Located on the southern half of the Korean peninsula between the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, South Korea (or, officially, The Republic of Korea) is a democratic country approximately the size of Indiana. It was created in 1948, after the second World War, following a lengthy period of annexation and occupation by the Japanese. South Korea's capital, Seoul, is believed to have been originally established as Wiryeseong by the Baekje (18 BCE - 660 CE), one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, though it has held other names. The city is now a global metropolis and major financial center consisting of twenty-five gu (districts with their own governments that are divided into neighborhoods).
Seoul's population of 10.5 million (like the country as a whole) has one of the world's most homogenous populations: 97% of residents are Korean and two-thirds of the remaining 3% are citizens of China who are ethnically Korean! The main language is Korean, which includes many Chinese characters and is related to Japanese and Mongolian. English is also widely taught in schools. Major industries include semiconductors, electronics, and automobile production, among others - the city is home to companies such as Kia, Samsung, LG and Hyundai.
Historic and touristic highlights include the Korean War Museum, Gyeongbok Palace, UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the 18th century Hwaseong Fortress and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, and Biwon Garden.
Click here to view National Geographic's beautiful photo gallery of Seoul.
Map image source
Gyeongbok Palace image source
Hwaseong Fortress image source
This article was originally published in February 2012, and has been updated for the
December 2012 paperback release.
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