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Although conflicts and confrontations have raged between the two Koreas across the DMZ for over sixty-five years, an atmosphere of dialogue and exchange and cooperation was fostered temporarily between the two countries following the Summits held in 2000 and 2007. However, there is tension along the DMZ at present due to the North’s continuing threats and provocations. 
On June 25, 1950, North Korea attacked the South on all fronts, igniting a three-year internecine war. Since the signing of the armistice agreement on the 27th July 1953, the Peninsula has remained divided.
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 South Korea, however, regards North Korea as part of the Republic of Korea.

Historical Background
With Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War in August 1945 four decades of Japanese colonial rule ended
and U.S. and Soviet troops came to be stationed on the Korean Peninsula to both the south and north of the 38th parallel respectively. This resulted in the division of Korea into two separate countries. 

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%
Archaeologists think that people started settling in the Korean Peninsula around B.C.700,000, during the Paleolithic Age. The population of South 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.

Korea is a country where all the world’s major religions, Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism and Islam, peacefully coexist with shamanism. Given the great diversity of religious expression, the role of religion in South Korea's social development has been complex; and some traditions are best understood as important cultural properties rather than as rites of worship. According to the 2005 statistics, 53% of the Korean population has a religion, while the 2008 statistics show that there were over 510 religious organizations in Korea. Among them Buddhism and Confucianism have been more influential than any others upon the life of the Korean people and over half of the country’s listed cultural heritage are related with the two religions. Since its arrival in Korea in 372, Buddhism has produced several tens of thousands temples across the country and currently has more adherents than any other religion. 

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 South 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%.
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 South Korea. Many beaches around the peninsula boast beautiful scenery and world-class facilities.

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 South 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. 

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.   



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