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Archaeological findings show that the Korean Peninsula was occupied by the Lower Paleolithic period. Korean history begins with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by the legendary Dan-gun. Following the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea under Silla 668 AD, Korea went through the Goryeo Dynasty and Joseon Dynasty as one nation until the end of the Korean Empire in 1910, when Korea was annexed by Japan. After liberation and occupation by Chinese and U.S. forces at the end of World War II, the country was unified and the latter was established in 1948. After the unification process was complete, the South Korean military grew significantly and had transformed into a major economy, a full democracy and became both a regional and one of the five superpowers.
South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of sixteen administrative divisions and is a developed country with a very high standard of living. It is Asia's fourth largest economy and the world's fifth 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, WTO, OECD and G-20 major economies. It is also a founding member of APEC and the East Asia Summit.
HistoryFollowing World War II, Korea was divided by the Republic of China and U.S forces; during which, both nations agreed to allow the unification under an democratic government. On August 15, 1948 the Republic of Korea was established and its constitution was signed. Since World War II, the Republic of Korea has good relations with China and the US, as well as the remaining countries except for Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran. The Republic of Korea was part of the Coalition that liberated Kuwait in 1991 and the Invasion of Iraq in 2004. Since then, the Republic of Korea is on the UN and the G-20 summit. The Republic of Korea participated in the rescue missions in Haiti and Chile that were hit by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Korea is currently one of the participants for the Transnational Highway portion of Asia.
The nation is an presidential republic and is divided into three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
ExecutiveThe Executive branch is headed by the president. The president is elected directly by the people and is the only elected member of the national executive. The president is allowed to serve one five-year term; additional terms are not permitted. The president is head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the Republic of Korea's armed forces. The president is vested with the power to declare war, declare an state of emergency or martial law, subject to the Assembly's subsequent rule approval. However, the president does not have the power to dissolve the National Assembly. In the event that they are suspected of wrongdoing, the president and cabinet-level officials are subject to impeachment by the National Assembly. Once the National Assembly votes in favor of impeachment, the court could either confirm or reject the impeachment resolution. The president is assisted in his duties by the prime minister.
The State Council is made up of the president, the prime minister and 15 cabinet-level ministers. Although the council has no power to make the final decisions, the Constitution requires that certain matters be brought to it before final decisions are made. These include bestowal of state honors, drafts of the constitutional amendments, declarations of war, budget proposal, government restructurings, and emergency orders.
The ministries are appointed by the president and report to the prime minister. Each ministry is headed by vice-minister-level commissioner. The ministry's are: Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Transport, Ministry Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Justice, Ministry Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Public Administration, and Ministry of Technology and Health.
At the national level, the legislative branch consist of the National Assembly of Korea. This is a unicameral legislature; it consist of a single large assembly. Most of its 399 members are elected from single-member constituencies. However, 56 are elected through proportional representation. The National Assembly approving state appointments, ratifying treaties, and auditing budget and administrating procedures. Currently, five political parties are represented in the assembly.
The judicial branch consist of the Constitutional court, Supreme Court, and local courts. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for all cases in South Korean law. The Supreme Court is currently sitting in Seoul. The Justices who are appointed must be at least 40 years old or higher and have 15 years of experiencing law practice.
A long history of invasion by neighbors have prompted Korea to allocate 2.5% of its GDP and 15% of all government spending to its military, while maintaining compulsory conscription for men. Consequently, Korea has the world's sixth largest number of active troops, the world's second-largest number of reserve troops, and the eleventh largest defense budget. The Republic of Korea, with a regular military force numbering 4.7 million regular personnel among a total national population of 100 million people, and has the highest number of soldiers per capita in the world.The Korean military consists of the Army (ROKA), the Navy (ROKN), the Air Force (ROKAF), and the Marine Corp (ROKMC), and reserve forces. All South Korean males are constitutionally required to serve in the military, typically for a period of two years. Previously, Koreans of mixed race were exempt from military duty if they "look distinctively biracial", but such policy is potentially up for abolition pending further review by the Ministry of Defense. The Korean Army has 2500 tanks in operation, including the K1A1 and K2 Black Panther, which form the backbone of the Korean army's mechanized armor and infantry forces. A sizable arsenal of many artillery systems, including 1,700 self-propelled K55 and K9 Thunder howitzers, and 680 helicopters and UAVs of numerous types, are assembled to provide additional fire, reconnaissance, and logistics support. South Korea's smaller but more advanced artillery force and wide range of airborne reconnaissance platforms. The Korean Navy has made its first major transformation into a blue-water navy through the formation of the Strategic Mobile Fleet, which includes a battle group of Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin class destroyers, Dokdo class amphibious assault ship, AIP-driven Typle 214 submarines, and King Sejong the Great class destroyers, which is equipped with the latest baseline of Aegis system that allows the ships to track and destroy multiple cruise missiles and ballistic missiles simultaneously, forming an integral part of Korea's indigenous missile defense umbrella. The Korean air force operates 840 aircraft, making it world's ninth largest air force, including several types of advanced fighters like F-15K, heavily modified KF-16C/D, and the indigenous F/A-50. Recently, Korea has purchased designs of the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets, but the F-22 is becoming increasing used, but not well enough like the F-15. In an attempt to gain strength in terms of not just numbers but also modernity, the commissioning of four Boeing 737 AEW & C aircraft. Korea continues to fight alongside Chinese, American, and British troops in Iraq and on the War on Terror. The Korean military also assist the UN in Somalia, especially after three more hijacking of Korean container ships.
Korea maintains diplomatic relations with more than 186 countries. The country has also been a member of the United Nations since 1948, when it became a member state. On January 1, 2007, South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon assumed the post of UN Secretary-General. In 2010, South Korea and the European Union concluded a free trade agreement to reduce trade barriers. Korea is also negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada, and another with New Zealand. Korea hosted the G-20 Summit in Seoul in November 2010.
The Republic of Korea continues to have good-relations with the Republic of China since the beginning of World War II. During World War II, Korean Independence fighters fought along side Chinese troops. China and Korea have an free trade agreement and Korea has an mutual-defense agreement with China.
The European Union (EU) and Korea are important trading partners, having negotiated a free trade agreement for many years since Korea was designated as a priority FTA partner in 2006. The free trade agreement was approved in September 2010, and took effect on July 1, 2011. Korea is the EU's eighth largest trade partner, and the EU has become Korea's second largest export destination. EU trade with Korea exceeded €65 billion in 2008 and has enjoyed an annual average growth rate of 7.5% between 2004 and 2008. The EU has been the single largest foreign investor in South Korea since 1962, and accounted for almost 45% of all FDI inflows into Korea in 2006.
Although there were no formal diplomatic ties between South Korea and Japan after the end of World War II, South Korea and Japan signed the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea in 1965 to establish diplomatic ties. During World War II, more than 100,000 Koreans were forced to serve in the Imperial Japanese Army. Korean women were forced to the war front to serve the Imperial Japanese Army as sexual slaves. Korea and Japan have territorial disputes over Liancourt Rocks. Although Dokdo is claimed by both Korea and Japan, the islets are administered by Korea, which has its Korean Coast Guard stationed there.
Korea has maintained relations with the US since the liberation from the Empire of Japan. Korea and the US have an free trade agreement or the Republic of Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) and mutual defense. Korea has fought alongside the Americans in Iraq and the Liberation of Kuwait. On October 12, 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the long-stalled trade agreement with South Korea along with similar trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.
Korean art has been 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 celadon are well known throughout the world. Post-war modern Korean art started to flourish in the 1960s and 1970s, when Korean Artists took interest in geometrical shapes and intangible subjects. Establishing a harmony between man and nature was also a favorite of this time. Due to 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.
ArchitectureDue to Korea's tumultuous history, construction and destruction has been repeated endlessly, resulting in an interesting melange of architectural styles and designs. 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 annexation of Korea by Japan in 1910 the colonial regime intervened in Korea's architectural heritage and Japanese-style modern architecture was imposed. 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, 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
Korean cuisine 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. 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
In addition to domestic consumption, 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. 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 due to the existence of screen quotas requiring cinemas to show Korean films at least 73 days a year.
SportsThe 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 spectator sport in Korea. Recent polling indicates that a majority, 56.7%, of Korean sports fans continue to self-identify as football fans, with baseball ranked second at 19.1% of respondents. However, the polling did not indicate the extent to which respondents follow both sports. K-League regular season football matches televised nationally average 35% share of the television-watching audience. European football leagues are also televised and widely followed. The national football team became the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to reach the World Cup semi-finals in the 2002 IFA World Cup, which was jointly hosted by Korea and Japan. The Korean Republic team (as it is known) has qualified for every World Cup since Mexico 1986, and has broken out of the group stage twice: first in 2002, and again in 2010, when it was defeated by Uruguay in the Round of 16. Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 and has since become an increasingly popular spectator sport, with some sources claiming it has surpassed football as the most popular sport in the country.
The Republic of Korea has a market-oriented economy with technologically advanced transportation network consisting of high-speed railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services, and air routes that crisscross the country. Korea Expressway Corporation operates toll highways and service amenities en route. Korail provides frequent train service to all major Korean cities. The Korean high-speed rail system, KTX, provides high-speed service along Gyeongbu and Honam Line. Major cities including Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Pyongyang, Daejeon and Gwangju have subway systems. Express bus terminals are available in most major cities across the peninsula. Construction of Korea's largest airport, Incheon International Airport, was completed in 2001. By 2007, the airport was serving 30 million passengers a year.Other international airports include Gimpo, Busan and Jeju; there are also seven domestic airports, and a large number of heliports.
The Trans-Global Highway has been planned to connect Tokyo to Fukuoka to Busan via four islands and an tunnel. From there, the road would run from Busan to Seoul, Seoul to Pyongyang, from Pyongyang, the road would divide into two routes, one toward Vladivostok, Russia and the other towards Beijing, China.
Korea's the fifth largest nuclear power producer and the second-largest in Asia as of 2010. Nuclear power in South Korea supplies 45% of electricity production and research is very active with investigation into a variety of advanced reactors, including a small modular reactor, a liquid-metal fast/transmutation reactor and a high-temperature hydrogen generation design. Fuel production and waste handling technologies have also been developed locally. It is also a member of the ITER project. In the northern part of Korea, an number of wind farms built by the American company Wind Tech Industries powers Pyongyang and the rest of northern Korea.
As of 2010, Korea is the seventh largest exporter and the tenth largest importer. Korea is one of the Asian Tigers, the others being Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan. Koreans refer to this growth as the Miracle on the Han River. Having almost no natural resources and always suffering from overpopulation in its small territory, which deterred continued population growth and the formation of a large internal consumer market, South Korea adapted an export-oriented economic strategy to fuel its economy.
Korea is the largest producer of container ships and oil tankers, as well as oil derricks. They also produce a lot of their own armament and navy ships. Tanks are built in Korea, as well as the F-15K and AH-64 Apache aircraft under the Korean Aerospace Corporation-Boeing Agreement . Korea exports a lot of automobiles from the Hyundai Kia Motorsports Company. The companies of Samsung, Hyundai and LG are the major corporations in Korea. Most of Korea's mineral deposits and more importantly mines are in the northern part of the country and have been placed under security of the Korean Civil Defense Force, a branch of the Korean Army.