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An independent kingdom for much of its long history, Korea was occupied by Japan beginning in 1905 following the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, Tokyo formally annexed the entire Peninsula. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a democratic-based government (Republic of Korea, ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel. Thereafter, South Korea under the PARK Chung-hee regime achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 17 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Young-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. President LEE Myung-bak has pursued a policy of global engagement since taking office in February 2008, highlighted by Seoul's hosting of the G-20 summit in November 2010 and the Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012, as well as the forthcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Serious tensions with North Korea have punctuated inter-Korean relations in recent years, including the North's sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010 and its artillery attack on South Korean soldiers and citizens in November 2010.


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Country name
Conventional long form Republic of Korea
Conventional short form South Korea
Local long form Taehan-min'guk
Local short form Han'guk
Abbreviation ROK

Government type

Name Seoul
Geographic coordinates 37 33 N, 126 59 E
Time difference
UTC+9 (14 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions
9 provinces (do, singular and plural), 6 metropolitan cities (gwangyoksi, singular and plural), 1 special city, and 1 special self-governing city
Chungbuk (North Chungcheong), Chungnam (South Chungcheong), Gangwon, Gyeonggi, Gyeongbuk (North Gyeongsang), Gyeongnam (South Gyeongsang), Jeju, Jeonbuk (North Jeolla), Jeonnam (South Jeolla)
Metropolitan cities
Busan (Pusan), Daegu (Taegu), Daejon (Taejon), Gwangju (Kwangju), Incheon (Inch'on), Ulsan
Special city Seoul
Special self-governing city Sejong

15 August 1945 (from Japan)

17 July 1948; note - amended or rewritten many times; current constitution approved 29 October 1987

Legal system
Mixed legal system combining European civil law, Anglo-American law, and Chinese classical thought

International law organization participation
Has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

19 years of age; universal

Executive branch
Chief of state
President LEE Myung-bak (since 25 February 2008)
Head of government
Prime Minister KIM Hwang-sik (since 1 October 2010)
State Council appointed by the president on the prime minister's recommendation
President elected by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held on 19 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012); prime minister appointed by president with consent of National Assembly
Election results
LEE Myung-bak elected president on 19 December 2007; percent of vote - LEE Myung-bak (GNP) 48.7%; CHUNG Dong-young (UNDP) 26.1%); LEE Hoi-chang (independent) 15.1%; others 10.1%

Legislative branch
Unicameral National Assembly or Gukhoe (299 seats; 245 members elected in single-seat constituencies, 54 elected by proportional representation; members serve four-year terms)
Last held on 11 April 2012 (next to be held in April 2016)
Election results
Percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NFP 152, UDP 127, UPP 13, LFP 5, independents 3

Judicial branch
Supreme Court (justices appointed by the president with consent of National Assembly); Constitutional Court (justices appointed by the president based partly on nominations by National Assembly and Chief Justice of the court)

Political parties and leaders
Democratic United Party or DUP [LEE Han-gil] (formerly the Democratic Party or DP); Democratic Labor Party or DLP [LEE Jung-hee]; Future Hope Alliance or FHA [ROH Cheoi-rae] (formerly Pro-Park Alliance); Liberty Forward Party or LFP [SHIM Dae-pyeong]; Renewal Korea Party or RKP [HAN Myeon-hee]; Saenuri (New Frontier) Party (formerly Grand National Party or GNP) or NFP [HWANG Woo-yea]; United Progressive Party [YU Si-min, LEE Jung-hee, SHIM Sang-jung

Political pressure groups and leaders
Federation of Korean Industries; Federation of Korean Trade Unions; Korean Confederation of Trade Unions; Korean National Council of Churches; Korean Traders Association; Korean Veterans' Association; National Council of Labor Unions; National Democratic Alliance of Korea; National Federation of Farmers' Associations; National Federation of Student Associations

International organization participation
ADB, AfDB (nonregional member), APEC, ARF, ASEAN (dialogue partner), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CICA, CP, EAS, EBRD, FAO, FATF, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MINURSO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE (partner), Paris Club (associate), PCA, PIF (partner), SAARC (observer), UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNISFA, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNMOGIP, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the us
Chief of mission Ambassador CHOI Young-jin
2450 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Telephone [1] (202) 939-5600
FAX [1] (202) 387-0205
Consulate(s) general
Agana (Guam), Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle

Diplomatic representation from the us
Chief of mission Ambassador Sung Y. KIM
32 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-710
Mailing address
US Embassy Seoul, APO AP 96205-5550
Telephone [82] (2) 397-4114
FAX [82] (2) 738-8845

Flag description
White with a red (top) and blue yin-yang symbol in the center; there is a different black trigram from the ancient I Ching (Book of Changes) in each corner of the white field; the Korean national flag is called Taegukki; white is a traditional Korean color and represents peace and purity; the blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin, while the red symbolizes the opposite positive forces of the yang; each trigram (kwae) denotes one of the four universal elements, which together express the principle of movement and harmony

National symbol(s)
Taegeuk (yin yang symbol)

National anthem
Name "Aegukga" (Patriotic Song)
YUN Ch'i-Ho or AN Ch'ang-Ho/AHN Eaktay
Adopted 1948, well known by 1910; both North Korea and South Korea's anthems share the same name and have a vaguely similar melody but have different lyrics


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South Korea (Seoul):

GPS points from South Korea (Seoul)

Taeryang-ni Ch Ungch Ong-namdo

Song-do Kyongsang-namdo

Songam-ni South Korea (general)

Daiya Cholla-namdo

Kwanmae-ri Cholla-namdo

Ch'aegyong Kyonggi-do

Taesu-gol Cholla-namdo

Kumong-am Cholla-namdo

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