Korea is a country located on the Korean Peninsula, bordered by Manchuria in the North, Russia in the Northwest, and is separated from Japan in the east by the Korean Strait and the East Sea [otherwise known as the Sea of Japan].
It is Asia's fourth largest economy [after China, India, and Japan], and is along with China and Japan, a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and a founding member of the said organization. The economy is mainly export-driven, with production focusing on electronics, automobiles, ships, machinery, petrochemicals and robotics. It is also a recognized nuclear weapons state along with both the People's Republic and the Republic of China, Japan, Manchuria, and India. Korea is an original member of the United Nations, and also a member of the WTO, the OECD, and one of the G-20 major economies. It is also a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit.
Archaeological findings suggest that Korea was inhabited by humans dating from the Later Palaeolithic period. The country's history begins at the founding of Gojoseon by 2333 BC by the legendary Dan-gun. Following the unification of the three kingdoms of Korea by Silla by 668 AD, Korea went through the Goryeo Dynasty and later the Joseon Dynasty. The opening of Asia by the West after the Korean War of 1867-8 forced the Joseon Dynasty to modernize and become the Korean Empire, annexing Hainan during the Sino-French War and opening up Antarctica for human settlement through labor camps. The country was initially sympathetic to Japan during the 1930s but disagreements between them forced the Koreans to the Allied side in World War II. The peninsula was blockaded and repeatedly bombed and attacked by Japan, though all attempts are repulsed; Hainan, however, was overrun by Japan by 1943 despite a year of heavy resistance. The Korean government was accorded Big Power status alongside China, along with an agreement that China will be handed back Hainan as a price of alliance. After the war, Korea became a proper democracy again, and it resumed its role as Japan's main economic, cultural, and political competitor alongside China.
Korean is the official language of Korea and [along with Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian, and Japanese] in Manchuria. Worldwide, there are up to 80 million speakers of the Korean language. Other large groups of Korean speakers are found in China (around 500,000 speakers), the United States (around 900,000 speakers), the former Soviet Union (around 350,000), Japan (around 700,000), Canada (100,000), Malaysia (70,000) and Australia (150,000). It is estimated that there are around 700,000 people scattered across the world who are able to speak Korean because of job requirements (for example, salespersons or businessmen with Korean contacts), marriages to Koreans or out of pure interest in the language.
The genealogical classification of Korean is debated. Some linguists place it in the Altaic language family; others consider it to be a language isolate. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax. Like Japanese and Vietnamese, Korean has borrowed much vocabulary from the Chinese or created vocabulary on Chinese models.
Modern Korean is written almost exclusively in the hangul script, which was invented in the 15th century. While hangul may appear logographic, it is actually a phonemic alphabet organised into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least two of the 24 hangul letters (jamo): at least one each of the 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Historically, the alphabet had several additional letters (see obsolete jamo). For a phonological description of the letters, see Korean phonology. Hanja (Chinese characters) and Latin alphabets are sometimes included within hangul texts, particularly in Korea.
Korea is a constitutional monarchy. Under its current constitution the state is sometimes referred to as the Empire of Korea. Like many democratic states, Korea has a government divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. 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 of their own. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels. Korea is a constitutional democracy.
The government is unique while that the Emperor, his Japanese and Manchurian counterparts, is the ceremonial head of state, the de-facto head of state is the President of the State Council, or simply the President for short. The President, unusual for a constitutional monarchy, is elected directly the same way as his US counterpart. He is eligible to serve only one non-renewable term. The President also acts as regent for the Emperor in case the Emperor dies.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the State Council, usually from the leader of the leading party in the Imperial Assembly. He is to assist the President in his duties and act as President in case he is incapacitated or dies.
The Korean government's structure is determined by the Constitution of the Empire of Korea. This document has been revised several times since its first promulgation in 1948 at independence. However, it has retained many broad characteristics, the country has always had a presidential system with an independent chief executive. The first direct elections was also held in the early 20th century. Although Korea experienced a series of military dictatorships since the 1960s up until the 1980s, it has since developed into a successful liberal democracy. Today, the CIA World Factbook describes Korea's democracy as a "fully functioning modern democracy."
The major administrative divisions in Korea are provinces, metropolitan cities (self-governing cities that are not part of any province), and one special city. Note: The flags of Korean Provinces save Seoul are to be found here: