South Korea is an East Asian sovereign state that occupies the southern half of the Korean Peninsula.
South Koreans enjoy a unique urban lifestyle; half of them live in high-rises centered in the Seoul Capital Area, which has 25 million people and is the world’s sixth leading global metropolis, with the fourth biggest economy and the seventh most sustainable city.
Korean pottery goes back to 8000 BC, with three kingdoms thriving in the first century BC. Goguryeo, also known as Kory, was a strong empire and one of East Asia’s major powers, controlling Northeast China, portions of Russia and Inner Mongolia, and more than two-thirds of the Korean Peninsula under Gwanggaeto the Great. Since their unification into Later Silla and Balhae in the 7th century, Korea has experienced almost a millennium of relative peace under long-lasting dynasties, with inventions such as Hangul, a unique alphabet established by Sejong the Great in 1446 that allows anybody to quickly learn to read and write. Its rich and dynamic culture has left 17 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity, the world’s third biggest, as well as 12 World Heritage Sites. Korea was annexed by Imperial Japan in 1910 owing to its strategic and central position, and after its capitulation in 1945, it was split into North and South Korea. The Korean War (1950–53) was precipitated by a North Korean invasion. Peace has largely been maintained since then, with the two agreeing to work peacefully toward reunification and the South cementing peace as a regional power with the world’s tenth biggest defense expenditure.
South Korea’s tiger economy rose at an annual average of 10% for more than 30 years during the Miracle on the Han River, quickly converting it into the world’s 9th biggest high-income economy by 1995. Its success may be attributed to a long history of openness and emphasis on innovation. Today, it is the world’s fifth biggest exporter and seventh largest importer, with the greatest budget surplus in the G20 and the highest credit rating of any East Asian nation. It has free trade agreements with 75% of the world’s economies and is the only G20 country that trades freely with China, the US, and the EU all at the same time. It became a multi-party democracy with universal suffrage in 1987, and it is now Asia’s most advanced democracy, with high government transparency, universal healthcare, and religious freedom. High civil freedoms resulted in the development of a worldwide prominent pop culture, such as K-pop and K-drama, a phenomenon known as the Korean Wave, which is renowned for its unique stylish and trendy style. South Korea, the home of the UN Green Climate Fund and the GGGI, is a pioneer in low-carbon, green development, and is dedicated to assisting poor nations as a key DAC and Paris Club donor. It is the OECD’s most hospitable nation in terms of visa-free entrance for foreigners, and it ranks well in terms of peaceful tolerance and minority inclusion.
According to the Human Development Index, South Korea is the most developed nation in East Asia. It boasts the world’s ninth highest median family income, the highest in Asia, and its singles make more than the whole G7 group. It has the world’s third greatest health adjusted life expectancy and fourth most efficient healthcare system, and scores well in personal safety, education, job stability, ease of doing business, and healthcare quality. It leads the OECD in scientific and engineering graduates and is rated third in the Youth Wellbeing Index. South Korea was voted the world’s most inventive nation in the Bloomberg Innovation Index, ranking first in corporate R&D intensity and patents filed per GDP. It is the home of Samsung, the world’s top smartphone and TV manufacturer, LG, and Hyundai-Kia. It boasts the quickest Internet speed and the greatest smartphone ownership rate in the world, and it ranks #1 in ICT Development, e-Government, and 4G LTE coverage. With 97 percent of smartphones already having Internet connection, it became the world’s first nation to completely convert to high-speed Internet and launch the world’s first mobile TV broadcast in 2005.