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Korea, called Hanguk (Korean: ; Hanja: ) in South Korea and Bookhan (Korean: ; Hanja: ) in North Korea, is a civilization and geographical area situated on the Korean Peninsula in East Asia, bordering China to the northwest and Russia to the northeast, with Japan situated to the southeast across the Korea Strait. It is often called the "Land of the Morning Calm", a term first used during the Joseon dynasty.

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, Korea's history began with the founding of Gojoseon, dating back to approximately 2,333 B.C. After the Three Kingdoms period, Korea enjoyed long periods of peace during which its culture, science and technology flourished. Despite this relative tranquility, Korea was often a target for invasion and had to defend itself in many wars. As a result, starting in the 17th century, Korea's leaders cut off almost all interaction with the outside world. Because of this, Korea was annexed in 1910 and became divided after the Korean War into two political entities, North Korea and South Korea.

North Korea declares itself to be a self-reliant socialist state that is often described by international outlets as Stalinist and isolationist. It is currently ruled by the Kim dynasty, under which the country has become the world's most militarized society with a total of 9,495,000 active, reserve, and paramilitary personnel. North Korea has often emerged as a subject of controversy due to alleged human rights abuses and its unsanctioned nuclear weapons program, the latter of which makes it a threat to regional security.

South Korea on the other hand is a capitalist liberal democracy, and by 1995, became the world's 11th largest economy. It is also currently the world's fifth largest exporter and seventh largest importer, all feats achieved during South Korea's miraculous economic growth after the Korean War. South Korea also maintains a large military due to strained relations with the North, with 650,000 active troops and 3.2 million reserve troops. Due to both its economic and military prowess, South Korea is a regional power, also enjoying membership in the United Nations, G-20 major economies and the OECD.

Korea is populated by a relatively homogeneous ethnic group, the Koreans, who speak Korean, a distinct language not known to be related to any other language, and which uses a unique script, known as Hangul in South Korea, and as Chosongul in North Korea.

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Typhoon Shanshan at peak intensity.

Typhoon Shanshan was a strong typhoon that affected parts of East Asia in late September 2006. The 13th named storm of the 2006 Pacific typhoon season, Typhoon Shanshan was also the seventh typhoon of the year operationally recognised by the Japan Meteorological Agency. In post-operational analysis Shanshan became the eighth typhoon of the year when Typhoon Maria was added to the list. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center considered Shanshan the 13th tropical storm and eighth typhoon of the season, a Category 4-equivalent typhoon in terms of 1-minute average wind speed. The name Shanshan was submitted to the naming list by Hong Kong and is a girls' given name. Shanshan wreaked havoc in Japan, with reports that it caused a tornado which derailed a train. It made landfall first in the Yaeyama Islands, where it caused heavy rains, and later in Ky?sh?. The outer bands of Shanshan also affected South Korea. Shanshan also knocked power out to thousands of homes in the two countries, and killed at least eleven people. Damage amounted to $2.5 billion (2006 USD), making Shanshan the sixth costliest disaster worldwide in 2006.

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Wongudan, Seoul
Credit: Burton Holmes; Restoration: Lise Broer

A 1925 photo of Wongudan, an altar site in Seoul built in 1897 as a location for the performance of the rite of heaven. King Seongjong of the Goryeo Dynasty was the first to perform the rite, designed to ensure a bountiful harvest, in the tenth century. The practice was discontinued by later Goryeo kings, revived briefly in the mid fifteenth century by Sejo of the Joseon Dynasty, then reinstated with the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897. Much of the altar complex was destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and the gate and fountain seen here were also subsequently removed, leaving only the three-storey Hwangungu pagoda remaining.

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Ban Ki-moon

Ban Ki-moon (born June 13, 1944 in Eumseong, North Chungcheong, Korea) is a South Korean diplomat and the current Secretary-General of the United Nations. Before becoming Secretary-General, Ban was a career diplomat in South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and in the United Nations. He entered diplomatic service the year he graduated college, accepting his first post in New Delhi. In the foreign ministry he established a reputation for modesty and competence. Ban was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea from January 2004 to November 2006. In February 2006 he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered to be a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of Korea, however, he was able to travel to all of the countries that were members of the United Nations Security Council, a manoeuvre that turned him into the campaign's front runner. On October 13 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly. On January 1, 2007, he succeeded Kofi Annan, and passed several major reforms regarding peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with U.S. President George W. Bush, and Darfur, where he helped persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan.

Did you know...

  • ...that the Arch of Triumph in Pyongyang was built in 1982 to commemorate the "victory" of Korea over Japan in World War II?
  • ...that Shin Sang-ok, a South Korean film director was kidnapped in 1978 under orders from future North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and forced to direct a giant-monster film, Pulgasari?
  • ...that the Chonma-ho is a little known, indigenously produced North Korean tank; information on which has proven to be elusive even to the U.S. government?


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  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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