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Republic of Korea – Summary

Republic of Korea – Summary

Republic of Korea – Summary

Geographical and Topographical Features

The Korean Peninsula (lat. 33˚ - 43˚; long. 124˚ - 132˚) lies in the middle of Northeast Asia, flanked by China to its west and Japan to its east. The peninsula is 950km long longitudinally and 540km wide latitudinally, and has a total area of 223,405㎢, of which Republic of Korea occupies about 100,284㎢. The northern end of the peninsula is joined to the Asian Continent. The peninsula is predominantly mountainous, with flat land accounting for only 30% of the entire territory. Mountains over 1,000m above sea level make up only 15% of the mountainous areas, while mountains lower than 500m account for 65%.

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Republic of Korea Overview

Country Name: Republic of Korea
Capital City: Seoul (since 1394)
National Anthem: Aegukga
National Flag: Taegeukgi
National Flower: Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon)
Language: Korean; Hangeul
Land Size: 223,405㎢ (including North Korea)
South Korea only: 100,284㎢
Geographical Location: The Korean Peninsula
(lat. 33˚ ~ 43˚; long. 124˚ ~ 132˚)
Standard Time: 9 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time
Population: 51.33 million (2013)
Political System: Free democracy; Presidential system
President: Park Geun-hye (since 2013)
Economic Indicator (2013)
- GDP: US$1,304.3 billion
- Per Capital GNI: US$26,205
- Currency: won (US$1 = 1,099 won; floating exchange rate)
- GDP growth rate: 3.0%



The Taebaeksan Mountain Range forms the backbone of the peninsula, with the eastern part of the range rising higher than the western part. Rivers, both small and large, originate from the high mountainous areas in the east and flow toward the West and South Seas, forming plains suitable for grain cultivation. The climate created by the mountainous areas in the east has an impact on people’s lives. The easterly wind’s passage across the mountainous areas is subject to the Foehn effect, creating a warm and dry wind in the western downwind side of the mountain range. People living in the areas to the east of the high mountains experience considerable inconveniences with regard to transportation, as these areas have undergone very little development compared to the area to the west of the high mountains. However, the slow pace of development has brought at least one advantage to local residents: the natural sceneries have remained unspoilt and many people now choose these areas as travel destinations.

The East Sea has a relatively straight, featureless coastline, and the difference between high and low tide is only 30 cm. However, the sea along the coast is generally deeper than 1,000m. According to the result of a sonar measurement carried out by the Korea Hydrographic and Oceanographic Administration, the deepest part of the East Sea lies in the area north of Ulleungdo Island (2,985m deep). In contrast, the sea along the West Sea is shallow, which has led to the formation of wide tidal flats. The deepest part of the West Sea is in the waters surrounding Gageodo Island, Sinan-gun, Jeollanam-do (124m deep). The rise and fall of the tide shows a considerable difference, i.e. by as much as 7 - 8 m. The South coast has a heavily indented rias coastline. About 3,000 mainly small islands lie off the western and southern coasts of Republic of Korea. Many beaches around the peninsula boast beautiful scenery and world-class facilities.

Changes in Weather around the Year
The Korean Peninsula belongs to a temperate zone. There are marked changes in climate between the four distinct seasons. Under the influence of the continental climate, there is a considerable difference in temperature between summer and winter. It is hot and humid in summer, and cold and dry in winter. Over the past thirty years, the summer temperature range has averaged 20.5 - 26.1˚C, while the winter temperature range has averaged -2.5 - 5.7˚C.

Many Koreans take their summer holidays during this period. During the peak season, the number of visitors to wellknown beaches, including Haeundae in Busan, Gyeongpodae in Gangneung, and Daecheon on the West Sea, exceeds 1 million.

Four Seasons of Korea. 1. Spring of Baraebong in Jirisan Mountain; 2. Summer of Garibong Valley in Seoraksan Mountain; 3. Autumn of Gayasan

Four Seasons of Korea. 1. Spring of Baraebong in Jirisan Mountain; 2. Summer of Garibong Valley in Seoraksan Mountain; 3. Autumn of Gayasan


In winter, people enjoy skating and skiing across the country. There are many ski slopes in Gangwon-do. Winter snowfall in the mountainous areas of Gangwon-do sometimes reaches 50 - 60 cm in a day or two. The average daytime temperature in spring and fall is maintained at 15 - 18˚C. In these seasons, the sky is clear and the weather is pleasant and agreeable, encouraging many people to engage in outdoor activities or go on a trip.

Recently, the Korean Peninsula has shown signs of transition to a subtropical climate amid the phenomenon of global warming. In summer, the temperature rises above 35˚C. In spring, azaleas and forsythias bloom earlier than in the past. Over the past 4 - 5 years, many new and extraordinary climate-related records have been reported. In December 2010, a cold wave hit the peninsula for 39 days, lasting well into January of the following year. Heavy snowfall hit Donghae and Pohang, breaking a 79-year-old record. In July 2011, the heavy rain concentrated on Seoul and its vicinity was recorded as the heaviest daily rainfall in the meteorological history of the country. According to climate observation records, the average temperature in the Korean Peninsula has risen by 1.5˚C over the past century. Only ten years ago, it was usual for cold and warm weather to succeed each other on the peninsula every three or four days, but that pattern has disappeared. The northern limit line for the growth of tree and plant species such as apple trees and green tea plants is moving gradually northward. The presence of more subtropical fish along the coast of the Korean Peninsula constitutes further proof of global warming. Researchers started observing coral reefs in the sea near Busan. The number of subtropical marine plants is increasing in the sea near Jejudo Island.

Population
Archaeologists think that people started settling in the Korean Peninsula around B.C.700,000, during the Paleolithic Age. The population of Republic of Korea stands at 51.14 million (2013), with 49.4% of the population concentrated in Seoul and its vicinity. The government views the current low birthrate as a serious problem. The country’s birthrate fell to 1.08 per married couple (2005), a record low. The figure rose slightly to 1.19 by 2013 through the government’s efforts. Still, the figure falls short of the global average (1.71 in 2012). As for life expectancy, South Koreans’ life expectancy was approximately 81.3 years (2010) compared with an OECD average of 80.2 years.

Towards the end of the 19th century and throughout the early 20th century, a large number of Koreans left the country. Initially, China, Russia, and the United States were their chief destinations, but by the mid-20th century the destinations had become far more diverse. The number of South Koreans living in foreign countries amounts to 7.01 million, i.e. 2.57 million in China, 2.09 million in the United States, 0.89 million in Japan, and 0.61 million in EU countries. Since 2011, the net inflow of population has outnumbered the net outflow. The number of foreign nationals residing or working in the country has increased dramatically, particularly since 2000. According to Statistics Korea, 369,000 foreign nationals arrived in the country in 2013. Regarding the purpose of their arrival in the country, employment (41.4%) topped the list, followed by short-term stay (19.8%), long-term or permanent stay (6.4%), sightseeing (6.0%), and study (5.2%). Recently, many foreigners have come to the country for such diverse purpose as marriage to South Koreans, work, and study, etc.

King Sejong the Great Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty. He made many great accomplishments in the spheres of science, economy, defense, art and culture. One of his greatest accomplishments was the creation of Hangeul in 1444, an easyto- learn, efficient, and scientific writing system. He is respected as one of the country’s greatest kings among Koreans.

King Sejong the Great Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty. He made many great accomplishments in the spheres of science, economy, defense, art and culture. One of his greatest accomplishments was the creation of Hangeul in 1444, an easy-to-learn, efficient, and scientific writing system. He is respected as one of the country’s greatest kings among Koreans.

Language and Letters

Most linguists place Korean in the Altaic language family, though some consider it to be a language isolate, meaning that it cannot be simply related with any other language. The written form of Korean uses Hangeul, a writing system commissioned by King Sejong (1397-1450) during the Joseon Dynasty. Koreans are very proud of this remarkable achievement, and Hangeul is a very efficient and easy script to learn and use.

Hangeul is composed of fourteen consonants and ten vowels. It can express virtually all the sounds produced by nature and humans. Every year, UNESCO presents the King Sejong Literacy Prize to people who have made a distinguished contribution to the elimination of illiteracy. The inclusion of ‘King Sejong’ in the name of the prize may be said to be tacit recognition of his greatest accomplishment, the creation of Hangeul, which is easy to learn and use.

National Flag (Taegeukgi)

The national flag of Republic of Korea is composed of a red and blue taegeuk pattern in the center and four black trigrams at each corner, against a white background.
The white background symbolizes brightness, purity, and peaceloving ethnic characteristics. The taegeuk pattern symbolizes yin and yang (i.e. the idea that all things in the universe are created and evolve through the interaction of yin and yang). The four trigrams indicate the changes in and development of yin and yang by means of their combination (“taegeukgi_symbol_yin.png” represents yin while “taegeukgi_symbol_yang.png” represents yang; taegeukgi_symbol3_geongwae.png[geongwae] heaven; taegeukgi_symbol4_gongwae.png [gongwae] earth; taegeukgi_symbol5_gamgwae.png [gamgwae] water; and taegeukgi_symbol6_igwae.png [igwae] fire. The four trigrams surrounding the taegeuk represent unity.
The national flag, including the taegeuk pattern, which our ancestors liked to use in their lives, expresses the ideal of the Korean nation’s pursuit of creativity and prosperity.


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National Anthem (Aegukga)
The country’s national anthem was composed in 1935 by Mr. Ahn Eak-tai, who added a melody to lyrics written in the early 1900s. It was officially adopted with the establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea in August 1948. Prior to that, the country sang the same lyrics to the melody of Auld Lang Syne as the national anthem. National Flower (Mugunghwa) The Mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon) is thought to be deeply associated with what are regarded as the most typical Korean characteristics: a sincere heart, inwardness, and tenacity. Around the late 9th century, the Chinese referred to Korea as “the country of mugunghwa.” The Korean word mugunghwa literally means a “never-withering flower.” The country’s national anthem includes the line: “Three thousand ri of splendid rivers and mountains covered with mugunghwa blossoms.” The emblem of the government and the National Assembly contains the shape of a mugunghwa.

Political System

The country has adopted a Presidential system in which the President is elected by the direct vote of the people for a fiveyear term. The current President Park Geun-hye was elected in December 2012 for one term, which started on February 25, 2013. The government is composed of three independent branches: the Executive branch; the Legislative branch composed of 300 four-year term members of the National Assembly; and the Judiciary branch, which includes fourteen six-year term Supreme Court justices. There are seventeen regional local governments and 227 basic local governments. The heads of the local governments and the members of local councils are each elected for a four-year term.

Division

In 1948, the two Koreas established their respective governments. Defined as two different countries under international law, they joined the United Nations simultaneously in September 1991. The Constitution of Republic of Korea, however, regards North Korea as part of the Republic of Korea.

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