South Korea is officially known as Taehan Min’guk (Republic of Korea). This country is in northeastern Asia and occupies the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. South Korea is bounded on the north by North Korea; on the east by the East Sea (Sea of Japan); on the south bye the Korea Strait, which also separates it from Japan; and on the west by the Yellow Sea. It has a total area of 38,328 square miles, including many offshore islands in the south and west, and the largest is Cheju. The state of South Korea was established in 1948 succeeding the post-World War II distribution of the penisula between the occupying forces of the United States in the south and the Union of Soviet Republics (USSR) in the north. The capital of South Korea is Seoul which is also the largest city.
The current version of the South Korean flag was adopted in 1984, but the basic design has been used since the country’s founding is 1948. The Buddhist yin-yang symbol represents the unity of opposites, and the white background represents purity. The black markings symbolize three cycles, with opposites in each cycle opposing one another(reading clockwise from the upper left): summer, autumn, winter, spring, south, west, north, east, sky, moon, earth, and sun.
South Korea is mainly a rugged, mountainous terrain. The principal range is the T’aebaek-sanmaek, which extends in a north-south direction parallel to the eastern coast. The country’s highest peak, located on the island of Cheju, is Halla-san. Plains constitute less than one-fifth the total area and are mostly in the west along the coast the coastal plains in the east and south are very narrow. South Korea has a highly indented coastline characterized by high tidal ranges, the country’s tow longest rivers, the Naktong and Han, rise in the T’aebaek-sanmaek, one flowing south to the Korea Strait and the other northwest to the Yellow sea. Other major rivers include the Kom, Yengsan, and Tongjin.
South Korea has a continental climate, with cold, dry winters and hot, rainy summers. In Seoul the average January temperature range is 16 to 30 degrees F, and the average July temperature range is 70 to 84 degrees F. Winter temperatures are higher along the southern coast and considerably lower in the mountainous interior. The average precipitation in Seoul is 49in and in Pusan 54in. Rainfall is mostly in the summer months (June to September). The southern coast is subject to late summer typhoons that bring strong winds and heavy rains.
Mixed deciduous and coniferous forests cover about three-quarters of the land, but have been lessened of use as fuel. Predominate species include pine, maple, elm, poplar, fir and aspen. Bamboo, laurel, and evergreen oak are found in the southern coastal areas. Large mammals, such as tigers, leopards, bears, and lynx, used to be common throughout the Korean Peninsula, but these animals have virtually disappeared form South Korea due to deforestation and poaching.
The population of South Korea (1997 estimate) is 45,948,811. The country’s population density of 1199 people per sq. mi. is one of the highest in the world. The majority of the population lives in the southern and western coastal areas. South Korea like North Korea is one of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world. Aside from a resident foreign population of about 55,000 , mostly Chinese, the country has no racial or linguistic minorities. Because of the mixed racial character of the present-day Korean population, it is believed that the ancestors of the Koreans included immigrants from the northern part of the Asian mainland.
The national language, Korean, is believed by some scholars to be a member of the Altaic language family. It is similar to Japanese in grammar, but it contains many borrowed Chinese words. Korean is written in a phonetic script known as Han’gol from the colonial period and most educated Koreans can read English, which is taught in all secondary schools.
In 1995 nearly one-half of the people in South Korea did not claim a religion. Buddhism claimed more adherents than any other religion in South Korea. Confucianism, which is more a moral philosophy than a religion, is a more prominent element in Korean life than its somewhat small