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South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, and commonly referred to as Korea, is a country in East Asia, constituting the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. The name Korea is derived from the Kingdom of Goryeo, also spelt as Koryŏ. It shares land borders with North Korea to the north, and oversea borders with Japan to the east and China to the west. Roughly half of the country’s 50 million people reside in the metropolitan area surrounding its capital, the Seoul Capital Area, which is the second largest in the world with over 25 million residents.
Korea was inhabited as early as the Lower Paleolithic period and its civilization begins with the founding of Gojoseon. After the unification of the Three Kingdoms of Korea in 668, Korea enjoyed over a millennium of relative tranquility under dynasties lasting for centuries in which its trade, culture, literature, science and technology flourished. It was annexed by the Japanese Empire in 1910 and after its defeat in 1945, Korea was divided into Soviet and U.S. zones of occupation, with the latter becoming the Republic of Korea in 1948. Although the United Nations passed a resolution declaring the Republic to be the only lawful government of Korea, a communist regime was soon set up in the North that invaded the South in 1950, leading to the Korean War that ended de facto in 1953, with peace and prosperity settling-in thereafter.
Between 1962 and 1994, South Korea’s tiger economy grew at an average of 10% annually, fueled by annual export growth of 20%, in a period called the Miracle on the Han River that rapidly transformed it into a high-income advanced economy and the world’s 11th largest economy by 1995. Today, South Korea is the eighth largest country in international trade, a regional power with the world’s 10th largest defence budget and founding member of the G-20 and APEC. Since the overthrowing of military rule in 1987, South Koreans have enjoyed high civil liberties and a vibrant democracy ranked second in Asia on the Democracy Index. In 2009, South Korea became the world’s first former aid recipient to join the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, becoming a major donor. Its pop culture has considerable influence in Asia and expanding globally in a process called the Korean Wave.
South Korea is a developed country ranked 15th in the Human Development Index, the highest in East Asia. In terms of average wage, it has Asia’s highest income and the world’s 10th highest income. It ranks highly in education, quality of healthcare, rule of law, ease of doing business, government transparency, job security, tolerance and inclusion. 64% of 25-34 year old South Koreans hold a tertiary education degree, the highest in the OECD. It spends 3.74% of GDP on research and development, the second highest in the world. The most innovative country as measured by the Bloomberg Innovation Quotient, South Korea is the world’s seventh largest exporter, driven by high-tech multinationals such as Samsung, Hyundai-Kia and LG. A highly advanced information society with global leadership in ICT, South Korea has the world’s fastest Internet connection speed, ranking first in the ICT Development Index, e-Government, 4G LTE penetration and second in smartphone penetration.
South Korea. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korea