The Republic of Korea (Korean: 대한민국, daehanminguk), commonly known as South Korea, is a sovereign nation in the Southern half of the Korean Peninsula, in East Asia. It is bordered by China in the west, North Korea to the north, and Japan to the east. It is a humid continental and humid subtropical climate, and primarily mountainous. Its oceans/seas are the East Sea, the Yellow Sea, and Korea Strait. It covers 99,392 sq km, and has a population of over 50 million. The largest city and capital is Seoul, with ten million, one-fifth of the population.
Korean history begins in Gojoseon, in 2333 BC by the mythical Dan-Gun. After many periods of chaos and disorder, Korea was unified into one dynasty called Joseon, which ended in 1910 at the annexation of Joseon by Japan. After World War II, the Korean Peninsula was split into North and South Korea, the North occupied by the Soviet Union, and the South by the United States. After an invasion of South Korea leading to the Korean War in 1950, South Korea grew significantly economically, far surpassing its Northern neighbor. It has been called the Miracle of Han River.
South Korea is a presidential republic with 16 administrative divisions, with a very high standard of living. It is Asia’s fourth largest economy, after China, Japan and India. It is the world’s 12th in terms of purchasing power. The economy is mostly export-related, mostly in the high-tech area. South Korea is a member of the United nations, WTO, OECD and the G-20 major economies, as well as being a founding member of the East Asia Summit and APEC.
Korea began in 2333 BC by the founding of Gojoseon (Go- (古) being the prefix for old) by the legendary Dan Gun. Gojoseon covered the entire Korean Peninsula, and some parts of Manchuria. Gojoseon fell to Han China, leading to the Three Kingdoms Era, composed of Silla, Bakjae and Goguryeo.
Gojoseon was fallowed by the Three Kingdom’s Period, which was made up of the three kingdoms, Silla, Bakjae, and Goguryeo. Those three nations vied for power and unification. At the end, in 676, Silla conquered both Bakjae and Goguryeo with help from Tang China. However, due to this, Korea lost Manchuria.
During Unified Silla, poetry, art, and culture flourished, as well as Buddhism. Relations with China were peaceful at that time. However, Silla weakened due to internal strife, and was conquered by Goryeo in 926.During Goryeo, as much the same as in Silla, culture and art flourished, leading to the world’s first metal printing press as well as the world’s first printed document. The Mongol invasions in the 13th century, however, greatly weakened Goryeo, and Goryeo became a Mongol tributary until its end in 1388 by the Joseon Dynasty.
The first 200 years of Joseon were relatively peaceful, with the creation of Hangul by King Sejong in the 14th century, and the rise of Confucianism. Between 1592 and ’98, Japan invaded Joseon several times, but was repelled. During the 1620s to ‘30s, Joseon went through a series of wars against the Manchu, who eventually took over all of China.After that, Joseon experienced another 200 year era of peace, with a new renaissance of the Joseon Dynasty.
But in the latter parts of the Joseon Dynasty, Joseon began to suffer as they began to depend on China for all affairs of state and had a period of isolationism from the West, which was forced open in the late 19th century. Then, during 1910-1945, Japan occupied Korea, until the end of WWII. After WWII, Korea was split into two, North Korea and South Korea.
Despite the plan for unification in the 1943 Cairo Declaration, the escalating antagonism between the Soviets and the Americans led to separate governments, in the North and South, divided by the 38th Parallel. After the division of Korea into North and South, North Korea (Official: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). North Korea was occupied by the Soviet Union, while the South was occupied by the United States.
Later, both the Soviet Union and the United States pulled out, letting the Koreans have their own government. However, on June 25th, 1950, North Korea, with Soviet advisors, crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded South Korea. After a long and brutal war with millions of casualties, North and South Korea were restored to almost pre-war borders. At least 2.5 million died in the war, and the peninsula remained split in what was called the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone)
In the 1960, there was a student uprising (4.19 Revolution) against the Rhee regime led to the resignation of Syng-man Rhee, and the rise of President Park Chung-hee. Park Chung-hee was an autocratic dictator, who used brutal force to crush his opposition and had a totalitarian style government. However, he is also credited for starting the Miracle of Han River, the near-miraculous rise of South Korea’s economy which led to it joining the Trillion Dollar Club in 2007.
South Korea is a presidential republic, with an elected president and cabinet, along with a National Assembly. Like the United States, the South Korean government is divided into three sections: Legislative, Executive and Judicial. These branches work both in the national level (i.e. Supreme Court) and on the local level (i.e. Mayor of Carmel, IN). South Korea is also a constitutional democracy. The South Korean government is governed by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, based on the US Constitution. It was first devised in 1948 and revised many times since. Although South Korea has had several military dictatorships from the 60s to the 80s, it has developed into a successful liberal democracy.
The executive branch is headed by the President of the Republic of Korea, who is elected through direct election of the people. He/she may serve for one term of five years, and is the head of state, government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He alone can declare war, declare emergency, and may propose bills to the National Assembly.
The President also can be impeached when accused of a serious wrongdoing, such as bribery, treachery, and murder.
There is also a Prime Minister of South Korea, as well as the Secretariat. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, and has the power to recommend/dismiss of cabinet ministers.
The Legislative Branch consists of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. It does not have a House of Representatives and Senate as the Congress in the United States, but is one unicameral body. It has 299 members. Its duties are the same as the American Congress.
The Judicial Branch has the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, and a bunch of smaller courts.
The Constitutional Court is in charge of constitutional review and deciding on impeachment of the President/Cabinet. The rest of the judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, which is the final and highest court in South Korea, similar to the American Supreme Court.