburg, Austria: University of Salzburg. Retrieved 16 March 2009 at www.uni-salzburg.at/politikwissenschaft/lauber
Around 350 residential
micro combined heat and power Micro combined heat and power, micro-CHP, µCHP or mCHP is an extension of the idea of cogeneration to the single/multi family home or small office building in the range of up to 50 Kilowatt, kW. Usual technologies for the production of heat and ...
units were installed in 2012. In 2017, South Korea was the world's seventh largest emitter of carbon emissions and the fifth largest emitter per capita. The president
Moon Jae-in Moon Jae-in (; ; born 24 January 1953) is a South Korean former politician, civil servant and lawyer who served as the 12th president of South Korea between 2017 and 2022. Prior to his presidency, he served as Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs an ...
pledged to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities strengthen the greenhouse effect, contributing to climate change. Most is carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, oil, and natural gas. The top contributors to greenhouse gas emi ...
– which contribute to
climate change In common usage, climate change describes global warming—the ongoing increase in global average temperature—and its effects on Earth's climate system. Climate variability and change, Climate change in a broader sense also includes ...
– to zero in 2050. Seoul's
tap water Tap water (also known as faucet water, running water, or municipal water) is water supplied through a Tap (valve), tap, a water dispenser valve. In many countries, tap water usually has the quality of drinking water. Tap water is commonly used fo ...
recently became safe to drink, with city officials branding it " Arisu" in a bid to convince the public. Efforts have also been made with
afforestation Afforestation is the establishment of a forest or stand of trees (forestation) in an area where there was no previous tree cover. Many government and non-governmental organizations directly engage in afforestation programs to create forests a ...
projects. Another multibillion-dollar project was the restoration of
Cheonggyecheon Cheonggyecheon (Hangul: 청계천, ) is a modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul, South Korea. The massive urban renewal project is on the site of a stream that flowed before the Miracle on the Han River, rapid post-war economic devel ...
, a stream running through downtown Seoul that had earlier been paved over by a motorway. One major challenge is air quality, with
acid rain Acid rain is rain or any other form of Precipitation (meteorology), precipitation that is unusually acidic, meaning that it has elevated levels of hydrogen ions (low pH). Most water, including drinking water, has a neutral pH that exists b ...
, sulfur oxides, and annual yellow dust storms being particular problems. It is acknowledged that many of these difficulties are a result of South Korea's proximity to China, which is a major air polluter. South Korea had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.02/10, ranking it 87th globally out of 172 countries. South Korea is a member of the Antarctic-Environmental Protocol,
Antarctic Treaty The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements, collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS), regulate international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth's only continent without a native human population. It was the first arms co ...
, Biodiversity Treaty,
Kyoto Protocol The Kyoto Protocol was an Treaty, international treaty which extended the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that commits state parties to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on the Scientific consensus on ...
(forming the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG), regarding
UNFCCC The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established an international environmental treaty to combat "dangerous human interference with the climate system", in part by stabilizing greenhouse gas A greenhouse ...
, with Mexico and Switzerland),
Desertification Desertification is a type of land degradation in drylands in which biological productivity is lost due to natural processes or induced by human activities whereby fertile areas become increasingly arid. It is the spread of arid areas caused by ...
,
Endangered Species An endangered species is a species that is very likely to become extinct in the near future, either worldwide or in a particular political jurisdiction. Endangered species may be at risk due to factors such as habitat loss, poaching and invas ...
, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping,
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is a multilateral treaty to ban nuclear weapons test explosions and any other nuclear explosions, for both civilian and military purposes, in all environments. It was adopted by the United Nations ...
(not into force), Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94,
Wetlands A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded or saturated by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in t ...
, and
Whaling Whaling is the process of hunting of whales for their usable products such as Whale meat, meat and blubber, which can be turned into Whale oil, a type of oil that became increasingly important in the Industrial Revolution. It was practiced as a ...
.


Government

The South Korean government's structure is determined by the
Constitution of the Republic of Korea The Constitution of the Republic of Korea () is the supreme law of South Korea. It was promulgated on July 17, 1948, and last revised on October 29, 1987. Background The Provisional Charter of Korea The preamble of the Constitution of South ...
. Like many democratic states, South Korea has a government divided into three branches:
executive Executive ( exe., exec., execu.) may refer to: Role or title * Executive, a senior management Senior management, executive management, upper management, or a management is generally individuals at the highest level of management of an organizat ...
,
judicial The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of courts that adjudication, adjudicates legal disputes/disagreements and interprets, defends, and app ...
, and
legislative A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
. The executive and legislative branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. The
judicial branch The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the autho ...
operates at both the national and local levels. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. South Korea is a constitutional democracy. The constitution 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 second Republic of Korea was the government of South Korea South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and sharing a Korean Demilitarize ...
, the country has always had a presidential system with an independent chief executive. Under its current constitution the state is sometimes referred to as the Sixth Republic of South Korea. The first direct
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative ...
was also held in 1948. Although South Korea experienced a series of military dictatorships from the 1960s until the 1980s, it has since developed into a successful
liberal democracy Liberal democracy is the combination of a liberalism, liberal political ideology that operates under an representative democracy, indirect democratic form of government. It is characterized by elections between Pluralism (political philosophy), ...
. Today, the
CIA World Factbook ''The World Factbook'', also known as the ''CIA World Factbook'', is a reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with almanac-style information about the countries of the world. The official print version is available ...
describes South Korea's democracy as a "fully functioning modern democracy". South Korea is ranked 45th on the
Corruption Perceptions Index The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) is an index which ranks countries "by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys." The CPI generally defines corruption as an "abuse of entru ...
(9th in the
Asia-Pacific Asia-Pacific (APAC) is the part of the world near the western Pacific Ocean. The Asia-Pacific region varies in area depending on the context, but it often includes countries in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania that border the Pacific ...
region), with a score of 57 out of 100.


Administrative divisions

The major administrative divisions in South Korea are eight provinces, one special self-governing province, six metropolitan cities (self-governing cities that are not part of any province), one special city and one special self-governing city.


Demographics

In April 2016, South Korea's population was estimated to be around 50.8 million by National Statistical Office, with continuing decline of working age population and
total fertility rate The total fertility rate (TFR) of a population is the average number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime if: # she were to experience the exact current age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) through her lifetime # she were t ...
. In a further indication of South Korea's dramatic decline in fertility, in 2020 the country recorded more deaths than births, resulting in a population decline for the first time since modern records began. In 2021, the fertility rate stood at just 0.81 children per woman. The country is noted for its population density, which was an estimated 505 per square kilometer in 2015, more than 10 times the global average. Aside from micro-states and city-states, South Korea is the world's third most densely-populated country. In practice the population density in much of South Korea is higher than the national one, as most of the country's land is uninhabitable due to being used for other purposes such as farming. Most South Koreans live in urban areas, because of rapid migration from the countryside during the country's quick economic expansion in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The capital city of
Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''de jure'' capital of the North Korea, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea ...
is also the country's largest city and chief industrial center. According to the 2005 census, Seoul had a population of inhabitants. The
Seoul National Capital Area The Seoul Capital Area (SCA), Sudogwon (, ) or Gyeonggi region (), is the metropolitan area of Seoul, Incheon, and Gyeonggi Province, located in north-west South Korea. Its population of 26 million (as of 2020) is ranked as the List of metropolit ...
has inhabitants (about half of South Korea's entire population) making it the world's second largest metropolitan area. Other major cities include
Busan Busan (), officially known as is South Korea's most populous city after Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''d ...
(),
Incheon Incheon (; ; or Inch'ŏn; literally "kind river"), formerly Jemulpo or Chemulp'o (제물포) until the period after 1910, officially the Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시, 仁川廣域市), is a city located in northwestern South Kore ...
(),
Daegu Daegu (, , literally 'large hill', 대구광역시), formerly spelled Taegu and officially known as the Daegu Metropolitan City, is a city in South Korea. It is the third-largest urban agglomeration in South Korea after Seoul and Busan; it is ...
(),
Daejeon Daejeon () is South Korea's list of cities in South Korea, fifth-largest metropolis, with a population of 1.5 million as of 2019. Located in the central-west region of South Korea alongside forested hills and the Geum River, the city is kno ...
(),
Gwangju Gwangju () is South Korea's list of cities in South Korea, sixth-largest metropolis. It is a designated Special cities of South Korea, metropolitan city under the direct control of the central government's Home Minister. The city was also the ...
() and
Ulsan Ulsan (), officially the Ulsan Metropolitan City is South Korea's seventh-largest metropolitan city and the eighth-largest city overall, with a population of over 1.1 million inhabitants. It is located in the south-east of the country, neighboring ...
(). The population has also been shaped by international migration. After World War II and the division of the Korean Peninsula, about four million people from North Korea crossed the border to South Korea. This trend of net entry reversed over the next 40 years because of emigration, especially to North America through the United States and Canada. South Korea's total population in 1955 was , and has more than doubled, to 50 million, by 2010. South Korea is considered one of the most ethnically homogeneous societies in the world with ethnic Koreans representing approximately 96% of total population. Precise numbers are difficult since statistics do not record ethnicity and given many immigrants are ethnically Korean themselves, and some South Korean citizens are not ethnically Korean. The percentage of foreign nationals has been growing rapidly. , South Korea had 1,413,758 foreign residents, 2.75% of the population; however, many of them are ethnic Koreans with a foreign citizenship. For example, migrants from China (PRC) make up 56.5% of foreign nationals, but approximately 70% of the Chinese citizens in Korea are (), PRC citizens of Korean ethnicity. Regardless of the ethnicity, there are 28,500
US military The United States Armed Forces are the Military, military forces of the United States. The armed forces consists of six Military branch, service branches: the United States Army, Army, United States Marine Corps, Marine Corps, United States N ...
personnel serving in South Korea, most serving a one-year unaccompanied tour (though approximately 10% serve longer tours accompanied by family), according to the Korea National Statistical Office. In addition, about 43,000 English teachers from
English-speaking countries The following is a list of English language, English-speaking population List of sovereign states, by country, including information on both First language, native speakers and second language, second-language speakers. List * The Europea ...
reside temporarily in Korea. Currently, South Korea has one of the highest rates of growth of foreign born population, with about 30,000 foreign born residents obtaining South Korean citizenship every year since 2010. Large numbers of ethnic Koreans live overseas, sometimes in Korean ethnic neighborhoods also known as
Koreatown A Koreatown (Korean language, Korean: 코리아타운), also known as a Little Korea or Little Seoul, is a Korean-dominated ethnic enclave within a city or metropolitan area outside the Korean Peninsula. History Koreatowns as an East Asian peop ...
s. The four largest diaspora populations can be found in
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, most populous country, with a Population of China, population exceeding 1.4 billion, slig ...
(2.3 million), the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
(1.8 million),
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally , ''Nihonkoku'') is an island country in East Asia. It is situated in the northwest Pacific Ocean, and is bordered on the west by the Sea of Japan, while extending from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north ...
(0.85 million), and
Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world ...
(0.25 million). South Korea's birth rate was the world's lowest in 2009, at an annual rate of approximately 9 births per 1000 people. Fertility saw some modest increase afterwards, but dropped to a new global low in 2017, with fewer than 30,000 births per month for the first time since records began and less than 1 child per woman in 2018. The average
life expectancy Life expectancy is a statistical measure of the average time an organism is expected to live, based on the year of its birth, current age, and other demographic factors like sex. The most commonly used measure is life expectancy at birth ...
in 2008 was 79.10 years, (which was 34th in the world) but by 2015 it had increased to around 81. South Korea has the steepest decline in working age population of the OECD nations. In 2015, National Statistical Office estimated that the population of the country will have reached its peak by 2035.


Education

A centralized administration in South Korea oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. The school year is divided into two semesters, the first of which begins at 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. Most South Korean middle schools and high schools have school uniforms, modeled on western-style uniforms. Boys' uniforms usually consist of trousers and white shirts, and girls wear skirts and white shirts (this only applies in middle schools and high schools). The country adopted a new educational program to increase the number of their foreign students through 2010. According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of scholarships for foreign students in South Korea would have (under the program) doubled by that time, and the number of foreign students would have reached 100,000. South Korea is one of the top-performing
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
countries in reading literacy, mathematics and sciences with the average student scoring 519, compared with the OECD average of 492, placing it ninth in the world. The country has one of the world's highest-educated labor forces among OECD countries. The country is well known for its highly feverish outlook on education, where its national obsession with education has been called "education fever". This obsession with education has catapulted the resource-poor nation consistently atop the global education rankings. In 2014, South Korea ranked second worldwide (after Singapore) in the national rankings of students' math and science scores by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) . Higher education is a serious issue in South Korean society, where it is viewed as one of the fundamental cornerstones of South Korean life. Education is regarded with a high priority for South Korean families, as success in education is often a source of pride for families and within South Korean society at large, and is a necessity to improve one's socioeconomic position in South Korean society. South Koreans view education as the main propeller of social mobility for themselves and their family, as a gateway to the South Korean middle class. Graduating from a top university is the ultimate marker of prestige, high socioeconomic status, promising marriage prospects, and a respectable career path. The entrance into a top-tier higher educational institution leads to a prestigious, secure and well-paid white collar job with the government, banks, or a major South Korean conglomerate such as
Samsung The Samsung Group (or simply Samsung) ( ko, 삼성 ) is a South Korean Multinational corporation, multinational manufacturing Conglomerate (company), conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea. It comprises numerous affi ...
, Hyundai or
LG Electronics LG Electronics Inc. () is a South Korean Multinational corporation, multinational electronics company headquartered in Yeouido-dong, Seoul, South Korea. LG Electronics is a part of LG Corporation, the fourth largest ''chaebol'' in South Korea ...
. With incredible pressure on high school students to secure places at the nation's best universities, its institutional reputation and alumni networks are strong predictors of future career prospects. The top three universities in South Korea, often referred to as "SKY", are
Seoul National University Seoul National University (SNU; ) is a national public research university located in Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seou ...
,
Korea University Korea University (KU, ) is a private university, private research university in Seoul, South Korea, established in 1905. The university is included as one of the SKY (universities), SKY universities, a popular acronym referring to Korea's t ...
and
Yonsei University Yonsei University (; ) is a private university, private research university in Seoul, South Korea. As a member of the "SKY (universities), SKY" universities, Yonsei University is deemed one of the three most prestigious institutions in the coun ...
. An average South Korean student's life revolves around education, with intense competition for top grades, pressure to succeed academically and being the top student deeply ingrained in the psyche of South Korean students at a young age. Yet with only limited places at the nation's most prestigious universities and even fewer places at top-tier companies, many young people remain disappointed and are often unwilling to lower their sights with the result of many feeling as though they are underachievers. There is a major cultural taboo in South Korean society attached to those who have not achieved formal university education, where those who do not hold university degrees face social prejudice and are often looked down by others as second-class citizens. This often results in fewer opportunities for employment, improvement of one's socioeconomic position and prospects for marriage. In 2015, the country spent 5.1% of its GDP on all levels of education – roughly 0.8 percentage points above the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 4.3%. A strong investment in education, a militant drive for success, as well as the passion for excellence has helped the resource-poor country rapidly grow its economy over the past 60 years from a war-torn wasteland to a prosperous first-world country. International opinion regarding the South Korean education system has been divided. It has been praised for various reasons, including its comparatively high test results and its major role in generating South Korea's
economic development In the economics Economics () is the social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the ...
, creating one of the world's most educated workforces. South Korea's highly enviable academic performance has persuaded British education ministers to actively remodel their own curriculums and exams to try to emulate Korea's militant drive and passion for excellence and high educational achievement. Former U.S. President
Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party (United States), Democratic Party, Obama was the first Af ...
has also praised the country's rigorous school system, where over 80 percent of South Korean high school graduates go on to university. The nation's high university entrance rate has created a highly skilled workforce, making South Korea among the most highly educated countries in the world with one of the highest percentages of its citizens holding a tertiary education degree."Korea: Overview of the Education System (EAG 2019)"
(2019). ''GPSEducation.OECD.org''.
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
In 2017, the country ranked fifth for the percentage of 25 to 64 year old's that have attained tertiary education with 47.7 percent. In addition, 69.8 percent of South Koreans aged 25–34 have completed some form of tertiary education qualification, and bachelor's degrees are held by 34.2 percent of South Koreans aged 25–64, the most in the OECD. The system's rigid and hierarchical structure has been criticized for stifling creativity and innovation; described as intensely and "brutally" competitive, the system is often blamed for the high
suicide Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death Death is the Irreversible process, irreversible cessation of all biological process, biological functions that sustain an organism. For organisms with a brain, death can also ...
rate in the country, particularly the growing rates among those aged 10–19. Various media outlets attribute the country's high suicide rate to the nationwide anxiety around the country's college entrance exams, which determine the trajectory of students' entire lives and careers. Former South Korean ''
hagwon Hagwon () is the Korean-language word for a for-profit private institute, academy, or cram school prevalent in South Korea. Although most widely known for their role as "cram schools", where children can study to improve test scores, hagwons actu ...
'' teacher Se-Woong Koo wrote that the South Korean education system amounts to
child abuse Child abuse (also called child endangerment or child maltreatment) is physical abuse, physical, child sexual abuse, sexual, and/or psychological abuse, psychological maltreatment or Child neglect, neglect of a child or children, especially by a ...
and that it should be "reformed and restructured without delay". The system has also been criticized for producing an excess supply of university graduates creating an overeducated and underemployed labor force; in the first quarter of 2013 alone, nearly 3.3 million South Korean university graduates were jobless, leaving many graduates overqualified for jobs requiring less education. Further criticism has been stemmed for causing labor shortages in various skilled blue collar labor and vocational occupations, where many go unfilled as the negative social stigma associated with vocational careers and not having a university degree continues to remain deep-rooted in South Korean society.


Language

Korean is the official language of South Korea, and is classified by most linguists as a
language isolate Language isolates are languages that cannot be classified into larger language families. Korean language, Korean and Basque language, Basque are two of the most common examples. Other language isolates include Ainu language, Ainu in Asia, Sandawe ...
. It incorporates a significant number of loan words from Chinese. Korean uses an indigenous writing system called
Hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's Revised Romanization of Korean, standard Romanization. ( ) in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is the modern official writing system f ...
, created in 1446 by
King Sejong Sejong of Joseon (15 May 1397 – 8 April 1450), personal name Yi Do (Korean language, Korean: 이도; Hanja: 李祹), widely known as Sejong the Great (Korean language, Korean: 세종대왕; Hanja: 世宗大王), was the fourth ruler of th ...
, to provide a convenient alternative to the
Classical Chinese Classical Chinese, also known as Literary Chinese (古文 ''gǔwén'' "ancient text", or 文言 ''wényán'' "text speak", meaning "literary language/speech"; modern vernacular: 文言文 ''wényánwén'' "text speak text", meaning "literar ...
Hanja Hanja (Hangul: ; Hanja: , ), alternatively known as Hancha, are Chinese characters Chinese characters () are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. In addition, they have been adapted to write other East Asian languages ...
characters that were difficult to learn and did not fit the Korean language well. South Korea still uses some Chinese Hanja characters in limited areas, such as print media and legal documentation. The Korean language in South Korea has a standard dialect known as the
Seoul dialect The Gyeonggi dialect () or Seoul dialect () of the Korean language is the prestige dialect of the language and the basis of the standardized form used in South Korea. It is spoken throughout the Korean Peninsula and in the Korean diaspora, but i ...
(after the capital city), with an additional four dialects (
Chungcheong Chungcheong (''Chungcheong-do''; ) was one of the Eight Provinces (Korea), eight provinces of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty. Chungcheong was located in the southwest of Korea. The provincial capital was located at Gongju, which had been the ...
, Gangwon,
Gyeongsang Gyeongsang ( ko, 경상도, ''Gyeongsang-do''; ) was one of the eight provinces of Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, w ...
, and
Jeolla Jeolla Province (, ) was one of the historical Eight Provinces of Korea During most of the Joseon, Joseon Dynasty, Korea was divided into eight provinces of Korea, provinces (''Do (administrative division), do''; ; ). The eight provinces' bo ...
) and one language ( Jeju) in use around the country. Almost all South Korean students today learn English throughout their education, with some optionally choosing Japanese or Mandarin as well.


Religion

According to the results of the census of 2015, more than half of the South Korean population (56.1%) declared themselves not affiliated with any
religious organizations Religious activities generally need some infrastructure to be conducted. For this reason, there generally exist religion-supporting organizations, which are some form of organization that manages: * the upkeep of places of worship, such as ...
. In a 2012 survey, 52% declared themselves "religious", 31% said they were "not religious" and 15% identified themselves as "convinced
atheists Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of Deity, deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that ther ...
". Of the people who are affiliated with a religious organization, most are
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...
and
Buddhists Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
. According to the 2015 census, 27.6% of the population were Christians (19.7% identified themselves as Protestants, 7.9% as Roman Catholics) and 15.5% were Buddhists. Other religions include
Islam Islam (; ar, ۘالِإسلَام, , ) is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion centred primarily around the Quran, a religious text considered by Muslims to be the direct word of God in Islam, God (or ''Allah'') as it was revealed to Muh ...
(130,000 Muslims, mostly migrant workers from Pakistan and Bangladesh but including some 35,000 Korean Muslims), the homegrown sect of
Won Buddhism Won Buddhism ( ko, 원불교, Wǒnbulgyo, label=none), is a modern religion originating in Korea. It can be regarded as either a Religious syncretism, syncretic new religious movement or a reformed Buddhism. The name "Won Buddhism" comes from the ...
, and a variety of indigenous religions, including
Cheondoism Cheondoism (spelled Chondoism in North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and shares borders with C ...
(a Confucianizing religion), Jeungsanism, Daejongism,
Daesun Jinrihoe Daesun Jinrihoe ( ko, 대순진리회), which in its English-language publications has recently used the transliteration Daesoonjinrihoe and, from 2017, Daesoon Jinrihoe, is a Korean new religious movement, founded in April 1969 by Park Han-gy ...
, and others.
Freedom of religion Freedom of religion or religious liberty is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance. It also includes the freedom ...
is guaranteed by the constitution, and there is no
state religion A state religion (also called religious state or official religion) is a religion or creed officially endorsed by a sovereign state. A state with an official religion (also known as confessional state), while not secular state, secular, is not n ...
. Overall, between the 2005 and 2015 censuses, there has been a slight decline of Christianity (down from 29% to 27.6%), a sharp decline of Buddhism (down from 22.8% to 15.5%), and a rise of the unaffiliated population (from 47.2% to 56.9%). Christianity is South Korea's largest organized religion, accounting for more than half of all South Korean adherents of religious organizations. There are approximately 13.5 million Christians in South Korea today; about two thirds of them belonging to Protestant churches, and the rest to the Catholic Church. The number of Protestants has been stagnant throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, but increased to a peak level throughout the 2010s. Roman Catholics increased significantly between the 1980s and the 2000s, but declined throughout the 2010s. Christianity, unlike in other East Asian countries, found fertile ground in Korea in the 18th century, and by the end of the 18th century it persuaded a large part of the population, as the declining monarchy supported it and opened the country to widespread
proselytism Proselytism () is the policy of attempting to convert people's religious or political beliefs. Proselytism is illegal in some countries. Some draw distinctions between ''evangelism'' or ''Da‘wah'' and proselytism regarding proselytism as involu ...
as part of a project of Westernization. The weakness of Korean Sindo, which – unlike Japanese
Shinto Shinto () is a religion from Japan. Classified as an East Asian religions, East Asian religion by Religious studies, scholars of religion, its practitioners often regard it as Japan's indigenous religion and as a nature religion. Scholars somet ...
and China's religious system – never developed into a national religion of high status, combined with the impoverished state of
Korean Buddhism Korean Buddhism is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism by its attempt to resolve what its early practitioners saw as inconsistencies within the Mahayana Buddhist traditions that they received from foreign countries. To address this, the ...
, (after 500 years of suppression at the hands of the Joseon state, by the 20th century it was virtually extinct) left a free hand to Christian churches. Christianity's similarity to native religious narratives has been studied as another factor that contributed to its success in the peninsula. The Japanese colonization of the first half of the 20th century further strengthened the identification of Christianity with
Korean nationalism Korean nationalism can be viewed in two different contexts. One encompasses various movements throughout history to maintain a Korean cultural identity, history, and ethnicity (or "race"). This ethnic nationalism was mainly forged in oppositio ...
, as the Japanese coopted native Korean Sindo into the Nipponic Imperial Shinto that they tried to establish in the peninsula.''Korean Social Sciences Journal'', 24 (1997). Korean Social Science Research Council. pp. 33–53 Widespread Christianization of the Koreans took place during State Shinto, after its abolition, and then in the independent South Korea as the newly established military government supported Christianity and tried to utterly oust native Sindo. Among Christian denominations,
Presbyterianism Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland by John Knox, who was a priest at St. Giles Cathedral (Church of Scotland). Presbyterian churches derive their nam ...
is the largest. About nine million people belong to one of the hundred different Presbyterian churches; the biggest ones are the HapDong Presbyterian Church, TongHap Presbyterian Church and the Koshin Presbyterian Church. South Korea is also the second-largest missionary-sending nation, after the United States. Buddhism was introduced to Korea in the 4th century. It soon became a dominant religion in the southeastern kingdom of
Silla Silla or Shilla (57 BCE – 935 CE) ( , Old Korean: Syera, Old Japanese: Siraki2) was a Korean kingdom located on the southern and central parts of the Korea, Korean Peninsula. Silla, along with Baekje and Goguryeo, formed the Three Kingdom ...
, the region that hitherto hosts the strongest concentration of Buddhists in South Korea. In the other states of the
Three Kingdoms Period The Three Kingdoms () from 220 to 280 AD was the tripartite division of China among the dynastic states of Cao Wei, Shu Han, and Eastern Wu. The Three Kingdoms period was preceded by the Han dynasty#Eastern Han, Eastern Han dynasty and wa ...
,
Goguryeo Goguryeo (37 BC–668 AD) ( ) also called Goryeo (), was a Korean kingdom located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula and the southern and central parts of Northeast China. At its peak of power, Goguryeo controlled most ...
and
Baekje Baekje or Paekche (, ) was a Korean kingdom located in southwestern Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Kor ...
, it was made the state religion respectively in 372 and 528. It remained the state religion in
Later Silla Unified Silla, or Late Silla (, ), is the name often applied to the Korean kingdom of Silla, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, after 668 CE. In the 7th century, a Silla–Tang alliance conquered Baekje and the southern part of Goguryeo in the ...
( North South States Period) and
Goryeo Goryeo (; ) was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korea, Korean Peninsula until 1392. Goryeo achieved what has been called a "true national un ...
. It was later suppressed throughout much of the subsequent history under the unified kingdom of Joseon (1392–1897), which officially adopted a strict
Korean Confucianism Korean Confucianism is the form of Confucianism that emerged and developed in Korea. One of the most substantial influences in Korean intellectual history was the introduction of Confucius, Confucian thought as part of the Chinese culture, cultur ...
. Today, South Korea has about 7 million Buddhists, most of them affiliated to the
Jogye Order The Jogye Order, officially the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism (대한불교조계종, 大韓佛敎 曹溪宗), is the representative Religious order#Buddhist tradition, order of traditional Korean Buddhism with roots that date back 1200 years to ...
. Most of the
National Treasures of South Korea A National Treasure () is a tangible treasure, artifact, site, or building which is recognized by the South Korea South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korea, ...
are Buddhist artifacts.


Health

South Korea has a
universal healthcare Universal health care (also called universal health coverage, universal coverage, or universal care) is a health care system in which all residents of a particular country or region are assured access to health care. It is generally organized ar ...
system. According to one ranking, it has the world's second best healthcare system.
Suicide in South Korea Suicide in South Korea occurs at the List of countries by suicide rate, 12th highest rate in the world. South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the OECD. In 2012, suicide was the fourth-highest cause of death. The high suicide rates compar ...
is the 10th highest in the world according to the
World Health Organization The World Health Organization (WHO) is a list of specialized agencies of the United Nations, specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. The WHO Constitution states its main objective as "the attainme ...
, as well as the highest suicide rate in the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
. South Korean hospitals have advanced medical equipment and facilities readily available, ranking 4th for
MRI Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomy and the physiological processes of the body. Physics of magnetic resonance imaging#MRI scanner, MRI scanners use strong magnetic ...
units per capita and 6th for CT scanners per capita in the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
. It also had the OECD's second largest number of hospital beds per 1000 people at 9.56 beds.
Life expectancy Life expectancy is a statistical measure of the average time an organism is expected to live, based on the year of its birth, current age, and other demographic factors like sex. The most commonly used measure is life expectancy at birth ...
has been rising rapidly and South Korea ranked 11th in the world for life expectancy at 82.3 years by the WHO in 2015. It also has the third highest health adjusted life expectancy in the world.


Foreign relations

South Korea maintains diplomatic relations with more than 188 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 1 January 2007, former South Korean Foreign Minister
Ban Ki-moon Ban Ki-moon (; ; born 13 June 1944) is a South Korean politician and diplomat who served as the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, secretary-general of the United Nations between 2007 and 2016. Prior to his appointment as secretary ...
served as
UN Secretary-General The secretary-general of the United Nations (UNSG or SG) is the chief administrative officer of the United Nations and head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the United Nations System#Six principal organs, six principal organs of the Un ...
from 2007 to 2016. It has also developed links with the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations ASEAN ( , ), officially the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is a Political union, political and economic union of 10 member Sovereign state, states in Southeast Asia, which promotes intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental coo ...
as both a member of ''ASEAN Plus three,'' a body of observers, and the East Asia Summit (EAS). In November 2009, South Korea joined the OECD
Development Assistance Committee The OECD, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) is a forum to discuss issues surrounding aid, development and poverty reduction in developing country, developing countries. It desc ...
, marking the first time a former aid recipient country joined the group as a donor member. South Korea hosted the G-20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010, a year that saw South Korea and the
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
conclude a
free trade agreement A free-trade agreement (FTA) or treaty is an agreement according to international law to form a free-trade area between the cooperating state (polity), states. There are two types of trade agreements: Bilateralism, bilateral and Multilateralism, m ...
(FTA) to reduce trade barriers. South Korea went on to sign a Free Trade Agreement with Canada and
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of , Australia is the largest country by ...
in 2014, and another with
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and over 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands. It is the ...
in 2015.


North Korea

Both North and South Korea claim complete sovereignty over the entire peninsula and outlying islands. Despite mutual animosity, reconciliation efforts have continued since the initial separation between North and South Korea. Political figures such as Kim Koo worked to reconcile the two governments even after the Korean War. With longstanding animosity following the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
from 1950 to 1953, North Korea and South Korea signed an agreement to pursue peace. On 4 October 2007,
Roh Moo-Hyun Roh Moo-hyun (; ; 1 September 1946 – 23 May 2009) was a South Korean politician and lawyer who served as the ninth president of South Korea between 2003 and 2008. Roh's pre-presidential political career was focused on human rights advocacy for ...
and North Korean leader
Kim Jong-il Kim Jong-il (; ; ; born Yuri Irsenovich Kim;, 16 February 1941 – 17 December 2011) was a North Korean politician who was the second Supreme Leader (North Korean title), supreme leader of North Korea from 1994 to 2011. He led North Korea f ...
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 There have been a number of North Korean missile tests. North Korea has also fired a number of Short-range ballistic missile, short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, in what have been interpreted as political gestures. , North Korea has carr ...
in
1993 File:1993 Events Collage.png, From left, clockwise: The Oslo I Accord is signed in an attempt to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict; The White House (Moscow), Russian White House is shelled during the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis; Cze ...
,
1998 1998 was designated as the ''International Year of the Ocean''. Events January * January 6 – The ''Lunar Prospector'' spacecraft is launched into orbit around the Moon, and later finds evidence for frozen water, in soil in permanently sh ...
,
2006 File:2006 Events Collage V1.png, From top left, clockwise: The 2006 Winter Olympics open in Turin; Twitter is founded and launched by Jack Dorsey; The Nintendo Wii is released; Montenegro 2006 Montenegrin independence referendum, votes to declare ...
,
2009 File:2009 Events Collage V2.png, From top left, clockwise: The vertical stabilizer of Air France Flight 447 is pulled out from the Atlantic Ocean; Barack Obama becomes the first African American to become President of the United States; 2009 Iran ...
, and
2013 File:2013 Events Collage V2.png, From left, clockwise: Edward Snowden becomes internationally famous for leaking classified NSA wiretapping information; Typhoon Haiyan kills over 6,000 in the Philippines and Southeast Asia; The Dhaka garment facto ...
. By early 2009, relationships between North and South Korea were very tense; North Korea had 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. North and South Korea are still technically at war (having never signed a peace treaty after the Korean War) and share the world's most heavily fortified border. On 27 May 2009, North Korean media declared that the Armistice is no longer valid because of the South Korean government's pledge to "definitely join" the
Proliferation Security Initiative The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) is a global effort that aims to stop trafficking of weapons of mass destruction A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a chemical weapon, chemical, biological agent, biological, Radiological weapo ...
. To further complicate and intensify strains between the two nations, the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 was affirmed by the South Korean government to have been caused by a North Korean torpedo, which the North denies. President
Lee Myung-bak Lee Myung-bak (; ; ; born 19 December 1941) is a South Korean businessman and politician who served as the 10th president of South Korea The president of the Republic of Korea (), also known as the president of South Korea (often abbreviate ...
declared in May 2010 that Seoul would cut all trade with North Korea as part of measures primarily aimed at striking back at North Korea diplomatically and financially, except for the joint Kaesong Industrial Project and humanitarian aid. North Korea initially threatened to sever all ties, to completely abrogate the previous pact of non-aggression, and to expel all South Koreans from a joint industrial zone in Kaesong, but backtracked on its threats and decided to continue its ties with South Korea. Despite the continuing ties, the Kaesong Industrial Region has seen a large decrease in investment and manpower as a result of this military conflict. In February 2016, the Kaesong complex was closed by Seoul in reaction to North Korea's launch of a rocket earlier in the month, which was unanimously condemned by the
United Nations Security Council The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and internatio ...
. The 2017 election of President
Moon Jae-in Moon Jae-in (; ; born 24 January 1953) is a South Korean former politician, civil servant and lawyer who served as the 12th president of South Korea between 2017 and 2022. Prior to his presidency, he served as Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs an ...
has seen a change in approach towards the North, and both sides used the South Korean-held
2018 Winter Olympics The 2018 Winter Olympics ( ko, 2018년 동계 올림픽, Icheon sip-pal nyeon Donggye Ollimpik), officially the XXIII Olympic Winter Games (french: Les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d'hiver; ko, 제23회 동계 올림픽, Jeisipsamhoe Donggye Ollimpi ...
as an opportunity for engagement, with a very senior North Korean political delegation sent to the games, along with a reciprocal visit by senior South Korean cabinet members to the North soon afterwards.


China and Russia

Historically, Korea had close relations with the dynasties in China, and some Korean kingdoms were members of the Imperial Chinese tributary system. The Korean kingdoms also ruled over some Chinese kingdoms including the Khitan people and the Manchurians before the Qing dynasty and received tributes from them. In modern times, before the formation of South Korea, Korean independence fighters worked with Chinese soldiers during the Japanese occupation. However, after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, the People's Republic of China embraced
Maoism Maoism, officially called Mao Zedong Thought by the Chinese Communist Party, is a variety of Marxism–Leninism that Mao Zedong developed to realise a socialist revolution in the agricultural, pre-industrial society of the Republic of Chi ...
while South Korea sought close relations with the United States. The PRC assisted North Korea with manpower and supplies during the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
, 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 24 August 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 China (Taiwan) Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), is a Country, country in East Asia, at the junction of the East China Sea, East and South China Seas in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, with the China, People's Republic of China (PRC) to the n ...
upon gaining official relations with the People's Republic of China, which does not recognize Taiwan's sovereignty. China has become South Korea's largest trading partner by far, sending 26% of South Korean exports in 2016 worth $124 billion, as well as an additional $32 billion worth of exports to
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
. South Korea is also China's fourth largest trading partner, with $93 billion of Chinese imports in 2016. The 2017 deployment of
THAAD Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), formerly Theater High Altitude Area Defense, is an American Anti-ballistic missile, anti-ballistic missile defense system designed to shoot down Short-range ballistic missile, short-, medium-range ba ...
defense missiles by the United States military in South Korea in response to North Korean missile tests has been protested strongly by the Chinese government, concerned that the technologically advanced missile defense could be used more broadly against China. Relations between the governments have cooled in response, with South Korean commercial and cultural interests in China having been targeted, and Chinese tourism to South Korea having been curtailed. The situation was largely resolved by South Korea making significant military concessions to China in exchange for THAAD, including not deploying any more anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea and not participating in an alliance between the United States and Japan. South Korea and Russia are participants in the
Six-party talks The six-party talks aimed to find a peaceful resolution to the security concerns as a result of the North Korean nuclear weapons program. There was a series of meetings with six participating states in Beijing } Beijing ( ; ; ), alte ...
on the North Korea's nuclear proliferation issue. Moon Jae-in's administration has focused on increasing South Korea's consumption of natural gas. These plans include re-opening dialogue around a natural gas pipeline that would come from Russia and pass through North Korea. In June 2018, president
Moon Jae-in Moon Jae-in (; ; born 24 January 1953) is a South Korean former politician, civil servant and lawyer who served as the 12th president of South Korea between 2017 and 2022. Prior to his presidency, he served as Senior Secretary for Civil Affairs an ...
became the first South Korean leader to speak in the Russian Parliament. On 22 June, Moon Jae-in and Putin signed a document for foundation of free trade area.


Japan

Korea and Japan have had difficult relations since ancient times, but also significant cultural exchange, with Korea acting as the gateway between Asia and Japan. Contemporary perceptions of Japan are still largely defined by Japan's 35 year colonization of Korea in the 20th century, which is generally regarded in South Korea as having been very negative. Japan is today South Korea's third largest trading partner, with 12% ($46 billion) of exports in 2016. There were no formal diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan directly after independence the end of World War II in 1945. South Korea and Japan eventually 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 because of a number of unsettled Japanese-Korean disputes, many of which stem from the period of Japanese occupation after the Japanese annexation of Korea. During
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, more than 100,000 Koreans served in the
Imperial Japanese Army The was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until t ...
. Korean women were coerced and forced to serve the Imperial Japanese Army as sexual slaves, called
comfort women Comfort women or comfort girls were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied countries and territories before and during World War II. The term "comfort women" is a translation of the Japanese '':ja: ...
, in both Korea and throughout the Japanese war fronts. Longstanding issues such as
Japanese war crimes The Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II 1947 consti ...
against Korean civilians, the negationist re-writing of Japanese textbooks relating Japanese atrocities during World War II, the territorial disputes over the
Liancourt Rocks The Liancourt Rocks, also known by their Korean name of Dokdo or their Japanese name of Takeshima,; ; . form a group of islets in the Sea of Japan between the Korean peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. The Liancourt Rocks comprise two ...
, known in South Korea as "Dokdo" and in Japan as "Takeshima", and visits by Japanese politicians to the
Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine located in Chiyoda, Tokyo. It was founded by Emperor Meiji in June 1869 and commemorates those who died in service of Empire of Japan, Japan, from the Boshin War of 1868–1869, to the two Sino-Japanese Wars, First Sino-Japane ...
, honoring Japanese people (civilians and military) killed during the war continue to trouble Korean-Japanese relations. The Liancourt Rocks were the first Korean territories to be forcibly colonized by Japan in 1905. Although it was again returned to Korea along with the rest of its territory in 1951 with the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco, Japan does not recant on its claims that the Liancourt Rocks are Japanese territory. In response to then-Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi Junichiro Koizumi (; , ''Koizumi Jun'ichirō'' ; born 8 January 1942) is a former Japanese politician who was Prime Minister of Japan The prime minister of Japan (Japanese language, Japanese: 内閣総理大臣, Hepburn romanization, Hepb ...
's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, former
President President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university *President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese ful ...
Roh Moo-hyun Roh Moo-hyun (; ; 1 September 1946 – 23 May 2009) was a South Korean politician and lawyer who served as the ninth president of South Korea between 2003 and 2008. Roh's pre-presidential political career was focused on human rights advocacy for ...
suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan in 2009. A summit between the nations' leaders was eventually held on 9 February 2018 during the Korean held Winter Olympics. South Korea asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ban the Japanese
Rising Sun Flag The is a Japanese flag that consists of a red disc and sixteen red rays emanating from the disc. Like the Flag of Japan, Japanese national flag, the Rising Sun Flag symbolizes the sun. The flag was originally used by daimyō, feudal warlords ...
from the
2020 Summer Olympics The , officially the and also known as , was an international multi-sport event held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, Japan, with some preliminary events that began on 21 July. Tokyo was selected as the List of Olympic Games h ...
in Tokyo, and the IOC said in a statement "sports stadiums should be free of any political demonstration. When concerns arise at games time we look at them on a case-by-case basis."


European Union

The
European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of the European Union, member states that are located primarily in Europe, Europe. The union has a total area of ...
(EU) and South Korea are important trading partners, having negotiated a
free trade agreement A free-trade agreement (FTA) or treaty is an agreement according to international law to form a free-trade area between the cooperating state (polity), states. There are two types of trade agreements: Bilateralism, bilateral and Multilateralism, m ...
for many years since South Korea was designated as a priority FTA partner in 2006. The free trade agreement was approved in September 2010, and took effect on 1 July 2011. South Korea is the EU's tenth largest trade partner, and the EU has become South Korea's fourth largest export destination. EU trade with South Korea exceeded €90 billion in 2015 and has enjoyed an annual average growth rate of 9.8% between 2003 and 2013. The EU has been the single largest foreign investor in South Korea since 1962, and accounted for almost 45% of all FDI inflows into Korea in 2006. Nevertheless, EU companies have significant problems accessing and operating in the South Korean market because of stringent standards and testing requirements for products and services often creating barriers to trade. Both in its regular bilateral contacts with South Korea and through its FTA with Korea, the EU is seeking to improve this situation.


United States

The close relationship began directly after
World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a world war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved the World War II by country, vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great power ...
, when the United States temporarily administrated Korea for three years (mainly in the South, with the Soviet Union engaged in North Korea) after Japan. Upon the onset of the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
in 1950, U.S. forces were sent to defend against an invasion from North Korea of the South, and subsequently fought as the largest contributor of UN troops. The United States participation was critical for preventing the near defeat of the Republic of Korea by northern forces, as well as fighting back for the territory gains that define the South Korean nation today. Following the Armistice, South Korea and the U.S. agreed to a "Mutual Defense Treaty", under which an attack on either party in the Pacific area would summon a response from both. In 1967, South Korea obliged the mutual defense treaty, by sending a large combat troop contingent to support the United States in the
Vietnam War The Vietnam War (also known by #Names, other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vi ...
. The US has over 23,000 troops stationed in South Korea, including the U.S. Eighth Army,
Seventh Air Force The Seventh Air Force (Air Forces Korea) (7 AF) is a Numbered Air Force of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The command's mission is to plan and direct air component operations in ...
, and
U.S. Naval Forces Korea U.S. Naval Forces Korea is a major shore command of the United States Navy that serves as the shore support agency for all U.S. Naval activity in South Korea. Known by the initials "CNFK", an abbreviation of the address format of the unit ("Comm ...
. The two nations have strong economic, diplomatic, and military ties, although they have at times disagreed with regard to policies towards North Korea, and with regard to some of South Korea's industrial activities that involve usage of rocket or nuclear technology. There had also been strong anti-American sentiment during certain periods, which has largely moderated in the modern day. The two nations also share a close economic relationship, with the U.S. being South Korea's second largest trading partner, receiving $66 billion in exports in 2016. 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 its formal implementation was repeatedly delayed, pending approval by the legislative bodies of the two countries. On 12 October 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the long-stalled trade agreement with South Korea. It went into effect on 15 March 2012.


Military

Unresolved tension with North Korea has prompted South Korea to allocate 2.6% of its GDP and 15% of all government spending to its military (Government share of GDP: 14.967%), while maintaining compulsory conscription for men. Consequently, South Korea has the world's seventh largest number of active troops (599,000 in 2018), the world's highest number of reserve troops (3,100,000 in 2018). The South Korean military consists of the
Army An army (from Old French ''armee'', itself derived from the Latin verb ''armāre'', meaning "to arm", and related to the Latin noun ''arma'', meaning "arms" or "weapons"), ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on ...
(ROKA), the
Navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval warfare, naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral zone, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and ...
(ROKN), the
Air Force An air force – in the broadest sense – is the national military branch that primarily conducts aerial warfare. More specifically, it is the branch of a nation's armed services that is responsible for aerial warfare as distinct from an ar ...
(ROKAF), and the
Marine Corps Marines, or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate in littoral zones in support of naval operations. Historically, tasks undertaken by marines have included helping maintain discipline and order aboard the ship (refle ...
(ROKMC), and reserve forces. Many of these forces are concentrated near the
Korean Demilitarized Zone The Korean Demilitarized Zone (Korean language, Korean: ; Hanbando Bimujang Jidae) is a strip of land running across the Korea, Korean Peninsula near the 38th parallel north. The demilitarized zone (DMZ) is a border barrier that divides the ...
. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically 18 months. Previous exceptions for South Korean citizens of mixed race no longer apply since 2011. In addition to male conscription in South Korea's sovereign military, 1,800 Korean males are selected every year to serve 18 months in the
KATUSA Korean Augmentation To the United States Army (KATUSA Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known ...
Program to further augment the
United States Forces Korea United States Forces Korea (USFK) is a Unified Combatant Command#Subordinate Unified Command, sub-unified command of United States Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). USFK is the joint headquarters for U.S. combat-re ...
(USFK). In 2010, South Korea was spending 1.68 trillion in a cost-sharing agreement with the US to provide budgetary support to the US forces in Korea, on top of the ₩29.6 trillion budget for its own military. The
South Korean Army The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA; ko, 대한민국 육군; Hanja: 大韓民國 陸軍; Revised Romanization, RR: ''Daehanminguk Yuk-gun''), also known as the ROK Army or South Korean Army, is the army of South Korea, responsible for ground-based ...
has 2,500
tank A tank is an armoured fighting vehicle intended as a primary offensive weapon in front-line ground combat. Tank designs are a balance of heavy firepower, strong vehicle armour, armour, and good battlefield mobility (military), mobility prov ...
s in operation, including the K1A1 and
K2 Black Panther The K2 Black Panther (Hangul The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul, . Hangul may also be written as following South Korea's Revised Romanization of Korean, standard Romanization. ( ) in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is the ...
, which form the backbone of the South Korean army's mechanized armor and infantry forces. A sizable arsenal of many artillery systems, including 1,700 self-propelled K55 and K9 Thunder
howitzers A howitzer () is a long-ranged weapon A ranged weapon is any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance, i.e. at distances greater than the physical reach of the user holding the weapon itself. The act of using such a weapo ...
and 680 helicopters and
UAVs An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, is an aircraft without any human Aircraft pilot, pilot, crew, or passengers on board. UAVs are a component of an #Terminology, unmanned aircraft system (UAS), which includes add ...
of numerous types, are assembled to provide additional fire, reconnaissance, and logistics support. South Korea's smaller but more advanced artillery force and wide range of airborne reconnaissance platforms are pivotal in the counter-battery suppression of North Korea's large artillery force, which operates more than 13,000 artillery systems deployed in various state of fortification and mobility. The South Korean Navy has made its first major transformation into a
blue-water navy A blue-water navy is a Navy, maritime force capable of operating globally, essentially across the deep waters of open oceans. While definitions of what actually constitutes such a force vary, there is a requirement for the ability to exercise se ...
through the formation of the Strategic Mobile Fleet, which includes a battle group of
Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin class destroyer ''Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin'' class destroyers (, Hanja: 忠武公李舜臣級驅逐艦) are multipurpose destroyers of the Republic of Korea Navy. The lead ship of this class, ROKS ''Chungmugong Yi Sunsin'', was launched in May 2002 and commission ...
s, Dokdo class amphibious assault ship, AIP-driven Type 214 submarines, and King Sejong the Great class destroyers, which is equipped with the latest baseline of Aegis fleet-defense system that allows the ships to track and destroy multiple cruise missiles and ballistic missiles simultaneously, forming an integral part of South Korea's indigenous missile defense umbrella against the North Korean military's missile threat. The South Korean Air Force operates 840 aircraft, making it world's ninth largest air force, including several types of advanced fighters like
F-15K The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15E Strike Eagle is an American all-weather Multirole combat aircraft, multirole strike fighter derived from the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The F-15E was designed in the 1980s for long-range, high-speed ...
, heavily modified KF-16C/D, and the indigenous T-50 Golden Eagle, supported by well-maintained fleets of older fighters such as F-4E and KF-5E/F that still effectively serve the air force alongside the more modern aircraft. In an attempt to gain strength in terms of not just numbers but also modernity, the commissioning of four Boeing 737 AEW&C aircraft, under Project Peace Eye for centralized intelligence gathering and analysis on a modern battlefield, will enhance the fighters' and other support aircraft's ability to perform their missions with awareness and precision. In May 2011,
Korea Aerospace Industries Korea Aerospace Industries (Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'gŭl **Ko ...
Ltd., South Korea's largest plane maker, signed a $400 million deal to sell 16 T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jets to
Indonesia Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of over List of islands of Indonesia, 17,000 islands, including Sumatr ...
, making South Korea the first country in Asia to export supersonic jets. 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 325,517 troops to fight alongside American, Australian, Filipino, New Zealand and
South Vietnam South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam Cộng hòa), was a state in Southeast Asia that existed from 1955 to 1975, the period when the southern portion of Vietnam was a member of the Western Bloc during part of th ...
ese soldiers in the
Vietnam War The Vietnam War (also known by #Names, other names) was a conflict in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. It was the second of the Indochina Wars and was officially fought between North Vi ...
, with a peak strength of 50,000. In 2004, South Korea sent 3,300 troops of the Zaytun Division to help re-building in northern
Iraq Iraq,; ku, عێراق, translit=Êraq officially the Republic of Iraq, '; ku, کۆماری عێراق, translit=Komarî Êraq is a country in Western Asia. It is bordered by Turkey to Iraq–Turkey border, the north, Iran to Iran–Iraq ...
, and was the third largest contributor in the coalition forces after only the US and Britain. Beginning in 2001, South Korea had so far deployed 24,000 troops in the Middle East region to support the
War on Terrorism The war on terror, officially the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), is an ongoing international Counterterrorism, counterterrorism military campaign initiated by the United States following the September 11 attacks. The main targets of the campa ...
. A further 1,800 were deployed since 2007 to reinforce UN peacekeeping forces in
Lebanon Lebanon ( , ar, لُبْنَان, translit=lubnān, ), officially the Republic of Lebanon () or the Lebanese Republic, is a country in Western Asia. It is located between Syria to Lebanon–Syria border, the north and east and Israel to Blue ...
.


United States contingent

The United States has stationed a substantial contingent of troops to defend South Korea. There are approximately 28,500 U.S. military personnel stationed in South Korea, most of them serving one year unaccompanied tours. The U.S. troops, which are primarily ground and air units, are assigned to
USFK United States Forces Korea (USFK) is a Unified Combatant Command#Subordinate Unified Command, sub-unified command of United States Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). USFK is the joint headquarters for U.S. combat-re ...
and mainly assigned to the
Eighth United States Army The Eighth Army is a U.S. field army which is the commanding formation of all United States Army United States Forces Korea, forces in South Korea. It commands U.S. and South Korean units and is headquartered at the Camp Humphreys,
of the U.S. Army and
Seventh Air Force The Seventh Air Force (Air Forces Korea) (7 AF) is a Numbered Air Force of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The command's mission is to plan and direct air component operations in ...
of the U.S. Air Force. They are stationed in installations at Osan, Kunsan, Yongsan,
Dongducheon Dongducheon () is a city A city is a human settlement of notable size.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London ...
, Sungbuk,
Camp Humphreys Camp Humphreys ( ko, 캠프 험프리스), also known as United States Army Garrison-Humphreys (USAG-H), is a United States Army military base, garrison located near Anjeong-ri and Pyeongtaek metropolitan areas in South Korea. Camp Humphreys ...
, and
Daegu Daegu (, , literally 'large hill', 대구광역시), formerly spelled Taegu and officially known as the Daegu Metropolitan City, is a city in South Korea. It is the third-largest urban agglomeration in South Korea after Seoul and Busan; it is ...
, as well as at Camp Bonifas in the DMZ
Joint Security Area The Joint Security Area (JSA, often referred to as the Truce Village or Panmunjom) is the only portion of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) where North Korea, North and South Korean forces stand face-to-face. The JSA is used by the two Ko ...
. A fully functioning UN Command is at the top of the
chain of command A command hierarchy is a group of people who carry out orders based on others' authority within the group. It can be viewed as part of a power structure, in which it is usually seen as the most vulnerable and also the most powerful part. Milit ...
of all forces in South Korea, including the U.S. forces and the entire South Korean military – if a sudden escalation of war between North and South Korea were to occur the United States would assume control of the South Korean armed forces in all military and paramilitary moves. There has been long-term agreement between the United States and South Korea that South Korea should eventually assume the lead for its own defense. This transition to a South Korean command has been slow and often postponed, although it is currently scheduled to occur in the early 2020s.


Conscientious objection

Male citizens who refuse or reject to undertake military services because of conscientious objection are typically imprisoned, with over 600 individuals usually imprisoned at any given time; more than the rest of the world put together. The vast majority of these are young men from the
Jehovah's Witnesses Jehovah's Witnesses is a Millenarianism, millenarian Restorationism, restorationist Christian denomination with Nontrinitarianism, nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of appr ...
Christian denomination. However, in a court ruling of 2018, conscientious objectors were permitted to reject military service.


Economy

South Korea's
mixed economy A mixed economy is variously defined as an economic system blending elements of a market economy with elements of a planned economy, Market (economics), markets with state interventionism, or private enterprise with public enterprise. Common to ...
ranks 10th nominal and 13th purchasing power parity GDP in the world, identifying it as one of the
G-20 major economies The G20 or Group of Twenty is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union The European Union (EU) is a supranational union, supranational political union, political and economic union of Member state of t ...
. It is a
developed country A developed country (or industrialized country, high-income country, more economically developed country (MEDC), advanced country) is a sovereign state that has a high quality of life, developed economy and advanced technological infrastr ...
with a high-income economy and is the most industrialized member country of the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
. South Korean brands such as
LG Electronics LG Electronics Inc. () is a South Korean Multinational corporation, multinational electronics company headquartered in Yeouido-dong, Seoul, South Korea. LG Electronics is a part of LG Corporation, the fourth largest ''chaebol'' in South Korea ...
and
Samsung The Samsung Group (or simply Samsung) ( ko, 삼성 ) is a South Korean Multinational corporation, multinational manufacturing Conglomerate (company), conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea. It comprises numerous affi ...
are internationally famous and garnered South Korea's reputation for its quality electronics and other manufactured goods. Its massive investment in education has taken the country from mass illiteracy to a major international technological powerhouse. The country's national economy benefits from a highly skilled workforce and is among the most educated countries in the world with one of the highest percentages of its citizens holding a tertiary education degree. South Korea's economy was one of the world's fastest-growing from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, and was still one of the fastest-growing developed countries in the 2000s, along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, the other three Asian Tigers. It recorded the fastest rise in average GDP per capita in the world between 1980 and 1990. South Koreans refer to this growth as the
Miracle on the Han River The Miracle on the Han River refers to the period of rapid economic growth in South Korea, following the Korean War (1950–1953), during which South Korea transformed from a least developed countries, least developed country to a developed co ...
. The South Korean economy is heavily dependent on international trade, and in 2014, South Korea was the fifth-largest exporter and seventh-largest importer in the world. Despite the South Korean economy's high growth potential and apparent structural stability, the country suffers damage to its credit rating in the stock market because of the belligerence of North Korea in times of deep military crises, which has an adverse effect on South Korean financial markets. The
International Monetary Fund The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is a major financial agency of the United Nations, and an international financial institution, headquartered in Washington, D.C., consisting of 190 countries. Its stated mission is "working to foster globa ...
compliments the resilience of the South Korean economy against various economic crises, citing low state debt and high fiscal reserves that can quickly be mobilized to address financial emergencies. Although it was severely harmed by the
1997 Asian financial crisis The Asian financial crisis was a period of financial crisis that gripped much of East Asia and Southeast Asia beginning in July 1997 and raised fears of a worldwide economic meltdown due to financial contagion. However, the recovery in 1998–1 ...
, the South Korean economy managed a rapid recovery and subsequently tripled its GDP. Furthermore, South Korea was one of the few developed countries that were able to avoid a
recession In economics Economics () is the social science that studies the Production (economics), production, distribution (economics), distribution, and Consumption (economics), consumption of goods and services. Economics focuses on the b ...
during the
global financial crisis Global means of or referring to a globe and may also refer to: Entertainment * Global (Paul van Dyk album), ''Global'' (Paul van Dyk album), 2003 * Global (Bunji Garlin album), ''Global'' (Bunji Garlin album), 2007 * Global (Humanoid album), ''Gl ...
. Its economic growth rate reached 6.2 percent in 2010 (the fastest growth for eight years after significant growth by 7.2 percent in 2002), a sharp recovery from economic growth rates of 2.3% in 2008 and 0.2% in 2009 during the
Great Recession The Great Recession was a period of marked general decline, i.e. a recession, observed in national economies globally that occurred from late 2007 into 2009. The scale and timing of the recession varied from country to country (see map). At t ...
. The unemployment rate in South Korea also remained low in 2009, at 3.6%. South Korea became a member of the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries, founded in 1961 to stimulate ...
(OECD) in 1996. The following list includes the largest South Korean companies by revenue in 2017 who are all listed as part of the
Fortune Global 500 The ''Fortune'' Global 500, also known as Global 500, is an annual ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide as measured by revenue. The list is compiled and published annually by ''Fortune (magazine), Fortune'' magazine. Methodology Until ...
:


Transportation, energy and infrastructure

South Korea has a technologically advanced transport network consisting of high-speed railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that crisscross the country. Korea Expressway Corporation operates the toll highways and service amenities en route.
Korail The Korea Railroad Corporation (Korean language, Korean: 한국철도공사, Hanja: ), branded as KORAIL (코레일, officially changed to in November 2019), is the national railway operator in South Korea. Currently, KORAIL is a State-owne ...
provides frequent train services to all major South Korean cities. Two rail lines, Gyeongui and
Donghae Bukbu Line The Donghae Bukbu Line is a former railway line that connected the present-day city of Anbyon in Kangwon Province, North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It c ...
, to North Korea are now being reconnected. The Korean
high-speed rail High-speed rail (HSR) is a type of rail system that runs significantly faster than traditional rail, using an integrated system of specialised rolling stock and dedicated tracks. While there is no single standard that applies worldwide, lines ...
system,
KTX Korea Train eXpress (), often known as KTX (), is South Korea South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea (ROK), is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and sharing a Korean Demilitarized ...
, provides high-speed service along Gyeongbu and
Honam Line {{Infobox rail line , box_width = auto , name = Honam Line , other_name = , native_name = 호남선(湖南線) , native_name_lang = kr , color = , logo = , logo_width = , logo_alt = , image = Korail H ...
. Major cities including Seoul,
Busan Busan (), officially known as is South Korea's most populous city after Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''d ...
,
Incheon Incheon (; ; or Inch'ŏn; literally "kind river"), formerly Jemulpo or Chemulp'o (제물포) until the period after 1910, officially the Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시, 仁川廣域市), is a city located in northwestern South Kore ...
,
Daegu Daegu (, , literally 'large hill', 대구광역시), formerly spelled Taegu and officially known as the Daegu Metropolitan City, is a city in South Korea. It is the third-largest urban agglomeration in South Korea after Seoul and Busan; it is ...
,
Daejeon Daejeon () is South Korea's list of cities in South Korea, fifth-largest metropolis, with a population of 1.5 million as of 2019. Located in the central-west region of South Korea alongside forested hills and the Geum River, the city is kno ...
and
Gwangju Gwangju () is South Korea's list of cities in South Korea, sixth-largest metropolis. It is a designated Special cities of South Korea, metropolitan city under the direct control of the central government's Home Minister. The city was also the ...
have urban rapid transit systems. Express bus terminals are available in most cities. South Korea's main gateway and largest airport is
Incheon International Airport Incheon International Airport (IIA; ) (sometimes referred to as Seoul–Incheon International Airport) is the largest List of airports in South Korea, airport in South Korea. It is the primary airport serving the Seoul Capital Area and one of ...
, serving passengers in 2016. Other international airports include
Gimpo Gimpo () is a Administrative divisions of South Korea, city in Gyeonggi-do, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea. It borders Incheon, with which it shares the South Korean side of the Han River (Korea), Han River estuary, as well as Seoul and the lesse ...
,
Busan Busan (), officially known as is South Korea's most populous city after Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''d ...
and Jeju. There are also many airports that were built as part of the infrastructure boom but are barely used. There are also many heliports. The national carrier,
Korean Air Korean Air Co., Ltd. (), trade name, operating as Korean Air (Korean Air Lines before 1984), is the flag carrier of South Korea and its largest airline based on fleet size, international destinations and international flights. The present-da ...
served over 26,800,000 passengers, including almost 19,000,000 international passengers in 2016. A second carrier,
Asiana Airlines Asiana Airlines Inc. ( ) is a South Korean airline headquartered in Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seoul was the ''de jure' ...
also serves domestic and international traffic. Combined, South Korean airlines serve 297 international routes. Smaller airlines, such as
Jeju Air Jeju Air Co., Ltd. (), is the first and largest South Korean low-cost airline A low-cost carrier or low-cost airline (occasionally referred to as ''no-frills'', ''budget'' or ''Discounts and allowances, discount carrier'' or ''airline'', and ...
, provide domestic service with lower fares. South Korea is the world's fifth-largest
nuclear power Nuclear power is the use of nuclear reactions to produce electricity. Nuclear power can be obtained from nuclear fission, nuclear decay and nuclear fusion reactions. Presently, the vast majority of electricity from nuclear power is produced b ...
producer and the second-largest in Asia .
Nuclear power in South Korea Nuclear power is a major power source in South Korea, providing 29% of the country's electricity. The total electrical generation capacity of the nuclear power plants A nuclear power plant (NPP) is a thermal power station in which the heat sou ...
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 Hydrogen is the chemical element with the Symbol (chemistry), symbol H and atomic number 1. Hydrogen is the lightest element. At standard temperature and pressure, standard conditions hydrogen is a gas of diatomic molecules having the chemical ...
generation design. Fuel production and waste handling technologies have also been developed locally. It is also a member of the
ITER ITER (initially the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ''iter'' meaning "the way" or "the path" in Latin) is an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject aimed at creating energy by replicating, on Earth ...
project. South Korea is an emerging exporter of
nuclear reactors A nuclear reactor is a device used to initiate and control a fission nuclear chain reaction or nuclear fusion reactions. Nuclear reactors are used at nuclear power plants for electricity generation and in nuclear marine propulsion. Heat from nu ...
, having concluded agreements with the
UAE The United Arab Emirates (UAE; ar, اَلْإِمَارَات الْعَرَبِيَة الْمُتَحِدَة ), or simply the Emirates ( ar, الِْإمَارَات ), is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwes ...
to build and maintain four advanced nuclear reactors, with
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; Romanization of Arabic, tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; Romanization of Arabic, tr. ' is a country in Western Asia. It is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, within the Levan ...
for a research nuclear reactor, and with Argentina for construction and repair of heavy-water nuclear reactors. , South Korea and Turkey are in negotiations regarding construction of two nuclear reactors. South Korea is also preparing to bid on construction of a light-water nuclear reactor for Argentina. South Korea is not allowed to enrich uranium or develop traditional uranium enrichment technology on its own, because of US political pressure, unlike most major nuclear powers such as Japan, Germany, and France, competitors of South Korea in the international nuclear market. This impediment to South Korea's indigenous nuclear industrial undertaking has sparked occasional diplomatic rows between the two allies. While South Korea is successful in exporting its electricity-generating nuclear technology and nuclear reactors, it cannot capitalize on the market for nuclear enrichment facilities and refineries, preventing it from further expanding its export niche. South Korea has sought unique technologies such as
pyroprocessing Pyroprocessing (from Ancient Greek, Greek Πυρος = ''fire'') is a process in which materials are subjected to high temperatures (typically over 800 °C) in order to bring about a chemical or physical change. Pyroprocessing includes such t ...
to circumvent these obstacles and seek a more advantageous competition. The US has recently been wary of South Korea's burgeoning nuclear program, which South Korea insists will be for civilian use only. South Korea is the third highest ranked Asian country in the World Economic Forum's
Network Readiness Index The Networked Readiness Index is an index published annually by the World Economic Forum The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international non-governmental organization, international non-governmental and Lobbying organization, lobbying orga ...
(NRI) after Singapore and Hong Kong respectively – an indicator for determining the development level of a country's information and communication technologies. South Korea ranked number 10 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking, up from 11 in 2013.


Tourism

In 2016, 17 million foreign tourists visited South Korea. With rising tourist prospects, especially from foreign countries outside of Asia, the South Korean government has set a target of attracting 20 million foreign tourists a year by 2017. South Korean tourism is driven by many factors, including the prominence of Korean pop culture such as South Korean pop music and television dramas, known as the Korean Wave or ''Hallyu'', has gained popularity throughout East Asia. The Hyundai Research Institute reported that the Korean Wave has a direct impact in encouraging direct foreign investment back into the country through demand for products, and the tourism industry. Among East Asian countries, China was the most receptive, investing $1.4 billion in South Korea, with much of the investment within its service sector, a sevenfold increase from 2001. According to an analysis by economist Han Sang-Wan, a 1 percent increase in the exports of Korean cultural content pushes consumer goods exports up 0.083 percent while a 1 percent increase in Korean pop content exports to a country produces a 0.019 percent bump in tourism.


South Korean National Pension System

The South Korean pension system was created to provide benefits to persons reaching old age, families and persons stricken with death of their primary breadwinner, and for the purposes of stabilizing its nation's welfare state.Bang, Ha-Nam, Study of Korean Corporations’ Retirement Allowance Schemes, Korea Labor Institute, 1998. South Korea's pension system structure is primarily based on taxation and is income-related. In 2007 there was a total of 18,367,000 insured individuals with only around 511,000 persons excluded from mandatory contribution. The current pension system is divided into four categories distributing benefits to participants through national, military personnel, governmental, and private school teacher pension schemes. The national pension scheme is the primary welfare system providing allowances to the majority of persons. Eligibility for the national pension scheme is not dependent on income but on age and residence, where those between the ages of 18 to 59 are covered. Any one who is under the age of 18 are dependents of someone who is covered or under a special exclusion where they are allowed to alternative provisions. The national pension scheme is divided into four categories of insured persons – the workplace-based insured, the individually insured, the voluntarily insured, and the voluntarily and continuously insured. Employees between the ages of 18 to 59 are covered under the workplace-based pension scheme and contribute 4.5% of their gross monthly earnings. The national pension covers employees who work in firms that employ five or more employees, fishermen, farmers, and the self-employed in both rural and urban areas. Employers are also covered under the workplace-based pension scheme and help cover their employees obligated 9% contribution by providing the remaining 4.5%. Anyone who is not employed, of the age of 60 or above, or excluded by article 6 of the National Pension Act, but is of the ages between 18 and 59, is covered under the individually insured pension scheme. Persons covered by the individually insured pension scheme are in charge of paying the entire 9% contribution themselves. Voluntarily insured persons are not subjected to mandatory coverage but can choose to be. This category comprises retirees who voluntarily choose to have additional benefits, individuals under the age of 27 without income, and individuals whose spouses are covered under a public welfare system, whether military, governmental, or private school teacher pensions. Like the individually insured persons, they too are in charge of covering the full amount of the contribution. Voluntarily and continuously insured persons consists of individuals 60 years of age who want to fulfill the minimum insured period of 20 years to qualify for old age pension benefits. Excluding the workplace-based insured persons, all the other insured persons personally cover their own 9% contribution. South Korea's old-age pension scheme covers individuals age 60 or older for the rest of their life as long as they have satisfied the minimum of 20 years of national pension coverage beforehand. Individuals with a minimum of 10 years covered under the national pension scheme and who are 60 years of age are able to be covered under a 'reduced old-age pension' scheme. There also is an 'active old-age pension' scheme that covers individuals age 60 to 65 engaged in activities yielding earned income. Individuals age of 55 and younger than 60 who are not engaged in activities yielding earned income are eligible to be covered under the 'early old-age pension' scheme. Around 60% of all Korean elders, age 65 and over are entitled to a 5% benefit of their past average income at an average of 90,000
Korean Won The Korean won ( ko, 원 (圓), ) or Korean Empire won (Korean language, Korean: 대한제국 원), was the official currency of the Korean Empire between 1902 and 1910. It was subdivided into 100 ''jeon'' (; ko, 전 (錢), ). Etymolog ...
(KRW). Basic old-age pension schemes covered individuals 65 years of age who earned below an amount set by presidential order. In 2010, that ceiling was 700,000 KRW for a single individual and 1,120,000 for a couple, equivalent to around $600.00 and $960.00.


Science and technology

Scientific and technological development in South Korea at first did not occur largely because of more pressing matters such as the
division of Korea The division of Korea began with the defeat of Empire of Japan, Japan in World War II. During the war, the Allies of World War II, Allied leaders considered the question of Korea's future after Japan's surrender in the war. The leaders reached ...
and the
Korean War , date = {{Ubl, 25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953 (''de facto'')({{Age in years, months, weeks and days, month1=6, day1=25, year1=1950, month2=7, day2=27, year2=1953), 25 June 1950 – present (''de jure'')({{Age in years, months, weeks a ...
that occurred right after its independence. It was not until the 1960s under the dictatorship of
Park Chung-hee Park Chung-hee (, ; 14 November 1917 – 26 October 1979) was a Korea, South Korean politician and Republic of Korea Army, army general who served as the dictator of South Korea from 1961 until Assassination of Park Chung-hee, his assassination ...
where South Korea's economy rapidly grew from industrialization and the
Chaebol A chaebol (, ; ) is a large industrial South Korea, South Korean conglomerate run and controlled by an individual or family. A chaebol often consists of multiple diversified affiliates, controlled by a person or group whose power over the gro ...
corporations such as
Samsung The Samsung Group (or simply Samsung) ( ko, 삼성 ) is a South Korean Multinational corporation, multinational manufacturing Conglomerate (company), conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea. It comprises numerous affi ...
and LG. Ever since the industrialization of South Korea's economy, South Korea has placed its focus on technology-based corporations, which has been supported by infrastructure developments by the government. South Korean corporations
Samsung The Samsung Group (or simply Samsung) ( ko, 삼성 ) is a South Korean Multinational corporation, multinational manufacturing Conglomerate (company), conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea. It comprises numerous affi ...
and LG were ranked first and third largest
mobile phone A mobile phone, cellular phone, cell phone, cellphone, handphone, hand phone or pocket phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell, or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive telephone call, calls over a radio freq ...
companies in the world in the first quarter of 2012, respectively. 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 SK Telecom Co., Ltd. ( or ) is a South Korean wireless Wireless communication (or just wireless, when the context allows) is the transfer of information between two or more points without the use of an electrical conductor, optical fibe ...
, KT, and LG U+ provide coverage in all major cities and other areas. South Korea has the fastest Internet download speeds in the world, with an average download speed of 25.3 Mbit/s. South Korea leads the
OECD The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD; french: Organisation de coopération et de développement économiques, ''OCDE'') is an intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation with 38 member countries ...
in graduates in science and engineering. From 2014 to 2019, the country ranked first among the most innovative countries in the Bloomberg Innovation Index. It was ranked 5th in the Global Innovation Index 2022, up from 10th in 2020 and 11st in 2019. Additionally, South Korea today is known as a Launchpad of a mature mobile market, where developers can reap benefits of a market where very few technology constraints exist. There is a growing trend of inventions of new types of media or apps, utilizing the 4G and 5G internet infrastructure in South Korea. South Korea has today the infrastructures to meet a density of population and culture that has the capability to create strong local particularity.


Cyber security

Following cyberattacks in the first half of 2013, whereby government, news-media, television station, and bank websites were compromised, the national government committed to the training of 5,000 new cybersecurity experts by 2017. The South Korean government blamed North Korea for these attacks, as well as incidents that occurred in 2009, 2011 and 2012, but Pyongyang denies the accusations. In late September 2013, a computer-security competition jointly sponsored by the defense ministry and the National Intelligence Service was announced. The winners were announced on 29 September 2013 and shared a total prize pool of 80 million won (US$74,000). South Korea's government maintains a broad-ranging approach toward the regulation of specific online content and imposes a substantial level of
censorship Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information. This may be done on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or "inconvenient". Censorship can be conducted by governments ...
on election-related discourse and on many websites that the government deems subversive or socially harmful.


Aerospace engineering

South Korea has sent up 10 satellites since 1992, all using foreign rockets and overseas launch pads, notably Arirang-1 in 1999, and Arirang-2 in 2006 as part of its space partnership with Russia. Arirang-1 was lost in space in 2008, after nine years in service. In April 2008,
Yi So-yeon Yi So-yeon (born June 2, 1978) is a South Korean astronaut An astronaut (from the Ancient Greek (), meaning 'star', and (), meaning 'sailor') is a person trained, equipped, and deployed by a List of human spaceflight programs, human ...
became the first Korean to fly in space, aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-12. In June 2009, the first
spaceport A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching or receiving spacecraft, by analogy to a seaport for ships or an airport for aircraft. The word ''spaceport'', and even more so ''cosmodrome'', has traditionally been used for sites capable ...
of South Korea,
Naro Space Center , image = Naro Space Center, 2021.jpg , caption = , LID = , type = Spaceport A spaceport or cosmodrome is a site for launching or receiving spacecr ...
, was completed at
Goheung Goheung County (''Goheung-gun'') is a Administrative divisions of South Korea, county in Jeollanam-do Province, South Korea. Naro Space Center The Naro Space Center was completed during 2008 in southern Goheung and is operated by the state-run Ko ...
,
Jeollanam-do South Jeolla Province (; ''Jeollanam-do''; ), also known as Jeonnam, is a Administrative divisions of South Korea, province of South Korea. South Jeolla has a population of 1,902,324 (2014) and has a geographic area of located in the Honam regi ...
. The launch of
Naro-1 Naro-1 ( ko, 나로호), previously designated the Korea Space Launch Vehicle or KSLV (also KSLV-1), was South Korea's first carrier rocket, and the first South Korean launch vehicle to achieve low Earth orbit, Earth orbit. On January 30, 2013, ...
in August 2009 resulted in a failure. The second attempt in June 2010 was also unsuccessful. However, the third launch of the Naro 1 in January 2013 was successful. The government plans to develop Naro-2 by 2018. South Korea's efforts to build an indigenous space launch vehicle have been marred due to persistent political pressure from the United States, who had for many decades hindered South Korea's indigenous rocket and missile development programs in fear of their possible connection to clandestine military ballistic missile programs, which Korea many times insisted did not violate the
research and development Research and development (R&D or R+D), known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), is the set of innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in developing new services or products, and improving existi ...
guidelines stipulated by US-Korea agreements on restriction of South Korean rocket technology research and development. South Korea has sought the assistance of foreign countries such as Russia through MTCR commitments to supplement its restricted domestic rocket technology. The two failed KSLV-I
launch vehicle A launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket designed to carry a payload (spacecraft or satellites) from the Earth's surface to outer space. Most launch vehicles operate from a launch pad, launch pads, supported by a missile launch contro ...
s were based on the
Universal Rocket Module Universal Rocket Module (URM) is the name of the modular liquid fuelled first and second stage of the Angara The Angara (Buryat language, Buryat and mn, Ангар, ''Angar'',  "Cleft"; russian: Ангара́, ''Angará'') is a major r ...
, the first stage of the Russian
Angara rocket The Angara rocket family (Russian: Ангара) is a family of launch vehicles being developed by the Moscow-based Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center. The launch vehicles are to put between and into low Earth orbit and are ...
, combined with a solid-fueled second stage built by South Korea.


Robotics

Robotics Robotics is an interdisciplinarity, interdisciplinary branch of computer science and engineering. Robotics involves design, construction, operation, and use of robots. The goal of robotics is to design machines that can help and assist human ...
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 Incheon (; ; or Inch'ŏn; literally "kind river"), formerly Jemulpo or Chemulp'o (제물포) until the period after 1910, officially the Incheon Metropolitan City (인천광역시, 仁川廣域市), is a city located in northwestern South Kore ...
and
Masan Masan is an administrative region of Changwon, a city in the South Gyeongsang Province. It was formerly an independent city from 1949 until 30 June 2010, when it was absorbed to Changwon along with Jinhae-gu, Jinhae. Masan was redistricted as t ...
with a mix of public and private funding. In 2005, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) developed the world's second walking
humanoid robot A humanoid robot is a robot resembling the human body in shape. The design may be for functional purposes, such as interacting with human tools and environments, for experimental purposes, such as the study of bipedalism, bipedal locomotion, or f ...
,
HUBO HUBO ( ko, 휴보; designated KHR-3) is a walking humanoid robot, head mounted on a life-size walking bipedal frame, developed by the KAIST, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and released on January 6, 2005. According ...
. 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. Plans of creating English-teaching robot assistants to compensate for the shortage of teachers were announced in February 2010, with the robots being deployed to most preschools and kindergartens by 2013. Robotics are also incorporated in the entertainment sector as well; the ''Korean Robot Game Festival'' has been held every year since 2004 to promote science and robot technology.


Biotechnology

Since the 1980s, the Korean government has invested in the development of a domestic
biotechnology Biotechnology is the integration of Natural science, natural sciences and Engineering Science, engineering sciences in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells, parts thereof and molecular analogues for products and services. The te ...
industry, and the sector is projected to grow to by 2010. The medical sector accounts for a large part of the production, including production of
hepatitis vaccines Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver parenchyma, liver tissue. Some people or animals with hepatitis have no symptoms, whereas others develop yellow discoloration of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice), Anorexia (symptom), poor appetite ...
and
antibiotic An antibiotic is a type of antimicrobial substance active against bacteria. It is the most important type of antibacterial agent for fighting pathogenic bacteria, bacterial infections, and antibiotic medications are widely used in the therapy, ...
s. Recently, research and development in
genetics Genetics is the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in organisms.Hartl D, Jones E (2005) It is an important branch in biology because heredity is vital to organisms' evolution. Gregor Mendel, a Moravian Augustinians, Augustinian fr ...
and
cloning Cloning is the process of producing individual organisms with identical or virtually identical DNA, either by natural or artificial means. In nature, some organisms produce clones through asexual reproduction. In the field of biotechnology, cl ...
has received increasing attention, with the first successful cloning of a dog, Snuppy (in 2005), and the cloning of two females of an endangered species of
gray wolves The wolf (''Canis lupus''; : wolves), also known as the gray wolf or grey wolf, is a large canine native to Eurasia Eurasia (, ) is the largest continental area on Earth, comprising all of Europe and Asia. Primarily in the Norther ...
by the
Seoul National University Seoul National University (SNU; ) is a national public research university located in Seoul Seoul (; ; ), officially known as the Seoul Special City, is the Capital city, capital and largest metropolis of South Korea.Before 1972, Seou ...
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 Hwang Woo-suk ( ko, 황우석, born January 29, 1953)Sources disagree on the birthdate due to confusion between different calendar systems. Hwang was born on January 29, 1953 in the Gregorian calendar. However, older Koreans often list their bir ...
. Since late 2020, SK Bioscience Inc. (a division of
SK Group SK Group (Korean language, Korean: SK그룹, 에스케이그룹) is the second largest South Korean chaebol behind Samsung Group. SK Group is composed of 186 subsidiaries and affiliates that share the SK brand name and the group's management cult ...
) has been producing a major proportion of the Vaxzevria vaccine (also known as COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca), under license from the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
and
AstraZeneca AstraZeneca plc () is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical industry, pharmaceutical and biotechnology company with its headquarters at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in Cambridge, England. It has a portfolio of products for major d ...
, for worldwide distribution through the
COVAX COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Hea ...
facility under the WHO hospice. A recent agreement with
Novavax Novavax, Inc. is an American biotechnology Biotechnology is the integration of Natural science, natural sciences and Engineering Science, engineering sciences in order to achieve the application of organisms, cells, parts thereof and molec ...
expands its production for a second vaccine to 40 million doses in 2022, with a $450 million investment in domestic and overseas facilities.


Culture

South Korea shares its traditional culture with
North Korea North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), is a country in East Asia. It constitutes the northern half of the Korea, Korean Peninsula and shares borders with China and Russia to the north, at the Yalu River, Y ...
, 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 neighboring China, it has nevertheless managed to develop a unique cultural identity that is distinct from its larger neighbor. Its rich and vibrant culture left 21 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the fourth largest in the world, along with 15 World Heritage Sites. The South Korean
Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism South Korea's Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) is a central government A central government is the government that is a controlling power over a unitary state. Another distinct but sovereign political entity is a Federatio ...
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 modern Koreans 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 A nuclear family, elementary family, cereal-packet family or conjugal family is a family group consisting of parents and their children (one or more), typically living in one home residence. It is in contrast to a single-parent family, the larger ...
living arrangements. A 2014 Euromonitor study found that South Koreans drink the most alcohol on a weekly basis compared to the rest of the world. South Koreans drink 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average and, of the 44 other countries analyzed, Russia, the Philippines, and Thailand follow.


Art

Korean art has been highly influenced by
Buddhism Buddhism ( , ), also known as Buddha Dharma and Dharmavinaya (), is an Indian religions, Indian religion or Indian philosophy#Buddhist philosophy, philosophical tradition based on Pre-sectarian Buddhism, teachings attributed to the Buddha. ...
and
Confucianism Confucianism, also known as Ruism or Ru classicism, is a system of thought and behavior originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a Religious Confucianism, religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, ...
, which can be seen in the many traditional paintings, sculptures, ceramics and the performing arts.
Korean pottery and porcelain Korean ceramic history begins with the oldest earthenware from around 8000 BC. Throughout the history, the Korean peninsula has been home to lively, innovative, and sophisticated art making. Long period of stability have allowed for the establi ...
, such as
Joseon Joseon (; ; Middle Korean: 됴ᇢ〯션〮 Dyǒw syéon or 됴ᇢ〯션〯 Dyǒw syěon), officially the Great Joseon (; ), was the last dynastic kingdom of Korea, lasting just over 500 years. It was founded by Taejo of Joseon, Yi Seong-gye in ...
's '' baekja'' and
buncheong ''Buncheong'', or ''punch'ong'', ware is a traditional form of Korean stoneware, with a blue-green tone. Pieces are coated with white slip (ceramics), and decorative designs are added using a variety of techniques. This style originated in the 15 ...
, and
Goryeo Goryeo (; ) was a Korean kingdom founded in 918, during a time of national division called the Later Three Kingdoms period, that unified and ruled the Korea, Korean Peninsula until 1392. Goryeo achieved what has been called a "true national un ...
's
celadon ''Celadon'' () is a term for pottery Pottery is the process and the products of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired at high temperatures to give them a hard and durable form. Major type ...
are well known throughout the world. The
Korean tea ceremony The Korean Tea Ceremony or ''darye'' (茶禮) is a traditional form of tea ceremony An East Asian tea ceremony, or ''Chádào'' (), or ''Dado'' ( ko, 다도 (茶道)), is a ceremonially ritualized form of making tea (茶 ''cha'') practiced i ...
,
pansori ''Pansori'' () is a Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) compris ...
, talchum and buchaechum are also notable Korean performing arts. Post-war modern Korean art started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, when South Korean artists took interest in geometrical shapes and intangible subjects. Establishing a harmony between
man and nature A man is an adult male human. Prior to adulthood, a male human is referred to as a boy (a male child or adolescent). Like most other male mammals, a man's genome usually inherits an X chromosome, X chromosome from the mother and a Y c ...
was also a favorite of this time. Because of social instability, social issues appeared as main subjects in the 1980s. Art was influenced by various international events and exhibits in Korea, and with it brought more diversity. The Olympic Sculpture Garden in 1988, the transposition of the 1993 edition of the
Whitney Biennial The Whitney Biennial is a biennial exhibition An exhibition, in the most general sense, is an organized presentation and display of a selection of items. In practice, exhibitions usually occur within a cultural or educational setting such as ...
to Seoul, the creation of the Gwangju Biennale and the Korean Pavilion at the
Venice Biennale The Venice Biennale (; it, La Biennale di Venezia) is an international cultural exhibition hosted annually in Venice, Italy by the Biennale Foundation. The biennale has been organised every year since 1895, which makes it the oldest of ...
in 1995 were notable events.


Architecture

Because of South Korea's tumultuous history, construction and destruction has been repeated endlessly, resulting in an interesting melange of architectural styles and designs. Korean traditional architecture is characterized by its harmony with nature. Ancient architects adopted the bracket system characterized by thatched roofs and heated floors called ''
ondol Ondol (; , Hangul: 온돌, 溫堗, ) or gudeul (Hangul: 구들, ) in Korean traditional architecture, is underfloor heating that uses direct heat transfer from wood smoke to heat the underside of a thick masonry floor. In modern usage it refers ...
''. People of the upper classes built bigger houses with elegantly curved tiled roofs with lifting eaves. Traditional architecture can be seen in the palaces and temples, preserved old houses called ''
hanok A ''hanok'' () is a traditional Korea Korea ( ko, 한국, or , ) is a peninsular region in East Asia. Since 1945, it has been divided at or near the 38th parallel north, 38th parallel, with North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of ...
'', and special sites like
Hahoe Folk Village The Hahoe Folk Village (Korean: 안동하회마을) is a traditional village from the Joseon Dynasty, located in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea. The 'Ha' is short for river and 'hoe' means to 'turn around, return, ...
, Yangdong Village of Gyeongju and Korean Folk Village. Traditional architecture may also be seen at the nine
UNESCO World Heritage Sites A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the UNESCO, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNES ...
in South Korea. Western architecture was first introduced to Korea at the end of the 19th century. Churches, offices for foreign legislation, schools and university buildings were built in new styles. With the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 the colonial regime intervened in Korea's architectural heritage, and Japanese-style modern architecture was imposed. The anti-Japanese sentiment, and the Korean War, led to the destruction of most buildings constructed during that time. Korean architecture entered a new phase of development during the post-Korean War reconstruction, incorporating modern architectural trends and styles. Stimulated by the economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, active redevelopment saw new horizons in architectural design. In the aftermath of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, South Korea has witnessed a wide variation of styles in its architectural landscape due, in large part, to the opening up of the market to foreign architects. Contemporary architectural efforts have been constantly trying to balance the traditional philosophy of "harmony with nature" and the fast-paced urbanization that the country has been going through in recent years.


Cuisine

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 Korean royal court cuisine (''Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori'') was the style of cookery within Korean cuisine traditionally consumed at the court of the Joseon Dynasty, which ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910. There has been a revival of this cookery s ...
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 Rice is the seed of the Poaceae, grass species ''Oryza sativa'' (Asian rice) or less commonly ''Oryza glaberrima'' (African rice). The name wild rice is usually used for species of the genera ''Zizania (genus), Zizania'' and ''Porteresia'', bo ...
,
noodle Noodles are a type of food made from unleavened dough which is either rolled flat and cut, stretched, or extruded, into long strips or strings. Noodles are a staple food in many cultures (for example, Chinese noodles, Pancit, Filipino noodle ...
s,
tofu Tofu (), also known as bean curd in English language, English, is a food prepared by Coagulation (milk), coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into solid white blocks of varying softness; it can be ''silken'', ''soft'', ''f ...
, vegetables, fish and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes, ''
banchan ''Banchan'' (, from Korean: ) or bansang are small side dishes served along with cooked rice in Korean cuisine. As the Korean language does not distinguish between singular and plural grammatically, the word is used for both one such dish or ...
'' (반찬), which accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Every meal is accompanied by numerous banchan.
Kimchi ''Kimchi'' (; ko, 김치, gimchi, ), is a traditional Korean banchan, side dish of salted and Fermentation in food processing, fermented vegetables, such as napa cabbage and Korean radish. A wide selection of seasonings are used, including ...
(김치), 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 Sesame oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from sesame seeds. The oil is one of the earliest-known crop-based oils. Worldwide mass modern production is limited due to the inefficient manual harvesting process required to extract the oil. O ...
, ''
doenjang ''Doenjang'' * (; "thick sauce") or soybean paste is a type of fermented bean paste made entirely of soybean and brine. It is also a byproduct of soup soy sauce production. It is sometimes used as a relish. History The earliest soybean fer ...
'' (된장), a type of fermented soybean paste,
soy sauce Soy sauce (also called simply soy in American English and soya sauce in British English) is a liquid condiment of Chinese origin, traditionally made from a fermentation (food), fermented paste of soybeans, roasted cereal, grain, brine, and ''As ...
, salt, garlic, ginger, and ''
gochujang ''Gochujang'' (, from Korean: , ) or red chili paste * is a savory, sweet, and spicy Fermentation in food processing, fermented condiment popular in Korean cooking. It is made from gochu-garu (chili powder), glutinous rice, ''meju'' (fermented ...
'' (고추장), a hot pepper paste. Other well-known dishes are ''
Bulgogi ''Bulgogi'' (불고기; ; from Korean Korean may refer to: People and culture * Koreans, ethnic group originating in the Korean Peninsula * Korean cuisine * Korean culture * Korean language **Korean alphabet, known as Hangul or Chosŏn'g ...
'' (불고기), grilled marinated beef; ''
Gimbap ''Gimbap'' (), also romanized as kimbap, is a Korean cuisine, Korean dish made from Bap (food), cooked rice and ingredients such as vegetables, fish, and meats that are rolled in ''gim (food), gim''—dried sheets of seaweed—and served in bi ...
'' (김밥); and ''
Tteokbokki (), or simmered rice cake, is a popular Korean cuisine, Korean food made from small-sized (long, white, cylinder-shaped rice cakes) called (; "rice cake noodles") or commonly (; " rice cakes"). * Fishcake, Eomuk (fish cakes), boiled eggs, an ...
'' (떡볶이), a spicy snack consisting of rice cake seasoned with gochujang or a spicy chili 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; 湯) has less water, and is more often served in restaurants. Another type is ''
jjigae ''Jjigae'' (Korean: 찌개, ) is a Korean stew. There are many varieties; it is typically made with meat, seafood or vegetables in a broth seasoned with ''gochujang'' (red chilli paste), ''doenjang'' (soy bean paste), ''ganjang'' (soy sauce) or ...
'' (찌개), a stew that is typically heavily seasoned with chili pepper and served boiling hot. Popular Korean alcoholic beverages include Soju, Makgeolli and Bokbunja ju. Korea is unique among East Asian countries in its use of metal chopsticks. Metal chopsticks have been discovered in Goguryeo archaeological sites.


Entertainment

In addition to domestic consumption, South Korea has a thriving entertainment industry where various facets of South Korean entertainment, including television dramas, films, and popular music, has generated significant financial revenues for the nation's economy. The cultural phenomenon known as ''Korean Wave, Hallyu'' or the "Korean Wave", has swept many countries across Asia making South Korea a major soft power as an exporter of popular culture and entertainment, rivaling Western nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom. Until the 1990s, Trot (music), trot and traditional Korean Korean folk music, folk based ballads dominated South Korean popular music. The emergence of the South Korean pop group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992 marked a turning point for South Korean popular music, also known as
K-pop K-pop (), short for Korean popular music, is a form of popular music originating in South Korea as part of South Korean culture. It includes styles and genres from around the world, such as Pop music, pop, Hip hop music, hip hop, Contemporar ...
, as the genre modernized itself from incorporating elements of popular musical genres from across the world such as Pop music, Western popular music, Experimental music, experimental, jazz, Gospel music, gospel, Latin music (genre), Latin, classical music, classical, hip hop music, hip hop, Contemporary R&B, rhythm and blues, electronic dance, reggae, country music, country, Contemporary folk music, folk, and rock music, rock on top of its uniquely traditional Korean music roots. Western-style pop, hip hop, rhythm and blues, rock, folk, electronic dance oriented acts have become dominant in the modern South Korean popular music scene, though trot is still enjoyed among older South Koreans. K-pop stars and groups are well known across Asia and have found international fame making millions of dollars in export revenue. Many K-pop acts have also been able to secure a strong overseas following using online social media platforms such as the video sharing website YouTube. South Korean singer Psy became an international sensation when his song "Gangnam Style" topped global music charts in 2012. Since the success of the film ''Shiri (film), Shiri'' in 1999, the Korean film industry has begun to gain recognition internationally. Domestic film has a dominant share of the market, partly because of the existence of screen quotas requiring cinemas to show Korean films at least 73 days a year. 2019's ''Parasite (2019 film), Parasite'', directed by Bong Joon-ho, became the List of highest-grossing films in South Korea, highest-grossing film in South Korea as well as the first non-English language film to win Best Picture at the United States-based Academy Awards 92nd Academy Awards, that year amongst List of accolades received by Parasite, numerous other accolades. Television in South Korea, South Korean television shows have become popular outside of Korea. South Korean television dramas, known as K-dramas, have begun to find fame internationally. Many dramas tend to have a romantic focus, such as ''Princess Hours'', ''You're Beautiful (TV series), You're Beautiful'', ''Playful Kiss'', ''My Name is Kim Sam Soon'', ''Boys Over Flowers (TV series), Boys Over Flowers'', ''Winter Sonata'', ''Autumn in My Heart'', ''Full House (2004 TV series), Full House'', ''City Hunter (TV series), City Hunter'', ''All About Eve (South Korean TV series), All About Eve'', ''Secret Garden (South Korean TV series), Secret Garden'', ''I Can Hear Your Voice'', ''Master's Sun'', ''My Love from the Star'', ''Healer (TV series), Healer'', ''Descendants of the Sun'', ''Guardian: The Lonely and Great God'' and Reply (TV series) . Historical dramas have included ''Faith (South Korean TV series), Faith'', ''Dae Jang Geum'', ''The Legend (TV series), The Legend'', ''Dong Yi (TV series), Dong Yi'', ''Moon Embracing the Sun'', ''Sungkyunkwan Scandal'', ''Iljimae'' and ''Kingdom (South Korean TV series), Kingdom.'' The survival drama ''Squid Game'', created by Hwang Dong-hyuk, received critical acclaim and widespread international attention upon its release, becoming Netflix's most-watched series at launch and garnering a viewership of more than 142 million households during its first four weeks from launch.


Holidays

There are many official public holidays in South Korea. Korean New Year's Day, or "Seollal", is celebrated on the first day of the Korean lunar calendar. March 1st Movement, Korean Independence Day falls on 1 March, and commemorates the 1 March Movement of 1919. Memorial Day is celebrated on 6 June, and its purpose is to honor the men and women who died in South Korea's independence movement. Constitution Day is on 17 July, and it celebrates the promulgation of Constitution of the Republic of Korea. Liberation Day, on 15 August, celebrates Korea's liberation from the
Empire of Japan The also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II 1947 constitution and subsequent fo ...
in 1945. Every 15th day of the 8th lunar month, Koreans celebrate the Chuseok, Midautumn Festival, in which Koreans visit their ancestral hometowns and eat a variety of traditional Korean foods. On 1 October, Armed Forces day is celebrated, honoring the military forces of South Korea. 3 October is Gaecheonjeol, National Foundation Day. Hangul Day, on 9 October commemorates the invention of hangul, the native alphabet of the Korean language.


Sports

The martial arts, martial art taekwondo originated in Korea. In the 1950s and 1960s, modern rules were standardized, with taekwondo becoming an official Olympic Games, Olympic sport in 2000. Other Korean martial arts include taekkyeon, Taekkyon, hapkido, Tang Soo Do, Kuk Sool Won, kumdo and subak. Association football, Football has traditionally been regarded as the most popular sport in Korea, with Baseball as the second. Recent polling indicates that a majority, 41% of South Korean sports fans continue to self-identify as football fans, with baseball ranked 2nd at 25% of respondents. However, the polling did not indicate the extent to which respondents follow both sports. The Korea Republic national football team, national football team became the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to reach the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in the
2002 FIFA World Cup The 2002 FIFA World Cup, also branded as Korea Japan 2002, was the 17th FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial Association football, football world championship for List of men's national association football teams, men's national teams organized by ...
, jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan. The Korea Republic national football team, Korea Republic national team (as it is known) has qualified for every World Cup since 1986 FIFA World Cup, Mexico 1986, and has broken out of the group stage twice: first in 2002, and again in 2010 FIFA World Cup, 2010, when it was defeated by eventual semi-finalist Uruguay national football team, Uruguay in the Round of 16. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, South Korea won the bronze medal for football. Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 and has since become one of the most popular sports in the country. Recent years have been characterized by increasing attendance and ticket prices for professional baseball games. The Korea Professional Baseball league, a 10-team circuit, was established in 1982. The South Korea national baseball team, South Korea national team finished third in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and second in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, 2009 tournament. The team's 2009 final game against Japan was widely watched in Korea, with a large screen at Gwanghwamun crossing in Seoul broadcasting the game live. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, South Korea won the gold medal in baseball. Also in 1982, at the Baseball Worldcup, Korea won the gold medal. At the 2010 Asian Games, the Korean National Baseball team won the gold medal. Several Korean players have gone on to play in Major League Baseball. Basketball is a popular sport in the country as well. South Korea has traditionally had one of the top basketball teams in Asia and one of the continent's strongest basketball divisions. Seoul hosted the 1967 ABC Championship, 1967 and 1995 ABC Championship, 1995 Asian Basketball Championship. The Korea national basketball team has won a record number of 23 medals at the event to date. South Korea hosted the Asian Games in 1986 (Seoul), 2002 (Busan), and 2014 (Incheon). It also hosted the Winter Universiade in 1997, the Asian Winter Games in 1999, and the Summer Universiade in 2003 and 2015. In 1988, South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, 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, field hockey, freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, baseball, judo, taekwondo, speed skating, figure skating, and Olympic weightlifting, weightlifting. The Seoul Olympic Museum is dedicated to the 1988 Summer Olympics. On 6 July 2011, Pyeongchang County, Pyeongchang was chosen by the IOC to host the
2018 Winter Olympics The 2018 Winter Olympics ( ko, 2018년 동계 올림픽, Icheon sip-pal nyeon Donggye Ollimpik), officially the XXIII Olympic Winter Games (french: Les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d'hiver; ko, 제23회 동계 올림픽, Jeisipsamhoe Donggye Ollimpi ...
. South Korea has won more medals in the Winter Olympics than any other Asian country, with a total of 45 (23 gold, 14 silver, and 8 bronze). At the 2010 Winter Olympics, South Korea ranked fifth in the overall medal rankings. South Korea is especially strong in short track speed skating. Speed skating and figure skating are also popular, and ice hockey is an emerging sport, with Anyang Halla winning their first ever Asia League Ice Hockey title in March 2010. Seoul hosted a professional triathlon race, which is part of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship Series in May 2010. In 2011, the South Korean city of Daegu hosted the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics. In October 2010, South Korea hosted its first Formula One race at the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam, about south of Seoul. The Korean Grand Prix was held from 2010 to 2013, but was not placed on the 2014 Formula One season, 2014 F1 calendar. Domestic horse racing events are also followed by South Koreans and Seoul Race Park in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do is located closest to Seoul out of the country's three tracks. Competitive video game, video gaming, also called Esports (sometimes written e-Sports), has become more popular in South Korea in recent years, particularly among young people. The two most popular games are League of Legends and StarCraft. The gaming scene of South Korea is managed by the Korean e-Sports Association.


See also

* Outline of South Korea * State Council of South Korea ("cabinet" of South Korea)


Notes


References


Further reading

* * * * * Lew, Yong Ick. ''The Making of the First Korean President: Syngman Rhee's Quest for Independence'' (University of Hawai'i Press; 2013); scholarly biography; 576 pages; * * * * *


External links

* (Korea.net)
Korea Tourism Guide website

Korea National Statistical Office

South Korea
''The World Factbook''. Central Intelligence Agency.
A Country Study: South Korea
in the Library of Congress *
Korea
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD
South Korea profile
from the BBC News
South Korea
''Encyclopædia Britannica'' entry
Key Development Forecasts for South Korea
from International Futures {{Authority control South Korea, 1948 establishments in South Korea, * East Asian countries G20 nations Korea, Korean-speaking countries and territories Member states of the United Nations Northeast Asian countries Republics States and territories established in 1948 Former Japanese colonies OECD members