South Korea


About South Korea

South Korea Flag
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South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea. "The Great Republic of Han", is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from Goryeo, a dynasty which ruled in the Middle Ages. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with China to the west and Japan to the east. South Korea lies in the north temperate zone with a predominantly mountainous terrain. It comprises an estimated 50 million residents distributed over 99,392 km2 (38,375 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Seoul, with a population of 10 million.

Archaeology indicates that the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Lower Paleolithic period (2.6 Ma–300 Ka). The history of Korea begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by the legendary Dangun. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea under Silla AD 668, Korea was ruled by the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392) and Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). It was annexed by the Empire of Japan in 1910. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation. An election was held in the U.S. zone in 1948 which led to the creation of the Republic of Korea. Although the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the Republic to be the only lawful government in Korea, the Soviets set up a rival government in the North.

The Korean War began in 1950 when forces from the North invaded the South. The war lasted three years and involved the U.S., China, the Soviet Union, and several other nations. The border between the two nations remains the most heavily fortified in the world. In the decades that followed, the South Korean economy grew significantly and the country was transformed into a G-20 major economy. Civilian government replaced military rule in 1987.

South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of 17 administrative divisions and is a developed country with the second highest standard of living in Asia, having an HDI of 0.909. It is Asia's fourth largest economy and the world's 15th (nominal) or 12th (purchasing power parity) largest economy. The economy is export-driven, with production focusing on electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics. South Korea is a member of the United Nations, Uniting for Consensus, G20, WTO, and OECD, and a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit.

Overview & Country Facts

The Republic of Korea is a small country on the far eastern edge of Asia. Although it ranks 109th in the world in terms of land area, the country is a center of economic activity, culture, and arts. 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."

Today, Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. It hosted the 1988 Seoul Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. More recently, Korean dramas, movies, and music are attracting many audiences in Asian countries and beyond, creating what is being called the "Korean Wave." 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.

Basic Facts of South Korea

Conventional long form Republic of Korea
Conventional short form South Korea
Local long Name Taehan-min'guk
Local Short Name Han'guk
Capital Seoul
Land Area 99,720 square kilometers
Seasons temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than winter
Population 48,955,203 (July 2013 est.)
Language Korean, English (widely taught in junior high and high school)
Age structure
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 94% (2004 consensus)
male: 96.9%
female: 91.9% (2012)
Religion Christian 31.6% (Protestant 24%, Roman Catholic 7.6%), Buddhist 24.2%, other or unknown 0.9%, none 43.3% (2010 survey)
Currency WON
Exchange Rate 1,065.15 US$/WON (approx. 2014)
GDP $1.198 trillion (2013 est.)
Time GMT+9
Electricity 220 Volts 50 cycles


    Largest cities or towns of South Korea
    Rank Name Province Population
    1 Seoul Seoul 10,143,164
    2 Busan Busan 3,526,648
    3 Incheon Incheon 2,882,047
    4 Daegu Daegu 2,501,823
    5 Daejeon Daejeon 1,533,497
    6 Gwangju Gwangju 1,473,529
    7 Ulsan Ulsan 1,157,199
    8 Suwon Gyeonggi 1,151,619
    9 Changwon South Gyeongsang 1,082,896
    10 Goyang Gyeonggi 993,411
    11 Seongnam Gyeonggi 980,004
    12 Yongin Gyeonggi 942,425
    13 Bucheon Gyeonggi 863,344
    14 Ansan Gyeonggi 713,571
    15 Cheongju North Chungcheong 673,330
    16 Jeonju North Jeolla 650,676
    17 Namyangju Gyeonggi 607,354
    18 Anyang Gyeonggi 591,799
    19 Cheonan South Chungcheong 619,724
    20 Hwaseong Gyeonggi 530,56



The contemporary culture of South Korea developed from the traditional culture of Korea, and on its own path away from North Korean culture since the division of Korea in 1948. The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea, especially Seoul, have brought many changes to the way Korean people live. Changing economics and lifestyles have led to a concentration of population in major cities (and depopulation of the rural countryside), with multi-generational households separating into nuclear family living arrangements.

Literature - Modern literature is often linked with the development of hangul, which helped spread literacy from the dominant classes to the common people, including women. Hangul, however, only reached a dominant position in Korean literature in the second half of the 19th century, resulting in a major growth in Korean literature. Sinsoseol, for instance, are novels written in hangul. In modern poetry, there were attempts at introducing imagist and modern poetry methods particularly in translations of early American moderns such as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot in the early 20th century. In the early Republic period, patriotic works were very successful. Lyric poetry dominated from the 1970s onwards. Poetry is quite popular in contemporary South Korea, both in terms of number of works published and lay writing.

Music - There is a genre distinction between folk music and court music. Korean folk music is varied and complex, but all forms maintain a set of rhythms (called 장단; Jangdan) and a loosely defined set of melodic modes. Korean folk musics are Pansori (판소리) performed by one singer and one drummer. They have been designated an intangible cultural property in UNESCO's Memory of the world, and Pungmul (풍물) performed by drumming, dancing and singing. Samul Nori is a type of Korean traditional music based on Pungmul, and Sanjo (산조) that is played without a pause in faster tempos. Nongak (농악) means "farmers' music". Korean court music can be traced to the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty in 1392. Although rare now, the genre has survived. Korean court musics include Aak, Dang-ak and Hyang-ak.

Clothing - The traditional dress known as hanbok (한복, 韓服) (known as joseonot [조선옷] in the DPRK) has been worn since ancient times. The hanbokconsists of a shirt (jeogori) and a skirt (chima). The traditional hat is called gwanmo and special meaning is attached to this piece of clothing.

According to social status, Koreans used to dress differently, making clothing an important mark of social rank. Impressive, but sometimes cumbersome, costumes were worn by the ruling class and the royal family. These upper classes also used jewellery to distance themselves from the ordinary people. A traditional item of jewellery for women was a pendant in the shape of certain elements of nature which was made of precious gemstones, to which a tassel of silk was connected.

Common people were often restricted to undyed plain clothes. This everyday dress underwent relatively few changes during the Joseon period. The basic everyday dress was shared by everyone, but distinctions were drawn in official and ceremonial clothes.

During the winter people wore cotton-wadded dresses. Fur was also common. Because ordinary people normally wore pure white undyed materials, the people were sometimes referred to as the white-clad people.

Hanbok are classified according to their purposes: everyday dress, ceremonial dress and special dress. Ceremonial dresses are worn on formal occasions, including a child's first birthday (doljanchi), a wedding or a funeral. Special dresses are made for purposes such as shamans, officials.

Today the hanbok is still worn during formal occasions. The everyday use of the dress, however, has been lost. However, elderly still dress in hanbok as well as active estates of the remnant of aristocratic families from the Joseon Dynasty.

Beliefs - The original religion of the Korean people was Shamanism, which though not as widespread as in ancient times, still survives to this day. Female shamans or mudang are often called upon to enlist the help of various spirits to achieve various means.

Buddhism and Confucianism were later introduced to Korea through cultural exchanges with Chinese dynasties. Buddhism was the official religion of the Goryeo dynasty, and many privileges were given to Buddhist monks during this period. However, the Joseon period saw the suppression of Buddhism, where Buddhist monks and temples were banned from the cities and confined to the countryside. In its place a strict form of Confucianism, which some see as even more strict than what had ever been adopted by the Chinese, became the official philosophy.

Throughout Korean history and culture, regardless of separation, the traditional beliefs of Korean Shamanism, Mahayana Buddhism and Confucianism have remained an underlying influence of the religion of the Korean people as well as a vital aspect of their culture. In fact, all these traditions coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years. They still exist in the more Christian South and in the North, despite pressure from its government.


South Korea tends to have a humid continental climate and a humid subtropical climate, and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma (장마), which begins end of June through the end of July. Winters can be extremely cold with the minimum temperature dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F) in the inland region of the country: in Seoul, the average January temperature range is −7 to 1 °C (19 to 34 °F), and the average August temperature range is 22 to 30 °C (72 to 86 °F). Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Summer can be uncomfortably hot and humid, with temperatures exceeding 30 °C (86 °F) in most parts of the country. South Korea has four distinct seasons; spring, summer, autumn and winter. Spring usually lasts from late-March to early- May, summer from mid-May to early-September, autumn from mid-September to early-November, and winter from mid-November to mid-March.

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 in) in Seoul to 1,470 millimetres (58 in) in Busan. There are occasional typhoons that bring high winds and floods.

South Korea Climate
Find more about Weather in Seoul City, KO

Public Holidays

Public holidays in South Korea are days when workers get the day off work. Prior to 2007, South Koreaese workers observed 8 days of public holiday a year, among the lowest in the region. On 28 March 2007 the government added the traditional holiday commemorating the mythical Hùng Kings to its list of public holidays, increasing the number of days to 9. As in most other nations, if a holiday falls during the weekend, it is observed on the following Monday.

Holidays in South Korea in 2015

Date Weekday Holiday name Holiday type
Jan 1 Thursday New Year's Day National holiday
Feb 18 Wednesday Seollal Holiday Day 1 National holiday
Feb 19 Thursday Seollal Holiday Day 2 National holiday
Feb 20 Friday Seollal Holiday Day 3 National holiday
Mar 1 Sunday Independence Movement Day National holiday
Mar 20 Friday March equinox Season
Apr 5 Sunday Arbor Day Observance
May 1 Friday Labor Day Bank Holiday
May 5 Tuesday Children's Day National holiday
May 8 Friday Parents' Day Observance
May 25 Monday Buddha's Birthday National holiday
Jun 6 Saturday Memorial Day National holiday
Jun 21 Sunday June Solstice Season
Jul 17 Friday Constitution Day Observance
Aug 15 Saturday Liberation Day National holiday
Sep 23 Wednesday September equinox Season
Sep 26 Saturday Mid-Autumn Festival Day 1 National holiday
Sep 27 Sunday Mid-Autumn Festival Day 2 National holiday
Sep 28 Monday Mid-Autumn Festival Day 3 National holiday
Sep 29 Tuesday Mid-Autumn Festival Day 4 National holiday
Oct 1 Thursday Armed Forces Day Observance
Oct 3 Saturday National Foundation Day National holiday
Oct 9 Friday Hangeul Proclamation Day National holiday
Dec 22 Tuesday December Solstice Season
Dec 24 Thursday Christmas Eve Observance
Dec 25 Friday Christmas Day National holiday
Dec 31 Thursday New Year's Eve Observance

Travel Advisory

There is no nationwide advisory in effect for South Korea, exercise normal security precautions.