(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACT BOOK)
|Introduction||An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century – from three predecessor Korean states – until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. Korea regained its independence following Japan’s surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Young-sam became South Korea’s first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South’s President KIM Dae-jung and the North’s leader KIM Jong Il. In October 2007, a second North-South summit took place between the South’s President ROH Moo-hyun and the North Korean leader.|
|History||Archeological findings indicate that the Korean Peninsula was occupied by humans as early in the Lower Paleolithic period.
Korea began with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by Dangun. Gojoseon expanded until it controlled much of the northern Korean peninsula and parts of Manchuria. After numerous wars with the Chinese Han Dynasty, Gojoseon disintegrated, leading to the Proto-Three Kingdoms of Korea period.
In the early centuries of the Common Era, Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye, and the Samhan confederacy occupied the peninsula and southern Manchuria. Of the various small states, Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla grew to control the peninsula as the Three Kingdoms.
Introduction of Buddhism and other influences from China had profound effects on Korea, which later passed on, combined with Korean advances, to Japan.
The unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla in 676 led to the North-South States period, in which the much of the Korean peninsula was controlled by Unified Silla, while Balhae succeeded the northern parts of Goguryeo. In Unified Silla, poetry and art was encouraged, and Buddhist culture flourished. Relationships between Korea and China remained relatively peaceful during this time. However, Unified Silla weakened under internal strife, and surrendered to Goryeo in 935. Balhae, Silla’s neighbor to the north, was formed as a successor state to Goguryeo. During its height, Balhae controlled most of Manchuria and parts of Russia. It fell to the Khitan in 926.
After the North-South Period, successor states fought for control during the Later Three Kingdoms period. The peninsula was soon united by Wang Geon of Goryeo. Like Silla, Goryeo was a highly cultural state and created the Jikji in 1377, using the world’s oldest movable metal printing press.[dead link]
The Mongol invasions in the 13th century greatly weakened Goryeo. However, Goryeo continued to rule Korea as a tributary ally to the Mongols. After the fall of the Mognolian Empire (Yuan Dynasty), Goryeo continued its rule. After severe political strife and continued invasions, Goryeo was replaced by the Joseon Dynasty in 1388 following a rebellion by General Yi Seong-gye.
General Yi declared the new name of Korea as Joseon in reference to Gojoseon, and moved the capital to Seoul. The first 200 years of the Joseon Dynasty was marked by relative peace and saw the creation of hangul by King Sejong the Great in the 14 century and the rise and influence of Confucianism.
In the latter of the 16th century, Joseon was invaded by a newly unified Japan. During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), centuries of peace had left the dynasty unprepared, and the lack of technology and poor leadership from the Joseon government and generals led to the destruction of much of the Korean peninsula. However, continued Korean dominance at sea led by Admiral Yi, the rise of local militias, and the intervention of Ming China put Japan under great pressure to retreat in 1598.
Today, Admiral Yi is celebrated as one of Korea’s foremost heroes and his turtle ships, used with great success against the Japanese, are considered the world’s first ironclad warships, although lack of hard evidence of iron plating sparks much debate.
During the last years of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea’s isolationist policy earned it the name the “Hermit Kingdom”, primarily for protection against Western imperialism. In 1910, Korea was annexed by Japan and despite widespread resistance, remained under occupation until the end of World War II in 1945. the two countris are divied by the d.n.v.
In the aftermath of World War II, Soviet Union and United States troops controlled the northern and southern halves of the country respectively. The two Cold War rivals established governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, leading to Korea’s division into two political entities: North Korea and South Korea.
Despite the initial plan of a unified Korea in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, escalating Cold War antagonism eventually led to the establishment of two separate governments: the communist North and the capitalist South. In the North, a former anti-Japanese guerilla and communist activist, Kim Il-sung and in the South, freshly shipped from America, Syngman Rhee were installed as presidents.
On June 25, 1950, North Korea invaded the South leading to the Korean War. The Soviet boycott of the United Nations at the time, and therefore, no veto, allowed the UN to intervene when it became apparent that the superior communist forces would easily take over the entire country. The Soviet Union and China backed North Korea, with the participation of millions of Chinese troops. After huge advances on both sides, the war eventually reached a stalemate. The 1953 armistice, never signed by South Korea, split the peninsula along the demilitarized zone near the original demarcation line. No peace treaty was ever signed, and the two countries are still technically at war.
In 1960, a student uprising led to the resignation of the autocratic and corrupt President Syngman Rhee. A period of profound civil unrest and general political instability followed, broken by General Park Chung-hee’s military coup (the “5.16 coup d’état”) against the weak and ineffectual government the next year. Park took over as president until his assassination in 1979, overseeing rapid export-led economic growth as well as severe political repression. Park is heavily criticized as a ruthless military dictator, although the Korean economy developed significantly during his tenure.
The years after Park’s assassination were marked by, again, considerable political turmoil as the previously repressed opposition leaders all campaigned to run for president in the sudden political void. In 1980, there was a coup d’état, by General Chun Doo-hwan against the transitional government of Choi Gyu Ha, the interim president and a former prime minister under Park. Chun assumed the presidency. His seizure of power triggered nationwide protest demanding democracy, in particular the city of Gwangju, in Jeollanam-do where Chun sent in special forces to violently suppress the city, in what is now known as the Gwangju Massacre. Until 1987, he and his government held Korea under despotic rule when Park Jong Chul — a student attending Seoul National University — was tortured to death. The Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice revealed that Park was tortured, igniting huge demonstrations around the country. The demonstrations snowballed when another student from Yonsei University, Lee Han Yeol, was killed by a police-fired tear gas bomb while he was demonstrating against the military government. The period of resistance is called the Resistance of June when all joined the national movement. Eventually, Chun’s party, the Democratic Justice Party, and its leader, Roh Tae-woo announced the June 29th Declaration, which included the direct election of the president.
In 1988, Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, a cause of both national and international celebration in contrast to great turmoil of the past. In 1996, South Korea became a member of the OECD, a testament to further economic growth. As with many of its Asian neighbors, South Korea suffered the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, but the country was able to re-emerge and continue its growth towards a major economic power after a swift recovery.
In June 2000, as part of South Korean president Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy of engagement, a North-South summit took place in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea. That year, Former President Kim received the Nobel Peace Prize “for his work for democracy and human rights in South Korea and in East Asia in general, and for peace and reconciliation with North Korea in particular.”
In 2004, South Korea joined the “trillion dollar club” of world economies.
|Geography||Location: Eastern Asia, southern half of the Korean Peninsula bordering the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea
Geographic coordinates: 37 00 N, 127 30 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 98,480 sq km
land: 98,190 sq km
water: 290 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly larger than Indiana
Land boundaries: total: 238 km
border countries: North Korea 238 km
Coastline: 2,413 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm; between 3 nm and 12 nm in the Korea Strait
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: not specified
Climate: temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter
Terrain: mostly hills and mountains; wide coastal plains in west and south
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Sea of Japan 0 m
highest point: Halla-san 1,950 m
Natural resources: coal, tungsten, graphite, molybdenum, lead, hydropower potential
Land use: arable land: 16.58%
permanent crops: 2.01%
other: 81.41% (2005)
Irrigated land: 8,780 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 69.7 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 18.59 cu km/yr (36%/16%/48%)
per capita: 389 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: occasional typhoons bring high winds and floods; low-level seismic activity common in southwest
Environment – current issues: air pollution in large cities; acid rain; water pollution from the discharge of sewage and industrial effluents; drift net fishing
Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: strategic location on Korea Strait
|Politics||In its foreign relations, South Korea has main strategic interests in North Korea and the neighboring nations of China, Japan, and Russia, as well as its main ally, the United States.
The United States of America was the primary driver in the establishment and initial sustainment of the South Korean government before and after the Korean War. The two nations have enjoyed both strong economic and diplomatic ties after the Korean War, although they have often been at odds with regard to their policies towards North Korea during former president Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-Hyun’s terms. There was a spike of anti-American sentiment, although US-Korea relations have steadily improved since the election of current president Lee Myung Bak. In April 2007, Korea concluded a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, but that agreement still awaits ratification by the legislatures of both countries.
Historically, Korea had relatively close relations with China. Before the formation of South Korea, Korean independence fighters also worked with Chinese soldiers during the period of Japanese occupation. However, after World War II, the Chinese embraced communism while South Korea became a representative democracy with the help of the United Nations and the United States. The People’s Republic of China assisted North Korea with manpower and supplies during the Korean War, and in its aftermath the diplomatic relationship between South Korea and China almost completely ceased. Relations thawed gradually however, and South Korea and China established formal diplomatic relations on August 24, 1992. The two countries sought to improve bilateral relations and lifted the forty-year old trade embargo, and Korea-China relations have improved steadily since 1992.
Although there were no formal diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan after the Korean War, South Korea and Japan signed the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965 to establish diplomatic ties. There is still heavy anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea due to a number of unsettled Japanese-Korean disputes, many of which stem from the period of Japanese occupation. During World War II, more than 100,000 Koreans were forced to serve in the Imperial Japanese Army. Longstanding issues such as Japanese war crimes against Korean civilians, the visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine honoring Japanese soldiers killed at war, including class A war criminals like Hideki Tojo, the re-writing of Japanese textbooks to overlook Japanese aggression during World War II, and the territorial disputes over Liancourt Rocks continue to trouble Korean-Japanese relations. In response to then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, President Roh Moo-hyun suspended all summit talks between South Korea and Japan. Presently, South Korea and Japan’s political relations are unstable but thawing progressively, and the newly-elected President of Korea, Lee Myung-Bak, held a summit meeting with Yasuo Fukuda, the current Prime Minister of Japan.
Both North and South Korea continue to officially claim sovereignty over the entire peninsula and any outlying islands. With longstanding animosity following the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, North Korea and South Korea signed an agreement to pursue peace. On October 4, 2007, Roh Moo-Hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il signed an eight-point peace agreement on issues of permanent peace, high-level talks, economic cooperation, renewal of train services, highway and air travel, and a joint Olympic cheering squad.
Despite the Sunshine Policy and efforts at reconciliation, the progress was complicated by North Korean missile tests in 1993, 1998, and again in 2006. Recently, North Korea agreed to temporarily suspend its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program for economic and diplomatic support, although some Korean and American officials criticized the North for not being fully cooperative in its temporary suspension of a nuclear weapons program.
South Korea maintains diplomatic relations with approximately 170 countries. The country has also been a member of the United Nations since 1991, when it became a member state at the same time as North Korea. On January 1, 2007, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon assumed the post of UN Secretary-General. It has also developed links with Association of Southeast Asian Nations as both a member of ASEAN Plus three, a body of observers, and the East Asia Summit (EAS).
There is an ongoing effort at negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, the second largest importer of Korean goods. South Korea is also negotiating a Free Trade Agreement with Canada.
|People||Population: 49,232,844 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.7% (male 4,579,018/female 4,157,631)
15-64 years: 72.3% (male 18,150,771/female 17,464,610)
65 years and over: 9.9% (male 1,997,032/female 2,883,782) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 36.4 years
male: 35.3 years
female: 37.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.371% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 9.83 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 6.12 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: NA (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.08 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 5.94 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 6.33 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.53 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 77.42 years
male: 74 years
female: 81.1 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.29 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 8,300 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: less than 200 (2003 est.)
Nationality: noun: Korean(s)
Ethnic groups: homogeneous (except for about 20,000 Chinese)
Religions: Christian 26.3% (Protestant 19.7%, Roman Catholic 6.6%), Buddhist 23.2%, other or unknown 1.3%, none 49.3% (1995 census)
Languages: Korean, English widely taught in junior high and high school
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 97.9%