South Korea

South Korea

Geographical Location of South Korea

South Korea is a mountainous country in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. 70 percent of the territory is occupied by mountains. Along the east coast, mountains drop steeply into the sea. On the other hand, to the west, in the shallow Yellow Sea, there are many islands and natural harbors. The country has a monsoon climate with cold, dry winters and hot, humid summers. The rainy season runs from late June to August and more than half of the annual rainfall falls during this period. Only the southernmost parts of the country experience above-zero degrees in winter. These areas are often affected by typhoons.

In recent years, much forest has been cut down in South Korea, and the original forest areas have almost disappeared. Other environmental problems in the country include acid rain, overfishing and water pollution from factory emissions. Air quality also leaves much to be desired in major cities. In addition, South Korea ranks ninth in the world in greenhouse gas emissions.

Brief History of South Korea

Korean civilization is more than 4000 years old. Before World War II, the area was part of the country of Korea, which was unified in 668. The geographical position between China and Japan shaped the history of Korea - for many centuries China had the greatest influence on the Korean Peninsula, but from the end of the 19th century. Japan took over. Korea was a Japanese protectorate from 1905 until the end of World War II.

After Japan's defeat in the war, Korea was divided into two zones that were intended to be temporary. The Soviet Union controlled the northern zone, the United States the southern. Rival governments were established in two parts of the country. In 1948, first South Korea and then North Korea became independent states, and the United States and the Soviet Union withdrew. Nevertheless, the United States continued to play an important role in South Korea, both economically, militarily, and politically.

The Korean War broke out in 1950 following North Korean aggression. While the United States and UN-backed forces defended South Korea, North Korea received military support from China and the Soviet Union. Three years later the war ended. The border remained virtually unchanged, and 2.5 million people died. A peace treaty between the two states has still not been signed, and the border is a demilitarized zone administered by the UN.
Military dictator Park Chung-hee ruled the country from 1961 to 1979. It was not until 1988 that protests led to democracy and a new constitution guaranteeing human rights.

Society and Politics of South Korea

South Korea is a unitary state with presidential rule, where the president is both the head of state and head of government. The country has become democratic since the adoption of a new constitution in 1988, which weakened the power of the president and strengthened the power of parliament. The president is elected for a term of five years, but cannot be re-elected. Despite the new constitution, the president still has a lot of power.

The relationship with North Korea is a political one as well as a democratic challenge. The national security law prohibits "anti-state activities" and contact with North Koreans without government permission. The law has long been used to restrict political activity and suppress opposition. In the past decade, North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches have led to harsher military rhetoric and hostile relations between the countries.

Close ties between politicians and various business leaders have been problematic in South Korea. Major revelations of corruption led to two previous presidents being jailed for embezzlement and bribery. Former President Park Geun-hye was elected in 2013 and became the country's first female president. She was overthrown in 2017 and impeached the same year on corruption charges. She is currently serving a sentence of 24 years. In May 2017, liberal Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party was elected after two terms as president under conservative rule.

Economy and Trade of South Korea

South Korea experienced enormous economic growth after the 1950-1953 Korean War and went from one of the world's poorest countries to one of the world's largest economies. This was made possible through a combination of government control with a market economy, as well as through the import of raw materials, which are further processed into various export goods. South Korea has few natural resources and imports and exports heavily.

Today, the country is one of the world's largest shipbuilding nations and is also advanced in the production of automobiles and various petrochemicals and advanced electronic products. South Korea is also one of the world's leading fishing nations, but this position is currently under threat due to overfishing.

The South Korean economy is dominated by large family-owned business groups (conglomerates) called chaebols. Hyundai and Samsung are two of them. The country was hit hard by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and the international financial crisis in 2008-2009. Since then, South Korea's economy has stabilized again.

Korean Cuisine and Culinary Traditions of Korea

Korean cuisine, like other cuisines of the world, developed in contact with the culinary traditions of its neighbors. In the case of Korea, these were Chinese and Japanese national cuisines. Many Korean dishes are similar to Chinese or Japanese, but Korean cuisine completely retains its originality. This was helped by the geographical location of Korea, located on a peninsula, and this also introduced a lot of fish and seafood into Korean cuisine. In Korea, there are no prohibitions on the use of any food products, so Korean cuisine is very diverse, although sometimes it shocks Europeans or Americans with some of its dishes. But basically, Korean dishes are very tasty and healthy. One of the world-famous traditional dishes of Korean cuisine is kimchi - a dish based on fermented Chinese cabbage with many other ingredients, among which hot red pepper plays an important role, giving kimchi a unique fiery taste.

Flag of South Korea
Coat of Arms of South Korea

Basic Information About South Korea

  • Full name - Republic of Korea
  • Capital - Seoul
  • Language – Korean
  • Population – 51,299,624
  • Form of government – Republic
  • Area - 99,720 km2
  • Currency – South Korean won
  • National Day – August 15