Republic of Korea
South Korea | 대한민국 | Daehan Minguk
Official languages: Korean
Official script: Hangul
Ethnic groups: 95.1% Korean / 4.9% Others
Government: Unitary presidential constitutional republic
Area: Total 100,363 km2 (38,750 sq mi) (107th)
Population: 2022 estimate 51,844,834 (28th)
GDP (PPP): Total $2.735 trillion (14th)
GDP (nominal): $1.804 trillion (12th)
Currency: Korean Republic won (₩) (KRW)
South Korea occupies the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula, which extends some 1,100 km (680 mi) from the Asian mainland. This mountainous peninsula is flanked by the Yellow Sea to the west, and the Sea of Japan to the east. Its southern tip lies on the Korea Strait and the East China Sea.
South Korea tends to have a humid continental climate and a humid subtropical climate, and is affected by the East Asian monsoon, with precipitation heavier in summer during a short rainy season called jangma (장마), which begins end of June through the end of July. Winters can be extremely cold with the minimum temperature dropping below −20 °C (−4 °F) in the inland region of the country: in Seoul, the average January temperature range is −7 to 1 °C (19 to 34 °F), and the average August temperature range is 22 to 30 °C (72 to 86 °F). Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. Summer can be uncomfortably hot and humid, with temperatures exceeding 30 °C (86 °F) in most parts of the country. South Korea has four distinct seasons; spring, summer, autumn and winter.
The South Korean government's structure is determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. Like many democratic states, South Korea has a government divided into three branches: executive, judicial, and legislative. The executive and legislative branches operate primarily at the national level, although various ministries in the executive branch also carry out local functions. The judicial branch operates at both the national and local levels. Local governments are semi-autonomous, and contain executive and legislative bodies of their own. South Korea is a constitutional democracy.
A centralized administration in South Korea oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. The school year is divided into two semesters, the first of which begins at the beginning of March and ends in mid-July, the second of which begins in late August and ends in mid-February. The schedules are not uniformly standardized and vary from school to school. Most South Korean middle schools and high schools have school uniforms, modeled on western-style uniforms. Boys' uniforms usually consist of trousers and white shirts, and girls wear skirts and white shirts (this only applies in middle schools and high schools). The country adopted a new educational program to increase the number of their foreign students through 2010. According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of scholarships for foreign students in South Korea would have (under the program) doubled by that time, and the number of foreign students would have reached 100,000.
Korean is the official language of South Korea, and is classified by most linguists as a language isolate. It incorporates a significant number of loan words from Chinese. Korean uses an indigenous writing system called Hangul, created in 1446 by King Sejong, to provide a convenient alternative to the Classical Chinese Hanja characters that were difficult to learn and did not fit the Korean language well. South Korea still uses some Chinese Hanja characters in limited areas, such as print media and legal documentation.
South Korea's mixed economy ranks 10th nominal and 13th purchasing power parity GDP in the world, identifying it as one of the G-20 major economies. It is a developed country with a high-income economy and is the most industrialized member country of the OECD. South Korean brands such as LG Electronics and Samsung are internationally famous and garnered South Korea's reputation for its quality electronics and other manufactured goods.
Its massive investment in education has taken the country from mass illiteracy to a major international technological powerhouse. The country's national economy benefits from a highly skilled workforce and is among the most educated countries in the world with one of the highest percentages of its citizens holding a tertiary education degree. South Korea's economy was one of the world's fastest-growing from the early 1960s to the late 1990s, and was still one of the fastest-growing developed countries in the 2000s, along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, the other three Asian Tigers. It recorded the fastest rise in average GDP per capita in the world between 1980 and 1990. South Koreans refer to this growth as the Miracle on the Han River. The South Korean economy is heavily dependent on international trade, and in 2014, South Korea was the fifth-largest exporter and seventh-largest importer in the world.
In 2016, 17 million foreign tourists visited South Korea. With rising tourist prospects, especially from foreign countries outside of East Asia, the South Korean government has set a target of attracting 20 million foreign tourists a year by 2017.
South Korean tourism is driven by many factors, including the prominence of Korean pop culture such as South Korean pop music and television dramas, known as the Korean Wave or Hallyu, has gained popularity throughout East Asia. The Hyundai Research Institute reported that the Korean Wave has a direct impact in encouraging direct foreign investment back into the country through demand for products, and the tourism industry. Among East Asian countries, China was the most receptive, investing $1.4 billion in South Korea, with much of the investment within its service sector, a sevenfold increase from 2001. According to an analysis by economist Han Sang-Wan, a 1 percent increase in the exports of Korean cultural content pushes consumer goods exports up 0.083 percent while a 1 percent increase in Korean pop content exports to a country produces a 0.019 percent bump in tourism.
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. Historically, while the culture of Korea has been heavily influenced by that of neighboring China, it has nevertheless managed to develop a unique cultural identity that is distinct from its larger neighbor. Its rich and vibrant culture left 21 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the fourth largest in the world,[needs update] along with 15 World Heritage Sites. The South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism actively encourages the traditional arts, as well as modern forms, through funding and education programs.
The industrialization and urbanization of South Korea have brought many changes to the way modern Koreans live. Changing economics and lifestyles have led to a concentration of population in major cities, especially the capital Seoul, with multi-generational households separating into nuclear family living arrangements. A 2014 Euromonitor study found that South Koreans drink the most alcohol on a weekly basis compared to the rest of the world. South Koreans drink 13.7 shots of liquor per week on average and, of the 44 other countries analyzed, Russia, the Philippines, and Thailand follow.
K-pop idols, stars, and groups are well known across Continental Asia and have found international fame in the Western World by making millions of dollars in export revenue by harnessing and tapping into new uncharted music markets beyond East Asia. Many K-pop acts have also been able to secure a strong global following using online social media platforms such as the video sharing website YouTube. K-pop first began to establish and makes it mark on the outside world beyond the confines of Continental and East Asia following the unexpected success of South Korean singer Psy, when he became an instant international musical sensation as his song "Gangnam Style" topped global music charts in 2012.
Since the success of the film Shiri in 1999, the Korean film industry has begun to gain recognition internationally. Domestic film has a dominant share of the market, partly because of the existence of screen quotas requiring cinemas to show Korean films at least 73 days a year. 2019's Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, became the highest-grossing film in South Korea as well as the first non-English language film to win Best Picture at the United States-based Academy Awards that year amongst numerous other accolades.