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Jan. 1 New Year’s Day
Seollal: Lunar New Year’s Day
The days immediately before and after Seollal also make up this 3-day holiday
Independence Movement Day
Children’s Day Memorial Day Liberation Day
May 5 June 6 Aug. 15 Aug. 15
Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving Day
TThe days immediately before and after Chuseok also make up this 3-day holiday
Oct. 3 Dec. 25
National Foundation Day Christmas
Facts and Figures
Official Name Republic of Korea (commonly referred to as South Korea) Location The Korean Peninsula (the northeastern region of the Asian continent) Area Korean Peninsula: 223,170 km2 South Korea: 100,032 km2 Capital City Seoul Population (2008) 48.61 million
Political system Presidential system
ƒUPresident Lee Myung-bak (since 2008)
Economic status (2008) GDP: US$928.7 billion Per capita GNI: US$19,231 GDP Growth Rate: 2.2% Monetary Unit Won (US$1=1,257.5 won)
ƒU Exchange rate at the end of 2008
Language Korean (Writing system: Hangeul)
The national flower of Korea is the Mugunghwa or Rose of Sharon
The Korean flag is called Taegeukgi. Its design symbolizes the principles of yin and yang in Asian philosophy. The circle in the center of the flag is divided into two equal parts. The upper red section represents the proactive “yang” cosmic forces. Conversely, the lower blue section represents the responsive “yin” cosmic forces. The two forces embody the concepts of continual movement, balance, and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements: heaven, earth, fire and water.
Land and Climate
The Korean Peninsula is situated at the eastern end of the Asian continent and is about 1,100 km long. China lies across the Yellow Sea to the west, while Japan is across the East Sea to the east. Mountains cover 70 percent of the land area and about 3,200 islands are scattered along the coasts. The peninsula is currently divided into the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north, separated by the demilitarized zone (DMZ). Korea has a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Spring is rather short but very pleasant and sunny. Summer is hot and humid with monsoon rainfalls in July. Autumn is especially beautiful, as the vivid golds and vibrant reds of the leaves changing color create a spectacular panorama. Winter is cold and dry with occasional snow. Jeju-do (Island) in the southwest of the peninsula has a mild subtropical climate.
The Hampyeong Butterfly Festival presents the magnificence of tens of thousands of butterflies.
Hunminjeongeum and King Sejong the Great
Language and Clothing
Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, is composed of 10 vowels and 14 consonants. King Sejong the Great and his scholars created this writing system in 1443, because Koreans were relying on Chinese characters to study, teach and communicate in written form, even while they spoke a language different from Chinese. Today, the Hangeul writing system is used by 70 million South and North Koreans, as well as 7 million overseas Koreans. This booklet follows the government's revised Romanization system for Hangeul, adopted in July 2000.
Hanbok has been Korea’s traditional costume for thousands of years. Before the adoption of Western clothing about 100 years ago, Hanbok used to be everyday attire for most people. Men wore a jeogori (jacket) with baji (trousers) while women wore a jeogori and a chima (wrap-around skirt). Today, Hanbok is mainly worn on days of celebration or special occasions such as weddings, 60th or 70th birthdays, and Seollal or Chuseok.
A special ceremony inaugurating the Republic of Korea Government on August 15. 1948.
Constitution and Government
The Constitution of the Republic of Korea was first promulgated on July 17, 1948. The nation underwent political upheavals in pursuit of democratic development and the Constitution played a vital role in making Korea a more democratic and free society. The Constitution guarantees the basic rights and freedoms of the people, including equality before the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest, freedom of residence, the right to vote and hold public office, the right to privacy, freedom of religion, speech, the press and assembly, as well as the right to a clean environment and pursuit of happiness. Under a presidential system, the government consists of three branches: the legislature, in the form of a unicameral National Assembly; the judiciary, consisting of district and appellate or high courts and the Supreme Court; and the executive, headed by the President who is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. The President is assisted by the Prime Minister and the State Council, including the cabinet.
Cheongwadae (Office of the President)
The National Assembly
Seoul has been the capital of Korea for about 600 years, since the time of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Seoul is a teeming metropolis with a population of over 10 million. The Hangang (Han River) runs through the heart of the city. It is a fascinating city, where the past and the present coexist. Centuries-old palaces, gates, royal tombs and shrines are juxtaposed with soaring skyscrapers, a high-tech infrastructure and bustling businesses. Within a 10-minute walk from City Hall are palaces of the last royal dynasty, like Gyeongbokgung, Deoksugung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung, and Gyeonghuigung. Seoul Tower, on top of Namsan mountain, is one of the major landmarks of the city. The stream Cheonggyecheon was restored in 2005 and now flows roughly west-east through the historic center of Seoul. Insa-dong street showcases art galleries and traditional craft shops. Mountains are all around the city, providing the people with beautiful sights and natural comfort.
The Royal Ancestral Ritual at Jongmyo Shrine and its Music
(Unit: US$ billion)
(Source: Ministry of Knowledge Economy)
Major exports Major imports
Semiconductors, Automobiles, Electronic goods, Steel, Machinery, Shipbuilding Oil, Iron, Petroleum products
Aerial view of dry dock
Over the past four decades, Korea’s impressive economic growth has been part of what has been described as the “East Asian miracle.” Korea’s remarkable economic growth began with the adoption of the first Five-Year Economic Development Plan in 1962. From 1962 to 2007, Korea’s GDP increased from US$2.3 billion to US$1.05 trillion, with per capita GNI soaring from US$87 to US$21,695. In 2008, however, the country's GDP and per capita GNI decreased to US$928.7 billion and US$19,231, respectively, due to the won's weakening against the U.S. dollar. Korea's trade volume for 2008 amounted to US$857 billion. The volume in the previous year stood at US$728 billion, ranking 11th in the world. Korea joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1996. Korea’s past economic development is attributed to strong government support of business, an exportoriented growth strategy, emphasis on high-tech industries, and an abundance of highly skilled and educated labor. Korea has more recently become known as an IT powerhouse, with an information infrastructure, such as broadband Internet, which has expanded to cover the whole country. Korea looks set to improve its overall business environment to emerge as Northeast Asia’s new business hub.
Korea's World Heritage
Korea’s history started from Gojoseon (2333 B.C.). Through its 5,000year history, Korea has developed a truly distinct culture, even while interacting with the larger nations surrounding it. UNESCO has so far named eight Korean sites to the World Heritage List: Bulguksa (Temple) and Seokguram Grotto, Jongmyo Shrine, Haeinsa (Temple) Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks, Changdeokgung (Palace) Complex, Hwaseong Fortress, Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites, Gyeongju Historic Area and Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes. Bulguksa in Gyeongju was built in 774 during the Silla period. Its architectural design has become the standard for temple construction. Seokguram is a man-made cave carved from white granite and featuring a seated Buddha and 38 other Bodhisattvas on the walls. Seokguram exquisitely combines Silla’s knowledge of architecture, math, geometry, physics, religion and art into an organic whole. Jongmyo is the royal ancestral shrine where the spirit tablets of Joseon kings and queenconsorts are enshrined and rituals performed. A ceremony is held on every first Sunday of May. The ritual and music used for the ceremony have been designated as Intangible Cultural Properties No. 56 and No. 1, respectively. Tripitaka Koreana is the oldest and most comprehensive compilation of Buddhist scriptures in existence today. It was carved on 81,258
Haeinsa (Temple) Janggyeong Panjeon
Changdeokgung (Palace) Complex
Gyeongju Historic Areas
Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes
woodblocks during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). The Janggyeong Panjeon at Haeinsa Temple is their repository, never damaged by fire or war since its first construction in 1488. One of five palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace is free from the traditional symmetrical or lineal arrangement of structures and was designed instead in accordance with the surrounding topography. It is a fine example of ancient Korean landscaping with a lotus pond, 300-year-old trees, and a pavilion harmony with their environment. Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon was built by King Jeongjo (r. 17761800) as an act of filial piety to restore the honor of his father, who was murdered as a result of palace intrigue. The fortress was designed by Jeong Yak-yong, also known as Dasan, one of the greatest scholars of the neo-Confucian Silhak, or School of Practical Learning. Gyeongju Historic Area and dolmen sites in the counties of Gochang, Hwasun, and Ganghwa were also added to the list in 2000. Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla Kingdom for a thousand years, and the area is called a “Museum without Walls” because of the wealth of its historical remains. Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes together comprise three sites that make up 18,846 ha. The site, of outstanding aesthetic beauty, also bears testimony to the history of the planet, its features and geologic processes. In addition, UNESCO placed the Royal Ancestral Ritual at the Jongmyo Shrine and its Music, the Pansori Epic Chant, and the Gangneung Danoje Festival among the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Also, the Memory of the World Register contains the Hunminjeongeum (correct sounds to instruct the people, a primer for teaching Hangeul, the Korean alphabet) and Joseonwangjosillok (the court journals of the Joseon Dynasty); Seungjeongwon Ilgi, a daily account of Joseon court events; and Jikjisimcheyojeol, the oldest book printed with metal type, dating back to 1377; woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana and miscellaneous Buddhist scriptures; and Uigwe, the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty.
all arranged in
Korean TV Drama “Daejanggeum” (Jewel in the Palace)
Conductor-pianist Chung Myung-whun
Non-verbal performance Nanta
growing interest in Korean pop and traditional culture across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas. Korean entertainment personalities, including Bae Yong-joon, the star of “Winter Sonata,” have become the hottest entertainment personalities in Japan, China and other countries. The most recent hit, the charming 16th century court drama “Daejanggeum” (Jewel in the Palace), is said to have provoked a new level of interest in traditional Korean clothing, herbal medicine and Korean royal court cuisine. Korea’s booming film industry and Korean pop music have also been forces intensifying the popularity of the Korean Wave. An increasing number of Korean artists have won international recognition and fame for their creative or artistic talents. Paik Nam-june has led the world in pioneering the new medium of video art. In the field of music, composer Yun Isang, violinist Chung Kyung-wha, conductor-pianist Chung Myung-whun, violin prodigy Jang Young-ju and vocalist Jo Su-mi have won the hearts of audiences all over the world.
Pai kN am -ju ne’ sa rt
Hallyu, the “Korean Wave,” refers to the
Kim Duk-soo’s Samulnori
Pyongyang-style baechu kimchi
Korean food is nutritious and a lot of it is fermented. Consequently, it is considered healthy and a good defense against cancer. Kimchi, the most famous Korean food, is salted,
fermented cabbage served as a side dish at nearly every meal. It is rich in
vitamins and minerals. Main dishes most familiar to Westerners are galbi and bulgogi. Galbi is beef short ribs cooked over a charcoal grill. Bulgogi, Korean barbecue, is thinly-sliced sirloin marinated in soy sauce with sesame oil and garlic, among other condiments. Other popular dishes are bibimbap (a mixture of rice, vegetables, egg, and hot pepper paste), doenjang jjigae (a bean paste stew), naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles in cold beef broth) and samgyetang (stewed chicken stuffed with rice and ginseng).
Traditional Korean full-course dinner
a Yu-n Kim
Ancient Koreans are recorded to have engaged in numerous traditional sports game such as taekwondo and ssireum (Korean wrestling). Taekwondo, a sport originating in Korea, has been became an official Olympic sport since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Most Koreans are avid sports lovers. Korea is known for its successful hosting of the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and co-hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Korea became the first Asian country to advance to the semifinals during the 2002 World Cup. Today Koreans compete well among the top athletes in the Olympics and other major international events, such as baseball, golf, archery, shooting, table tennis, short-track speed skating, figure skating and swimming.
The Wall of Hope at Cheonggyecheon (Stream)
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