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Background The Korean Peninsula extends southward from the eastern end of the Asian continent. It is roughly 621 miles long and 134 miles wide at its narrowest point. Mountains cover 70% of land mass, making it one of the most mountainous regions in the world. The lifting and folding of Korea’s granite and limestone base has created breathtaking landscapes of scenic hills and valleys.

The peninsula is divided just slightly north of the 38th parallel. The democratic Republic of Korea in the South and communist Korea in the North are separated by the Demilitarized Zone.

Korea lies in a temperature zone and has four distinct seasons. In late March or early April, the trees burst into leafy splendor to mark the beginning of spring. Mostly warm days can be expected from March to May. During the relatively hot and rainy summer season, the vegetation is lush. By June, the average temperature is over 68F. Monsoon rains usually begin around the end of June and last until mid-to late-July. August is hot and humid. The coming of autumn in late September brings continental winds and clear, dry weather, making the fall months perhaps the most pleasant time of the year. October’s vivid gold and vibrant reds create a colorful panorama. December to February is cold and dry with occasional snow. During the winter months, three or four days of cold weather are often followed by a few warm days.

The Korean flag is called taegeukgi. The design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang in Asian philosophy. The circle in the center of the flag is divided into two equal parts. The red half represents the proactive cosmic forces of the yang. Conversely, the blue half represents the responsive cosmic forces of the yin. The two forces together embody the concepts of continual movement, balance and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The circle is surrounded by a trigram in each corner. Each trigram symbolized one of the four universal elements: heaven, earth, fire, and water.

The national flower of Korea is the mugunghwa (Rose of Sharon).

History

The habitation of early mankind in Korea appears to have started about half a million years ago. The first kingdom, named Gojoseon (Ancient Joseon), lasted from 2333 – 108 BC. After which, the three ancient kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla ruled the entire Korean Peninsula and much of Manchuria. Unified Silla, Goryeo Dynasty and Joseon Dynasty followed until the Japanese colonization.

As of August 15, 1945 Korea was released from Japanese colonial rule and divided into two: South Korea in the free world and North Korea in the communist bloc. The Republic of Korea in the South established an independent government three years later.

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded the South. An armistice agreement was signed three years later in 1953. South Korea’s tireless post-war reconstruction efforts were highly successful in the promotion of national prosperity and stability. In 1988, Seoul, the capital of the South, hosted the Olympics. In September 1991, South and North Korea were simultaneously admitted to the United Nation.

The 17th FIFA World Cup was held jointly in 2002 by Korea and Japan, during which the Korean national team achieved the legendary feat of being the first Asian team to advance to the semifinals of the World Cup.
People South Korea has a population of 48.5 million (2007).
GNI per capita is $18,372.
Freedom of religion is fully guaranteed in the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Korea’s traditional religions – Shamanism, Buddhism, and Confucianism – have all played an integral role in the country’s socio-cultural development. There are also minor religions based on various combinations of elements from these traditional religions. Christianity has developed a large following since its introduction to the peninsula (Roman Catholic) in the late 18th century with sacrifices of 10,000 martyrs. Protestant branches of Christianity came to the country in the late 19th century and have a large congregation across the country so that it is very difficult to find a village that does not have a protestant church in it.

The Korean Language like Hungarian, Turkish, Mongolian and Finnish, is classified into the Ural-Altaic language group. Hangul (the Korean Alphabet) is composed of 10 simple vowels and 14 consonants. A group of scholars under the patronage of King Sejong the Great developed this systematic rendition of spoken sound in 1443. It is widely acclaimed by linguists as an ingenious invention.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations Sense of seniority – although the traditional Confucian social structure is changing, it is still prevalent in Korea. Age and seniority are all-important and juniors are expected to follow the wishes of their elders without question. Therefore, people often ask you your age and sometimes your marital status (no matter how old you are, at least among family members, you cannot be regarded as an adult if you are not married) to find out their position relative to you. These questions are not meant to intrude on your privacy and Koreans will not be offended if you do not answer.

According to a traditional Korean belief, when people die, their spirits do not immediately depart; they stay with descendants for four generations. During this period, the deceased are still regarded as family members and Korean reaffirm the relationship between ancestors and descendants through jerye on special days like Seollal (Lunar New Year’s Day) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving Day) as well as the anniversary of their ancestor’s death.

Lifestyle Korean cuisine is made up of unique aromas and tastes. In addition to being highly nutritious, it is also low in calories, being mainly made of a wide variety of vegetables. Seasonings include garlic, red pepper, scallions, soy sauce, fermented bean paste, ginger and sesame oil. Visitors cannot really say they have been to Korea if they have not tasted kimchi, the internationally famous spicy fermented cabbage dish. Koreans eat it at almost every meal. There are actually dozens of varieties of kimchi, including some that are not spicy. Dishes more familiar to the Western palate are galbi and bulgogi. These two meat dishes, either pork or beef, are always served at Korean dinner parties. Galbi is ribs; bulgogi is thin strip of marinated grilled meat. They are cooked at your table over a charcoal fire.

In the agricultural society of the past, Koreans were very attentive to the changes of the seasons. For each month, the people developed unique folk customs to celebrate and commemorate the change of time and enjoyed special dishes made of seasonal products.

Since the Korean Peninsula is surrounded by water, visitors can enjoy water sports all year round. The best time for these water sports is from June to November, when both the water temperature and the stunning underwater scenery are at their best. Korea has several world-class ski resorts and the ski season lasts from December to early March.

Golf has emerged as a popular sport in Korea with the increasing popularity of Korean women golfers who have been very successful in U.S. LPGA.
  Additional information regarding Korea may be found at:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/korea