The Korean peninsula is largely mountainous; the principal series of ranges, extending along the east coast, rises (in the northeast) to 9,003 ft (2,744 m) at Mt. Paektu (Baekdu), the highest peak in Korea. Most rivers are relatively short and many are unnavigable, filled with rapids and waterfalls; important rivers, in addition to the Yalu and Tumen, are the Han, the Geum, the Taedong (Daedong), the Nakdong, and the Seomjin. Off the heavily indented coast (c.5,400 mi/8,690 km long) lie some 3,420 islands, most of them rocky and uninhabited (of the inhabited islands, about half have a population of less than 100); the main island group is in the Korean Archipelago in the Yellow Sea. The climate of Korea ranges from dry and extremely cold winters in the north to almost tropical conditions in parts of the south.
Many Koreans are Buddhists or Confucianists, although the people tend to be eclectic in their religious practices. Korean Confucianism, for example, has developed into more of an ethical system than a religion, and its influence is wide and pervasive. Of the various indigenous religions, Chondogyo (a native mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) is the most influential. South Korea has a large number of practicing Christians, roughly a quarter of the population. (Roman Catholicism was introduced in the late 18th cent., and Protestantism in the late 19th cent.) The North Korean government has actively suppressed religion as contrary to Marxist belief. Korean is spoken in both countries, and English is widely taught in South Korean schools.
Korea once had large timber resources. In the North, reforestation and conservation programs have helped reverse the effects of excessive cutting during the Japanese occupation (1910-45). Predominant trees are larch, oak, alder, pine, spruce, and fir. Forests in the South were depleted as a result of illegal cutting after 1945 and damage during the Korean War (1950-53), but reforestation programs have helped to remedy the loss.
Korea has great mineral wealth, most of it (80%-90%) concentrated in the North. Of the peninsula's five major minerals—gold, iron ore, coal, tungsten, and graphite—only tungsten and amorphous graphite are found principally in the South. South Korea has only 10% of the peninsula's rich coal and iron deposits. Its minerals are widely scattered, and mining operations are generally small scale, although tungsten is an important export item. North Korea is especially rich in iron and coal and has some 200 different minerals of economic value. Some of the other more important minerals that are produced are lead, zinc, copper, uranium, manganese, gold, silver, and tungsten.
Because of the mountainous and rocky terrain, less than 20% of Korean land is arable. Rice is the chief crop, with wet paddy fields constituting about half of the farmland. Paddies are found along the coasts, in reclaimed tidal areas, and in river valleys. Barley, wheat, corn, soybeans, and grain sorghums are also extensively cultivated, especially in the uplands; other crops include potatoes, pulses, cotton, tobacco, vegetables, fruits, and sweet potatoes. Cattle, pigs, and chickens are raised. Before the country was divided (1945), the colder and less fertile north depended heavily upon the south for food. Agricultural self-sufficiency became a major goal of the North Korean government, and mechanized methods were introduced there in and in the South. Both governments expanded irrigation facilities, constructed numerous dams, and initiated land reclamation projects; however, the North has suffered severe food shortages. Livestock previously played a minor role in Korean agriculture, especially in the North, where the steep and often barren hills are unsuitable for large-scale grazing, but since the end of the Korean War beef has become a significant component of the diet in the South.
The fishing waters off Korea are among the best in the world; the long coastline and numerous islands, inlets, and reefs provide excellent fishing grounds, and the presence of both a warm and a cold current attracts a great variety of species. Korean deep-sea fishing ships range into the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, and species are also raised in aquaculture facilities.
The Korean economy was shattered by the war of 1950 to 1953. Postwar reconstruction was abetted by enormous amounts of foreign aid (in the North from Communist countries and in the South chiefly from the United States) and intensive government economic development programs. The greatest industrial advances were made during the 1960s; in that decade the South experienced an 85% increase in productivity and a 250% rise in per capita gross national product. Economic development throughout Korea has been uneven, with the South showing significantly greater gains. The per capita gross domestic product of the South is some 20 times that of the North. In the South such consumer goods industries as textiles, garments, and footwear have given way to heavy industry, consumer electronics, and information industries. A great variety of products are now manufactured; these include electrical and electronic equipment, automobiles, chemicals, ships, steel, and ceramic goods. South Korea exports semiconductors, wireless telecommunications equipment, motor vehicles, computers, steel, ships, and petrochemicals. Imports include machinery, electronics, oil, steel, transportation equipment, organic chemicals, and plastic. The main trading partners are China, Japan, and the United States.
The North, too, has changed from a predominantly agricultural society (in 1946) to an industrial one. With abundant mineral resources and hydropower, 70% of its national product is now derived from mining, manufacturing, and services; about 30% still comes from agriculture. Development was impeded, however, by the rigid economic system, and the economy severely affected by a loss of trading partners after the collapse of East European Communism. In 2002 the government instituted a series of limited economic reforms, including letting markets set prices of many goods and services and permitting private traders. Major North Korean industries include mining (coal, iron ore, limestone, magnesite, graphite, copper, zinc, lead, and precious metals), food processing, and the manufacture of military products, machines, electric power, chemicals, and textiles (synthetics, wool, cotton, silk). Exports include minerals, metallurgical products, armaments, and textiles. Petroleum, coal, machinery and equipment, textiles, and grain are the main imports. The chief trading partners are China, South Korea, and Thailand.
The industrialization of both North and South has been accompanied by improved transportation. By the end of the Korean War the rail system had been destroyed, and paved highways were almost nonexistent. The railroads have been extensively rebuilt, and in the South high-speed lines connect Seoul with Daegu and Busan in the southeast and Gwangju in the southwest. The South Korean government also has completed a series of superhighways connecting Seoul with numerous major cities. There is domestic air service, and international airports are located at Seoul, Busan, and Pyongyang. The expansion of port facilities at Busan and Incheon has vastly increased their capacity.
South Korea is governed under the constitution of 1987. The president, who is head of state, is popularly elected for a single five-year term. The government is headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. The unicameral legislature consists of the 299-seat National Assembly, whose members are popularly elected (245 directly, 54 on a proportional basis) for four-year terms. Administratively, South Korea is divided into nine provinces and seven metropolitan cities.
North Korea is governed under the constitution of 1948, which has been extensively revised. The chairman of the National Defense Commission is the nation's "supreme leader" and de facto head of state because the title of president was reserved for Kim Il Sung after his death. The premier, who is the head of government, is elected, unopposed, by the Supreme People's Assembly. The unicameral legislature consists of the 687-seat Supreme People's Assembly, whose members are popularly elected to five-year terms. Although nominally a republic governed by the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korea is actually ruled by the Korea Workers party, the North Korean Communist party. The ruling party approves a list of candidates who are generally elected without opposition. Administratively North Korea is divided into nine provinces and four municipalities.
The Koreans, descended from Tungusic tribal peoples, are a distinct racial and cultural group. According to Korean legend, Tangun established Old Choson in NW Korea in 2333 B.C., and the Korean calendar enumerates the years from this date. Chinese sources assert that Ki-tze (Kija), a Shang dynasty refugee, founded a colony at Pyongyang in 1122 B.C., but the first Korean ruler recorded in contemporaneous records is Wiman, possibly a Chinese invader who overthrew Old Choson and established his rule in N Korea in 194 B.C. Chinese forces subsequently conquered (c.100 B.C.) the eastern half of the peninsula. Lolang, near modern Pyongyang, was the chief center of Chinese rule.
Koguryo, a native Korean kingdom, arose in the north on both sides of the Yalu River by the 1st cent. A.D.; tradition says it was founded in 37 B.C. By the 4th cent. A.D. it had conquered Lolang, and at its height under King Kwanggaet'o (r.391-413) occupied much of what is now Korea and NE China. In the 6th and 7th cent. the kingdom resisted several Chinese invasions. Meanwhile in the south, two main kingdoms emerged, Paekche (traditionally founded 18 B.C., but significant beginning c.A.D. 250) in the west and Silla (traditionally founded 57 B.C., but significant beginning c.A.D. 350) in the east. After forming an alliance with T'ang China, Silla conquered Paekche and Koguryo by 668, and then expelled the Chinese and unified much of the peninsula. Remnants of Koguryo formed the kingdom of Parhae (north of the Taedong River and largely in E Manchuria), which lasted until 926.
Under Silla's rule, Korea prospered and the arts flourished; Buddhism, which had entered Korea in the 4th cent., became dominant in this period. In 935 the Silla dynasty, which had been in decline for a century, was overthrown by Wang Kon, who had established (918) the Koryo dynasty (the name was selected as an abbreviated form of Koguryo and is the source of the name Korea). During the Koryo period, literature was cultivated, and although Buddhism remained the state religion, Confucianism—introduced from China during the Silla years and adapted to Korean customs—controlled the pattern of government. A coup in 1170 led to a period of military rule. In 1231, Mongol forces invaded from China, initiating a war that was waged intermittently for some 30 years. Peace came when Koryo accepted Mongol suzerainty, and a long period of Koryo-Mongol alliance followed. In 1392, Yi Songgye, a general who favored the Ming dynasty (which had replaced the Mongols in China), seized the throne and established the Choson dynasty.
The Choson (or Yi) dynasty, which was to rule until 1910, built a new capital at Hanseong (Seoul) and established Confucianism as the official religion. Early in the dynasty (15th cent.) printing with movable metal type, which had been developed two centuries earlier, became widely used, and the Korean alphabet was developed. The 1592 invasion by the Japanese shogun Hideyoshi was driven back by Choson and Ming forces, but only after six years of great devastation and suffering. Manchu invasions in the first half of the 17th cent. resulted in Korea being made (1637) a tributary state of the Manchu dynasty. Subsequent factional strife gave way, in the 18th cent., to economic prosperity and a cultural and intellectual renaissance. Korea limited its foreign contacts during this period and later resisted, longer than China or Japan, trade with the West, which led to its being called the Hermit Kingdom.
In 1876, Japan forced a commerical treaty with Korea, and to offset the Japanese influence, trade agreements were also concluded (1880s) with the United States and European nations. Japan's control was tightened after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), when Japanese troops moved through Korea to attack Manchuria. These troops were never withdrawn, and in 1905 Japan declared a virtual protectorate over Korea and in 1910 formally annexed the country. The Japanese instituted vast social and economic changes, building modern industries and railroads, but their rule (1910-45) was harsh and exploitative. Sporadic Korean attempts to overthrow the Japanese were unsuccessful, and after 1919 a provisional Korean government, under Syngman Rhee, was established at Shanghai, China.A Country Divided
In World War II, at the Cairo Conference (1943), the United States, Great Britain, and China promised Korea independence. At the end of the war Korea was arbitrarily divided into two zones as a temporary expedient; Soviet troops were north and Americans south of the line of lat. 38°N. The Soviet Union thwarted UN efforts to hold elections and reunite the country under one government. When relations between the Soviet Union and the United States worsened, trade between the two zones ceased; great economic hardship resulted, since the regions were economically interdependent, industry and trade being concentrated in the North and agriculture in the South.
In 1948 two separate regimes were formally established—the Republic of Korea in the South, and the Democratic People's Republic under Communist rule in the North. By mid-1949 all Soviet and American troops were withdrawn, and two rival Korean governments were in operation, each eager to unify the country under its own rule. In June, 1950, the North Korean army launched a surprise attack against South Korea, initiating the Korean War, and with it, severe hardship, loss of life, and enormous devastation.
After the war the boundary was stabilized along a line running from the Han estuary generally northeast across the 38th parallel to a point south of Kosong (Kuum-ni), with a "no-man's land" or demilitarized zone (DMZ), 1.24 mi (2 km) wide and occupying a total of 487 sq mi (1,261 sq km), on either side of the boundary. The western border in the ocean, though, was not defined, and fighting has occasionally occurred at sea. Throughout the 1950s and 60s an uneasy truce prevailed; thousands of soldiers were poised on each side of the demilitarized zone, and there were occasional shooting incidents. In 1971 negotiations between North and South Korea provided the first hope for peaceful reunification of the peninsula; in Nov., 1972, an agreement was reached for the establishment of joint machinery to work toward unification.
The countries met several times during the 1980s to discuss reunification, and in 1990 there were three meetings between the prime ministers of North and South Korea. These talks have yielded some results, such as the exchange of family visits organized in 1989. The problems blocking complete reunification, however, continue to be substantial. Two incidents of terrorism against South Korea were widely attributed to North Korea: a 1983 bombing that killed several members of the South Korean government, and the 1987 destruction of a South Korean airliner over the Thailand-Myanmar border. In 1996, North Korea said it would cease to recognize the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, and North Korean troops made incursions into the zone. In 1999 a North Korean torpedo boat was sunk by a South Korean vessel in South Korean waters following a gun battle, and another deadly naval confrontation following a North Korean incursion in 2002.
In early 2000, however, the North engaged in talks with a number of Western nations, seeking diplomatic relations, and South and North agreed to a presidential summit in Pyongyang. The historic and cordial meeting produced an accord that called for working toward reunification (though without specifying how) and for permitting visits between families long divided as a result of the war. Given the emotional appeal of reunification, it is likely that the North-South dialogue will continue, despite the problems involved; however, the tensions that developed in late 2002 have, for the time being, derailed any significant further reunification talks. Economic contacts continued to expand, however, and South Korea became a significant trade partner for the North. The North also received substantial aid from the South.
In 2007 a rail crossing through the DMZ was symbolically reopened when two trains made test runs on the rebuilt track; regular rail service, over a short line, began late in the year. A second North-South presidential summit in Pyongyang occurred in Aug., 2007; both leaders called for negotiations on a permanent peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean War. Relations between the two nations subsequently soured, as a result of the election (2007) of Lee Myung Bak as president of South Korea. Most joint projects came to an end, and trade between the two nations decreased. Many U.S. troops still remain in the South, though their numbers have decreased since the 1960s and the number of U.S. bases has been greatly reduced.
North Korea, officially Democratic People's Republic of Korea (2005 est. pop. 22,912,000), 46,540 sq mi (120,538 sq km), founded on May 1, 1948, has its capital at Pyongyang, the largest city. North Korea is divided into nine provinces and three special cities.
North Korea, although nominally a republic governed by a representative assembly, is actually ruled by the Communist party (known in Korea as the Korea Workers' party). Until his death in 1994, all governmental institutions were controlled by Kim Il Sung (widely known as "The Great Leader"), who had been premier and then president since the country's inception in 1948. A personality cult had glorified Kim, but by the mid-1990s the rapid economic growth of North Korea's early years had given way first to stagnation and then to hardship, and there was widespread dissatisfaction with the repressive regime. Increasingly, Kim's son, Kim Jong Il, had assumed the day-to-day management of the government and, at Kim Il Sung's death in 1994, the son took over leadership of the country. He was named secretary of the Communist party in 1997 and consolidated his power with the title of National Defense Commission chairman in 1998. Under Kim, diplomatic relations have been established with a number of Western nations.
After the Korean War, the Communist government of North Korea used the region's rich mineral and power resources as the basis for an ambitious program of industrialization and rehabilitation. With Chinese and Soviet aid, railroads, industrial plants, and power facilities were rebuilt. Farms were collectivized, and industries were nationalized. In a series of multiyear economic development plans, the coal, iron, and steel industries were greatly expanded, new industries were introduced, and the mechanization of agriculture was pushed. By the mid-1990s more than 90% of the economy was socialized and 95% of the country's manufactured products were made by state-owned enterprises. A serious postwar population loss, resulting from the exodus of several million people to the South, was somewhat offset by the immigration of Chinese colonists and Koreans from Manchuria and Japan.
North Korea maintained close relations with the Soviet Union and China (military aid treaties were signed with both countries in 1961) but preserved a degree of independence; the Sino-Soviet rift facilitated this. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, China became North Korea's most important ally. The country's large expenditures on its military and centralized control have been drags on the economy, as has been the nation's chronic inability (since the 1990s) to produce or import enough food to feed its people, which has resulted in malnutrition and, at times, famine.
Relations with the United States remained tense throughout the late 20th cent. because of the U.S. military presence in Korea and its economic assistance to South Korea. In 1968, North Korea seized the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo and imprisoned its crew for 11 months, and in 1969 it shot down an American reconnaissance plane. More recently, the United States imposed (1988) sanctions on North Korea for alleged terrorist activity and expressed concern over reports that North Korea was building a nuclear weapons plant. In 1991 both Koreas joined the United Nations after the North dropped its opposition to such a move.
New tensions mounted on the peninsula in 1994 after confirmation that the country had developed a nuclear program. After direct talks with the United States, North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear program in return for shipments of oil and the construction of two new light-water reactors for power (the latter were not built, however). North Korea launched a medium-range missile over Japan in 1998; in 1999, the United States agreed to ease trade sanctions against the country in exchange for North Korea's agreement to suspend its missile testing. In a further easing of tensions, high-level visits by U.S. and North Korean officials were exchanged during 2000, and the South's president, Kim Dae Jung, paid a visit to the North. Relations were slow to improve, however, as the North increased its demands for economic aid while failing to fulfill its own pledges.
Continuing economic deterioration in the North led in 2002 to a number of reforms and plans for the establishment of special economic zones in Sinuiju and Kaesong. The North also was accused of attempting to earn hard currency through the illegal drug trade, the counterfeiting of U.S. currency and cigarettes, and (later) insurance fraud. In 2003 a North Korean cargo ship was seized by Australia after the crew was observed unloading heroin. Moribund negotiations with South Korea and the United States were also revived, while talks with Japan led to an agreement to began normalizing diplomatic relations. Late in 2002, however, oil shipments under the 1994 agreement were halted after revelations that North Korea had a nuclear weapons program; food aid was also reduced. An economically desperate North ended UN supervision of its nuclear facilities, withdrew from the nonproliferation treaty, and made other moves toward the development of nuclear weapons.
Tensions and concerns over the North's pursuit of nuclear weapons continued into 2005. Meanwhile, the United States indicated that it believed that the North had sold enriched uranium to Libya when the latter had been attempting to develop nuclear weapons, while Korea publicly acknowledged that it had nuclear weapons and later stated that it would increase its nuclear arsenal. In Sept., 2005, talks involving the Koreas, the United States, Japan, China, and Russia produced an agreement in which the North said it would abandon its nuclear programs and weapons in return for aid and security commitments. Ambiguities in the agreement, however, led the parties to contest its terms almost immediately when North Korea demanded that it be given a light-water reactor, but U.S. officials said that they had agreed only to discuss doing so (and only after the North had done what it had committed to do).
Also in 2005, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on a Macao bank accused of laundering North Korean earnings from illegal activities, including counterfeiting U.S. money. The move, which came after a four-year investigation and appeared to have been undertaken in part in attempt to force North Korea to make nuclear concessions, led other international banks to limit their transactions with North Korea. In 2006 North Korea called for the sanctions to be lifted before it would engage in further six-party negotiations.
In July, 2006, the North again launched several tests missiles, provoking international condemnation and drawing strong reactions from both the United States and Japan; the UN Security Council adopted some limited military sanctions in response. Then, in October, the North conducted a small underground nuclear test. Widely and strongly condemned internationally, including by China, the North's closest ally, the test resulted in additional, largely military sanctions. Japan and a number of other nations adopted more extensive sanctions, but China and South Korea, the North's largest trade partners, both largely avoided placing restrictions on trade, out of concern over a possible military confrontation or economic and political collapse in North Korea.
In Feb., 2007, resumed six-party negotiations led to an agreement that called for the North to shut down its reactor in 60 days in exchange for aid; implementation of the agreement was held up, however, by the North's insistence on regaining access to its funds in Macao, which did not occur until June. The agreement also called for additional aid when further denuclearization steps were achieved. Japan was not a party to the aid agreement because of issues relating to the North's kidnapping of its citizens in the past. In July, the shutdown of the North's main nuclear facilities was confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Flooding in the North in Aug., 2007, left some 300,000 homeless and ruined a tenth of the nation's farmland. Kim and South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun held a summit in Pyongyang in Oct., 2007. In addition to the facility shutdown, North Korea agreed to supply a declaration of its nuclear facilties and activities by the end of the 2007; it asserted it had done so, but the United States said that the declaration was not complete. Relations with the South became strained in 2008 when newly elected President Lee Myung Bak insisted that the North show progress on human rights and nuclear disarmament as a condition for aid and improvements in relations.
In May, North Korea released documents relating to its nuclear programs; also that month the United States announced that it would resume food aid to North Korea. The following month North Korea finally submitted a declaration of its nuclear weapons activities to the participants in the six-party talks, and the talks resumed in July. The next month, however, North Korea said it was stopping its disabling of its nuclear facilities because the United States had not removed it from a list of state sponsors of terrorism. After an agreement relating to verification in Oct., 2008, however, the North was removed from the list and resumed the disabling process. By the end of the year, however, there were again contentions over the verification process.
North Korea continued its provocative actions against the South in 2009. It declared its agreements with South Korea to be scrapped, and it temporarily closed access to South Korean-run factories in Kaesong. In April it launched a rocket that it claimed put a satellite into orbit, but the United States said nothing had been placed in orbit. South Korea, the United States, and Japan denounced the launch, seeing it as a thinly disguised missile test that was a violation of UN resolutions, and the UN Security Council condemned the launch. The North responded by saying it would end talks on its nuclear program and restart its disabled reactor, and it ordered international nuclear inspectors to leave the country. In subsequent months it conducted several short-range missile tests, a second nuclear test (May), and called for renegotiating the Kaesong industrial park agreement. The nuclear test was condemned by the Security Council, which imposed additional sanction on North Korea.
Relations with South Korea and the United States thawed some in Aug., 2009, after former U.S. president Clinton visited to obtain the release of two U.S. journalists who had been seized for crossing the North's border with China; a North Korean delegation also attended the funeral of former South Korean president Kim Dae Jung. In September severe limitations on South Korean travel to Kaesong were eased and other moves were taken, but during the same month an unannounced dam release by the North caused a flood that killed several people in the South, provoking an angry response.
South Korea, officially Republic of Korea (2005 est. pop. 48,423,000), 38,022 sq mi (98,477 sq km), formally proclaimed on Aug. 15, 1948, has its capital at Seoul, the largest city. Busan, the second largest city, is the country's chief port, with an excellent natural harbor near the delta of the Nakdong River. Other important cities are Daegu and Incheon. South Korea is divided into nine provinces and seven independent metropolitan cities. Syngman Rhee, who had established a provisional Korean government in exile in 1919, was elected South Korea's first president in 1948.
Traditionally the agricultural region of the Korean peninsula, South Korea faced severe economic problems after partition. Attempts to establish an adequate industrial base were hampered by limited resources, particularly an acute lack of energy resources; most industry, prior to 1948, had been located in the North. War damage and the flood of refugees from North Korea further intensified the economic problem. The country depended upon foreign aid, chiefly from the United States, and the economy was characterized by runaway inflation, highly unfavorable trade balances, and mass unemployment.
The increasingly authoritarian rule of President Syngman Rhee, along with government corruption and injustice, added to the discontent of the people. The elections of Mar., 1960, in which Rhee won a fourth term, were marked by widespread violence, police brutality, and accusations by Rhee's opponents of government fraud. A student protest march in Apr., 1960, in which 125 students were shot down by the police, triggered a wave of uprisings across the country. The government capitulated, and Rhee resigned and went into exile.
Under the leadership of Dr. John M. Chang (Chang Myun), a new government was unable to correct the economic problems or maintain order, and in May, 1961, the South Korean armed forces seized power in a bloodless coup. A military junta under Gen. Park Chung Hee established tight control over civil freedoms, the press, and the economy, somewhat relaxing restrictions as its power solidified. Park was elected president in 1963, reelected in 1967, and, following a constitutional amendment permitting a third term, again in 1971.
Park's government was remarkably successful in fighting graft and corruption and in reviving the economy. Successive five-year economic development plans, first launched in 1962, brought dramatic changes. Between 1962 and 1972 manufacturing was established as a leading economic sector and exports increased dramatically. In Oct., 1972, President Park proclaimed martial law and dissolved the national assembly, asserting that such measures were necessary to improve South Korea's position in the reunification talks with North Korea. In Dec., 1972, President Park was elected to a new six-year term, under a revised constitution, by a national conference. In 1974, a Korean resident of Japan unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate Park in Seoul, fatally wounding Park's wife.
A second assassination attempt on Park, in 1979, was successful, and he was succeeded by Choi Kyu-hah, who instituted military rule. After a period of internal turmoil, Chun Doo Hwan was elected president (1980). Reforms were made to shift power to the national assembly, and the country's dynamic, export-oriented economy continued to grow. Labor unrest and general dissatisfaction with the government, however, led South Korean leaders to draw up a new constitution in 1987, which mandated popular election of the president and a reduction of the presidential term to five years.
Roh Tae Woo, who was elected president and took office in 1988, fought rising inflation rates brought on by South Korea's growing economy. Roh attempted to improve relations with opposition politicians and with the North, also establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union (1990) and China (1992). In 1992, Kim Young Sam, a former opposition leader who had merged his party with Roh's, was elected president, becoming the first civilian to hold the office since the Korean War. President Kim launched a campaign to eliminate corruption and administrative abuse and began to encourage economic cooperation with the North.
In 1996 former presidents Chun and Roh were put on trial on corruption charges and also tried, with 14 former generals, on charges in connection with the 1979 coup following Park's death and the 1980 massacre of prodemocracy demonstrators in Gwangju (Kwangju). Both received prison sentences. Along with other Asian countries, South Korea experienced a financial crisis in late 1997, forcing it to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund.
In December, voters elected Kim Dae Jung, who had been a prodemocracy dissident during the country's period of military dictatorship, as South Korea's new president. The economy began to recover slowly from the effect of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis in 1999, and economic reforms promoted sustained growth. Kim worked to open relations with the North, and in 2000 he traveled there for a historic meeting with Kim Jong Il. Subsequent progress in inter-Korean relations, however, was slow, leading many in the South to feel that too many concessions had been made.
Kim Dae Jung's government was hurt by a series of corruption scandals in 2001 and 2002, some of which involved the president's family. The government suffered further embarrassment in 2002 when two nominees for prime minister were rejected by the national assembly. Despite these setbacks, the ruling party's candidate for president, Roh Moo Hyun, won the election in Dec., 2002. Following the election, when North Korea moved to resume its nuclear weapons program, the South pursued a more conciliatory course than that of the United States, and strongly opposed any military action against the North.
A political party funding scandal in 2003 implicated the main South Korean parties and many businesses, but it was overshadowed in early 2004 by the impeachment of the president over a relatively minor election law violation, which involved his public support for the new Uri party (the president is required be politically neutral). The impeachment, which also accused Roh of incompetence, was reversed by the Constitutional Court, which restored him to office in May. In the meantime, Prime Minister Goh Kun was acting president, and the Uri party gained a majority of the National Assembly seats in an April election that amounted to a repudiation by the public of the impeachment. The election was the first in which a liberal party had won control of the South Korean legislature. Roh officially joined the party in May.
In Aug., 2004, Roh announced that executive and administrative functions of the government would be moved to a new capital carved from portions of Yeongi co. and Gongju city in South Chungcheong prov., with construction to begin in 2007 and the relocation to be completed by 2030. Intended to reduce Seoul's economic dominance and overcrowding, the proposal provoked constitutional challenges from its opponents. In October the constitutional court ruled that a referendum or a constitutional amendment would be required before the move could be made.
The South revealed in Aug. and Sept., 2004, that its scientists had twice conducted experiments to enrich nuclear materials. Although the amounts of enriched plutonium and uranium were small, the admissions were embarrassing internationally and did not help the campaign against the North's nuclear program. Relations with Japan were strained in early 2005 over the ownership of the Liancourt Rocks (a perennial source of friction) and over Japanese school history textbooks that downplayed Japan's actions during World War II.
The Uri party, which had been hit by a number of scandals and ministerial resignations since winning control of parliament, lost its narrow majority in that body in Mar., 2005. In Apr., 2006, Han Myung-Sook, a member of the Uri party, became the first woman to be elected prime minister of South Korea; real power in the South Korean government, however, resides with the president. Local elections in May, 2006, resulted in significant losses for the Uri party. After the North's nuclear test in Oct., 2006, South Korea imposed some sanctions and supported the UN-adopted military sanctions, but remained committed to its policy of engagement with the North and the significant economic trade involved.
In early 2007, after the Uri party had suffered significant defections in the National Assembly Roh resigned from the party in an attempt to avoid further losses. Prime Minister Han resigned in March, and said she was considering running for president. In April a free-trade agreement was reached with the United States, and in October the leaders of the North and South met in a second summit in Pyongyang. The Dec., 2007, presidential election was won easily by Grand National party candidate Lee Myung Bak, the conservative former mayor of Seoul. Lee pursued a harder line than his predecessor in relations with the North, calling for it to make progress on human rights and nuclear disarmament. As a result, the North escalated tensions with South Korea.
In Apr., 2008, Lee's party won a majority in the parliamentary elections. That month South Korea agreed to resume imports of U.S. beef, banned five years before over concerns about mad cow disease. The news provoked weeks of antigovernment protests, which forced Lee to reconstitute his government and to renegotiate the agreement. The killing of a South Korean tourist by the North Korean military at Mt. Kumgang in North Korea led South Korea to suspend tourist visits to the site and increased tensions with the North, and by the end of 2008 the North had reacted to Lee's tougher approach to relations by closing the rail line between the two nations.
Tensions with the North continued into 2009, aggravated by actions that included the North's temporary closure of access to South Korean factories in the North and subsequent demands for wage and rent increases for those factories, the launches of a number of rockets by the North including a long-range missile, and a second nuclear test. Lee's government also was confronted by the opposition, whose legislators occupied the parliament for two weeks at the turn of the year to prevent passage of government bills and ratification of the free-trade treaty with the United States, and the suicide of former president Roh (May, 2009) after the government began investigating him for corruption. Relations with the North improved somewhat in Aug., 2009, but Lee emphasized that the North must adhere to the 2007 six-party agreement.
See W. E. Henthorn, A History of Korea (1972); R. A. Scalapino and C.-S. Lee, Communism in Korea (2 vol., 1973); I. L. Bird, Korea and Her Neighbors (2 vol., 1986); K.-B. Lee, A New History of Korea (tr. 1988); J. Woo, Race to the Swift: State and Finance in Korean Industrialization (1991); M. Deuchler, The Confucian Transformation of Korea (1992); B. Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun (1997); P. H. Lee et al., ed. Sources of Korean Tradition (2 vol., 1997-2000); D. Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas (1997); N. Eberstadt, The End of North Korea (1999); J. B. Duncan, The Origins of the Choson Dynasty (2000).
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Korea is a geographic area composed of two sovereign countries, a civilization, and a former state situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. It borders China to the north-west and Russia to the east, with Mongolia situated farther to the west, and Japan to the east. The Korean Peninsula is divided into two separate states, North Korea and South Korea.
According to Samguk Yusa, the history of Korea began with the founding of Gojoseon in 2333 BC by the legendary Dangun. Limited linguistic evidence suggests probable Altaic origins of these people, whose northern Mongolian steppe culture absorbed migration and trade with the peoples of Manchuria and China. The adoption of the Chinese writing system ("Hanja" in Korean) in the 2nd century BC, and Buddhism in the 4th century AD, had profound effects on the Three Kingdoms of Korea. Baekje later passed on a modified version of these cultural advances to Japan.
Since the Goryeo Dynasty, Korea was ruled by a single government and maintained political and cultural independence until the nineteenth century, despite the Mongol invasions of the Goryeo Dynasty in the 13th century and Japanese invasions of the Joseon Dynasty in the 16th century. In 1377, Korea produced the Jikji, the world's oldest existing document printed with movable metal type. In the 15th century, the turtle ships, possibly the world's first ironclad warships, were deployed, and King Sejong the Great promulgated the Korean alphabet Hangul to increase literacy among his people who could neither read nor write Hanja (Chinese characters).
During the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea's isolationist policy earned it the Western nickname the "Hermit Kingdom". By the late 19th century, the country became the object of the colonial designs of Japan and Europe. In 1915, Korea was forcibly annexed by Japan and remained occupied until the end of World War II in August 1945.
In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the surrender and disarming of Japanese troops in Korea; the Soviet Union accepting the surrender of Japanese weaponry north of the 38th parallel and the United States taking the surrender south of it. This minor decision by allied armies soon became the basis for the division of Korea by the two superpowers, exacerbated by their inability to agree on the terms of Korean independence. The two Cold War rivals then established governments sympathetic to their own ideologies, leading to Korea's current division into two political entities: North Korea and South Korea.
In the Korean language, Korea as a whole is referred to as Han-guk (abbreviation of Dae Han Min Guk) in South Korea, and Chosŏn in North Korea. "The Land of the Morning Calm" is an English language nickname loosely derived from the hanja characters for Joseon, the name derived from the Joseon Dynasty and the earlier Gojoseon. (Choson and Joseon are two Romanizations of the same name.)
The original capital may have been at the Manchuria-Korea border, but was later moved to what is today Pyongyang, North Korea. In 108 BCE, the Chinese Qin Dynasty defeated Wiman Joseon and installed four commanderies in the area of Liaoning and the northern Korean peninsula. Subsequent Chinese immigrations from Yan and Qi brought elements of Chinese culture to the peninsula. By 75 BCE, three of those commanderies had fallen, but the Lelang Commandery remained under successive Chinese control until 313.
The Proto-Three Kingdoms period, sometimes called the Several States Period (열국시대), is the time before the rise of the Three Kingdoms of Korea and occurred after the fall of Gojoseon. This time period saw numerous states spring up from the former territories of Gojoseon. Among these states, the largest and most influential were Dongbuyeo and Bukbuyeo. After the fall of Gojoseon, Buyeo arose in today's North Korea and southern Manchuria, from about the 2nd century BC to 494. Its remnants were absorbed by Goguryeo in 494, and both Goguryeo and Baekje, two of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, considered themselves its successor.
Okjeo was a tribal state that was located in the northern Korean Peninsula, and was established after the fall of Gojoseon. Okjeo had been a part of Gojoseon before its fall. It never became a fully-developed kingdom due to the intervention of its neighboring kingdoms. Okjeo became a tributary of Goguryeo, and was eventually annexed into Goguryeo by Gwanggaeto Taewang in the 5th century.
Dongye was another small kingdom that was situated in the northern Korean Peninsula. Dongye bordered Okjeo, and the two kingdoms faced the same fate of becoming tributaries of the growing empire of Goguryeo. Dongye was also a former part of Gojoseon before its fall.
Samhan (三韓) refers to the three confederacies of Mahan, Jinhan, and Byeonhan. The Samhan were located in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula. These three confederacies eventually become the foundations, at which Baekje, Silla, and Gaya were established. Mahan was the largest and consisted of 54 states. Byeonhan and Jinhan both consisted of twelve states, bringing a total of 78 states within the Samhan. The term "Samhan" is later used to describe the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
Goguryeo united Buyeo, Okjeo, Dongye and other states in the former Gojoseon territory, in addition to destroying the last Chinese commandery. Goguryeo was the most dominant power, Goguryeo reached its zenith in the fifth century, when reign of the Emperor Gwanggaeto and his son, Emperor Jangsu expanded territory into almost all of Manchuria and part of inner Mongolia, and took the Seoul region from Baekje. Gwanggaeto and Jangsu subdued Baekje and Silla during their times. After the 7th Century, Goguryeo was constantly at war with the Sui and Tang dynasties of China.
Founded around modern day Seoul, the southwestern kingdom Baekje expanded far beyond Pyongyang during the peak of its powers in the 4th century. It had absorbed all of the Mahan states and subjugated most of the western Korean peninsula (including the modern provinces of Gyeonggi, Chungcheong, and Jeolla, as well as part of Hwanghae and Gangwon) to a centralized government. Baekje acquired Chinese culture and technology through contacts with the Southern Dynasties during the expansion of its territory.
Although later records claim that Silla, in the southeast, was the oldest of the three kingdoms, it is now believed to have been the last kingdom to develop. By the 2nd century, Silla existed as a large state, occupying and influencing nearby city states. Silla began to gain power when it annexed the Gaya confederacy in 562 AD. The Gaya confederacy was located between Baekje and Silla. The three kingdoms of Korea often warred with each other and Silla often faced pressure from Baekje and Goguryeo but at various times Silla also allied with Baekje and Goguryeo in order to gain dominance over the peninsula.
In 660, King Muyeol of Silla ordered his armies to attack Baekje. General Kim Yu-shin, aided by Tang forces, conquered Baekje. In 661, Silla and Tang moved on Goguryeo but were repelled. King Munmu, son of Muyeol and nephew of General Kim launched another campaign in 667 and Goguryeo fell in the following year.
In the north, former Goguryeo General Dae Joyeong led a group of Goguryeo refugees to the Jilin area in Manchuria and founded Balhae (698 AD - 926 AD) as the successor to Goguryeo. At its height, Balhae's territory extended from northern Manchuria down to the northern provinces of modern-day Korea. Balhae was destroyed by the Khitans in 926.
In 1392, the general Yi Seong-gye established the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) with a largely bloodless coup. The Joseon Dynasty is believed to have been the longest-lived actively ruling dynasty in East Asia. He named it the Joseon Dynasty in honor of the previous Joseon before (Gojoseon is the first Joseon. "Go", meaning "old", was added to distinguish between the two). King Taejo moved the capital to Hanseong (formerly Hanyang; modern-day Seoul) and built the Gyeongbokgung palace. In 1394 he adopted Confucianism as the country's official religion, resulting in much loss of power and wealth by the Buddhists. The prevailing philosophy was Neo-Confucianism, which was developed by Zhu Xi. Joseon experienced advances in science and culture. King Sejong the Great (1418-1450) promulgated hangul, the Korean alphabet. The period saw various other cultural and technological advances as well as the dominance of neo-Confucianism over the entire peninsula. Between 1592 and 1598, Japan invaded Korea. Toyotomi Hideyoshi led the forces and tried to invade the Asian continent through Korea, but was eventually repelled before even getting through Korea. This war also saw the rise of the career of Admiral Yi Sun-shin and his "turtle ship" or gobukseon. In the 1620s and 1630s Joseon suffered invasions by the Manchu who eventually also conquered the Chinese Ming Dynasty. After that, the Joseon dynasty swore allegiance to the Qing Court. During the Joseon dynasty, Koreans brought Roman Catholicism (and other forms of Christianity in Korea followed shortly thereafter) into Korea, at first in secret.
Beginning in the 1870s, Japan began to force Korea to move out of China's sphere of influence and into its own. Japan forced Korea to engage in foreign trade through the Treaty of Ganghwa in 1876. In 1895, Empress Myeongseong of Korea was assassinated by the Japanese under Miura Gorō's directive. In Manchuria on 1909, An Jung-geun assassinated the former Resident-General of Korea, Itō Hirobumi for his role in trying to force Korea into occupation. In 1908, the Russo-Japanese War pushed the Russians out of the fight for Korea. In 1910, an already militarily occupied Korea was a forced party to the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty. The treaty was signed by Lee Wan-Yong, who was given the General Power of Attorney by the Emperor. But the Emperor is said to have not actually ratified the treaty according to Yi Tae-jin. There is a long dispute whether this treaty was legal or illegal.
Even before formal Japanese colonial rule, the Korean Independence Movement was already in existence. Korean resistance to the brutal Japanese occupation was manifested in the nonviolent March 1st Movement of 1919, where 7,000 demonstrators were killed by Japanese police and military. The Korean liberation movement also spread to neighboring Manchuria and Siberia.
Over five million Koreans were conscripted for labor beginning in 1939, and tens of thousands of men were forced into Japan's military. Approximately 200,000 girls and women, mostly from China and Korea, were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military. In 1993, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged the terrible injustices faced by these euphemistically named "comfort women".
During the Japanese Colonial rule, the Korean language was suppressed in an effort to eradicate Korean national identity. Koreans were forced to take Japanese surnames, known as Sōshi-kaimei. Traditional Korean culture suffered heavy losses, as numerous Korean cultural artifacts were destroyed or taken to Japan. To this day, valuable Korean artifacts can often be found in Japanese museums or among private collections. One investigation by the South Korean government identified 75,311 cultural assets that were taken from Korea, 34,369 of which are in Japan, and 17,803 of which are in the United States. However, experts estimate that over 100,000 artifacts remains in Japan. Japanese officials considered returning Korean cultural properties, but to this date have not returned these artifacts to Korea. Today, Korea and Japan dispute over the ownership of Dokdo, a small island located east of the Korean peninsula
With the defeat of Japan in 1945, the United Nations developed plans for a trusteeship administration, the Soviet Union administering the peninsula north of the 38th parallel and the United States administering the south. The politics of the Cold War resulted in the 1948 establishment of two separate governments, North Korea and South Korea.
In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South, using Soviet tanks and weaponry. During the Korean War (1950-1953), millions of civilians died and the three years of fighting throughout the nation effectively destroyed most cities. Around 125,000 POWs were captured and held by the Americans and South Koreans on Geojedo (an island in the south) The war ended in a ceasefire agreement at approximately the Military Demarcation Line (Korea).
Korea is located on the Korean Peninsula in North-East Asia. To the northwest, the Amnok River (Yalu River) separates Korea from China and to the northeast, the Duman River (Tumen River) separates Korea from China and Russia. The Yellow Sea is to the west, the East China Sea is to the south, and the Sea of Japan (East Sea) is to the east of Korea. Notable islands include Jeju-do, Ulleung-do, and Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo in Korean).
The southern and western parts of the peninsula have well-developed plains, while the eastern and northern parts are mountainous. The highest mountain in Korea is Baekdusan (2744 m), through which runs the border with China. The southern extension of Baekdusan is a highland called Gaema Heights. This highland was mainly raised during the Cenozoic orogeny and partly covered by volcanic matter. To the south of Gaema Gowon, successive high mountains are located along the eastern coast of the peninsula. This mountain range is named Baekdudaegan. Some significant mountains include Sobaeksan (2,184 m), Baekdusan or Baeksan (1,724 m), Geumgangsan (1,638 m), Seoraksan (1,708 m), Taebaeksan (1,567 m), and Jirisan (1,915 m). There are several lower, secondary mountain series whose direction is almost perpendicular to that of Baekdudaegan. They are developed along the tectonic line of Mesozoic orogeny and their directions are basically northwest.
Unlike most older mountains on the mainland, many important islands in Korea were formed by volcanic activity in the Cenozoic orogeny. Jeju-do, situated off the southern coast, is a large volcanic island whose main mountain Hallasan (1950 m) is the highest in South Korea. Ulleung-do is a volcanic island in the East Sea, whose composition is more felsic than Jeju-do. The volcanic islands tend to be younger, the more westward.
Because the mountainous region is mostly on the eastern part of the peninsula, the main rivers tend to flow westwards. Two exceptions are the southward-flowing Nakdonggang and Seomjingang. Important rivers running westward include the Amnok River (Yalu), the Cheong-cheongang, the Daedonggang, the Han River, the Geumgang, and the Yeongsangang. These rivers have vast flood plains and provide an ideal environment for wet-rice cultivation.
The southern and southwestern coastlines of Korea form a well-developed ria coastline, known as Dadohae-jin in Korean. Its convoluted coastline provides mild seas, and the resulting calm environment allows for safe navigation, fishing, and seaweed farming. In addition to the complex coastline, the western coast of the Korean Peninsula has an extremely high tidal amplitude (at Incheon, around the middle of the western coast. It can get as high as 9 m). Vast tidal flats have been developing on the south and west coastlines
The combined population of the Koreas is about 73 million (North Korea: 23 million, South Korea: 50 million). Korea is chiefly populated by a highly homogeneous ethnic group, the Koreans, who speak the Korean language. The number of foreigners living in Korea has also steadily increased since the late 20th century, particularly in South Korea, where more than 1 million foreigners currently reside. A minority population of ethnic Chinese (roughly 440,000 as of August 2007) live in South Korea and small communities of ethnic Chinese and Japanese are also found in North Korea.
Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea, and (along with Mandarin) of Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture in Manchuria area of China. Worldwide, there are up to 80 million speakers of the Korean Language. South Korea has around 50 million speakers while North Korea around 23 million. Other large groups of Korean speakers are found in the United States (around 2.5 million speakers), China (around 2 million speakers), the former Soviet Union (around 500,000), Japan (around 900,000), Canada (100,000), Philippines (70,000) and Australia (150,000). It is estimated that there are around 700,000 people scattered across the world who are able to speak Korean because of job requirements (for example, salespersons or businessmen with Korean contacts), marriages to Koreans or out of pure interest in the language.
The genealogical classification of Korean is debated. Some linguists place it in the Altaic language family; others consider it to be a language isolate. Korean is agglutinative in its morphology and SOV in its syntax. Like Japanese and Vietnamese, Korean has borrowed much vocabulary from the genetically unrelated Chinese or created vocabulary on Chinese models.
Modern Korean is written almost exclusively in the hangul script, which was invented in the 15th century. While hangul may appear logographic, it is actually a phonemic alphabet organized into syllabic blocks. Each block consists of at least two of the 24 hangul letters (jamo): at least one each of the 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Historically, the alphabet had several additional letters (see obsolete jamo). For a phonological description of the letters, see Korean phonology. Hanja (Chinese characters) and Latin alphabets are sometimes included within hangul texts, particularly in South Korea.
In ancient Chinese texts, Korea is referred to as "Rivers and Mountains Embroidered on Silk" (금수강산, ) and "Eastern Nation of Decorum" (동방예의지국, ). During the 7th and 8th centuries, the silk road connected Korea to Arabia. In 845, Arab traders wrote, "Beyond China is a land where gold abounds and which is named Silla. The Muslims who have gone there have been charmed by the country and tend to settle there and abandon all idea of leaving."
Korean festivities often showcase vibrant colors, which have been attributed to Mongolian influences: bright red, yellow, and green often mark traditional Korean motifs. These bright colors are sometimes seen in the traditional dress known as hanbok.
One peculiarity of Korean culture is its age reckoning system. Individuals are regarded as one year old when they are born, and their age increments on New Year's Day rather than on the anniversary of their birthday. Thus, one born on December the 31st would be aged two on the day after they were born. Accordingly, a Korean person's stated age will be one or two years more than their age expressed in the Western tradition.
Modern literature is often linked with the development of hangul, which helped spread literacy from the aristocracy to the common people and women. Hangul, however, only reached a dominant position in Korean literature in the second half of the 19th century, resulting in a major growth in Korean literature. Sinsoseol, for instance, are novels written in hangul.
The Korean War led to the development of literature centered around the wounds and chaos of war. Much of the post-war literature in South Korea deals with the daily lives of ordinary people, and their struggles with national pain. The collapse of the traditional Korean value system is another common theme of the time.
Confucian tradition has dominated Korean thought, along with contributions by Buddhism, Taoism, and Korean Shamanism. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, Christianity has competed with Buddhism in South Korea, while religious practice has been suppressed in North Korea.
According to 2003 statistics compiled by the South Korean government, about 46% of citizens profess to follow no particular religion. Christians account for 27.3% of the population (of which half are Catholics and half are various denominations of Protestantism) and Buddhists 25.3%.
Koreans valued scholarship and rewarded education and study of Chinese classic texts; Yangban boys were highly educated in hanja. In Silla, the bone rank system defined a person's social status, and a similar system persisted through the end of the Joseon Dynasty. In addition, the gwageo civil service examination provided paths of upward mobility.
Islam in South Korea is comprised of about 45,000 in addition to some 100,000 foreign workers from Muslim countries.
Korean cuisine is probably best known for kimchi, which uses a distinctive fermentation process of preserving vegetables, most commonly cabbage. Gochujang is also commonly used, often as pepper (chilli) powder, earning the cuisine a reputation for being spicy.
Bulgogi (roasted marinated meat, usually beef), galbi (marinated grilled short ribs), and samgyeopsal (pork belly) are popular meat entrees. Meals are usually accompanied by a soup or stew, such as galbitang (stewed ribs) and doenjang jjigae (fermentated bean paste stew). The center of the table is filled with a shared collection of sidedishes called banchan.
The modern Korean school system consists of 6 years in elementary school, 3 years in middle school, and 3 years in high school. Students are supposed to go to elementary and middle school, and do not have to pay for it.(The teachers are paid from taxes) Most public middle school and high school students have to wear uniforms, and are not supposed to grow their hair more than a particular length. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks South Korea's science education as the 3rd best in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average. Korea also ranks 2nd on Maths and literature (Korea has a 99.8% literacy rate, highest in the world) and 1st in problem solving. Although South Korean students often rank high on international comparative tests, the education system is sometimes criticized for its emphasis on passive learning and memorization. The Korean education system is much more strict and structured than most western societies and Korean students rarely have free time to spend enjoying themselves as they are under a lot of pressure to perform and gain entrance to a university.
One of the best known artifacts of Korea's history of science and technology is Cheomseongdae (첨성대, ), a 9.4-meter high observatory built in 634. It is considered to be one of the world's oldest surviving astronomical observatories.
The world's first metal mechanical movable type printing was developed in Korea in 1234 by Choe Yun-ui during the Goryeo Dynasty, modeled after widespread Chinese clay (Bi Sheng in 1041), several hundred years before Johann Gutenberg developed his metal letterset type (Cumings 1997: 65). Though the block printing was used much earlier, metal movable type printing press marked a significant development in printing allowing the same tools to be used for more diverse printings. The Jikji is the world's earliest remaining movable metal printed book, printed in Korea in 1377. The world's earliest known surviving example of woodblock printing is the Mugujeonggwang Great Dharani Sutra. It is believed to have been printed in Korea in 750-751 CE which, if correct, would make it older than the Diamond Sutra. Goryeo silk was highly regarded by China, and Korean pottery made with blue-green celadon was of the highest quality in the world and sought after by even Arabian merchants. Goryeo had a bustling economy with a capital that was frequented by merchants from all over the known world.