Korea facts for kids

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Korea

Flag of Korea
Flag
Capital
Official languages Korean
Official script Chosŏn'gŭl/Hangeul
Demonym(s) Korean
Government
• Supreme Leader of North Korea
Kim Jong-un
Moon Jae-in
Legislature Supreme People's Assembly (North Korea)
National Assembly (South Korea)
Establishment
• Gojoseon
3 October 2333 BCE
• Wiman Joseon
194 BCE
57 BCE
• Balhae and Silla Kingdoms
668 CE
• Goryeo dynasty
918 CE
17 July 1392
• Korean Empire
12 October 1897
• Japan-Korea Treaty
29 August 1910
• March 1st Independence Movement
1 March 1919
• Establishment of the Republic of Korea
15 August 1948 (South Korea)
• Establishment of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
9 September 1948 (North Korea)
25 June 1950—27 July 1953
• Admission of both Koreas to the United Nations
17 September 1991
Area
• Total
219,155 km2 (84,616 sq mi)
Population
• 2017 estimate
77 million
• Density
349.06/km2 (904.1/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+09 (Korea Standard Time and Pyongyang Time)
Driving side right
Calling code +850 (North Korea)
+82 (South Korea)
Internet TLD

Korea is a region in East Asia. Since 1948 it has been divided between two distinct sovereign states, North Korea and South Korea. Korea consists of the Korean Peninsula, Jeju Island, and several minor islands near the peninsula. Korea is bordered by Russia to the northeast, China to the northwest, and neighbours Japan to the east via the Korea Strait and the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

During the first half of the 1st millennium, Korea was divided between the three competing states of Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla, together known as the "Three Kingdoms of Korea". In the second half of the 1st millennium, Silla defeated and conquered Baekje and Goguryeo, leading to the "Unified Silla" period.

Meanwhile, Balhae formed in the north. Unified Silla eventually collapsed into three separate states due to civil war, ushering in the Later Three Kingdoms. Toward the end of the 1st millennium, Goguryeo was bought back as Goryeo, which defeated the two other states and unified the Korean Peninsula as a single sovereign state. Around the same time, Balhae collapsed and its last crown prince fled south to Goryeo.

Goryeo (also spelled as Koryŏ), whose name developed into the modern "Korea", was a highly cultured state that created the world's first metal movable type in 1234. However, multiple invasions by the Mongol Empire during the 13th century greatly weakened the nation, which eventually agreed to become a vassal state after decades of fighting. Following military resistance under King Gongmin which ended Mongol influence in Goryeo, severe political strife followed, and Goryeo eventually lost to a coup led by General Yi Seong-gye, who established Joseon in July 17, 1392.

The first 200 years of the Joseon era were marked by relative peace. During this period, the Korean alphabet was created by Sejong the Great in the 15th century and there was increasing influence of Confucianism. During the later part of the dynasty, Korea's policy of remaining apart earned it the Western nickname of the "Hermit Kingdom".

By the late 19th century, the country became the object of imperial design by the Empire of Japan. After the First Sino-Japanese War, despite the Korean Empire's effort to modernize, the country was annexed by Japan in 1910 and ruled by it until the end of World War II in August 1945.

In 1945, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed on the surrender of Japanese forces in Korea in the aftermath of World War II, leaving Korea partitioned along the 38th parallel. The North was under Soviet occupation and the South under U.S. occupation. These circumstances soon became the basis for the division of Korea by the two superpowers, made worse by by their inability to agree on the terms of Korean independence.

The Communist-inspired government in the North received backing from the Soviet Union in opposition to the pro-Western government in the South, leading to Korea's division into two political entities: North Korea (officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea), and South Korea (officially the Republic of Korea).

Tensions between the two resulted in the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950. With involvement by foreign troops, the war ended in a stalemate in 1953, but without a formalized peace treaty, this contributes to the high tensions that continue to divide the peninsula. Both governments of the two Koreas claim to be the sole legitimate government of the region.

Culture and arts

Korean.Dance-Muhee-01
Muhee dancers performing

In ancient Chinese texts, Korea is referred to as "Rivers and Mountains Embroidered on Silk" and "Eastern Nation of Decorum". Individuals are regarded as one year old when they are born, as Koreans believe the pregnancy period as one year of life for infants, and age increases on New Year's Day rather than on the anniversary of birthdays. If one was to be born immediately before New Year's Day they would only be a few days old in the western world, but two years old in Korea.

Accordingly, a Korean person's stated age (at least among fellow Koreans) will be one or two years more than their age. However, western rules can be applied with regard to the concept of legal age; for example, the legal age for purchasing alcohol or cigarettes in the Republic of Korea is 19.

Literature

North Korea-Pyongyang-Grand People's Study House-Books-01
Books on display at the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang

Korean scholars were writing poetry in the classical Korean style as early as the 2nd century, showing Korean thoughts and experiences of that time. Classical Korean literature has its roots in traditional folk beliefs and folk tales of the peninsula, strongly influenced by Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

Modern literature is often linked with the development of hangul, which helped spread literacy from the aristocracy to the common people. Hangul, however, only reached a dominant position in Korean literature in the second half of the 19th century, resulting in a major growth in Korean literature.

The Korean War led to the development of literature centered on the wounds and chaos of war. Much of the post-war literature in South Korea deals with the daily lives of ordinary people, and their struggles with national pain. The collapse of the traditional Korean value system is another common theme of the time.

Religion

Korea-Haeinsa-21
Monks after evening prayers at Haeinsa

Confucian tradition has dominated Korean thought, along with contributions by Buddhism, Taoism, and Korean Shamanism. Since the middle of the 20th century, however, Christianity has competed with Buddhism in South Korea, while religious practice has been held back in North Korea.

Throughout Korean history and culture, regardless of separation; the influence of traditional beliefs has remained with the Korean people. These traditions have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years up to today despite strong Westernisation from Christian missionary conversions in the South or the pressure from the Juche government in the North.

Cuisine

Gochujang (chilli paste) 2
Gochujang (chilli paste)

Koreans traditionally believe that the taste and quality of food depend on its spices and sauces, the essential ingredients to making a delicious meal. Therefore, soybean paste, soy sauce, gochujang or red pepper paste and kimchi are some of the most important staples in a Korean household. Korean cuisine was greatly influenced by the geography and climate of the Korean Peninsula, which is known for its cold autumns and winters, therefore there are many fermented dishes and hot soups and stews.

Kimchi stuffing
Kimchi stuffing

Korean cuisine is probably best known for kimchi, a side dish which uses a distinctive fermentation process of preserving vegetables, most commonly cabbage. Kimchi is said to relieve the pores on the skin, thereby reducing wrinkles and providing nutrients to the skin naturally. It is also healthy, as it provides necessary vitamins and nutrients. Gochujang, a traditional Korean sauce made of red pepper is also commonly used, often as pepper (chilli) paste, earning the cuisine a reputation for spiciness.

Korean barbecue and side dishes
Bulgogi and side dishes

Bulgogi (roasted marinated meat, usually beef), galbi (marinated grilled short ribs), and samgyeopsal (pork belly) are popular meat entrees. Fish is also a popular commodity, as it is the traditional meat that Koreans eat. Meals are usually accompanied by a soup or stew, such as galbitang (stewed ribs) or doenjang jjigae (fermented bean paste soup). The center of the table is filled with a shared collection of sidedishes called banchan.

Other popular dishes include bibimbap which literally means "mixed rice" (rice mixed with meat, vegetables, and red pepper paste) and naengmyeon (cold noodles).

Korean.cuisine-Bibimbap-04
Korean cuisine - Bibimbap

Instant noodles or ramyeon are a popular snack food and Koreans also enjoy food from pojangmachas (street vendors).

Additionally, some other common snacks include "Choco Pie", shrimp crackers, "bbeongtwigi" (puffed rice grains), and "nurungji" (slightly burnt rice). Nurungji can be eaten as it is or boiled with water to make a soup. Nurungji can also be eaten as a snack or a dessert.

Korea is unique among Asian countries in its use of metal chopsticks. Metal chopsticks have been discovered in archaeological sites belonging to the ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla.

Education

2014년 12월 20일 안양대학교10
Anyang University

The modern South Korean school system consists of six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and three years in high school. Students are required to go to elementary and middle school, and do not have to pay for their education, except for a small fee called a "School Operation Support Fee" that differs from school to school. The South Korean education system is rather notably strict and structured as compared to most Western societies.

The North Korean education system consists primarily of universal and state funded schooling by the government. Children go through one year of kindergarten, four years of primary education, six years of secondary education, and then on to universities. The most prestigious university in the DPRK is Kim Il-sung University.

Practising a torch march on Kim il-sung square 04
Practising a torch march on Kim il-sung square

Outside the formal structure of schools and classrooms in the north is the extremely important "social education". This education includes not only extracurricular activities but also family life and the broadest range of human relationships within society. There is great sensitivity to the influence of the social environment on the growing child and its role in the development of his or her character.

Korea Taekwondo Hanmadang 70
Korean Taekwondo

The ideal of social education is to provide a carefully controlled environment in which children are exposed only to pro-Juche and anti-south influences. According to a North Korean official interviewed in 1990, 'School education is not enough to turn the rising generation into men of knowledge, virtue, and physical fitness. After school, our children have many spare hours. So it's important to efficiently organise their after school education'.

Sport

North Korea and South Korea usually compete as two separate nations in international events. There are, however, a few examples of them having competed as one entity, under the name Korea.

While association football remains one of the most popular sports in South Korea, the martial art of taekwondo is considered to be the national sport. Baseball and golf are also popular.

Notable public holidays in South Korea

March 1st movement
March 1st movement
Miryang March 1st Movement miniature
March 1st Movement miniature
Anniversary of 20th memorial day of south korea stamp
Stamp of the anniversary of 20th Memorial Day of South Korea
Korea 59th Memorial Day 12 (14193853238)
Korea 59th Memorial - Seoul National Cemetery 2014
Hunmin jeong-eum
Hunminjeongeum, afterwards called Hangul

Independence Movement Day, March 1st

Samiljeol, Independence Movement Day, commemorates Korea's declaration of independence from Japanese occupation on March 1, 1919. On March 1, 1919, Korean presented their resistance towards Japan and Japanese occupation with a declaration of independence. Following the conclusion of World War II, Korea was liberated from Japan and its independence restored. The newly established Korean government set aside March 1 as a national holiday to commemorate the sacrifices in the long struggle for Korean independence.

Memorial day, June 6th

Hyunchoongil is the national holiday in Korea commemorating those who fought and died for the nation. In August 1948, only a few years after Korea achieved its independence from Japan, the Korean War broke out between North and South Korea. During this war, approximately 400,000 soldiers and some one million citizens were killed or injured. In 1953, North and South Korea agreed to a cease-fire, and three years later the Korean government established Hyungchoogil to commemorate the soldiers who fought in the Korean War. After its establishment, Hyungchoogil was made as a day of remembrance for those who died defending Korea in all conflicts, not only during the Korean War.

National Liberation Day, August 15th

Gwangbokjeol is the day for celebrating liberation of the country from Japan in 1945 as well as celebrating the establishment of Korean government in 1948. It was first declared to be national holiday in 1949 October 1. On this date every year, the president of Korea visits Independence Hall, and invites diplomatic envoys from many countries and all social standings in countries to Cheongwadae (the Blue House, the Korean presidential residence).

Hangul Day, October 9th

Hangul Day is a day that celebrates the creation of the Hunminjeongeum (Hangul, Korean alphabet), which was inscribed to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 1997. Hangul was created by Sejong the Great in 1443 and proclaimed in 1446. Before the creation of Hangul, people in Korea (known as Joseon at the time) primarily wrote using Classical Chinese. King Sejong created the unique alphabet known as Hangul to promote literacy among the common people.

Hangul Day was founded in 1926 during the Japanese occupation by members of the Korean Language Society, whose goal was to preserve the Korean language during a time of rapid forced Japanization. Today, both South Korea and North Korea celebrate Hangul Day as a national holiday.

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