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Land

The Korean Peninsula extends southward from the eastern end of the Asia continent. Korea peninsula is roughly 1,020 km (612 miles) long and 175 km (105 miles) wide at its narrowest point. Mountains cover 70% of the Korea’s land area, 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 mountain range that travels the length of the east coast plunges steeply into the East Sea, while along the southern and western coasts, the mountains descend gradually to the coastal plains that produce the bulk of Korea’s agricultural crops, specifically rice. The Korean Peninsula is divided just slightly north of the 38th parallel. The democratic Republic of Korea in the south and communist North Korea are separated by the demilitarized zone. South Korea’s 99,408km?is populated by 44.6 million people (1995). Administratively, the Republic of Korea consists of nine provinces; Seoul, the capital; and six metropolitan cities (Busan, Daegu, Inchon, Gwangjo, Daejeon, and Ulsan). In total, there are 72 cities and 91 counties.

  • - Geographic position : Between 33° and 43° north latitude, and 124° and 131° east longitude (including North Korea)
  • - Economic status : GNI $402.1 billion, national gross income $8,581(1999)

Korea lies in the temperate 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 sunny 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 20°C (68°F). Monsoon rains usually begin around the end of June and last until mid-to-late-July. August is hot. The coming of autumn in late September brings continental winds and clear, dry weather, making the fall months perhaps the most pleasant time of year. October’s vivid golds and vibrant reds create colorful panoramas. December to February are cold and dry with occasional snow or rain. During the winter months, three or four days of cold weather are often followed by a few warmer days.

Language

The Korean language, like Hungarian, Turkish, Mongolian, and Finnish, is classified into the Ural-Altaic Language group. Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, is composed of 10 simple vowels and 14 consonants. A group of scholars under the patronage of King Sejong developed this systemic rendition of spoken sound in 1443. It is widely acclaimed by linguistics as an ingenious invention. The chart below presents the Romanization of the 24 Hangeul letters. This Romanization is based on the new Romanization system proclaimed in 2000 by the Korean government. However, because all road signs and information boards that are based on McCune-Reischauer system, the old official Romanization cannot be changed immediately there might be some coexistence of the two systems through 2005.

Consonants

Korean's Consonants,

Vows els

Korean's  Vows els

History

The habitation of early man in Korea appears to have started about half a million years ago. The first kingdom, named Go Joseon, was formed in 2333 B.C. By the first century B.C., Korea's three ancient kingdoms of Goguryeo, Paekje, and Silla ruled the whole Korean Peninsula and much of Manchuria; they were by far the most powerful and eminent kingdoms in the area. The period of their rule, 57 B.C.~ A.D.668, is known as the Three Kingdoms period. Goguryeo and Baekje were ultimately vanquished by Silla A.D.668. In A.D.676, Silla unified the peninsula for the first time. The Unified Silla period, A.D.676 ~ 935, was a golden age for Korean culture. The advancements in the area of Buddhist art are especially noteworthy. In the succeeding Goryeo Dynasty, A.D.918 ~ 1392, an aristocratic government was instituted. Buddhism was established as the state religion and came to have great influence in the political and administrative spheres. The name "Korea" is a derivative of "Goryeo". The Joseon Dynasty, A.D.1392 ~ 1910, was the peninsula's final dynasty. During this period various political and economic reforms were enacted. The most prominent of these was the adoption of Confucianism as the state ideology. The surge of creative literary endeavors and the invention of hangeul, the Korean alphabet, in 1443, invest this period with special cultural significance. Hanyang, now known as Seoul, was established as the dynasty's capital city in 1394. Palaces and gates constructed during this period can still be seen in the city today. The Japanese invasion of the peninsula in 1910 ended the Joseon Dynasty. Korea remained under Japanese colonial rule for 35years until the end of World War II. On August 15, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allies and withdrew from the Korean Peninsula, which was then 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 South Korea. 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.

quoted from 16-19pp, KOREA Travel Guide 2000 published by Korea National Tourism Organization:
http://english.visitkorea.or.kr