A demilitarized zone separates North Korea from the Republic of Korea, whose territory occupies about 45% of the peninsula of the same name.
The Republic of Korea, also called South Korea, is located in the southern part of the peninsula, in a strategic position between China and Japan. It covers an area of 99,237km2.
The east coast, bathed by the east sea (Sea of Japan), is relatively uniform, while the coast of the Yellow Sea, in the west and south, has a rugged outline. In its many islands and bays, intense port activity is concentrated. The country is almost entirely mountainous, but it has some narrow coastal strips. The main massif is the Taebaek Mountains, in the east of the country, whose mountains reach the China Sea. The altitudes do not go far beyond 1,700m and the culminating point is Mount Halla, on the island of Cheju, with 1,950m.
Due to continental influences, South Korea’s climate is uneven, with very cold winters and hot summers. These oscillations are more pronounced in the north and in the center than in the south of the country. In the latter region, the temperature in January does not drop below 0o C, while in June it reaches 25o C. Thus, in the city of Pusan, the average is 2o C in January and 25o C in August. In Seoul, which is in the north of the country, the temperature drops below -5o C in winter and reaches 25o C in summer. Annual rainfall ranges from 1,000 to 1,400 mm and the southeast is the driest area in Korea. Most of the rains occur during monsoons in the summer, when it is also common for the south coast to be whipped by typhoons.
The country’s main rivers are born in the Taebaek massif. They are Han, Kum and Naktong, which, in general, run parallel to mountain ranges, heading south. These rivers form extensive, arable plains.
The hot summers favor the formation of large coniferous forests, which, despite intense logging over the centuries, still cover two thirds of the country. Korea’s animal species are the same as those found in northern China and neighboring Manchuria: tigers, leopards, lynx and bears, but they are all threatened with extinction.
According to Paradisdachat.com, South Korea is one of the most densely populated countries in Asia. Traditionally, Koreans were peasants, but since 1960 urbanization has led to the rural exodus. Even so, agriculture is the most economically important activity. Rice, barley, wheat, soy and corn are grown in river valleys and coastal plains.
The rapid South Korean urbanization process also changed the landscape of the country’s major cities in the second half of the twentieth century. Seoul and Pusan began to boast skyscrapers with more than twenty floors. The supply of water and energy and urban transport have progressed at an accelerated pace. In addition, since 1960, birth and death rates have fallen sharply, demonstrating the country’s effort to reduce population growth. This relative stability was only achieved after the first half of the 20th century, when the Korean population faced major upheavals. In 1945, about two million Koreans had emigrated to Manchuria and Siberia, and during the Korean War many more had migrated from north to south. In the second half of the 20th century,
The South Korean economy has grown considerably since 1950, thanks to mining, an activity that has received the most support from the government, and the export of industrial products. In 1962, the government also started to encourage oil refineries and fertilizer industries. The heavy industry and chemistry contribute with a third of the national production, but the textile, of great tradition in the country, is the one that produces and creates more jobs.
South Korea’s transport system has progressed a lot since the country’s constitution, although agricultural products are still transported in ox carts in rural areas. Large highways were opened, where ninety percent of passengers and sixty percent of cargo are transported. An aviation company joins the main cities in the country and reaches the entire world. The most important airport is Kempo, in Seoul.
Society and culture
Most Korean children spend six years in primary school, which is compulsory. Almost all of them follow a secondary course and about half reach a higher level career. There are over eighty higher education establishments in South Korea. Health services have multiplied after the Korean War, but are still insufficient to serve the entire population. This problem was aggravated by the continued exodus of doctors abroad. Aid organizations are mainly dedicated to war veterans, the elderly and the needy.
The population’s standard of living has gradually improved since the 1950s, and the average per capita income multiplied by seven between 1968 and 1979. Life expectancy, which in 1950 was 53, rose to 66 in 1980. However , the differences between the rural and urban populations remained large.
In South Korea, two traditional religions coexist, Buddhism and Confucianism. There are also vestiges of the country’s indigenous shamanism. There is also a curious circumstance: women generally opt for Buddhism, while men – even within the same family – prefer Confucian ethics.
Cultural life is linked to Chinese roots, although, as has always happened in the country’s history, it retains its peculiar characteristics. Buddhism, Confucius’ philosophy and shamanism continue to be the basis of South Korean cultural production. The National Museum, which has units in several cities in the country, has a vast collection of artistic objects of all kinds, including paintings, ceramics, manuscripts, statues and canvases, many of them national treasures.