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South Korea (한국, 韓國 Hanguk), formally the Republic of Korea (대한민국, 大韓民國 Daehan Minguk) is a country in East Asia. South Korea occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea to the north, China across the sea to the west and Japan a short ferry ride to the southeast. Although it ranks 109th in the world in terms of land area, the country is a center of economic activity, culture, and arts. Korea's new standing in the international community was highlighted in 2010 with the nation becoming the first Asian country to chair the G20 and host the G20 Seoul Summit.
Legend has it that Korea began with the founding of Gojoseon (also called Ancient Chosun) by the legendary Dangun in 2333 BC. Archeological and contemporaneous written records of Gojoseon as a kingdom date back to around 7th-4th century BC.
After Gojoseon, native tribes led to the emergence of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, namely Goguryeo, Silla and Baekje. Eventually, Silla dynasty unified the Korean penisula as a one independent country.
Unified Silla was replaced by the Goryeo (also called Koryo) dynasty, from which the modern name "Korea" derives. One highlight of the Goryeo dynasty was that in 1234 the world's first metal movable type was invented by a Korean named Choe Yun-ui (200 years before Gutenberg's printing press). Goryeo was replaced by the Joseon (also called Chosun) dynasty, after a coup by one of its generals. The Choseon dynasty ruled Korea from 1392 to 1910, being one of the longest actively ruling dynasties in world history. It was during the early part of the Joseon dynasty that Korean technological inventions such as the world's first water clock, ironclad ship, and other innovations took place. During the rule of King Sejong the Great, the world's first rain gauge was invented and the Korean alphabet known as hangul was created.
Korea was colonized by Japan in the early 20th century and later had to endure the Korean War (1950-53), but it has achieved amazing economic growth in a short period, dubbed "the Miracle on the Han River."
As one of the East Asian Tigers, the South Korean economy's industrialization and modernization efforts gained traction in the 1980s and 1990s, with per capital income rising to 20 times the level of North Korea. In 1996, South Korea joined the OECD or "the rich nations club". Today, South Korea has been recognized as an industrialized, developed economy with some of the world's leading high technology corporations such as Samsung and LG.
South Korean capital of Seoul hosting the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. In June 2000, a historic first summit took place between the South's President Kim Dae-jung and the North's late leader Kim Jong-il (leading Kim Dae-jung to be awarded the first Nobel Peace Prize for South Korea). It hosted 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. South Korea is now a liberal democracy and an economic powerhouse.
In recent years, a phenomenon known as the "Korean Wave" (or Hallyu) in which the popularity of South Korean film, television, music, food and other culture aspects has swept most of Asia and many other parts of the world has brought increased attention to the country. The country elected its first female president in 2012.
South Korea is a very homogeneous country, with nearly all native residents identifying themselves as ethnically Korean and speaking the Korean language. The largest resident minority are the Chinese, numbering around 20,000-30,000. However, there is a number of foreign laborers from China, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Southeast Asia and other parts of world as well as English teachers from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. In addition, about 30,000 American military personnel are stationed throughout the country. South Korea's large and growing economy has attracted people from all over the world and Seoul's status as a leading financial center has brought many financial workers from North America, Europe and Japan. Today, over one million foreigners reside in South Korea. Tourists will normally find Koreans to be quite friendly and helpful when trying to find their way around.
Country Name Republic of Korea (South Korea)
Capital City Seoul (10.2 million) (2012)
National Flag Taegeukgi
National Flower Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon)
Language Korean (Writing system: Hangeul)
Population 50.95 million (South Korea) (2012)