South Korea officially the Republic of Korea (Korean: 대한민국; Hanja: 大韓民國; Daehan Minguk listen;lit. "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 Koreato 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. Roughly half of the country's 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents.
Archaeology indicates that people lived in the Korean Peninsula as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. The history of Korea begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by the legendary Dangun. Following the unification of theThree Kingdoms of Korea under Silla AD 668, Korea was ruled by the Goryeo Dynasty (918–1392) and Joseon Dynasty(1392–1910). It became part of the Japanese Empire in 1910. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation. An election held in the U.S. zone in 1948 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, a communist government was soon set up in the North that invaded the South in 1950, leading to the Korean War that ended de facto in 1953.
Between 1962 and 1994, South Korea's tiger economy grew at an average of 10% annually, fueled by annual export growth of 20%, in a period called the Miracle on the Han River that rapidly transformed it into a high-incomeadvanced economy and the world's 11th largest economy by 1995. Today, South Korea is the seventh largest country ininternational trade and a founding member of the G-20 and APEC. Civilian government replaced military rule in 1987 and the country has since evolved into Asia's most advanced democracy as rated by The Economist's Democracy Index. In 2009, South Korea became the world's first former aid recipient to join the OECD's Development Assistance Committee, becoming a major donor. Its pop culture has considerable influence in Asia and expanding globally in a process called the Korean Wave.
South Korea is ranked as the world's 12th-most developed country in the Human Development Index, while in terms ofaverage earnings, it is the wealthiest in Asia and 10th richest in the world. It ranks highly in education, quality of healthcare, rule of law, ease of doing business, government transparency, job security, tolerance and inclusion. 64% of 25-34 year old Koreans hold a tertiary education degree, the highest in the OECD. A world leader in innovation as measured in the Bloomberg Innovation Quotient, South Korea is the world's sixth largest exporter, driven by high-tech multinationals such as Samsung, Hyundai-Kia and LG. South Korea has global leadership in advanced technologysuch as the world's fastest Internet connection speed, ranking first in the ICT Development Index, e-Government, 4G LTE penetration and second in smartphone penetration.
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. Historically, while the culture of Korea has been heavily influenced by that of neighboring China, it has nevertheless managed to develop a unique cultural identity that is distinct from its larger neighbor. The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs.
The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea have brought many changes to the way Korean people live. Changing economics and lifestyles have led to a concentration of population in major cities, especially the capital Seoul, with multi-generational households separating into nuclear family living arrangements. A 2014 Euromonitor study found that South Koreans drink the most alcohol on a weekly basis compared to the rest of the world. South Koreans drink 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average and, of the 44 other countries analyzed, Russia, the Philippines, and Thailand follow.
Main article: Korean art
Korean art has been highly influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism, which can be seen in the many traditional paintings, sculptures, ceramics and the performing arts. Korean pottery and porcelain, such as Joseon's baekja and buncheong, and Goryeo's celadonare well known throughout the world. The Korean tea ceremony, pansori, talchum and buchaechum are also notable Korean performing arts.
Post-war modern Korean art started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, when South Korean artists took interest in geometrical shapes and intangible subjects. Establishing a harmony between man and nature was also a favorite of this time. Because of social instability, social issues appeared as main subjects in the 1980s. Art was influenced by various international events and exhibits in Korea, and with it brought more diversity. The Olympic Sculpture Garden in 1988, the transposition of the 1993 edition of the Whitney Biennialto Seoul, the creation of the Gwangju Biennale and the Korean Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1995 were notable events.
Because of South Korea's tumultuous history, construction and destruction has been repeated endlessly, resulting in an interesting melange of architectural styles and designs.
Korean traditional architecture is characterized by its harmony with nature. Ancient architects adopted the bracket systemcharacterized by thatched roofs and heated floors called ondol. People of the upper classes built bigger houses with elegantly curved tiled roofs with lifting eaves. Traditional architecture can be seen in the palaces and temples, preserved old houses called hanok, and special sites like Hahoe Folk Village, Yangdong Village of Gyeongju and Korean Folk Village. Traditional architecture may also be seen at the nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Korea.
Western architecture was first introduced to Korea at the end of the 19th century. Churches, offices for foreign legislation, schools and university buildings were built in new styles. With the annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 the colonial regime intervened in Korea's architectural heritage, and Japanese-style modern architecture was imposed. The anti-Japanese sentiment, and the Korean War, led to the destruction of most buildings constructed during that time.
Korean architecture entered a new phase of development during the post-Korean War reconstruction, incorporating modern architectural trends and styles. Stimulated by the economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, active redevelopment saw new horizons in architectural design. In the aftermath of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, South Korea has witnessed a wide variation of styles in its architectural landscape due, in large part, to the opening up of the market to foreign architects. Contemporary architectural efforts have been constantly trying to balance the traditional philosophy of "harmony with nature" and the fast-paced urbanization that the country has been going through in recent years.
Main article: Korean cuisine
Korean cuisine, hanguk yori (한국요리; 韓國料理), or hansik (한식; 韓食), has evolved through centuries of social and political change. Ingredients and dishes vary by province. There are many significant regional dishes that have proliferated in different variations across the country in the present day. The Korean royal court cuisine once brought all of the unique regional specialties together for the royal family. Meals consumed both by the royal family and ordinary Korean citizens have been regulated by a unique culture of etiquette.
Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, noodles, tofu, vegetables, fish and meats. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes, banchan (반찬), which accompany steam-cooked short-grain rice. Every meal is accompanied by numerous banchan. Kimchi (김치), a fermented, usually spicy vegetable dish is commonly served at every meal and is one of the best known Korean dishes. Korean cuisine usually involves heavy seasoning with sesame oil, doenjang (된장), a type offermented soybean paste, soy sauce, salt, garlic, ginger, and gochujang (고추장), a hot pepper paste. Another well-known dish is Tteokbokki (떡볶이); a spicy snack consisting of rice cake seasoned with gochujang or a spicy chili paste.
Soups are also a common part of a Korean meal and are served as part of the main course rather than at the beginning or the end of the meal. Soups known as guk(국) are often made with meats, shellfish and vegetables. Similar to guk, tang (탕; 湯) has less water, and is more often served in restaurants. Another type is jjigae (찌개), a stew that is typically heavily seasoned with chili pepper and served boiling hot.
Contemporary music, film and television
See also: Korean wave
In addition to domestic consumption, South Korean mainstream culture, including televised drama, films, and popular music, also generates significant exports to various parts of the world. This phenomenon, often called "Hallyu" or the "Korean Wave", has swept many countries in Asia and other parts of the world.
Until the 1990s, trot and ballads dominated Korean popular music. The emergence of the rap group Seo Taiji and Boys in 1992 marked a turning point for Korean popular music, also known as K-pop, as the group incorporated elements of popular musical genres of rap, rock, and techno into its music. Hip hop, dance and ballad oriented acts have become dominant in the Korean popular music scene, though trot is still popular among older Koreans. Many K-pop stars and groups are also well known abroad, especially in other parts of Asia.
Since the success of the film Shiri in 1999, Korean film has begun to gain recognition internationally. Domestic film has a dominant share of the market, partly because of the existence of screen quotas requiring cinemas to show Korean films at least 73 days a year.
Korean television shows, especially the short form dramatic mini-series called "dramas", have also become popular outside of Korea, becoming another driving trend for wider recognition. The trend has caused some Korean actors to become better known abroad. The dramas are popular mostly in Asia. The stories have tended to have a romance focus, such as Princess Hours, You're Beautiful, Playful Kiss My Name is Kim Sam Soon, Boys Over Flowers, Winter Sonata, Autumn in My Heart, Full House, City Hunter, All About Eve,Secret Garden, and My Love from the Star. Historical/fantasy dramas have included Dae Jang Geum, The Legend, Dong Yi, Moon Embracing the Sun andSungkyunkwan Scandal.
South Korean corporations Samsung and LG were ranked first and third largest mobile phone companies in the world in the first quarter of 2012, respectively. An estimated 90% of South Koreans own a mobile phone. Aside from placing/receiving calls and text messaging, mobile phones in the country are widely used for watching Digital Multimedia Broadcasting (DMB) or viewing websites. Over one million DMB phones have been sold and the three major wireless communications providers SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+ provide coverage in all major cities and other areas. South Korea has the fastest Internet download speeds in the world, with an average download speed of 17.5 Mbit/s.
Main article: Sport in South Korea
The martial art taekwondo originated in Korea. In the 1950s and 1960s, modern rules were standardised and taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 2000. Other Korean martial arts include taekkyeon, hapkido, tang soo do, kuk sool won, kumdo and subak.
Football has traditionally been regarded as the most popular sport in Korea. Recent polling indicates that a majority, 41% of South Korean sports fans continue to self-identify as football fans, with baseball ranked 2nd at 25% of respondents. However, the polling did not indicate the extent to which respondents follow both sports. The national football team became the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to reach the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan. The Korea Republic national team (as it is known) has qualified for every World Cup sinceMexico 1986, and has broken out of the group stage twice: first in 2002, and again in 2010, when it was defeated by eventual semi-finalist Uruguay in the Round of 16. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, South Korea won the Bronze Medal for football.
Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 and has since become increasingly popular, with some sources claiming it has surpassed football as the most popular sport in the country. Recent years have been characterized by increasing attendance and ticket prices for professional baseball games. The Korea Professional Baseball league, a 9-team circuit, was established in 1982. The South Korea national team finished third in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and second in the 2009 tournament. The team's 2009 final game against Japan was widely watched in Korea, with a large screen at Gwanghwamun crossing in Seoul broadcasting the game live. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, South Korea won the gold medal in baseball. Also in 1982, at the Baseball Worldcup, Korea won the gold medal. At the 2010 Asian Games, the Korean National Baseball team won the gold medal. Three notable Korean baseball players are Chan Ho Park, Shin-Soo Choo, and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Basketball is a popular sport in the country as well. South Korea has traditionally had one of the top basketball teams in Asia and one of the continent's strongest basketball divisions. Seoul hosted the 1967 and 1995 Asian Basketball Championship. The Korea national basketball team has won a record number of 23 medals at the event to date.
South Korea hosted the Asian Games in 1986 (Seoul), 2002 (Busan), and will host again in 2014 (Incheon). It also hosted the Winter Universiade in 1997, the Asian Winter Games in 1999 and the Summer Universiade in 2003. In 1988, South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics in Seoul, coming fourth with 12 gold medals, 10 silver medals and 11 bronze medals. South Korea regularly performs well in archery, shooting, table tennis, badminton, short track speed skating, handball, hockey,freestyle wrestling, Greco-Roman wrestling, baseball, judo, taekwondo, speed skating, figure Skating, and weightlifting. TheSeoul Olympic Museum is a museum in Seoul, South Korea, dedicated to the 1988 Summer Olympics. On July 6, 2011Pyeongchang was chosen by the IOC to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.
South Korea has won more medals in the Winter Olympics than any other Asian country with a total of 45 medals (23 gold, 14 silver, and 8 bronze). At the 2010 Winter Olympics, South Korea ranked fifth in the overall medal rankings. South Korea is especially strong in short track speed skating. However, speed skating and figure skating are very popular, too, and ice hockey is an emerging sport with Anyang Hallawinning their first ever Asia League Ice Hockey title in March 2010.
Seoul hosted a professional triathlon race, which is part of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship Series in May 2010. In 2011, the South Korean city of Daegu hosted the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Athletics.
In October 2010, South Korea hosted its first Formula One race at the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam, about 400 kilometres (250 mi) south of Seoul. TheKorean Grand Prix was held from 2010 to 2013, but was not placed on the 2014 F1 calendar.
Domestic horse racing events are also followed by South Koreans and Seoul Race Park in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do is located closest to Seoul out of the country's three tracks.
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