[Clockwise from the upper left: Korea’s spring, summer, fall, and winter landscapes]
The Korean Peninsula is divided between north and south, making Korea one of the only divided countries in the world. The following information is about the Republic of Korea.
Korea has four distinct seasons, each with their own stunning scenes. In the spring, forsythia, cherry blossoms, azaleas and many other flowers are in full bloom; in the summer, vacationers head to the coasts to enjoy time at the beach; autumn brings crimson colors to mountain foliage, and in the winter, land is covered with a blanket of white snow.
The capital of Korea is Seoul, and the government is led by President Park Geun-hye, elected in 2013 as the country’s first woman president.
The Korean economy is driven by the manufacturing and exports including ships, automobiles, mobile phones, PCs, TVs, and a wide range of other electronics. Korea has enjoyed rapid economic growth thanks in large part to its export-focused strategy. In 2013, Korea’s GDP was USD$1.19 trillion based on IMF statistics. The nation boasts the world’s 15th-largest economy (IMF 2013). Recently, Korean dramas and movies are also widely exported thanks to the popularity of Korean pop culture. K-pop stars are also active on the world stage.
The country’s population reached 51.20 million in April 2014 (Ministry of Security and Public Administration), with a large proportion living in major metropolitan areas. To address congestion in the Seoul and its satellite cities where around half the country’s population resides, the Korean government is relocating many government organizations to locations outside of the capital city, with the process set to be completed in 2014.
Koreans are largely ethnically homogenous and have their own form of writing called Hangeul. Born with Mongolian spots, Koreans are believed to be descendants of several Mongol tribes that migrated to the Korean Peninsula from Central Asia.
In ancient times, Koreans believed in shamanism, a primitive form of religion that has deep roots in folk beliefs. With the introduction of Buddhism to the Goguryeo Kingdom in 372 A.D., Buddhism began to flourish in Korea. As a result, there are many old Buddhist buildings and sculptures located throughout the Korean Peninsula. Some of the most well-known include
Haeinsa Temple, which houses the
Tripitaka Koreana (a collection of Buddhist scriptures carved on over 80,000 woodblocks; UNESCO’s Memory of the World),
Seokguram Grotto (UNESCO World Heritage), and
Bulguksa Temple (UNESCO World Heritage) in Gyeongju.
Christianity first reached Korea around the 18th century, and the number of Christians has rapidly increased since then.
[Photos of Korean celebrities displayed inside the Tourist Information Center of Korea Tourism Organization]
The most notable Korean figures in 2013 were Park Geun-hye, Korea’s first female president, Psy, who became a worldwide celebrity thanks to his song “Gangnam Style”, and Kim Yuna, who won gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and 2013 World Figure Skating Championships with her unrivaled figure skating skills.
Also, the recent Hallyu (Korean Wave or the popularity of Korean pop culture) boom has helped popularize K-Pop stars such as Girls’ Generation, and SHINee, and actors like Kim Su-hyeon, and Song Joong-ki, but these are just a few of the many Korean celebrities who are gaining immense popularity around the world.
Last updated on May 26, 2014