The early history of Korea began as Chosun or Gojoseon, founded by Dangun Wanggeom, from around 2333 BC, and lasting until China's Han Dynasty brought it down.
The region was ruled by several smaller states thereafter, and the states of Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla formed the Three Kingdoms of Korea, which formed Unified Silla around 676, controlling the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Silla was a Buddhist civilization, thriving until conquered by Goryeo in 935. The northern state, Balhae, expanded its territory to the north until conquered by Khitan, and united with Goryeo in 936. The Mongol Empire arrived in the 13th century, and when it collapsed in 1392 the Joseon Dynasty took over Korea. Japan invaded the country around 1592, but Ming China helped fortify Korea and the Japanese failed. The Joseon fought off the Manchu in the early 1600s, and China helped again to secure the Korean peninsula, beginning the country's era of seclusion and isolation.
Japan occupied Korea from around 1910 to 1945, and when the Japanese surrendered, the Soviets occupied the north of Korea while the United States took control of the south of Korea. The Soviet Union and the United States faced conflict during the Cold War, which influenced their governance of their respective regions of Korea. The countries were divided into North Korea and South Korea in 1948. Kim Il-sung gained control of the north, while Syngman Rhee became the first president of the Republic of Korea in the south. North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, and the Korean War ensued. Both the Soviet Union and China supported the North Korean regime, while the UN backed South Korea. The agreement that defined the boundary between North and South Korea was arranged in 1953, but never signed by South Korea, and no peace treaty has been signed.
Neighboring Countries :
South Korea shares a land border with North Korea, and is located on the Korean Peninsula across the Yellow Sea from China and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) Japan.
South Korea is situated in the southern Korean Peninsula in East Asia, along the Sea of Japan (East Sea), Korea Strait, Yellow Sea, and East China Sea. The territory includes about 3,000 islands along its west and south coasts. The largest island in South Korea is called Jeju-do (Jeju Island), and is located 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the south of the mainland. The highest point in South Korea is an extinct volcano called Hallasan on Jeju-do, which stands 1,950 meters (6,398 feet) above sea level.
Much of South Korea is mountainous, especially the northwest, including Taebaek Mountains, Sobaek Mountains, and the Jiri Massif. The lowlands are primarily in the west, including the Han River plains and basins of the Geum River and Nakdong River. Along its edges are coastal plains, with rolling hills and mountains and valleys in the west. The longest river in South Korea is Nakdong, while other important rivers are the Han River, Geum River, Imjin, Bukhan, and Somjin.
Points of Interest :
South Korea has many attractions and destinations for travelers, from its culture-packed cities to its beautiful natural sites. The capital, Seoul, is a bright and bustling metropolis that's over 600 years old, with 5 important palaces, like Gyeongbok-gung which originated in the Joseon Dynasty but has been destroyed and restored. Seoul also has many temples and shrines, including those at Mount Inwang, as well as museums and theme parks. Seoul's Lotte World is a massive indoor amusement park, while Everland is a Disneyland-esque park with a small zoo, home to a Liger.
Busan, the second largest city in the country, is a port city located along the southern coast. The city features many religious sites including Beomeosa and Yonggunsa Temples. There are other attractions like an aquarium, Jagalchi Fish Market, and scenic sites like beaches and hiking trails.
South Korea's largest island Jeju, is a popular honeymoon destination for its reputation as the Island of the Gods. A volcanic island, Jeju features lava columns and lava tubes, or caves formed from lava streams. Manjanggul Lava tube is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other scenic destinations are the 20 national parks in South Korea, Suncheon Bay Eco Park, and the Boseong Tea Fields.
South Korea is home to several major international airports, including two in Seoul, Gimpo and Incheon International Airport, Busan's Gimhae Airport, and other airports in Cheongju, Daegu, Jeju, and Muan. These airports offer service to many international and domestic destinations, with frequent flights to other Asian cities.
Since borders between North and South Korea are not passable, travel by train, car, or bus is not typically possible from mainland Asia. Boats, however, are available, especially into Busan Port, which has service to Japan, and Incheon, which transports to China.
High-speed trains are available across the country, especially between major cities like Seoul and Busan. Buses are a popular way to travel between cities and within them, while major cities including Seoul and Busan have public transportation systems that include subways and light rails.
Last Updated on : December 10, 2013
Map Text in Korean to English translation
Seoul is the largest and the capital city of Republic of Korea (South Korea). Seoul has a population of 9,794,304. South Korea is a presidential republic consisting of 17 administrative divisions. It is a developed country with a very high standard of living. It is Asia's 4th largest economy and the world's 15th (nominal) or 12th (purchasing power parity) largest economy.
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