South Korea Asia
Korea traces its founding to 2333 BCE by the legendary Dangun. Since the establishment of the modern republic in 1948, South Korea struggled with the aftermath of Japanese occupation (1910-1945), the Korean War (1950-1953), and decades of authoritarian governments, undergoing five major constitutional changes. While the government officially embraced Western-style democracy from its founding, presidential elections suffered from rampant irregularities. It was not until 1987 that direct and fair presidential elections were held, largely prompted by popular demonstrations. South Korea has been a vibrant multi-partydemocracy for two decades.
History • At the end of World War II, American and Soviet troops occupied the southern and northern halves of Korea, respectively, dividing the peninsula at the 38th parallel. Despite promises of an independent and unified Korea in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, this eventually led to the establishment of two separate governments: the communist North and the capitalist South. The Soviet Union promptly installed Kim Il-sung as the North Korean premier. While many Koreans wanted a national election to choose a leader for the whole country, the Communists refused to participate in elections by blocking entry into North Korea.
Democratic elections were held in South Korea only, and Syngman Rhee was elected president. The Republic of Korea was the sole legitimate government of Korea recognized by the United Nations at that time.
On June 25, 1950, the North invaded the South at the instigation of Stalin, tacitly approved by Mao Zedong. Thus began a bloody war that caused the deaths of more than 4 million civilians and soldiers alike, now referred to as the Korean War. The United Nations intervened on behalf of South Korea 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 China sending millions of troops across the border. The war eventually reached a stalemate. The 1953 armistice split the peninsula along the demilitarised zone at about the original demarcation line. No peace treaty was ever signed, however, and therefore the two countries are technically still at war.
In 1960, a student uprising led to the resignation of president Syngman Rhee, whose government had become autocratic and corrupt. Then followed a period of profound civil unrest and general political instability. General Park Chung-hee led a military coup against the weak and ineffectual government the following year. Park took over as president from 1961 until his assassination in 1979, overseeing rapid export-led economic growth as well as severe political repression.
The year following Park's assassination was marked by considerable political turmoil as the previously repressed opposition leaders all clamored to run for the presidential office. In 1980, General Chun Doo-hwan launched a coup d'etat against the transitional government of Choi Gyu Hwa, the former prime minister under Park and interim president, to assume the presidency. Chun's seizure of power triggered national protest asking for democrazation, particularly protests in Gwangju, South Cholla province. Chun sent in the special forces to suppress the city, and many students and civilian were killed brutally. The protesters armed under the name of Civil Army, but at least suppressed by military force.
Gwangju Massacre. The Gwangju massacre(Korea: Gwangju Democratization Movement) refers to the violent suppression of a popular and armed uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Korea from May 18 to May 27, 1980. For the period of Chun Doo-hwan's reign, the incident was officially regarded as a rebellion inspired by Communist sympathisers. But after civil rule was reinstated, the incident received recognition as an effort to restore democracy from military rule. The government made a formal apology for the incident, and a national cemetery was established for the victims.
In 1996, South Korea became a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Despite a severe setback caused by the Asian financial crisis in 1997, the country was able to re-emerge as a major economic power. In 2004, South Korea joined the "trillion dollar club" of world economies and, today, its standard of living approximates some of the less affluent countries in Western Europe such as Portugal and Spain.
In June 2000, as a part of South Korean president Kim Dae Jung's Sunshine Policy of engagement, a North-South summit took place in North Korea's capital Pyongyang. That year, Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for democracy and human rights and efforts at reconciliation between the two Koreas. Since then, trade and investment between the two Koreas have increased dramatically as a result of regular contacts in relations and economic ties. South Korea is now one of the four Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
The Four Asian Tigers • economies of Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. They are also known as Asia's Four Little Dragons. These countries and territories were noted for maintaining high growth rates and rapid industrialization between the early 1960s and 1990s
In the early 21st century, with the original four Tigers at or near to fully developed status, attention has increasingly shifted to other Asian economies which are experiencing rapid economic transformation at the present time. The four Tigers share a range of characteristics with other Asian economies, such as China and Japan, and pioneered what has come to be seen as a particularly "Asian" approach to economic development. Key differences include initial levels of education and physical access to world markets (in terms of transport infrastructure and access to coasts and navigable rivers, which are essential for cheap shipping).
Characteristics of the Tiger economies The Four Asian Tigers pursued an export-driven model of economic development; these countries and territories focused on developing goods for export to highly-industrialized nations. Domestic consumption was discouraged through government policies such as high tariffs.
The Four Asian Tigers singled out education as a means of improving productivity; these nations focused on improving the education system at all levels; heavy emphasis was placed on ensuring that all children attended elementary education and compulsory high school education. Money was also spent on improving the college and university system.
Government • The government of South Korea is divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and legislative branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels.
Climate and Geography • South Korea occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which extends some 680 miles (1,100 km) from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west, and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) to the east. Its southern tip lies on the Korea Strait and the East China Sea. The country's total area is 38,462.49 square miles or 99,617.38 square kilometres.
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 local climate is relatively temperate, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma, and winters that can be bitterly cold. In Seoul, the average January temperature range is -7°C to 1°C (19°F to 33°F), and the average July temperature range is 22°C to 29°C (71°F to 83°F). Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Rainfall is concentrated in the summer months of June through September. The southern coast is subject to late summer typhoons that bring strong winds and heavy rains. The average annual precipitation varies from 1,370 millimetres (54 inches) in Seoul to 1,470 millimetres (58 inches) in Busani.
Economy • South Korea is a major international economic power. South Korea has the ninth largest economy in the world (fourteenth largest by purchasing power parity), and the third largest in Asia, behind only Japan and China (fourth behind China, Japan, and India by purchasing power parity). Its largest trading partner and export market today is China. As one of the Four Asian Tigers, it achieved rapid economic growth through exports of manufactured goods.
Transportation • Transportation in South Korea is provided by extensive networks of railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that criss-cross the country. • All cities have intercity and intracity bus systems. Major cities also have express bus terminals
Demographics • The capital city of Seoul is also the country's largest city and chief industrial center. It had 10.3 million inhabitants in 2006, making Seoul one of the most populated single cities in the world.
Culture • South Korea shares its traditional culture with North Korea, but the two Koreas have developed distinct contemporary forms of culture since the peninsula was divided in 1945. • The South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs.
The contemporary culture of South Korea is heavily dominated by technology, including feature-rich cell phones and pervasive online gaming. South Korea today has the highest penetration of high-speed internet access to households in the world. Digital multimedia broadcasting now allows South Koreans to watch television on their cell phones
Foreign Relations • In its foreign relations, South Korea is primarily concerned with North Korea and the neighboring countries of China, Japan, and Russia, as well as its main ally, the United States. The US was the primary driver in the establishment and initial sustenance of the South Korean government before the Korean War of 1950-1953; however, since the 1990s the two nations have often been at odds with regard to their policies towards North Korea, and over the rise of anti-American sentiment often expressed toward members of the U.S. military, sometimes violently.
Military • The South Korean military is composed of the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA), Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), and Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC), together with reserve forces. Many of these forces are concentrated near the border with North Korea. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically for a period of twenty-four months
From time to time, South Korea has sent its troops overseas to assist American forces. South Korea dispatched 320,000 troops to fight alongside American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Most recently, South Korea sent 3,300 troops in the form of the Zaytun Division to assist with reconstruction efforts in northern Iraq, and is the largest contributor after the U.S. and Britain.
Sports • Taekwondo, a popular martial art, originated in Korea. Taekwondo roughly translates to the way of punching and kicking, although it is sometimes translated as the way of the hands and feet. It became standard military training in South Korea, and in 1961 the rules were standardized and taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 2000
Other popular sports in South Korea include basketball, football, golf, tennis and ice hockey. Women's golf is especially strong, with 45 South Koreans playing on the world's leading women's tour, the U.S.LPGA Tour, including stars such as future Hall of FamerSe Ri Pak. Rising star Michelle Wie is also of Korean heritage, with both parents from South Korea