South Korea -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Korea
Capital City: Seoul
Official Currency: won
Religions: Buddhism, Christianity
Population: 46 000 000
Land Area: 99 392 sq.km
Landforms: mostly mountainous; there are vast fertile plains only in the western and southern part.
Administrative divisions: 9 provinces and 7 metropolitan cities
South Korea -- History --
The History of South Korea formally begins with the establishment of South Korea on 15 August 1948 while Syngman Rhee declared the establishment in Seoul on 13 August 1948.
In the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Korea which ended with Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel in accordance with a United Nations arrangement, to be administered by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. The Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on the implementation of Joint Trusteeship over Korea. This led in 1948 to the establishment of two separate governments, each claiming to be the legitimate government of all of Korea. Eventually, following the Korean War, the two separate governments stabilized into the existing political entities of North and South Korea.
South Korea's subsequent history is marked by alternating periods of democratic and autocratic rule. Civilian governments are conventionally numbered from the First Republic of Syngman Rhee to the contemporary Sixth Republic. The First Republic, arguably democratic at its inception, became increasingly autocratic until its collapse in 1960. The Second Republic was strongly democratic, but was overthrown in less than a year and replaced by an autocratic military regime. The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Republics were nominally democratic, but are widely regarded as the continuation of military rule. With the Sixth Republic, the country has gradually stabilized into a liberal democracy.
Since its inception, South Korea has seen substantial development in education, economy, and culture. Since the 1960s, the country has developed from one of Asia's poorest to one of the continent's most well-off. Education, particularly at the tertiary level, has expanded dramatically. Since the 1990s, Korean popular music, TV drama, and films have become popular throughout East and Southeast Asia, in a phenomenon known as "Korean wave."
After Japan's surrender to the Allied Powers, division at the 38th parallel against the wishes of Korean people marked the beginning of Soviet and U.S. trusteeship over the North and South, respectively. While the de jure sovereignty of Korea was considered to be held by the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea based in China, U.S. leaders chose to ignore its legitimacy, partly due to belief that it was communist-aligned.
U.S. forces landed at Incheon on September 8, 1945 and established a military government shortly thereafter. The forces landing at Incheon were of the 24th Corps of the US Tenth Army. They were commanded by Lt. General John R. Hodge, who then took charge of the government.
The country in this period was plagued by political and economic chaos, which arose from a variety of causes. The after effects of the Japanese exploitation were still felt in the country, as in Democratic People's Republic of Korea. In addition, the U.S. military was largely unprepared for the challenge of administering the country, arriving with no knowledge of the language, culture or political situation. Thus, many of their policies had unintended destabilizing effects. Waves of refugees from North Korea and returnees from abroad also helped to keep the country in turmoil.
Faced with mounting popular discontent, in October 1945 Hodge established the Korean Advisory Council. A year later, an interim legislature and interim government were established, headed by Kim Kyu-shik and Syngman Rhee respectively. However, these interim bodies lacked any independent authority, nor de jure sovereignty, which was still held by the Provisional Government.
South Korea -- Economy --
The economy of South Korea is the third-largest in Asia and the 13th-largest in the world by GDP (PPP) as of 2007. In the aftermath of the Korean War, South Korea grew from a poor developing country to a wealthy developed country. From the mid- to late- 20th century, it has enjoyed exponential economic growth, with one of the fastest growth rates in modern world history. The South Korean economy focused on heavy industry and automotive industry during the 1970s and 1980s. With government support, POSCO, a steel-production company, was established in less than three years, forming the first backbone of the South Korean economy for decades to come. Today, POSCO is the world's third-largest steel producer. South Korea has a strong reputation for being the world's largest shipbuilder, with multinational enterprises such as Hyundai Heavy Industries and Samsung Heavy Industries consistently dominating the global shipbuilding market. The car manufacturing industry has grown equally rapidly and is rivaling the top established global car brands today, led by Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, making South Korea the world's fifth-largest car manufacturing nation.
Like other developed nations, the service sector has grown to comprise about two-thirds of GDP. At the same time, living standards and in particular the education level in South Korea rose exponentially to become equivalent or higher than that of other developed Western European and North American countries, with South Korea's HDI being rated at "High" with 0.921 by the Human Development Index in 2007, owning a 99% adult literacy rate. In the most recent Quality-of-Life survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, South Korea came 30th, only one rank below the United Kingdom. During this period, South Korean workers' income and wealth increased considerably, leading labor-intensive industries to move to neighboring developing countries, such as China or Vietnam. However, South Korea still maintains the highest working hours in the world, with many workers living without weekends or holidays until they retire.
In 1987 approximately 23.4 million tons of anthracite coal, approximately 4,000 tons of tungsten, 565,000 tons of iron ore, and 47,000 tons of zinc ore were mined. Lesser amounts of copper, lead, molybdenum, gold, silver, kaolin, and fluorite also were mined.
With few native energy resources, South Korea has used nuclear combined with conventional thermal power plants to keep up with aggressive economic growth.
Energy producers were dominated by government enterprises, although privately operated coal mines and oil refineries also existed. In 1990 South Korea still had no proven oil reserves. Offshore oil possibilities in the Yellow Sea and on the continental shelf between Korea and Japan yielded nothing through the 1980s, but exploration continued. South Korea's coal supply was both insufficient and of low quality. The potential for hydroelectric power was very limited because of tremendous seasonal variations in the weather and the concentration of most of the rainfall in the summer months. Accordingly, Seoul placed an increasingly heavy emphasis on developing nuclear power generation.
The Korean Peninsula is only modestly endowed with natural resources, and North Korea has far more natural resources than South Korea. During the Japanese colonial period (1910-45), the North served as the center for mining and industry whereas the South, with somewhat greater rainfall, a warmer climate, and slightly greater arable terrain, served as the center for rice production.
South Korea's mineral production is not adequate to supply its manufacturing output. Energy needs are also met by importing bituminous and anthracite coal and crude petroleum.
Transportation in South Korea is provided by extensive networks of railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that criss-cross the country.
South Korea -- Culture --
Contemporary culture of North Korea is based on traditional Korean culture, but developed since the establishment of North Korea in 1948. Koreans were able to develop and maintain a unique culture, while adopting and influencing neighboring cultures for nearly 3,000 years.
During the Japanese rule (1910-45), the Japanese government attempted to force Koreans to adopt the Japanese language and culture. Many significant Korean artifacts were either stolen or burned by the Japanese. The desire of the North Korean regime to preserve its Korean culture, including many traditional aspects such as food, dress, art, architecture, and folkways, is motivated in part by the historical experience of Japan's cultural eradication attempt.
South Korea shares its traditional culture with North Korea, but the two Koreas have developed different forms of contemporary culture, as Peninsula was divided in 1945. In South Korea Ministry of Culture and Tourism actively promote traditional arts and modern forms, through funding and educational programs.
Korean forms of metalwork, sculpture, painting, ceramics and flourished during the Korean peninsula. In modern times, Western and particularly American influences are strongest. In the consequences of the Japanese occupation of all Japanese cultural exports were banned in Korea until 1999. However, trade between the two countries increased, although there is still a strong anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea.
Recently the Korean pop culture has become popular in Asia and elsewhere, earning the name Hallyu or Korean wave. In Japan and other Asian countries, Korean Boy Band TVXQ and television drama like Winter Sonata have found success, rain is widely recognized in Asia and has begun to enter the U.S. market. New Korean films such as Oldboy and Oasis have also received international recognition.
Contemporary culture of South Korea is heavily dominated by technology, feature-rich cellular phones and pervasive online games. South Korea today features a high penetration of broadband Internet access for households. In South Korea, computer games for sport similarly presentation. In the professional leagues have television announcers, professional players and large corporate sponsors.
South Korea retains centuries-old customs and traditions, such as its cuisine, father worship Confucius and ideals. Foods such as steamed up Rice, Bulgogi (Korean style beef barbecue), Kimbap (roll-up rice wrapped in seaweed), Mandu (dumplings), Doenjang jjigae (fermented soy paste), Japchae (Boiled sweet potato starch, mixed fried noodles with vegetables ), Tteokbokki (broiled dish with a rice cake sliced, seasoned beef, fish cakes and vegetables), Bibimbap (rice mixed with vegetables, beef, eggs and chili pepper paste) and Kimchi (fermented vegetables) are Staples Korean diet.
Particularly well known throughout the world is kimchi, A spicy dishes of Chinese cabbage and other spices.
Modern literature of Korea developed out of its contact with Western culture, following the course of modernization. Not only Christian thought, but also various artistic trends and influences were imported from the West. As the "New Education" and the "National Language and Literature Movement" developed, the Chinese writing system, which had traditionally represented the culture of the dominant class, lost the socio-cultural function it had previously enjoyed. At the same time, the Korean script, Han-gul was being used more and more frequently, resulting in the growth and development of Korean language and literature studies. With the advent of the "new novel" (shinsosol) came a surge in novels written in the Korean script.
South Korea -- Political system and government --
Politics of the Republic of Korea takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of state, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises a Supreme Court, appellate courts, and a Constitutional Court. Since 1948, the constitution has undergone five major revisions, each signifying a new republic. The current Sixth Republic began with the last major constitutional revision in 1988.
The head of state is the president, who is elected by direct popular vote for a single five-year term. Unlike the U.S. government, the president is not the commander in chief. However, the president enjoys considerable executive powers. The president appoints the prime minister with approval of the National Assembly, as well as appointing and presiding over the State Council of chief ministers as the head of government. The Presidency was suspended from March 12 to May 14, 2004 while the Constitutional Court deliberated then President Roh Moo-hyun's impeachment vote in the National Assembly. The Constitutional Court eventually overturned the impeachment vote and restored Mr. Roh to the Presidency.
The National Assembly has 299 members, elected for a four year term, 243 members in single-seat constituencies and 56 members by proportional representation.
South Korea elects on national level a head of state – the president – and a legislature. The president is elected for a five year term by the people. The National Assembly (Gukhwe) has 299 members, elected for a four year term, 243 members in single-seat constituencies and 56 members by proportional representation. The main political parties in South Korea are the United Democratic Party (evolved from the Uri Party), the Grand National Party (GNP), the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), and the Democratic Party (DP). The Uri Party was formed in late 2003 from a left-leaning faction of the DP (then the Millennium Democratic Party). It gained a slim majority in the National Assembly after the April 2004 legislative elections, but lost it in subsequent by-elections. The conservative GNP and centrist DP form the dominant political opposition. The socialist DLP is aligned with labour unions and farmers' groups.
The South Korean judiciary is independent of the other two branches. The highest judiciary body is the Supreme Court, whose justices are appointed by the president with the consent of the National Assembly. In addition, the Constitutional Court oversees questions of constitutionality.
The division of Korea after WWll and the subsequent war with the communist North shaped the early politics of the Republic of Korea, which was proclaimed in August 1948.
Syngman Ree was President of the Republic of Korea until April 1960, using the cloak of anti-communism to rule autocratically, limiting political freedom.
The second republic
In 1960 fraud in a presidential election led to student unrest, which forced the President to step down. A new constitution was passed in August 1960, forming the Second Republic, but political freedom remained limited, using the pretext of anti-communism.
This led to further political demonstrations and a military coup in 1961.
The leader of the military, General Park, restored some political freedom and proclaimed the third republic on December 17, 1963. Park increased his powers with constitutional changes in 1972 and remained in control until he was assassinated in 1979.
In 1980 martial law was declared after student demonstrations. In the city of Kwangju at least 200 were killed by the army. This led to the resignation of President Choi and the naming of General Chun as President. A fifth republic and new constitution followed in 1980.
President Chun was indirectly elected to a seven year term in 1981. Although martial law ended that year, the government continued to have strong powers to prevent dissent. In 1986 the constitution was changed to allow direct election of the president.
During Park's rule, South Korea underwent a huge economic transformation through export oriented industrialisation. South Korea imported raw materials to develop finished goods.
This depended on increasing investment and maintaining a cheap labour force. During the 80s, the country also moved increasingly towards high-tech and computer industry.
Pressures grow for political change
By the 1980s the economy had developed to the point where pressure for political liberalisation was becoming strong and in 1987 President Chun was pushed out of office by student unrest and also international pressure in the build up to the 1988 Olympic games, held in Seoul.
A sixth constitution was passed on 12 October 1987, as Roh Tae-Woo succeeded Chun. Roh gained popularity by granting a greater degree of political liberalisation and also launching an anti-corruption campaign directed against his own party and predecessor, Chun. The constitution was revised to allow direct presidential elections and a strengthened National Assembly of 299 members.
Return to full democracy
In December 1987, Roh won the first direct presidential election since 1971. The first free parliamentary elections took place in 1988 and Roh managed to broaden his political base through the creation of the Democratic Liberal Party.
1990 also saw a general re-ordering of the political parties. Roh was succeeded in February 1993 by Kim Young Sam. Kim was a former opponent of the regime and the first civilian president.
High hopes for a clean-up
Kim initially passed a series of reforms to try to clean up the political system and undermine the long South Korean tradition of close links between businessmen and politicians.
This process culminated in the jailing of his two predecessors as President, Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, on corruption charges.
But after a promising start with moves towards increased accountability and transparency, things began to turn sour and Kim is now accused of many of the corrupt practices he had promised to combat.