한국이해자료 - Korea in the World (영어, English)

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The Republic of Korea (South Korea) occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. Across the Yellow Sea to its west lies China. Japan lies to the east across the East Sea. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) occupies the northern half of the peninsula.


  • Official Name: The Republic of Korea
  • Location: 38°N and 33°N latitude and 126°E longitude
  • Area: 100,266km² (2013)
  • Capital: Seoul (9,926,000) (2013)
  • Population: 50,220,000 (2013)
  • Population Density: 501 persons/km² (2013)
  • Language: Korean (Writing system: Hangeul)
  • Religion: Buddhist (22.8%), Protestant (18.3%), Catholic (10.9%), Other (1.1%), Unaffiliated (46.9%)
  • Government: Presidential republic
  • Mean Temperature: -2.5℃ (January) to 25.4℃ (August)
  • National Flag: Taegeukgi
  • National Flower: Mugunghwa (rose of Sharon)


  • GDP (nominal): US $1,417 billion (2014)
  • GDP Per Capita (nominal): US $28,101 (2014)
  • GDP (PPP): US $1,779 billion (2014)
  • GDP Per Capita (PPP): US $35,277 (2014)
  • GNI (nominal): US $1,366 billion (2014)
  • GNI Per Capita (nominal): US $27,090 (2014)
  • GNI (PPP): US $1,746 billion (2014)
  • GNI Per Capita (PPP): US $33,620 (2014)
  • Exports: US $573 billion (2014)
  • Imports: US $526 billion (2014)
  • Gini: 31.1 (2011)
  • HDI (Human Development Report): 0.891 (15th) (2013)
  • Major Industrial Products: Semiconductors, Automobiles, Shipbuilding, Consumer electronics, Mobile telecommunications, Steel
  • Currency: Won (KRW, Korean Republic Won), (US $1 = 1,060 won) (2014)



The Korean peninsula has been inhabited since the Old Stone Age. By the Bronze Age, settlers had established the first official state of Gojoseon (Old Joseon). Koreans still refer to the founder of Gojoseon as ‘Grandfather Dangun.’ According to the ancient legend, Dangun was the son of a bear and the heavenly king’s son, Hwanung, who descended from heaven to live with the people of the land. Gojoseon was the ruler of the northern part of the Korean peninsula, as well as a large area of today’s Manchuria. The kingdom prospered for a long time before being destroyed by the Han Dynasty in 108 BC.


Three separate kingdoms fought for supremacy on the peninsula from the 1st century BC until the 7th century AD. Goguryeo in the north, Baekje in the southwest, and Silla in the southeast were eventually unified under Silla in 676 AD. A long period of peace followed under Silla until the early 10th century when it became weak and was forced to submit to the new Kingdom of Goryeo in 935 AD. Remarkable developments took place in the arts and sciences during the unified Silla period, especially in the areas of Buddhism, architecture, astronomy, agriculture and literature.

Religion in Korea

Buddhism was introduced to Korea via China in 372 AD, and rapidly permeated the Korean mindset, culture and spiritual life. Buddhism was the national religion from the time of the Three Kingdoms until the Kingdom of Goryeo. The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) later adopted Confucianism as its governing philosophy.

Catholicism was introduced to the peninsula in the late 18th century, and Protestantism was introduced in the late 19th century. At first, the authorities tried to suppress Christianity, but the number of believers continued to grow throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, around 30 percent of Koreans consider themselves to be Christians. Nonetheless, Buddhism remains popular in modern Korea, and Confucianism continues to heavily influence social norms, especially the Korean work ethic. A variety of other religions are freely practiced in South Korea, including Islam.



The Goryeo Kingdom came to power in 935 AD after absorbing Silla. Goryeo adopted Buddhism as its national religion, and several excellent Buddhist works of art were produced during this period. The kingdom also maintained an open foreign policy. Thus, the Goryeo Kingdom became known among foreigners as ‘Korea.’ Goryeo lasted for around 470 years until the rise of the Joseon Dynasty at the end of the 14th century.

The Tripitaka Koreana

The Tripitaka Koreana is the world’s most comprehensive collection of ancient Buddhist scriptures. Carved onto 81,258 wooden blocks, this extensive work, which was completed in the 13th century during the Goryeo Kingdom, was a way of requesting Buddha’s protection from the invading Mongols. Each block contains roughly 320 Chinese characters on each side. Overall, about 52 million characters were meticulously carved with a great degree of regularity. There are virtually no errors across the entire set.


Jikji is the abbreviated title of a Korean Buddhist document, “Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests’ Zen Teachings,” which was printed at Heungdeok Temple in 1377 during the late Goryeo Dynasty. Jikji is recognized as the world’s oldest surviving book printed with movable metal type. It was published 78 years before Johannes Gutenberg’s acclaimed 42-line Bible, which was printed around 1450. Jikji is currently kept at the Manuscrits Orientaux division of the National Library of France. UNESCO included it in the Memory of the World (MOW) Programme in 2001.


The Joseon Dynasty came to power in 1392 and ruled the peninsula for more than 500 years. The dynasty was based on the principles of Confucianism. It was during this period that the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, was invented.

Hangeul: the Korean Alphabet

In 1443, King Sejong of Joseon created a writing system that represented the sounds of the Korean language. This system would eventually replace the more complicated Chinese characters and make it easier for ordinary Koreans to learn to read and write. The symbols representing the consonants and vowels are highly logical and concise, and can easily be learned after only a few hours of study. For this reason, Hangeul remains one of the most scientific writing systems in the world.


March 1st Movement

The dawn of the modern era did not bode well for the Korean Peninsula. During the first rumblings of Japanese imperialism, Japan annexed Korea in 1910, and the Korean people struggled hard to regain their sovereignty.

On March 1, 1919, the Korean Declaration of Independence, which was signed by 33 prominent Korean leaders, was announced. This precipitated a national uprising against the Japanese occupation, and political and armed resistance occurred both at home and abroad. The Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea was established in Shanghai, China.

Liberation and War

The peninsula was liberated in August 1945 following Japan’s surrender after World War II. Division of the peninsula at the 38th parallel occurred almost immediately when Soviet and U.S. troops proceeded to disarm the remaining Japanese soldiers. In short, Korea was now a geopolitical victim squeezed between two world superpowers.

On Aug. 15, 1948, the southern half of the peninsula was reborn as the Republic of Korea, an independent nation with democratic principles and a free market economy. Under the supervision of the United Nations, the South Korean people elected a National Assembly. This assembly then appointed Dr. Syngman Rhee, an American-educated leader of the independence movement, as the country’s first president. Meanwhile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was established in the north, with the Sovietbacked Kim Il-sung at the helm.

As previously classified documents have revealed, North Korea invaded South Korea on June 25, 1950, with the support of the Soviet Union. This marked the beginning of the Korean War, which quickly developed into an international conflict.

Within three days, Seoul had fallen to North Korean troops, and by August, all of South Korea was occupied by the North Korean army, with the exception of Busan, a port city in the southeast, and the nearby areas.

The United Nations Security Council quickly agreed to assist South Korea, sending troops and medical personnel from more than 21 member countries. Following Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s now famous amphibious landing at Incheon on Sept. 15, South Korean and U.S.-led U.N. troops pushed the North Koreans back to the Chinese border. Upon arriving at the border, China entered the war to support North Korea, and the South Korean and U.N. troops were again pushed south. On Jan. 4, 1951, Seoul once again, fell into the hands of the North Koreans.

South Korean and U.N. troops, which were made up mostly of U.S. forces, then pushed the North Koreans and Chinese back to the 38th parallel at a great cost to both sides. In addition to the catastrophic loss of life and social upheaval, the peninsula had been reduced to rubble. Any remaining infrastructure left over from the Japanese colonial era was largely destroyed.

The fratricidal war ended with an armistice agreement in July 1953. A peace agreement has yet to be reached.

Before the war, the United States and the former Soviet Union had established a border along the 38th parallel. After the war, a new border, called the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), was created near the previous border. It is surrounded by a 4 kilometerwide demilitarized zone (DMZ), which serves as a buffer zone for the heavily armed border between the two Koreas. The current population of the Republic of Korea is about 50 million, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a population of about 25 million.

Economic Growth

Under the leadership of President Park Chung-hee, who was president from 1961 to 1979, South Korea adopted a state-led, export-oriented policy to achieve economic growth. President Park is largely credited with heralding an economic turnaround, referred to as the ‘Miracle on the Han River.’ His five-year plan to spur economic development favored large corporate firms, placed heavy emphasis on expanding employment, and increased South Korea’s competitiveness.

South Korea’s unprecedented rate of economic growth began in the early 1960s when state policy shifted from import substitution industrialization (ISI) and towards a focus on exports. Under the export-oriented policy, the government supported labor-intensive light industrial products, such as textiles and garments, in which Korea had a comparative advantage.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, the focus again shifted from light industry to the high value-added heavy and chemical industries. Iron, steel, non-ferrous metal, shipbuilding, electronics and chemical production were singled out as the most important industries in the race for economic growth.

In 1981, research and development (R&D) was emphasized, and the export of technology and electronic products increased by the late 1980s. Several companies, including Samsung, Hyundai and what is now LG, grew to global prominence under this export-driven policy, which continued until the early 1990s. With governmental support, Korean conglomerates invested in capitalintensive heavy and chemical industries, while the government continued to focus on industrial and social infrastructure.

In 1970, the Saemaul Movement was introduced to mobilize the rural population and modernize the agricultural sector. Saemaul means “new village.” This campaign helped develop rural villages and improve the living conditions for farmers. It was later expanded to assist industrial plants and urban areas. The principles of the Saemaul Movement have since been adopted by other developing countries, and South Korea is sharing its knowledge and expertise with them.

South Korea’s state-led export-oriented economic growth strategy has proved largely successful. In fact, South Korea is the only country since World War II that has morphed from a foreignaid recipient to a foreign-aid donor within a single generation. In 2014, South Korea was the fifth largest exporter, and seventh largest importer, in the world.


South Korea achieved startling economic growth thanks to a combination of strong leaders, well-trained bureaucrats, aggressive industrialists and a motivated labor force. Ambitious entrepreneurs responded well to governmental incentives to increase exports and develop new industries.

South Korea’s legacy of Confucianism places heavy emphasis on education, harmonious personal relationships, and filial duties to one’s parents and ancestors. At the dawn of South Korea’s industrialization, almost all Korean workers were literate and could easily pick up new skills.

At the same time, the country’s open economic policy worked to absorb more advanced institutions and technologies from other countries. Foreign investment and South Korea’s high domestic savings rate helped develop the heavy industrial sector, while remittances from South Korean workers overseas also contributed to the overall economic development. For example, a large number of South Korean miners and nurses were sent to work in West Germany from the mid-1960s to the late 1970s.

Embracing Democracy

The South Korean people were at the forefront of the struggle for free and democratic rule. Since the 1960s, the country had been governed by President Park Chung-hee, and then by former military generals. By 1993, South Korea had installed a civilian leadership following successful and free elections.

South Korea’s newspapers and television stations may now publish and air a variety of opinions without fear of persecution. Internet and social networks are omnipresent. Instant messaging and communications are at the fingertips of almost every South Korean, especially young people.

The strong South Korean economy was built during a period of democratic suppression under the pretext of development. This very development later helped trigger the gradual transition to the thriving democracy that South Koreans now enjoy. Nevertheless, rapid economic growth gave rise to social and economic inequality, and those left behind served as a catalyst for further democratization.

South Korea on the World Stage

Korea was known as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ for hundreds of years. Nevertheless, trade and immigration have always occurred on the peninsula to some degree. Cultural artifacts and ancient records tell us that a great deal of intercultural exchange occurred, including the mass migration of tribes from China, settlement of Arab merchants and the arrival of Southeast Asians. In fact, the Silla capital of Gyeongju in the southeastern corner of the peninsula was the easternmost terminal of the Silk Road, a trading route that passed from Europe through the Asian continent.

In more recent times, South Korea has cemented its place as part of the global community, and the world has had the opportunity to experience Korean people, products and culture. An average South Korean college student, for example, depends heavily on his or her smartphone to connect to foreign communities, learns English or another foreign language, and dreams of seeing the world.

In many ways, electronic communication is the modernday equivalent of the Silk Road. South Korea is one of the most advanced nations in the world when it comes to Internet access. Its information highway is broad and far-reaching. Koreans share their thoughts, experiences, and knowledge with the citizens of the world via such communication channels, adding a new layer of richness to the Korean culture that has been passed down through the generations.

Throughout history, cultural exchange has always been a key element in international contact. This continues to be true in today’s increasingly interconnected world. South Korean pop songs (K-pop), movies and television dramas have garnered a dedicated international following as the Hallyu (Korean Wave) sweeps the world. In turn, South Korea continues to absorb cultural elements from the rest of the globe.


Most Koreans wear modern clothing. Traditional Korean clothes, or hanbok, is worn on special occasions, such as weddings and traditional holidays. The hanbok consists of a short jacket and a long dress for women, and a jacket and loose pants tied at the ankles for men. A typical Korean meal consists of rice, soup and kimchi (fermented cabbage), and is eaten with chopsticks. Koreans have a traditional floor heating system called ondol , used even today in modern homes. Apartment complexes are the most typical housing option for Koreans because the rate of urbanization is very high. Korea’s traditional martial art of taekwondo is still popular, and is now an internationally practiced sport.

Visual Materials

Mugunghwa (the rose of Sharon), the national flower of South Korea
Dangun in founding myth of Korea
The interior of the Janggyeongpanjeon, the structure that houses the Tripitaka Koreana
Jikji (the world's oldest extant book printed with movable metal type)
King Sejong the Great
Hangeul, the Korean Alphabet
Koreans celebrate their independence from Imperial Japan in 1945.
In this photo, villagers lay a concrete pavement with raw materials provided by the Korean government.
Demonstrators during the June Democratic Revolution of 1987
South Korea has grown into an IT powerhouse as a result of the heavy focus on R&D by the government and private sector.
One of many shipyards that made Korea one of the world’s top shipbuilders
Assembling automobiles at the Hyundai Motor factory
Seoul past
Seoul present
Hangang River past
Hangang River present
The Cheonggyecheon Stream at night
Business buildings in Seoul
Hanok (Traditional Korean house) village
View of downtown Seoul
The traditional ondol heating system
A Korean table setting
The traditional Korean hanbok
The Korean martial art of taekwondo