An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century - from three predecessor Korean states - until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President KIM Dae-jung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il. Current president of South Korea is Noh-Moo-Hyun.
[Source: CIA Factbook ]
Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004, South Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies. Today its GDP per capita is equal to the lesser economies of the EU. This success was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and technology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed l ongstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector. GDP plunged by 6.9% in 1998, then recovered by 9.5% in 1999 and 8.5% in 2000. Growth fell back to 3.3% in 2001 because of the slowing global economy, falling exports, and the perception that much-needed corporate and financial reforms had stalled. Led by consumer spending and exports, growth in 2002 was an impressive 7%, despite anemic global growth. Between 2003 and 2006, growth moderated to about 4 - 5%. A downturn in consumer spending was offset by rapid export growth. Moderate inflation, low unemployment, an export surplus, and fairly equal distribution of income characterize this solid economy.
[Source: CIA Factbook ]
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. The South Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs. Korean art and culture have absorbed influences from many countries; prior to the 19th century, these cultural infusions came primarily from China. Koreans adapted many Chinese art forms with innovation and skill, creating distinctively Korean forms. For many centuries, Korean forms of metalwork, sculpture, painting, and ceramics flourished throughout the Korean peninsula and were then passed on to neighboring countries like Japan. In modern times, Western and particularly the US influences have been strongest. In the aftermath of Japanese occupation all Japanese cultural exports were banned from Korea until 1999. However, trading between the two countries have grown, although there is still strong anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea.
Recently, Korean pop culture has become popular in Asia and beyond, earning the name Hallyu or "Korean Wave." In Japan, with Korean singers like BoA, and television dramas like Daejanggeum and Winter Sonata have found success. Recent Korean films such as Oldboy and Oasis have also received international acclaim. The contemporary culture of South Korea is heavily dominated by technology, including feature-rich cell phones and pervasive online gaming. South Korea today has the highest penetration of high-speed internet access to households in the world. Digital multimedia broadcasting now allows South Koreans to watch television on their cell phones.
However, the country still retains centuries-old customs and
traditions, such as its unique cuisine, ancestor worship, and
some Confucianism ideals. Foods like Bulgogi and Kimchi that
have been developed since the Goguryeo and Chosun Dynasty still
remain in the Korean diet.
Confucianist ideals, especially from the Chosun Dynasty remain.
Respecting elders, worshiping ancestors, and ethical manners are
still present in Korean society.
[Source: Culture, South Korea - Wikipedia ]
Taekwondo, a popular martial art, originated in Korea. Taekwondo roughly translates to the way of punching and kicking, although it is sometimes translated as the way of the hands and feet. It became standard military training in South Korea, and in 1961 the rules were standardized and taekwondo became an official Olympic sport in 2000. Taekwondo in the military is an integral part in the Korean land forces. Other Korean martial arts include subak and taekkyeon. Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 by an American missionary named Phillip Gillette and has since become the most popular spectator sport in South Korea. The first South Korean professional sports league was the Korea Baseball Association, established in 1982. During the 2006 World Baseball Classic, South Korea reached the final four before losing to Japan. Prior to that final match, the South Korean team was the only undefeated team, and had beaten Japan twice and the United States once. Other popular sports in South Korea include basketball, football, golf, tennis and ice hockey. Women's golf is especially strong, with 45 South Koreans playing on the world's leading women's tour, the U.S. LPGA Tour, including stars such as future Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak. South Korea's Olympic teams have performed strongly in archery, shooting, table tennis, short track speed skating, handball, and taekwondo. Other sports South Korea has performed well in are badminton, fencing, weightlifting, boxing, judo, wrestling, and field hockey. In 1988, South Korea hosted the Summer Olympics in Seoul for the first time. South Korea has also hosted the Asian Games in 1986 and 2002. The 2002 FIFA World Cup was jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan, and South Korea became the first Asian team to reach the semi-finals. The Korea Republic national football team, also known as the "Taeguk Warriors", qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany for their sixth consecutive World Cup. At the 2004 Summer Olympics, South Korea continued to compete successfully at archery, winning three of the four gold medals and one silver. During the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, the South Korean short track team dominated their event, taking home six of the eight gold medals available as well as three silvers and one bronze. Skaters Ahn Hyun Soo and Jin Sun-Yu were the second and third persons in the Olympic Games to win three gold medals. Recently, there was campaign to have a future Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang County, however, it lost to Sochi, Russia. In South Korea, computer games take on a sport-like presentation in South Korea, the most popular of which being Starcraft. Although not recognized as a sport in its own right, the professional leagues are televised through channels such as MBC Game and OnGameNet with announcers, professional players and sponsors such as Adidas and LG. The three major professional Starcraft leagues are Proleague, MSL and OSL. Other popular games in South Korea include the Counterstrike series, Warcraft III, and Maple Story. Famous Korean game companies like Nexon have developed popular internet games that are played worldwide.
[Source: Sports, South Korea - Wikipedia ]
Korean flag is called "Taegeukgi" in Korean. Its design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang in Oriental philosophy. The circle in the center of Korean flag is divided into two equal parts. The upper red section represents the proactive cosmic forces of the yang. Conversely, the lower blue section represents the responsive cosmic forces of the yin. The two forces together embody the concepts of continual movement, balance and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements: heaven , earth , fire, and water.
The national flower of Korea is the mugunghwa, rose of sharon. Every year from July to October, a profusion of mugunghwa blossoms graces the entire country. Unlike most flowers, mugunghwa is remarkably tenacious and able to withstand both blight and insects. The flower's symbolic significance stems from the Korean word mugung, meaning immortality. This word accurately reflects the enduring nature of Korean culture, and the determination and perseverance of the Korean people.
Our national anthem is "Aegukga," which means "Love the Country". In 1896, the Dongnip Sinmun (Independence News) published various versions of lyrics for this song. It is not known exactly what music they were sung to in its early days. Records show that a Western-style military band was formed during the time of the Dae-han Empire (1897 - 1910) and that the "Dae-han Empire Aegukga" was composed in 1902 and played at important national functions. The original words of Aegukga appeared in a written form around 1907 to inculcate allegiance to the nation and foster the spirit of independence as the country faced threats of foreign annexation. Over the years, the lyrics have gone through several versions until they were adopted as the national anthem in the present form in 1948. Before the birth of the Republic in 1948, the words were often sung to the tune of the Scottish folk song, Auld Lang Syne. Maestro Ahn Eak-tay (1905 - 1965), then living in Spain, felt that it was inappropriate to sing this patriotic song to the tune of another country's folk song. So, he composed new music to go with the lyrics in 1935, and the Korean Provisional Government in exile adopted it as the national anthem. While Koreans outside the country sang the anthem to the new tune, those at home continued to use Auld Lang Syne until Korea was liberated in 1945. The Republic of Korea Government in 1948 officially adopted the new version as the national anthem and began to use it at all schools and official functions.